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Moving to Azerbaijan

Lying on the Caspian Sea ensconced between the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Expats moving to Azerbaijan will soon see that the country's rich cultural heritage and economic development have been shaped by its geography, natural resources and location, where East meets West.

Part of the Silk Road network, international trade has been significant throughout Azerbaijan’s history. The country is also rich in oil and gas reserves, which have continued to attract foreign investment and expats working in the energy sector. Thanks to this, the economy has diversified, with work opportunities ranging from teaching and construction to humanitarian aid. Securing long-term employment may not be easy, but the job market is much broader than it was during its Soviet times.

A former Soviet state, Azerbaijan has developed significantly since its independence in 1991. Its capital, Baku, stands as a testament to this, boasting a modern cityscape, efficient metro system and extensive public transport network, luxury hotel accommodation and unique architectural designs. Interesting buildings such as the Heydar Aliyev Centre and the three Flame Towers, linked to the country's adopted motto as the Land of Fire, contrast those in the Old City. Icherisheher, the historical centre of Baku, will surely impress new arrivals as they integrate into Azeri life, with sites including the Palace of The Shirvanshahs and the 12th Century Maiden Tower.

Naturally, there are both pros and cons to living in Azerbaijan. As beautiful as it is, housing standards are variable and living expenses are high for many of the country’s residents. Fortunately, expats who are well compensated with a lucrative employment package will find the cost of living reasonably affordable, with a host of options for eating out and trying local cuisine on a budget.

Nevertheless, expats should plan for their healthcare in Azerbaijan while families moving with children should consider various education options. While Baku offers decent medical care, healthcare facilities are limited outside the capital. We strongly recommend that expats have comprehensive medical insurance – it is worth negotiating for employers to cover this expense.

Additionally, expats relocating to Azerbaijan with their children may find it difficult to select the most suitable school. Russian is spoken across the country along with ethnic minority languages, but Azerbaijani is the official language and main language of instruction in schools. Given the language barriers, expats don’t usually send their children to public schools, rather choosing to enrol them in an international school, which are all concentrated in Baku, or send them to a boarding school abroad.

When moving to Azerbaijan, expats could face a range of hurdles, from culture shock to safety concerns. However, while the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in southwestern Azerbaijan is very real, most expats will be based in or around Baku, far from this region. Crime rates are relatively low in Baku, and locals are happy to help expats integrate into their new lives.

Moving to Azerbaijan may not be smooth sailing for every new arrival, but by understanding cultural and political sensitivities, expats and their families may be able to embrace life in this country with an open mind.


Fast facts

Population: Around 10.1 million

Capital city: Baku

Neighbouring countries: Azerbaijan is bordered by Russia and Georgia to the north, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.

Geography: Bordering the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan straddles Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The Greater Caucasus mountain range is in the north and the country's central region is characterised by extensive flatlands. Nearly half of all the world's mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan.

Political system: Unitary semi-presidential republic

Major religion: Islam. Azerbaijan is largely secular and religion is generally viewed as a private matter.

Main languages: Azerbaijani (also referred to as Azeri), with some Russian and Armenian spoken in some of the border regions.

Money: The Manat (AZN) is divided into 100 qəpik or qapik. ATMs and card facilities are readily available in all major urban centres, but rural areas often rely on cash.

Time: GMT+4

Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz.  European-style plugs with two round pins are used (types C and F)

Internet domain: .az

International dialling code: 994

Emergency contacts: 102 (police); 103 (ambulance)

Transport and driving: Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road. Despite Baku's modern metro system, public transport can be unreliable and doesn't cover all areas, and many expats prefer to use their own private vehicle.

Weather in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has an extremely diverse climate, with nine climatic zones present in the country. The three main climatic zones can be divided into the area north of the mountainous regions, the area south of the mountainous regions and the coast of the Caspian Sea.

There are substantial temperature variations between the coastal and mountainous regions, where it snows in the winter. Generally, Azerbaijan experiences hot summers and cold winters. Summers in the capital of Baku, which lies at the coast, are hot and humid and winters are cool and wet. 

Lightweight clothing is sufficient for summer, but it’s a good idea to always have a sweater for the cooler evenings. The winter months require more heavyweight clothing and an umbrella.

