Relates pages for this post
Originally our plan was to spend a whole month in Kazakhstan getting to know the culture while pedaling the entire length of the 9th biggest country, but as we have fast learned on this trip, routes through this part of the world need to be fluid and what you think you will be doing Monday night is not necessarily what will actually happen on Tuesday morning.
So with the route change that was mentioned in the previous post we had to scramble to get the official documentation together for more visas.
Enter David from Stan Tours
We found out about Stan Tours from the lonely planet, which by the way is not the best place for information on Almaty. As far as we could understand Stan Tours was a small home based tour company that specialized in this area of the world and posts online said that they would be able to help out.
With no address listed Katie contacted them by email with a bunch of options that we as a team had dreamed up, including skipping a bunch of the visa hassles by flying from Atryau to Tiblisi, Georgia.
We were greeted with a very fast and detailed reply of our options and the email also included routes that we had not even thought about and contact details for David, an efficient German who runs the company.
In Almaty we contacted David by phone and he offered free advice and options that would best suit our needs. We asked if we could meet with him and discuss the options more, to which he replied that he was very busy and unless we were actually going to use his service he would be unable to meet us. Time is money and I had already called him 3 times with follow-on questions.
As we had already decided to have Stan Tours sort out visa documents there was no problem meeting to make payment and get further detailed information. The only problem now was actually finding the place to meet him.
Unfortunately we caught the 63 bus and it went the opposite direction to where we were supposed to go, so we jumped out and hailed a taxi (a Mercedes pulled over) and got him to take us to Mega Center / Mega Almaty located near the intersection of “Al Farabi” just off “Rozybakieva.” If I were to go there for the first time again I would definitely just get a taxi (cost 500-700 denge) as it is not an easy place to find.
David had told us to meet him beside the fountain in-front of the Mega Center Shopping Mall. As we had no cell phone we arranged to meet him at 3pm but due to our incorrect bus excursion we were late and missed him.
Side note GET A CELL PHONE FOR THE STANS. They are cheap and one will work in most countries, plus they are not locked so you can buy SIM cards for them in all the other coutries.
While pleading with the malls security guards (very friendly lads) and explaining to them that we were lost tourists and needed to make a phone call (pay phones exist but its near on impossible to buy a card for them) a lovely lady by the name of Gulmar came over and started talking to us. This took us by surprise as from all our experiences so far (read previous posts) the people of Almaty were very cold and unwilling to help. It turned out she was from Aktau and worked for a construction company run by a British man. We told her that we were on our way to Aktau as we would be catching a ferry from Aktau to Azerbijian later in the month. She gave us her contact information and told us to call her when we get there as she would like to help us out. She also let us use her cellphone to call David and let him know that we had arrived and were waiting.
30 minutes later and we were sitting down with him discussing all possible routes to continue our trip. He was very friendly and helpful. We then paid him for the two LOI’s that we needed and said we would forward the rest of the information by email tomorrow.
Now we just have to play the waiting game for the visa letter of invitations to go through.
For detailed information of what is required for the visas we got and how to contact Stan Tours please read the pages below.