This Survival guide will explain exactly how to get an Azerbaijan visa in Tbilisi, Georgia!
Azerbaijan, the land of fire and oil!
It’s an unmissable addition to any trip to the Caucasus’, and if you’re in Georgia, then you can easily pick yourself up an Azerbaijan visa in Tbilisi!
It used to be the case on the traveller trail in Georgia, that Batumi, the sub tropical sea side city on the Black Sea, was the best spot to pick up an Azerbaijan visa. A lot of travellers I spoke to along the road though, had a hard time here. The consulate’s opening hours seemed to be completely unscheduled, and one person even told me that they’d run out of visa stickers!
The wheel of visa fortunes turns dramatically, and now it seems that the main consulate in Tbilisi is the easiest place to get an Azerbaijan visa.
So here’s my guide to getting an Azerbaijan visa in Tbilisi!
What documents do I need?
So first off, before you even need to think about finding the embassy, get all your documents in order!
The Azerbaijan Visa is date specific, meaning set entrance and exit dates. For tourists, you will be given 30 days from the date of entrance you apply for. This is single entrance only.
In terms of documentation, it is fairly simple.
You will need:
1 x Copy of Passport Photo Page
2 x Colour Passport Photos (Size 3 x 4cm)
1 x Printout of a Hotel Booking (You can cancel this later on, but it’s best to have somewhere booked for your first few days)
You will find the visa application forms to fill in at the embassy itself.
If you have trouble finding somewhere to make photocopies or printouts, then conveniently, across the road from the consulate is a travel agency who can print everything out for a small fee.
Where is the Azerbaijan Embassy in Tbilisi?!
The embassy is located at 4 Vakhtang Gorgasali St, Tbilisi, Georgia. This is around the corner, about a 10 minute walk, from Vakhtang Gorgasali Square, the big place by the river with the I Love Tbilisi sign. Follow the road adjacent to the river itself, passing both the Royal Baths and the Azerbaijan Museum of Culture and eventually you will see a huge, walled of complex flying the Azerbaijani flag. If you are coming from the direction of the square, then don’t go to the front gate, but turn right as you hit the walls, and you will find a mysterious back entrance into the consulate where they deal with the visas.
The consulate is open Monday to Friday, from 10am until 12pm and then later from 16.00pm until 17.30pm.
Be careful of public holidays, in either Georgia or Azerbaijan, as this will cause immense stress to the embassy staff and result in delayed application processing!
So, into the Consulate!
There might be a quee outside, as the guards seem to let you in one by one. You can’t take any bags- certainly not backpacks- inside, so leave these behind unless you’re happy to leave them on the street outside! In the consulate, you will be searched by the security guard who lets you in, he will go through your passport, and ask if you have been to Armenia. This is fine if you have- they will see the stamp anyway- they just want to know. He will then ask if you’ve travelled to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh Region. Even if you have, say no, as it is illegal in Azerbaijan to visit here and you will be denied a visa if they find evidence- e.g. visas!- of you having gone here.
Once through security, grab an application form from the front desk, fill it in and hand over all your documents. They will keep your passport for the duration of the process, and will hand you a slip with the total amount payable and the address of the bank you need to now visit.
To the bank! How much will this cost me?!
Prices vary depending on your nationality! I’m a British Citizen and I paid USD 118. Many other European Union nations will pay much less, at 35 Euros. Importantly, the actual cost of the visa needs to be paid for in local currency, the Georgian Lari. So have the equivalent of this ready to go!
The bank you need to find is The International Bank of Azerbaijan. It’s located across the river, about a 20 minute walk away, at 144 Bochorma St, Tbilisi. It’s on the map below. A taxi here will cost no more than 4 Lari each way depending on your bargaining skills, and the taxis waiting right outside the consulate know exactly where to go.
The guys at the bank know exactly what to do, and once you’ve paid you’ll be given a receipt to return to the consulate to prove that you’ve paid.
If you are quick enough you can get everything done before the consulate closes for lunch at 12pm!
How long does the visa application process take?
This is debatable unfortunately. I submitted my application on a Monday and was originally told to return on Friday the same week. I was away Friday and went instead on Monday expecting it to be ready, only to find that the consulate was closed due to it being a public holiday in Azerbaijan. I returned the next day to find that because of this, all applications were being delayed! I would have to return on Friday instead! On the Friday, it was ready to go, meaning I’d waited 12 days for it all to be processed! If you can, allow plenty of time for unforeseen delays.
What if I’m in a rush???!!
Pester them! And if you are really in a rush, then the travel agency by the consulate offers an express, same day, under the table service. They clearly know the right people to bribe, but it will cost you.
What about Armenia?!!!
It’s absolutely no secret that the Azerbaijanis and Armenians don’t get on particularly well. They have a big on going and deadly issue over the Nagorno-Karabakh Region. Whatever you do, don’t say to anyone at the embassy that you’ve been to Nagorno-Karabakh even if you have visited. They will ask you this too directly on entrance to the consulate. Say no obviously. Armenian stamps however won’t be a problem, but will of course get suspicious looks. Having visited Armenia first will not stop you from getting a visa or gaining entrance to Azerbaijan. I can guarantee this from personal experience.
IMPORTANT! Anyone staying in Azerbaijan for 10 days or longer HAS to register once inside the country! This isn’t done at the borders, and very little is said about it on the way in! However on the way out, if you have no registration you can be fined 400 Manat- a staggering £200- and be forced to return to Baku to pay that fine. If you argue hard enough you might just be banned from the country and deported- you are leaving anyway right? This is easily avoided if you get yourself registered. Higher end hotels will do this, but cheaper hostels you might have to force and push to get this done! It’s worth it in the end though to save you hassle and money when leaving Azerbaijan! You only need one registration, and this can be done at any point in the first 10 days of your stay. Ensure you receive either an email, or a print out of the registration to show at the border when you depart! Old City Hostel in Baku can sort the registration out relatively painlessly and free of charge. If you are couch surfing get your host to take you to the immigration office and help you out!
Once you’ve got your visa, head round the corner to get an obligatory celebration photograph in the Heyder Aliyev Park! He’s the ‘founder’ and previous President of modern Azerbaijan! You’ll be seeing A LOT more of this fellow when you cross the border!
**** All information here is based on my own experiences, from May 2016. If you have more recent updates, then PLEASE, comment below ****