location

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.

geography

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.

climate

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.

language

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.

religion

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

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.

e-visas

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.

currency

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.

tax- free

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.

credit cards

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.

safety

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:

Ambulance: 103
Fire: 101
Gas Emergency 104
Police: 102
Speaking Clock 106

Note that emergency phone operators will generally speak Azerbaijani, Turkish and Russian but not English.

embassies

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.

smoking

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.

opening hours

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 March equinox Season
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
21-Jun Sunday Summer Solstice Season
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
23-Sep Wednesday September equinox Season
18-Oct Sunday National Independence Day Observance
9-Nov Monday State Flag Day of Azerbaijan Public holiday
12-Nov Thursday  Constitution Day Observance
17-Nov Tuesday National Revival Day Observance
21-Dec Monday Winter Solstice Season
31-Dec Thursday New Year’s Eve Observance
31-Dec Thursday World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day Public holiday