Travel to Azerbaijan
Flying to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Airlines (www.azal.az) operates regular flights to Azerbaijan from Ankara, London, Paris, Barcelona, Milan, Moscow, New York, Dubai, Tehran and Tel Aviv. British Airways (www.ba.com) serves Baku five times a week from London. Lufthansa, Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines also provide regular services.
A twice-weekly Azerbaijan Airlines flight from New York to Baku was launched in September 2014.
Allow 5 hours 30 minutes from London and 12 hours 30 minutes from New York.
Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport
Airport Code: GYD. Location: The airport is located about 20km (12 miles) northeast of central Baku. Money: ATMs are available in Arrivals, and there is a bureau de change in each terminal.
Other airports in Azerbaijan
Heydar Aliyev International Airport
Airport Code: BAK. Location: The airport is 25km (16 miles) east of Baku (journey time – 40 minutes). Website: http://www.airport.az. Public transport description: Taxis and buses are available to the centre.
Travel by rail
Azerbaijan is connected to Tbilisi in Georgia by an overnight sleeper train, which departs from the Georgian capital every night: journey time is 16 hours. Tickets should be bought at the station on Tbilisi.
There is also a daily sleeper train from Baku to Tbilisi. Tickets can be bought at Baku Railway Station or online via the Azerbaijan Railways website (railyway.gov.az), which requires you to register before purchasing tickets.
By rail note:
Foreigners are not currently permitted to enter or leave Russia by train. A new line from Kars in Turkey to Akhalkalaki in Georgia is under construction, while existing track between Akhalkalaki, Tbilisi and Baku is undergoing modernisation. A sleeper service is planned, with the project due to be completed in late 2015.
Driving to Azerbaijan
Long-distance bus services from Istanbul and other Turkish cities eventually wind up in Baku (with a change in Georgia). Motorists can follow the same route. The most popular way to arrive by road is from Tbilisi in Georgia, via Lagodekhi and Balakan. Coming from Iran the most convenient border crossing is Astara.
By road note:
Road routes to and from Russia are currently barred to foreigners because of security problems in Dagestan and Chechnya. The border with Armenia is closed due to ongoing tension between the two countries.
Getting to Azerbaijan by boat
There are few options for those wishing to travel to Azerbaijan by boat, although it is not impossible.
While there are no passenger ferries to or from Azerbaijan, cargo ships link Baku with Aktau in Kazakhstan and Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan – and both have cabins onboard. The journey is not for the fainthearted; there are no set timetables and tickets can only be bought the day of departure in an ad-hoc arrangement. Ask around at the port. Assuming you are successful, be warned – delays of up to a week are not unheard of and the conditions aboard vary significantly.
Getting around Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Airlines (www.azal.az) operates several flights a day between Baku and the Azeri ‘exclave’ of Nakhchivan, which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia. There are also connections from Baku to Ganja, Gabala, Yevlakh, Zaqatala and Lankaran.
Although distances appear short on the map, if time is tight air travel will knock several hours off a road journey. Tickets at short notice are widely available throughout the year, except on national holidays when many Baku residents like to visit their family in the country.
Azerbaijan’s recent prosperity means that the number of cars on the road is in danger of exceeding the road capacity, although new highways are under construction throughout the country.
Visitors should note that many local drivers do not adhere to traffic regulations; it is estimated that almost half of all drivers have not passed a test but obtained their license through ‘connections’.
Self-drive is only recommended to seasoned motorists, but alert and confident drivers will relish the freedom to visit those out-of-the-way beauty spots. Traffic police are numerous and keen to fine visitors and locals alike for speeding offences.
Side of road: Right
Azerbaijan’s road network totals around 57,770km (34,346 miles). Road conditions away from Baku are often pretty poor and 4-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for journeys into the mountains. Roads are rarely lit outside major towns.
Dual-carriageways are increasingly common on key commercial routes between Baku and major regional towns. Part of the route from Baku to Ganja is classed as motorway but resembles the usual dual carriageways.
International car hire firms including Hertz and Avis are based in downtown Baku, along with many local firms. The legal minimum age to hire a car is 21. To book a car at Baku airport, contact Tipoa Car Hire (tipoa.com) or 3 Click Car Hire (www.3clickcarhire.com).
Taxis are widely available in both cities and rural areas. Agree a fare before setting off; meters are not widely used and the initial fares suggested may be high. It is often possible to hire a taxi for a day’s sightseeing at prices comparable to self-drive. Drivers are usually competent but are prone to driving alarmingly fast.
There are very few push bikes in Baku and local drivers have little experience sharing the roads with bikes. Not recommended.
Mtrans (tel: +994 12 499 7038; www.mtrans.az) run regular services between Baku and most major towns. The buses are modern, comfortable and a relatively inexpensive way of travelling around Azerbaijan.
U-turns are banned, as is driving while using a mobile phone. Note that left-hand turns across the traffic are forbidden. Seat belts are compulsory. There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drink. Speed limits are 20km/h in residential zones, 60 km/h in urban areas, 90km/h on the open road and 110 km/h on highways.
Your car hire company may be able to help but there is no official organisation.
An International Driving Permit or licence issued by an EU country is required. Also carry the vehicle registration document, your passport, proof of insurance and a check-up card that proves the vehicle has passed its annual roadworthiness test.
Getting around towns and cities:
Baku’s metro covers 28km (17.5 miles) but it mainly connects the suburbs to the centre and so most visitors use taxis or private cars for trips within the city centre. Buses to the suburbs are cheap but often overcrowded. Public transport is very safe.
Rail connections are slow but fares are very reasonable. The main routes from Baku are northwest to the Georgian border and Caucasus Mountains and south to Astara and Iran. Visit www.railway.gov.az for more details.
By rail note:
For overnight journeys, S/V is the most comfortable class and provides a private two-berth cabin with bunk beds.
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