This time for my short vacation, I had chosen Azerbaijan. After visiting Uzbekistan, few months earlier, I was looking for similar experience, and I narrowed down my search to Baku. Though there are good blogs on Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan) there wasn’t any detailed blog. (At least, I did not find any.)
Hence, I decided to take help of a tour agent. Arif RN Travel, is an agency, highly recommended by Tripadvisor. When I wrote to them, they wrote back giving me complete tour program. Almost everything was covered in that, the price quoted was also very reasonable. And, I am very happy to say that, it was the best choice. All the arrangements were superb. I wish I could spend more time there.
Here is some basic information about Azerbaijan.
- Where is Azerbaijan ? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azerbaijan It is a country on the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is on the banks on Caspian sea, and very rich in Petroleum. As my subsequent posts will reveal, it is mixture of Dubai and Switzerland, and much more economical than both these destinations.
- Visa Requirements (for Indians) . Visa is available on line, for a small fee. Only a photograph and passport scan is needed. The visa gets approved within few hours.
- How to get there (by Air). Azerbaijan Airlines has twice daily flights to Dubai. Even flydubai flies there. ( If you read the reviews nobody talked good about the later and hardly anybody has complained about the former, so the choice is yours.) The flight from Dubai, takes less than 3 hours.
- Where to stay ? Lots of choices available. Arif Travel arranged my stays in 5 star properties and they were quiet reasonably priced. The hotels themselves were excellent. In fact, the one, I stayed in Qabala, was the best ever hotel, in my life.
- How to move around ? – My tour agent had arranged a private car for me. But I found ample taxies, buses, metro etc. The hotel you chose, may make these arrangements for you.
- What language they speak ? Azerbaijani is the official language, and is spoken by most of them. (Surprisingly, you may find many Hindi words in that language.) But nothing to worry, most people in Hotel Industry, Shops, Supermarkets speak decent English. Most of the information is displayed in English also.
- Is it costly ? I didn’t find so. Most of the things I bought were reasonable priced. A large falafel sandwich in 5 star hotel (room service) costs me 3 USD. This country has abundant food production, rich in petroleum and other natural resources, so you may find, it is actually cheaper than Europe or even Dubai.
- How are the people ? They are extremely fit. They have to do compulsory military training for two years. They have the athletic look and body. The very few people, I interacted with, were found helpful.
- What to eat ? The choice is almost limitless, with abundance of fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The local cuisine is interesting. They serve red tea in specially designed cup and it is to be taken with variety of jams. The most remarkable jam was made with fresh walnut. The whole fruit is used (with shell) and it was the most delicious jam, I have ever eaten.
- What to shop ? Apart from the branded goods, you can buy camel wool scarves, carpets, metal utensils, glasses, dry fruits, fruit preserves, fruit leather.. you are spoiled with choices.
- Any Security Issues – None.
And yes there are many wonderful places to visit. In this series I am going to post many photos. This area is reach in flora and fauna too. So keep reading.