BEFORE YOU GO
As with any trip abroad, it is important to make sure that you have all of the things that you won’t kick yourself for not considering previously. For example, do I have the correct adapter to be able to charge my phone when I get there? The big plug question is answered below and in easy to understand terms.
The timeline for organising your trip is also very important. Make sure you give yourself a minimum of one month in advance to plan, as there will be processing times of visa applications and the wait for a letter of invitation. Also, be aware that during the visa process you will be required to send your passport, or leave your passport with the Azerbaijan Visa centre.
- Travel Insurance – I have a general yearly travel insurance that covers ‘world destinations’ – this cost £25 for the year, and will cover me on all of the basics, lost luggage, delayed flights etc. One thing to consider when travelling to Azerbaijan is that the country is not currently part of the European Union. This means that you cannot use your EH card – make sure that you have an insurance that covers all illness requirements especially if you have an existing medical condition.
- Passport Validity – Your passport must be at least 6 months in date to the END of your stay in Azerbaijan. There are a couple of websites that say that you will only require 3 months validity, however this is not the case – the visa centre in the UK will not begin to process your visa without this validity being in place.
- Booking your Hotel & Flights – You will need to book your hotel stay before being able to complete your UK visa application. If you are concerned about this, many hotels in Azerbaijan will offer an option of a full refund on cancellation. Turkish Airlines, Azel Airline also offer various cancellation refund flights. Book your flights to and from Heyday Aliyev International airport.
- Invitation to travel – At present, you must have a reason to be travelling to Azerbaijan. This seems very official; however, just being a tourist is a very valid reason! As we were working with the CSSN as a cause for our visit, they obliged in writing a letter for us to present to the visa centre. If you are working in Azerbaijan you should ask your employer to prepare a letter for you, via the government’s foreign ministry.
If you are a tourist, you can ask the hotel that you have booked your stay with if they will provide a letter for you. Check this before booking with them.
If you are visiting a friend or family, you can obtain a private visa, which requires a letter or invitation from the person that you are visiting.
When obtaining your letter, ask your provider to send it via email for you to print, as the postage from Azerbaijan to the UK can often take up to 3 weeks.
- Visa From United Kingdom (London) – You will have to be in receipt of a valid visa to travel to Azerbaijan before you go otherwise you will be denied entrance into the country. A standard tourism visa will cost £100 and is valid for up to 30 days, including the days of travel to and from the country. You can apply online, by post, or in person at the Visa Centre.
For an application, as standard, you are expected to provide:
- a valid passport, showing that you are a British Citizen, valid for a minimum of 6 moths on return from Azerbaijan (If you are not a British citizen, but residing in the UK, you will need your passport and 3 proofs of residence in the UK)
- proof of length of stay in Azerbaijan, i.e. your flight bookings and hotel booking
- A letter of invitation
- 1 passport standard photograph
- A completed application form
Online Application – You can complete your application via the visa centre website: https://www.visaforazerbaijan.org.uk – you will need to upload documents to your application and then post documents to the visa centre to check. The full service takes a minimum of 12 working days (including the send off day and day of receipt).
Visa Centre Application – You can complete a paper application by downloading it from the visa centre website: https://www.visaforazerbaijan.org.uk. Then take all of your documentation to the Visa centre in London. They will then give you a date to return to collect your documents, or post them to you. The full service takes a minimum of 12 working days (including the send-off day and day of receipt).
The Visa centre is open from 9am – 12pm Monday to Friday for walk-in’s, excluding Azerbaijani and British bank holidays. It is located at:
Azerbaijan Visa Centre
19 New College Parade
London NW3 5EP
I would recommend visiting the visa centre if you have any concerns about your application.
- Money You are unlikely to be able to get Manat, the national currency of Azerbaijan in the UK. However, US Dollars are traded in Azerbaijan, and it is easy to change dollars to Manat in the main cities of Azerbaijan. We would recommend taking some dollars with you to pay for your cab journey to the centre of Baku when you arrive at the airport. There is also a place to exchange your dollars to Manat in the airport.
- Plugs The plug sockets used in Azerbaijan are European standard 2 pronged plugs.
- Bank Remember to tell your bank that you are travelling to Azerbaijan, to avoid any card cancellations.
- Phone Your phone will be able to jump onto the main Azerbaijan network in Baku, however, be aware that calls will be very expensive. A week trip with 2 or 3 short conversations and minimal text messages ended up costing around £50. Most hotels and restaurants will offer free wifi, if you have a smartphone, take advantage of the free wifi on all occasions.
- Health Medical facilities with Baku are good however, if you travel outside of Baku it is recommended that you carry a comprehensive first aid kit. Make sure your insurance covers this. It is also recommended that you speak to your GP more than 8 weeks before travelling to Baku to make sure that you are in good health and will not require any jabs for your trip.
Hotel Suggestions: See the Boulevard Hotel Postcard & Hotel Inn Postcard above, both are very central locations with brilliant customer service.
NB:If you are planning to travel beyond Baku, please be aware that Nagorno Karrabakh is registered on the UK Government website as an unsafe place to visit. The area is currently under occupation by Armenian soldiers, and although there is currently a ceasefire, recent tensions have illustrated that there is continued hostility in this area. If you do need to travel to Nagorno Karrabakh, you will need to seek a special invitation by The Government of Azerbaijan. If you travel there by other means, you will be denied access to Azerbaijan in the future. If you plan to cross the border of Azerbaijan, you cannot do so via Armenia at all.