The Central Asian railroad network was designed during the Soviet period, so no wonder if the main routes connect the five Republics with Moscow, that was the heart of the infrastructure system at that time. Central Asian railroads are therefore mainly oriented north-south, and almost all of the train routes going to Central Asia from Russia cross the Kazakh territory.
The trains are exactly the same as in Russia, the system is the same (choice between the three classes) and prices are even lower.
Taking a train in Central Asia is a wonderful experience, you will meet many people coming from the different Republics and you will have a real cultural experience with local people.
International trains – How to buy tickets
Buying tickets, especially international tickets in Central Asia is rather complicated, especially if you want to buy them in advance and from abroad.
If you are in Russia or in a Central Asian Republic, you can go to any train station (for instance you are in Yekaterinburg and want to by a train ticket from Bishkek to Chimkent), present your passport and directly buy the tickets.
If you use the website of RZD, you can book your ticket, but then you will have to convert the reservation into a paper ticket in a train station in Russia.
If you are abroad and you will go directly to Central Asia, without passing from Russia, you will not be able to book the ticket from RZD website. You can use private agencies websites, that can book the ticket for you. Then you still have to go to the train station in Central Asia and convert your reservation into a paper ticket.
Here are some useful links about the railway system in Central Asia:
A reliable agency to book tickets is the following:
At what time does my train leave?
Super important! It might sound strange but, as it happens along the TranS-Siberian, in Central Asia too the departure time indicated on your ticked is the Moscow time. So make sure you make the correct calculations you and arrive at the train station at the right time!
The arrival time, instead, is written in local time on the ticket.
What happens at the border?
If your train crosses a border between two countries, the train will stop twice for the border control. This procedure might take hours, so be patient and prepared to wait. You will have to stay on the train at your seat, and the bathroom will be closed during the whole procedure. Police authorities of the country you are leaving will enter the train and start the routine controls. They will collect your passport and bring them back to you before the train leaves, and they might ask you to open your luggage. Do as they ask you and everything will be fine. If they shout at you, don’t worry, remain calm and as they’ll realize that you don’t speak their language, they’ll find someone that is able to speak English.
After the first stop, the train stops again in the country you are entering. Passports are collected again and stamped, and finally the train leaves for your destination.
Differences in the procedure regard national trains. Uzbekistan, for example, has its own railway system, with its own prices, times and formalities. In this case, the hour indicated in the ticket is the local time.
To buy ticket, you will need to go to the station of the country you are traveling in, or you can ask a travel agency to book the tickets for you, by paying much more than the ticket itself.