Travel practicalities - Travelling in Azerbaijan

Climate and weather in Azerbaijan
When to go to Azerbaijan
How to get there
Visas and travel documents
Transportation
Food
Language
Electricity
Health & safety
 

Climate and weather in Azerbaijan
 
The most important thing to remember when considering the climate in Azerbaijan is that there are nine of the eleven types of global ecological zones to be found there, so the weather is going to vary considerably depending on where you are travelling. That said, much of the country experiences a temperate climate. Temperatures are moderated by the influence of the Caucasus Mountains which block cold air from the Arctic in winter and the hot dry Central Asian air in summer.  Spring and autumn are mild; summers are hot, though sea breezes off the Caspian Sea help to make the heat more bearable in those areas. Nakhchivan sees the most extreme climate.  The country’s highest and lowest recorded temperatures (46°C and -33°C respectively) were both found in Nakhchivan. Snow is rare in the capital but of course plentiful in the mountains. Rainfall also varies geographically. The southern forests see the highest totals, especially in spring and autumn, while the central coast to the west of the country is considerably drier.

When to go to Azerbaijan?
It’s possible to visit Azerbaijan year round.  In spring, tourists flock to the country to join in with Novruz. This annual holiday, celebrated on March 21st, is an official public holiday which lasts for a week, featuring feasts, dancing and sporting contests. Summer is the time to head outdoors to enjoy the sun and sea, take walks to waterfalls and ride horseback on forest trails. By autumn, the leaves are turning gold and the country is positively laden with fruit; foodies can gorge on figs, walnuts, watermelons and pomegranates, all locally grown. In winter, Sheki hosts Choygan, an equestrian tournament of ancient origin. Alternatively, skiers can head to Shahdag to ski the slopes of the Caucasus.

How to get there
Air
British Airways offers direct flights from London Heathrow to Baku code sharing with the national flag carrier Azerbaijan Airlines but there are plenty of indirect flights as well, such as with Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines. Connections via Russia are plentiful and you’ll also be able to fly to Ganja, Nakhchivan and Lankaran via Moscow as well as the Azeri capital.

Direct flights from London Heathrow to Baku and back with Azerbaijan Airlines:
  • Tuesday
  • Thursday
  • Saturday
Direct flights schedule from the United Kingdom to Azerbaijan and back (subject to change):
  • going to Azerbaijan from the UK: departure London Heathrow at 22:05; arrival in Baku at 06:35 next day
  • going to the UK from Azerbaijan: departure Baku at 19:05; arrival in London Heathrow at 21:05 the same day.
Road
When travelling in the region you can arrive in Azerbaijan from Georgia by road. International bus services run to Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Russia. All border crossings between Azerbaijan and Armenia are closed.

Azerbaijan - Georgia Border Crossings:
  • Balakan - Lagodekhi. The road connects Zaqatala (AZ) and Telavi GE).
  • Shikhli/Sixli - Tsiteli. The road connects Qazax (AZ) and Rustavi (GE).


Rail
Cross-border trains serve the Georgian capital Tbilisi; it’s an overnight service both ways. The train between Azerbaijan and Russia (currently to Rostov and Moscow) is open to CIS passport holders.  

Visas and travel documents
Visas are required for tourists, you must possess a passport with a minimum validity of 6 months from the date of entry into Azerbaijan. We will advise on all aspects of obtaining tourist visas for your holiday and the cost of the visa is included in the price of the trip. If you are based in the UK or US we will submit your passports to the relevant consulates. All details on how to fill-in the visa forms, required documents will be emailed to you upon your booking. All application packs are checked by our visa department before consular submission. Please read more about tourist visas to Azerbaijan.
 
Transportation
Getting around Baku is straightforward. The country has a good bus service, a metro system and of course, a multitude of taxis waiting to offer you a door to door service. There’s a limited domestic rail network; Baku connects to Astara on the Iranian border. Outside the capital, most cities and towns are connected by buses and minibuses known as marshrutka. These have set fares and generally leave from central bus stations. If using taxis instead, ensure you agree a fare before setting off. Private transfers can be arranged easily through travel agents.  

Food
The signature dish in Azerbaijan is pilaf, saffron rice served with meat or vegetables and even with milk, eggs or nuts. It can be accompanied by kebabs – usually lamb or sturgeon – seasoned well with spice. Dolma is also commonly found: minced meat wrapped in vine leaves or stuffed into tomatoes, aubergines or peppers. For fast food, the Azerbaijanis love kutab. It’s a crescent-shaped deep fried pastry stuffed with a tasty meaty filling. Alternative fillings include salmon, vegetables and feta cheese. You’ll find a wide variety of soups too, including a delicious hot soup known as piti and a cold, yoghurt-based recipe called dovga. If you have room, the range of desserts is mouth-wateringly large. Baklava dripping with nuts and honey is a favourite but each region has its own variation both in recipe and shape. Sweets and jam are also common, washed down with black tea poured in a pear-shaped glass called an armuda.

Language
Azerbaijani is the official language in the country, similar to Turkish. Around 92% of the population speak it, but Russian and English can also be heard. Residents of the breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, though still internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan, speak Armenian. In addition, there are a number of minority languages spoken by small localised populations, including Lezgian, Talysh, Avar, Georgian, Budukh, Juhuri, Khinalug, Kryts, Rutul, Tat, Tsakhur and Udi.

Electricity
Standard voltage in Azerbaijan is 220 V which is compatible with Europe, Australia and most Asian and African countries where the standard voltage is between 220V - 240V. A 2 pin European adaptor will be required (German standard).

Health & safety
Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, is a safe city to visit though it is wise to be cautious if frequenting the central bars and clubs late at night. Take a taxi and don’t carry large amounts of money. Although corruption is a large part of everyday life in some parts of the capital it is extremely inadvisable to attempt to pay a bribe. Driving conditions can vary and snowfalls can make road transport difficult in winter. Avoid travelling to the border area with Nagorno-Karabakh as there have been recent casualties there.  Land borders are closed with Russia into Dagestan but open between Azerbaijan and Iran at Astara. Azerbaijan is a seismically-active region and earthquakes can occur.  Make sure you know what to do in the event of an emergency.
 
In terms of health, the country does carry a risk of malaria from June to October in lowland areas though Baku is fine. Altitude can affect health and there are areas high enough to make this an issue. If you are planning to travel to mountain areas within the country, seek medical advice before you leave home. Regular vaccinations such as tetanus should be up to date before travelling and you may also prefer to get a Hepatitis A shot.

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