Located on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan is a land of contrasts and contradictions. Once an important part of the former Soviet Empire, today, it is going through a critical phase of cultural and economic transformation. The petroleum industry in Azerbaijan has given the country a new sense of optimism and the aid to resurrect itself.
A strategically important nation in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan has imbibed the cultural ethos of ancient historical empires including Russian, Turkish and Persian. On one hand is its capital Baku, a dynamic town with all the trappings of a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Leave Baku behind to enter the picturesque countryside where you will find undisturbed, vast lands of Azeri culture and one of Eurasia's best-kept scenery secrets.
Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is the main point of entry for international travelers. Other airports can be found in Nakhchivan City, Ganja, & Lankaran. National air company AZAL (Azerbaijan Airlines), BMI, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways connect Baku with various cities around the world including Milan, Paris, Antalya, Kiev, Prague, Istanbul Sahiha Gokchen, Saint Petersburg, London, Doha, Ürümqi, Istanbul Ataturk, Rome, Moscow, Dubai, Bodrum, Tehran, Mineralniye Vodi, Ankara, Rostov-on-Don and Tel-Aviv. In addition, there are numerous Russian, Iranian, Ukranian, Uzbek and Austrian airlines operating regular flights to Baku. Flight availability status can be found on the airline's respective official websites.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Hansueli Krapf
Buses, minibuses and taxis are the most common medium to traverse between cities. There is a bus station near a bazaar in each city where the fares for buses and minibuses (marshrutka) are posted. You will need to negotiate the taxi fare with the driver, which generally westerners / foreigner cannot for lack of language skills.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Gulustan
Given that, nine out of the eleven climate zones are present in Azerbaijan, both extreme minimum and maximum temperatures can be experienced in the country. To visit lowland Azerbaijan, book a trip during April to June when the lands are green and skies are clear blue. October is also a nice month to visit Baku as the maximum and minimum temperatures do not witness any extremities. The days are warm and the nights, pleasant. In the higher mountain areas, July is the ideal month to trek but the summers in low-lying areas such as Baku can be hot and unlikable. The winters around the Caspian shores are mild but inland, they are exceptionally cold with temperatures dipping below minus degrees in Lagich and Khinalug. Warm clothing should be brought if travelling anywhere in the mountainous regions.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Emin Bashirov
Foreign nationals are strictly advised against travelling to Nagorno-Karabakh and the military area surrounding it as the area is a subject of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There have been regular ceasefire violations and sporadic clashes, resulting in deaths. Those who still want to visit the disputed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, ask the authorities there to issue a visa on a separate piece of paper. Insist on this, since any proof of travel on your passport, will result in permanent ban on entry to Azerbaijan, even though you hold a valid visa.
In addition, foreign nationals are not allowed to cross over to Russia from the Dagestan border. However, if you hold a valid visa, you are allowed to cross the Iranian border at Astara.
Tourists should keep away from attending political rallies and gatherings of political nature as they are subject to clashes between communities and terrorist attacks.
Azerbaijan has a low rate of crime, but muggings and theft do occur in Baku and around clubs, bars and dimly lit areas. Use common sense and take precautions to avoid becoming a target. Be alert, avoid flashing large sums of money and do not travel alone at night. Incidents of street crime occur in crowded places or largely isolated places. Shopping districts, such as Ganjlik, Fountain Square and the Maiden Tower in Baku are common places where thieves attack Westerners. Always travel around in groups and carry only what is necessary. Hide cash and important documentation in front pockets or concealed pouches. Baku is predominantly a cash-&-carry city where credit cards do not hold much significance. If credit cards or any similar important documentation is lost, finding or replacing them is very difficult.
Tourists should avoid carrying a purse but if they have to, keep it hugged close to the body or keep a hand over the clasp. Do not wear dangling ear jewelry to avoid injury. Wear small ear studs, hide necklaces under the blouse and conceal watches under the coat or shirtsleeve to keep thugs at bay.
As in any other big city around the world, vehicle thefts take place in Baku. It is best to park at a secure parking facility, as car thefts are common in the downtown area. If you want to report a crime, call the local police station on 012 590 9866 or 012 5909966. In case of emergency, call the police on 102.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Ephraim Stillberg
|Local Police Station||012 590 9866 / 012 5909966|
|New Year's Day||1 January|
|Martyrs' Day||20 January|
|International Women's Day||8 March|
|Nowruz (Persian New Year)||21 March|
|Good Friday||29 March|
|Easter Monday||1 April|
|Victory Day||9 May|
|Republic Day||29 May|
|National Salvation Day||15 June|
|Army and Navy Day||26 June|
|Eid al-Fitr||8 August (date varies each year |
with moon sightings)
|Eid al-Adha||15 October (date varies each year |
with moon sightings)
|Independence Day||18 October|
|Constitution Day||12 November|
|National Revival Day||17 November|
|Day of Azeri Solidarity||31 December|