Moving Atyrau Kazakhstan

We are moving to…

In Destinations, Expat Stories, Relocation Diaries by expatmeagan23 Comments

It seems fitting that as I’m typing this post it is officially the one year anniversary of our move to Houston. It feels like we only just got to Texas and now it’s just about time to leave.

About a week ago I announced that Dave and I had gotten confirmation that we are moving overseas again. I meant to spill the beans on our destination sooner, but Dave was home this week so I didn’t have a lot of spare time for blogging. The week flew by and now he’s back in London. We are both so thankful that this is his last business trip to the U.K. before we move to…

Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Atyrau Kazakhstan

Yep, you read that right… Kazakhstan. It’s kind of hard to believe, but it’s the place where Dave and I will be spending the next few years of our lives. The last few months have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. The when and where of our move kept changing. At first we thought we would be going to the U.K. around the end of the year and then all of the sudden the U.K. was out altogether and we were now moving straight to Kazakhstan this summer!

So that’s where we stand. Dave has gotten his official job offer letter and he has sent off for his supporting documentation for his visa application. At this point, we expect to move in late August, but we have definitely learned to go with the flow and take everything one step at a time.

In the meantime, we have both been trying to get our hands on any information about Atyrau that we can, but unfortunately there’s just not that much out there. Here’s what we do know:

  • In Kazakhstan they speak Kazakh and Russian.
  • Atyrau is a transcontinental city. We would likely live in Europe, but we could very easily go to Asia for dinner.
  • There is a foreigners community/compound for expats. We will likely live in an apartment, but there are townhouses available for families.
  • We are not allowed to drive or take local taxis. Instead, we will have a number we can call 24 hours a day to get a company provided taxi.
  • Temperatures are above 100 degrees (38C+) in summer and can get down to -40 degrees (C/F) in winter. It’s what I like to describe Texas summers and Alaska winters, but I’ll let you know how accurate that statement is once I’ve been there.
  • It takes 16 hours to fly to Atyrau from Houston, but requires at least 2 stops so the journey isn’t easy and can take up to 30+ hours depending on your connections.
  • Atyrau is 10 hours ahead of Texas (CDT/CST), making the window of talking time with friends and family back home only 4-6 hours per day. And that’s morning time for Texas so really that only works for people not working or for weekends. Dave has it a lot better, with only a 3 hour time difference between Atyrau and Perth.
  • We have heard that there is a Korean market in Atyrau, which might actually help with the language barrier of buying produce. Who knows. We’ll see.
  • We are a little apprehensive about the food, but apparently there is a TGI Fridays there so if all else fails we do have something that will somewhat resemble “home.”

At first we were really unsure of this move. It’s big and it’s scary and there are so many unknowns. We have been able to talk to some people that have lived in Kazakhstan and it seems like there’s an amazing community and people seem to really like it so we are excited to begin our new adventure. The first 5+ months of our marriage have been a little less than ideal with Dave traveling so much so we are just looking forward to settling down together… no matter where that may be.


  1. Ah! Meagan, it’s aunt Sherrie! I think it sounds exciting and wonderfull! Something to tell your grandchildren! A grand adventure, someday you will be happy for the experience! I think you and Dave are a perfect couple.

    1. Author

      Hey, Aunt Sherrie! I’m so glad you found my new blog. We are both really excited and also pretty nervous about the big move. We are staying pretty optimistic. We head over in a few days for our pre-assignment visit. They pay for us to go over there first to make sure we are ready to commit to the job. Keep us in your thoughts…we are hoping we will really like it!

  2. Wow. I assumed you guys would be in Texas a bit longer. Hope you guys enjoy Kazakh, it’s a place I definitely don’t know much about so look forward to seeing more from you about it and love the new name. Best of luck to you two and Megan and I are rooting for you guys!

    1. Author

      We kind of thought we would be in Texas a bit longer too, but this life is kinda crazy like that. We are heading over to Kazakhstan for a visit in a few days and then we will probably be moving early September. I’m still in complete denial and haven’t started doing any packing. Better get on that!

  3. Yes expat life is definitely one where you have to go with the flow – especially when you start an assignment, and as you found even before you start with uncertainty as to where and when you will start. I’m glad that Dave has kept his job in this oil price turmoil. Best wishes to you both as you commence an exciting new chapter in your life. I still stay in touch with ex work colleagues that are still working in Kazachstan. I know you’ll both have an amazing time.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Mark! We are really thankful and excited about about the move. Our pre-assignment visit is coming up in a few days. Wish us luck! 😉

  4. How crazy is that! Wow, at least being in Europe (or partly anyway) you can travel easily!

    1. Author

      As always, our list of places to visit is pretty long. It will be exciting to visit Europe. I’ve only ever been to the UK. The first two trips we are considering are actually India and Kenya. We are mostly thinking about countries that are easier to visit pre-kids. It’s all pretty exciting though!

  5. Hi, I’m reading your blog as a friend of mine commented on it. I see you are moving to Atyrau! We lived there for 3 years and loved it. I am sure you have done the pre-assignment trip, hope you got to see some of the culture and met some nice people. I would be happy to answer any last minute questions if needed before you take off! Enjoy

    1. Author

      Hi, Jo! So glad to hear you loved Atyrau. The more we find people that have lived there, the better our impression gets. We leave on Saturday for our pre-assignment visit and we are really excited and a little nervous. When did you live in KZ? If you have any tips I’d love to hear them!

      1. Hi, we lived there 2011-14. We still have many friends there who are with TCO. Good luck on your pre assignment visit, hope you enjoy! Most people are back now from their summer break, so should be lots of people there to help you out. If you are sensitive to mosquito bites, make sure you take repellent and anti itch cream with you as this is the time they are really bad!

