Baku, Azerbaijan Report of what it's like to live there - 10/01/09
Personal Experiences from Baku, Azerbaijan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
One of many.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
16-20 hours. From Dulles via London or Frankfurt.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Traffic is horrible here. Typical commute to the embassy is approx 20-30 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is expensive here. $10 for a gallon of milk, but that's what your COLA is for.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Camping equipment and anything liquid (laundry detergent, salsa, parm. cheese, etc..)You can ship liquids via the pouch, so choose your consumables wisely!!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, and we actually just discovered Mary Brown's (similar to KFC). There are also good oriental and Thai restaurants here.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A full-time nanny/housekeeper costs about $500/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes but very expensive. The embassy says that they have one, but it's pretty sad.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
I typically use the ATM on the embassy compound, but I've used others around town when I had to and haven't been ripped off (yet).
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All denominations. We attended a non-denomiational church which meeds at the BIS school.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Not sure about this one, we had AFN.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
We got by with none but it is very difficult. The older generation speak russian and azerbaijani, but the younger generation only speaks azerbaijani.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
You can get by just fine with a sedan, but you really want to bring something with a little ground clearance. It doesn't need to be 4WD, but to enjoy your tour, you're going to want to get out of the city.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Available and pretty reliable. Depending on the plan you choose, could be anywhere from $40-$120.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Very cheap here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
We were satisfied with the vet service here.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Very formal..The locals wear suits for construction jobs!
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Very unhealthy. We've known a few families that have had to curtail due to breathing issues.
2. What immunizations are required each year?
Just the usual..
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
My family and I feel very safe here, even walking in the city late at night. Use common sense as you would in any city.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The embassy has a full-time nurse on staff, and she is very helpful/knowledgeable. There is also an SOS clinic that has western-trained doctors.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Similar to DC but not as hot in the summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our children attend BIS which is a QSI school and they love it. TISA is also another option. It really depends which part of the city you live in.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
When we first arrived the QSI school offered pre-school and we have no complaints.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, soccer, basketball and a few others I believe.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Good. As with any post, it is what you make it. We have enjoyed our time here.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Good restaurants and shopping.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There are a lot of families here, so keeping small children entertained here is very easy. For the older children it can be tough.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't see why not.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots especially if you get out of the city. Mud volcanos, fire temple, old city, candy cane mountains and lots of places to go camping and hiking.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I might have extended another year, but with so many other countries to see, 2 years was a good tour.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
sense of order and your antique car.
3. But don't forget your:
patience and sense of humor.