As this academic year comes to an end, new groups of foreign students will be making the way to Azerbaijan. I want to make these next few blog posts about getting around in Baku.
One of the things I have greatly enjoyed about Baku is the functionally public transportation. In Baku there are buses, metro, taxis, and Über that are readily available. In regards to the buses, there are two different kinds. There are the red, purple, and sometimes white Baku City Buses that only accept the pre-loaded Baku Bus Card. You can purchase a Baku Bus Card from kiosks that are located at some bus stops. The bus cards are only 2 AZN. The other buses are also white, but they only accept coins and small bank notes. These buses usually have a white plaque with red and blue writing detailing the stops that it makes. Although these buses are different in payment forms they both cost the same for a ride (20 qepik). It is important to always have some coins on you in the event there is only a white bus at your location.
*** A note on bus etiquette ***
If you find yourself on a bus in Azerbaijan there are some things you need to know. The old women are the top bosses on the bus. There is a hierarchy on the bus that I will try my best to explain.
If you are a:
Young Male – You must give up your seat on the bus to first elderly women, elderly men, young women, and children (AKA everyone).
Young Female – You must give up your seat on the bus to first elderly women, elderly men (if you want to), and children (if you want to).
Old Male – You must give up your seat on the bus to first elderly women, young women (if you want to), and children (if you are feeling up to it).
Old Female – You must give up your seat to NO ONE!
Don’t be surprised if an elderly women yells at you for not giving up your seat. Also on the buses people push and jab elbows when they get on. If you don’t give up your seat you may or may not be publicly shamed by the elderly women and others who decide to join in on it. It also very common for people (usually elderly women) to get in arguments with the bus driver. Back in the Soviet period the bus drivers could stop anywhere to let people off on their routes. Now that there is an actual bus route and system bus riders can’t do that, so the elderly people get really upset and get aggressive with the drivers. Another topic of anger among the elderly folks is the Baku Bus Card, they seem to think that once you buy the card you don’t have to load it with money. When they get on the bus and there is no money on their cards they act surprised and start arguing about the new system with the bus drivers.
Just don’t be surprised if a loud argument breaks out on the bus.
I once saw this old women try to pull the bus driver out of his seat when she got upset at him. The best thing to do is to not say anything and just watch with the other passengers, because other people start to join in and comment.
Another thing to be aware of is: Sometimes there will be people waiting at the bus stops who do not have Baku Bus Cards, they will offer you 20 Qepik in exchange for you swiping your card for them. Just make sure you know hoe much is on your card before you accept the money. Most of the time these people do not want to by a card so they just wait for the passengers that have one to come by.
There is a metro that only runs on two lines. I personally do not like the metro because the carts can get really packed. You can use the Baku Bus Card for the metro too so it is really convenient. The underground metro stations are decorated very nicely with marble flooring and art displayed on the columns.
As for taxis, there are yellow and now the purple or as the locals call them the “Eggplant taxis.” If you’re a foreigner and don’t speak Azeri or Russian well then I would suggest you use Uber. The normal taxis will try to rip you off by charging you 10x the normal price. Some of them will not use the meters and just make up a price. With Uber you will have set price and can track and pin the route with ease.
A useful app to download is Maps.Me, you can use it without internet service, and you can save places on it.
It’s very hard to get lost in Baku, so hopefully you won’t.