© Emily Lush 2017

Travelling by Bus in Azerbaijan: Tips and A Report from the Road

Public transportation is an affordable, easy and convenient way to travel around Azerbaijan – especially for inter-city trips. Despite only taking a limited number of buses (just five in total) on our trip in April 2017, we did a fair amount of research in advance and spent a decent amount of time hanging out at bus stations.


© Emily Lush 2017


If you’re curious (or maybe anxious) about travelling around Azerbaijan by bus, I hope this post answers some of your questions. Scroll to the end for my report from the road, including all routes, times and costs from our recent travels in Azerbaijan.






Public transport in Azerbaijan: The basics

Routes –

The first thing to know is that a lot of Azeri people travel by bus. Every time we travelled, we were the only (obvious) foreigners on board. If there’s local demand for it, there’s a bus route – and as such, you can be sure that buses connect most major centres throughout Azerbaijan (except of course Nagorno Karabakh). Baku is the largest hub, but even smaller towns such a Sheki are well-connected. I took the photo above at Sheki station.

Frequency –

Buses conform to a mix of regular scheduled routes and ad-hoc timetables that leave as soon as the vehicle fills up. Major routes run buses at least hourly. Other shorter journeys might fit around peak hour. Abundance mentality definitely applies here – there will always be a bus waiting for you or not far off. The only time you might get stuck is before 8am or after 5pm, so try to travel between those times.

Types of vehicle –

‘Bus’ can mean a lot of things in Azerbaijan – coach, minibus, marshrutka (a glorified van), or maybe even a taxi. These seem to be used interchangeably depending on the day of the week, the time of day, or how many people show up at the station.

Some smaller vans and minibuses are privately owned, with the driver’s name and phone number pegged above the dashboard.

Fares –

Bus fares are incredibly affordable, even for long journeys. Expect to pay around 1 AZN (0.60 USD) for a shorter trip (80km or so) and up to 10 AZN for longer legs. Fares are set (don’t attempt to haggle) and the same price for foreigners and locals.

Tickets are usually purchased on board the bus by paying the driver directly (always cash, preferably small bills). Sometimes drivers asked us for the fare up-front; other times we paid at the end of the journey. Even at the bus stations with ticket windows (kassa) desks, we still purchased a ticket on the bus.

It’s not possible to reserve tickets in advance, but you might be able to pre-purchase a seat on your day of travel (I doubt it though, since you always seem to pay the driver directly). You don’t need any ID.

Travelling with luggage –

After our first few marshrutka experiences in Georgia, I was a little worried about travelling with a duffel bag. I needn’t have been – most buses have luggage space in the back. Seats aren’t roomy, but there’s enough legroom to fit a large backpack. Sometimes larger bags were placed in the aisle.

Bus stations –

Stations are generally well equipped with public toilets (pay 0.20 AZN before you enter) and kiosks where you can purchase bottled water, chai, packaged snacks and bread. Some have a ticket desk where you can confirm departure times.

The International Bus Terminal in Baku is organised chaos. Marshrutky arrive and depart from the top level of the terminal, so your first challenge is to wind your way through the bottom levels of shops (we just followed a group of people who were carrying bags in the hope that they were headed where we wanted to go). We knew we had no hope of finding the bus we wanted ourselves, so we just stood around and waited for someone to approach us. There is competition between drivers to fill up their vehicles fast, so expect a certain amount of toing and froing.

Electronic timetables are displayed overhead, but in our experience, these don’t mean much. Popular destinations are signposted out in the parking area, so if you spot a white sign or dashboard placard marked with your intended destination, you can head straight over and approach the driver.

Etiquette –

There’s nothing out of the ordinary to report here. Windows should be kept closed in winter, and there’s no smoking on the bus. The driver will point out a seat where they think you should sit – the front of the bus is prime real estate and usually reserved for elderly passengers (or whoever the driver wants to chat to on the journey).


