Traveling Luck for Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is located in Southwestern Asia, bordering the Caspian Sea, between Iran and Russia, with a small European portion north of the Caucasus range.

Azerbaijan has borders with Armenia for 787km, Georgia for 322km, Iran for 611km, Russia for 284km and Turkey for 9km.

Land in Azerbaijan is large, flat Kur-Araz Ovaligi (Kura-Araks Lowland) (much of it below sea level) with Great Caucasus Mountains to the north, Qarabag Yaylasi (Karabakh Upland) in west; Baku lies on Abseron Yasaqligi (Apsheron Peninsula) that juts into Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijani, Azeri land covers an area of 86600 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Maine

As for the Azerbaijani, Azeri climate; dry, semiarid steppe.

Azerbaijani(s), Azeri(s) speak Azerbaijani (Azeri) 89%, Russian 3%, Armenian 2%, other 6% (1995 est.).

Azerbaijani, Azeri National Map

Azerbaijani, Azeri Map

Regions of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan - a nation with a Turkic and majority-Muslim population - was briefly independent from 1918 to 1920; it regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh enclave (largely Armenian populated). Azerbaijan has lost 16% of its territory and must support some 528,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict. Corruption is ubiquitous, and the promise of widespread wealth from Azerbaijan's undeveloped petroleum resources remains largely unfulfilled.


Azerbaijan Country Profile

Azerbaijan's number one export is oil. Azerbaijan's oil production declined through 1997, but has registered an increase every year since. Negotiation of production-sharing arrangements (PSAs) with foreign firms, which have thus far committed $60 billion to long-term oilfield development, should generate the funds needed to spur future industrial development. Oil production under the first of these PSAs, with the Azerbaijan International Operating Company, began in November 1997. A consortium of Western oil companies is scheduled to begin pumping 1 million barrels a day from a large offshore field in early 2006, through a $4 billion pipeline it built from Baku to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. Economists estimate that by 2010 revenues from this project will double the country's current GDP. Azerbaijan shares all the formidable problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its considerable energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. Baku has only recently begun making progress on economic reform, and old economic ties and structures are slowly being replaced. Several other obstacles impede Azerbaijan's economic progress: the need for stepped up foreign investment in the non-energy sector, the continuing conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and the pervasive corruption. Trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics is declining in importance while trade is building with Turkey and the nations of Europe. Long-term prospects will depend on world oil prices, the location of new pipelines in the region, and Azerbaijan's ability to manage its oil wealth.

Azerbaijani, Azeri natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, nonferrous metals, alumina

both the main area of the country and the Naxcivan exclave are landlocked

Azerbaijani, Azeri religion is Muslim 93.4%, Russian Orthodox 2.5%, Armenian Orthodox 2.3%, other 1.8% (1995 est.).

Natural hazards in Azerbaijan include droughts.

Travel Advice on Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments throughout.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the military occupied area surrounding it.

  • Azerbaijan faces a threat from terrorism.  Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets and places frequented by foreigners.

  • Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Azerbaijan in 2006 resulted in five human fatalities.  As a precaution, you should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.  For further information see Health section below and also read the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet.

  • You should avoid any political rallies or public gatherings of a political nature.

  • Around 5,000-7,000 British nationals visit Azerbaijan every year, mainly on business.  Azerbaijan hosts a large expatriate population and there is extensive foreign investment, mostly in the oil and gas sector.  Visitors are generally welcomed.  Crime against foreigners is generally low, but does occur.

