9 Fun Things to do In Baku – 2 Days on a Budget

So you want to see a beautiful Western Asian city but you’re short on time and cash? Then this list of 9 fun things to do in Baku is for you!

Aside from being beautiful, Baku is also unique in so many ways. It’s the only metropolis in the whole of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, it’s situated below sea level on the shores of a sea that isn’t really a sea. Keeping yourself occupied in this city won’t break the bank. In fact, there are many cool and quirky things to do for free!

The activities below will definitely keep you occupied for at least 2 days, but possibly longer if you like to do things at a more leisurely pace.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku For Free

1) Go on a Fountain Hunt

If you love fountains, you’ll love this! The city of Baku has a crazy amount of fountains. Who can blame them really. I mean, who doesn’t love stylised water jets? Seeing how many you can find is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the quirks of the city while you find your bearings.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Fountain

To save water, most fountains do not run during the daytime, so fountain hunting is some thing that you might want to try after 7pm in the summer season. the added bonus there will be that everything gets cooler in the evening.

2) Admire the Architecture

While you’re hunting fountains, you’ll see a lot of pretty buildings, in both the new and old town. If you love architecture, you can wax lyrical about the different structural influences that can be seen around town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Subway Ceiling K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. City Centre K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Building With In-built Monuments

If you’re not architecturally inclined, there’s certainly still a lot to appreciate about the city’s buildings. Maybe you can take pictures for your friends on Instagram?

3) Find Some Pop-out Friends

You may notice that some of the pretty buildings have heads popping out of them. These are sculptures of people that played a part in the city’s history. Most have a short explanation about how the person contributed.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. White Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Black Pop-out Head K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Grey Pop-out Head

Some even pop right out of the ground.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Head popping out of the Ground

3 Fun Things To Do In Baku For Free, With Optional Budget Extras

4) Visit Baku Boulevard/Denizkenari Milli Park

Denizkenari Milli Park, the biggest park in the city, is also known as Baku Boulevard. It stretches along the southern shore of the Caspian Sea for almost 4km. That means you should easily be able to find a quiet spot where you can sit and admire the sea.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Looking out to the Caspian Sea

You can continue your fountain hunt while walking through the park.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Fountain

When you finish your walk at Flag Square, you can play chess with little-people-sized chess pieces under the Azerbaijan flag.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Flag Square

Here are some optional extra things to do in the park if you don’t mind spending a little bit of money.

Go to the carnival area and go on some rides. This area may be aimed at children, but they don’t have any signs saying that child-like adults can’t join in the fun!
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Carnival Area

Maybe if you have kids, you can leave them at the carnival and take a gondola ride on the canal a short walk away.
K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Denizkenari  Milli Park/Baku Boulevard. Gondola Canal

Finally, to escape the heat, you can head to the Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum. It comes highly recommended by locals and costs 7 Manat for entry.

5) Rise Above It All

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. View of the City From The Hill
There is a place where all the locals in the city gather for the best view. It’s known as ‘The Hill’. You can also find it on Maps.me as ‘Panoramic View’. The beginning of the stairs that lead to the hill can be seen across the road from Flag Square in Denizkenari Milli Park/Baku Boulevard.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Stairs to the Hill

If you want to go for the free and fit option, you can walk the 700 metres up the stairs. Make sure you take enough water as there isn’t really an option for resupply on the way up!

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Entrance to the Funicular

If it’s too hot, or you’re feeling a bit lazy, there is a funicular near the start of the stairs that goes up to the Flame Towers. The towers are a little bit past the hill, so you’d have to backtrack a bit, but at least it won’t be uphill! The funicular costs 1 manat each way.

The Flame Towers come alive at night

You could also take a taxi. I’m sure all the drivers will know what you mean if you say ‘The Hill’. It shouldn’t cost more than 5 manat/US$3.

6) Get Lost in the Old Town

It’s free to wander around the UNESCO Heritage Listed old town of Baku and soak up the old timey-ness of the narrow alleyways and cobbled roads. There are also handy maps and markers to show you where the points of interest are. Audio guides available to explain the importance of the points of interest, but they cost 5 manat/US$3.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Miniature Book Museum

Among the many attractions of the old town is the Miniature Book Museum. It is free to enter and quirky to boot. It’s definitely something to tell your friends about. Unfortunately, it’s closed on Mondays and Thursdays, so plan accordingly.

