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Police, crime, security, taboos in Kazakhstan.
The nationwide telephone number for police service is 102. Despite their reputation, the Kazakh police are overall friendly and helpful. If you behave in a cooperative manner you are more likely to find a correct attitude, willingness to help, and to receive swift assistance. In most cases, displaying respect for state officials takes one much further than pulling out one's wallet.
Bribes in Kazakhstan.
Whatever you have been told, try to do without them. The "gift" may well be gladly accepted and often bluntly demanded by officials, but at the end of the day pride, honour and reputation are arguments that often weigh more heavily than swift gain. Being courteous, friendly and patient almost always does the trick.
Crime in Kazakhstan.
Low standards of living among large parts of the population have led to the rise of petty crime, especially in big cities and leisure resorts such as Burabay. Theft of cars and other belongings, pick-pocketing and mugging are the most common forms of street crime. However, though caution is advised, crime rates are no worse than those in Western Europe - not to mention many parts of the Americas.
Security in Kazakhstan.
According to most foreign embassies in Kazakhstan, the risk of acts of terror in Kazakhstan is no more than the global average. Unlike some other Central Asian countries, religious fanaticism is virtually absent. Though some crimes have been committed since independence that were thought to have political motives, there have been no signs of political violence in any organized form.
Crime has been steadily on the rise over the turn of the millennium, in particular in big cities. Foreigners do not run any particular risk in Almaty, and it is sufficient to take the same precautions the local population does: do not carry large amounts of money or valuables, avoid "unofficial" taxis after dark, and make sure you carry a local mobile telephone with the emergency number of your embassy in it.
Foreigners who are in for a longer stay are strongly advised to register with their embassy. Police harassment in cities, Almaty in particular, has dwindled. However, police retain the right to check the legal documents of anyone, including foreigners, on any occasion.
Whether these documents are in order or not, extortion attempts still do occasionally occur and can amount to. several hundreds of dollars, which is one more reason to limit the amount of cash in one's wallet.
Moreover, false policemen are still a presence, especially in the countryside, though in smaller numbers than they used to. Any policeman who does not wear a visible ID badge should be considered suspicious.
Taboos in Kazakhstan.
It is not appropriate, certainly not in the countryside, to greet a woman with a handshake. On entering a mosque, women should have their hair, their shoulders and their legs, including their knees, covered.
Sneezing and snorting, especially at the dinner table, is considered unhygienic, but sniffing and spitting in public on the street seems to be perfectly acceptable. Conversations, especially in business meetings, should start with a long and polite introduction. Getting to the point at once is considered discourteous.
Earthquakes in Kazakhstan.
The southern provinces of Kazakhstan to the north of the Tien Shan are within a large earthquake-prone strip that reaches from western China to the Caucasus, caused by the movement of the Indian subcontinent plate in the direction of Eurasia. The plate edges northwards at a speed of five centimetres per year (on average) and leads to frequent minor tremors and occasional major ones.
Southern Kazakhstan, western China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are particularly exposed. Special steel construction devices have been used in Almaty and other southern cities to secure buildings from subterranean activity.
Almaty's highest Soviet-era building, Hotel Kazakhstan, boasts that it can resist even the heaviest earthquake. From time to time there are also tremors in the Altai mountains.
Radioactivity in Kazakhstan.
Levels of radiation in all accessible areas of Kazakhstan are within the strict standards included in European legislation. This is also true for the city of Semey (Semipalatinsk) near which atom bombs were tested during the Soviet era. Present-day travellers, suspicious enough to carry along a Geiger counter, can confirm that there is no danger involved in visiting this region.
The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick. Publishing house "Odyssey". 2010.