Kazak Silk Road driving to Kazakhstan

MotoeXplorers Kazakhstan is a totally flexible overland silk road trip, which anyone, in any vehicle, or motorcycle can complete, freely anytime.

The Silk Road through Kazakhstan is relatively easy to travel, usually visa-free, quite low costs and overland-friendly. Opting to do an overland road trip through Kazakhstan can also take you right up to the borders of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, even China and onwards into Mongolia.

You can experience much of what we’ve done ourselves on the trans-Asia-China expedtions, just by setting off, going freely!

There’s also an opportunity to use our experience, share our route knowledge to help you create your own custom ride/drive plan, to enable you to travel overland in Kazakhstan, at your own pace, on your own schedule.

It’s really the lowest cost way, to effectively travel as far into Kazakhstan and the surrounding regions as you wish, even right up to the China border if you desire! Utilizing experience and contacts from ourselves and other travellers, throughout the region.

Experience a Silk Road Motorcycle or driving challenge like no other, the Kazak-SilkRally is attainable for any vehicle, the older and ruggedier the better, but you will pretty much see every type of motor vehicle throughout the vastness of land that is Kazakhstan. An overlanding adventurers paradise with thousands of miles of rugged, varied roads, largely without boundaries, enabling you to switch from on-road, to optional off-roads at your leisure.

Road cars, motorbikes, Lada, jeep, fiat 500, skoda, 4×4, toyota, Land-rover, Hilux, transit, sprinter vans, motorcycles, any vehicle can complete the Kazak-SilkRally challenge; 5000miles or more! of pure motoring adventure> see some of the riders & drivers who travelled the Silk Road Kazak routes

old lada car in kazakstan rally kazak

Why explore Kazakhstan overland?
It’s a land where you can still travel freely

  • It’s cheap, it’s accessible and it’s 1BIG giant adventurous landscape.
  • It’s doable; you can still get there and back!
  • Kazakhstan is a huge central Asian Country, which has strong links to both east and west.
  • You do not need travel permits & KZ is visa free for many nationals.
  • It’s the largest, friendliest, accessible ‘stan’ to explore on the Silk-Road.

You can simply gather some basic info yourself and set off free. Or Join with MotoExplorer to do our low-cost, flexible Kazak Silk Road, which gives you access to sharing our 15 years of experience, organising overlanding adventures, travelling thoughout Kazakhstan, The Stans and Silk road right through to China.

Once you click ‘Join‘ – you’ll be re-aligned on to a whole new sense of purpose and adventure at just the thought of driving the Silk-Road! No-matter what I say here, it’s impossible to convey the magnitude of adventure and new experiences you will encounter as you journey through a thousand years of history. For starters take a look through some of our last decade of Kazakh & Stans photos!

Most of all ‘it’s your journey to go do it however works best for you, your budget, your timeframe, your choices of vehicle or motorcycle, truck, van – I’ve travelled Kazakhstan in a variety of vehicles and every trip is an inspiring life-time journey of new discovery.

Kazak-rally truck on silk road
Anything goes on the Kazak-Rally Silk Roadusually slowly!

It is not a race, speedy or group event, it’s all about having your own unique motoring adventure, taking your own time, the achievement of driving/riding to Kazakhstan and the Silk Road. Plus of course the huge adventure and amazing experiences you will have, the more miles and km’s you can travel throughout Kazakhstan, the better.

Deciding to go the Kazakhstan Silk Road way, aligns you with a group of like minded travellers. People from all walks of life who want to step a little out of their day to day comfort zone and see how things look in a totally different part of the world. (tip; you’ll get on just fine with English & a point to book!)
You’ll get to share the experiences from other travellers, without being tied to anyone elses agenda or travel schedule. It’s your own big-Kazakhstan-Adventure.
Get in touch to discuss your adventure – before you change your mind!

lady motorcycle rider in Kyrgyzstan
She did it – so can you! solo motorcycle rider (we met in Bishkek) after travelling Kazakhstan
even some bmwGS’s have made it!

The Kazakhstan Silk-Road is doable by any vehicle. 2 or 4 wheels, any time, any vehicle, any reason!

You might also like to think of it as a great big Silk Road expedition – combining many of the great elements of the Silk Road, but still different from doing say a Mongol Rally. As the Kazak-Silk Road, being the central key region, connecting east and west, it combines so many different elements of adventure, history and cultures from the Silk Road.

