Kazakhstan is a country where the ancient and the modern come together. The complicated history of the Kazakh people and the constant interaction between the nomadic tribesmen and the settled people have led to Kazakhstan’s unique and authentic culture. Today, Kazakhstan is one of the world’s most multicultural countries, home to many different nationalities and faiths, all united by a common history. Kazakhstan is also a country of outstanding natural beauty. Endless southern steppes contrast with snowcapped mountains whose spring runoffs have formed one of the largest lakes in the world.
Astana is the capital city of Kazakhstan (indeed the name ‘Astana’ is Kazakh for ‘capital’). It was renamed ‘Nur-Sultan’ in March 2019 in honour of the first President of independent Kazakhstan, Nur Sultan Nazarbayev, but in October 2022 it reverted to its original name, though you will still hear some people refer to it as Nur-Sultan. Located along the Ishim River, Astana’s climate is sharply continental, with snowy winters and moderately arid summers. The city has a population of more than one million. Astana is a distinctly modern city with new broad avenues and recreation zones. Japanese Architect Kurokawa Kishō and British Architect Sir Norman Foster were invited to design some parts of the city, making Astana an interesting site with a unique mix of futuristic architecture and Kazakh flair. It also has a mix of quiet and vibrant areas. There are many ways of escaping the hustle and bustle of a capital city. Stroll along the Ishim River Embankment; walk down the Nurzhol Boulevard and enjoy the architecture lining its streets. Watch rival players at Chess Players’ Square, or spend a romantic afternoon in the Park of Lovers. For those looking for action, try the KANGO Trampoline Park. Whatever your interest, Astana has it.
Kazakhstan is located in two time zones with standard time, for example, UTC + 5 (Western Kazakhstan) and UTC + 6 (Astana, Almaty, Pavlodar). There is no transition to daylight saving time.
Banks and exchange offices
The currency of the country is Tenge (KZT); one tenge has 100 tiyn. Banks are open from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Monday to Friday. The lunch break is usually from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM; however, many banks work without breaks. Saturday and Sunday are days off. You can exchange money at any bank or official exchange office. Receipts are best kept until you have left the country.
Students are able to choose from different types of accommodation. These include hotel, apartments, Airbnb, and Homestay (i.e., staying with a host family). Language Link will arrange Homestay accommodation. Please see the Accommodation section for approximate costs.
Suggested things to do in Astana
Perfect places for scenic walks and relaxation between lessons
- The Ishim River Embankment with the Pedestrian Bridge
- The Independence Square
- The Chess Players’ Square
- The KANGO Trampoline Park
- The Park of Lovers
Perfect places to get your fill of vibrant contemporary life
- Baiterek Tower & Observation Deck in the centre of the capital constructed from glass and concrete, offering a panoramic view of the entire city.
- The Kulanshi and Has Sanat Art Galleries
- The “Ailand” Recreation Centre
- Astana Arena Stadium
- The Khan Shatyr, a giant, glowing tent built in the neo-futurist style, designed by British architect Norman Foster. Standing at 150 metres, the tent has an enormous 140,000 square metre base. It houses a park large enough to fit 10 football stadiums. It also has numerous shopping and entertainment venues, a boating river and a mini golf course.
Visit the most iconic landmarks of the city to find something special and feel the atmosphere of the East. Here you will get a unique insight into the national history and culture:
- The National Museum
- The Astana Opera and Ballet Theater
- EXPO Congress Center
- The Peace and Accord Palace
- The Khazret Sultan Mosque and Nur-Astana Mosque
- Ethno-memorial complex “Atameken” picturing the Map of Kazakhstan
- Salon Talisman, Souvenir Shop
There are a number of multi-purpose art venues with trendy cafés and the promise of good quality coffee, shopping boutiques, most dynamic and diverse creative spots: the perfect places for an ‘I’m in Kazakhstan’ selfie!
- MEGA Silk Way and Astana Mall
- Mökki Café offering Seafood, European, International, Central Asian, Northern-Italian Kitchen & Vegetarian, Gluten free options
- Pane&Vino, serving Italian, Mediterranean, European, Wine Bar and Vegetarian, Gluten free options
- Ministry of Coffee serving European meals, books, magazines
- Coffee Boom, an excellent chain of cafés with a huge choice of meals, a relaxed atmosphere, and very friendly staff.