10 things UAE residents should know before visiting Azerbaijan
Dubai - It's visa-free for all UAE residents.
Over the weekend, the UAE Embassy in Baku announced that as of July 26, UAE residents can avail of a one-month tourist visa to Azerbaijan, as long as you have proof of valid residency in the country, i.e. an Emirates ID. It's the same policy that Georgia has made available for UAE residents for quite some time.
Also read: Now, visa-free travel for UAE residents to Azerbaijan
If you're looking to visit Azerbaijan, below are 10 things you should know before you go. They include places to see, activities to do, what and where the country is, plus a word of advice if you've travelled to Armenia in recent time.
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic located in the Caucasus. Culturally speaking, the country is a mix of European and Asian influence. It borders Russia and Georgia to the north and Armenia to the west. The country's name literally means "Land of Fire". Its people are called Azerbaijanis and the country is predominantly Muslim.
They're 100 years old!
The country came to be on May 28, 1918. Today the date is celebrated as Republic Day, marking the creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. It was the first parliamentary democracy in the East. Lasting only for 23 months, the ADR left a lasting mark on the country which is still recognized today.
Flights from the UAE are around the Dh1,500 range. A roundtrip ticket from Dubai to Baku on flyDubai comes to around Dh1,300. AirArabia flies from Sharjah to Baku for only Dh1,000. Prices do depend on the season, and speaking of which...
When do I go?
January to February is the country's ski season. That's when it gets cold. Spring is when the city gets busy from April-June; the lowlands also have clear skies and flowering fields. Summers are particularly warm from July-August but its considered the best time for trekking. September-October is marked by autumn where travellers can expect pleasant weather in the capital.
You can visit on a budget
Now we get on to the travel bits. The country is affordable for UAE residents. Travel blog 'Against the Compass' wrote that its author spent around $20 (Dh73 approx.) per day while he was in the country. That includes accommodation, food, and transport.
Been to Armenia recently?
If you have visited Armenia recently, immigration may ask you about the details of that trip. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Marjanne Reyes, a Dubai-based Filipino expat, narrated that she was asked by airport immigration about her recent trip to Armenia. "I was asked details about my trip such as where I stayed, where I went and why I went to Armenia. They also asked if I went to any 'conflict areas'." Reyes explains that conflict area being referred to is the Nagorno-Karabakh region straddling the two countries. "They just make sure that you partook in tourist activities and nothing else." Reyes added.
What should I see?
Landing in the capital city of Baku, start your trip with a visit to the Walled City of Baku - which was the what the city was in ancient times. Inside the UNESCO World Heritage site are Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower - the former being described by UNESCO as "one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture". Both landmarks appear in the country's banknotes.
Things to do
The country's geography lends itself a lot of outdoor sports. According to Lonely Planet, tourists can enjoy climbing and mountaineering at Shahdag National Park; ski at Sahdag, Laza and Tufandag; do watersports at the Caspian Sea; or just go for a spa at the country's many hot springs.
What about food?
The country's cuisine draws a lot on Eastern influences. Azerbaijan is known for plov - a rice dish cooked in broth. They also have lamb, chicken and beef dishes that are prepared as kebabs. Black tea is considered the national beverage and is offered to guests as a welcome note. Black caviar from the Caspian is the country's most famous delicacy.
To help you plan, the country has several resources for travelers. Azerbaijan's Tourism Ministry has a map of the whole country online as well as a travel hub for everything there is to see and do in the country.