In many peoples opinion, It also has certain advantages rather than going through Mongolia, it’s equally adventurous, has similar off-grid-ness, whilst being just that bit more accessible, especially given that it can still be reached without the Russia costs and transit issues. Or, as and when, or for those that are able and like to cross Russia, maybe more from the north, or far south, it also has the added advantage of being approachable from both north, south and eastern Silk Road routes.

All in all Kazakhstan should be very high – if not No.1 on every overlanders bucket list.
MotoExplorers first started supporting Kazakhstan adventurers in 2009, initially to help overlanders on their mission to reach China, explore the Silk Road, other Stans and beyond.

The costs & what’s involved
Simply go freely, yourself – anytime.
Or utilise my experiences and make it your own Kazak overland adventure.
Cost is £595 per vehicle or motorcycle.

* Vehicle and team entry, any number of participants for 1 moto / vehicle
* Kazak Silk-Road t-shirt (X’tra sets available for all participants)
* Kazakhstan road map, with routing info
* Custom travel planning to suit your own schedule
* Overlanders travel prep pack – combines our experience on kit & prep
* Routing ideas with some GPS places you might like to head for, or not!
* Kazakhstan accommodation guide, hotels, lodgings.
* Wild camping places if you like it free and easy, or wilder!
* Photo & travel-tales competitions

The ideal times for travelling in Kazakhstan, are April to October.
Set out any date you like.
Finish lines can be where-ever you reach to in Kazakhstan! or ideally go via the semi official mid way point in Shymkent, then to either Almaty, looping back via Astana, or continue through China, for MotoX-max-street-cred! MotorXplorers adventurers.
Drive/ride a full lap of Kazakhstan, maX kudos plus an extra special ‘Kazak-Silk-Road Cap’
Hidden treasures competition: (free entry with route notes)
Discover our hidden silver treasure, using the MotoeXplorers clues and route notes, to drive a lap of Kazakhstan & if you discover the treasure, keep the silver & get your Kazakstan-Silk-Road fee back.

Some Kazakhstan facts; it has borders with intriguing exciting adventure lands like Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and China! it’s also right by Mongolia in the east or the Caspian sea to Turkey in the west.
If you like to explore further, use our Kazak-Rally experiences and routes to reach far eastern Kazakhstan and then continue in any direction you like to plan, maybe onwards to Mongolia, Russia and Japan! or travel the width of China by the Great Wall (we did it in 09′ – it’s a huge adventure) or go slightly south into Kyrgzstan, the most beatiful mountain roads taking you to evogative places like ‘Tash-Rabat’ – a 15th-century stone caravanserai in Naryn Province, at an altitude of 3,200 metres.

Why you should visit Kazakhstan by motor vehicle; I shall write more about it at a new site/page, much more! for now; ‘Because you can’ – it’s vast, it’s adventure, low-cost, pure overlanding, a giant country, it’s friendly, it’s in the middle, it gives you a mission and purpose like no-other – which will stand you in good stead the rest of your life … and none of your friends have drove there! ?

Kazakhstan KZ Kazak vehicle identity sign

The 6 very basics to use our Kazak-Silk-Road notes
* Fill out an enquiry form / email – that’s like your PressGo button
* Plan on some form of interesting vehicle, moto, it can be anything with wheels
* Agree to aim for Kazakhstan, by hook or by crook
* You might like to raise some money for a good cause, or also get some sponsorship.
* Show up any-way and just set off!
* Don’t turn back, drive past the camels and keep going with positive momentum

motoexplorer silk road camels

If you drive to the far eastern edge of Kazakhstan, you will almost be at China and Mongolia. For comparison to Mongolia overlanders, staying within the Kazak borders can save you the added complexity of exiting into Russia and re-entering for the return stage. (it means a costly double entry Russian visa, which can be more problematic, for little extra reward) Whereas continuing to travel on the Kazak side, you still have so so many adventure options. We can share some more ideas if you like!? how about drive to Tash Rabat and the China border? it’s easier than you might imagine. It is also possible to enter Mongolia going via Kazakhstan and China.