 

Embassy contacts for Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani embassies

  • Azerbaijani Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 337 35 00

  • Azerbaijani Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7938 3412 

  • Azerbaijani Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 228 0497

  • Azerbaijani Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6290 5600

  • Azerbaijani Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +2712 346 1018


Embassies in Azerbaijan

  • US Embassy in Azerbaijan: +994 12 488 3300

  • British Embassy in Azerbaijan: +994 12 437 7878

  • Irish Embassy in Turkey (also accredited to Azerbaijan): +90 312 459 1000

  • Canadian Embassy in Turkey (also accredited to Azerbaijan): +90 312 409 2700

  • New Zealand Embassy in Turkey (also accredited to Azerbaijan): +90 212 244 0272

  • Australian Embassy in Turkey (also accredited to Azerbaijan): +90 312 459 9500

  • South African Embassy in Turkey: +90 312 405 6861

Public Holidays in Azerbaijan

 

2021

2022

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

Martyrs' Day

20 January

20 January

Women's Day

8 March

8 March

Novruz

20–24 March

20–25 March

Victory Day

9 May

9 May

Ramazan Bayrami (Eid al-Fitr)

13–14 May

3–4 May

Republic Day

28 May

28 May

National Day of Salvation

15 June

15 June

Armed Forces Day

28 June

27 June

Gurban Bayrami (Eid al-Adha)

20–21 July

10–11 July

State Flag Day

9 November

9 November

World Azerbaijanis' Solidarity Day

31 December

31 December

*Islamic holidays are subject to change based on sightings of the moon.

Safety in Azerbaijan

Expats relocating to Azerbaijan may have safety concerns about conflict in the country, although they should note that most expats will move to Baku, which is far removed from any conflict. Tensions on the border with Armenia and the ongoing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region are cause for concern; these areas should be avoided, and expats should also avoid discussing the matter.

Fortunately, Baku experiences low crime rates. Sensible precautions are recommended when staying in Azerbaijan, and expats should be aware of a few other security issues and stay up to date with news and regulations.


Crime in Azerbaijan

Crime rates are relatively low in Azerbaijan, including its capital, Baku. However, petty criminals are known to operate in and around popular tourist spots and crowded public locations. Women have also been subject to unwanted male attention and should be cautious when travelling alone, especially at night.

Bank card fraud is another issue and expats should be careful when withdrawing cash from ATMs or using credit cards. We advise expats to contact their bank to let them know about any international transactions and to report any concerns as soon as possible.

Expats should also follow any regulations imposed by the government. Martial law has been introduced in many Azerbaijani areas, including Baku, with regulations such as curfews and travel restrictions.


Human rights issues in Azerbaijan

Numerous international organisations have expressed their concerns over the Azerbaijani government’s human rights record, particularly when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. There have been reports of journalists and human rights lawyers being arrested or harassed for criticising the government, as well as reports of intimidation against the LGBTQ+ community. Although homosexuality is not illegal in Azerbaijan, the LGBTQ+ community is not specifically protected by law; discrimination is an issue and public displays of affection are not socially acceptable, particularly outside of Baku.

Additionally, it is an offence to criticise the government and the ruling Aliyev family, and it’s best for expats to avoid discussing politics altogether.


Corruption in Azerbaijan

Corruption is an unfortunate reality in Azerbaijan and has affected virtually all aspects of life in the country. Expats in Azerbaijan, particularly those working and doing business there, should be wary of any potentially corrupt dealings.


Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan

Due to ongoing insecurity in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southwest of the country, many governments, including the UK and US, advise their citizens against all travel to the region. Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh has been ongoing since the collapse of the Soviet Union when the predominantly Armenian population in the region stated their intention to secede from Azerbaijan.

War broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenians backed by neighbouring Armenia. A ceasefire was signed in 1994, but numerous violations have taken place in the region, with violence occasionally flaring up. Despite a subsequent ceasefire in 2020, tensions remain high. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh remains a sensitive topic in Azerbaijan and it's best for expats not to discuss the issue.


Road safety

Road safety is an issue in Azerbaijan. Drivers are known to be reckless, signs and traffic rules are often ignored, and traffic accidents are common. Expats residing in Baku's city centre can easily get around using the metro, but those who choose to drive should do so defensively and be aware of the risks.

Additionally, extra precautions are advised when snowfall is forecasted in winter. This includes carrying a blanket, shovel, old carpet and torch in case the vehicle gets stuck in the snow.

Working in Azerbaijan

With Azerbaijan being part of the extensive Silk Road trade routes connecting Asia and the Arabian Peninsula to Europe and Africa, commerce and economic relations have played a major role in the country's history and culture. Although Azerbaijan is not as popular an expat destination in relation to elsewhere in Europe, the county's rich oil and gas reserves have welcomed foreign investment.

Thanks to this natural resource wealth, Azerbaijan has developed and diversified and seen an influx of foreigners seeking opportunities to work. The capital, Baku, is the centre of commerce and where most expats working in Azerbaijan are based.

All foreigners working in Azerbaijan are required to have a valid work permit, which is usually arranged through an employer.


Job market in Azerbaijan

Given the country’s wealth of natural resources, expats working in Azerbaijan have traditionally been employed in the oil, gas and energy industry. Agriculture is another key economic sector and the country boasts a significant wine-making industry.

Additionally, Azerbaijan’s government has been on a positive drive to diversify the economy beyond this. Communications and information technology are growing in importance, while tourism and education have also presented opportunities for foreigners seeking employment. International schools not only appeal to families who move to Azerbaijan with kids, but also to teachers who have experience teaching international curricula and wanderlust to live abroad.

