Lying on the Caspian Sea ensconced between the Caucasus Mountains, Azerbaijan is at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Expats moving to Azerbaijan will soon see that the country's rich cultural heritage and economic development have been shaped by its geography, natural resources and location, where East meets West.
Part of the Silk Road network, international trade has been significant throughout Azerbaijan’s history. The country is also rich in oil and gas reserves, which have continued to attract foreign investment and expats working in the energy sector. Thanks to this, the economy has diversified, with work opportunities ranging from teaching and construction to humanitarian aid. Securing long-term employment may not be easy, but the job market is much broader than it was during its Soviet times.
A former Soviet state, Azerbaijan has developed significantly since its independence in 1991. Its capital, Baku, stands as a testament to this, boasting a modern cityscape, efficient metro system and extensive public transport network, luxury hotel accommodation and unique architectural designs. Interesting buildings such as the Heydar Aliyev Centre and the three Flame Towers, linked to the country's adopted motto as the Land of Fire, contrast those in the Old City. Icherisheher, the historical centre of Baku, will surely impress new arrivals as they integrate into Azeri life, with sites including the Palace of The Shirvanshahs and the 12th Century Maiden Tower.
Naturally, there are both pros and cons to living in Azerbaijan. As beautiful as it is, housing standards are variable and living expenses are high for many of the country’s residents. Fortunately, expats who are well compensated with a lucrative employment package will find the cost of living reasonably affordable, with a host of options for eating out and trying local cuisine on a budget.
Nevertheless, expats should plan for their healthcare in Azerbaijan while families moving with children should consider various education options. While Baku offers decent medical care, healthcare facilities are limited outside the capital. We strongly recommend that expats have comprehensive medical insurance – it is worth negotiating for employers to cover this expense.
Additionally, expats relocating to Azerbaijan with their children may find it difficult to select the most suitable school. Russian is spoken across the country along with ethnic minority languages, but Azerbaijani is the official language and main language of instruction in schools. Given the language barriers, expats don’t usually send their children to public schools, rather choosing to enrol them in an international school, which are all concentrated in Baku, or send them to a boarding school abroad.
When moving to Azerbaijan, expats could face a range of hurdles, from culture shock to safety concerns. However, while the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in southwestern Azerbaijan is very real, most expats will be based in or around Baku, far from this region. Crime rates are relatively low in Baku, and locals are happy to help expats integrate into their new lives.
Moving to Azerbaijan may not be smooth sailing for every new arrival, but by understanding cultural and political sensitivities, expats and their families may be able to embrace life in this country with an open mind.
Population: Around 10.1 million
Capital city: Baku
Neighbouring countries: Azerbaijan is bordered by Russia and Georgia to the north, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
Geography: Bordering the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan straddles Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The Greater Caucasus mountain range is in the north and the country's central region is characterised by extensive flatlands. Nearly half of all the world's mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan.
Political system: Unitary semi-presidential republic
Major religion: Islam. Azerbaijan is largely secular and religion is generally viewed as a private matter.
Main languages: Azerbaijani (also referred to as Azeri), with some Russian and Armenian spoken in some of the border regions.
Money: The Manat (AZN) is divided into 100 qəpik or qapik. ATMs and card facilities are readily available in all major urban centres, but rural areas often rely on cash.
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used (types C and F)
Internet domain: .az
International dialling code: 994
Emergency contacts: 102 (police); 103 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road. Despite Baku's modern metro system, public transport can be unreliable and doesn't cover all areas, and many expats prefer to use their own private vehicle.