My first plan to get to Kazakhstan was the overland border route from China, but then I heard about this weekly Wednesday flight from Olgii, in far western Mongolia. This is a cool way to enter the country, and will give you the time to spend some time in the amazing Altai mountains where you can experience the Kazakh culture of old and see some eagle hunters (without getting stuck in the middle of nowhere).
Here’s some logistics that I hope help: The Kazakh consulate in Ulaan Baatar is friendly, helpful, and never crowded. I had a visa already for Kyrgyzstan and the two countries have an agreement currently where you can stay 72 hours in Kazakhstan without a visa if you already have an onward visa. I decided that this would still be a gamble on the Mongolian side of things and didn’t want to get stuck in Olgii because the airline wouldn’t let me on the plane. (I don’t think this would have been the case since they barely glanced at my passport.) But I got the $20 transit visa to be safe and it got me an extra day in Kaz. (For some nationalites it’s $5).
Once you get your visa you can book your ticket. Everyone (including Lonely Planet) will tell you that you can’t book the Olgii to Almaty flight from anywhere but Olgii. Wrong. Here’s the number to the Trans-Olgii office that handles the flight: 99422488 It’s a long distance call and you’ll have to get a Mongolian to book the reservation. Just make sure you turn up in Olgii 24 hours before the flight and pay the $259 plus 8400 T airport tax. The Trans-Olgii office is in the building directly west of the square. Go to the third door. That’s about all there is to it. The flight leaves at 3:00 Wednesday and stops for customs in Ust-Kamenogorsk. Then on to Almaty.
As for getting to Olgii, either fly or take a couple of weeks getting there by van or jeep. To take the three day journey in one gulp is a form of self torture most would do well to avoid. Flights are weekly and between $170-200.
Hope this helps.