Shymkent (Kazakh: Шымкент) is a city in the Kazakh Desert, and is the third largest city in Kazakhstan.
- 1 Shymkent International Airport (CIT IATA). with flights to other Kazakh destinations, China, Russia and Turkey.
- 2 Shymkent railway station, ☏ +7 705 853 5400. Most trains depart from Nur-Sultan at 21:25 daily, while other trains depart from Almaty (Alma Ata 2 station) at 18:32.
There are overnight buses from Almaty's Sayran bus station that leave at roughly half hour intervals from 18:00-21:00 everyday. The journey takes approximately 12 hr, 2,400 tenge (Aug 2012).
There are 5 buses everyday leaving from Tashkent. Journey takes about 4.30 hr, 1700 tenge (Jul 2019). You will arrive at Samal bus station.
Overnight buses will arrive at the Samal bus station, 5 km out from the city center. From there, you can take buses from 35-40 tenge for a marshrutka to the center. Taxis to the center are also available for 300-400 tenge.
You can take "gypsy cabs" for 300-400 tenge anywhere in the city. Bargain if they try to overcharge.
Buses run to and from the center and all of the microdistricts. They cost 70 tenge as of 2018 which for short distances is frustrating. Routes are marked at some bus stations and locals know where most of them go.
"Marshrutkas" are mini-buses that run largely the same routes as the buses.
If you plan on walking remember that the districs are broken into "microryons" which look like city blocks on the map but are often four times the size.
- Abay Park. Memorials, tanks, ferris wheel, statue of Abai. Attached is the aquapark "Delfin" if you want some water park fun in the summer.
- Park Ken-Baba. Some miniatures of famous architecture, as well as a little pond and walking area with rides/swings. On main road Tauke Xana, and Kazybek-Bi
- The big Tulip Fountain. On the corner of main street Tauke Xana and Mamashuli.
- 1 Independence Park. Very impressive, at Ordabasy Square, the site of the founding of Shymkent. There is a massive modern monument you can get to by climbing up on a bridge past some nice fountains (equally if not more impressive at night). Also see the Philharmonia, a nice park area, and the new (as of 2020) yurt-like museum, all in that area. Inexpensive shared taxis to Sairam also leave from this square.
- Hippodrome. If anything is going on (which is rare: usually public holidays like Nauryz), the Hippodrome is well worth a visit for horse games such as Kokpar. Hard to find out when things are happening, however.
- Mega Planet: most popular youth hangout place in town, a mall with indoor skating rink, movie theater, Western-style chain grocery store and an upstairs food court. On Tauke-Khan avenue.
- Spartak - awesome outdoor swimming pool, soccer field and basketball court. Across from Mega on Tauke-Khan avenue.
- Movies: playing (mostly Western movies dubbed in Russian) on the top floor of Mega Center.
- Babylon: arcade complex also on the top floor of Mega Center, complete with games and laser tag
- Watch football (soccer) at FC Ordabasy, who play in the Premier League, the top tier of Kazakh football. Their home ground is Kazhymukan Munaitpasov (or Hodzhy Mykana) Stadium, capacity 20,000, one km north of Old Town.
The Nauryz celebrations in Shymkent in late March are the among the largest in Kazakhstan. The events happen at the Ippodrom (Hippodrome) in the northern part of the city.
There are good souvenir shops in Park Ken Baba, on Tauke-Khan avenue. They sell stuffed camels, magnets, keychains, leather goods, plates and figurines.
- Ayna Bazaar: good for buying food and random stuff (some clothes, Chinese electronics, burned CDs with Kazakh music, etc.). In a microregion a bit outside of town, but public transport regularly goes there.
- Koktem Bazaar: good for fresh produce and fruit.
You can also change your uzbek soms to kazakh tenges and reciprocally near Южная (Yuzhnaya) bus station. Be careful, watch well the rates.
- Kok-saray. Uzbek restaurant on Ilyaev Street and Momyshuli Steet. Has beer and free Wi-Fi. 15% service charge specified and added automatically to bill but service is quite good, as are the prices for a smart restaurant (350 tenge for a pint, 750 tenge for plov).
- Caravan. Excellent Uyghur lagman (get the Busso lagman, fried with meat and peppers), inside of park Ken-Baba.
- 1 Madlen, Ilyaev 17. 10:00—00:00. Western-style sandwiches, pastries, salads and shakes. Two locations: Ilyaev Street, or the bigger Madlen next to Shymkent Hotel on Tauke-Khan avenue. Very popular Shymkent hangout with locals.
- Mozzarella. Expensive Italian food with free Wi-Fi, on Ilyaev Street and Dulati Street.