3 Fun Things to do in Baku on a Budget

7) Qobustan Mud Volcanoes

Looking for a fun adventure outside of the city? Then get yourself to Qobustan, (pronounced Gobustan)! This unassuming little town hides some quirky little secrets away from the main road. Mud volcanoes! These ‘volcanoes’ are about 10 minute drive down a dirt road into the middle of nowhere.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Qobustan Mud Volcano

The sounds as the volcanoes ‘erupt’ are giggle-worthy. This place is guaranteed to put a smile on your face without burning a hole in your pocket. To get there, you can take the 125 bus from the city to Bina Ticaret Merkezi, then get the 195 bus and let the driver know you want Qobustan. The combined cost of these buses is less than 1 manat. You’ll get dropped off on the side of the road, where a taxi will be waiting to take you the rest of the way. They will barter hard, but it shouldn’t cost you any more than 10 manat/US$5.

8) Bibi-Hebyat Mosque

This is an amazing mosque and adjoining cemetery perched high above the Caspian Sea. You can catch the 125 bus from the city, so it can be combined quite easily with your visit to Qobustan.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque

9) Take a Bus or a Train

The transport in Baku is efficient, clean and cheap! You shouldn’t have to pay more than 1 Manat to go anywhere in the city. Each bus stop and metro station has machines where you can purchase a Bakikart for you trip.

K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart Machine K in Motion Travel Blog. 9 Fun Things to do in Baku. BakiKart

Above is a one-time use BakiKart, but there are also BakiKarts available for everyday use, that can be recharged at the machines at all stops. It could be a good idea to purchase one if you plan to spend more time Baku, because you’ve fallen in love with the city. I did! You can see why here.

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Beautiful Baku

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. Looking Down The Stairs

Why Beautiful Baku?

When I say Beautiful Baku, I mean it’s beautiful in every possible way. It could be described as a little bit of Europe, a little bit of Asia and a whole lot of love. After travelling in Central Asia for 2 months, Baku presented a totally different aesthetic to what I had become accustomed to. While Central Asian cities are fairly low rise and spread out, Baku was definitely rocking a lot more high-rises, but it was also fairly spread out. Even though it’s a huge city, it’s still had a very homely feel to it.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Flame Towers From The HIll

Baku is definitely impressive from the first time you lay eyes on it, even if that time happens to be 2am. That’s when the coach transporting us from the port of Alat arrived. Even at that time, there were middle-aged taxi drivers ready to hassle us to get into their taxi. But in a friendlier way than most around the world.

Myself and my new friends, who had crossed the Caspian Sea with me, decided that we would walk to our hostel. It was only a 10 minute walk away. We were surprised when we arrived at the address and the hostel didn’t seem to be there. We saw a small convenience shop that was opened and asked if they knew where the place was. They didn’t, but they let us use their internet to see if we could find the correct address. We had no luck there, but a local found a phone number and called the place, then gave us a lift there!

Where is it?

When we moved the next day, we encountered another hostel that wasn’t at the location that the map indicated. I also came across this anomaly when I’d booked a hostel across town. A wonderful local saw that I was looking a bit lost and asked if I needed help. He and his friend ended up finding a phone number for the owner and called him for directions.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Graffiti Near Where a Hostel Should've Been
Graffiti near where a hostel should’ve been

The helpful locals also had difficulties finding the place when following the numbers on the street. After speaking with the owner, they explained that the street numbers had recently been changed in some areas of the city. They weren’t sure what the reason for this change was but agreed that it was kind of weird. In essence, the numbers found on the buildings, as well as maps, are the old numbers. The new numbers, which for some strange reason were not sequential, were nowhere to be seen. I’m glad to say that this was really the only quirk of Baku that could be a tad annoying.

