Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Rules of the game

A short postscript to the recent Baku armchair adventure…

So. You’ve reached Baku and want to catch the ferry across the Caspian to Aktau in Kazakhstan. Even if you haven’t, and have no plans to do so anytime soon, you may nevertheless find the story below intriguing. If only for the insight it provides into life in Azerbaijan…

Firstly, get yourself a local SIM card for your phone. Absolutely essential. Unless you want to die of old age here. Or be deported for overstaying your visa. Truth is, and that can be a very elusive quantity around here, in either case you’ll go bankrupt first. If, like me, you no longer have a mobile, you can acquire the complete package for around twenty pounds. Go and chat to the very helpful, trustworthy staff in Baku’s Tourism Information Center. Good English to boot.

Next, visit the port and locate the ticket office. Expect a door with ’Kasse’ painted on it, nothing more. From very close – fifty metres – to the intersection of Y.Safarov Street and Nobel Avenue, head down a rough road for a couple of hundred metres, past various wrecks of buses. Some may still be in service. Find the lady who seems to be there during the week, give her your phone number, and a small fee to help with the usual administrative costs. This last bit is crucial. Otherwise see previous paragraph. Crisp US dollars work best.

Then wait. By all means take the number of the ticket office, and call them twice daily, around ten and three. Great if you speak Russian or Azeri, but just saying ’Ship Kazakhstan’ works fine, with the usual pleasantries. If you do need help with the language barrier, the Tourism Information Center can help out. You suspect they have the ticket office on speed dial.

Now the intriguing bit. You’d be forgiven for thinking that ships to Kazakhstan are pretty rare, a few times a month. No schedule, they just go when there’s sufficient cargo, often at just a few hours notice. Admittedly things may be a bit different in winter, but otherwise there seems to be rather more sailings than you’d be led to believe. I reckon there’s one every 3-4 days, weekly at worst. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but, until I’d made a small cash donation towards administrative costs, the ferries were just rumours, ghost ships. Contribution made, phone call the next day. Ship to Kazakhstan.

[Author’s note: Oddly enough, the Kazakhstan end of the operation seems to have a far better grasp of what the ferry is up to – call agents Tagu in Aktau on 3292-513989.

Self-imposed editorial rules prevent identification of the lady at the ticket office, or the size of the contribution made to cover administrative costs. However, if you are planning on catching a ferry to Kazakhstan, contact me via the website – if I’m satisfied you’re a genuine traveller I’ll normally share this information with you]


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