Infrastructure development projects and increased demand for housing have seen more and more opportunities in the construction industry. Baku, the country’s capital city, continues to impress with contemporary architecture and modern public transport systems thanks to these job opportunities.


Finding a job in Azerbaijan

Many expats move for a short-term project through an intra-company transfer. But expats who arrive in the country without a job offer in hand normally start their search online. There are numerous job portals where companies advertise in both English and Azerbaijani. It’s also worth checking out the websites of companies themselves to find out about job openings.

Alternatively, prospective expats often go through recruitment companies, such as those that specialise in the oil and gas sector, while large corporate enterprises may have direct steady recruitment drives for projects in Azerbaijan.

Communication will likely be the biggest challenge facing expats in Azerbaijan. Language barriers are a common element of culture shock for an expat in the workplace. Although some Azerbaijanis may understand and speak English, particularly in the oil and gas sector, Azeri and Russian are two of the most common business languages. It's well worth it for expats to learn at least a few key phrases in one or both of these languages.


Work culture in Azerbaijan

The work culture in Azerbaijan values communication and building relationships. Azerbaijani people are known for their friendliness. This extends to business settings where building rapport and developing mutual trust is important when doing business and starting meetings.

Islam is the predominant religion in Azerbaijan, however, the society is largely secular, and it follows that the workplace is too. Business dress is smart, similar to Western nations, and expats are also advised to dress according to the weather, which can get extreme in both winter and summer.

Doing Business in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has experienced impressive economic growth since it gained independence, and foreign investment has been encouraged and welcomed. So, expats doing business in Azerbaijan will find themselves in a friendly and hospitable business environment. 

The economy is centred on the country’s oil and gas industry and it is within this sector that most foreigners find work in Azerbaijan. However, as the economy has expanded, business opportunities have diversified. The capital, Baku, is the centre of business in Azerbaijan. It’s viewed as the most Western of Azerbaijan’s cities, and where most expats working in Azerbaijan are based.

Azerbaijan has seen much development of its infrastructure and experienced improved services in recent years. Unfortunately, the gap between rich and poor has widened and wealth is increasingly held in the hands of a small elite, while corruption also continues to plague the country and can affect business dealings.

Despite its challenges, Azerbaijan is viewed as a relatively easy destination in which to do business and has fared well in international business surveys. The country achieved a rank of 34 out of 190 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. Azerbaijan ranked highly in terms of getting credit, and expats will find that starting a business is easy. That said, the economy falls short in protecting minority investors (ranked 105th) and trading across borders (83rd).


Fast facts

Business hours

Business hours are usually Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm or 10am to 6pm. Some government offices are open on Saturdays. Azeris have an alternate view of punctuality and it’s not unusual to start meetings late.

Business language

Azerbaijani (Azeri) is the official language of business in Azerbaijan. Russian is also widely spoken. Although English is increasingly being used in business, it is not common and it’s best to hire an interpreter when doing business in Azerbaijan.

Greeting

It is customary for men to greet each other with a handshake. Businesswomen may also greet with a handshake, but it’s best to wait for a woman to extend her hand first.

Dress

Both men and women usually dress in Western-style clothing. Business attire is formal and conservative.

Gifts

Gifts generally won’t be opened immediately. It's also advised to offer a gift or food to business partners and colleagues at least three times, or, when offered a gift, to only accept after three offerings.

Gender equality

Although Azerbaijan practises gender equality, there are still few women in high-level corporate positions. The country remains quite traditional in terms of gender roles.

Business cards

Presenting a business card with details in Azeri on one side and a translation in English or Russian on the other side can be helpful.


Business culture in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a hierarchical society and status is important. This is carried through into business dealings. Decision making can be a time-consuming affair, so expats doing business in Azerbaijan should learn patience. 

Relationships

Building relationships is essential to doing business in Azerbaijan. Azeris will always do business with those they know well and trust. Networking is essential as many business deals are done through personal recommendations. It’s therefore important to first strike up a rapport with local business associates in order to build their trust.

Communication

Although English is becoming more common in business circles, the two main languages are Azeri and Russian, and expats seeking to do business in Azerbaijan would do well to try and learn at least a few key phrases in these languages. An interpreter may be necessary when conducting business meetings in Azerbaijan.

Meetings

It is customary to begin a meeting with casual conversation about work and family before getting to the formal side of things. Azeris are tough negotiators, so be prepared to bargain and haggle. But first, establishing a friendly relationship is paramount to doing business in Azerbaijan. Time is viewed differently in Azerbaijan, and it’s not unusual for business meetings to begin late.

Corruption

Although there has been a privatisation drive in recent years, many businesses are still state-owned, so expats are likely to deal with government officials at some point or another during their business dealings in Azerbaijan. Corruption remains an unfortunate reality of business in Azerbaijan, and expats should be wary of any corrupt dealings while conducting their business.


