Most people have heard of Kazakhstan but you may not be aware of the currency the country uses. This is the tenge, which is known as such in the singular as well as the plural. It is represented on international currency markets by the letters KZT.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
There are plenty of coins and bank notes around that you will come into contact with if you visit this country. For starters there are seven different coins, which are denominated in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 tenge respectively. In addition there are six banknotes. These are the 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 and 10,000 tenge notes.
The currency is a decimal one and each tenge is divided into 100 tiyin. In practice this is irrelevant because the tenge does not have any coinage that is available in this denomination.
From past to present – the history of the tenge
You might be surprised to learn the tenge has only been around since 1993. Before this the country used the Russian rouble. Kazakhstan used to be a part of this country but when the USSR dissolved Kazakhstan decided to adopt its own currency. This was the case in many other countries in this region as well. The tenge has been in use ever since that time.
How to get hold of the Kazakhstan tenge
Kazakhstan is quite an easy country to visit when it comes to getting their currency. You can withdraw the local currency at a variety of cash machines so make sure you take cards with you that will allow you to do this. If you happen to get the local currency prior to leaving home this is fine (although rare, as it is only available in that country), but you will need to declare that you have it upon entering the country. It may only happen if you have visited the country before and you have some currency with you. This should not present a problem as there are no limits on how much you can take in. The same applies to your own currency (or any other currency come to that).
You can take the tenge back home with you as well if you wish, but you cannot take back any more than you declared when you arrived. This means that if you decide to leave getting the tenge until you get to Kazakhstan, you won’t be able to take any back with you. One final piece of advice here – whenever you exchange cash of any kind in the country, hang onto the receipts you get in return with your cash. This will provide evidence of the exchanges you have made just in case you are requested to provide it at customs. The chances are you won’t but it is always best to be sure.
Aside from this you can use cash machines to obtain local currency once you are there. Make sure you have more than one card in case your original choice isn’t accepted for some reason. Furthermore it is wise to notify your bank and card providers that you are going to Kazakhstan so they do not think your card is being used fraudulently.
The best currency to bring with you to exchange if you aren’t using cash machines is the US dollar. You shouldn’t have any problems exchanging this.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Kazakhstan tenge
This step is easy and you can do it either before you go to Kazakhstan or while you are there. Simply access your favourite currency converter and bring up your own currency against the tenge. Of course if you are carrying the US dollar you would look up this currency as it is the one you will be exchanging. Otherwise you can look up your own currency to get an idea of how far it will go against the tenge and how much you might expect to have.
There is a website for the Embassy of Kazakhstan and this might be worth looking at if you are thinking of going there in the near future. You can find it at http://www.kazembassy.org.uk/.
Travelling safely with Kazakhstan tenge
Travelling safely starts with protecting your passport at all times. You must carry it on your person whenever you are in the country. While some countries will accept a photocopy if you keep the original in your hotel safe, this is not the case in Kazakhstan. Make sure you keep yours safe at all times.
For the most part this is a safe country to visit and the chances are good that you won’t have any problems at all. However as always you should take preventive measures to ensure you don’t run into any problems. For example many tourists opt to wear money belts to keep their cash safe. In some cases they will split their money up into different pockets and wallets so there is no chance of having more than a small amount of cash lifted if their pocket is picked.
It is also wise not to stray beyond the usual tourist areas or into areas you are unfamiliar with. It can be dangerous to go out alone at night as well, so common sense can protect you in many ways.
Where to spend your tenge in Kazakhstan – and what to spend them on
Kazakhstan is a transcontinental state. This means it is situated across two continents. In this case it is partly in Asia and partly in Europe. It is actually situated with Russia to the north and they share a border with each other. Its south eastern corner borders China and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are both to the south.
The capital of the country is Astana and this boasts many sights that tourists tend to include on their itinerary. The most popular sight is the Tower of Bayterek. It is quite spectacular and you can go up the 97 metre high tower (not including the spire) to see the view over the city. It is lit up at night too, and this makes it well worth seeing at this time as well. The city also has an oceanarium that is very popular.
The country has yet to be discovered properly by tourists, although many more are doing so all the time. You can visit the Altai Mountains here, as they exist in Kazakhstan and many neighbouring countries as well. Some call the mountains desolate but you are likely to enjoy the time you spend here if you take a walk through the landscape. Don’t assume you have to climb a mountain to enjoy this area; in fact there are many walks of many lengths and types you could choose from. It is just as easy to pick a short walk over relatively flat ground as it is to tackle a peak.
Also in terms of nature you have the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve. This is a great place to visit and it is the oldest reserve of its kind in this part of the world. Again there are some stunning landscapes here and you can really enjoy the time at one with the world. You are probably starting to see just how popular Kazakhstan could eventually be with those who love getting closer to nature.
There are other destinations you might like to visit though, such as the Shymkent Zoo in the place of the same name. With more than 1,500 animals here and more than 200 species, there is plenty to discover and explore. It is not the only zoo in the country but it is worth a visit if you are close by. For instance you could also go to the Karagandy Zoo. This is based in the city of Karaganda.
Meanwhile if you should find yourself in Almaty one of the highlights here is definitely the Central State Museum. This offers up various archaeological finds that will show you something of the history of the country. These date back to the Bronze Age and bring you right up to date, thus taking you through the entire history of the country. It is quite an experience and not one you would want to rush.
At the moment Kazakhstan is not a country you would think of when it comes time to sit down and plan your holidays each year. However it would be worth thinking about visiting this country if you want to try something a little different. Sitting as it does on the border between Europe and Asia, it has a unique feel about it that is neither European nor Asian in nature. If you want to find out more about it the best way is to experience it for yourself. Kazakhstan may be a long way from being a top holiday destination but all the while its great cities and amazing natural sights are a well-kept secret, why not make the most of seeing them for yourself?