Nestled between the Caspian and the Caucasus at the intersection of Eastern Europe and West Asia, the country of Azerbaijan is drawing more and more visitors each year.
Visitors to Azerbaijan should remember, however, that most international visitors must secure a visa to enter the country. Depending on where you originate your journey and your country of citizenship, you may be required to secure a visa from an Azerbaijani embassy before you travel to the country. U.S. travelers should watch this video about how to apply for an electronic tourist visa to visit Azerbaijan. Check the Azerbaijani Los Angeles consulate Azerbaijan visa information page for more details.
What do U.S. citizens need to know about flying to Azerbaijan?
2017 was a record-breaking year for Azerbaijan’s biggest international airport. Azerbaijan’s primary portal to the world, Heydar Aliyev International Airport, served a record 4 million passengers in 2017, a 23 percent increase over the previous year. Business Insider India even named Azerbaijan’s flagship airport among the 14 most beautiful airports in the world, alongside airports in Spain, Germany, and other major destinations.
Conveniently, since 2014, U.S. citizens traveling via direct flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Heydar Aliyev can obtain a short-stay, single-entry visa upon arrival in Baku. If you do choose this route, be sure to double check the list of required documents for U.S. citizens to obtain a visa upon arrival in Azerbaijan.
How do I get from Heydar Aliyev International Airport to Downtown Baku?
Comfortable airport buses seating 48 passengers run on a convenient, round-the-clock schedule from Heydar Aliyev Airport to the downtown train station. Called the Aero Express Line, the route takes about 30 minutes. Aero Express passengers must either purchase a one-time ticket for their trip before boarding the bus, or pay for their trip with a BakuCard Smart Card. Both one-time Aero Express tickets and BakuCards are available at the BakuCard Kiosk near the Terminal 1 exit.
If you take a taxi in Baku, you might think you’re in London. Azerbaijan’s government acquired a fleet of 1,000 London-style Fairway cabs in 2011 coinciding with the event of the Eurovision song contest, which was held in Azerbaijan in 2012. The cabs were then painted purple to give a distinctive Azerbaijani touch to London’s iconic cabs.
If you decide to take a taxi from the airport to downtown Baku, or anywhere in Azerbaijan for that matter, make sure to agree to a fare up front or make sure the driver has turned the meter on. Some foreign taxi passengers have reported being overcharged on routes leading from the airport to downtown Baku. Also, check to ensure the taxi has working seatbelts.
Can I rent a car in Azerbaijan?
If you prefer to travel to destinations inside Azerbaijan in a rental car, you certainly can. International car rental companies including Avis and Hertz, as well as many local car rental companies, operate inside the country. Check with individual car rental companies for prices and details. However, renting a car can entail hidden costs and burdensome responsibilities. Drivers must carry an international driver’s license, and language barriers could present difficulties in the event of an accident on Azerbaijan’s roadways, some of which remain underdeveloped. With so many other transportation options available, including buses, trains, and taxis, why not sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as a passenger?
See more destinations in Azerbaijan by flying from Baku to other historic sights, natural wonders, and ancient cities. Flying domestically can take several hours off a journey, and Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), Azerbaijan’s largest airline service, recently announced more flights to domestic destinations within Azerbaijan. According to AzerNews, Azerbaijan has invested $15 billion in aviation safety and infrastructure within Azerbaijan in the last decade. Azerbaijan is also the beneficiary, along with several other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, of a four-year grant from the European Commission via the European Aviation Safety Agency to align civil aviation development inside Azerbaijan with international and European standards.
AZAL is a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and an audit by the authority in 2016 determined that the airline meets the strictest international safety requirements. The audit is valid until September 2018.
Where else can I fly within Azerbaijan?
AZAL offers flights from Baku to Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second-largest city situated to the west of Baku, halfway between Baku and Tblisi, Georgia. Ganja is known as a cultural and literary epicenter of Azerbaijani culture. Attractions include baths, fresh markets, historic architecture, a monument to a famous Azerbaijani poet, and breathtaking natural wonders. The nearby Lake Goygol, known for its clarity and beauty, sits nestled like an emerald within the Goygol National Park in the gently rolling hills of the Lesser Caucasus. Flying from Baku to Ganja takes about one hour, while driving at a moderate speed can take more than four hours.
Are there any other domestic flights within Azerbaijan?
Flights are available from Baku to other destinations in Azerbaijan including the mountain city of Gabala, famous for its striking mountain views, wellness retreats, and spa facilities. Gabala also draws music fans from across the region for its annual Gabala Music Festival.
Check the AZAL timetables to learn more about the carrier’s domestic and international flights.
What is it like traveling by bus inside Azerbaijan?
Traveling by bus is very common in Azerbaijan. Almost every major city has a bus station or stop and inter-city routes are plentiful. Traveling by bus might be necessarily to reach destinations without an airport, such as Sheki, a northern Azerbaijani city famous for its natural areas, mineral springs, and rivers.
Read this tourist’s personal account of traveling by bus in Azerbaijan and learn more about what kind of vehicle to expect, the price of tickets, and ease of travel. Lonely Planet has documented more detailed information about how to find the bus station in Baku and domestic routes.
Can I travel by train within Azerbaijan?
Railways crisscross Azerbaijan and offer an affordable, convenient way to see the country from the relaxation of a passenger seat. Prices are affordable and routes are plentiful. Azernews sent a group of reporters to by train to major destinations in Azerbaijan including Ganja. Read about what the journalists learned traveling by train in Azerbaijan. Learn more about Azerbaijan train timetables and domestic routes, ticket purchases, and international routes courtesy of Carivanistan, a portal for tourist information in the Caucasus.
Our next article in this series will explore tips for getting around Baku.
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