A few weeks ago, somebody e-mailed me asking questions about driving in Kazakhstan, having read some of my older posts. I decided to take my reply to him and publish it here, so if others have questions, they may find the information they need, without waiting for me to reply to their messages 🙂
The cost of second hand cars over here in Kazakhstan – they seem to retain a lot more of their value than back in the UK. Great news if you bought a new car and want to sell it, pain in the arse when trying to buy one for yourself.
Insurance – there is a nationwide scheme that provides the minimum cover required by law. It is basically what we would call third party insurance in Britain… if you crash into someone, the insurance company is supposed to cover the cost of any damage to someone else’s car, but your car is not covered. The first couple of years, we elected to pay (quite a lot, something like 10% of the value of the car!) for full-on comprehensive insurance, but won’t renew the policy this year. If you can afford it, I’d recommend maybe getting comprehensive insurance the first year you drive here – peace of mind as you adjust to the nutters on the road, and if you do end up pranging someone, it is more likely to be at the beginning.
Road Tax – not 100%, but we think if we did have to pay for it, cops don’t ask for the document at least. Irina checked and discovered there is indeed a road tax payable each year. Whilst traffic police don’t seem to check your documents for this, if you forget to pay, there is a penalty to pay.
MOT – with a new car, like in the UK, first year or so, MOT check is not required, after that, keep it up to date.
Registration plates – new cars obviously get new plates, but with second hand cars, I’m not sure whether the plate “belongs” to the car, or the owner. Yellow number plates (starting with a D normally) are for diplomats and their families.
Registering in someone else’s name… Yes, this is possible, is the short version. You will need to always carry an official (stamped etc) letter from them stating you have permission to drive it, but the procedures for locals are simpler, compared to a foreigner, owning the car. The only thing to consider is if you pay for the car, but they legally owns it, don’t annoy them greatly, as they could legally sell it!
Driving license, make sure you have the UK pink card and paper part with you. International driving licences… I have heard of some ex-pats who got one the first year they drove, but didn’t bother again afterwards. Local traffic police don’t seem to know the rules or care that much if you drive on your home country’s licence. If they question the legality, friends have bluffed them with confidence that you have looked into it, and don’t require one. I think the rule might be related to how long you’ve lived/been driving here already? Anyway, _ALWAYS_ carry all your car docs with you, you will get stopped and have the car checked out by police, and it is a legal requirement to carry your driving licence(s), car registration documents, MOT certificate and permission to drive (if not registered in your name).
One tip in dealing with traffic police is to invest in at least a car video recorder (video registrator (or similar) in Russian). You want one with a wide angle lens, continuous recording, and decent enough image quality in the dark.
Here in Astana, I’ve heard that if the police are stopping cars for reasons of their own financial hardship, rather than genuine offences, they don’t bother with cars where they can see a camera lens in the windscreen – proof obviously exists that you’ve been driving OK. You will get stopped, and sometimes you may well need to smooth things over with a donation to the local police tea and biscuits fund, but don’t let them demand too high a donation (check with local friends, then add a good 40-60% on top as you’re a foreigner).
Some people have asked if they can just play dumb/or pretend they can’t speak Russian, this is nearly always not worth trying, in Astana at least, they’ll just demand you get your translator (makes me laugh how they assume I have that sort of cash to spend!) to meet you there and then at the side of the road. You’re better off explaining you understand a little Russian, please speak slowly for me. I tend to downplay the extent of my vocabulary, that way if they are just looking for some cash, and want to pretend I’ve broken the law, I pretend I don’t understand a key word in their sentence, so please do explain again. Eventually, they give up and wave you away. All I’d say is that (apparently) unofficial fines are normally a lot less than official ones, and the amount of time you’ll waste sorting paperwork, retrieving your licence from them etc, makes the local approach to quick unofficial fines a tempting offer.