Azerbaijan  is a Turkic state in the Caucasus of Southeastern Europe and Asia. Most inhabitants are Shia Muslim, a faith it shares with neighboring Iran. It achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It has borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Russia and Turkey as well as a Caspian Sea coastline.
Conflict has been ongoing with neighbouring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, and the country is regarded by some as something of a kleptocracy. The ruling Aliyev family and their allies are making limited democratic concessions to posture for a potential European Union accession bid along with their neighbor, Georgia, but at the same time have consolidated greater power among themselves.
- Baku — The capital and largest, most cosmopolitan city of the Caucasus
- Ganja — Azerbaijan's second largest city has a long history and some important sites
- Lankaran — Southern city near the Iranian border
- Mingechivir — A mid-sized city on the large Mingechivir Reservoir
- Naftalan — A town best known for its special petroleum oil baths (spas)
- Nakhichevan City — The administrative capital of Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave
- Sheki — A beautiful city in the forested Caucasus Mountains with lots to see and do
- Sumqayit — Azerbaijan's third largest city, on the Absheron Peninsula
- Xachmaz — This is the largest tourist destination in Azerbaijan with great beaches and beautiful forests. Also spelled Khachmaz.
Azerbaijan regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory and must support some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict.
Corruption is ubiquitous and the promise of widespread wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled.
These are the nationally recognized holidays for people living in Azerbaijan.
- New Year (January 1-2)
- Women’s Day (March 8)
- Victory Day (May 9)
- Republic Day (May 28)
- Day of National Salvation of Azerbaijan People (June 15)
- Day of Military Forces of Azerbaijan Republic (June 26)
- State Sovereignty Day (October 18)
- Constitution Day (November 12)
- National Rebirth Day (November 17)
- Solidarity Day of World Azerbaijanis (December 31)
- Novruz Bayram – five days
- Gurban Bayram (Day of Sacrifice) - two days
- Ramazan (Day of Fasting) - two days
Azerbaijan is known for having nine of the 11 existing ecological zones, although a great deal of it is dry and semiarid steppe.
Large, flat Kur-Araz Ovaligi (Kura-Araks Lowland) (much of it below sea level) with Great Caucasus Mountains to the north, Qarabag Yaylasi (Karabakh Upland) in west; Baku lies on Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) that juts into Caspian Sea.
- Elevation extremes
- lowest point
- Caspian Sea -27 m
- highest point
- Bazarduzu Dagi 4,466 m
- Environment - current issues
- Local scientists consider the Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) (including Baku and Sumqayit) and the Caspian Sea to be the ecologically most devastated area in the world because of severe air, soil, and water pollution; soil pollution results from oil spills, from the use of DDT as a pesticide, and from toxic defoliants used in the production of cotton
Electricity is supplied at 220V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Azerbaijan.
Additionally, some older buildings may be still equipped with Soviet-era outlets. The Soviet GOST-7396 standard was very similar to the current European CEE-7/7 "Schuko plug", but the pins were of a 4.0 mm diameter, while the Schuko features 4.8 mm pins. As such, the pins of a Schuko may be too large to fit into a Soviet-era outlet, although the smaller Europlug will still fit. Although the Soviet-era outlets have largely been phased out, travelers who are particularly concerned with having the ability to plug in at all times may consider packing an adapter for the Soviet-era outlets too, just in case.
Also, make sure to bring your own automated voltage adapter because the electricity in Azerbaijan short circuits and "jumps" a lot and many items may get shocked if you don't bring the adapter.
To enter Azerbaijan, an entry visa is required for most countries. If you have the luxury of time and are planning your visit from your home country, it is a good idea to try to get your visa from an Azerbaijani consulate. Single entry tourist visas can also be obtained at Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku. You will need to have two passport size photographs ready for this visa. For Information on visa requirements visit the relevant page in the web site of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.. Those of Armenian ancestry are regularly denied entry, no matter what passport they hold, so just showing up without a visa is not always a good idea.
Note that if your passport shows any evidence of travel to the separatist republic of Nagorno Karabakh, such as a Karabakh visa, Azerbaijani consulates will deny you a visa. Even if you already have an Azerbaijan visa, you will be turned away and deported, or possibly arrested, if you attempt to enter the country with a Karabakh visa in your passport. If you do intend to visit Karabakh, the authorities there can issue the visa on a separate piece of paper at your request, although sometimes they forget to do this even if instructed to do so.