        1. Author

          I have insect repellent ready to go, but didn’t even think about anti itch cream. Good idea! Thanks for that tip. We are pretty positive about the move. We figure we can go just about anywhere as long as the people are friendly and there’s a good community. It sounds like Atyrau fits that description well.

  6. Hi Meagan! Reading your FB posting really thought you would be back in Korea. Finally the guessing game is answered. Hope you will settle down quickly and enjoy your new adventure in Atyrau!

    1. Author

      Hey Mel, we figured we would end up in Korea again too, but it didn’t work out that way. Thanks for the well wishes! I hope you’re doing great!

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  10. How is life over there? I am trying to find something about lifestyle, food, what people do over the weekends. We are considering applying to a job over there but I would like to know how it is. Currently I am in Middle East.

    1. Author

      Hi Ana, I know I haven’t been very good at updating my blog since we moved!

      Entertainment in Atyrau is mostly about exploring the area (walking, finding new shops, etc) and friends. There’s a bowling alley, but there are no movies/films in English.

      There are lots of good restaurants with huge variety on the menu. Most restaurant serves many different types of cuisine (pizza, sushi, burgers, etc). You can get plenty of familiar items in the grocery store and markets. I’d say meat is probably the thing most people bring in. We don’t, but my husband is vegetarian and I have found chicken that I like and I don’t cook a lot of beef (but plenty of people here do!).

      We really like it here! It definitely takes some getting used to (harsh winters and summers, new culture and language), but I think it’s a pretty easy place to live.

      I don’t have any experience with transportation as my husband’s company provides cars and drivers that we can use to get around.

      Some of the downsides to living here is that we are pretty far from most places. Flights can be expensive. But you just make the most of it.

      I’d say if the job conditions are right, go for it! Hopefully this was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      1. Hi
        Thank you so much for your quick reply. He still didn’t applied as we are checking first how’s life over there. Is it easy to get vegetables and fruit or even coconut produces? We don’t really eat a lot of meat but we eat fish and loads pf vegetables and use a lot of coconut produces to cook.
        Is it possible to get a job as expat wife? Is it easier? I am a yoga instructor so I was wondering it would be easy for me to teach over there.
        And how is the medical care over there?
        Sorry for so many questions:)
        Thanks a lot

        1. Author

          I can’t recall ever seeing fresh coconut. There’s a variety of fruit and vegetables, but availability is dependent on the seasons. Imported produce will be more expensive.

          Unless you can get a job before you come and arrive on a work visa, I believe you will be coming on a spouse visa. My understanding is that you won’t be allowed to work. If teaching yoga is your passion then I’m sure you could find opportunities to volunteer. Some people accept donations for local charities in exchange for classes and things.

          I can’t speak to medical care because my husband’s company has its own clinic so I have only used that. I think the medical care is typically fine for basic illnesses, but anything serious is usually sent to doctors outside of KZ (at least that’s our company’s policy). Most people bring in lots of over the counter meds for cold/flu, headaches, etc. Also if you’re on any prescriptions they usually recommend you bring enough of those with you. There are pharmacies here, but I do not have any experience using them. Our company’s recommendation is to bring whatever you need in with you. Other companies may be less conservative.

  11. Hello Meagan.

    Thanks for sharing your experience living in Atyrau.

    I have an offer to work with a gas and oil company. Before accept it I’ve been looking for information about the expat’s lifestyle in Atyrau.

    First at all, I am a single gay man. I know that Kazakhstan is a quite conservative country, so I’m not expecting to be as open as I can be in a developed western country. Do you know how’s life in Atyrau for gay people? I’m not into the gay scene, not a party guy… I’m just concerned about the possibility of having a harsh time living there. Have you heard any main issue for gay people living there?

    Also, I was trying to find out if there are good gyms for training in there. My google search was useless.

    Have you had any trouble finding fresh fruits in Atyrau? Again, google was unable to answer that.

    Finally, what about travelling? How isolated you are in terms of distances and expenses? I’ve read some comments that travelling is not easy living there.

    Again thank you very much. You are living in a city quite “exotic”, sorry for asking all those topics, I hope you have a little time to help me with your responses.

    Cheers, all the best for you and Dave.

    Juan 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Juan,

      I don’t personally know any gay people here in KZ, out or otherwise. Sorry I can’t help you with that part of your question.

      My accommodation comes with a gym so I am not a member of any gyms here. There are a couple gyms here that expats tend to use though. World Class is one that comes to mind.

      Fruit here is expensive, but easy to find. It depends on if you’re really particular about which fruits you eat, but fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, grapes are easy to find. Berries are available, but tend to be a lot more than you’d pay in the US. There is even imported tropical fruit. Veggies are also easy to find. Most people shop for fruit and veg in the markets (Rakhat, Koktem, Dina) rather than the grocery stores. The quality is better. You are definitely at the mercy of what is in season here though. That’s just something to keep in mind. There’s frozen fruit and vegetables in the grocery store.

      Atyrau has direct flights to Amsterdam and Moscow. Plus, a new flight through Frankfurt just opened up on Mondays and Fridays. 5 hours to Europe and I think 3 or 4 to Moscow? Flights are expensive, but the pay is generally good here so it tends to balance out for us expats. The flights can be really empty during non-peak times (when it’s not school holidays, rotation days, etc) so we pay for the convenience…. and sometimes you even get a whole row to yourself on the flights.

      I hope I was able to answer most of your questions. Sorry it took me a little while to get back to you!

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