things to avoid


At all costs, do not insult or speak badly of President Ilham Aliyev
as well as his direct predecessor his father, the late President Haydar Aliyev and the Aliyev family in general, who rule Azerbaijan. This carries a prison sentence, or if you are a foreign citizen, the remote possibility of deportation from the country. In late 2009, two young men were sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for depicting President Ilham Aliyev as a donkey giving a news conference in a video that was put on YouTube.
At all costs, do not mention Armenia and the Armenians and the very bitter Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
that has been ongoing with neighboring Armenia which has occupied the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. Azerbaijan has lost 20% of its territory and must support some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict. Bitterness and hatred against Armenians run very high.


Even though 95% of the population is officially Shiite Muslim, Azerbaijan is officially a strictly secular state is by and large an agnostic and non-religious nation. This is true not only in large cities but even in villages and rural areas as well. Don't assume that anyone you do not know believes in God or has a passion for Islam or in other faiths. Investigations into people's faith is largely unwelcome, and outside places of worship, displays of your faith should be kept private. Saying grace for example, is likely to be met with bewilderment and silence. Religious attire such as Muslim headscarves, Kippahs or even t-shirts with religious slogans, will - while tolerated - also make many Azerbaijanis feel uncomfortable. Those with long beards may arouse the suspicion of the authorities. Respect that and you will also be respected.

Social custom and ettiquette breaches:

Don't blow your nose during meals
even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
Don't pick your teeth during meals
even discreetly. This is considered extremely rude.
Don't put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone
This is considered very rude.
Don't point with your finger at someone
even discreetly. This is considered rude.
Don't chew gum while having a conversation
and during public occasions. This is considered extremely rude.
Don't touch someone without permission
This is considered extremely rude.
Don't bear hug or back slap someone
especially in formal situations and occasions and with someone you just met and/or you do not know well enough. This is considered very rude.
Don't raise your voice or shout in public
especially on public transportation. This is considered extremely rude.
Don't use swear words
during conversation or while talking to oneself in public and also among friends. This is considered extremely rude.

Robbing and pickpocketing in the capital Baku, especially in poor and sparsely populated areas is possible but rare and is higher across the capital at night. Common sense is useful as in all other countries. Also watch your stuff in public transport.

Corruption is widespread. But as a foreigner you have a fairly strong position in refusing to pay "hörmet" bribe. Never give any bribe. Often Azeris are so ashamed of their corrupt economy, that they might hide it from you anyway.

gay and lesbian travelers

Homosexuality is no longer criminalized in Azerbaijan, but the negative stigma still is strong throughout Azerbaijan. Same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government and showing your orientation openly is very likely to draw stares and whispers. The few establishments geared towards homosexuals are almost if not exclusively in Baku and and are mostly underground. Azerbaijan is not the happiest place in the world for GLBT travellers; be quite cautious when travelling as a GLBT traveller.

things to do
Women in Azerbaijan are traditionally treated with utmost respect
as it is also the case in the entire CIS/former USSR area. Female travellers should not act surprised or indignant when their Azerbaijani male friends pay their bills at restaurants, open every door in front of them, offer their hand to help them climb down that little step or help them carry anything heavier than a handbag - this is not sexual harassment or being condescending to females. Male travellers should understand that this is exactly the sort of behavior that most Azerbaijani girls and women will expect from them, too.
When you are invited into an Azerbaijani home, make sure to bring them a gift
Anything is fine from flowers be sure to get an odd number of flowers, as an even number is associated with funerals to chocolate but not wine and other alcoholic beverages, and indeed something representative from your country. In Azerbaijani culture it is the thought behind the gift, rather than the price, that matters. And if you really want their respect, thank your host for the invitation and compliment them. The host will make sure to make you feel at home, so don't take advantage of their kindness.
When you arrive at the house take off your shoes
just outside or immediately inside the door, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes. You may be offered slippers to wear. Do not worry that your feet will get dirty - the floors are just as clean as the walls - Azerbaijanis are very neat and clean people.
Azerbaijanis respect elderly people
so in a bus, tram, subway and in other forms public transportation, younger people will always offer you a place to sit if you are an older person as well as a handicapped person or a pregnant woman or have children with you.