  • For identification purposes you should carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime

Visitors to Azerbaijan are generally welcomed.  Crime levels in Baku are generally low, but muggings do occur from time to time after dark in the centre of town around the western bars and clubs.  Some incidents have also occurred near dimly lit entrances of private apartments.
You should take sensible precautions:  be vigilant, avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t walk alone at night in dark and unlit streets.  You should ideally arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible by a reliable driver.
  • a private or company driver
  • or a taxi and driver known personally to you
  • or one accredited to the hotel you are staying in
You should report any crimes to the local police station.  Alternatively you can contact the Police Office of Crimes By and Against Foreigners on 490 9532 or 490 9452 out of office hours.  When making a report to the Police take someone with you, preferably your company representative or someone who you know and can translate for you.  Do not sign any documents you do not understand. 
Carry a photocopy of your passport with you at all times and keep the original in a safe place.
Corruption is an every day aspect of life in Azerbaijan, despite regulations prohibiting corrupt activities by public officials and others.  We do not recommend the payment of bribes under any circumstances.
Political Situation

Azerbaijan Country Profile

The political situation in Azerbaijan is calm.  Presidential elections held in 2003, and parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2006 failed to meet international standards.  Presidential elections are due in October 2008.
Demonstrations, both opposition and Government sponsored, occasionally take place in Azerbaijan, and mainly in Baku.  Opposition rallies are usually heavily policed and there has been violence on occasions.  We recommend that you keep well away from any official or unofficial gathering of a political nature.
Local Travel

We advise against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh and the military occupied area surrounding it.  This area is the subject of a continuing dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia and although a cease-fire has been in place since 1994 there are regular exchanges of gunfire across the Line of Contact.  Some areas may be heavily landmined.

You should not attempt to enter or leave Azerbaijan via the land borders with Russia (i.e.  Dagestan) as these are closed to foreign nationals.  If you hold a valid visa it is possible to cross the Iranian border at Astara.

Road Safety

You can drive in Azerbaijan using a licence issued by an EU country or by using an International Driving Licence.

Care should be taken when driving in Azerbaijan (particularly at night).  Many roads and are of poor quality and are badly lit.  Many cars are poorly maintained, and the standard of driving is erratic.  Most taxis do not have seat belts.

Drink driving laws are strict and there is a zero limit on drinking alcohol and driving.

Rail Safety

As with other forms of public transport the Baku Metro is poorly maintained, often overcrowded and has inadequate safety and emergency equipment and procedures.  Should you travel by train, secure your valuables, do not leave the compartment unattended, and lock the door from the inside.

Air Safety

It is not known whether safety procedures on aircraft used for internal and regional flights meet international standards.  You should take this into consideration before using internal or regional flights.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Ninety-eight percent of the population of Azerbaijan is Muslim.  Azerbaijan is a largely secular society, and religion is usually considered a private matter.  During the fasting month of Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset is forbidden for Muslims.  You should be particularly aware of offending Muslim sensitivities during this period.  You should also dress modestly in conservative and rural areas, and when visiting places of worship.  Local and foreign women usually dress in western-style clothing.  However, it is frowned upon for men (and to a certain extent women) to wear shorts, even in the height of summer.  This can attract unwelcome attention.

Possession or use of illegal drugs of any kind carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.  The usual penalty for smuggling drugs is a prison term of between three to seven years and/or heavy fines.

Homosexual, lesbian and transgender activity is legal in Azerbaijan, but many Azerbaijanis disapprove of public displays of affection.

An export certificate is required to take carpets and anything else considered antique out of Azerbaijan.  Export certificates are available from the Carpet Museum or this can be arranged through the seller.  It is also important to catalogue and declare to Customs any carpets or anything antique looking – even if clearly from a different part of the world - that you bring to Azerbaijan with you.  Your relocation company should be able to offer you advice on this.

You should use common sense when considering photographing sites such as military bases, equipment and installations in whatever condition.  These are considered sensitive areas, and visitors have been detained and questioned while attempting to visit them.  You should also be aware of cultural sensitivities when photographing mosques, churches and other religious sites.  If in doubt, seek permission.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

