Getting Around Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Airlines (www.azal.az) 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.
Although distances appear short on the map, if time is tight air travel knocks several hours off a road journey. Tickets at short notice are widely available throughout the year, except on national holidays when many Baku residents like to visit their family in the country.
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.
Visitors should note that many local drivers do not adhere to traffic regulations; it is estimated that almost half of all drivers have not passed a test but obtained their licence through 'connections'.
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.
Side of the roadRight
Road conditions away from Baku are often pretty poor and 4-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for journeys into the mountains. Roads are rarely lit outside major towns.
Dual carriageways are increasingly common on key commercial routes between Baku and major regional towns. Part of the route from Baku to Ganja is classed as motorway but resembles the usual dual carriageways.
International car hire firms including Hertz and Avis are based in downtown Baku, along with many local firms. The legal minimum age to hire a car is 21. To book a car at Baku airport, contact Tipoa Car Hire (tipoa.com) or 3 Click Car Hire (www.3clickcarhire.com).
Taxis are widely available in both cities and rural areas. Agree a fare before setting off; meters are not widely used and the initial fares suggested may be high. It is often possible to hire a taxi for a day's sightseeing at prices comparable to self-drive. Drivers are usually competent but are prone to driving alarmingly fast.
There are very few push bikes in Baku and local drivers have little experience sharing the roads with bikes. Not recommended.
Mtrans (tel: +994 12 499 7038; www.mtrans.az) runs regular services between Baku and most major towns. The buses are modern, comfortable and a relatively inexpensive way of travelling around Azerbaijan.
U-turns are banned, as is driving while using a mobile phone. Note that left-hand turns across the traffic are forbidden. Seat belts are compulsory. There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drink. Speed limits are 40-60kph (25-37mph) in residential zones, 90kph on the open road and 110kph (68mph) on highways.
Your car hire company may be able to help but there is no official organisation.
An International Driving Permit or licence issued by an EU country is required. Also carry the vehicle registration document, your passport, proof of insurance and a check-up card that proves the vehicle has passed its annual roadworthiness test.
Baku's metro mainly connects the suburbs to the centre and so most visitors use taxis or private cars for trips within the city centre. Buses to the suburbs are cheap but often overcrowded. Public transport is very safe.
Rail connections are slow but fares are very reasonable. The main routes from Baku are northwest to the Georgian border and Caucasus Mountains and south to Astara and Iran. Visit www.railway.gov.az for more details.
For overnight journeys, S/V is the most comfortable class and provides a private two-berth cabin with bunk beds.