Most visitors here are suprised by how developed it is here - it's actually a fairly modern city.
Gifts are hard, especially if you don't know what kind of family it is. Godiva chocolate is not American chocolate and you can buy it there. But yeah, chocolates, candies, and very nice speciality loose leaf tea would be very appreciated. So would nice wine/american vodka or cognac (granted the family drinks. But if they don't, you can give it to someone else).
Mostly the coffee is bad, but you can buy decent coffee at some stores. My personal go-to brand when I ran out of good coffee I'd brought with me was "Жоккей" (Zhokkey).
Conservative dress for work, dress nice for going out. Almaty is the most westernized city in the country and the main thing is to always take care of your appearance. People in KZ almost always get cleaned up and dress up, even to just go to the store. You have your house clothes and slippers, which can be the most hideous color combinations ever, but if you're going outside beyond throwing the trash out, they get cleaned up, put on nice clothes and footwear.
Some clubs to visit (though I guarantee there are many more new ones i don't know about): Chukotka is a very-well known club located in the park. Tot Samiy Bar is another spot.
The good gyms (тренажерный зал) are expensive. World Class Almaty is probably about the nicest/most expensive one i can think of. I was paying $200/month to use the one in the Rixos hotel, but I also worked in that building and got a discount...
too many shops/restaurants to name. It's also been a few years since I've lived there, so I'm not sure what's still around. The AB Restaurant Group has numerous restaurants around the city that are affordable and OK options if you're looking for Italian, German, Georgian, Russian food etc. SPeaking of which, if you aren't familiar with Georgian cuisine, you HAVE to try it while you're there. Daredzhani is one place (from the AB group). There are a few others - Perosmani (not great). There is a Hare Krishna vegetarian place directly across the street from Perosmani, though, called Govindas. Delicious lunch deal they have.
For a large selection of cheap beer - I almost hesitate to share it with you because it's kind of my secret spot where I've never seen another foreigner - is a place called Shtab (132 Zheltoksan St.) It's very hole-in-the-wall.
Ever had Uyghur food? Dishes like Lagman are a must-try in Almaty. Try Uzbechka. There is also a good Lagman place on the bottom floor of the Green Bazaar.
For decent Chinese food, try Princessa on the corner of Tolebaev St. and Gogol St. - it's catty-corner to the Arasan Baths, a trip you definitely need to take with some friends.
For Dungani cuisine - a food most even in Almaty don't know about - go to Shi Von Kha. This place is a little hard to find, but it's through the gate behind the big BTA bank building.
There are tons of coffee shops, most have free wifi - Coffeedelia is one of the oldest. There is a french coffee/pastry shop on Mendikulov St., the short street running North-South behind Ramstore. Good wifi, great atmosphere, usually quiet.
I could go on and on... try to get on the American Chamber of Commerce mailing list if you're interested in meeting lots of expats or English-speaking locals in the city. The Sundowner events are always fun, even if a bit pricey for non-members, but there is unlimited alcohol and decent food and are always in trendy spots. Anyways, you'll make lots of connections there.
Take a taxi service at night to be safer. I liked to use Econom Taxi because they text you the make and model and license plate of the car picking you up. It's a few hundred tenge more, but it's good for peace of mind.
No good metro map - there is only one line with 9 stops. Worth riding - the art in each station is cool to look at. As for the buses, if you're really determined to use them, I used to have this program called e-City installed on my computer. It lets you plot your starting point and destination and show you all the routes available. Very handy, but I see their website is currently offline (the link above is to a third-party site) and it's only in Russian.
Gifts - I've used American chocolates myself, i.e. can't go wrong with Godiva.
Ziploc bags, yeah - I haven't seen them here myself, and I actually brought a big box with me the last time I travelled back to the states.
Dress: unless you're walking into a conservative Mosque, Almaty is probably one of the most fashion-concious cities I've
seen. High heels very common, and there are times the club scene wouldn't be out of place in new york.
Gyms: yes, but the good ones are pretty pricey. I wouldn't worry about the need to dress conservatively.
Apps: VK is bigger here, though many people also use Facebook. Instagram, whatsapp, and viber are popular as well.
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