Baku- an unexplored capital city which is almost never on any tourist's radar. Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan, a low lying city with coastline along the Caspian Sea. It is said to be the richest capital of the Caucasus region with wealth coming costly from the oil sector.
I visited Baku in the month of November 2022. First of all, let us find out what are the requirements to enter Azerbaijan.
Passport with a remaining validity of at least 6 month.
E-Visa. The E--Visa can be obtained from the official website https://evisa.gov.az/en/
Confirmed Return Flight Tickets and Paid Hotel Bookings. This is not mandatory while applying for the E-Visa but it is very much recommended to have as it may be checked at Azerbaijan immigration.
Covid Vaccination Certificate. I was asked for this in immigration at Baku.
Credit/Debit Cards along with sufficient cash in hand. I was not asked to show proof of funds though.
Getting an E-Visa is very easy and straightforward. You will get the visa in your mail within 3 days after application. The fees is USD 25 per person for a single entry visa valid for 3 months. In urgency, you can spend an additional amount to get the visa within 3 hours.
Flight tickets to Baku from India is quite costly. Expect to pay around Rs 25000 to Rs 35000 per person one way. Most of the flights are through the Gulf countries like UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc. Flights include Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Fly Dubai, Saudia etc.
The currency of Azerbaijan is called the "Manat" and 1 Manat = INR 48 (approximately). Although the currency value id quite high with regards to the Indian Rupee, the cost of living is not very high. Normal grocery and taxi expenses are all within comfortable limits. Keep in mind that the Manat is a closed currency, meaning that if you have lots of Manat with you at the time of leaving Azerbaijan, it is better to convert all before coming to India as you may not be able to exchange it in other places. It is advisable to take US Dollar while travelling to Azerbaijan as they can be exchanged freely at the exchange counters. Do keep in mind that Credit and Debit cards are also widely used. ATM's are also widely available in Baku though there may be cash shortages in the ATM's in few instances.
Due to the fact that the flight ticket from New Delhi to Baku was around Rs 32000 when I went in November 2022 (in addition to Rs 7000 from my hometown to New Delhi), the total flight price was coming out to be Rs 39000 per person one way. So, I opted to go to Baku via Dubai. My flight ticket prices were as follows:
Hometown to Dubai: Rs 12000
Dubai to Baku: Rs 22000
So, I saved Rs 5000 per person which was used up in UAE Visa fees. I could have totally avoided UAE visa fees if I had stayed for 48 hours and could have saved 50% of the visa fees if I had stayed for 96 hours. Both the 48 hour and 96 hours visas are UAE transit visas. However, I opted to stay for 5 days in Dubai and so opted to apply for the normal UAE E-Visa. One more thing to be kept in mind is that if you are travelling with just a small laptop sized bag, you can travel from Dubai to Baku through lost cost carriers such as Wizz Air which is an extreme low cost carrier with ticket prices ranging from Rs 4000 to Rs 8000. (Compared to other airlines which cost around Rs 25000 to Rs 35000). The catch here is that baggage cost is around Rs 10000 plus per bag. In addition, they have many hidden charges which will add up in case you don't read the entire fine print.
The flight from Dubai to Baku was around 3 hours. I booked by tickets with Fly Dubai. However, an unpleasant surprise was in store for me at Dubai airport where I was refused boarding passes by the Fly Dubai counter. After haggling and pestering for around 2-3 hours, finally they relented and provided my boarding passes (More on the incident later in subsequent posts).
" It is advised to carry all forms of supporting documents because few Indians were deported from entry to Azerbaijan. Immigration is very strict. However, if you are a genuine traveller with all documents and funds, you will not face any problem during entry."
After reaching Baku airport (Heydar Aliyev International Airport), I bought a SIM card. I was aware that SIM card at the airport cost more than the city. However, I opted to buy the SIM card at the airport itself as I didn't want the process to be a hassle afterwards. After that, I searched for the complimentary cab that I had received from my hotel booking website. And then the journey to my hotel started. I was really amazed to see the huge and well maintained roads of the city. The journey from thee airport to my hotel (near Nizami Street) took around 1 hour. (More on my hotel in subsequent post)
It was already dark by the time I reached the hotel. The hotel was in a very good area. However, they don't accept card payments and wanted cash. So, I had to again go to the nearby ATM for cash to pay them.
After checking in, I came out to explore the beautiful area. It was damn cold outside with freezing wind blowing non stop. I had dinner at a Mc Donald's and came back to the hotel to sleep after a long and tiring day. So, that's it for today. Do check out my other blogs as well.
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(Last updated on 08/03/2023)
Hey, I am Abhinash - an Engineer by profession and traveller cum foodie by passion. I love travelling and eating !!! I have visited 6 countries as of March 2023. They are Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan. Hoping to visit few more countries soon. Stay tuned to my travels!