Baku Gay Travel
Is Azerbaijan safe for gay travelers? Before your Baku gay travel adventure, check out wolfyy’s tips in this guide. Welcome to the City of Fire, one of the world’s newest luxury destinations.
The Gay Travel Experience: Baku, Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan translates to “the land of fire” and after visiting the city of Baku, you certainly won’t forget this. Stunning buildings throughout the city emulate flames in one way or another. Most buildings have some sort of eloquent curve, resembling how fires dance and flicker.
Azerbaijan was definitely one of my bolder choices for a gay travel destination. I had concerns about visiting Baku as a gay guy, as would many gay travelers attracted to beautiful cities in strict muslim countries, such as Dubai or Kuala Lumpur. I personally did not have any bad experiences, although I did take a few precautions which I’ll mention below.
Is Azerbaijan Safe for Gay Travelers?
Azerbaijan is a conservative Muslim country and offers no protections to LGBT citizens. Gay life in Baku is not so easy for locals. Azerbaijan has been known to arrest gay individuals on suspicious charges and so gay travelers should remain alert for any political unrest or unusual activity.
To remain safe while traveling in Azerbaijan, turn off any location-based dating apps. Utilize a VPN browser while surfing the internet. There are various applications for mobile phones that allow your to browse privately.
Baku gay travelers should follow these precautions to remain on the safe side. I personally did not encounter any issues while traveling Azerbaijan with my gay friend Hassan. We even shared a single bed in a Baku hotel. While we were prepared for it, hotel staff did not ask us any personal questions or give us any suspicious looks.
In my opinion, if you are not looking for trouble, you will not find it. I’d recommend you do not meet with anyone you don’t know, especially on any dating apps.
Why Choose Baku Gay Travel?
You may wonder why I choose to visit a country like Azerbaijan. The truth is that I still love exploring new cultures and new cities. Opinions often starkly differ when it comes to the ethics of traveling to anti-LGBT countries.
My personal goal as a gay traveler is to test out the gay travel experience in Baku and other cities around the world. This way I can relay the most important information to other gay individuals about what different cultures and cities are like.
Gay Baku: Where to Stay
Central Baku is the most convenient place to stay in the city. A hotel in central Baku will make it easy to get to major attractions such as the Old Town, the waterfront, the central railway station and other architectural sights.
I stayed at Boutique Hotel Baku, located on Alovsat Guliyev Street, in central Baku. I loved Boutique Hotel Baku for the immaculately clean rooms, adorable balconies overlooking the street and the friendly staff.
Baku Gay Travel Experiences
The iconic Flame Towers will be in plain sight as you travel around Baku. If you’d like to see them up close, head up to Highland Park. Take the funicular up the hillside and walk toward the lookout point. There is a large plaza from which you can see the entire city as well as the Flame Towers. It’s a great photo opportunity.
Pay a visit to the Shahidlar Monument while you are up in the Highland Park plaza area. Learn about one of Baku’s most important days in history and walk through Martyr’s Alley.
The Baku Old Town is beautiful, perfect for a late afternoon or evening stroll. This walled-in area of Baku has such a comforting and eloquent feel. I can guarantee that you will feel relaxed while wandering the ancient streets. There are tons of great restaurant options near the entrance as well. I’ll mention some of these in the Baku restaurants section of this guide.
You may find yourself walking past a traditional bazaar while in Baku. There is a large one not close to the Heydar Aliyev building. These kinds of shops will just about always try to overcharge tourists, so make sure you barter. It is easy to start by asking the price per kilogram.
Heydar Aliyev Center
If you love modern Architecture, then the Heydar Aliyev Building will be a perfect place to visit in Baku. The building was designed by Zaha Hadid, a famous architect known for her bold and unique modern designs, most of which incorporate dramatic curvature.
The campus surrounding the Heydar Aliyev building is a wide-open field with nice views of surrounding Baku. If the temperature is accommodating, it would be a great place to sunbathe or have a picnic in the grass.
The Heydar Aliyev building actually contains a museum, however I only visited to see the campus. Check out the Heydar Aliyev Center Website for events happening during your visit to Baku. The structure’s curves paired with the sun beaming off the white exterior make this work of art unforgettable.
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Fire Temple Ateshgah: A Baku Gay Must-See
The Fire Temple is a must-see while visiting Baku. In this region, Hindus discovered the natural phenomenon of fire emanating from the ground, burning from natural gas. Tourists come from all corners of the world to pay a visit to this compound.
Plan to spend one to two hours here, depending on how many of the history exhibits you plan to read. Check out more on the Fire Temple Ateshgah Website.
There is also a restaurant next to the entrance, which is convenient given the Fire Temple itself is about 30 minutes by car outside of central Baku. Hassan and I stopped here to get a couple of espressos before the visit.
One of my fondest memories of Azerbaijan was the taxi ride leaving the Fire Temple. Along the streets leading away from the temple, we saw dozens of oil extractors. Oscillating up and down they were collecting massive amounts of oil non-stop. It was such a glorious sight—something tangible to connect to how Baku is redefining itself as a global economic center.
