Navigating the city is pretty simple – most of the major streets are aligned parallel and perpendicular to each other. Therefore directions are usually given with reference to two street names, for example, drive along a major street like Furmanov, and turn left or right at a perpendicular intersecting street, like Abai Avenue.
But the driving scene in Almaty is no less than crazy for such a developed city – local drivers can get pretty impatient on the road. Wild and reckless driving is not uncommon, so watch out for vehicles near you while driving. A driver may try to overtake you in ways you couldn’t begin to imagine, so it is best to wear the seatbelt, adhere to a moderate speed limit, and stay in your lane.
The rules of the road are leniently implemented, and hence very rarely followed. Even if drivers get into a compromising situation, they can bribe the police officer into not giving them a ticket. You as a foreigner should however watch out for any corrupt policemen. If you do get into trouble on the road, you are more likely to be asked for a higher bribe as a foreigner! Of course, you can always opt to get a ticket instead, hearing which the officer would more likely try to strike up an in-between bargain. It would then be up to you whether you want to do it the cheaper way, or the honest way.
Make sure you have appropriate car insurance. It is bad enough to get involved in an accident, but to find out later that the car was not insured, or the policy did not cover such and such an accident, is highly annoying and inconvenient. If possible, maintain a parallel insurance that involves a representative group of your country.
Parking is not hard to find – locals park their cars like the roadways are a prized family property. You will also, amusingly enough, find cars and motorbikes driving on as well as parked on sidewalks during peak hours!