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Azerbaijan with excursions to Georgia

Azerbaijan with excursions to Georgia

Excerpt:
Getting to Azerbaijan


Contents list | Introduction | Getting to Azerbaijan | What to see, where to go | Exploring Baku's Old City | Mud volcanoes!


Practical information

Visas

Most Western nationals require a visa. Two photos are usually required. Visa fees vary by nationality: Brits pay US$100, Schengen-Europeans pay €60, Americans $131. A few embassies give a double-entry visa at no extra cost. A multiple-entry visa costs $250 regardless of nationality, but requires fairly lengthy approval procedure from Baku. Approved Azerbaijani tourist companies can provide their customers with a ‘tourist-voucher’ which halves the cost of single-entry visas.
    You can download visa application forms on www.mfa.gov.az/eng/images/ stories/downloads/applicationforvisa.pdf.
    If you’re just changing planes in Baku airport (eg using the AZAL connections from Europe to Kabul) you’re allowed to wait visa-free for up to 24 hours BUT only if you stay within the airport (ie even though it’s barely 200m away you can’t access the Holiday Inn unless you have a visa).

  • Visas on arrival  For the same fees you can get a (single-entry) visa on arrival but ONLY arriving by air at Baku, NOT if you arrive overland. An invitation letter isn’t usually necessary but you will need two visa photos: if you don’t have the latter a photographer is on hand to snap polaroids for €10.

    The bizarre procedure requires that you get stamped in at immigration BEFORE you apply for the visa! The only apparent purpose for this is to double everyone’s queuing time.
    Note that the foreign ministry website says visas are available at Nakhchivan and Ganja airports as well as at Baku. However, I’ve yet to meet anyone who dared test this and according to people working at Nakhchivan airport this is definitely NOT possible.
    Beware: there are rumours that by 2010 the visa on arrival might be dropped so double check carefully with an Azerbaijani embassy before assuming anything...

  • Tourist/entry visas  To arrive overland you need a visa in advance, which almost always takes five days to process. And that’s not including however long it takes to get the required letter of invitation (LOI) from an Azeri friend, tour agency or business contact that must be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In previous years it was easy to get around this annoyance by presenting instead a proof of a Baku hotel booking. However, as of 2009, the rules appear to be tightening. There remains a degree of confusion and as we go to press it’s still possible to get a visa on arrival at Baku airport without such LOIs. But you should check carefully for the latest information before making any assumptions.

    In recent years Tbilisi (Georgia), Tashkent (Uzbekistan), Tabriz (Iran) and Istanbul (Turkey) have proved good places to get visas (ie without any supporting documents). Ankara (Turkey) and Tehran (Iran) have proved comparatively awkward demanding expensive extra paperwork from your ‘home’ embassy.
    When applying for the visa, almost inevitably you’ll have to pay the fee into a specific bank branch (not to the consul). Annoyingly the bank might be way across town and afterwards you’ll have to return to the consulate with the payment slip, so start your application process early in the day.

  • Transit visas  Transit visas cost only US$20 but generally require the same application formalities as tourist visas. They aren’t usually available at the airport.
Extending a visa

Take a new invitation letter, passport and passport photocopies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Consular Department (p101, πT9; tel 492 3410, 492 9692, www.mfa.gov.az), at 4 Shikhali Gurbanov St. If an extension is possible you’ll have to pay the relevant fee into a nearby bank then return with the receipt. Applications are accepted between 10.00 and 13.00 Monday to Friday.
Police registration  If you’re intending to stay over a month, or if you have a one-year multiple-entry visa, you are expected to register within three days at the main police station of the rayon in which you’re resident. You’ll be required to show some proof of where you are staying/living ie your residential address. As landlords aren’t always keen to oblige with such written proof, the theoretically minor act of registration can end up becoming an oddly frustrating ordeal. Some rayons are notoriously uncooperative at issuing registrations even with all the correct paperwork. For years that mattered little since nobody ever checked registrations anyway. However, in early 2007, a series of random checks landed several unregistered expats with $1000 fines.
    If you stay less than a month, police registration is technically unnecessary. Technically. However, some provincial policemen seem to think otherwise. I’ve twice been ‘pulled in’ for lack of a Müväqqäti Qeydiyat (temporary registration) which they claim I needed. But even they seemed to have no idea how I could actually obtain such a document given that I was travelling with no residential address in Azerbaijan. Very frustrating.

Work permits

Expatriate residents are now expected to get a work permit, though employers will usually take care of this for you. Officially the cost is AZN45 though I’ve heard instances of vastly higher fees being requested and as of February 2009 the press reports that the official fee will soar to AZN1000.

Border zones 

Any rayon which has a border zone with Armenia or Armenian-occupied Azerbaijan may choose to find your presence undesirable. In the mountainous regions such as Gädäbäy and Xanlar–Göygöl there are manned army roadblocks so it’s easy to know how far you’re allowed to go. In other areas there is no such demarcation but that does not mean you’re entirely at liberty to explore. I found myself in uncomfortable situations in Ordubad, Qazax and Aǧstafa where myphotography was considered very suspicious. The latter two provinces seem to require tourists to have clearance from the Ministry of Defence should they wish to do more than transit en route to/from Georgia. If you’re travelling in a group or by car you’re much less liable to arouse the curiosity and suspicion of the authorities.

 

 



Azerbaijan with excursions to Georgia

Excerpts: