Planning for A Trip to Azerbaijan

This trip to Azerbaijan was something that came out rather unexpectedly. Far from the usual, we only have little time to prepare for it compared to how we usually do our trip plans (which usually take months). This time, it only took us less than 2 weeks which started right after the release of our post about 18 Cities to Visit This 2018.

Yes. Our first blog for 2018 paved the way for this very first travel opportunity for the year. We are privileged to partner with ETR Travel who provided our accommodation and city tour during the Azerbaijan Trip. More exciting opportunities for Azerbaijan also came in (more details in the coming posts) and so we thought that we’d rather not keep it for long.

While I only have little time to prepare due to our availability, it also didn’t come problem-free. I was informed that it will take 10 days for Philippine Passport holders to apply for Azerbaijan Visa (check out our blog: How to Apply for Azerbaijan Tourist Visa in Qatar), weekend flights are always full (it was also a connecting point for many flights including that from Tbilisi), and weather wasn’t that friendly (it was initially negative 3 degrees to rainy on our initial weekend schedule).

Armed with faith and determination, I decided to come alone on a week day flight to venture on a first solo-quick-trip for 2018. Small setbacks didn’t bother us to pursue our objective to provide travel alternatives to our readers. Glad that my ever supportive wife and travel partner, gave me a go signal to proceed on a weekday since she couldn’t come due to work load.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijan is a great place to visit all year round and enjoys four seasons: Winter season (December – February), Spring (March-May), Summer (June – September), and Autumn (October – November). According to the website www.climatestotravel.com, the best times to travel to Azerbaijan are spring and autumn, and in particular the months of May and October. September is usually a good month as well, in Baku and the main territory.

It was definitely helpful to check out the weather online to prepare for appropriate clothing and even itinerary that will suit the weather for the day. I even have an alternative plan when it will rain to concentrate on covered places.

HOW TO GET THERE FROM DOHA

With the premise to give travel suggestions within 5-hour flying distance from DOHA, one of the main travel considerations is also the availability of direct flights via Qatar Airways. Baku happens to be a 3-hour flight from Hamad International Airport with Qatar Airways flying twice daily at 6:45am and 8:15pm to Baku (average fare at QR 2,495 return tickets).

It was also by coincidence that we came to know that this is a code-sharing flight with Azerbaijan Airline meaning, you can also check out ticket availability from their website. You might get surprised!

WHERE TO STAY IN BAKU

For budget conscious travelers, we suggest to take some of the available villa, hostels or standard hotels around the city. There were modest accommodations ranging from an average of 60-70 Manats (around QR 140) per night with breakfast.

OTEL VILLA BAKU is a family owned hotel located only about 10-minute drive from the city center of Baku. It’s a 3-storey dated villa but has decent facilities for an overnight stay – with comfortable bed; clean toilet; a nice breakfast at the 1st floor; and very personalized staff who can help you book your Uber car and will even knock on your door for a complimentary tea with jam. It will also be nice to rent out if you are traveling in a big group so you can get the whole floor or even the entire property for yourselves. For me, this is so ideal since it is very affordable (you are always out on tours anyway), and very accommodating (they even allowed me to check out late in the evening).

There are also several boutique hotels and five star hotels around Baku. After the boom in oil prices in the early 2000s, Baku experienced a surge in luxury hotel openings with several international hotel chains opening a branch in the city.

FAIRMONT BAKU occupies one of the three imposing structures of the Flame Towers which is highly visible in all of central Baku area. It is priced at an average of QR700/night on a week day with breakfast for 2 (price are subject to date and availability) with a panoramic view of the Caspean Sea and Baku City. There’s also Four Seasons, Hilton, JW Marriot Absheron, Ritz Carlton, Pullman Baku and many others.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO GO AROUND THE CITY

While there are many travel agencies in the country, there’s none that’s highly visible along the tourist spots of Baku. Information centers and travel assistance are scarce leaving you highly dependent on google maps and online literature. Not surprisingly, I met several taxi drivers who would offer private tours at different prices depending on the location. There’s also Baku City Tour Bus which charge 20 AZN Manat for a one and a half bus tour around Baku City with 30 minutes interval on its many bus stops around the city.

Glad that our host, ETR TRAVEL (a local travel agency based in Baku) offered a helping hand to show us some of the highlights of the city. They are relatively a young travel company (owned and operated by literally young Azerbaijani businessmen) who specializes in hotel and visa assistance and very soon, tour packages locally and even international as well.

If you want to explore the city on your own like what I did on the second day, taxis and Uber cars are very useful. You will notice that their taxis are not metered and would usually charge you 10 AZN Manat or approximately 20 QR per trip (it is easier to double the amount to get a Qatar Riyal equivalent since the conversion is 1 QR=0.46 AZN).

And since our SPECIAL TRAVEL FEATURES are dedicated to offer weekend travel ideas, we intend to keep it short and meaningful that is ideal for those wanting to travel on a Thursday night and come back to Doha on Saturday evening. More of my itinerary on the next TRAVEL FEATURE POST –“ TWO NIGHTS”, so please watch out for it.

A FAITH-FILLED TRAVEL

It is written, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans”. Everything about this trip was a test of faith and an opportunity to hear from God. And true enough, when we start obeying in his will, he made everything perfect. While there were lessons along the way – lessons about patience, obedience, wisdom, and trust – there were also gifts of a good weather, favor from people, and even peace of mind.

We initially planned the trip with my wife and I, but circumstances led me to travel alone. It should be a weekend travel but the immediately available flight is only on weekday. Although I have to edit the blog outlines from “we” to “I”, it also turned out to be a blessing in disguise in some aspects.

Please watch out for more details of the trip on our next post.

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