Dec 31 2007

Driving Continued

Category: Kazakh Driving,KazakhstanChrisM @ 2:13 pm

Use of the horn – if the light has turned green and you’ve not moved for more than 0.5 of a second, people will gladly call your attention to this fact. The horn will definitely wear out quicker over here, at times it seems as though everyone should just learn Morse code; with so much honking from every direction, it is sometimes difficult to understand who is beeping at whom, and for what purpose.
There used to be a roundabout between our flat and the in-law’s house. It was always interesting watching people use it, for two reasons; 1) Roundabouts are relatively unique, in Astana at least, so people didn’t always seem to use them in the same way as other drivers also present, and 2) The rules aren’t the same as back in the UK; If a major road meets a roundabout, the people already ON the roundabout have to give way to others joining the melee from the major road. It worked so well, they’ve now converted that particular roundabout back to a normal junction. It does at least now have pedestrian crossings, so you can be more morally indignant if you get run over.

Zebra crossings are one way to bring a little adrenaline into your bloodstream. If you try and cross them as you would back home, you WILL end up having a heart attack. The best way to approach them seems to be to wait for the least amount of traffic to be approaching the crossing, and try to figure out which cars are actually likely to slow down, let alone stop, for you. Some drivers will beep to let you know that they have no intention of slowing down; others have actually switched lanes, seemingly to increase the chance of a bone vs. metal match up.

Every time someone important decides to travel somewhere in Astana, police will close down the roads the VIPs intend to use, and some 5 – 10 minutes later, you’ll see the President/Government Minister/Foreign Valued Businessman shoot past, in a cavalcade of Limos, Jeeps and/or Hummers and occasionally police motorcycle out-riders.
Just because you are a pedestrian though, don’t assume this will have no impact; we’ve been waiting at a bus stop, next to a bus lay-by, and found ourselves moved BEHIND the bus shelter, for security reasons!
Moving onto the more positive aspects of motor vehicles in Kazakhstan; the buses and mini-buses, whilst not particularly able to stick to their timetable due to the recent explosion in traffic volume, are dirt cheap, at least if you’re spending UK wages.
The availability of taxis may not, at first, appear that great. Once you realise that a lot of ‘civilian’ drivers will happily stop and give you a lift for a quickly bartered fee, getting from one place to another seems a lot easier. HOWEVER, in the same way as hitch-hiking in the UK, you DO need to be careful about personal safety. Don’t travel alone, and don’t get in the car if there is more than just the driver there. (Small children/grannies/granddads are possible exceptions). Basically, be aware of the situation you are placing yourself into.

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