British nationals require a visa for Azerbaijan.  Single and multiple entry visas can be obtained from: Azerbaijan representation in the UK.  Alternatively, if arriving by air at Baku, you can obtain a transit or single entry visa (up to 30 days) on arrival at a cost of £40.  In addition to the fee you should present two passport-sized photographs.  A letter of invitation is also requested.
If you enter Azerbaijan via any land border or through any of Azerbaijan’s seaports, you must have a valid visa before you arrive – visas are not issued at these borders.  You should check the duration of your visa as soon as it is given to avoid unintentional illegal overstaying and problems with Immigration at the airport on leaving Azerbaijan.
Your visa should be valid when departing Azerbaijan.  Extensions can be obtained at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Baku, 4 Shikhali Gurban Street, Baku (telephone 492 8383).  An exit visa, which you would require if your visa has expired, costs $40.  You may also be liable for a fine, which is currently $40 for each overstayed month.

If you are staying more than seven days and you are not transiting or you do not have a return airline ticket, you should register with the police within three days and obtain a foreigner’s registration card.  This currently costs 10.00 new Manat (50,000 old Manat) (approximately £6).

Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact:  Azerbaijan representation in the UK.


HEALTH

You are strongly advised to obtain comprehensive medical as well as travel insurance to cover illness, injury and loss of money, baggage and tickets before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see:  Travel Insurance.

Medical facilities outside Baku are very limited.  Serious illness or injury may require evacuation to, Turkey or Western Europe.  Seek medical advice about precautionary measures before travelling.

There have been outbreaks of rabies in the remote rural areas of Azerbaijan.  The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of infected animals and transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or contact of saliva with broken skin and can be fatal once symptoms manifest themselves.  All travellers, who have possibly been exposed to the rabies virus, whether by bites, scratches or other exposure, should seek medical advice without delay (even if pre-exposure vaccine was received).  This also applies to travellers in low risk areas in case other animal-transmitted infections are present, or the animal may have strayed across the border from an endemic country.  More information can be found on the National Travel Health Network and Centre website at:  http://www.nathnac.org.
There is usually a small number of malaria cases during the summer months particularly in the southern part of Azerbaijan.  More than three-quarters of British travellers who contracted malaria in 2005 did not take preventive measures, such as malaria prevention tablets. However, malaria can occur despite appropriate prevention, and therefore you should promptly seek medical care in the event of a fever or flu-like illness in country, or in the first year following your return from travelling to a malaria risk country.  Before travelling you should seek medical advice about the malaria risk in Azerbaijan.

You should not drink tap water as it may be unsafe but safe bottled water is readily available.

You should be aware that contaminated locally produced alcoholic spirits are sometimes sold in small local bars and restaurants.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at:  www.dh.gov.uk.

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) occurred in various regions of Azerbaijan in early 2006, resulting in five human fatalities in the Salyan and Tartar Region.  Since the end of 2003, a number of human deaths have also occurred in Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  However, as a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of the possibility that the Avian Influenza outbreaks could lead at some point to a human flu pandemic, if the virus mutates to a form which is easily transmissible between people.

British nationals living longer term in an Avian-Influenza affected region should take personal responsibility for their own safety in the event of a future pandemic, including considering their access to adequate healthcare and ensuring travel documents are up to date.

You should read this advice in conjunction with the FCO’s Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.

NATURAL DISASTERS

The Caucasus is an area of regular seismic activity, although there have been no recent serious earthquakes in Azerbaijan.


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see:  What We Can Do To Help.

You should register with the Consular Section of the British Embassy.  You can do this online at:  www.britishembassy.az or by contacting the Consular Section direct.

Around 5,000 – 7,000 British nationals visit Azerbaijan every year, mainly on business.  The Embassy provides a full consular protection service, including issuing passports, registering births and deaths and certain notarial acts.  The Embassy also assists British Citizens in distress, including those in detention.  The main types of incidents for which British nationals require consular assistance in Azerbaijan is for passport renewals.

Money
All goods and services should be paid for in local currency (Manats).  However, US Dollars and the Euro are widely used.  Sterling, US Dollars and Euros can easily be exchanged for the local currency.  Major hotels and international supermarkets and restaurants accept credit cards.  You are advised not to carry large amounts of cash.  ATMscan be found in most major towns and cities.