Travelers in Kazakhstan should exercise the same precautions concerning personal safety and protection of valuables as they would in any major U.S. city. Using good judgment and avoiding high-risk areas can reduce the crime threat. The most common crimes foreign tourists encounter are purse snatching, pick pocketing, assaults, and robberies. Pick pocketing or robberies occur most frequently in the vicinity of Western hotels, transportation sites, and at open-air markets, including the central open-air market in Almaty (known locally as the "Green Market"). U.S. citizens are advised to exercise caution in the vicinity of hotels, bus or train stations, and when shopping. U.S. Mission Kazakhstan strongly recommends that U.S. citizens do not carry large sums of money on the street.
Identification checks by the police are common practice. U.S. visitors must produce either a passport or an Embassy-certified copy thereof upon request. Police are not required to demonstrate probable cause or reasonable suspicion to initiate ID checks. U.S. citizens may obtain a certified copy of their passport and visa from the U.S. Embassy in Astana or U.S. Consulate General in Almaty during American Citizens Services hours. Please check the U.S. Mission Kazakhstan website for the American Citizens Services hours in Almaty and Astana.
Be wary of persons representing themselves as police or other local officials. It is not uncommon for U.S. citizens to become victims of harassment and extortion by imposters, genuine law enforcement, and other officials. A genuine police official should always present his own credentials when approaching someone on the street. If the officer cannot produce identification, he is most likely an imposter. Never voluntarily hand over your wallet to a police officer. If pressured, tell the officer that you will report his behavior to the U.S. Embassy in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty and the officer’s supervisors. Authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases. Try to obtain the officer's name, badge number, and license plate number, and note where the incident happened because this information assists local officials in identifying the perpetrators. Report crimes committed against you by persons presenting themselves as police or other governmental authorities to a police station and the U.S. Embassy in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty.
The "lost wallet" scam continues to be common in Kazakhstan. One version of this scam involves the discovery of a lost wallet in your presence. A first person will discover the wallet and offer to divide its contents with you. Then, a second person will appear, claim to be the owner of the wallet, and demand compensation for the missing money. A second version involves a person looking for a lost wallet, asking you if have seen it. The person asks you to reveal the contents of your pockets or bag to prove that you do not have the missing wallet. The wallet seeker will then surreptitiously steal your exposed valuables. When initially approached by the "finder" or "seeker" of the lost wallet, simply walk away.
U.S. Mission Kazakhstan highly discourages taking unlicensed cabs in lieu of licensed taxicabs while in Kazakhstan. This applies especially to travel from the airport and train station to the city upon arrival, where men posing as "meet and greet" airport facilitators have lured foreigners into cars purportedly to take them to their hotels. However, the driver then takes the passengers to a secluded destination and demands approximately $100 for gas to take the foreigner back to the city. At the airport, U.S. citizens should not leave with anyone who does not show pre-arranged identification, even if the person is holding a sign with the traveler's name.
U.S. Mission Kazakhstan has received reports from U.S. citizen residents and visitors of being victims of violent, late-night muggings. U.S. citizens are advised to travel in groups or pairs. Lone individuals often make easy targets for muggers. At night, try to remain in well-lit, populated areas. Visitors are encouraged to leave restaurants or bars if fights break out.
Corruption by public officials, including law enforcement, has been reported frequently, especially at the airport in Almaty. Some foreigners have been told by customs or border guard officials that they must pay a $50-$500 fine for violating an undisclosed local regulation, despite the fact that the foreign citizen has fully complied with local laws. Some U.S. citizens have reportedly been asked to pay a large fine upon exiting Kazakhstan. When encountering such irregularities, U.S. citizens are advised to seek clarification from supervisory airport officials or contact the U.S. Embassy in Astana or Consulate General in Almaty before paying.
Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
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