Customs Regulations

Export restrictions include the following:

Artworks & artefacts Export can prove awkward, as you’ll often need written permission from the Ministry of Culture.

Carpets Exporting new carpets bigger than 2 sq metres requires a certificate from the Baku Carpet Museum (AZN46/26 issued in one day/week). Baku carpet shops can usually organise this for you. Antique carpets may not be taken out of Azerbaijan at all.

Caviar Limit of 125g per person.

Importing vehicles is complex and expensive.

Visas

Most nationalities require a visa. Getting one usually requires a letter of invitation and usually a week or three's preparation. Applying in Georgia proved the most painless approach during 2015. Visas on arrival are available for Turkish and Israeli citizens.

Visa Application Process

Visas are required for most visitors and obtaining one can be a headache, except for Turks and Israelis who can get a visa on arrival at Baku’s Heydar Əliyev International Airport. Fees vary by nationality based on what your country charges an Azerbaijani applicant (free for Japanese, US$35 to US$60 for most EU nationals, US$118 for Brits, US$160 for US citizens). But on top of that,almost all visa applications require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) from an agency like Baku Travel Services (www.azerbaijan24.com) or from a contact or business in Baku. Occasionally, however, certain consulates or embassies will grant visas without invitation – the best bet being in Georgia. Things change fast but currently Tbilisi accepts a Booking.com hotel reservation in lieu of an invitation while some travellers have received visas without any paperwok in Batumi.

Some consulates further demand that an LOI be approved by the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, adding considerably to the cost and annoyance of procuring one. If you want a multi-entry visa, such approval is always required. Certain consulates only accept applications from residents of that country (or delegated others).

The option of an e-visa also exists. This has the huge advantage of letting you apply for a visa without visiting an embassy, but it still often takes at least two weeks to come through and you will still need the help of a travel agency to whom a fee will be due. It's often cheaper to book a couple of nights' basic accommodation than to pay an agency for visa service only. Baku Palace Hostel offers an e-visa support for backpackers who book with them. Polish travellers report painless e-visa success in a week using www.aina.pl.

Be aware that the visa situation remains highly unpredictable and recent public pronouncements from the president suggest that easier visa rules are being considered to encourage more visitors. Your best bet for up-to-date information is often through lonelyplanet.com/thorntree or http://caravanistan.com/visa/azerbaijan/. The latter has a well-collated collection of traveller reports reflecting the viability of various consulates.

Note: if you have an Iranian visa, it is usually possible to get a five-day single/10-day double transit visa for Azerbaijan in Tbilisi for $20/40 regardless of nationality.

Registration

If you plan to stay more than 10 days, police registration (müveqqəti qeydiyat) is a legal requirement. This will be done for you at most hotels but you may need to insist. Otherwise you can register in a regional Migration Office or online. For the latter you’ll need to download, print and fill out the form from website www.migration.gov.az > Useful References > Required Documents – choosing the bottom option. Scan the signed form along with copies of your passport, visa and entry stamp plus the front and back of your host's ID card. Email all of this to the given address. Staying in a hotel for at least a night might prove easier! Not registering carries a penalty of AZN300 to AZN400 charged as you exit the country.

One original registration currently suffices for a whole stay.

Visas for Onward Travel

Rules change frequently so the following information is a transitory snapshot. Visa fees are often paid into a local bank. You then need to return with the pay-in slip, so don’t apply late in the day.

Iran Always hit-and-miss but easier lately for many Westerners who can get visas on arrival at six airports. That is not (yet?) true for UK, US and Canadian citizens who need to book a tour and can't travel unaccompanied. Land entry requires a visa in advance. Applying in Baku you must apply at a separate consulate that's miles from the embassy. You’ll usually do better applying in your country of residence, if necessary with an invitation organised through a reputable agency such as www.persianvoyages.com.

Kazakhstan Many nationals are now exempt from visas for 15-day Kazakh tourist visits. If your nationality requires a visa or you want a longer stay, a one-month tourist visa is relatively painless (no LOI) and takes a couple of days. Pay the fee into an IBA bank branch, eg at the nearby Hyatt complex.

Tajikistan Forty-five day tourist visas painlessly processed in four days. You keep the passport.

Turkey Most Westerners now require e-visas, which are issued almost instantly online for US$20.40.

Turkmenistan Applying in Baku is a nightmare. Transit visas are typically not issued. Even when you have all necessary paperwork for a full tourist visa, the embassy's very limited opening times means a scrum to get in and many travellers have been flatly refused. However, with a prebooked tour through a reputable Turkmen tour agency you can get visa pre-approval LOI (allow two weeks) and collect the tourist visa on arrival in Turkmenbashi once you get off the ferry and are met by the agent. At least for now you can board the Caspian Ferry in Baku without a Turkmen visa as long as you have such a LOI.

Uzbekistan Friendly and helpful if a little hard to find. LOI requirement depends on nationality. Allow one week, but graciously you don't have to leave your passport while you're waiting.