kazak rally lada car

We think it’s still the last remaining world frontier and the greatest adventure motoring landmass on the planet, we;; this side of Alaska:) + you are virtually at China! or Kyrgystan, there are so many more opportunities to continue your own adventures after you ticked the Kazak-Rally box, the world will be your oyster. As many fellow moto-explorers discovered, once they travelled Kazakhstan, anything became possible and their lives were changed forever. Some went on to keep going around the whole world, by car, truck, van or motorcycle, it’s all possible. You will become a true long distance MotoeXplorer.

silk road kazakstan almaty
Silk Road Kazakhstan – you should take your MotoX picture by the road sign, when you discover it!
From here it’s just 2304km to Almaty or 2655km to the Khorgos China border.


vast wilderness road kazakhstan

We aren’t going to tell you where to go, or how to to it day by day, it’s your adventure and getting lost, stuck, detoured or falling in love with a camel is all part of the adventure. There’s so much choice of vast lands inside Kazakahstan, once you get there, your own drive will be an unique experience to you.

old toyota pickup truck

My MK5 Toyota Hilux; A front wheel had to be secured with metal paste in Ukraine, (no time to fix) with 2 missing studs, the truck always seemed so hot it was about to catch fire, the batteries melted in Russia the day I was due to cross into KZ. I still drove over 10,000 miles, including a full lap of Kazakhstan, where I bought 2 new batteries in Uralsk) Patched up, it continued to do some high altitide off-roads in Kyrgyzstan as well as into Xinjiang, western China and all without ever needing to even engage the 4x4mode! actually a Lada could have been just as well suited, whilst cheaper to maintain!

What about the vehicle, type?
It really doesn’t matter, there’s no limits or restrictions, why should we limit adventure! wether you choose a $500 truck, £300 ex auction banger, or a Toyota Hilux – you’re always going to have issues and adventurisms to deal with. Breaking down, or not, is not selective to just older vehicles nowadays! in fact, the older the better, it equals easier to fix, more local knowledge. Old is definitely good, it has many advantages. If you choose newer, or bigger, it can be done also. You can see some examples of the vehicles from the Kazak-road, but none will ever be the same as your own steed.

The Kazakhstan ‘Kazak Silk Road’

Kazakhstan is a vast Country, about the same size as the whole of Europe.
You will be travelling on the ancient Silk Road, passing by the roads taken over a thousand of years by ancient traders. Will will see it and feel it, just like they did 1000 years ago. Yet it is still evolving, developing. You will form part of it’s rich history yourself.

road asia kazak rally
Silk Road to the Stans & China overland borders

Roads range from good new Euro quality, to rough as heck bumpier and more potholed than the midlands, to – well, no roads! You can quickly get off the road anywhere and whilst the map might show lots of smaller b type roads, you’ll quickly discover those are effectively ‘no road/off-road’ type of thing.

off-road driving riding kazak rally

Go in Spring to summer time; it’s guaranteed hot, warm, mainly dry and the off-road / small roads are passable, even the muddier off-road places can be dried out enough to make passing possible by motorcycle with normal tyres. Ideally with something that has a tad more ground clearance than a Lamburgini! Motorbikes can cover the whole of Kazakhstan nowadays. Duel purpose, adventure, rugged tyres are even better, good suspension also gives you more options, or comfort! but basically a moped can get around Kazakhstan, as does zillions of Ladas, in fact those sturdy eastern Ladas are probably the ideal car.

old lada car in kazakstan rally

5000 – 10000 miles of Kazakhstan adventure

It’s within reach of Europe and Asia – doable in 2-3 weeks, but 4-6+ is better, to go there and back.
All four corners of the country are varied and equally appealing, so why not do a whole lap! as I have done myself several times – and enjoyed every second of the adventures.
If time is an issue, you can still go into one side, maybe as far as the wild wild western town of Aralsk, in search of the lost Aral Sea, then loop back, that’d be quickish, or for an even quicker quicki, just loop up from the Caspian to maybe Uralsk, or …. Aktobe, or you choose:)

Big street cred – I mean who’s drove to Kazakhstan!?
It’s big and friendly, like a bear, but doesn’t have bears.
It does have eagles and camels.
It’s kinda desert in places, but still arid, by in large never to far from other civilisation.
It has fuel, water, good food, nice people, every variety of lodgings from most basic, to oppulent luxury, to ‘wild camp at leisure’
There’s roads now
There’s even more off-roads!
There’s still more landscape with no road, than the whole of western Europe
You can sleep in a yurt or 4* hotel with a pool
Food and beer is super cheap
Fuel is cheap as the beer! diesel seems like virtually free, after driving from Europe.

hallo happy people welcome kazakhstan
  • You will have zillions of adventures
  • You’ll meet fellow overlanders and wonderous locals
  • You will discover ‘gold teeth’ and maybe find hidden treasures
  • You can still hitch hike! locals still hitch hike

It has almost 2 huge fully modern capital cities, an old one, Almaty, and a brand new, Astana new one! both are well well worth driving to, which co-incidentally would place you on the perfect lap of Kazakhstan, a true rally adventure.

