I may have mentioned this when I talked about Paris, but my passport expires in November and a lot of places in the world want you to have 6 months of validity from the day you enter otherwise you risk not being allowed in. I decided that I would try and get as much travel in before May as that is when I would send my passport off and it was up to 12 weeks to be processed and sent back.
As it turns out, I decided to do same-day service so I don’t have to worry about that as I know myself well enough. I pick it up on the 20th. Yay me.
Anyway, I digress. When I was looking for places, I was wanting to go somewhere different and somewhere a bit further afield from mainland Europe. I had a quick look at prices for Georgia and Armenia and they were cheaper in April and I wanted to go somewhere in February. I turned to trusty Google Flights to see where was cheap in that area for February and Baku popped up. I shopped around and got the return fare for around £216. The trip was no checked baggage and free seat selection on checking in. The route was Heathrow to Warsaw Chopin to Baku and back. I didn’t mind the layover. The layover was enough time to get something to eat and drink before boarding for Baku.
The flight out was around 18:10 (I don’t usually fly at this time so it was nice to be able to get cheap train tickets too). It was an overnight flight from Warsaw to Baku as they are 3 hours ahead of Warsaw so we would get in first thing in the morning. We landed around 06:00 and I went to the border. They checked my passport and checked my covid status and checked my visa. The border guard looked at my passport photo and then looked at me and asked me if I had lost weight and gave me a weird smile.
All the while this was going on, I jumped on the wifi as I was expecting a pick up from the hostel. I got a message saying the car had broken and I would need to find my own way there. I asked for public transport directions and they kept saying to use a taxi – maybe I wasn’t being clear on what I needed. I ended up finding the airport information and they told me there was a bus that went to the 28 May metro station and it ran every hour. The fun part is that I had just missed the 07:00 bus. I had to get cash to get a public transport card as this was the only method of paying. I got cash and went outside of the airport to the ticket machine. It only accepted cash but didn’t give change and there was no way I was putting 100 Manat on the card (it’s £50 and there was nowhere I would even use 10% of that whilst I was here).
I went back inside the airport (I had to go through security to get in. I was EXTREMELY frustrated at this point). I went to McDonald’s to get a drink just so I could get some change. I was finally able to get my public transport card and then I set about waiting for the bus. I sat outside and got some weird looks because it was cold and I was in shorts. The coach pulled up and the driver asked me if I was cold. I told him I was used to the weather they were having (growing up in Gateshead right near the North Sea will do that). We had about 20 minutes to wait for the coach to leave and the driver wandered off somewhere. When he was away, some older guy pulled open the emergency handle and sat on the bus. The driver came back and couldn’t open the door and I mentioned there was a guy on the bus. He went in through the middle door and he started shouting at him and then pointing at me. Oops.
We finally got going and I set about just sitting and relaxing until we got to the end stop. I found the metro and went to go in but was told I had to go to a different entrance as my bags needed to be checked. All of the metro stations have airport-style security. This wasn’t too weird for me as I had to do this when I was in Israel too.
As I was going down the escalators, the metro was reminiscent of when I was in Kyiv. It seems a lot of the old Soviet states have the same kind of infrastructure. It was a familiar sight. I asked one of the train guards on the platform for the right metro and she and the police officer helped me find the right train to take to get to Sahil.
I got to the hostel and checked in and it was time to rest for a little bit.
I got to the hostel and checked in. One of my more genius ideas was to book the bed for the previous night too. I knew I was getting in early and I didn’t wasn’t to sit in reception until check-in time.
I got in and just had a lie down for a little bit before having a shower and putting on some fresh clothes. It was nice to feel somewhat awake and fresh again.
I went to reception and asked them where I could buy a sim card and also where there was a supermarket. They pointed me in the right direction and I then headed out to go find a sim card. I went to where it said it was on the map and I couldn’t find it. I asked in a couple of shops and they didn’t know either. In the last shop, I found some Miranda Apple drinks and bought a bottle as I was thirsty.
I had a walk along the main street and found one shop but it was closed. I carried on and found another one and was able to get a sim card here. I had to give them my passport and home address before they could issue me one. They said it was a network requirement. I did it and got my sim and I was finally back in the land of the living!
I went out and found a souvenir shop and got my magnets and flag. They didn’t have any lanyards though. I then left and carried on walking around the area. This part of the city was a little run-down but it was all part of the charm.
I was getting hungry at this point so headed to where I had seen a McDonald’s while looking for a sim card. I went in and they must have known I wasn’t from the country as they started speaking to me in English and asked me if I needed help using the terminals. They must have been new to the stores here. I had some food and felt full enough to carry on walking around.
The square I was in is called Fountain Square. They have a few different fountains here. They weren’t turned on but I can imagine it’s quite cool when it’s warmer and they are on.
I headed back to the hostel and dropped some stuff off and had a little bit of a rest. I was tired still. I rested for about half an hour and then headed to the promenade for a walk around. I headed to an underpass as this part of the road doesn’t have pedestrian crossings. The underpasses here are ornate too. It was cool to see. I proceeded to walk down to the water’s edge to have a look around. The views were pretty amazing. I could see up to the Flame Towers and along to The Crescent building. Baku has some pretty cool architecture.