Dos and don’ts of business in Azerbaijan

  • Don’t discuss politics with local business associates; criticism of the leading regime should be avoided at all costs. The issue of Azerbaijan’s relationship with Albania and ongoing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region should also be avoided.

  • Do be punctual for meetings, even though local associates may not have the same attitude towards punctuality.

  • Do learn a few key phrases in either Azeri or Russian, as English is not widely spoken outside of the oil and gas sector, and an interpreter may be required when conducting business in Azerbaijan.

  • Do begin meetings with friendly talk about issues other than business such as family; this can go a long way to building a good relationship and trust before any business is dealt with.

  • Do understand that while most citizens are Muslim, religion is largely a private matter and Azerbaijan is a largely secular country. 

Cost of Living in Azerbaijan

Expats moving to Azerbaijan can enjoy a relatively low cost of living – particularly in terms of transport. Even Baku, the country's capital and business hub which draws in the most foreigners, is relatively affordable. In fact, Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living survey ranks Baku 172nd out of 209 cities.

However, the cost of living in Azerbaijan is high compared to neighbouring countries such as Georgia and Armenia. Of course, expenses will vary depending on the area where an expat lives as well as lifestyle preferences. Accommodation and other living expenses are much higher in Baku than in other cities and areas. 

Salaries tend to be relatively high. Given the conflict and tensions in the region, Azerbaijan is often considered a hardship destination and many expats are well compensated to make the move.


Cost of accommodation in Azerbaijan

Accommodation in Azerbaijan is likely to be an expat’s greatest expense if not included as part of a corporate relocation package. Expats can expect to pay more for a furnished flat or serviced apartment in the capital city compared to unfurnished accommodation of a lower standard.

Fortunately, many companies, particularly in the energy sector, will provide accommodation or an accommodation allowance (including for utilities) for their expat staff, so it’s important to confirm this prior to arriving in the country.


Cost of food and eating out in Azerbaijan

Imported food can easily cost a few times more than local produce. Expats who favour certain international brands may find the prices to be high. Thanks to Azerbaijan’s favourable climate, there is always local fresh produce available, so it’s unnecessary for expats to buy expensive imported foods.

Eating out in Baku will prove more expensive than in other cities, but expats can save by looking out for local cuisine.


Cost of transport in Azerbaijan

The cost of transport in Azerbaijan is very affordable thanks to the country’s low fuel prices. The petrol price in Azerbaijan is much lower than the global average and driving a car in Azerbaijan is cost effective. For expats with children, it’s often more practical to have a private vehicle for getting around. Some companies will provide their foreign staff with a car as well as a driver.

Expats in Azerbaijan for a short-term stay often find that getting around by public transport is easy and affordable. From buses to the Baku Metro, ticket costs are low, especially compared to major European countries.


Cost of education in Azerbaijan

Expats don’t usually send their children to public schools in Azerbaijan, choosing to rather enrol them at international schools. These schools offer top-quality educational facilities and well-experienced teachers, and allow expat children to continue their learning in a familiar language and curriculum. Fees at these schools, as with elsewhere in the world, can be prohibitively expensive. We advise expats with children to ensure that their relocation package caters for this.


Cost of living in Azerbaijan chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Baku in December 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

AZN 550

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

AZN 1,200

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

AZN 315

Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

AZN 400

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

AZN 2.25

Milk (1 litre)

AZN 1.75

Rice (1kg)

AZN 2.60

Loaf of white bread

AZN 0.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AZN 6

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AZN 5

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AZN 8

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AZN 0.75

Cappuccino

AZN 4

Bottle of local beer

AZN 2

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

AZN 50

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

AZN 0.05

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

AZN 30

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AZN 75

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AZN 0.70

Bus/train fare in the city centre

AZN 0.30

Petrol/Gasoline (per litre)

AZN 0.80

 

Culture Shock in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani culture is a blend of East and West, with influences predominantly from Middle Eastern, Russian and Turkish cultures. Most of the population are Azerbaijani, also known as Azeri, with minority groups including Russians, Turks, Kurds, Lezgians and Talysh. These cultures have all contributed to Azerbaijan’s rich history and its unique traditions, language and cuisine.

Few expats experience severe culture shock in Azerbaijan, but there are a few challenges that new arrivals may face.


Language barrier in Azerbaijan

The language barrier in Azerbaijan is likely to be one of the biggest obstacles expats will face. Azerbaijani (also known as Azeri) is the official language. It is a Turkic language and, as with the culture, closely related to Turkish. Russian and Turkish are also widely spoken. 

While English is increasingly used in business circles, particularly in the energy sector, the majority of the population can't speak or understand it. In general dealings with the local population, if expats are unable to speak one of the local languages, communication will likely be challenging. Azerbaijani can be a complex language to learn, but attempting at least a few key phrases will go a long way to interacting positively with the local population.