© Emily Lush 2017

Tips for travelling by inter-city bus

  • Learn the Azerbaijani word for bus station – avtovagsal – so you know what to say when you jump in a taxi. Whenever we took a taxi or Uber to the avtovagsal, our driver always made sure we knew where we were going and asked around for the bus on our behalf. This is just one example of how people in Azerbaijan will often go out of their way to help you – if you look hopeless enough.
  • All buses have the destination well-marked on the dash if not printed on the vehicle itself. But you’ll still need someone to point you in the right direction, especially in Baku. Learn how to accurately pronounce the name of your destination before you get to the station to avoid confusion.
  • As mentioned, buses don’t always conform to set timetables. Buses between major destinations run at least hourly. The best place to check the schedule (other than maybe the station itself) is at the closest tourist information centre.
  • You’ll often see multiple buses for a destination queued up at the station. You might jump at the empty looking bus thinking you’ll have more room – but that’s not the way it works. Buses won’t depart until they are completely full, so if you want to get a move on, go for the bus that’s already filling up.
  • In our experience, passengers don’t smoke on the bus (drivers not included). Buses are usually kept pretty clean; some drivers even mop the floor between trips.
  • All the buses we took made toilet stops every one-to-three hours at roadside restaurants.
  • Towards the end of the journey, the bus will start stopping sporadically (sometimes in the middle of nowhere) to let people off in front of their houses, etc. Don’t jump the gun – if you want to end up at the final stop, make sure you’ve actually arrived there before you disembark.
  • Depending on your destination, the bus may not end up at the ‘bus station’ proper but at some informal depot or exchange. Either way, there will be no shortage of taxi drivers waiting to meet you.


© Emily Lush 2017

Report from the Road: APRIL 2017

We travelled in Azerbaijan during the first two weeks of April 2017. In that time we took five bus journeys, including one international leg.


Baku to Quba (and Quba to Baku) –

Buses between Baku and Quba are very frequent. The journey covers a stretch of well-maintained highway and takes just over two hours. A ticket costs 4 AZN. We took a minibus on the way up and a large coach on the way back.

Baku to Sheki –

This is another popular route and buses appeared to be leaving Baku quite frequently. We paid 7 AZN each for a seat on the minibus and departed at 11am. The trip to Sheki took around four hours.

Sheki to Qax –

Our intention was to travel directly from Sheki to Tbilisi, but staff at the tourism information centre in Sheki advised us to go to Qax first. Sheki to Qax is a very short trip, taking around 40 minutes. Most of the other passengers on the journey were commuting to work. We took the first minibus of the day at 8am and paid just 1 AZN per person.

Qax to Tbilisi –

Once in Qax, we waited for an hour for the bus to Tbilisi. Qax has the smartest bus station of the towns and cities we visited, with a cafe, shops, and very friendly staff. Buses to Tbilisi were running at 8.30am, 10.30am and 1pm. Our bus pulled into the station just after 10.30 (note that it doesn’t originate in Qax but somewhere further down the road) and we were in Tbilisi by 4pm. A single ticket cost 8 AZN.



Information in this post is accurate to the best of my knowledge – but remember things change all the time. If you have any questions about travelling by bus in Azerbaijan or maybe something else to add, please leave your comments below.

17 comments on “Travelling by Bus in Azerbaijan: Tips and A Report from the Road

  1. Kevin Muray

    I hope to use this information one day. Buses are a wonderful means of getting to know a culture.

    • Emily Lush

      I agree! It’s always nice to travel overland and meet your fellow passengers.

  2. Hi!
    Thank you for this post! I am currently at Qax and I need to get out from here at sunday. Do you know maybe if at sunday hours of buses to Tbilisi are the same as for working day?
    Thank you again! 😀

    • Emily Lush

      The bus times are posted up at the station (inside the waiting room near the counter) – I don’t remember there being different times for different days, so you should be safe! They have a counter at Qax so you could double check there. Good luck and safe travels!

