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Air

Baku’s Heydar Əliyev International Airport is the busiest in the South Caucasus, with flights to/from plenty of European, Russian and Central Asian cities, plus Dubai, New York, Qatar, Tehran, Trabzon and Tbilisi. AZAL offers domestic flights to Gəncə (AZN31; daily), Naxçivan (AZN70; four times daily) and Qəbələ (AZN35; Friday and Sunday).

Boat

The Caspian Shipping Company operates services to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, and Aktau, Kazakhstan. While passengers are accepted and each boat has a few cabins, be very aware that these are cargo ships without luxury nor any set timetable. They could run several times weekly, or not at all. And journey times could extend to several days if there's a queue at the arrival dock. For Aktau, flying on SCAT or AZAL is often cheaper overall. Even with a bicycle.

Buying the ferry tickets is a dark art. Start by phoning every morning and again around 3pm until a sailing is confirmed. Get your name on the passenger list for a scheduled boat then, at an arranged time, seek out the far-from-obvious ticket office to pay. It's accessed through guarded gates at the western end of Ağ Șəhər Bulvar. State your business and staff should let you walk the 300m to the office. Vika speaks English and talking to her is your key for success. Using an agency is likely to be an expensive waste of money and time. Most Turkmenbashi-bound ferries currently leave from behind the office. However, most of those bound for Aktau, Kazakhstan, depart from New Baku International Seaport near Ələt, a massive 75km south of Baku.

Bus & Marshrutka

Apart from minibuses to Biləsuvar (which start from the Baku roundabout where Bus 65 goes under the Bakixanov overpass), most intercity services start from the main bus station. Big and confusing, it is part shopping mall. Departures are from the 3rd floor but ticket booths (kassa) plus various private offices for Iranian and Turkish bus companies are hidden on the 1st floor.

For international routes, prepurchase around two days ahead notably for the following destinations:

İstanbul (US$60 to US$70, 32 to 40 hours, several daily at around noon)

Tehran (AZN40, around 16 hours, 9am)

Tabriz (AZN25, around 11 hours, 9am)

For Tabriz you could alternatively take one of five daily Naxçivan-bound buses (AZN16, 14 hours, kassa 1) and change to a cheap shared taxi at Iranian Julfa.

Overnight routes to Georgia (Marneuli, Lagodekhi or Tbilisi) are available from kassa 11 at shorter notice.

Domestically, don't worry prebooking for shorter routes (under five hours). Longer-route tickets might be worth buying an hour ahead. Online bookings are theoretically possible up to 10 days ahead via www.bbak.az but only in Azerbaijani.

Approximately hourly services run to:

Gəncə (AZN9, seven hours)

İsmayıllı (AZN4, four hours)

Lənkəran (AZN5, five hours)

Qırmızı Körpü (Georgian border; AZN10, 10 hours)

Quba (AZN4, 2½ hours) and Qusar (AZN4, three hours) for Shahdag

Şəki (AZN7, 6½ hours; mostly via Ağdaş)

Zaqatala (AZN8, eight hours)

Departure gates are flagged on electronic boards and via www.Navigator.az, but accuracy is approximate.

If the bus to your destination is full, still double-check with the driver or ask at kassa 7, which deals separately with timetabled minibuses. If all these are full too, there may still be an untimetabled marshrutka (minibus) from one of the uncovered bays opposite the main departure platforms. These services are essentially the only options for some closer or minor destinations and are especially useful for Şəki as untimetabled minibuses take the prettier route via Qәbәlә, unlike timetabled services.

The main bus station is nearly 10km north of central Baku. From 2016 the nearby glass-pyramid-shaped Avtovağzal metro station should become operational. Meanwhile by bus, the most painless approach is to take bus 37, which runs direct from Azneft via Hyatt/Statistika. From the city-centre area it's easier to use the very frequent route 65 from bus stops Azneft, İçəri Şəhər, MUM or Beş Mәrtәbә but you'll need to change at 20 Yanvar metro station or Şamaxinka, switching to bus 16, 37 or 96. Those three city buses currently terminate at a parking area within the bus station compound, accessible through a hidden footbridge from the 2nd floor of the bus-station mall. However, a new city bus stand is under construction in what will eventually be the Avtovağzal metro station forecourt.

Train

All overnight trains give you a sleeping berth. Bed sheets are included in the modest fare. You’ll need your passport both to buy a ticket and to board the train.

At the time of research the main train station is undergoing a major redevelopment.

Trains Departing Baku

Astara

Via

Lənkəran

Departs

11pm

Arrives

8.55am

Fare (AZN)

8 kupe

Balakən

Via

Şəki

Departs

9.30pm

Arrives

10.15am

Fare (AZN)

10 kupe

Gəncə

Via

‘express’

Departs

9am alternate days

Arrives

3pm

Fare (AZN)

6 seat**

Kharkov (Ukraine)

Via

Xaçmaz

Departs

1.33am Tue/Sat

Arrives

4.30am Thu/Mon

Fare (AZN)

124* kupe

Moscow Kurskaya

Via

Xaçmaz

Departs

1.33am Thu

Arrives

4.15am Sat

Fare (AZN)

148* kupe

Qazax

Via

Gəncə

Departs

10.40pm

Arrives

11.50am

Fare (AZN)

10 kupe

Tbilisi

Via

Gəncə

Departs

8.30pm

Arrives

12.15pm

Fare (AZN)

20/30 platskart/kupe

*exact fares vary by date **day train, no sleeper berths

Car & Taxi

Shared taxis to Quba, Şamaxı (per seat/car AZN6/24) and Qәbәlә (AZN12/50) leave from Şamaxinka, the junction-terminus of frequent bus route 65.

Driving within Baku is bamboozling but renting your own vehicle makes sense for exploring the hinterland.