Intro: The Long and Winding Road

I will here chronicle my trip to Azerbaijan, which in retrospect was one of the more bone-headed undertakings of my life.

Here is the run-up:

While training in a Muay Thai camp in Thailand, I look ahead to the next few months. Where will I go? What will I do? I decide that I should visit the Caucasus countries: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. I won’t go into the list of factors that influenced this decision.

I check out the visa situation for U.S. citizens. Georgia, no visa required. Armenia, visa easily available for purchase at the border. Azerbaijan, however, can only be obtained in advance at an Azerbaijani embassy. A Letter of Invitation from a tourist company, an application form (submitted online and in person), two photographs are required, and an unspecified “processing fee” are required. Distinctly former Soviet crap, rivaling the Uzbekistan visa. The processing time is listed as 5-10 days.

The nearest Azerbaijan embassy is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I had gotten my Thai visa there only a few months prior, and enjoyed my time there. Sure, I can hang out there for a week while I wait for the visa to be processed.

I pay a tourism company $60 online to arrange my LOI. I fly to Kuala Lumpur and deliver all my documents to the embassy on a Wednesday. I am required to pay an additional $70 “processing fee”, bringing the total cost of the visa to $130. The consul is a fairly nice guy. The embassy is supposed to be closed for a week for the Nowruz holiday, but he lets me drop my documents off anyway. He tells me I can possibly get my visa on Monday, or at the latest Wednesday. Great.

I stay in KL a few days and then go to Tioman island. While relaxing at this tropical paradise, the consul texts me to say that my photograph (which I have used for several previous visas) is “too dark” and that I must return to KL and submit another one. Now my visa will not be ready until a full week later than originally promised. I am not happy.

I decide that the most economical way to get to Baku is to fly through Dubai. The cheapest flight from KL to Dubai is on Sri Lankan airways, with a short layover in Colombo. I procrastinate buying the ticket until two days before the flight, a Monday, when the price has increased $150. Cursing my stupidity, and not wanting to have to pay yet another price increase the following day, I grit my teeth and pay for the flight. The next day (the day before the flight) the price has dropped back to its original figure. A bit of internet research tells me that one should never purchase a flight on a Monday. I thank the universe for this lesson, and restrain myself from hurling my laptop across the room.

I book three nights in a Dubai hotel, get my visa, and fly out of KL on a Wednesday. When the plane arrives in Sri Lanka at 5 p.m, we are told that the flight has been delayed until 7. After waiting around for over an hour, it turns out that the flight is actually delayed until 7 a.m., the following morning. Our large group of tired and irate passengers herd to the customer service counter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sri Lankan airways is not terribly organized for this sort of situation. After several hours, we are driven to a hotel where we get four hours of sleep before returning to the airport.

I finally arrive in Dubai and find my hotel. I am informed that of course I must still pay for the previous night that I reserved, but was not able to utilize due to my unplanned stay in Colombo. I am also informed that I did not read the fine print on the booking site, and must pay an additional 20% in “city taxes”. Three nights accommodation in Dubai (again one of which I did not use) costs me over $200. I am not happy.

I spend two days in Dubai looking at malls with aquariums and malls with ski slopes. I head back to the airport to catch my flight to Baku. It is on Azal (Azerbaijan’s national carrier), leaving at 1 p.m., a short hop across Iran.

I get to the ticket counter and present my passport. The woman looks through it and calls a manager over. He asks me when I am returning to Dubai. I inform him that I am not, that I will be traveling overland to Georgia. He asks me where my visa to Georgia is. I inform him that U.S. citizens require no visa to Georgia. He then informs me that since I have no return ticket to Dubai, and no onward ticket to another country, he cannot let me on the plane.

Doing a poor job of restraining my fury, I spend the next 20 minutes arguing with him and his supervisor. My logical bullets ricochet futilely off them like Superman. (A similar situation had happened to me while trying to fly from Australia to New Zealand a few months earlier). They grudgingly accept my points that my Azerbaijani visa is valid, and that as an American I do not require a visa to Georgia (the same as Dubai). However, they claim that the Azerbaijani immigration officer could still deny me entry on the grounds of having no plane ticket for onward travel, in which case the airline would allegedly be liable for the cost of sending me back to Dubai. I tell them that, in the event of such a remote possibility occurring, I will purchase a flight back to Dubai from Baku. They insist I cannot get on the plane unless I have already purchased the ticket.

I weigh my options. I know I am in the right, but Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are the gatekeepers. I may win eventually, but I will have to miss this flight to do so. Then I will have to stay another exorbitantly expensive night in Dubai, re-buy a flight for tomorrow, and make multiple phone calls to an Azal customer service department that I’m guessing will not be terribly sympathetic. I grudging open my laptop and purchase a return ticket to Dubai. For 180 euros.

When I land in Baku, the immigration officer asks me, “What is the purpose of your visit to Azerbaijan?” and “How long will you be staying in Azerbaijan?” He then stamps me into the country. I wish a slow and painful death upon the Dubai Azal employees. I call Azal to refund my return flight to Dubai, which they are happy to do…for a 50-euro cancellation fee.

As I make my way from the airport to Baku, it begins to dawn on me just how much time and money I have spent getting to this country. As I start to mentally tally up the exact figure, I stop myself as my temperature begins to rise. Forget the past. Look to tomorrow. Let the Azerbaijan adventure begin. The cost will all be worth it.

Yeah, not so much…

 

22 Comments

  1. thailand travel blogs photos October 25, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Pretty! This has been an incdredibly wonderful post.

