Azerbaijan Travel Information
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GMT +4 (GMT +5 between the last week in March and the last week in October)
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round, two-pin attachment plugs and 'Schuko' plugs are in use.
Azerbaijani, or Azeri, is the official language. Turkish and Russian are widely spoken; few people speak English.
No vaccinations are required for entry to Azerbaijan, but travellers should ensure that all routine vaccinations are up to date. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are recommended for all travellers. There is a malaria risk between July and October in the rural lowland areas, but there is no malaria risk in Baku. Most health facilities are state-owned and equipment and staff training often fall short of Western standards. Outside of the capital, medical care and supplies may be difficult to come by and serious medical problems will require air evacuation to another country; comprehensive medical insurance is advised.
Service charges are usually included in bills and tipping is not compulsory, although taxi-drivers, waiters and hotel staff are commonly given some small change.
The crime rate is relatively low, but muggings do occur in central Baku, particularly at night. Political gatherings and demonstrations should be avoided as these have become violent in the past. Unlicensed taxis should be avoided. Corruption is widespread. The area around Nagorno-Karabakh has long been the subject of dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia and most foreign governments advise against travel to the region due to ongoing outbreaks of violence despite the ceasefire.
Most of the country is Muslim and visitors should respect religious customs, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Dress modestly, especially when visiting mosques or religious shrines; women should cover arms and legs, and men should not wear shorts, even in summer. Although homosexuality is legal in Azerbaijan, public displays of affection will cause offence, especially outside the capital. Foreign nationals are routinely subject to police checks and it is advisable to carry identification at all times.
Personal contact and relationship-building is critical in Azerbaijan, and therefore meetings are more effective than long distance communication. It is common to exchange business cards in meetings, and these should be in Russian or English and have an Azeri translation on the reverse. The language of business is Azeri or Russian, and translators will be required for those not speaking either language. Azeris tend to be polite and visitors should be aware that a 'yes' might actually mean 'no'; culturally there is a strong emphasis on not causing 'loss of face' publically. Azeris should not be rushed to make a business decision. Gender roles are traditional and businesswomen might be met with scepticism.
The international dialling code for Azerbaijan is +994. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). Area codes are in use (e.g. 12 for Baku). There are few telephone lines outside of the main cities, and international calls usually require the use of operators, many of whom do not speak English. It is possible to make international calls from public phones, which require a card; local phones use tokens. GSM coverage is basic and includes the area around Baku as well as some other cities. Roaming charges are high and it is best to buy a local SIM card. Internet cafes (klubs) are available in Baku.
Travellers older than 16 may bring 1,000 cigarettes, 2 litres of wine and 1.5 litres of other alcohol, and perfume for personal use without paying customs duty. An export certificate is required to take carpets or anything else considered antique out of Azerbaijan.
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