Almost immediately after getting off the plane in Astana, one notices signs everywhere for Expo 2017. The main streets heading into the downtown are lined with signs announcing Astana is the home of Expo 2017. While wandering downtown, there are plenty of little details and art installations reminding you that Expo 2017 will be held in Astana. Even in the privacy of my own apartment, I cannot help but be reminding of Expo 2017 every morning when I open my curtains or every night when I close them because we can see the main pavilion in the distance. It’s inescapable. And for good reason! Astana is incredibly proud to be introducing its modern city and rich culture to the world.
This year’s expo, like many in the history of the World’s Fairs, has a theme – Future Energy, with a particular emphasis on Green Energy. World’s Fairs/Expos have historically focused on presenting new scientific, technological, and cultural marvels, and this year’s is no different. Over 65 nations, including U.S.A., Canada, Germany, the UK, France, and many others, will have pavilions and demonstrations of new technologies and ideas about how to make our future better and more sustainable. Additionally, a variety of cultural events highlighting Kazakhstan culture will also be showcased over the months.
The official opening is less than a month away now, June 10th, and will run until September 10th. Tickets range from 4,000 to 8,000 KZT (about $13 to $25) depending on when you go during the week and if it’s a special event day. Food, housing, and transportation in the city itself is very affordable, so it’s a worthwhile visit if you have the time to get here.
Based on my experiences in the city and from what I’ve heard about the Expo schedule, I’ve come up with a few suggestions if you plan to visit.
- When to Visit: I’ve heard the first two weeks are going to be insane with world leaders coming in and out of Astana. Security will be very high and intense. Unless you can only come in June, wait until July or later to let some of the chaos subside.
- Transportation: Unless you speak Russian, take a taxi or the public bus (called Astra). Uber drivers here always call you want and want you to tell them where you are; it can get complicated. Save yourself the trouble and go for a taxi or bus from the airport or around town. It is also helpful to have your hotel name or address written on a piece of paper that you can just show the driver. Some hotels may even be offering shuttle services for the Expo.
- Where to Stay: There are a lot of hotels in downtown Astana that will suit any budget. The city is clean inside and out (seriously, people are cleaning public spaces all the time). Most hotels should be fine. The Expo is north of the airport and south of downtown, I would recommend getting a place in the southern part of the city for easier access.
- Food: While I imagine there will be many food options in the exhibition spaces, in March a new mall called MEGA Silk Way opened and is located to the east of the Expo center and across the street from Nazarbayev University. The mall has several sit-down restaurants on the main floor, a food court on the second floor, and a supermarket called Pamctop (pronounced Ram-store).
- Water: Tap water is fine for showers, washing clothes, etc., but it is high in minerals. Drink bottled water instead.
- Tickets: Tickets can be purchased on the website here, in MEGA Silk Way, or, I’d assume, at the gate.
- Additional Tips: Because of heightened security, it is advisable to keep your passport or a certified copy of it on you while in the city. I hear mosquitoes can get pretty bad in the city during the summer; bring bug spray. And finally, be a considerate and respectful tourist. Kazakhstani citizens are warm and welcoming people, don’t disrespect them or their culture and you’ll be in good hands!