Kazakhstan remains largely a cash economy. Travelers’ checks and credit cards are not widely accepted, except at large hotels and restaurants catering to international visitors. U.S. dollars can easily be exchanged for the local currency (Tenge) at local and authorized currency exchanges, but all denominations of U.S. currency except $1 bills must be new series (large portraits) and all must have been issued after 2000 and be in good condition (not worn or torn and without any writing or marks).
Kazakhstan, especially in the mountainous southeast region, is an earthquake-prone country. The U.S. Department of State has ranked the earthquake threat level within Almaty as a Level 4 (the highest level assigned). Building practices within Kazakhstan do not generally meet U.S. seismic standards. In addition, local authorities do not have sufficient resources to respond to a large-scale disaster. U.S. citizens traveling to Kazakhstan are encouraged to register with either the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Astana or the U.S. Consulate General in Almaty to facilitate contact in the event of an emergency. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Kazakhstani customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning export from Kazakhstan of items such as antiques. Foreigners must complete a customs declaration upon entering Kazakhstan and may face fines upon departure if unable to produce certificates verifying legal conversion of foreign currency.
Travelers are strongly encouraged to declare all valuables, including computers, video cameras, and mobile telephones, upon entry in order to avoid paying duty on those items upon departure. Tenge can be exported by residents of Kazakhstan (including foreigners) in amounts up to $3,000 without declaration and without written certification of the origin of funds. Residents exporting between $3,000 and $10,000 must complete a customs declaration and prove the origin of the funds (e.g. proof of locally paid salary). Travelers visiting Kazakhstan for short periods of time may not leave the country with more currency than they declared when entering Kazakhstan. For legal requirements on the export of Tenge, travelers should consult with local Customs officials. In practice, however, travelers should be wary of such officials at the airport, as visitors have been erroneously charged duty on Tenge exports or asked to surrender Tenge in the past. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Washington, DC, for specific information at 1401 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, telephone (202) 232-5488.
Foreigners are required to carry a valid passport while in Kazakhstan. U.S. citizens are strongly urged to have a certified copy of their U.S. passport made at either of the U.S. Embassy's Consular Sections at the Embassy in Astana or the Consulate General in Almaty. Having a certified copy in possession satisfies the local requirement to carry a passport and reduces the chances of a passport being lost or stolen.