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Azerbaijan travel guide

About Azerbaijan

The original 'East-meets-West' destination, Azerbaijan sashays between space-age cityscapes and Arabian Nights exotica, taking in some of the most extraordinary landscapes in Caucasia en route.

Sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, this former Soviet Republic is marginally bigger than Ireland, yet boasts an astonishing variety of natural wonders – from snow-capped mountains and bubbling mud volcanoes to sandy deserts and subtropical forests.

The northern hinterland is arguably the prettiest region thanks to the Caucasus Mountains, which rise to the misty heights of 4,466m (14,652ft). These lofty peaks are home to bears, wolves and leopards, not to mention nomadic shepherds, who move their flocks up and down these mountains in search of fresh pastures as they have done for thousands of year.

Meanwhile, along the boulevards of downtown Baku, nouveau riche residents butterfly between expensive boutiques. The capital's exclusive shops, modern architecture and luxury hotels – spoils of Caspian Sea oil – jar somewhat with the UNESCO old town.

Though oil has transformed the economy in recent years, Azerbaijan has always been of strategic importance. Nestling on the shores of the Caspian Sea, the camel caravans of the Silk Road once passed through the land, which, over the centuries, has been incorporated into the Persian, Turkish and Russian empires.

Today Azerbaijan is a sovereign state and, although Islamic, the mood is determinedly secular. Alcohol is not only readily available, but proudly produced. Grapes have been cultivated here for millennia and local vineyards develop some excellent wines. Azeri cuisine is also enjoying a renaissance thanks a profusion of new eateries popping up in downtown Baku.

Key facts

Area:

86,600 sq km (33,400 sq miles).

Population:

9,915,179 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

112.9 per sq km.

Capital:

Baku.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Ilham Aliyev since 2003.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Ali Asadov since 2019.

Travel Advice

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against travel

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel to:

  • Nagorno-Karabakh
  • the districts (‘rayons’) of Zengilan, Jabrayil, Qubadli, Lachin and Kelbajar on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border
  • western areas of the rayons of Khojavand, Fuzuli and Aghdam

Azerbaijan-Armenia border

The FCDO advises against all travel to within 5km of the border with Armenia.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

UK government support

Help for British nationals is extremely limited in Nagorno-Karabakh. The British Embassy is not able to give support in person in these areas.   

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you:

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Azerbaijan set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Azerbaijani Embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Azerbaijan.

Passport validity requirements

To enter Azerbaijan as a visitor, your passport must usually have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive and at least 2 blank pages for entry stamps. See ‘visa requirements’ for more details. 

To enter Azerbaijan as a resident, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the expiry date of your temporary or permanent residence permit.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Checks at border control

Anyone who has previously visited areas of Nagorno-Karabakh without the permission of the Azerbaijani authorities could be refused entry to Azerbaijan. 

Entry via land or sea borders 

You can only enter Azerbaijan via air travel without restrictions. Entry via a land or sea border is restricted. Once in Azerbaijan it is possible to exit via air or sea routes.

Entering with a vehicle 

To enter Azerbaijan with a vehicle, you will need to arrange for the vehicle to be shipped to Baku, where you will have to arrange for collection at Customs. You will need to provide Power of Attorney and pay fees as required.

Visa requirements

You must have a visa to visit Azerbaijan.

Applying for a visa

Apply and pay for a visa from the ASAN Visa (e-visa) service. Apply at least 3 days in advance. An urgent 3-hour service is available for an additional fee.

E-visas are normally single entry and allow a 30 day visit within a 90 day period of validity. You must print out the e-visa and bring it with your passport to show on arrival. Officials will check that your passport is valid for 3 months after the visa expiry date. This means your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date you arrive in Azerbaijan.

For other types of visa, such as a business visa or a work permit, contact the Azerbaijani Embassy in the UK at least one month before your travel date.

Extending your visa

You can extend your 30 days by applying to the State Migration Service at least 3 days before the end of the permitted stay.

If you overstay your visa without permission, you may have to leave the country within 48 hours. Contact the State Migration Service as soon as possible. They can issue a letter giving you permission to leave. You will have to pay a fine of 300 to 400 Azerbaijani manat. Make sure you get a receipt.

If you are in Azerbaijan, you can also call the Migration Information Centre on 919.

Registering with the authorities

If you’re staying in Azerbaijan for longer than 15 days, you must register with the State Migration Service online or in person. Hotels often provide this service for their guests, but you must do it yourself if you are staying in an apartment or private residence.

