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18 | Beyneu to Aktau Kazakhstan

2 - 3 May (Thu - Fri)


Beyneu train station is a maze but succeeded to secure passage on to Aktau. A common language would have quickly resolved the uncertainty - but stay home if certainty is what you desire. This final train took me through Western Kazakhstan and on to the Caspian Sea. I made friends with the mother and child assigned to my compartment, the three train officials assigned to my car, and several women selling stuff to passengers. I immediately visited the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping company upon arrival in Aktau. Yes, there was a boat departing that evening, but there was a complication with my Azerbaijan eVisa. Lucky for me, as it would have been a pity to depart Aktau so quickly.

I made the Beyneu - Aktau train with seconds to spare.  Sort of...

Beyneu Train Station

Packed-up and waiting at car 21 exit.  The car manager points me to the ticket office, upon arriving at Beyneu station, and I'm off.


Across the platform is a standing train between me and the station. I follow others around this train only to find one more very, very long passenger train between me and my destination. But doors are open, and stairs lowered on a car nearby. Yes, I go up one side, in the train and down the other. Now where is the ticket office. I hear someone saying "Aktau, Aktau" off in the distance and I guess that the driver of a share-taxi is collecting passengers.

Beyneu station has a system to check departing bags through an x-ray machine, but to my left are two ticket counters. I just leave my bag next to the x-ray machine and head for the shorter line. The two security officials initially object, and are only briefly perplexed, and then appear to understand my predicament. I figured they will watch my bags - and they do.

The lady in the ticket booth understands my Google note, carefully written in Russian, and says one word: Yes. She tries to give me exact change and I take the notes and the ticket and leave the change for her. Grab my bags and then back to the gallant I know too well.

Train to Aktau

Made it into car 21 and in less than 5 minutes - really - the doors shut and the train begins moving for about 3km and stops. OK now what?

Eventually, I half-understand that there is a single track between Beyneu and Aktau and my train is slotted to use that track starting at 10.00pm. About 9.45pm the train returns to Beyneu station, picks-up passengers and now we are off.

I never read my ticket - I simply gave it to the car manager. I guess it had a 10.00pm departure printed on the ticket - in a language difficult to read. All that rush and anxiety that could have been avoided if I understood Russian. I could have had a decent dinner near the train station. Alas...

This has become a 28 hour train ride, as we arrive in Aktau at 8.00am. I had not planned for such a long journey and was just about out of food and water. Fortunately, at some unknown station a woman was selling bottled water and large steamed dumplings in plastic bags. So that's dinner.

When I woke-up my travelling companion and her beautiful baby were gone. Never got her name - only a picture of mother and child along with pictures of some of the women selling stuff in the train throughout the day. I was a curiosity and so they kind of adopted me.

First glimpse of morning and found that the desert had been replaced by grassland and the beauty of a Kazakhstan sunrise.

The three train officials assigned to my car had become friends, as each endeared themselves to me during this long journey. The manager was smart and helpful, the young boy cleaned-up and did what he was told, and then there was the former Russian boxer with 10-children. He was so proud, not of his children but because it demonstrated he was virile--a real man -- who was probably hired to manage difficult passengers.

A Taxi to the Shipping Co.

It was great to be in Aktau at 8.00am on a Friday morning.  Now I required a taxi that would take me to the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Company ticket office - not at the port but in the city.


I had a small map of the city in my guide book that identified the ticket office as number 17 on a list of 17 important Aktau locations.

I accepted the first taxi driver that approached me - a young man with a pleasant demeanour and a bit of English. I gave him some trouble on the price he wanted but eventually accepted - knowing that an office is more difficult to find than a hotel. I was going to need his help to find the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping company.

I showed him the guide book but he drove past where I figured the office might be. Okay - it’s his city and he must know. But NO, he did not know.

After 30 minutes of confusion (lucky I did not fight him on the price he wanted - it was so little anyway) we figured out that he had taken me to the 17th District in Aktau (17 is the randomly assigned number for the Shipping company's ticket office in the guild book and has nothing to do with its physical location. The Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping company is actually, it is in the 5th district. 

With this clarification we laughed. I took a selfie while he was driving (see picture), and a picture of my first glimpse of the Caspian Sea from the taxi window - at 40-km an hour - and we found the ticket office. I paid him double the price we had agreed upon as a tip.


The woman selling tickets at the Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping company seemed very Russian but with enough English to manage the transaction. Yes, a boat was departing at 8.00pm that night. The boat was named Professor Yul. The ticket would cost US$80 but payment must be in KZ Tenge - 30,700. No problem. She asked for my passport and made a call - to the port - to confirm my passage. I told her I had an eVisa for Azerbaijan and she wrote out the ticket and gave it to me. All good.

My Azerbaijan eVisa

I asked when the boat would arrive - Saturday evening around 10.00pm, I learned. So, I asked when I would meet Immigration and Customs and she immediately understood the context of my question - she has done this before.

She asked about the validity date of my Azerbaijan eVisa? The 6th of May and I realise that I better show her the eVisa I had purchased on-line over a month ago. She assured me that I would NOT be allowed to board the boat with this document, as I would be meeting with Immigration officials in Alat Azerbaijan on May 5th.



The 6th May eVisa had been my decision - I could have selected any day but once selected I was locked in to that date - CAN NOT arrive before May 6th. When I made that decision, I could not imagine that I could get to Aktau any earlier, but my travel has been rather efficient – especially considering the formidable barriers between Samarkand and Aktau.

She told me that the next boat departs on Monday or Tuesday (6th or 7th May). She suggested that I return on Monday morning and she would confirm the schedule and re-write my ticket.


I wished her a good weekend and she smiled...

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