24 hours in Baku
In August 2019, I flew to Moscow via Baku, Azerbaijan with Azerbaijan Airlines. I had a layover in Baku for 24 hours and that gave me an opportunity to catch a glimpse of a new city and a new country that I’ve never been to before. Baku has a famous nickname, which is, the windy city.
Those who have been reading my blogs and those who know me very well can tell that I have a serious interest in former Soviet Union countries. As of today (April, 2020), I visited 11 ex USSR countries out of 15 and I just loved them all and can’t wait to visit more of them. Azerbaijan was the 10th former USSR country I visited and I am glad I did so.
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and its largest city with a population of 2.2 million inhabitants and that makes it the largest city on the Caucasus. Baku is a city that has deep roots in history but it also has a gorgeous modern architecture. The city is a beautiful mix of the past, the present and even the future.
In this short blog, I will share with you some of my impressions about my quick visit to Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan Airlines impressed me
I flew with Azerbaijan Airlines from Kuwait to Baku and then from Baku to Moscow. It was a very good experience. The plane was about 14 years old but leather seats were very comfortable. It was a 2 hours flight from Kuwait to Baku; flight attendants were professional and friendly and they served a hot meal. Food was mediocre though, to be honest. Yet, service was good and professional and flight was on time.
Landing Hayder Aliyev International Airport
Unless your passport is from any of ex USSR countries (except Armenia whose citizens are banned from entering Azerbaijan), you will need an electronic visa to enter Azerbaijan. You can apply for an e-visa online at least 3 days before your trip here . e-Visa costs around 24USD and is valid for 3 months. Anyone who has visited Nagorno-Karabakh region is theoretically banned from vising Azerbaijan. Furthermore, you might be asked some questions and even interrogated if they found an Armenian stamp on your passport. However, that shouldn’t stop you from visiting this beautiful country. Baku airport is very nice, clean, spacious and modern. I had a pleasant feeling upon landing there.
After passport control, I ordered a taxi from the airport to my hotel room in old town using “Bolt” taxi app. Cost of trip was only 6 USD for a 35 minutes ride. I guess it was a great deal. I recommend that you stick to “Bolt” taxi app when you are in Azerbaijan, you will save a lot.
Baku in the evening
Right after I have arrived in my small hotel, I dropped my luggage and went out to explore the city. I was starving and I wanted to try the local food so I made a stop in a very nice Azeri restaurant in the old town called Art Club Restaurant where I had a delicious meal and even tasted a pie stuffed with camel meat.
Later in the evening, I went out to explore the city at night; the city was alive, and very beautiful. Streets were packed people until after midnight. The weather was so breezy and beautiful, it was a perfect summer night.
Baku in the day time
Next day, I had a few hours to explore the city; I left my hotel and headed to the coast line where I had my breakfast in a nice cafe and then continued walking along the coast until I saw the giant Baku Ferris Wheels which is also known as Baku Eye and Devil’s Wheel! Once again, this proves my theory about the obsession of former Soviet Union people with Ferris Wheels; I keep on seeing giant ferris wheels wherever I travel in ex USSR 🙂
After a few minutes of staring at the details of the giant ferris wheels, I took another taxi to highland park. The view of the city and of flame towers from the park is magnificent. It was a good opportunity for me to take some nice photos. Scroll down to take a look…
Heading back to the airport
It was a very short trip as it was a 24 hours layover. I even didn’t have time to have lunch in the city so I went back to the hotel, picked up my luggage, checked out and left to the airport using the same taxi app “Bolt”. Public transportation is very cheap in Baku and I recommend using it if you are staying in the city for a longer time but I had a very short stay and I needed to see many places in a very short time so I ended up taking taxis all the time. Besides, taxi in Baku is very cheap, even a trip to the airport which is more than 30 minutes away costed me less than 7 USD. Trips inside the city costed me between 1 and 2.5 USD (that’s cheaper than a subway ride in my city Toronto).
Baku airport is beautiful and modern. I had a good time there while waiting for my flight to Moscow
I flew with Azerbaijan Airlines again to Moscow and flight was for about 3 hours. It was another nice and comfortable time. The only downside of Azerbaijan Airlines is that it doesn’t belong to any global frequent flyer program such as Start Alliance or Oneworld.
I only saw a glimpse of Azerbaijan; there is a lot more to see there in Baku and in other cities too. It was a short trip but I got a very good impression about the city. The city is affordable and the quality of food, drinks, services, infrastructure and accommodation is very high.
Baku is a modern and nice city to visit. It’s easily accessible if you live in Middle East, Russia or Turkey, or Europe. Many major and low-cost airlines fly to Baku on daily basis. Another way to visit Baku is to fly to Tbilisi, Georgia and then take a night train to Baku, it’s about 12 to 14 hours journey.
Like other Post-Soviet states, English isn’t widely spoken in Azerbaijan but number of English speakers is growing especially in the young generation. Older people speak Azeri in addition to Russian. Azerbaijani language is a Turkic language and Azeri and Turkish are mutually intelligible.
Best time to visit Baku could be April to early June and September to October. I was there in August but the weather was much cooler than the average of that time of the year so I was lucky. It can get really hot there in the summer and very crowded too so try to avoid peak summer months, if possible.
The city hosts major events such as the Formula 1 grand prix race and it hosted the Europa League final in 2019 (Arsenal vs Chelsea). In 2020, the city was supposed to host 4 matches in Euro 2020 and but the whole tournament got postponed to 2021 because of Coronavirus.
This is all I can say about Baku, Azerbaijan for now. Don’t hesitate to comment if you have any questions.