Essential Information before going to Azerbaijan
Are you curious to know what it is like to travel around Azerbaijan? In this blog article I´ve put together all my big "Ah´s" and "Oh´s " of which I wish I would have known some of them before... you know Azerbaijan mostly from bad headlines or critical media reports. There is little information about Azerbajian as a travel destination. Even the Lonely Planet about Caucasus region, offers onyl a little few pages about Azerbaijan.
This alone is reason to go there of course :) Reasons to travel are also: See the impressive architecture in Baku and realize, yes, Azerbaijan is such a rich country. Soak in the athmosphere of a country exactly in the middle between Asia and Europe. Visit former soviet villages far away from the capital. Bath in Mud-Volcanos. Enjoy local cuisine and stunning views in the Caucasus Mountains.
How to get to Azerbaijan?
Since Covid the land borders are still closed and it is very unlikly that this will change anytime soon. The three countries Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia do not like each other much, and so the closed land borders are also of advantage for some people. However, there are direct flights from Tiflis in Georgia, and also from Turkey.
Most of nationalities need a visa, which you can obtain online. The process is pretty much straight forward (if you enter the correct date of birth, dödöm) and takes 3 working days. During the visa application you will be asked if you have visited Armenia before....It is adviced not to visit Azerbaijan with an Armenian passport stamp. Please consider this when planning your route. Go to Azerbaijan first, then to Armenia :)
How to get around Azerbaijan?
If you wanna see something more than the capital Baku, you need to think about your best way of transportation. Hitchhiking is possible, if you are not on a tight time agenda. Public Transport is possible if you want to visit the main cities, like Sheiki, Ganja or Qabala. To explore also off the beaten track, and to see Mud Volcanos and tiny villages, the best is to rent a car. It is extremely cheap and fuel prices are lower as what you can imagine. Traffic outside Baku is easy, so do not worry about the driving experience.
Big Challenge: Zero Service
Soviet times are long time over, but the concept of service might remind you still on these times. We know, we are not in Thailand at the private beach of a five star resort, where every wish will be fulfilled before you know you had it...and this is also not what we are looking for in our holiday...BUT Azerbaijan shocked us ! And it took so so much of our energy. And it made us tired.
When we enter a restaurant, nobody cares is most of the times. In every single restaurant we ate, we had to get the menu ourselfs and ask the employes five times or so to, only to place the order. You feel so bad placing your order because employes made us feel like we disturb them.
Napkins? No. An extra plate? No. Kids portion? No.
In Baku, we gave all our clothes to a laundry service and paid a lot of money for it. The clothes was all washed together, thus our white shirts came back grey-yellow. The clothes was staffed into a plastic bag, (not folded, just sequeezed into it) you could not even tell they were washed.
Many times, we were simply given wrong information on purpose, to make us buy something. In one hotel we were told breakfast included fresh, homemade warm bread...and in the morning we got two days old hard bread from the supermarket.
Money - it is another crazy story. Tourists are seen as walking ATMs. We would either not be given the menu or the menu is not available in Englisch anyway. So the first days we ordered with Google photos and did not ask for the prices. We paid horrendous prices....So we started to ask for every single dish we ordered for the price in advance and noted this in our phones. Sometimes we heard from the beighbor table, that their prices for the same dish was 50% less. Sometimes the bill was double of what they had told us before. Some restaurants would simply say their employee told me the wrong prices in the first place. Some restaurants apologized for adding things on the bill we did not consume "by mistake". Sure.....
At the Airport in Baku I bought two crossaints, each 5 Manat. So, let´s calculate together....2 x 5 ?
Exaaaactly, they charged me 15 Manat at the cash counter ! Again I had to protest and insist on the correct price.
Hey, the name of my blog is Our Earth Rocks, and I never like to generalize or say something bad based on a personal experience. But in Azerbaijan it was so extreme and left us extremely tired every single day. I´m not saying not to travel to Azerbaijan, but I also wished I had knew that before!
And to continue with, now something about the beauty in Azerbaijan.
What you will love in Azerbaijan
Sparkling Water everywhere! For free, from open dwells. Or of course in the supermarket from high Caucasus regions. And it is so tasty. Yes, living in Jordan, this is a bug big plus for us :))))
We also liked the rhytm of people in Azerbaijan. They go to bed early enough and also wake up early. So shops, museums, restaurants open early too. That is perfect for us, travelling with a child.
Great are the prices of fuel. As we rented a car, it was so affordable!
Interesting was to see, that the best food and the nicest restaurants are actually along the road. Places, you would use in Germany on the Highway only when really necessary (coz they are expensive and have mostly Fast Food). In Azerbaijan the restaurants along the highways are superb. (Not the service xD) But the ambiete (nice gardens) and the food choices!
And, for sure, that´s why you are probably interested in Azerbaijan: The nature! Amazing landscapes. Snow covered mountains, deserts, jungles, and much more.
Travelling Azerbaijan with kids
Yes, this is easily possible. There are many things that kids enjoy. Not so many playgrounds....but Cable Cars, swimming pools or forests to run around. Also nice, that Azerbaijan thinks of its pedestrians. There are good sidewalks and benches every few meters to take a rest and enjoy. In many hotels, kids are sleeping for free up to 12 years.
Best oprion for Johanna were all the homestays we stayed in. She had her happiest moments in the gardens of homestays....she played for hours, enjoyed the gras and a swing. Homestays in Azerbaijan are very cozy and (almost always) have a big garden to play.
Not as expected, Azerbaijan is not cheap....Especially after having the experience now also from Gerogia and Armenia, Azerbaijan was quite expensive. Just to keep that in mind, what you wanna bring for your child from home.
Englisch is not very common...even in Baku. So we did well to have at least photos of what we need for Johanna on our phones. So in case of any language barrier, we just showed the photos of french fries...diapers....Baby cot.