Is it safe? what can happen?
Yes and No, why would you want to only do safe things? driving old cars, any cars, even electric can have dangers. I’ve done several drives to China and back to UK, generally I experience most danger on the UK stage, especially south of road-m25! In my experience, central Asian drivers are more skillful than central English, there you go. plus, there’s vastly more space to run off, or simply not see another car, it’s less likely they need to drive so closely. Bottom line – danger is in your own mind, it’s your best and worst enermy. read more on this in the book PressGo.

What can happen?
You might fall in love and marry a camel herdsman. That’s really all we can predict, until you set off and go see for yourself.

starbucks kazakhstan on kazak silk rally overlanding
exploring overland kazak rally road

Sometimes there are roads, or the start of a road! you can choose to take the on-road or the off-road ways. Generally it is possible to drive everywhere around Kazakhstan, by some form of ‘varying degree of quality’ roads. Small roads, or or off-roads can be selectively, selected!

mountain road overlaning stans
Silky road bends off-grid The stans, you will get this exact location of you like to go explore and drive it yourself, it’s a fabulous ride or drive, motorbike or something sturdy to get there.

Is it easier or harder than driving to Mongolia? Yes, both. It might depend which way you choose to go, how your own driving skills are, plus your own desires. Which way will you choose to go? how long? what budget? which vehicle? you can do the Kazak Rally with a whole full lap of Kazakhstan, then you will be close to Mongolia and even China in any case, so why not go further! maybe even so far as to Japan, or all the way through China overland going by the Great Wall of China, yes it’s possible, others have done it, not many, but they made it even to China!

silk road china overland

Or even continue south, through Tibet, or Pakistan and India, or all the way through China, going by the magnificent Mount Everest base camp on the highest roads, it goes to such wonderous places as Lhasa and … then turn south through the tea plantations, into Laos (it’s a zillion times nicer, more friendly, calm, like zen like motoexploring, than you might imagine. Suddenly you find yourself on the border to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam. Anything is possible, we and a few adventurous others have done it before, yet each time it’s totally different, unique to you.

It’s your own unique life experience, go get yourself some special history to tell the grandkids.

wise man learning on silk road

Note for parents; You can pre-book a place for your youthful ones, secure the current rate and give them something to inspire them, a big life goal, which will serve them with new found skills. Plus – you get rid of them of about 3 months, more or less!
If you’re The parent; it’s same as above, escape the kids, the rat-race, the 9-5, the hum-drum of the office, just PressGo – see it’s easy as that way.

exploring off-road motorxplorers

Now go do it – PressGo and start your driving wheels rolling eastwards,

1st – contact us to say hallo & request your Silk-Road overlanders pack. Soon you will be driving east & qualify as one of the elite few who can proudly display your KZ moto/car/van/truck sticker.


What’s involved in driving to Kazakhstan?

1. You need a vehicle, anything with wheels, van, car, bus, truck, bike, motorbike.
Some basic paperwork, as; an owners document, in GB it’s called registration document.
2. Some basic ideas to take care of yourself, like general health and hygene + a 1st aid kit.
Insurance for yourself, against loosing something, or yourself! to include repatriation if you have to be sent home against your own free-will, or capacity. The better prepared you make number 1 & 2, the less likely is the need to use no.3!

Can I start the Silk Route from anywhere?

Sure you can, set off from Alaska, in the west, New-York, London, Rome or Berlin, or anywhere in between. From the east, you might start at Bangkok, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Kashgar, Tash Rabat, or anywhere else exotically eastern that you might find yourself and your chosen jalopy! (it’s affectionate name for a good-old-vehicle)

How far do we need to drive or ride in Kazakhstan?