Expats can also navigate the language barrier with the help of a friend or colleague who speaks Azeri and, when house hunting, to hire a real-estate agent who has experience working with expats.


Food and drink in Azerbaijan

As with Azerbaijani culture, food in Azerbaijan is largely influenced by Turkish, Russian and Asian flavours. Meat and rice are popular and spices are commonly used to create rich and intense flavours. Azerbaijani cuisine is hearty and portions are generous. The country’s favourable climate also means that fresh produce is readily available throughout most of the year.

A popular dish in Azerbaijan is plov, a rice dish flavoured with saffron and enriched with meat or vegetable stuffing. Kebabs and shashlik (skewered meat) are also popular dishes.

Black tea flavoured with spices is a traditional drink offered as a welcome before a meal and usually served afterwards too. Although the majority of the population is Muslim, alcohol is widely available and readily consumed in Azerbaijan.


Meeting and greeting in Azerbaijan

Men typically greet each other with a handshake. Women will also greet each other with a handshake, or if they’re very familiar with each other, a kiss on the cheek. If greeting a woman, it’s best to wait for her to make initial contact. The usual greeting in Azerbaijan is 'salaam', meaning 'hello'.

While Azerbaijanis are generally friendly to newcomers, they are often misinterpreted as unfriendly as they seldom smile at strangers. Smiling is usually reserved for relatives and close friends.

When arriving at an Azeri’s home, it’s customary to remove one’s shoes. It’s also polite to bring a gift; though one should avoid gifting alcohol.


Religion in Azerbaijan

Although the majority of Azerbaijan’s population is classified as Muslim, very few Azeris would describe themselves as religious. Azerbaijan is a secular state and religion is viewed as a very private matter. The country observes freedom of religion and besides Muslims, there are Christian, Orthodox and Jewish minorities.

Nevertheless, it's best to be respectful about religion and around religious sites. This includes avoiding taking photos of mosques and churches, unless the photographer has explicitly asked permission.


Women in Azerbaijan

While the country ascribes to gender equality, Azerbaijan is still a traditional society with traditional gender roles. Family is at the centre of Azerbaijani society, with men viewed as the main breadwinners and women traditionally looking after the home and children. Nevertheless, women are not prevented from succeeding in any way, with some women achieving success in high-level positions within both the political and corporate arenas.

Both women and men living in Azerbaijan's capital city dress in Western-style clothing. Outside of Baku, it's generally more acceptable to dress conservatively.


Tips to overcome culture shock in Azerbaijan

  • Although Azeri is a difficult language to learn, expats should try learning at least a few key phrases to communicate with the local population.

  • Never insult the president, Ilham Aliyev, or the ruling Aliyev family as this is an offence. In fact, it’s best to avoid discussions about politics altogether. This includes discussing the sensitive issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan’s relations with Armenia.

  • It’s best to avoid discussing religion. Although most people are Muslim, religion is viewed as a very private matter.

  • Don’t take it personally if Azeris do not smile at first. It doesn’t mean they are not welcoming, it’s just not customary to smile at strangers. Apart from this, Azeris are known for their hospitality and, if an expat is in trouble, they will likely be happy to help.

Accommodation in Azerbaijan

While accommodation in Azerbaijan is plentiful, the standard of housing varies. Accommodation is also likely to be an expat’s biggest expense, so those relocating to Azerbaijan should ensure that their employment package is enough to cover this.

For many expats, the cost of living is affordable and rent in city centres is much lower than in major European city centres. Nevertheless, house hunters looking for luxury living can expect to pay a premium for top-quality accommodation. Large international hotel chains offer excellent facilities and services, and this may be a more suitable option for expats on short-term assignments.

Most expats who relocate to Azerbaijan find themselves staying in Baku, the commercial hub and capital city. As the city has grown, housing and building standards have also developed. Thanks to this, expats have access to better, more modern housing than what was previously available.


Types of accommodation in Azerbaijan

There are both long-term and short-term accommodation options available in Baku. Short-term options are mostly offered by hotels with designated suites that are rented out. Furnished and serviced apartments are also available and usually work out cheaper than hotels.

Accommodation in Baku is mostly in the form of apartments in high-rise buildings. Many new, modern apartment blocks have sprung up in the post-Soviet era, and these generally offer better facilities and are more expensive than older Soviet-style blocks. 

The closer one moves to the centre of Baku, the more expensive accommodation will be. Apartments close to the metro are also more pricey. Still, expats working in Azerbaijan who are compensated with a decent employment package can find city-centre living to be quite affordable.

Some expats living in Baku are accommodated in housing compounds associated with their company. These compounds usually offer large houses or villas with gardens. They are secure and have modern communal facilities such as entertainment areas, tennis courts and swimming pools.


