Baku – For those Eurovision fans lucky enough to be going to Baku in the next few weeks, here’s some information you may find useful for travelling to and around the host city. The Azerbaijan government have put a lot of bus and taxi resources into the city to make sure all the Eurovision visitors can move around easily and hopefuly quite cheaply.
Flights - If you haven’t booked a flight yet, there are still some left. Turkish airlines travel to Baku (via Istanbul), as do Qatar (via Doha), as well as Aeroflot, Air Baltic, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and BMI.
Visas – First you have to get in at the airport! If you have accreditation you will have received a letter of invitation. Otherwise your Eurovision tickets or OGAE membership card will allow you to get a visa upon arrival at the airport in Baku. For most visitors you will need approximately 60 Euros. Non-Schengen citizens e.g. UK citizens, may need $118 US Dollars however. Check before you travel!!And make sure you bring everything you need to get your visa.
Cards and cash are accepted at the airport and cash can be spent in Azerbaijani Manats, US Dollars, Euros and Russian Rubles. Once you have your visa, you can withdraw Azerbaijani Manats (AZN) from the cash machines in the airport.
Transfer from airport – Baku Heydar Aliyev airport is approx 25km (15 miles) outside Baku city. Many hotels provide a hotel shuttle service, check with your hotel if they do this. A taxi (pre-Eurovision) was costing 20-25AZN to town, but agree a price in advance.
If you are on a budget and fancy an adventure, walk down to the main road and wave down a minibus No 36. It’ll only cost you 20 qapiks. We have no idea where you get off, but if you see these, you’re heading in the right direction!
Buses – There are a lot of different buses and minibuses in Baku. None of the bus stops have routes or timetables on them, you have to guess your bus by looking at the front of it. They have them on the bus, but few are stationary long enough to decipher their route boards. Ask locals for help! To pay, pass your 20 qapik coin down to the driver when you get on, or let him have it as you get off.
Except in a very few central areas where there are fixed astanovki (stopping points), the driver can stop anywhere. Simply shout ‘sakhla’ (stop) or more loudly ‘sakhla burada’ (stop here) to be let off.
The Government have hired 220 drivers to drive Eurovision shuttle buses between the airport, Baku city centre, hotels and the arena. Azadlig Square will be the main drop off point. Buses to transport passengers to the Baku Crystal Hall, Heydar Aliyev International Airport, Baku International Bus Terminal and hotels will be stationed on the square.
Metro – The Baku metro / subway has 23 stations. Each journey (credit) is only 20 qapiks. Metro staff have been given English courses. Check out all the info you need about the metro here. To use the system you’ll need to get a plastic fare-card (deposit 2AZN) that you charge up with credits (minimum 20 credits).
Taxis – A new fleet of hundreds of metered London style cabs have arrived in Baku for Eurovision. Taxi drivers have also had English courses.
Beware the old Russian style cabs which have apparently been banned (they can get a 100€ fine), and if you do use non-London style ones, always agree a price in advance of travelling as they do not have meters. You can get one of these by calling 189. They have English speaking staff and will confirm the price on the phone. They then send details of your taxi to your mobile number. If you don’t receive a text after making a booking call back to check.
22 taxi ranks have been introduced in the city centre. For the London style cabs, the fare is 70 qapik per 1 kilometer for the distance of 10 km., 40 qapik per kilometer for the distance up to 20 km., and 20 qapik per kilometer for the distance exceeding 20 km.
The roads – Cars can drive haphazardly, honking their horns, usually being shouted at by police loudhailers! So according to the UK FCO website visitors should take care when crossing the road. Do not expect traffic to stop for you at pedestrian crossings unless there are also traffic lights. Where possible use pedestrian underpasses.
Enjoy your journey, and see you in Baku!
Sources – UK FCO, TimeOut, Lonely Planet, Azeri Gvt. Photo source- Sietse Bakker
- Eurovision 2012: Transport Plans Announced for Baku (eurovisiontimes.wordpress.com)
- Eurovision 2012: Visa Update for Non-Schengen Citizens (eurovisiontimes.wordpress.com)
- Eurovision 2012: EuroClub and EuroVillage Locations Announced (eurovisiontimes.wordpress.com)