'''Aktau''' (Kazakh: Ақтау Russian: Akтау) is a city of approximately 200,000 citizens located on the banks of the [[Caspian Basin|Caspian Sea]]
in [[Kazakhstan]]. Aktau means "white mountain" in Kazakh, but it is a very young city that has little to do with historical Kazakhstan. It was created as a uranium mining town in 1961 and was named Shevchenko, after the Ukrainian National Poet [[ Тара́с Григо́рович Шевче́нко]] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taras_Shevchenko].
The Soviets built a major nuclear power plant cum desalinization plant and the desert was transformed into a livable city. After independence, the Kazakhs renamed Shevchenko, and the city has become Kazakhstan's only port. Due to the large amount of oil and gas exported from Kazakhstan, the city has boomed and is now home to many new developments, which have stretched the infrastructure to its breaking point.
If you come to this city, you will be able to experience the paradox of large supplies of hydrocarbons, uranium and seawater coupled with frequent brown-outs and water shortages.
or out==All '''trains''' arrive and depart from the Mangestau Station, about 12 km out of town. There is a regular train 24 hour train to and from [[Atyrau]]. There is also the option of a two day long train service from [[Astana]], and a three day long train service from [[Almaty]], passing through [[Shymkent]] two days after departing Aktau.
Most people ''' fly''' to Aktau Airport, 23 km north of the center of the city. Given the taxi situation there, it is best to prearrange ground transport to the city. The cheapest way to fly to Aktau is with the decrepit airline SCAT from [[Baku]] . It is also possible to fly direct from Atyrau (SCAT and Astana Air several times per day), Almaty (Astana Air), [[Moscow]] (Transaero), Baku (Azerbaijan Air or SCAT), or occasionally [[ Istanbul]] with Turkish Air (not possible to buy online).
There are occasional ferries to and from [[Baku]], Azerbaijan. Ferries leave every 7-10 days, but nothing about the port is set up for passengers.
Aktau is the type of city U2 may have been talking about when they sang about a place where the streets have no name(s). The city is divided up into largely unlabeled and chaotically numbered districts (including district 9). These are called "micro-raion" in Russian, which even Kazakhs use to describe them in Kazakh.
To get around, you can simply say 'micro-raion' and then state the district's number in Russian. Afterwards, say the building ("Zdanie" or apartment building "Dom") followed by the number. Addresses in Aktau are generally written as follows: 14-42-30, where 14 indicates the district, 42 indicates the apartment or commercial building and 30 indicates the apartment number. Taxi drivers are usually from the Caucasus, and they rarely speak Western European languages.
There is no 'mashrutka' (bus map) in existence, but cabs are plentiful. Flag fare should be 200 Tenge to anywhere within the city center, but this is often 300 Tenge for foreigners. Most cars in Aktau will stop and pick you up informally.
If you should choose to experience a decrepit form of transportation, you can pay 25 Tenge for
Buses and 35 Tenge for Mashrutkas. You will see them plowing their routes on the three main roads in Aktau (north and south coastal, middle north and south road, and the eastern north and south road).
There is an old
MIG plane on a pedestal just down the hill from the Asian-themed World War II memorial. At this memorial, an eternal flame burns under a circle of partial-white arches, which are reminiscent of a yurt. Across from the memorial, there is a drama theater with regular productions in Russian.
South of these structures, on Aktau's middle north-south thoroughfare, you will find a collection of restaurants, night clubs and shopping centers. A well-appointed grocery store, movie theater and night club are in the Agerdau shopping complex (district 7). Beyond that, in the furthest shopping center to the south is "Shoom" (ШУМ)(district 2), which has a large variety of low-quality stores.
North, in district 16, you can find Aktau's new mall. The mall includes a very small ice-skating rink, movie theater and a number of low and high quality shops (low quality children's clothes on the top floor, Hugo Boss on the main floor). The mall includes arguably the best deal in town for food at Asorti on its top floor.
Unfortunately you cannot kick back just anywhere on the edge of the Caspian, or around the town for that matter, and down a sunset drink. You are not allowed to drink alcohol outside of these beach-side bar and grills, although there are absolutely no signs to warn you otherwise. The local police take advantage of this situation and the general fear that many tourists have for police. If you are caught drinking, they only want 1000 Tenge as a bribe, even if you don't speak Russian or Kazakh. Most of the locals drinking on the street are ignored by police or pay the small bribe.
Aktau is home to prices that are high, even by Western European standards. Quality electronics, clothes, western-style foods, hotels, entertainment and gyms are readily available. However, all of these are marked up anywhere from 100 to 300% above American or German prices. It is best to go local in Aktau and/or buy anything of any consequence before you come.
*In Aktau Mall (district 16), Restaurant Asorti on the top floor offers one of the best deals in town. There are two Asorti Restaurants in the mall, but the one on the ground floor doesn't offer the buffet. The top floor restaurant offers an all-you-can eat buffet
-style lunch between 12pm and 3pm every weekday for 1200 Tenge per person. There is a live piano player every weekday for lunch, and the decor is sleek.
*The second best deal in town are the Shwarma places near the Ramstor (Pamctop) behind Adagar(Ардагәр) Mall, near the eternal flame memorial. Ask for a 350 Tenge shwarma without sauce ("bez sosa") if you don't want it swimming in mayonnaise.
*The most expensive places are Taksim in district 12 (near the big roundabout separating districts 10, 14, 12 and 11) or one of the restaurants at the Renaissance. Both of these offer what could be called a Soviet interpretation of Western-style service for around
30 USD per person.
Fuento Nigh Club next to Adagar(Ардагәр) Mall in district 9, near the eternal flame memorial, opens up for lunch on weekdays between 11:30 and 2:30, offering a mediocre buffet for around 1000 Tenge per person. It seems that this buffet is reluctantly all-you-can-eat. It is not worth the 200 Tenge savings to eat here instead of Asorti or the premium over Shvedski Stol.
Shvedski Stol ( шведский столь) has two locations, one in district 2 across from Shoom ( ШУМ) and one in district 6 on the main east-west road. These restaurants also have an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet on weekdays, which costs around 900 Tenge per person. Since both are located near Aktau' s largest employers of office workers, good luck finding a table at lunchtime.
Chinese is available at China Town Restaurant for around 1500 Tenge per person.
*Pizza is available in district 4 at Napoli
restaurant for around 1500 Tenge.
*Restaurant Pinta at the major roundabout between districts 12, 14 and 11 serves a variety of coffees, teas and Soviet-foods. The food is reasonable but costs 2000 Tenge per person for an average meal.
barbeque (shashlik) is available at the beach-side grills below the Renaissance hotel. These are usually 800-1000 Tenge per person.
*The English Pub at the 5 Star Hotel "Grand Victory" in district 13 has a laid-back atmosphere and comfortable seats, but charges 5-8 dollars per pint.
*Shamrock Irish Pub in district 7 is a reasonably attractive watering hole with expat prices similar to those at the English Pub.
*Guns and Roses in the Aktau Hotel in district 2 has a live music scene on weekends and expat prices to make it painful to enjoy.
*Fuenta Club in district 9 is probably the most consistently crowded nightspot. The music is mostly Soviet techno and old hip-hop.
*Restaurant Pinta has occasional ballroom dancing parties on Sunday evenings.
*Renaissance Hotel - 200 USD per night, but usually great views with an outdoor and indoor pool. There is also a gym inside but no shopping center. To take advantage of the superior location of the hotel, you should request a sea-view .
Grand Victory Hotel
200 USD per night
classy place with pool, gym and shopping center
as good as the Renaissance or could be of a Soviet building