Finding accommodation in Azerbaijan

Many expats moving to Azerbaijan on a corporate package have their accommodation arranged and provided for by their employer so it’s best to confirm this before arrival.

The classifieds of local newspapers and online platforms have property listings which will give house hunters a good idea of what is on the market. However, the most common method of finding a property to rent in Azerbaijan is to go through a rental agency.

A real-estate agency will likely secure an expat the best value for money while also helping the landlord and tenant overcome any language barriers. It’s a good idea to visit a potential rental property with an estate agent or trusted associate as most landlords are unlikely to speak or understand English.


Renting accommodation in Azerbaijan

Leases

Rental agreements are usually signed for a one-year period.

When renting a property in Azerbaijan, we recommend expats do so through a reputable agency.

Landlords in Baku have a reputation for being neglectful of their tenants and their properties, so expats are strongly advised to ensure that a proper rental contract is in place and that responsibilities of both parties are clearly defined.

Deposits

Expats will have to pay a security deposit, usually between one and three months' rent.

Utilities

Water, gas and electricity are not normally included in the rental cost and are for the tenant’s own account.

Healthcare in Azerbaijan

The government, with the assistance of The World Bank, has worked to improve Azerbaijan’s healthcare system in recent years. Projects have seen the construction of new medical facilities, the introduction of new equipment and the training of medical staff.

However, healthcare in Azerbaijan remains largely underdeveloped compared to most European countries. Most expats access quality private healthcare in Baku and, in serious cases, seek treatment abroad, mostly to Turkey or elsewhere in Europe.


Public healthcare in Azerbaijan

Public hospitals in Azerbaijan are state-run and offer free medical care to Azerbaijani residents. Public facilities include policlinics, which offer outpatient services, and hospitals, dispensaries and specialised clinics, which offer both outpatient and inpatient services.

Despite positive changes in recent years, public healthcare in Azerbaijan remains inefficient and underfunded. Most facilities are located in Baku and public healthcare is almost non-existent outside the city – those facilities that do exist lack services, equipment and medical staff. Expats who live outside of the capital city will likely need to travel into Baku to access public healthcare services.


Private healthcare in Azerbaijan

Fortunately, private medical facilities offer much higher standards of care, including modern equipment and well-qualified staff. Thanks to this, most expats living in Azerbaijan choose to use private hospitals. The private healthcare sector has undergone expansion in recent years, leaving expats with more choice when it comes to their health.

Additionally, Azerbaijan has seen a growing popularity in the medical tourism sector, with visitors from Georgia, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Healthcare costs are relatively affordable and there is a wide range of treatments available, from conventional to alternative practices.

Private health facilities are better equipped to attend to basic health issues, although more serious medical care may require evacuation and repatriation outside Azerbaijan. Expats should ensure that they have comprehensive medical insurance to cover any medical evacuations from Azerbaijan.


Pharmacies in Azerbaijan

There are plenty of pharmacies (aptek) in the main cities in Azerbaijan which are well stocked with a range of medication. Many pharmacies in Baku are open 24/7.


Health insurance in Azerbaijan

Medical insurance is mandatory in Azerbaijan. All Azeris are covered by a national health insurance plan and are entitled to free medical care. Under the national health insurance system, coverage includes primary, inpatient and outpatient services, emergency care, vaccinations and lab services, among other benefits.

For expats who move to Azerbaijan, private health insurance is a must. This is typically arranged through their employer and we advise expats to understand the extent of their insurance coverage.

Expats from the United Kingdom should note that the UK and Azerbaijan no longer have a reciprocal healthcare agreement.


Health hazards and pre-travel vaccines in Azerbaijan

There are few serious health hazards in Azerbaijan that expats need to worry about, although new arrivals should be aware of safety concerns in Azerbaijan, including road safety and conflict in certain areas.

Malaria is present, yet low risk, in some southern regions and prophylaxis may be required. While tap water is generally safe to drink, water quality is low in areas such as Baku. It's recommended to drink bottled water, boil tap water or use a filter or water purification tablets.

Expats should ensure that all their routine vaccinations are up to date. This includes measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), flu and polio vaccines, while Hepatitits A and B vaccines are also recommended. It's best to consult a healthcare professional when travelling to Azerbaijan.


Emergency services in Azerbaijan

Emergency services are available in Baku, but are limited outside the city. For an ambulance, expats can dial 103.

Education and Schools in Azerbaijan

Finding the best schooling option in Azerbaijan can be a challenge for expat parents. While public schools in Azerbaijan offer a decent level of education, expats don’t usually send their children to local schools because of the language barrier. Expat parents often rather choose to enrol their children in an international school, opt for homeschooling, or send them to boarding school back home.


Public schools in Azerbaijan

Schooling in Azerbaijan is compulsory for children between six and 15 years old. The basic public education system is divided into three stages: primary, general secondary and full secondary. Primary school spans four years while general secondary school is similar to middle school, and spans five years. Students aged 15 to 16 attend full secondary school where they specialise in certain subject areas including technical subjects, humanities and natural sciences.

