Azerbaijan

Think Azerbaijan only holds appeal for travellers looking to tick off every country on the map? Think again. Imagine an enigmatic country squeezed in between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, scattered with small fishing towns and remote mountain villages far from the tourist trail. Envisage the capital Baku and picture Europe-meets-Asia with a Gulf States flair – a brash cosmopolitan metropolis flaunting the latest in futuristic architecture sitting alongside ancient mosques, walled cities and old-world Russian opulence. Think how bemused your friends will be upon hearing of your latest holiday choice. Fascinating, austere and intriguing by turns, this back-of-beyond nation won’t fail to charm and perplex.

Azerbaijan Tours & Travel

About Azerbaijan

At a glance

Trips Available: 1
Capital city: Baku (population 2.1 million)
Population: 9.3 million
Language: Azerbaijani
Currency: AZN
Time zone: (GMT+04:00) Baku
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin)
Dialing code: +994

Best time to visit Azerbaijan

April through to June is the best time to visit Azerbaijan, when the temperatures are warm, the flowers are out, and skies at their clearest. September and October are also good temperature-wise, though the countryside isn’t as scenic. The heat and humidity can be oppressive in Baku during the summer months of June, July and August, and from November to March temperatures can fall below zero.

Geography and environment

Azerbaijan is a mountainous country on the western coast of the Caspian Sea. Over half of the country’s landscape consists of ridges, crests and foothills, while the remainder is characterised by lowland plateaus and plains traversed by rivers.

Top Picks

Top 5 World Heritage-Listed Sights in Azerbaijan

1. The Walled City of Old Baku

Constructed sometime in the 12th century, this walled fortress was granted UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2000. A bustling labyrinth of alleyways, old buildings and boutique hotels, where the locals still live and go about their day, it retains the quintessential elements of a medieval town. It’s one of the few World Heritage sights in which you can actually bed down for a night.

2. Shirvanshah’s Palace

This ornate sandstone palatial complex received World Heritage status at the same time as the Walled City (in which it’s located). Largely destroyed by a bombardment, courtesy of the Russian Navy in the 18th century, the Palace has since been meticulously restored and is clearly visible from the sea and the city’s surrounding heights.

3. Maiden's Tower

Another World Heritage-listed sight inside the Walled City, Qiz Qalasi – translated as the Maiden’s or Virgin’s Tower – is one of Azerbaijan’s foremost architectural accomplishments and recognisable emblems. Standing 29 metres high and cylindrical in design, the history of this spiralling and mystifying structure remains a point of debate between historians, while its top offers 360-degree views of surrounding Baku Bay and the town’s alleys and minarets.

4. Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape

The ancient carvings and petroglyphs of the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape, less than 70 km from Baku, provide a rich and fascinating insight into how life was for people in the area over 40,000 years ago. More than 6,000 depictions of flora, fauna and people engaged in hunting and fishing activities reveal both cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times, and seismic geographical change. The site received UNESCO listing in 2007.

5. The Khan’s Palace

Currently on the tentative list of sights seeking World Heritage listing, the former summer residential palace of Shaki Khans is an ornately tiled and patterned two-story structure built in 1797. Renowned for its exquisite stained-glass windows, murals and frescos, the palace’s beauty is only enhanced by verdant natural surroundings.

