IN AND AROUND BAKU
Arriving At The Hotel Your hotel concierge will want to take a copy of your passport, this is for your security whilst in the country, so that you are registered at a dwelling. If you are staying in Azerbaijan for more than 10 days, you will need to be registered with the local police station for the duration of your stay. As your hotel to help you with this. They can either register on your behalf or direct you to the police station.
Traveling Around There are loads of ways to get around Baku. Walking is always my first point of call in a new city, to get my bearings – however, from the edge of Baku it can be a good 45 minute walk into the center of town which may not be ideal, especially if you want to visit some of the attractions far west, such as ‘National Flag Square’ or Crystal Hall. The options below are vast, and there are not many limitations if you have your preference:
- Taxis – The drivers are also up for driving out of town and giving you a ‘day rate’ if you want to visit further away places such as Gobustan. We took a day out to the mud volcanoes and yana dag fire mountain in the ‘London’ cab, which included a lunch stop and driving up a mountain – this cost $200 for the whole day, which we shared with a couple of other tourists. There are the white cabs in Baku too – slightly cheaper, however are not always as easy to communicate with. They will follow an address if you write it down on a piece of paper, which we found to be the best way. They are on average half of the price. If you choose to travel by white cab, it is best to agree a price before driving to know how much cash you will need to pay. A quick trip into and around Baku in a licensed ‘London Taxi’ will usually cost up to about 7 Manat maximum (£5) and will happily give you a receipt. These taxis are purple versions of a London black cab. The drivers usually have a good comprehension of English and know Baku very well. You can also pay for them to wait for you while you are eating in restaurants / sightseeing. Interestingly, the cab drivers are as talkative as a good old London ‘cabbie’ and will often give you a guided tour as they drive you around. They are very good for giving suggestions on where to eat / go and see. The taxi’s queue outside all of the hotels in Baku and it is easy to hail one from the street.
- Trains – In central Baku there is a metro service which is reliable and very similar to European networks. There are two lines which are easy to negate and each journey costs the equivalent of about 0.2 Manat (circa 10p!). To travel you will need a card that is loaded with money, which you will need to buy from a ticket office during the day. You may also want to ask for an English speaking Azerbaijani’s help when loading your card for the first time to make sure you are doing it correctly. When we were there, unfortunately we never managed to buy a card or pay for our travel, being two ladies travelling together, everyone we asked insisted that they would pay! A note to remember to be chivalrous on the metro, otherwise you may get some angry looks from fellow passengers. Whether you decide to travel by metro or not, you should at least get a chance to visit the stations for the amazing interiors. Bold and gloriously ostentatious. There are also overground trains travelling outside of Baku to Tibilsi every evening, and arriving the following morning, where you can book a bed to Georgia for roughly 20 Manat. At the moment, unless you are a Russian citizen, you will not be able to cross the border into Russia by train.
- Boats – Unfortunately there are no commercial boats travelling from Baku across the Caspian Sea at present.
- Planes – if you are feeling like jet-setting while on holiday in Baku and would like a quick visit to Georgia, there are regular flights running from Heyday Aliyev Airport to Tibilsi.
- Busses – Green intercity buses are very regular, easy and convenient to travel around on in Baku – for less than 1 Manat a journey, you can jump on and off in most places around town. Make sure you have coins when travelling on the busses as drivers can get annoyed changing up large Manat notes. There are also out of city busses that will take you as far as Russia, Georgia, Iran and Turkey, but buses are slow, and can be quite tiring journeys. If you plan to take one of these buses into a different country, make sure you are carrying the correct entry visas / documents you may need, as well as your passport.
- Car – You can hire a car in Azerbaijan if you plan to travel around a lot, petrol is cheap and hire is affordable. Central Baku is quite a congested area during the day and public transport may be more convenient than driving. If you do want the comfort of city driving – the taxi drivers know the quickest way around town.
- Street Names – In central Baku street maps can differ between languages, with tourist maps being mainly in English. We were told that this is due to the Russian and Western influences on the City, so if you are trying to go somewhere quite isolated and specific, remember to write down both the Azerbaijani, Russian and English names for the streets.