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Driving through Azerbaijan

Read / lees in : nlNederlands

Hayder Aliyev Centre / Baku / Azerbaijan
The Bakucracy isn’t so bad

A couple of days before we’d cross the border with Azerbaijan from Iran I decided to do some research on the rules for travellers driving through Azerbaijan. For example I wanted to know if I would need my Carnet de Passage, if insurance was mandatory, what regulations they have regarding (international) driver’s licenses, that kind of trivial stuff. Apart from the many reports on the apparent chaos on the road where nobody will get out of without substantial damage, I read far more troubling reports! Sites with usually reliable travel info like Caravanistan and Wikitravel reported that there are two options for self drive travellers (including those on motorbikes). Neither very appealing. According to them you could choose between a more or less free 72 hour transit visa for your car, where it is pointed out that this is the only available option if your personal visa is valid for less than 30 days. The second option would be to pay a deposit of thousands of dollars, depending on the value/age of your car. This would be especially true for cars that don’t comply with the Euro 4  emission standards. Basically all cars produced before 2007, like my old clunker. The deposit should then be returned to you upon leaving the country. But according to the same sites and fora the police, customs, really everybody in a uniform are so corrupt that you can safely assume you will never see that money again.

How it really is

M5 near Zaqata / Azerbaijan
The ‘crazy’ traffic in Azerbaijan

We where travelling on rather expensive (100$ a piece) visas that we obtained from Stantours, these where valid for 21 days in Azerbaijan. Longer was not possible they told us. Consequently our only option would be the 72 hours transit visa for my car, which in turn meant we could have saved some money by getting a cheaper transit visa for ourselves as well. A bit troubled by all this information we headed to the border as early as possible in order to make the most of the 72 hours and see as much as possible of Baku the country. Pretty soon we discovered that all of this information was incorrect. Apparently they had just introduced new rules and a new computer system. Not only where we allowed to stay in Azerbaijan with my car as long as our visas permitted, we also didn’t have to pay any deposit. After checking all of my car documents and driver’s license (International Driver’s License Model 1949) all relevant data was registered in said computer system and linked to my passport. For this I had to pay a small fee of around 20 American dollars. Also I had to pay them a comparable amount of money for the mandatory third party insurance after which they wished us a great time driving through Azerbaijan.

Other stuff

Lamborghini dealership / Baku / Azerbaijan
Next time I’ll be driving through Azerbaijan in this car.

We did have to promise them not to travel to Armenia though, because ‘only bad people there’. Next all of our luggage was taken out of my car and put through an airport type scanner, after which we had to stuff everything back in the car ourselves. The workers that unloaded our things did ask me to be compensated for their work, but that got them a reprimand from their boss. So the alleged corruption didn’t seem that widespread either. Anyway we haven’t been pulled over by police or hassled otherwise by the authorities during our stay. Of course that could als be because they all read this story. Unfortunately, while scanning our luggage, they did discover my drone. So they put a lead seal on it just like they did in Turkmenistan. That fact too was linked to my passport in their computer system so the customs officers at the other border, after driving through Azerbaijan, would check the lead seal. But just like in Turkmenistan they never did.

Leaving the country

I still wasn’t completely at ease. Because you only really find out if you have all your paperwork in order when you’re being pulled over and checked or when you try to leave the country with your car. Because the former didn’t happen and I didn’t receive any (temporary) import documents I drove to the Lagodekhi border crossing with Georgia a bit nervous. After all it wouldn’t have been the first time they’ve sent me off without or with the wrong documents. Fortunately everything proved to be in order, when they scanned my passport the system signalled that I had entered Azerbaijan with my car and after checking it was the same car we where on our way again within fifteen minutes. The Georgians a bit further down the road didn’t give me any documents either, nor demanded an insurance or any fees. Let’s see how that works out.