FAQs on Azerbaijan

In established restaurants, bars, hotels and taxis, a 5-10% service charge is usually added to the bill - though feel free to tip more than this for exceptional service. At restaurants where a service charge isn’t included, 10% is the acceptable gratuity. Although tipping at other places isn't mandatory it will be well received, and setting aside a small amount for porters, guides and drivers is also a good idea.
Internet cafes with reliable and fast connections can easily be found in all of Azerbaijan’s major cities and towns.
Mobile coverage is extensive throughout the capital and major cities, but pretty much non-existent in the remote mountainous parts of the country. Roaming agreements are in place with most international cellular companies.
Clean and flushable Western-style toilets are generally the go at established tourist attractions across the country, though one should be prepared for some pretty ordinary squat/pit toilets elsewhere. Carry your own supply of soap and toilet paper, as these aren’t always at hand.
1.5 litre bottle of water = .60 AZN
Bottle of local beer = 2.5 AZN
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant = 8 AZN
Meal at a mid-range restaurant = 40 AZN
Tap water isn't safe to drink in Azerbaijan. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, bring water purification tablets or ask your leader where filtered water can be found.
Some major credit cards will be accepted at some high-end restaurants and hotels, but it's best not to rely on these.
ATMs are prevalent in Baku and other major towns, though won’t necessarily be internationally connected or reliable. Be sure to have other payment methods when visiting the country.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 20 Martyrs' Day
Mar 8 International Women's Day
Mar 21 Nowruz (Persian New Year)
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 1 Easter Monday
May 9 Victory Day
May 28 Republic Day
Jun 15 National Salvation Day
Jun 26 Army and Navy Day
Aug 8 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
Oct 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
Oct 18 Independence Day
Nov 12 Constitution Day
Nov 17 National Revival Day
Dec 31 Day of Azeri Solidarity

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/azerbaijan/public-holidays
AZERBAIJAN (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan. Most also require a LOI in order to apply although this can depend on where your application is made. Visa rules for Azerbaijan are constantly changing and embassy staff often find it hard to keep up with or know how to interpret them. We recommend checking the following websites for reports and up to date information: http://azerbaijan24.com & http://caravanistan.com.

The following information was current at the time of writing. You will need to check with the embassy where you will apply for specific information and costs.

VISA ON ARRIVAL:
It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa to Azerbaijan in advance.

APPLYING FOR AN E-VISA:
From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is an online process, with the visa emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs US$100 and takes up to 15 days to be processed and requires submitting the following documents:

*Clear, color copy of passport in JPEG format
*Clear, color copy of applicant’s photo size 3x4 cm in JPEG format
*Flight reservation details if arriving or departing by air
*Confirmation of hotel booking – This can be requested from Dragoman by emailing centralasiavisas@dragoman.co.uk
*Completed e-visa application form in WORD format

Please note that while this is a very new service, we advise all pax to apply for the e-visa rather than applying at an embassy.

There are 2 options for obtaining the e-visa:

1. The Visa Machine
The application process can be started by going to the following address:
http://dragoman.thevisamachine.com/visa/1040/azerbaijan/tourist-e-visa/single-entry.
The application cost is $80US plus £20 admin fee.

2. Direct to an Azeri travel agent
An alternative option is to use Azerbaijan24, an Azeri travel agent. Please follow the link to find instructions on completing the application form independently:
http://azerbaijan24.com/azerbaijan-visa-support.html
The application will cost $100US.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Organisation, juridical or physical person inviting you to Azerbaijan:
Mirvari Travel Ltd.
Istiqlaliyyet str. 23
Baku
+994 12 492 09 45

Address of the place of your stay in Azerbaijan:
Azeri Hotel
Icheri Sheher
Asif Zeynally street 39
AZ1000, Baku
(unless otherwise indicated on your LOI)

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Letter of Invitation (LOI), additional official documents depending on the embassy
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photos (up to 4)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements AZERBAIJAN

Most nationalities require a visa to visit Azerbaijan.

VISA ON ARRIVAL:
It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa (evisa) to Azerbaijan in advance.

APPLYING FOR AN E-VISA:
From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is a process by which the visa is emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out and present at immigration on arrival. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs is already incorporated into the cost of the trip and takes on average between 15-21 days to be processed. To apply for an e-visa you must complete an application form which will be sent to you at time of booking and submit this along with the following documents to our Azerbaijan partners:

*Clear, color copy of passport in JPEG format
*Clear, color copy of applicant’s photo size 3x4 cm in JPEG format
*Flight reservation details of your arrival in the country (etickets)

In order to allow enough time for your evisa to be processed, we recommend that these documents are submitted to CentralAsia.VisaSupport@intrepidtravel.com no later than 40 days prior to your arrival in Azerbaijan.

While this is a very new service, we advise all pax to apply for the e-visa rather than applying at an embassy. We are not able to provide visa support for other visa applications.

Please note that the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a E-visa application link on their website. We have received reports that this option does not work and applications have gone missing. We recommend you use the services of our Azeri partners to obtain the e-visa.