You should really travel at least 1000miles, but so long as you reached Kazakhstan by driving at least 5000 miles to get there, or 1000miles whilst there, you shall qualify, to some degree. It’s basically flexible, you do it all as you discover it. Ideally you might go by some key waypoints in Kazakhstan, like; Uralsk, Aktau, Aktobe, Aral Sea that isn’t a sea, the sputnik space launch site, Shymkent, Almaty, Talas, Astana.

Or if you like to say that you travelled up to China, you can go to the lovely atmosperic market town of Zharkent and then to the Khorgas KZ-CN border. There are all places I travelled to myself, I don’t suggest you try to go sme place that I didn’t see is nice and characterful with my own eyes and 2 feet, or wheels!

What paperwork and travel documents are needed?

It’s quite easy going border wise into Kazakhstan, for many nationalities like Brits you can just show up on the border, nowadys it’s no visa required. (check with consulates, online for yourself)
On my 1st scout expedition we needed visa and an internal police registration, it made it trickier. But nowadays having passports visa stamped on arrival makes access and travel planning far easier, certainly for KZ and Kyrgyzstan.

Other Stans vary in visa requirements, at least you may save some costs on the KZ aspects.
Car insurance for Kazakhstan you will find it easily on the KZ borders, it’s cheap, costs about $20-$30, you can negotiate it. There’s usually a row of huts which sell vehicle insurance, water and old melons, or even sometimes a local sells it from his mobile-office-Lada, then prints it from the boot.
kazak rally motor insurance

Must our vehicles be taken back out from the Stans?

Usually yes, but I guess there might be some scenarios whereby it’s not possible, or you find a way around that. e.g. I travelled twice by an old Mercedes Sprinter to Kazakhstan and then Kyrgyzstan – and both times locals in KyrgyZ wanted to buy the van from me. It’s quite unusual there that they also like to drive some right hand drivers and generally aren’t so fussy about things like car insurance! I didn’t try it, but think selling wouldn’t be hard, then I guess you have to be creative when you leave by flying bird. But if it’s a cheaper vehicle that has blown up, what else should you do. I think the costs to leave or sell a vehicle, might not vary so much as some costs of driving it home again, which of-course, is the best official option. You will also have such fond affection for your vehicle that you will like to hold it in your affections, maybe for generations to come, it will be like a unique peice of Kazakhstan history and moto-art in motion!

How to prepare?

Just start doing something, like PressGo and the rest will slot into place. Visit GP / doctor get a check up at dentist, do some extra basic fitness like longer walks or what-ever sport you like. Gather some kit, it can be basic travel gear, camping kit, or just an extra handy credit card and some cash. You can keep it smple or cmplex as you like. We will share some overviews of how we prepare for overlanding, by van or motorcycle. It’s not a rocket science, it’s a MotorXplorers adventure!

foreign currency east asia

Cash can still be king, but the Kazakhstan Tenge can’t be taken in or out, it’s not an internationally exchanged currency. You should carry US dollars and Euro, keep them as new and crisp, then change to local currency as you need it. Cards also work in ATM’s everywhere, they spit out local notes, or sometimes even dollars!

Which way will you go? buy a Kazak-rally map and draw some lines. Before you know – it’s a plan!
There is also a road map of Kazakhstan, it’s a nice map but doesn’t show many roads and you can’t buy it in Kazakhstan! nor will you discover the zillions of off-road tracks on any map!

Route map kazakhstan silk road

How long does it take to drive a whole lap of Kazakhstan? about 20 days is ok, allowing a nice steady pace. 30 days would enable good rest days and plenty of time to explore the nice towns, or even take a few more days to detour across to visit the fabulous lakes over the Kyrgz border. (also mainly visa free)
Anything else you like to know, you can ask us at MotoX HQ, maybe we know or did it before, or maybe some other participant can advise you, from our FB page, or other overlanding sites like Horizons, many things are already known. The main thing is that you just make a start, click ok and press-your-Go button! for it’s the ‘spirit of Adventure, MotoeXplorers style’.

Kazak rally motorbike and sidecar

If they can do it, sharing 1 pair of shades, you can do it! Kazak Silk-Road

Kazakhstan orange car
Orange Kazakh car selling Apples on the Silk Road

Sharing direct experience from travelling the Silk Road to Kazakhstan.
Welcome to get in touch with any enquiries, anytime, Steve Hotson – MotoeXplorer