It is respectful to bend slightly not a complete bow when greeting someone older or in a position of authority. Younger people always initiate greetings with older people or those in a position of authority.

As mentioned above, it is considered polite to let women first to board and leave the bus, tram, subway and in other forms public transportation or to enter and leave a room.

If you do not know the person well, use their first name followed by an appropriate honorific. For women, use "Xanım" - pronounced "hanm" "Mrs.". For men, use "Cənab" - pronounced "jenab" "Mr". If they do speak English use their last name preceded by the appropriate English honorific "Mr." or "Mrs.". The English honorific "Ms." does not exist in the Azerbaijani language, as women are not distinguished or discriminated according to married and unmarried status and addressing a young woman "Ms" would be considered inappropriate and offensive.


Azerbaijanis are a very reserved but very polite and well mannered people.

Make sure your diptheria, tetanus, and Hepatitis A & B immunizations are up to date. Malaria is a risk in lowland Azerbaijan, particularly around the border with Iran. Anti-malarials are not a must for Baku, but the risk is present in rural areas not far from the city.

Water should not be consumed unless from a sealed bottle. Bottled soft drinks or boiled drinks, such as tea or coffee, also reduce risks.


There are three mobile operators: Azercell, Bakcell, Nar Mobile, Azerfon-Vodafone. Azercell is the largest one. To dial an Azercell number you need to dial 050 or 051 and then the number. Only with Azercell can you talk in the metrosubway in Baku. Nar Mobile is pretty cheap but doesn't work in some regions. For dialing Nar Mobile numbers you need to dial 070 and then the number. Azerfon-Vodafone is new operator have 3G. For dialing Azerfon-Vodafone numbers you need to dial 077 and then the number. Bakcell is ok. It works almost everywhere and is cheaper that Azercell. To dial a Bakcell number you need to dial 055 and then the number.The numbers have a 3 digit code different for each operator + 7 digits number. For example 050xxx xx xx, 051xxx xx xx, or 055xxx xx xx, or 070xxx xx xx, or 077xxx xx xxYou can buy cards for use with different operators almost in every store.


Azeri is the official language. This is a Turkic language, closely related to Turkish itself. However, English is spoken in some places frequented by Westerners. Most people speak Russian which is now declining and slowly being replaced by English, especially in the capital city, Baku.

area codes

Agjabedi 113, Agdam 192, Agdash 193, Agsu 198, Agstafa 244, Astara 195,Babek 136, Bakou 12,Balaken 119, Berde 110,Beylagan 152, Bilesuvar 159,Dashkesen 216,Devechi 115, Fizuli 141,Gandja 22,Gedebey 232, Goranboy 234,Goychay 167, Hajigabul 140,Horadiz 141, Ä°mishli 154,Ä°smayilli 178, Jebrayil 118, Jelilabad 114,Julfa 36, Kelbejer 137,Kurdemir 145, Lachin 146,Lenkeran 171, Lerik 157,Masalli 151, Mereze 150,Mingechevir 147, Nabran 156,Naftalan 255, Nakhchivan 136,Neftchala 153, Oguz 111,Ordubad 136, Qakh 144,Qazakh 279, Qazi Memmed 140,Qebele 160, Qobustan 150,Quba 169, Qubadli 133,Qusar 138, Saatli 168,Sabirabad 143, Salyan 163,Samukh 265, Sederek 136,Shahbuz 136, Shamakhi 176,Sheki 177, Shemkir 241,Sherur 136,Shirvan 197,Siyezen 190,Sumqayit 18-64, Shusha 191,Terter 246, Tovuz 231,Ujar 170, Khachmaz 172,Khankendi 162, Khanlar 230,Khizi 199, Khojali 102,Khudat 172, Yardimli 175,Yevlakh 166, Zagatala 174,Zengilan 196, Zerdab 135.

emergency contact numbers

Ambulance: 103

Fire: 101

Gas Emergency 104

Speaking Clock 106

Police: 102

You must speak in Azeri, Turkish or Russian to communicate your needs. It would be a good idea to memorize key phrases before coming to Azerbaijan - see the Talk section for phrasebooks.

safety tips

Try to travel outside the city during the day time, unless taking a night train. The roads can be treacherous at night due to unseen potholes and dimly lit cars.