Eydar Aliev cultural center on the way to the harbour
We made it to the boat. The process to get on the boat to Aqtau (or Turkmenbashi) is pretty horrible so here are a few more tips and information for those who are on the same itinerary. The info below is what we believe to have understood, with the help of our azeris friends :
- There are 2 ports, 6 km away from each other. One for passengers, one for cargo. For cars and motorbikes, it is cheaper to get on the cargo port, located in Saga (Google maps : ) ; for bicycles and regular passengers, the passenger boat should be cheaper. Each boat seem to leave few times a week ; at least at this time of the year -july-. They leave when they are ready to leave ; meaning that there are enough goods/people on board.
- Prices :
Cargo boat : Ticket per person around 100USD + about 70USD per meter for the vehicle. Passengers without vehicles may be allowed to get in, but only if the cargo is fully loaded and still has extra room. You can only have your ticket at the last minute as they seem not to be able to count if there is extra room or not before the trucks are on the boat. Ticket for a simple passenger on the cargo may go up to 200 USD. They would probably pretext that they are not legally allowed to let you in, as there is petrol on the boat, and charge you more for that reason.
Passenger boat : Each passenger pays around 100USD. It is free for a bicycle. Apparently, they can charge a lot for registered vehicles : up to 1500USD per car. Whether this is true or not is a mystery, as we were on bicycles.
Last ride under a pooring rain just to be sure we deserve our ticket
2pm and still not sure we gonna make it
On both boats, you may have to pay a sort of bribe at the custom, as the guys may pretext that they offer you a favour to let you on the boat, and that they may have earned more with other vehicles. We had to pay an extra 100 USD to get our passport stamped and get on the boat.
- All the people we met did not speak english at all, some had some russian. Most were far from being helpful, antipathic and corrupted. Playing with the nerves of travellers seem to be one of their favourite activity. Being accompanied in the process by a local azeri is definitely a big plus.
- Information they give you may be wrong. Make sure to double/triple check, or stay there even if they tell you that there is no boat. In our experience, the antipathic girl at the ticket office (passenger harbour) told us this morning that we wouldn’t get our (passenger) boat today. We then went to the other harbour, where truck drivers were waiting to get on the cargo. When they started loading, we went to get a ticket, and they told us to go back to the passenger harbour as we could get one boat today. Arrived there, we could finally get our ticket. Because our visa was expiring today, the staff was in a position to ask us for a bribe that we couldn’t refuse to pay. It might be the reason why we only could leave today.
- The ride from Baku to Aqtau last for approximately 20 hours. However you will have to wait good few hours before and after commuting. We got on the boat at 4.30PM, it is now 10.30PM and we’re still in the harbour. Our visa is expiring at midnight, so we may be physically illegal in Azerbaijan soon. Technically, we’re not, as our visa got its exit stamp earlier in the afternoon.
- On the passenger boat, you get a little cabin. Beds have no sheet, shower and bathroom are rusty, but it is ok. The staff is ok, too. You can buy food and drinks on the boat. May be a little expensive.
- The process may be long and drive you crazy. The guys could make you do multiple return trips between the 2 harbours before getting some information, and finally a ticket. We bicycled around 80 km between the 2 harbours over the last 3 days, before getting ours.
- Be carefull with your Visa. Make sure to have few extra days available in Baku as you may have to wait for a few days. The longest we’ve heard was a french guy (no vehicle) stuck 10 days in Baku.
- If your visa expires, you probably will have to pay 300USD fine. It is only possible to extend the azeri visa if you are very sick, or there for business reasons.
- In case you can’t make it work by the sea, you can take a plane to Aqtau. There is a daily connection between Baku and Aqtau, with Azal Airlines. Right now, buying a ticket for the very same day you’d fly costs around 220USD.
The one who has the key of our freedom
Am I really on a Boat?
looking to the future
So now let’s drink some Georgian tchatcha we kept for celebration Because the boat finally left after being for 3 hours and 17 minutes officially illegal in Azerbaidjan