Hitching A Ride In Kazakhstan

It’s a dusty, warm summer’s day in Almaty. We have, by this time, been walking quite literally for hours, and fatigue has started to seep in. We give in, wanting to take an Uber to our destination (*cough* the mall *cough*).

“This may be a bad idea, but we’ll see how it goes,” Nancy says as she sticks out her thumb.

Sarcasm hits me: Ah, thanks for the reassurance, I think.

coffee shop

Western coffee shop in the streets of Almaty

A grey Toyota stops. One of a million Toyotas in Kazakhstan. Nancy says something in Russian, probably “can you take us to the mall?” The driver answers with a mumbled “sure, for this amount.”

Throughout the years, Nancy has dared me to step out of my comfort zone many times, and when I do agree, I have to take a deep breath in and remind myself: It’s the things you don’t do that you regret in life. 

We get in, and they start discussing. There is a disagreement on price, and in the end, we pay a little more than we first agreed upon for the lift. It’s only the matter of 50 cents or a dollar, so I am not too bothered by it. Forget public transport–hitching a ride in Kazakhstan is too easy, especially on our Western budget. $3 for a ride across town? Yes! I immediately agree that this is something we can do again on this trip.

Uber is rampant i Astana and Almaty, and the service fits very well with the very Kazakh culture of anyone giving a lift to anyone… just stand on the side of the road, say where you’re going, and maybe they’ll take you there. We preferred Uber merely because there was no negotiation on price, and no need for cash.

There was a lot about the trip that was all very different to me, beyond hailing for random cars. The Kazakh people have heart, Almaty in particular had such a charm to it. It made the comfort zone hiccups worth the ride.

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