How to get visa to Azerbaijan: step by step
Azerbaijan is the most inaccessible country in Europe. It’s not a myth – visa to Azerbaijan requires a lot of afford, and even more time. You will go through visa process easier and faster with Choose travel!
[I’ve been to Azerbaijan in December 2013]
Process of obtaining visa to Azerbaijan (from submission of documents until receiving a visa) takes about three weeks. You can obtain for visa in your native travel agencies (which is expensive) or find Azerbaijani one (and pay much less). I decided on the latter option – I chose recommended agency called Geo Travel and paid total amount of 62 euros. According to the data posted on the official website of Azerbaijani embassy in Warsaw consular fee while applying for a e-visa (electronic visa) is $20, which means that the rest of the money goes into the pockets of travel agencies.
Doing visa with Azeri travel agency (Geo Travel)
The beginning is encouraging – you can receive electronic visa to Azerbaijan, which means that you don’t have to go to embassy. If your application is approved, you will receive one-page document in PDF, that you should print and show when crossing the border (together with passport, of course). With the facilities that would be enough. The rest is hell.
Documents required for visa application:
- photo 3x4cm (taken within last six months),
- scan of your passport,
- scan of your ticket (I presented flight ticket from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Kutaisi, Georgia and pointed out that I will take bus from Tbilisi to Baku – I had no problems because of this),
- completed visa application form (available on travel agencies’ websites),
- confirmation of the money transfer,
- letter confirming hotel reservation with signature of hotel owner.
Stairs begin with the last point – hotel reservation. Embassy will reject any applications that include reservations made through popular websites such as hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com. Why ? Well, because they require only deposit payment (around 10 % of total price), not full price payment, and it looks like main purpose of the Azerbaijani visa policy is paying high amount of money to Azeri hotel owners (by the way, most hotels are owned by the ruling family and their friends…). Incidentally, many Azeri travel agencies requires the simultaneous purchase of their proposed “tourist package”which include accommodation in unnecessarily luxurious hotels. As the lack of hostels in Azerbaijan (sic!) travel agencies offer only three star or more-star hotels (at least $50 per night).
Geo Travel is one of those agencies, which allows to propose self-made hotel reservations. The cheapest accommodation I’ve found is for the Caspian Hostel ($22 per night in a dorm room). However, if you are on a budget and intend to use couchsurfing or tent, you still face the problem – how to receive a letter confirming your reservation and do not lose the money?
In this case, you need to find a hotel that meets one of the following conditions:
- Owner will issue a letter confirming the reservation without advance payment (e.g. GuestHouse Inn: official page, hostelworld.com)
- Owner will issue a letter confirming the booking after the payment, but will accept your cancellation and refund the full amount of money (e.g. HRS ).
I chose GuestHouse Inn and it was a hit (ten points hit, as we say in Polish;-). After making a reservation for three nights I’ve received scan of the letter with owner’s signature. Then, I’ve sent all the documents to the agency Geo Travel and waited. According to the rules on the agency, the waiting time for a visa is up to 15 working days, I waited 10 working days (14 days including weekends).
I have a visa! Hell yeah!
At this stage, most people triumphantly post on Facebook that they have visa to Azerbaijan. I made same: “Hell yeah! Azerbaijan – I’m coming!”. Then I read the document carefully and noticed that my visa is valid only for four days, although I applied for two weeks! Frustrated, I sent an email of complaint to the travel agency wailing that they didn’t instructed me for how many days should I make reservation. Earlier on internet forums I’ve read that most people propose three-day reservations and they receive 14-day visa . But as you can see – there are exceptions. However, Geo Travel’s employee suggested that they will apply for another visa for me (for free!) and “we will see”. They told me, they don’t need from me any additional documents or reservations and… after two days I received second visa , this time for 12 days!
From April 2013 foreigners have to register their staying in Azerbaijan (within first 72 hours from entry). Well, I tried make register via e-mail (you can also go to the police station), but every time I sent it, e-mail returned to me with information “Delivery failed permanently”. I tried three different email addresses that I found on the website of the State Migration Service, but each time unsuccessfully.Finally I didn’t register my staying and none of policemen/border guards were asking me about it. It seems that for now, the new provision is just blank record, not the respected duty. However, if you like to play safe you can find appropriate registration form on website of State Migration Service (yep, it’s available only in Azeri, I told ya this country doesn’t like backapckers).
I’ve been to Armenia. Can I enter Azerbaijan?
Travelling through Armenia I’ve heard many times from Armeninans that the Armenian stamp in the passport means I can’t enter Azerbaijan. Nothing like that. I crossed the border in a train Tbilisi-Baku (ticket cost: 60 lari), and there were no major complications. Border guards searched my luggage and as I was told, they were looking for Armenian souvenirs (you can find out the opinions in internet that border guards confiscate such souvenirs) and Armenian alcohol (guess what they are doing with it), but they found only Armenian SIM card and let me kept it. After the border guard noticed in my passport stamps from Armenia I was asked for audition in a separate room, where I was questioned about my staying in Armenia, which places I’ve visited and of course – if I was in Nagorno-Karabakh.
I was in Nagorno-Karabakh. Can I enter Azerbaijan ?
If you have Nagorno-Karabakh visa in your passport you can’t enter Azerbaijan. According to Azerbaijani and international law, visit in Nagorno-Karabakh is a violation of the sovereignty of Azerbaijan and results in a lifetime ban on entry into the Land of Fire. If you have Armenian stamps in your passport Azeri border guards will probably ask you if you were in Nagorno-Karabakh. But don’t worry. If you want to visit Nagorno-Karabakh, and then go to Azerbaijan,you can ask consul in Stepanakert to issue Nagorno-Karabakh visa on a separate sheet.
If you have any doubts or questions, let me know in the comments below!