Baku Mud Volcanoes
The countryside surrounding Baku is a volcanic area. There are various places where you can see volcanic activity and absorb the wonderful vistas. The barren land can seem to stretch on forever. My friend Hassan and I took a taxi to the entrance of a small village and then trekked up the mountainside toward the site.
I was expecting to see some bubbles popping up from the ground soon after reaching the top of the mountain. Upon arrival, we found out the volcanoes were not active at the time we visited. It was just unfortunate timing. We could still see the dips in the landscape where bubbles have previously formed.
If possible, check with a tour agency if you are set on seeing something volcanic. They may know what is active at the time of your visit. I still recommend taking a trip to one of the mud volcano sites. If nothing else, you will see the dry, ashy landscapes that are straight out of a movie scene. It was a nice hike too!
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Restaurants for Baku Gay Tourists
My top restaurant recommendation in Baku is Dolma Restaurant. Dolma Restaurant is an authentic, eloquent Azeri restaurant. It is located in the city center and it is physically underground. The inside walls are created with beautiful stonework, the lighting is romantic and the fabrics are eye-catching.
Let me give you an idea about the cost of food in Azerbaijan. $20 USD per person at Dolma Restaurant will fill you to the brim with several courses of delicious food and wine! Paired with the amazing service here, it was very much worth it. Food and wine in Azerbaijan are quite cheap, so fill up!
I think No. 1 Shawarma in Baku was my favorite shawarma restaurant of all time. The flavor of the shawarma wraps blew my mind. No. 1 Shawarma has a small outdoor seating area, perfect for lunch in the heart of the city.
Imeriti Restaurant is a great option for Georgian good in Baku. They have red wine by the pitcher and delicious cured meats. This place had some delicious food!
Try Some Shisha!
There is a chain of high-end lounges that offer shisha and other treats around Baku. 145 Group operates several establishments that each have a unique vibe, yet offer the same classy experience. I visited several of their locations in Baku including Metropol, Passage and Çay Bağı. You can find the best shisha in Baku at any 145 Group location.
Note however that all the 145 Group lounges do not serve alcohol. These hangouts are more so for smoking shisha and perhaps having some tea or dessert. It is more of a traditional Muslim activity, but all are welcome.
Baku Gay Travel Tips
The people of Azerbaijan speak Azeri, which is a form of Turkish. Some things like road signs may be in Azeri, but for the most part everything is written in English. Most people in Baku speak English, so you shouldn’t have any issues communicating in restaurants or hotels.
I arrived in Baku via overnight train from Tbilisi, Georgia. My friend Hassan and I booked overnight sleeper-car train tickets and lounged in a slightly crude yet private train car.
If you are heading to Baku from Tbilisi, then you can purchase train tickets in person at the Tbilisi main train station. Read wolfyy’s Tbilisi Gay Travel Guide for more information.
Azerbaijan is an oil rich country, which means transportation for you will be stunningly cheap! Taxi cabs cost next to nothing, so buzzing around the city by car will be more than economical.
Is Azerbaijan a Muslim Country?
Although Azerbaijan is a Muslim-majority country, you may not be able to tell this by simply walking the streets. Few people are in traditional Muslim dress and I did not hear any prayer calls the entire length of my trip.
Taxis in Baku
Hassan and I used mobile taxi applications many times while in Baku, and I noticed a certain trend each time we ordered a taxi. It seems that the taxi drivers in Baku do not place high importance on showing up exactly at your pickup point.
Save Money on Mobile Data Costs
I used to pay those massive fees for international mobile data. Many of us have dealt with annoying tasks like switching to local SIM cards or constantly trying to find a nearby wifi network to avoid the data charges. Some of my friends even travel without data entirely!
Azerbaijan Gay Life
The Republic of Azerbaijan provides zero protections for LGBT individuals, so gay life in Azerbaijan is quite harsh. The country is ranked one of the worst places to be gay in Europe. Azerbaijan only regained independence in 1991 and reformed many laws soon after.
The old sodomy ban was removed from law in the year 2000. The removal of this archaic law however, was required in order for Azerbaijan to join the Council of Europe.
LGBT Azeris face difficulty in expressing their sexual identities because most people in the country are simply confused about homosexuality. LGBT individuals thus go through life hiding who they truly are.
They fear retaliation by family and friends as well as arrest under false charges by the government. Many citizens of Azerbaijan do not possess the knowledge or have the resources to understand that homosexuality is normal.
LGBT Human Rights Issues in Azerbaijan
More than 80 LGBT individuals were arrested in September 2017 during a government crackdown targeting gays in Azerbaijan. Many were beaten and brutally tortured in prison. The stories available online are terrifying. Human rights groups sanctioned the nation for such atrocities. More of us need to spread the word about the help needed for gays in Azerbaijan.
Eurasianet published a touching story in 2018. The article is about an Azeri mother defying the odds and accepting her gay son. Have a read.
Nongovernmental organizations have been working over the past decade to increase LGBT awareness in Azerbaijan. New web resources have been created to help gay Azeris. We must remain hopeful that Azerbaijan can make some progress in providing at least basic human rights to LGBT citizens.
Please share this Baku gay travel guide with a friend if you’ve found it useful.