Azerbaijan, located on the western edge of the Caspian Sea, sits at the crossroad between East and West, Asia and Europe. Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located 28 meters below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, beside Baku Bay.
Azerbaijan is bordered by Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Iran with the Caspian Sea along its east coast. The Caucasus Mountains tower above the villages of the north while the lower Lesser Caucasus in the west is still an impressive range. Parts of Azerbaijan, including the outskirts of the capital, are rich in oil and gas reserves.
Baku’s temperate semi-arid climate brings warm dry summers that feel refreshing in comparison with many neighboring capitals, tempered by sea breezes from the Caspian. When it does get hot, the beaches of the nearby Absheron Peninsula are less than an hour away and there’s a great windsurfing lagoon just up the coast. Baku winters that are cool but rarely very cold and snow in the city is a distinct rarity. Of course, snow is much more common in Azerbaijan’s spectacular mountains, with a state of the art ski resort just three hours’ drive north.
The official language is Azerbaijani which is linguistically close to Turkish. The majority of the population also speaks Russian with considerable fluently. English is typically understood in hotels, bars, and major shopping and business centers.
Azerbaijan is a secular state that protects religious freedom. About 95% of the population is Muslim, though a recent survey suggests that only 21% of Azerbaijanis consider religious observance an important aspect of their lives.
Visas for Azerbaijan are increasingly straightforward to organize with minimal fuss but do check the exact procedure carefully according to your nationality and status, remembering that rules change relatively often.
For a large number of other nationalities, visas are now an easy, inexpensive formality using the simple, online electronic visa system. E-visas can be issued within a few hours, though it’s cheaper and safer to apply a week ahead. For more information please follow official electronic visa portal.
The national currency of Azerbaijan is the Manat, abbreviated as AZN. An Azerbaijani Manat (1 AZN) is divided into 100 qəpik. Azerbaijani manat banknotes are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 manats. Coins (qəpik) are issued in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 and 50 qəpik.
Most exchange offices accept US$, Euros and Russian Roubles, while many also accept British Pounds and Turkish Lira. For current exchange rates, check with Central Bank of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan has introduced a Tax-Free shopping service allowing foreign visitors a full or partial refund of Value-Added Tax (VAT) paid on the purchase of selected goods from shops displaying Tax-Free signage. The tax to be reclaimed can be refunded in the airport through Bank Silk Way OJSC before departing from Azerbaijan. The buyer can choose to receive the VAT in cash or by transfer to their bank card.
To be eligible for the Tax-Free benefit, the cost (including VAT) of purchased goods per e-tax invoice must be not less than 300 AZN and the purchases must be taken out of the country by air within 90 days from the purchase date. For more information about rules and conditions click here.
In Baku, major chip-and-pin credit cards are increasingly accepted at hotels, stores, cafes and restaurants, but it’s always a good idea to ask beforehand. The most common credit card in Baku is VISA, Visa Electron, Master Card but you should have no problem finding ATM cash machines that also accept, Maestro and American Express.
Few cities in the world are as safe and hassle-free as Baku. Petty crime is minimal but it’s still worth following normal, common-sense safety awareness strategies that you would employ in your home city.
Contact numbers in case of emergency:
Gas Emergency 104
Speaking Clock 106
Note that emergency phone operators will generally speak Azerbaijani, Turkish and Russian but not English.
Baku is home to many foreign embassies and consulates. If you need to contact the authorities of your home country, a list of foreign embassies and consulates in Baku is available here.
In Baku smoking is now forbidden in public buildings and private businesses – including restaurants, pubs, shops, public transport, entertainment venues, and workplaces. The only exception is for small establishments which do not serve fresh food. Other places might have a special smoking room, but most smokers step outside to light up. Likewise, if you visit a local home, it is polite to go outside if you wish to smoke.
internet and wi-fi access
Wi-Fi is widespread and available in virtually all hotels and numerous cafes and restaurants. Baktelekom provides free wifi zones in a dozen or so public areas including National Flag Square, the Boulevard and Old City.
SIM cards for un-blocked mobile phones are available inexpensively with excellent 3G wifi available all across the city and the country in general.
Banks typically open Monday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm but ATM cash machines function 24/7. Most shops open daily from around 10 am to 8 pm.
public holidays 2020
|1-Jan||Wednesday||New Year’s Day||Public holiday|
|2-Jan||Thursday||New Year’s Day (day 2)||Public holiday|
|20-Jan||Monday||Martyrs’ Day||Public holiday|
|8-Mar||Sunday||Women’s Day||Public holiday|
|20-Mar||Friday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday||Public holiday|
|21-Mar||Saturday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|22-Mar||Sunday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|23-Mar||Monday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|24-Mar||Tuesday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|25-Mar||Wednesday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|26-Mar||Thursday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|27-Mar||Friday||Nowruz/Spring Holiday (extra holiday)||Public holiday|
|9-May||Saturday||Victory Day over Facism||Public holiday|
|24-May||Sunday||Ramadan holiday||Public holiday|
|25-May||Monday||Ramadan holiday (day 2)||Public holiday|
|28-May||Thursday||Republic Day||Public holiday|
|15-Jun||Monday||Day of National Salvation of the Azerbaijani People||Public holiday|
|26-Jun||Friday||Azerbaijan Armed Forces Day||Public holiday|
|31-Jul||Friday||Feast of the Sacrifice||Public holiday|
|1-Aug||Saturday||Feast of the Sacrifice (day 2)||Public holiday|
|18-Oct||Sunday||National Independence Day||Observance|
|9-Nov||Monday||State Flag Day of Azerbaijan||Public holiday|
|17-Nov||Tuesday||National Revival Day||Observance|
|31-Dec||Thursday||New Year’s Eve||Observance|
|31-Dec||Thursday||World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day||Public holiday|