Baku at a Glance
Living in Baku
Culture and Leisure
Baku blends East and West excitingly and in some areas beautifully. The Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the modern downtown area has tree-lined streets and exclusive shopping. Relaxed strolls are a pleasant part of life in Baku, particularly in leafy Fountains Square (also the nightlife center of the city), and the seafront Bulvar area has cafes and attractions such as a big wheel and high-tech 5-D Cinema.
History lovers will enjoy the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a medieval sandstone castle, while Maiden's Tower is a 29 m stone structure that could be thousands of years old in origin (many visible parts are from the 12th century). Just off Fountains Square is the Nizami Literature Museum, a tribute to Azerbaijan's poets. Also popular is the Carpet Museum in Bulvar, housing rare, ancient and beautiful rugs.
Host to the 2015 European Games athletics tournament, Baku has increasing sporting opportunities. There are leisure facilities such as the Aqua Sport gym, pool and fitness center at 26 Abilov Street, Nasimi District - the entry fee is around 10 USD.
Healthcare in Baku
Azerbaijan has a comprehensive public healthcare system but for expats living in Baku, private insurance is highly recommended. The standards of public facilities even in the capital are still not top-quality, but the care received in private facilities is better and there is a higher percentage of English-speaking staff. Private facilities are licensed by the Ministry of Health but otherwise operate independently. The quality of healthcare in Baku is by far the highest in the country.
A major hospital is the Caspian International Hospital. For outpatient treatment, the Turkish-American Medical Center has a good website with an English option. English-speaking pharmacies include: Hyatt pharmacy, Caspian pharmacy and Cheburashka pharmacy. The emergency number for an ambulance in Azerbaijan is 103.
Transportation in Baku
Baku has a wide public transportation network, including bus, tram and trolley-bus, which is very inexpensive. However, it is not always reliable or of the highest standard. By far the most efficient option is the city's underground metro, which is the most popular public transportation choice for foreigners. It is relatively clean and safe, and being designed in Soviet-era grandeur, it is a sight worth seeing in its own right. Hiring a private driver in Baku is a decent option at around 50 USD or less per day.
The state of roads in Azerbaijan, even in the capital, is poor. This can make driving hazardous and parking difficult. Baku's drivers are also erratic and disinclined to follow traffic laws. Nevertheless, expats moving to Baku should remember that two serious motoring offenses are making a left-hand turn across traffic (an alternative option will need to be found to make a right turn), and driving under the influence of any alcohol whatsoever. Police may stop vehicles and seek unofficial fines (bribes), but these can usually be avoided through patience and politeness.
International driver's licenses are valid in Azerbaijan for up to four months; after that, a stamp from the traffic police is required.