Bound by the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire, in reference to its ancient fire worshipping inhabitants. Historically part of the Great Silk Road, it is a country with a rich heritage and unmatched culture, boasting a plethora of natural, architectural, archaeological, and historical monuments. Visitors can look forward to exploring a diverse variety of attractions including the city of Baku, the country’s cosmopolitan capital; the charming town of Seki, featuring the ornate palace of Xan Sarayi; and the Unesco-listed Qobustan Petroglyph Reserve, which protects thousands of stone engravings dating back as far as 12 000 years.
The official language is Azerbaijani. In addition, much of the population speaks Russian to some degree and many understand and speak Turkish & English. In hotels, bars and offices, English is widely used.
Working hours : Weekends are usually Saturday and Sunday (mainly for public offices), but most shops and supermarkets are open daily. The beginning of the working day is between 8am and 9am; shops generally close between 9pm and 11pm, restaurants and bars - much later – especially at the weekend.
Banking and Currency
Azerbaijan's national currency is - manat (AZN). US$1 = 1.70 AZN (At the exchange rate of the National Bank of Azerbaijan for 16.09.2017). Exchange of any currency can be undertaken in banks and many exchange offices. Banks are usually open from 10 am to 5 pm.
Banking : It is usual to pay for goods or services in the national currency – the Azerbaijani manat. Any foreign currency you bring into Azerbaijan in cash can be converted and cash can be obtained from the many ATMs located across the country. You are recommended to change only the amount of cash for your expected needs and to only exchange money in banks of official exchange offices. Never change money on the street. The exchange rate in the banks and exchange offices which are located throughout the capital and other major cities, as well as at airports, differs only slightly. Some hotels and shops have their own exchange points. In Baku, banks are open from 9.00-9.30 to 17.30 (some banks continue their work until late at night, but many exchange offices are open round the clock), in the suburbs, opening hours are usually from 9.30 to 17.00-17.30 (some banks only work with clients up until lunchtime). Credit cards are practically universally accepted for payment in all large stores, hotels and banks and in some smaller outlets. The use of credit cards in the provinces is also gaining ground. Many large shops and tourist sites in the regions are equipped with POS-terminals.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Azerbaijan Airlines operates several flights a day between Baku and the Azeri 'exclave' of Nakhchivan, which is cut off from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia. There are also connections from Baku to Ganja, Gabala, Yevlakh, Zaqatala and Lankaran.
Azerbaijan's recent prosperity means that the number of cars on the road is in danger of exceeding the road capacity, although new highways are under construction throughout the country. Self-drive is only recommended to seasoned motorists, but alert and confident drivers may relish the freedom to visit those out-of-the-way beauty spots. Traffic police are numerous and keen to fine visitors and locals alike for speeding offences.
Public transport is very safe. Taxis and coaches are good options. Trains are slow but affordable.
Health and Medical Information
Emergency medical care is usually provided free of charge. An ambulance can be called twenty-fours a day on (012) 103. There are also private clinics and paid medical services where doctors speak foreign languages. In pharmacies, many of which are open around the clock, there is a large selection of over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies.
Azerbaijan is the most stable and secure country in the region. Crime is almost non-existent; cleanliness and order prevail in the streets. Azerbaijanis are a very law-abiding and friendly people, with respect for other people's traditions and customs. Probably for this reason, tourists feel at home in our country and come back here again.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
The fame of rich Azerbaijani cuisine has probably gone around the world and back several times. It is most likely that you won’t have enough time to taste the whole variety of national dishes available, but nevertheless, this section will help you easily choose an appropriate style and venue to suit your taste. It should be noted that the capital will not only let you taste local dishes, but also dishes of other nationalities and countries. International franchises, authentic cafés, luxurious restaurants, open-air playgrounds, cozy wine bars and noisy pubs, along with other exciting locations will suit anyone who is ready experience local delights, by getting to know local people through their sumptuous cuisine.
Climate and Weather
The country is situated at the junction of moderate and subtropical zones, so the climate is varied. The average temperature in January varies from 3 to 10 degrees Celsius and reaches 26 to 35 degrees Celsius in July-August. Azerbaijan enjoys over 2900 hours of sunshine per year and experiences low levels of precipitation.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
From May to September, residents of coastal regions wear light summer clothes. However in winter – hats, padded coats and jackets are often needed.
Electricity and Plug Standards
The voltage in Azerbaijan is 220/240 V 50 Hz.
Tipping : The Service Charge in many restaurants is 5-10% of the bill. If there is no mention of this on the menu, you can, if you wish, add 10% to the amount of the bill. For porters at the airport or at the hotel, you can offer AZN 5, depending on the amount of luggage. Tipping in taxis is not expected, but it would be expedient to tip the drivers' of London-style cabs or those cabs equipped with meters. If the taxi is not fitted with a meter, you should negotiate the fare before the start of the journey. Taxi drivers do not usually take foreign currency.
Internet : The Internet is also developing rapidly and there is a network of internet cafes in Baku and regional towns. These facilities are especially popular among young people playing computer games, so they can be noisy and rather smoky. Access prices is mostly 1 manat per hour, depending on location.