So if you are coming to Karaganda soon here are some things that will hopefully be helpful. It is getting cold outside; you will want a hat, scarf, and gloves. It is warm in the apartments. Some have thermostats and valves on the radiators, but ours doesn’t. Windows regulate the temperature for us. The baby house is hot too, so prepare to be warm there. And they want you to take your shoes off, but if you bring slippers or crocs you can wear them inside. Food is good, and not real expensive, though nicer restaurants compare w/ American restaurants. Clothes and nice jewelry is expensive. We’ve been buying 8 liter jugs of bottled water for about $1.40 US and staying healthy doing so. It looks like the water and electricity issues are behind us now, but a small flashlight is not a bad idea, and you should be prepared for slightly brown hot water. We have been told that it’s just rust in the water though. Air Astana for flights from Almaty to Karaganda will charge you for checked baggage in excess of 44lb per person. I want to say the overage is about $1.50 per pound above that if I remember correctly. We paid.
Bring gifts from home if you can, as that type of thing is definitely cheaper there. Watches, wallets, costume jewelry, ect that you can get for $10-$15 are more like $20-$3o here! Baby clothes and toys are a lot more expensive, no sales racks here (where we are anyway)! We bought one long sleeve onesie for $10. Also, snow suits are about $40 and higher. If you are in an apartment, pretty much everything you need is walking distance… groceries, souvenirs, mall, restaurants, park, etc. As for hotels, we haven’t been able to get a lot of info on them. I guess there are 2 that people will stay at. One is kind of isolated, the other not so much, but we are fairly sure that you control your own heat there at least. Regular brand cleaning supplies (Tide laundry soap, ect.), toiletries (Old Spice deodorant, Pantene shampoo, ect), and soft TP, tissues and paper towels are easy to get at the grocery we went to, and for about the same price as home as well.
There are things you can’t get. Peanut butter for one. Things do change quickly and you have to just kind of roll with it. We didn’t expect our visits to be cut in half, but they were, and new families are experiencing the same thing so far. Most people will work with you if you don’t speak Russian, but practice charades, and get used to pointing and indicating quantities with your fingers. Also, a phrase book is wonderful for pointing to words and numbers. Be prepared for some people to be less than happy to be talking to foreigners. This has been the exception rather than the rule for us though. Some people just laugh, but most people are very nice – especially when you are buying from them. You will find a fair amount of people speak English somewhat though, and it is remarkable how wonderful that feels! Books, DVD’s, playing cards, are all good too, because the only thing we’ve found in English on TV is a brief CaspioNet Newscast from 9-10 AM And some music videos. Most channels are in Russian or overdubbed, and there are no subtitles.
Also, if you want to fit in here wear nice clothes! People dress nice here and most women have nice high heel boots and pretty coats, hats, gloves and scarves. We feel like bums walking around town because we brought more casual, comfortable clothes. Coats are very expensive here too so I would bring one if possible. And lastly, dial-up is slow (in case you’ve forgotten), and you use phone cards for it. The cost has been about $1.25/hour.
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