Beautiful Baku – City of Wind, Fountains and Parks

I met the owner of my hostel, Farid, and he was only too happy to give me information on the city’s history and the best places to go. He informed me that the word Baku, or Баку́ in Russian, came from the old Persian word Bad-kube, which when roughly translated means windy. This probably gave rise to the city’s modern nickname, City of Wind.

I was lucky to not be subjected to the city’s infamous strong winds during my stay, but I did notice there were fountains everywhere.

Fountains of Baku

Most were found in parks that are scattered around the city. They were nocturnal and slept during the day.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Sleeping Women's Fountain K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Big Sleeping Fountain K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Group of Small Sleeping Fountains

Then woke up in the evening.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Fountain at Night K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Spiney Park Fountains K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Group of Small Fountains in Action

Some were huge.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Huge Fountain

And some had pretty lights.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Lit Up Fountain at Night

Parks of Baku

Baku is blessed with many parks. It’s hard to walk more than 5 minutes in the city without stumbling upon one. One of the major parks in the city, located on the shore of the Caspian Sea is Denizkenari Milli Park. It is also known as Baku Boulevard and is a popular hangout for locals. You’ll see many people sitting by the sea, or eating ice cream from one of the many vendors there.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park On The Caspian Sea

There are many things to do in the park. Like visit the carpet museum there, which locals will tell you is a must see. They really do love their carpets.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Carpet Museum

Or you could take a train
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Train

Or play chess under the Azerbaijan flag
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Denizkenari Milli Park Chess and Flag

Beautiful Baku – Old and New

Apparently, when developing the city, a Parisian-style aesthetic was envisioned. To achieve this coveted look, European architects were brought in to design the city’s buildings. This is why the old city could easily be mistaken for a quaint European town.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town.

The old town, or Icherisheher, while lovely, has become a bit of a tourist destination these days. This means that some areas in it have been overrun by expensive hotels, cafes and restaurants aiming for the tourist dollar. It is however, still free to walk around the town’s narrow walkways and cobbled streets.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town Street

There are also many souvenir shops selling local arts and crafts. Some of these still seem to have reasonable prices and very friendly shopkeepers that are eager to have you in their shop. The old town is also home to the Maiden Tower. This tower has a viewing area at the top which is said to offer a fantastic view of the city. Unfortunately, they charge a ridiculous entry fee.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Old Town. Maiden Tower

Baku is unique in that it’s the only metropolis in Azerbaijan, as well as being the largest city below sea level. It is also a city where old and new have blended together seamlessly. If you walk just outside of the old city walls, you’re standing in a 21st century metropolis surrounded by mountains and hills. I guess everything’s a hill when your city is 30 metres below sea level. One of these hills has a viewpoint that offers a panoramic view of beautiful Baku.

Beautiful Baku from Above

The mysterious hill with a view doesn’t seem to have a name. All the locals refer to it as ‘the hill’. It’s about a 700m climb up a decent amount of stairs from near Denizkenari Milli Park/Baku Boulevard.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. First section of the Climb to the Hill

To be honest, the walk up to the hill could be a little overwhelming during the day in the summer if you’re not used to the Baku heat. But there are plenty of places to stop, rest and admire the view on the way up.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View on the Way up to the Hill

There is a road that intersects the path just before the last section of stairs. Many people choose to take a taxi to that point.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Last Lot of Stairs to the Hill

On the last sections of stairs, I came across some locals selling fresh fruits. I also noticed some rest points on the way up, for anyone that needs a bit of a break from climbing.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Rest Area on the Way Up the Hill

There were incredible views from a few levels going up the stairs, I made sure I checked them all out!
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View Before the Top of the Hill

Of course the money shots were at the top. From there you get a panoramic view of the city and the Caspian.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill

It’s almost enough to make you forget for a moment that you aren’t anywhere near an actual sea. You are in fact probably the furthest inland you could be on almost the entire earth.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. City and Sea

While it was lovely during the day, I had a thought that it would be even cooler to see at night when the city is lit up. So I walked back up just before sunset.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. View From the Top of the Hill. City and Sea at Sunset

It is much busier at this time, but watching night descend upon the city was pretty awesome.

Then just after sunset, at about 21:30 during the summer, you’ll get to watch a light show for free!