National air company AZAL (Azerbaijan Airlines) is the main carrier which flies to Ganja, Nakhchivan, Yevlakh, Lenkoran, Tbilisi, Aktau, Tehran, Tel-Aviv, Ankara, Istanbul, Trabzon, Antalya, Aleppo, Dubai, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kiev, Nizhniy Novgorod, Rostov-na-Donu, Urumqi, Mineralniye Vodi, Milan, London and Paris. BMI flies seven days a week to Baku. Lufthansa also has several flights a week to Baku. Turkish Airlines is another carrier connecting Baku with and via Istanbul. Also, there are several Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Iranian, and Austrian airlines connecting Baku with several cities of the world.
Never pay more than 15 Manat for the taxi to the center. Negotiate in advance. Go out of the airport and ask the cabbies in the parking lot. Ignore all people offering a ride to you in the airport building. A normal price to the center is 10, 12 or 15 Manat. Don't let cabbies renegotiate the price with you. Insist on the price agreed in advance.
For 5 Manat you can take a cab from the airport to Metro Azizbeyov. From there it's four to six stations to the city center - but only from 6 am until midnight.
There are trains that run daily from Georgia to Azerbaijan.
There are roads to all cities of Azerbaijan. They are not really wide and most of them have only two lanes. Local travel agents can arrange private cars to the borders. Some Georgian travel agents such as Exotour can arrange pickup in Baku to delivery in Tbilisi. Although more expensive than bus or train, it will be faster and can be combined with sightseeing along the way.
There is a ferry to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
- total: 36,700 km
paved: 31,800 km (includes some all-weather gravel-surfaced roads)
unpaved: 4,900 km (These roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather.) (1990)
Buses, minibuses (marshrutka), and taxis connect most cities. There is often a hub such as a bus station near the bazaar in these cities. The fares for buses and minibuses are posted usually in both old and new manat(qupik). Taxies on the other hand require negotiating skills, and this usually takes a proficiency in the language that ordinary non-Azeri/Russian/Turkish speakers do not have.
Azeri is the official language. This is a Turkic language, related to Turkish itself. However, English is spoken in some places frequented by Westerners. Many people also speak Russian (which is now declining and slowly being replaced by English), especially in the capital city, Baku.
Currency: New Azerbaijani manat (Yeni Manat)
Currency code: AZN
Exchange rates (approximate, mid-feb 2009):
- €1 = 0.97 manat
- US$1 = 0.85 manat
Keep in mind that import and export of manat is strictly forbidden.
Economy - overview: Azerbaijan's number one export is oil. Azerbaijan's oil production declined through 1997 but has registered an increase every year since. Negotiation of production-sharing arrangements (PSAs) with foreign firms, which have thus far committed $60 billion to oilfield development, should generate the funds needed to spur future industrial development. Oil production under the first of these PSAs, with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, began in November 1997. Azerbaijan shares all the formidable problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its considerable energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. Baku has only recently begun making progress on economic reform, and old economic ties and structures are slowly being replaced. An obstacle to economic progress, including stepped up foreign investment in the non-energy sector, is the continuing conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics is declining in importance while trade is building with Turkey and the nations of Europe. Long-term prospects will depend on world oil prices, the location of new pipelines in the region and Azerbaijan's ability to manage its oil wealth.
Cabbage, grape leaves, and eggplant wrapped meat (kelem, yarpaq, badimjan - dolmasi), kabab (kebab), rice with chicken and other stuff (plov - It is said that plov is the king of Azerbaijani cuisine), gutabs and meatballs (kufta) are some of the specialties of Azerbaijan. Bread is a staple, and is quite revered by the people of Azerbaijan.
Some local drinks include ayran (a yogurt drink based on sour milk) and sherbet (made from rose petals or saffron). There are also different sorts of quite decent wines produced from local grapes and a wide array of mineral waters from natural springs. In some areas of Azerbaijan the markets offer lemonades (limonat/dushes) made from pears, antibiotics and green tea.