  3. I verify the above information! Just took the bus at 1300 leaving Qax to Tbilisi, arriving at 1700. Thank you for this information! Have a great trip!!

  4. Hey bro ! Thanks for this good information it will help a lot of us but please in Qax it s easy to find the main station and the bus for tbilissi ? I Will be there on end of august merci mec !,

    • Emily Lush

      Hi Denis, glad to help!

      Yes, Qax is a small town and there is only one bus station – just ask for the ‘avtovagzal’ and they will point you in the right direction. There is a ticket counter inside and the family that owns the cafe are very helpful (although no English). If you tell them Tbilisi, they will assist you to find the right bus. (Note that it drops into the station, doesn’t depart from Qax, so it can be late.)

      Happy travels and enjoy Azerbaijan!

  5. Hi,
    Thanks for all the useful info.
    I also intend to travel by bus or shared taxi between Baku and Sheki.
    Did you take the bus from the main station? Do you remember the frequency of departure to that destination? How come it only took 4 hours when every site states it takes 6 hours?
    Do you know where to take any shared taxi?

    • Emily Lush

      Hi Arno,

      Thanks a lot. Yes, we took a marshrutka from the main station in Baku. Destinations are marked by signs, so you can head straight to the Sheki section. I can’t say for sure how frequently they were leaving, but at least hourly. When we arrived in the morning (around 9am) there was one bus pulling out and another filling up. Maybe we had a good run? I don’t know. The trip was nice and quick for us. Google Maps puts the journey at around 4 hours so I guess we got lucky. You can also take a shared taxi from the bus station in Baku – I would just ask the drivers heading to Sheki, or go downstairs to the taxi area and ask there.

      Good luck!

  6. Billy Hussain

    Thanks for the info… I took a marshrutka this morning at 8 from Baku and arrived here in Sheki just after 12. Nice easy trip, though there was no room at all for my backpack, which wasn’t very large. I think that had I arrived earlier, it would have gone in the back. In the end I had to pay for the pack to ‘take its own seat’. Not that anyone spoke English at the station, but that’s what was agreed upon. 14 AZN for the two of us to travel…

    • Thanks for the update, Billy! Good to know the drive time and fares are still the same — but sorry to hear about your bag! At least you got a bit of extra leg room, I hope!

      Enjoy Sheki!

  7. Hi Emily,

    Thank you for the detailed description of your journey which is so important to independent travellers like me.
    I’ll be taking the same route like you – Sheki-Qax-Tbilisi this coming March 2018. Can I know whether there is anywhere I can change some Georgian Lari along the route?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Wendy! Thanks for your message. We exchanged our leftover AZN for Lari once we crossed the border into Georgia. After you walk through immigration (you have to get out of the van and walk), there is a currency exchange desk and a small food shop. It probably wasn’t the best rate in the world, but it was convenient.

      I hope this helps! Have a wonderful trip!

  8. Joao Almeida

    Hi Emily – Really nice information. I am planning this route for June/18.
    When you say, ‘you have to get out of the van and walk’, does that mean just to cross the border or do we have to arrange another transportation on the Georgia side?
    As far a enjoying the region, what stops would you recommend between Baku and Tbilisi? Just Sheki (for how long?)? Or there is any other town you visited? Assuming Qax stop is just for the bus!

    • Hi Joao! Thanks for your comment. Sorry if that was unclear—yes, you just walk through the border crossing and re-board your (same) minibus on the other side.

      We also did a short trip to Quba from Baku. I’ve heard that Lahic is a nice place as well, but unfortunately we didn’t make it this time. Sheki was wonderful—don’t miss it. I recommend at least two nights (at the Karvansaray Hotel if you can get a room: http://wander-lush.org/sleeping-in-sheki-karvansaray-hotel/).

      And yes, Qax was just for the bus—although I do hear there are things to see there if you want to stay longer!

      Have a wonderful trip!

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