- 2 El Doro, Tauke-Khan 80 (past/across the street from Park Ken-baba). Excellent and reasonably-priced pizza. Try the vegetarian with goat cheese. Has good juices and reasonably priced beers.
- Dinara cafe/bar. Pick up a good shashlik (grilled meat kebab) and mug of Shymkentskoe beer, a "typical Shymkent" meal. Right across the street from Mega Center mall on Tauke Xana.
- Doner. Best Turkish "doner kebab" is a lavash flat pita bread filled with meat, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, mayo and a ketchupy sauce. The best doner kebab in Shymkent is a stand with a few outdoor tables/chairs located south of the center on Turkestanskaya Street and Konayev Avenue.
"Shymkent" beer is sold most places and rather excellent, perhaps the best local beer in the country. Also cheap.
- Cinema Bar. A European-style techno club with no cover charge, attached to the old cinema on Zheltoksan street and Baitursynov Street. Has a cool ambience inside, old-movie decor. May be closed now, not sure.
- Karaoke bars. down past Hotel Shymkent on Republic Aveue (extension of main street Tauke-Khan avenue), bus stop "Ogonyok"
- Bowling and pool tables. At Tauke-Khan avenue and Kunayev Avenue, upstairs at the "Maharaja" entertainment complex right next to the Spartak sports complex in the middle of town.
- Hookah bar. In the 17th microregion, expensive but nice ambience and stage with DJ/live music on certain nights/events.
- 1 Hotel Nurotau. The rooms are better than the hotel looks from the outside. Single rooms 4000 tenge, doubles 5000-7000 tenge, triple 8000 tenge. Wi-Fi is available.
- 2 Hotel Ordabasy, Kazybek Bi 1 (Located on the corner of the Ordabasy plaza where Tole Bi and Kazybek Bi intersect), ☏ +7 7252 53 64 21. Check-out: 10:00. This mid-range hotel is in Ordabasy plaza, in front of the large MiG monument. As of May 2010, a double-room goes for 6,400 tenge with a private bath, satellite TV, and balcony (if facing the street). No late check-out is available. Double 6400 tenge/night.
- Rented apartments are available - bargain for your room. Don't pay more than 2,000 tenge for a normal room or 4,000 tenge for "elite" (newly remodeled room) in a rented apartment. No meals included, so-so conditions for the most part, but inexpensive. There are apartments on the main road (Tauke Xana/Respublika) close to the bus stop Ogonyok. The apartment rental is done out of a rainbow-colored cafe right on the street.
- Other hotel options include Hotel Shymkent, and Clara Sapar (better option for business/diplomat guests). Rooms are over US$100 night.
+7-7252 is the area code for Shymkent.
- Turkestan — the most famous Muslim site in Kazakhstan, with a beautiful mausoleum and brand new historical museum. Definitely a must-see if you're in the south for a few days.
- Sairam mausoleums — you can take a taxi from Ordabasy Square to Sairam for 200-300 tenge. Stop to see the "SHYMKENT" Hollywood sign on your way! Marshrutka number 140 also runs to Sairam from the Aina bus stop (not from the Avtovokzal) and costs 70 tenge.
- Sauran ancient city ruins — you can book a private taxi from Shymkent, or take a taxi from Turkestan if you're already there.
- Tashkent - go to the junction of Republic avenue and Gagarin street. There are marshrutkas and taxis waiting for passengers. A shared taxi to the border is about 1,400 tenge. Just south of the junction of Gagarin and Respublika, on the western side opposite the bus stop, there's a shopping gallery and at the back it opens on a 3 parking lot for marshrutkas. Be warned they drive extremely fast. The marshrutka goes to the main Avtobeketi (АвтоБекеті) in Saryagash. A few hundred meters to the Southwest on Ulitsa Mayly-Kozha is another Avtobeketi where you can find a taxi for the last 5 km to the Saryagash border checkpoint for 100 to 200 tenge. Direct buses leave Shymkent to Tashkent at 08:00, 13:00 and 19:00 (May 2022) from Bekzhan bus station 8km west of the city center. Tickets are about 3000 tenge per person. The ride is comfortable and the border crossing smoother than in shared taxis, and unlike the taxis they also go all the way to Tashkent. The station has a casual local number +7 707 475 8660 you can contact whatsup, asking simple questions.
- Taraz - Locals pay 1,200 tenge for the Shymkent to Taraz road (Apr 2019). Drivers don't seem to overcharge. 15-man marshrutkas leave from Samal station, 5 km north-west of the city centre. They operate at least until 6pm (and a sunset ride is spectacular). Possibly cheaper from Bekzhan station, slightly further out. They arrive at Zhensaya station, 5 km west of the city centre. Takes about 2.5 hours (the marshrutka detours on a few minor roads and often has to stop for cattle).