There’s Something Quirky in Qobustan

Farid had advised me that if I do only one thing in Baku, it should be a trip to Qobustan, pronounced Gobustan. When I looked on the map, I realised it wasn’t far from Alat, where I had entered Azerbaijan. I decided to hop on one of Baku’s very modern looking buses to get to Bina Ticaret Merkezi, which is an interchange station about 30 minutes from the city centre. From there, I hopped on the 195 bus which stops in Qobustan. Both buses cost only 0.30 Azerbaijani Manat/US$0.18 each.

The bus dropped me off on the side of the road, where there was of course a taxi driver waiting. This taxi driver initially wanted to charge me 20 Manat/US$10 to take me on the 10km round trip to Qobustan’s main attraction. I was firmly against that and said I would pay no more than 10 Manat/US$5. That was a bit of a fail on my part, because I was tired and confused about the exchange rate. It should’ve cost less.

He said his fuel would cost 10 Manat/US$5, which I totally didn’t believe. I knew Azerbaijan had a lot of oil reserves under the Caspian Sea. I’d seen the oil rigs on the way in! He wasn’t budging and neither was I, so he took me to an area where some other taxis had gathered and one of them agreed to take me.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Mud Volcanoes, Qobustan

So what’s the main attraction of Qobustan? Mud Volcanoes! I kid you not. I told you there was something quirky in Qobustan!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Mud Volcano, Qobustan

Okay, so they’re not really volcanoes in the true sense of the word, but the mud ‘erupting’ from them has shaped them into volcano-like structures. The mud being expelled from the mounds is actually being pushed to the surface by bubbles of natural gas trying to escape from the earth. Perhaps the most surprising thing was about them was that despite the ambient temperature being above 30 degrees, the mud was pretty cold to touch.

When I was done taking a million pictures, the taxi took me back to a road. The first driver, Fazid was waiting there to take me back to the road where I could catch the bus. He took me to his barber shop first, which is situated in front of his house. He said I could wait inside for the bus, but as there was a wall between us and the main road, I wondered how we would see when the bus was coming.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Road Wall, Qobustan

Back to Beautiful Baku

After making sure he got a photo with me, which I was clearly not into, Fazid and I went out to the road. Another guy on the side of the road flagged down a car and was also going to Bina Ticaret, so Fazid said I should get in. The driver wanted 1 Manat for the ride, which is about double what the bus would cost. It was more comfortable though. When we arrived, he didn’t have change for a 20 Manat note, so he said not to worry about it.

From Bina Ticaret, I hopped on the 125 bus heading back to the city. I had one more stop I wanted to make before I went back to the city.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Baku Road Sign

Bibi-Heybat Mosque

The Bibi-Heybat Mosque is still a little bit outside of the city, but it’s absolutely amazing. I was in awe from the moment I stepped off the bus.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Graveyard Across the Road From the Mosque

The first thing that caught my eye, was the graveyard across the road that had been built into a hill. Some of the graves looked better than my house!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque From the Side

Once I walked into the grounds of the mosque, I was captivated not only by architecture and stature of the mosque, but also by the view.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Bibi-Heybat Mosque From the Side

As if the building itself isn’t impressive enough, it’s perched right above one of the shores of the Caspian Sea.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Caspian Sea Behind the Mosque

Bye Bye Beautiful Baku

As always happens when travelling, it has to come to an end at some point. Although I’m not usually a big fan of cities, Baku and its people had left an impression on me. From the people that helped me find my accommodation, to the airport bus driver who left his bus to show me how to use the ticket machine that had no English display. But you know what I’m going to miss most of all? The purple taxis. A city has reached next-level coolness when most of their taxi fleet is purple.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Beautiful Baku. Purple Taxi

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Turkmenbashi to Baku – 3 Days on the Caspian Sea

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Turkmenbashi Port, Turkmenistan

A journey across the Caspian Sea, the world’s largest inland body of water, from Turkmenbashi to Baku sounds like fun right? The prospect was quite exciting, as it’s not a common thing for people to do. I waited patiently at the Turkmenbashi port departure building until 11am. That was when ticket sales for the ferry to Baku, Azerbaijan were set to begin. Myself and 3 other people I’d met at the Turkmenbashi port made our way to the ticket sales window. This ticket sales window was, strangely, at the back of the port hotel, not in the departures building as you would think it would be. Even though there was a ticket sales window in the departures building, it seemed to be permanently closed, along with everything else that was supposed to be operating in the departures building.