The school year in Azerbaijan runs from September to June.

The primary language of instruction is Azerbaijani. The use of Russian in schools has declined over the years though it may be offered as a second language.

Azerbaijan boasts high literacy rates and public schools are of an adequate standard but, as mentioned, the language barrier means expats don’t usually send their children to public schools in Azerbaijan.


Private schools in Azerbaijan

Numerous private schools are available in Azerbaijan. These schools have mostly been established with the support of international organisations and large corporations, with some following the local curriculum and others offering an international curriculum.

These schools are usually more expensive than public schools, but offer a more extensive range of extracurricular activities and a more personalised approach to education. 


International schools in Azerbaijan

International schools in Azerbaijan offer a high standard of education. Expats should also expect to pay high tuition fees at these schools and should ensure that their expat relocation package caters adequately for this.

International schools in Azerbaijan don’t all follow the Azerbaijani school year, but may rather follow that of their home country. 

All international schools have their own admission requirements and parents should contact the school directly for further information. Space at international schools may be limited so parents should plan well ahead of their arrival in Azerbaijan.


Nurseries in Azerbaijan

Enrolment in pre-school is not compulsory and relatively few Azerbaijani kids attend pre-school. Fortunately, expat parents can find various childcare and pre-school options in Azerbaijan, particularly if they are staying in Baku. Private nurseries are dotted around the capital city as well as daycare and early learning programmes which are part of larger private and international schools.


Homeschooling in Azerbaijan

Expat parents who wish to homeschool their children will be happy to know that Azerbaijan's legal system accepts this practice. Homeschooling offers parents an alternative to mainstream classrooms which may not suit every child or family. Public schools present language barriers while private and international school fees can be prohibitively expensive – homeschool provides an opportunity to balance the best of public and private education in terms of affordability, convenience and quality.

Parents should note that children may need to take an exam organised and invigilated by a representative for the Ministry of Education in order for their education and certification to be formally recognised in the country. 


Special-needs education in Azerbaijan

While the government supports inclusive education and strives for equal access to schooling, on-the-ground services in special-needs education is limited in Azerbaijan. Parents often find that teachers do not have experience teaching children with disabilities and that schools lack acceptable facilities.

Some international schools make greater provisions, such as in specialised learning support, however, their services are not comprehensive. To find out if and how schools can meet individual needs, we recommend parents contact the schools directly or get advice from fellow expat parents.


Tutoring in Azerbaijan

Tutoring is one of the best ways to get settled in a new destination. New arrivals can hire a tutor to learn the Azerbaijani language and children can get extra support in specific subjects outside the classroom.

Thanks to a host of online portals, it’s easy to search for a tutor in Azerbaijan. Popular websites and private tutoring companies include Apprentus, TeacherOn and Private Tuition Club. Tutors found through these platforms mostly conduct online classes only – so parents can hire tutors from anywhere in the world. Networking through expat forums and with other families in Azerbaijan can also help new arrivals find a tutor, including tutors who offer in-person sessions.

International Schools in Azerbaijan

There are a few international schools in Azerbaijan and these schools ascribe to high standards. They are largely based on European schooling systems and/or offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum. These schools are all based in Baku. 

Some of the international schools in Azerbaijan are listed below.


International schools in Azerbaijan

Baku International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Quality Schools International Curriculum
Ages: 2 to 17
Website: www.qsi.org/baku

Baku Oxford School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Early Years Curriculum, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels, and Azerbaijani curriculum
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.akuoxfordschool.com/baku

British School in Baku

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 6 to 18
Website: bsbedu.uk

European Azerbaijan School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18
Websitewww.ibo.org

The International School of Azerbaijan 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate 
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.tisa.az

Transport and Driving in Azerbaijan

As with most infrastructure in the country, transport in Azerbaijan has undergone much development in recent years. Azerbaijan boasts a clean and modern transport network consisting of trains, buses, taxis and a metro system in Baku, the capital city.

It's relatively easy to get around central Baku without owning a vehicle by either walking or taking taxis and the metro. It’s worth getting a car for those living further out of the city centre though.


Public transport in Azerbaijan

Trains

Azerbaijan has an established rail network connecting Baku to other main towns and regional neighbours, including Kars in Turkey and Tbilisi in Georgia.

While rail services may not be known for their efficiency, they are undergoing major reconstruction. Baku Central Station is the focal point of rail transport in Azerbaijan and has been recently renovated and offers modern facilities, including a shopping and dining area.

There is also a commuter rail around Baku which helps connect the central areas to surrounding neighbourhoods and suburbs.