Rental apartments might be a good choice as they are cheaper than hotels and sometimes are even more comfortable. There are a lot of hotels in the capital of Azerbaijan - Baku: Hyatt Regency, Park Inn, Absheron Hotel, Excelsior and a lot more. Prices for the hotels start from $60 and higher. There are some hostels in the regions too. In Baku there is only one hostel, namely Thousand Camels, centrally located in the Old City. The hostel is the cheapest place and costs $20 per night.
You can get the information you need about Azerbaijan from the hotels where you will stay. They have different guides for Azerbaijan. Also at some new bus stations in Baku there are maps of the capital.
There is a great deal of work to be done in Azerbaijan from teaching and NGO work to work in the oil and tourism sectors.
- Legal system
- based on civil law system
Corruption is widespread. Carry some money to keep you out of trouble. Only use licensed taxis. Watch out for beggars. Also, the international soft drinks (Coca-Cola, Pepsi, etc.) may be homemade and contaminated, so watch out when buying such drinks. To make sure they are safe, buy them from big supermarkets and stores.
Make sure to get your shots a couple weeks before departure. The air in the cities where oil is produced isn't as clean as in other countries so that results in diseases. Some meats are also old or spoiled, so make sure to buy them from a clean, respected place and watch out for roadside sellers.
When going to someone's home, make sure to bring them a gift. Anything is fine from wines to flowers to chocolate. When you arrive at the house take off your shoes and if you really want their respect, compliment their yard or house. When inside the house, don't ask for anything for they will surely offer it. The host will make sure to make you feel at home, so don't take advantage of their kindness. Most people in Azerbaijan respect older people, so in a bus or in a subway young people will always offer you a place to sit if you are an older person, or if you are pregnant or have kids with you. Azerbaijan has a Turkic and majority-Muslim population.
- Muslim 95.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.8%, other 1.8% (1995 est.)
note: Religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan; percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower.
- Ethnic groups
- Azeri 92%, Dagestani 3.2%, Russian 2.5%, other 2.3% (1998 est.)
note: Almost all Armenians live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region
There are three mobile operators: Azercell, Bakcell, Nar Mobile. Azercell is the first and largest one. To dial an Azercell number you need to dial (050) and then the number. Only with Azercell can you talk in the metro(subway) in Baku. Nar Mobile is pretty cheap but doesn't work in some regions. For dialing Nar Mobile numbers you need to dial (070) and then the number. Bakcell is ok. It works almost everywhere and is cheaper that Azercell. To dial a Bakcell number you need to dial (055) and then the number. The numbers have a 3 digit code (different for each operator) + 7 digits number. For example (050)xxx xx xx, or (055)xxx xx xx, or (070)xxx xx xx You can buy cards for use with different operators almost in every store.
City Code Agjabedi 113 Agdam 192 Agdash 193 Agsu 198 Agstafa 244 Ali-Bayramli 197 Astara 195 Babek 136 Baku 12 Balaken 119 Berde 110 Beylagan 152 Bilesuvar 159 Dashkesen 216 Devechi 115 Fizuli 141 Gedebey 232 Genje 22 Goranboy 234 Goychay 167 Hajigabul 140 Horadiz 141 İmishli 154 İsmayilli 178 Jebrayil 118 Jelilabad 114 Julfa 36 Kelbejer 137 Kurdemir 145 Lachin 146 Lenkeran 171 Lerik 157 Masalli 151 Mereze 150 Mingechevir 147 Nabran 156 Naftalan 255 Nakhchivan 136 Neftchala 153 Oguz 111 Ordubad 136 Gakh 144 Gazakh 279 Gazi Memmed 140 Gebele 160 Gobustan 150 Guba 169 Gubadli 133 Gusar 138 Saatli 168 Sabirabad 143 Shahbuz 136 Salyan 163 Shamakhi 176 Samukh 265 Sederek 136 Sheki 177 Shemkir 241 Sherur 136 Siyezen 190 Sumgayit 18-64 Shusha 191 Terter 246 Tovuz 231 Ujar 170 Khachmaz 172 Khankendi 162 Khanlar 230 Khizi 199 Khojali 102 Khudat 172 Yardimli 175 Yevlakh 166 Zagatala 174 Zengilan 196 Zerdab 135
This page was last edited at 16:03, on 12 March 2009 by Wikitravel user Ypsilon. Based on work by Jani Patokallio, Hotels Combined and Peter Fitzgerald, Wikitravel user(s) Travelbird, Morph and Shotlandiya, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.