Why Azerbaijan Has Become a Recent Favourite Among Travellers
5 minute read
The internet has seen a sudden surge of mentions about Azerbaijan in the form of hashtags, pictures, videos, searches and queries. The country has undoubtedly become one of the most sought after destinations among travellers in Pakistan recently. The real question is – is the hype justified? I decided to address this question myself and set out on the journey to get answers and experience it firsthand.
Pakistanis are eligible for E-visa
To our relief, Azerbaijan is one of the very few countries that has favoured Pakistani nationals in their new and improved visa policies. Pakistanis are eligible to enter the country holding an electronic visa that only costs 23 USD and takes no more than three working days to arrive. This relaxed visa policy is an added attraction for us because we have to go through so much hassle acquiring a visa for other countries.
Good food, good food & good food
Food and travel go hand in hand, and when you are a foodie, you understand that even better. You might agree to disagree with me on this but that means we can’t be friends in this life or the next. Azerbaijani cuisine is just as diverse as its culture. Muslims and kebabs have ruled over the country for more than 14 centuries, hence meat-laden grills are an indispensable highlight of an Azeri meal. However, you will find a significant hint of the Mediterranean influence in the form of dolmas and sarmas. Most of the food is either grilled or cooked in very little oil, so the good news is that you need not worry about putting on vacation pounds.
The Azeri culture is a beautiful fusion of different traditions
By the time the flavoursome Azeri cuisine has satisfied your palate you would have already fallen for the country. The culture is a beautiful fusion of traditions and intellect that has evolved over a period of centuries. About 99 per cent population there is Shiite Muslims but the deep rooted effects of communism from the glorious period of U.S.S.R still linger amongst the Azeri community and reflect in their lifestyle.
Your gypsy soul can find an outlet
If you have an eye for good handicraft and traditional souvenirs, then Azerbaijan would serve as a shopper’s paradise for you. The streets there are lined with tiny shops, some no bigger than a kiosk, but swarming with souvenirs and collectibles of various sizes and types. It is not only fun to go through them one shop after the other, it is another experience on its own to set the gypsy inside you free to wander around these colourful streets.
Getting around is easy
When in Azerbaijan, always remember – Uber is cheap, taxi is not. Now that you have been explicitly warned, remain firm as soon you touchdown. Seeing as you are a tourist, will walk into a web of drivers who will lure you into their taxis, but just continue to turn down their generous offers until your Uber arrives, which will charge you less than half of what a taxi will charge you for wherever you go.
Hop on and off of tourist buses that are recommended for city tours and if you are looking to get toned calf muscles by the end of your trip, you could also explore the city on foot. You will also run into a lot of tour operators on the streets but make a decision based on comparative analysis.
The level of affordability is great
Once again, if you choose wisely and make the right decisions, Azerbaijan is the perfect destination for thrifty travelers. You may find it expensive if you choose to take private tours along the way and get into fine dining but you will always have options available that will go easy on your pocket.
Hospitality is unbelievable
Apart from the slight language barrier you would face while interacting, you will find that the locals are generally very friendly and cheerful. Russian is the most widely spoken language after their very own Azeri but almost every third person on the street is able to communicate in English as well. The country may not exactly be baby-friendly in terms of the infrastructure but the people there are very good with children and helpful and considerate around families with children.
There is something for everyone
What makes Azerbaijan the perfect place for a short getaway? There is a list of activities that you can choose from, depending on your interest and time constraint. You may find yourself exploring sites where once ancient civilisations lived and discover mud volcanos just a few kilometers outside of Baku, and in case you are a nature lover and not a history buff then Gabala and Shahdag are absolutely gorgeous hill stations set in the scenic Caucuses, only three hours away from the city of Baku. Just one trip would definitely leave much to be explored and enjoyed.
The airport is as relaxing as the trip itself
Don’t you just hate the hassle of going in and out of busy airports, especially after the trip when you are exhausted? You don’t need to worry about that in Azerbaijan. Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is where you will most probably end your hopefully long eventful trip. The interior of the airport is inspired by cocoons, and you are in for a warm, cozy treat for sure with their beautifully designed oak veneer coffee shops if you have a late flight or an early check out from the hotel.
About Iman Saad
Residing in Dubai, the author runs a blog - Travel Diaries Pakistan. The mother of a 13 month old likes to travel and explore as much as she can. Her one rule to follow? Be low maintenance and keep your expectations in check.