Vaccine requirements

For details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Azerbaijan guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Azerbaijan. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. Follow advice from your airline about items you should declare.

If you plan to use a local SIM card for more than 30 days, you must register it and pay a fee at a local post office. If you do not declare your device or register your sim card, they may not work on local networks and your device could be locked. You will need to give the IMEI number of your mobile, which you can find in settings, or by dialling *#06#.

Exporting carpets and antiques

You need an export certificate to take antiques or art like carpets, samovars, copperware or paintings out of Azerbaijan. Your vendor will give you a certificate, or they are available from the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum.  

British-Azerbaijani dual nationality

Azerbaijan does not allow people aged 18 or over to hold dual nationality. You may be refused entry, denied departure or even face criminal liability if you’re found to be holding both an Azerbaijani passport and a passport of a different nationality. If you’re a British passport holder with links to Azerbaijan (through birth or otherwise) and wish to check your nationality status, contact the State Migration Service before you travel.

Children aged 17 and under holding a second nationality should not face any difficulties.

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Azerbaijan.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Azerbaijan

Terrorist attacks in Azerbaijan cannot be ruled out.

Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigner nationals, such as international hotels, restaurants, and pubs, as well as energy sector facilities. Be aware of your surroundings.

Political situation

The political situation in Azerbaijan is generally calm, but demonstrations and opposition rallies can occur.

Avoid large gatherings and any demonstrations. They are illegal and there could be a swift response from the authorities. Monitor the media for information about possible demonstrations and be alert to local and regional developments, which may trigger public disturbances. British media representatives should make sure they are clearly identifiable.

Nagorno-Karabakh

Tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh have calmed since 2023. FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Nagorno-Karabakh due to previous military and political action in the area. See Regional risks.      

Crime

Crime levels in Baku are generally low. Be alert to possible bag-snatching or mugging, particularly if you are carrying large amounts of cash or valuables. The risk is higher after dark in the centre of town. Avoid displaying large sums of money or expensive-looking valuables and do not walk alone at night.

Take extra care to guard against card skimming when paying with a credit card or withdrawing money from ATMs.

Try to arrange to be picked up and dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible by a private or company driver, or use a known taxi firm or ride-hailing app.

You can report a crime at any local police station or by telephoning the police on 102. English-speaking staff are available on the telephone, but when reporting a crime at a police station take someone with you who can interpret. Do not sign any documents unless you understand them.

There are occasionally reports of government officials asking foreign nationals to make undocumented payments. If you think you have been mistreated by a traffic policeman or health professional, report your case to the relevant government department.

Laws and cultural differences

Azerbaijan is a largely secular society, although most of the population is Muslim. Religion is usually considered a private matter.

Personal ID

Police sometimes carry out checks of identity documents. Carry your passport at all times. Keep a copy of the photo page in a safe place.

Dress code

In Baku local and foreign women usually dress in conservative western-style clothing. It is now more acceptable for men to wear shorts in Baku in the summer months. Outside of Baku it may still be frowned upon and you may receive unwelcome attention.

Ramadan  

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims. The dates vary by year and country. In 2024, Ramadan in Azerbaijan is expected to run from 11 March until 9 April. Get more advice when you arrive from your tour guide, hotel or business contacts.

You should also:

  • check opening hours of shops and restaurants
  • follow local dress codes – clothing that does not meet local dress codes may cause more offence at this time
  • be aware that driving may be erratic, particularly when people are trying to get home at dusk.
  • be patient and show tolerance

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Possession or use of illegal drugs carries severe penalties. The usual penalty for smuggling drugs is a fine and a prison sentence of 3 to 7 years.

Using cameras and drones

Be aware of cultural sensitivities when photographing mosques, churches and other religious sites or sites of commemoration, such as the Alley of Martyrs in Baku. If in doubt, ask for permission.

Military bases, equipment and installations in any condition are considered sensitive areas, and visitors have been detained and questioned while attempting to visit or photograph them.

If you do no have temporary or permanent residence rights in Azerbaijan, you are not allowed to import drones. Any drones will be confiscated by the State Customs Office at the port or border and returned upon departure. 

Unmanned drones cannot be rented to individuals without a valid taxpayer identification number (TIN). If you have a TIN, special permission from the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport is required. Manned drones can be rented without requiring permission.

LGBT+ travellers

While same-sex sexual activity is not illegal, LGBT+ people in Azerbaijan tend to keep a low profile. Showing affection in public is frowned upon, especially outside of Baku and among the older generation.

Holding hands or embracing between men is usually a sign of friendship.