    Thanks for providing his information.

    Here iss my page – thailand travel blogs photos

     
  2. this week December 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously believe that this site
    needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to
    read more, thanks for the information!

     
  3. Pozyczkaju.pl January 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I am really enjoying the theme/design of your website. Do you ever
    run into any internet browser compatibility
    issues? A handful of my blog readers have complained
    about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but
    looks great in Safari. Do you have any recommendations to help fix this issue?

     
  4. Candy crush saga hack download January 4, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    When it comes to figuring out all the ins and outs of a video clip match|especially the ones on
    your phone|you could spend thousands of several hours on finish making
    an attempt to defeat it this is why Sweet Crush Saga Dwell Resource 3.8.five was produced!
    For you players to take edge of all the specific characteristic this
    resource gives. Not only you will positive aspects from all these attributes but you
    will also help your self conquer each and every single stage the annoyed you
    for a whilst. No a lot more ready hours
    to get existence or have a restricted quantity of boosters.

    Now almost everything you would like has been included in this resource and appropriate with
    Fb|Apple Gadgets (Ipod|Ipad|Iphones) and Android phones also.

     
  5. Pflegeheim compassio January 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    It is perfect time to make some plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy.
    I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to recommend you some attention-grabbing issues or suggestions.
    Maybe you can write subsequent articles relating to this article.
    I want to learn more things about it!

     
  6. gsa February 4, 2014 at 4:32 am

    I used to be suggested this website by means of my cousin.
    I am no longer certain whether or not this publish
    is written via him as nobody else realize such precise about my problem.
    You’re incredible! Thank you!

     
  7. fun games to play when bored February 14, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Thanks for every other fantastic post. Where else may anyone get that
    type of information in such a perfect way of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I’m at the look for such information.

     
  8. how to build links to a video February 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Thanks for every other informative website. Where else
    may I am getting that kind of info written in such an
    ideal means? I have a venture that I’m just now running on, and I’ve been on
    the glance out for such info.

     
  9. kredyt bez zdolności kredytowej February 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    Hi! Quick question that’s totally off topic. Do you know how to
    make your site mobile friendly? My website looks weird when browsing from my iphone4.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might
    be able to correct this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.
    Appreciate it!

     
  10. Jared February 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Are you looking for cheap high-risk auto insurance. The overall cost of these premiums is
    minimal because the risk is spread over a large population.
    Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Michigan, and Mississippi are the most expensive states when it comes to auto insurance
    premiums.

     
  11. http://jongbor.org/start_profile_freddieforwood_a_straightforward_analysis_of_effective_profile_shirleygeake_an_ideas_analysis_of_methods_in_profile_t_easily_switch_between_5_completely_different_ip_altering_proxy April 14, 2014 at 7:03 am

    They pretty much repeated their actions from
    the previous night’s show while performing there.
    If you need to hire criminal lawyers in Melbourne, the besst way is to browse different websites and find an online law firm that deals in criminal cases.
    If yoou carefully put all these points into consideration when looking for a good criminal lawyer, you should find it very easy to get the best one.

     
  12. music online videos May 3, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Magnificent site. Plenty of helpful information here.
    I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharijng in delicious.And obviously, thanks in your
    sweat!

    Check out my page; music online videos

     
  13. Johne224 May 4, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I’m glad that it turned out so effectively and I hope it will continue in the future because it is so worthwhile and meaningful to the community. ekeedbcbbkee

     
  14. Minuscule La vallee des fourmis perdues Telecharger May 4, 2014 at 6:51 am

    certainly like your web-site however you have to check the spelling on several of your posts.
    Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth then again I’ll
    definitely come again again.

    Also visit my homepage; Minuscule La vallee des fourmis perdues Telecharger

     
  15. lows home improvment May 9, 2014 at 2:54 am

    Greetings from Los angeles! I’m bored to tears at work so I
    decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break.

    I really like the information you present here and can’t wait to
    take a look when I get home. I’m shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my
    mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G ..
    Anyways, superb blog!

     
  16. hdfc credit card jumbo cash loan June 27, 2014 at 7:07 am

    It’s going to ƅe endxing of mine dɑy, except before end I am reading this fantastic post to
    increase mƴ knowledgе.

     
  17. déménagement sherbrooke August 7, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Hi there friends, its wonderful post about teachingand fully explained, keep it up all the time.

    My website … déménagement sherbrooke

     
  18. annie build September 28, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    My brother suggested I might like this web site.
    He was totally right. This post actually made my day.

    You cann’t imagine simply how much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

     
  19. http://pharmacyreviewer2014.com October 6, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Every weekend i used to pay a visit this website, because i wish
    for enjoyment, for the reason that this this site conations truly good funny information too.

     
  20. hurtta collection frost October 23, 2014 at 4:31 am

    I take pleasure in, cause I found just what I used to be taking a
    look for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have
    a nice day. Bye

     
  21. Scotty March 6, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks for the auspicious writeup. It if truth be told was a entertainment account it.
    Look complex to far brought agreeable from you! By the way, how can we
    keep up a correspondence?

     
  22. Mahjong July 13, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Mahjong is often a sport associated with Oriental society that
    is certainly tinkered with, Mahjong several participants, using pieces called tiles.
    Mahjong Mixing tactics

     

Leave a Reply to music online videos Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

 

 

Theme by HermesThemes

Copyright © 2013 Vincent Vanzetti. All Rights Reserved