INFO FOR EVISA APPLICATION:

Address in Baku:
Central Park Hotel
Suleyman Rahimov 165
Baku
AZERBAIJAN
Phone: +994 125944235

Details of our local partners in Azerbaijan:
ENC tours
7th floor, Sapphire Plaza
1/3, Nizami Street
Baku
AZERBAIJAN
Phone: +994 124974020

Please use the following answers for Q21 and Q31 on your application form:
Question 21: Your answer should be "Georgia"
Question 32: Your answer should be "Business"
The application should be signed and sent us in PDF format.

APPLYING AT AN EMBASSY:
Visa rules for Azerbaijan are constantly changing and embassy staff often find it hard to keep up with or know how to interpret them. We advise against attempting to apply for your Azerbaijan visa at an embassy and instead use the e-visa service. Embassy applications often require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) and other documents from a local travel agent which are expensive and time consuming to obtain. As we are able to provide the evisa service for all nationalities we are not able to provide an LOI or any other visa support for application at an embassy.

REGISTRATION: All passengers will be registered automatically on arrival at our Azerbaijan Hotel. AZERBAIJAN - Intrepid Travel - The Visa Machine

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay. We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.

Intrepid Travel have partnered with The Visa Machine in order to provide the supporting documents (Letters of Invitation, Hotel Confirmations etc.) required for visas in this region to our travellers.

By logging onto The Visa Machine website via the links below you will be able to access checklists of what information and documents you will need to prepare as well as apply for the visa support documents you will need. More specific information is provided below for your trip, however for all countries we advise that you start your visa support application with The Visa Machine no later than 3 months before your trip is scheduled to enter each country in order to allow for the lengthy process, and where applicable, to apply for your visa in advance.

If you are visiting multiple countries, we recommend submitting a single application to The Visa Machine which contains all the information necessary for visiting each country. This will allow The Visa Machine to provide you with the most efficient customer service.

Please remember that applying for the necessary supporting documents as well as the visas is the responsibility of the traveller. Once you have submitted your application to The Visa Machine you will be contacted by their customer service team along with any further instructions.

The following country specific visa information was current at the time of writing. Please check with your local Embassy/Consulate for the most up to date information and requirements before applying for your visas.

From March 2013 Azerbaijan has introduced an e-visa system. This is an online process, where the visa is emailed to you as a PDF attachment that you will need to print out. This visa enables entry to Azerbaijan at any border point, land or air and is issued strictly for the dates your documents show only. The e-visa costs are included in our 2015 trip price and takes up to 30 working days to be processed and requires submitting the following documents.

INSTRUCTIONS AND INFORMATION:

To start the process of obtaining your Azerbaijan e-visa, please follow the below link to The Visa Machine site:
http://intrepid-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/

Firstly please look at the Central Asia ‘CHECK LIST’ and make sure you have everything you need with you so you can start the process. The system doesn’t let you save your progress for later, so you must finish the entire application at the one time. If you are visiting multiple countries on your trip, the same information and documents may be required for different visas. Please make sure you carefully read the check list in order to eliminate any double up.

The Visa Machine will apply for the letter of invitation on your behalf. Once you are satisfied you have all information with you to apply for you visa support, click on the ‘Apply Now’ link and follow the instructions.

http://intrepid-visa-support.thevisamachine.com/visa-support

If you have any trouble with the online form please contact The Visa Machine on visasupport@thevisamachine.com or during UK working hours on +44(0) 207 148 6402.

OTHER INFORMATION:
It is no longer possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku Airport or at any land border into Azerbaijan. All travellers must apply for their Single Entry Tourist Visa to Azerbaijan in advance.

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Azerbaijan Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Azerbaijan

1. Be considerate of Azerbaijan’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Only use your right hand for eating and passing things to locals. The left is used for ‘unhygienic tasks’.

3. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered and shoes removed when entering places of worship.

4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water or use water purification tablets.

5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

6. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive and supports the local community.

9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

11. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Russia and Azerbaijan: Russia and A Borderland in TransitionTadeusz Swietochowski
The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian SeaSteve Levine
Caucasus: A Journey to the Land Between Christianity and IslamNicholas Griffin
Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through War and PeaceThomas de Waal