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Azerbaijan, see information on driving abroad and read the RAC guide on driving in Azerbaijan. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of.

It is illegal to use right-hand-drive cars in Azerbaijan.

Inter-country road travel 

There may be delays in transporting vehicles to Azerbaijan. It is best not to pay for non-refundable  onward travel. Azerbaijan Caspian Shipping Closed Joint-Stock Company has details of onward shipment from Baku to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Licences and permits

You’ll need to have both the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

After one month, you will need an Azerbaijani driving licence issued through the ASAN Service Offices. You need to carry a green card as proof you’re insured to drive in Azerbaijan.

Right-hand-drive cars are not permitted in Azerbaijan. If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.

Road conditions

Many vehicles are poorly maintained, and the standard of driving is erratic. Accidents are common, mainly due to poor or reckless driving and inconsistent enforcement of traffic rules. Drivers often ignore one-way signs.

Road closures and diversions are often unmarked. Take care when driving at night as many roads are of poor quality and badly lit. Traffic lights that are flashing amber at night mean cars can proceed with caution in either direction.

Drink-driving is a serious offence in in Azerbaijan. If you are tested and found to have any alcohol in your system, you may get a severe fine and possibly a prison sentence. 

In the winter months snowfall often causes problems. Pack your vehicle with a blanket, shovel, torch, snacks and old carpet to help if you get stuck in snow.

Taxis

Some visitors have reported being severely overcharged by local taxis. When using taxis, agree a fare up front, or make sure the taxi meter is switched on. Check that the taxi has working seatbelts.

Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Bolt are widely available in Azerbaijan.

Rail travel    

If you travel by train, secure your valuables, do not leave the compartment unattended, and lock the door from the inside, if your compartment allows.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Earthquakes

There is a risk of earthquakes across the Caucasus region, although there have been no recent serious earthquakes in Azerbaijan. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

This section has safety advice for regions of Azerbaijan. It only covers regions where the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas

FCDO advises against all travel to:

  • Nagorno-Karabakh
  • the districts (‘rayons’) of Zengilan, Jabrayil, Qubadli, Lachin and Kelbajar on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border
  • western areas of the rayons of Khojavand, Fuzuli and Aghdam

Support from the British Embassy is severely limited in areas of Nagorno-Karabakh region.   

It is illegal to enter Nagorno-Karabakh without the permission of the Azerbaijani authorities. Anyone who has previously visited areas of Nagorno-Karabakh without the permission of the Azerbaijani authorities could be refused entry to Azerbaijan.

The Nagorno-Karabakh area is the subject of a continuing dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Although a ceasefire was signed on 10 November 2020, tensions remain. On 19 September 2023, there was military action in Nagorno-Karabakh where civilian areas were hit, resulting in deaths and casualties. Further military activity cannot be ruled out.   

Several other civilian areas to the east of Nagorno-Karabakh were affected by the conflict and could also contain unexploded weapons and landmines. These areas include, but are not limited to, the towns and rayons of Barda, Tartar, Ganja, Beylagan and Aghjabadi. The Azerbaijani authorities are working to remove unexploded weapons and landmines. 

If you come across an unexploded weapon or landmine do not approach it or touch it. Make a note of where you saw it and notify the authorities on 102 or 112. Beware of more unexploded weapons or landmines nearby.

Azerbaijan-Armenia border

The FCDO also advises against all travel to within 5km of the rest of the border with Armenia. 

Borders with Iran and Georgia

The land borders between Iran and Azerbaijan, and Georgia and Azerbaijan are temporarily closed.

Azerbaijan-Russia border

The land border between Azerbaijan and Russia (Dagestan) is closed. The FCDO continues to advise against all travel to Russia. For further details, see FCDO’s travel advice for Russia.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Call 103 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip:

Go to TravelHealthPro to see what health risks you’ll face in Azerbaijan.

Altitude sickness is a risk in some parts of Azerbaijan, including the ski resorts of Shahdag and Tufangdag in the Gusar district, Lake Batabat in Nakhchivan, and the Talysh mountains. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Azerbaijan

Medical facilities outside Baku are very limited. Carry a comprehensive first aid kit for any trips out of Baku. Even in Baku, serious illness or injury may require evacuation to Turkey or Western Europe. Make sure you have appropriate travel health insurance.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Azerbaijan where some staff will speak English.

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Azerbaijan.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Azerbaijan

Ambulance: 103

Fire: 101

Police: 102

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you’re in Azerbaijan and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Baku.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Azerbaijan on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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