How to use Almaty City Buses - eNidhi India Travel Blog

How to use Almaty City Buses

If a city bus service is accessible on Google maps, there was no need for this post. However in many cities around the world public transport system isn't well integrated with google maps. I've seen this in South Korea, Santorini and recently in Almaty. Because we can't use google maps to figure out how to reach the destination using bus service, it took some effort to understand Almaty's city bus service, routes and figuring out how to use them. This post will make your life simpler if you're visiting Almaty on budget.

Step 1: Check if subway line can be used for your destination

Almaty has a subway line, not very extensive but covers some main areas. If there is a subway closer to where you are and heading towards your intended destination, then walk to nearest subway station. Subway announcements, display etc are in English and hence easier to manage compared to bus.

Subway frequency could be low during non peak hours, I had to wait for 15 mins for next train, but it is fine if it takes close to your destination. You can buy ticket at the counter/machine or use your ONAY card.

Step 2: Explore Bus option

Assuming Subway is not suitable, Enter your destination in Google maps, understand the direction, approx distance and nearest main road & bus stop.

Then use to enter your origin/destination and identify possible bus numbers you can use.

This website is decent but not very accurate. Maybe data is not updated. However I found following challenges

  • Some streets are very long. Difficult to spot/specify exact location on the street
  • Data on the website is not latest- there were couple of instances where website suggested a bus number, I waited for 15 minutes but no bus came. Eventually I took some other bus

If distance is within a km, you are better off walking.

Step 3: Get yourself an ONAY card

You can pay using QR code inside the bus without a smart card but for that you will need local payment options. For tourists, more convenient to buy an ONAY Card. ONAY card can be bought from various shops in town, like the one shown below, located next to a bus stop. These shops are not too common, so on your day 01 in Almaty get yourself an ONAY card as soon as you can.

Shopkeeper charged me 700 KZT for the card-about 130 INR, which had 100 KZT balance. He also guided me to load more money into the card using a machine next to his shop. Each bus ride costs 80 KZT or about 20 INR, so you can make a rough guess how many rides you will need during your stay and load proportionate amount. For 4-5 days stay better to load some 1000 KZT. (serves 10-13 rides)

Step 4: Walk to nearest bus stop

Once you've identified the direction, nearest main road/bus stop, walk to bus stop. At the bus stop, look for display like below. It shows various bus numbers and their destination on the map. Studying this you can identify which all bus numbers can take you closer to your destination. Cross reference with what you found on 


Above: Typical route map at Almaty city bus stand

Below: Zoom in on specific route going towards airport 

If no buses go to your destination either check whichever route takes you closest or walk across the street or to other bus stops nearby and check again- as an intersection may have 4 different bus stops heading in 4 different directions.

Step 5: Wait for the right bus number and board the bus

Now you have ONAY card with money, you know the bus number to your destination, so wait for it and board. During peak hour you will get a bus every 5-10 minutes in city, 15-20 minutes in the outskirts.

Once in the bus, keep an eye on google map how close you are to your destination. Bus stops will be shown. Get off at a bus stop closest to your destination. In case you boarded a wrong bus by mistake and it is heading away from your destination, get off at next stop, repeat the process to board a right bus towards your destination.

There is no need to tap off while getting down. Fare is same whether you rode just 1 stop or entire trip of the bus. If your ONAY card has no balance the reader will flash red light. Get off in next stop and load your card. I didn't experience any inspection of ticket during my short stay in Almaty but that doesn't mean you can try a ride without ticket or smart card.

In case you already knew you've to change the bus, then keep a mental reference which stop to get off the bus for changing.

If you learn how to use buses in Almaty, you can save a lot. For example, taxi to airport will cost 7000 KZT or 1300 INR. If you can use a bus, you can reach airport in 20 INR flat.

Hope this helps.

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