Waiting..

The lady at the ticket window insisted that the truck drivers going on the ferry would be processed first. That meant we were only able to purchase our tickets for the Turkmenistan owned ferry ‘Bagtyyar’ starting from 11:30am. We had tried to get on the Azerbaijan owned ferry, Academik Topcubasov, that was also at the port. That one only cost US$60 per person for a bed in cabin. The Turkmen staff at the Turkmenistan port had told us that only the Turkmenistan owned ferry was taking passengers. Clearly it was a ploy to get people on to the more expensive Turkmenistan ferry. US$100 per person for just a seat on a 12 hour ferry. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. The Azerbaijan Ferry Academik Topcubasov Docked at Turkmenbashi Port
Azerbaijan Ferry Akademik Topcubasov in port

We were told the boat wouldn’t leave until the evening. We all had Turkmenistan Manat that we needed to spend, as it would be useless to us once we left Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, the currency exchange facilities that were supposed to be available at the port weren’t. So we headed to the port hotel restaurant for some lunch. Considering that it was the only restaurant in the area, it turned out to be a lot more reasonable than one would figure. I paid about US$1.60 for a steak.

Immigration Procedure

Back in the port departures building, the four of us joined the line to go through to the immigration area. They were only letting small groups of people through at one time, so we had to wait a while. When we finally got in, our luggage was scanned and we headed upstairs to the immigration clearance area. We were directed to use machines that scanned our passports and took our pictures. The machines didn’t give us any kind of receipt, though. We had to then go to an immigration officer to be stamped out, so the machines seemed to be quite redundant.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan to Baku, Azerbaijan - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Waiting to go into the Immigration Area

From there, we entered the departure lounge to wait for boarding. The port departures building was quite huge but there was almost nothing there. It seems they had reserved the third floor for shops but forgot to rent out the spaces. There was only 1 duty free shop there and all it sold was sheets and towels. I guess they figured that was a niche market for people taking the ferry.

Starting the Journey from Turkmenbashi to Baku. Or Not.

Luckily, boarding started not long after that. We all quickly found ourselves rows of 3 seats each that we could use to sleep on. We waited on the boat for many hours, completely unsure of when it was going to leave. We asked around during the evening meal and no one was sure when we would leave. When I saw trucks still being loaded on to the ferry at 11pm, I figured we wouldn’t be moving for a while. We ended up going to sleep while still in port.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. New Bed on the Bagtyyar
My new bed on the Bagtyyar

I woke up at about 4:30am because the airconditioning in the lounge area, where we were sleeping, was set to freezing. The sheet I’d managed to acquire was no longer protecting me from the arctic breeze. I decided to go outside where it was warmer. We still weren’t moving and we were still in the port area. We’d been on the ship for 16 hours and not moved a single centimetre. Obviously, ferries work differently in Turkmenistan!

FInally moving?

Not long after that, just before sunrise at around 5am, we started moving, albeit slowly. Great, we were finally on our way from Turkmenbashi to Baku! Or were we?

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Finally Leaving the Port!

I presumed we were moving super slowly because we were exiting the port area. Surely we’d gain some speed once further out. But shortly after that, I went outside and realised that we’d stopped moving. The port was still clearly visible not far behind us. By the time they opened the galley for breakfast at 10am, we still weren’t moving and nobody really knew what was going on. Would our journey from Turkmenbashi to Baku start that day? Or would we spend another night on the ‘sea’ in a stationary boat?

By this stage, we hadn’t showered for a few days owing to this being our second day on the ship and having caught an overnight train to get to the Turkmenbashi port the day before. Thankfully, one of the nice kitchen staff allowed all four of us to shower in his personal cabin. That was much needed and awesomely refreshing!

New Captain?