Along the promenade, they have gardens and places you can sit and chill too. There were also a lot of coffee stands. It seems they love coffee here. As I was walking along the promenade, I thought I saw someone fishing so I headed toward them. It turns out it was a statue. I blame my tiredness!
One of the things to note here is that there isn’t a beach. Baku is on the Caspian Sea, but it’s just a giant lake. It’s still pretty cool though. I still can’t get over how good the views are.
I went back to the hostel to powder my nose and have a rest. I relaxed for about an hour or so and then headed back out and it was dark at this point. It was nice to see the city in the dark.
I went back to the promenade and looked around and the views of the Flame Towers were pretty cool. They have them animated at night and they rotate between red flames, people waving the Azerbaijani flag, and then Azerbaijani colours. You can see it in the videos below.
Once I was done here I headed back so I could have an early night as I had a walking tour in the morning at 10:00 and I wanted to get some good sleep.
Total steps: 17,915
Total miles: 8.15
Below are some pics from today
I was toying with the idea of getting the last bus to the airport or getting a Bolt there. The bus would have cost about 85p and would get me there with about 4.5 hours until the flight. The Bolt was about £4.50 and I could get there at the time I needed. I opted for the Bolt because it meant I could chill at the hostel and have a couple of hours of sleep before I needed to leave.
It came time to get the Bolt to the airport and it was a nice comfortable, easy ride there. As it was in the early hours, the airport was lit up like a beacon and you could see it from afar and it dominated the skyline. It is a nice airport though. It looks very modern and you can see signs everywhere that say it’s a five-star airport. You have to go through security to even just get into the airport. I guess it’s a good way of keeping it secure.
As I had some time to kill before I needed to head through security and across the border I decided to get some food and something to drink. I just decided on McDonald’s as it was easy and fairly cheap for an airport.
I went to security and I was told that the airport doesn’t accept mobile boarding passes and I had to go back to the check-in desks and get a paper boarding pass. The airport is very modern architecturally, but very behind the times when it comes to things like using mobile boarding passes. I went back down to the desks to get my boarding pass and I tried to get them to check my case in but they didn’t. It turns out it was probably good that they didn’t (keep reading dear follower).
I went back to security and went through and then to the border. I had to show my visa again as if you don’t use the same one, you could get fined or detained and not allowed to leave until you get another visa to exit the country.
Once I was across the border, I headed to get something to drink from the water fountains. As soon as you started walking towards the taps, the stench of stale cigarette smoke was everywhere. It was awful. It smelled so bad. There was no airflow to dissipate it either. The water was also warm too. It’s not a good impression of the airport.
I sat at the gate waiting for the gate to open so we could board. The information was shown at the gate and there were gate agents there but no information was given. They just kept telling people to sit and wait. The time was getting closer to when we needed to leave. The leaving time arrived and still no further forward on getting boarded. I was getting anxious as I had a small layover window in Warsaw to get back to Heathrow. I had 80 minutes to get from the arrival gate to the departure gate there. It was absolutely enough time – if we left on time.
We finally got to board about 15 minutes after we were supposed to leave. My anxiety was still heightened – as much as I love Poland and Warsaw, I just wanted to get home. We boarded and I asked one of the flight attendants if they knew whether I would have enough time to make the connection. I got chatting with her about Poland and travelling and it was cool to hear her stories too.
We were boarded and we still didn’t push back to taxi to the runway. My anxiety wasn’t impressed at all. We ended up taking off 70 minutes later than we should have and I was certain that I wouldn’t make the connection and I would be stuck in Warsaw for goodness knows how long.
We landed and I had 20 minutes to deplane, go through security, get to the boarding gate, and then board. I was pushing past people trying to get off the plane and pushing past people on the ramp. I got to security and they just took their time. I was trying to tell them I had a connection to make. They then swabbed my hands and wouldn’t let me pick up my stuff until my hands were all clear. I rushed to the gate. The flight was on final call and I was one of the last ones on. I made it with a few minutes to spare. Phew. I would make it home and it was good that I didn’t have my bag checked in because who knows if that would have made it!
Before I headed out to Baku, I told K if I had enough time I would go to Chinatown and get some pork buns for us. They are delicious. Get some! I messaged him in London and told him I was still in Baku and that I wasn’t sure if I would get home the same day. I then messaged and told him I was kidding and that I was stuck in the queue for the border at Heathrow – the truth is, I was sitting at King’s Cross waiting for the train.
I went to Chinatown and got our pork buns. What a rigmarole that was. I had my backpack, carry-on bag, and tote bag and had to lug that on the tube at Heathrow and then off at Leicester Square and along the street to the shop. I bought the pork buns and that gave me 2 extra bags. Then the same journey in reverse to King’s Cross. I got to King’s Cross and was happy to finally sit down and repack the bags so I could condense them.
I met K for coffee after his work and gave him the pork buns. I told him I was already at the station when I told him I was still waiting to cross the border. Ha.
All in all, Baku was really good and not what I was expecting. I would say if you are in that area that you should go – even just for a couple of days.
Total steps: 93,494
Total miles: 43.01
You can view all of my Baku pics here