Metro

Baku Metro connects the city centre to the suburbs and is reasonably well maintained, clean and efficient. It offers the least expensive option for getting around Baku and tickets are managed via a smart card system, known as BakıKART or BakuCard. Expats can buy metro cards at counters at metro stations. Otherwise, tokens are required to ride the metro and these can be purchased from ticket windows at metro stations.

Security is usually quite tight in and around railway stations, and it’s not unusual for security guards to check bags.

Buses

Buses, coaches and minibuses connect most cities within Azerbaijan as well as with cities in neighbouring Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Russia. 

Both public and private buses operate in Baku. Buses to the suburbs are relatively cheap but overcrowded, while private services are more expensive but also more comfortable. Tickets can generally be bought directly from the driver on the bus.


Taxis in Azerbaijan

Taxis are widely available in major urban centres. They are not normally metered, so we suggest negotiating the fare before embarking on a journey. In Baku, the state-owned Baku Taxi Service has a fleet of taxi cabs that are metered.

Expats can also get a taxi by using a ride-hailing or ride-sharing app. Note that while Uber is available, expats must download and use a specific Uber Azerbaijan app.


Driving in Azerbaijan

It's easy to get around central Baku without a car. Still, access to a vehicle is beneficial to expats living elsewhere in Azerbaijan as well as expat families or those who frequently need to travel for work purposes.

It’s possible to drive in Azerbaijan with an International Driving Permit for up to one month. EU driver’s permits are also accepted. Expats staying in Azerbaijan for over one month need to get a local driving license through the ASAN Service Offices.

Expats can find several car rental agencies in Azerbaijan, though expats should check the requirements for renting a vehicle. Expats under the age of 21 cannot normally hire a car.

Driving is on the right side of the road.

New freeways are under construction and the country’s oil wealth has meant many new cars are on the roads. While most roads in Baku are paved and maintained, travel outside of the city may require a four-wheel-drive vehicle due to the poor quality of the roads.

Traffic accidents are common in Azerbaijan as local drivers have a reputation for disobeying the rules of the road. Expats driving in Azerbaijan should exercise defensive driving techniques. It may be worth attending an advanced driving course before arriving in the country to be better prepared for the poor driving conditions.


Air travel in Azerbaijan

Heydar Aliyev International Airport, located just outside Baku, is the main air hub in Azerbaijan, along with five additional international airports. The airport connects Baku to cities throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia via numerous international carriers, including the country’s national airline, Azerbaijan Airlines.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Azerbaijan

Despite recent reforms, Azerbaijan’s banking system remains somewhat limited and is relatively small in comparison to the country's GDP. The Central Bank of Azerbaijan regulates all monetary policy and banks in the country. While some banks in Azerbaijan remain state owned, a privatisation drive has been in effect in the post-Soviet era, and a number of international banks have also opened local branches.


Money in Azerbaijan

The local currency of Azerbaijan is the manat (AZN), which is divided into 100 qapik.

  • Notes: AZN 1, AZN 5, AZN 10, AZN 20, AZN 50, AZN 100, AZN 200

  • Coins: 1 qapik, 3 qapik, 5 qapik, 10 qapik, 20 qapik and 50 qapik

New arrivals can easily exchange foreign currency, such as euros, Pounds sterling and US dollars, for the local manat at the airport, banks and major hotels. On the other hand, getting hold of foreign currency in Azerbaijan is becoming more difficult as the Central Bank has been imposing increased regulations.


Banking in Azerbaijan

There are numerous options for expats when it comes to banking in Azerbaijan. Although there are many local banks, a number of international banks have entered the market in the post-Soviet era, and these offer the best and most reliable option for expats.

Opening a bank account 

Not all expats will need to open a local account. This includes expats on short-term stays or those who can receive salaries in their existing international bank account. However, for expats who wish or need to open a local bank account can do so easily, and it’s usually free. Expats wanting to open a bank account in Azerbaijan are advised to try to open one with a well-established international bank.

Credit cards and ATMs

Although credit cards are becoming more popular, Azerbaijan remains mostly a cash-based society. Most major hotels and restaurants in Baku will accept international credit cards. 

ATMs are available in Baku and other major towns, and these usually accept foreign-issued bank cards. Most ATMs are inside banks, but some can be found in supermarkets and hotels.

It’s possible to pay most utility bills at an ATM in Azerbaijan.


Taxes in Azerbaijan

All residents in Azerbaijan are taxed on their worldwide income, while non-residents are taxed only on their income derived in Azerbaijan. A resident is defined as an individual who has been physically present in Azerbaijan for a period of 182 days or more in a calendar year.

The tax year in Azerbaijan runs from 1 January to 31 December.

Expats working in the non-governmental and non-oil-gas sectors may be eligible for a reduced personal income tax rate. Azerbaijan has further tax regimes for the oil and gas sector as well as double taxation treaties with many countries.

Given that tax regulations in Azerbaijan are subject to change and can be confusing, we recommend consulting a tax specialist who has experience working with expats.