There was a rumour that the captain of the ship for this sailing was relatively new. Being new, he apparently thought there was a storm coming. The thing is, the sky looked absolutely clear for as far as the eye could see and the water all around us was calm. Staff on the boat didn’t even know what was going on. They actually thought that we would be on the way to Baku that day.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Somewhere on the Caspian Sea

By the evening we still weren’t moving and still had no idea what was going on. When we went to have the evening meal, we got a bit of a surprise. Despite having already paid US$100 for our seat and onboard meals, the ship staff wanted to charge us for that meal. In Turkmenistan Manat, which we had gotten rid of. Luckily, some other passengers on the ship came to our rescue. Firstly, some Azerbaijani drivers made sure that the 4 of us got meals. Then a really nice Turkmen lady, who spoke English really well, shared some meat that she had made at home and brought on board with her.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Shared Food on the Ferry

Meeting People

This lady had figured out that I was a teacher because she’d heard me explaining something to someone earlier. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it is true that teachers never stop teaching. Or maybe she picked it up because she was also a teacher. As the only person on board that could speak English, she became our communication conduit. It was a bit weird when passengers asked for invitations to South Korea, from my companions. They had only started talking to them one minute beforehand.

That night we went to sleep again on the water, but still not moving. We were anchored just outside the port area, but still within Turkmenistan waters. At that point, we had officially been on the ferry for over 30 hours and we had been anchored in the same spot for about half that time. We were possibly waiting out a storm that never came. We’d been stamped out of Turkmenistan early afternoon on the 25th, but still hadn’t left Turkmenistan waters by the early hours of the 27th, almost 2 days later.

Turkmenbashi to Baku, Finally!

I managed to sleep in until 7am, probably because I was so exhausted from my lack of sleep over the last 3 days. It was about that time that we finally started moving, for real. We checked with the staff and they said we would be in Baku by 7pm. Collectively, we were still a bit dubious about that claim, as we had also been told that the day before.

We kept checking our progress on our map periodically during the day. It was extremely comforting to see that we were actually moving nicely across the Caspian Sea. Around 3pm it looked like we were very close to Baku and would make it quite a bit before 7pm. The prospect of getting in earlier than expected was exciting. We just knew that exiting the ship was going to be chaotic and time-consuming.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Sunset Coming into the Alat Port

Then our final surprise came at about 17:30. We were looking at the map to check how far we had to go. It was then that we realised that we’d sailed right past Baku! Despite all the information that we’d read online that our ferry goes to the port in Baku, we were heading to the port of Alat. That’s 70km away from Baku!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Island near Alat Port

Furthermore, we were only making our way past the sandbar island outside of the port area after 7pm. We were barely crawling at that point, I guess due to speed restrictions near the port. Then we had to wait for the Azerbaijani tug boat to come out and guide us in.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Tug Boat at the Alat Port

Land Ahoy!

You can’t imagine the joy we felt at finally being in Azerbaijan. But the challenges were not over yet. We still had to get off the boat, go through immigration and find a way to get Baku. It was 9pm by the time we docked. Staff became crowd controllers as they had to ensure that all the drivers exited first, in groups of 20. There were 50 drivers and the staff had their work cut out for them trying to keep the passengers at bay.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Passengers Getting Ready to Leave the Boat

Waiting patiently, instead of pushing and shoving like all the other passengers were, paid off for us. The staff-member-turned-crowd-control dude let us go with the last lot of drivers. That happened an hour after the boat had docked. There were only 2 immigration officers, so even with such a small amount of people, there was still a pretty long wait.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. Small Port Shuttle

It wasn’t far away from midnight by the time we had all made it through immigration. We found out at that point that it wasn’t possible to get a taxi from where we were, in the port area. We had to get a port shuttle to the main road first. Luckily, while we were waiting, a port coach entered and we were told it would take us all the way to Baku for US$3. Sounded great to us! I even managed to get a bit of sleep on the way in.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Turkmenbashi, to Baku - 3 Days on the Caspian Sea. The Port Shuttle, Our Saviour

As fun as a ferry across the Caspian sounds, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you absolutely can’t live without the ‘I’ve travelled across the Caspian’ bragging rights.

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