Below is some useful information about the Caspian Sea Ferry Crossing from Baku to Aktau (Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan) as well as a more detailed summary of the crossing itself, the long waiting time in Baku and the longest customs procedure we have ever experienced, in Kazakhstan.
– 80 dollars/person for a 2 bunk bed cabin (with private shower and all meals included)
– 70 dollars/person for a 4 bunk bed cabin (shared WC and all meals included, some cabins do not have a window and in summer the cabins can get very hot)
– 110 dollars for motorbikes
– 300 dollars for cars
– bicycles and dogs go for free
Only God knows when the boat departs. As long as the weather conditions are good (i.e. the sea is not too rough because of the strong winds that often sweep Baku), and as long as there are enough trucks to fill the cargo – remember, they are the ones giving profit to the cargo company, not the few passengers that show up at the port terminal – you can count on a frequency of every three to four days…
Documentation and official fees:
– Registration (people) – Perhaps officials at the border (when you enter Azerbaijan) will neglect to inform you that you will have to register with the Immigration office if you stay more than ten days in Azerbaijan. You can ask at any hotel to do the registration for you. If you fail to do it, you can be fined at any time during your stay, or, at the latest, you will be fined when you are at the border to leave the country. It will cost you 200 EUR and a lot of administrative hassle, so make sure you are registered.
– Customs documents (vehicles) – We did not have to pay any tax to enter Azerbaijan (from Georgia) with the motorbike. Make sure you get and keep the document from customs (you will get it at the border entry) because you will need to give it back at the customs when leaving. We failed to present that paper (we are not sure if we lost it or if we were not given it), and we think we got lucky that the official at the border, on our departure day, was a friendly guy who did not make us pay a fine because of that.
– Import tax (vehicles) – when leaving Azerbaijan (from the port of Baku) we had to pay 6 dollars for the import tax (for one motorbike).
– Even though we were told the trip would last 30 hours, it actually only lasted 22. Perhaps it was due to perfect weather conditions (the Caspian sea looked like a giant lake).
– There is no internet onboard, and the TV broadcasts Turkish films without subtitles. Entertainment is on one’s own account.
– Some vegetarian fellow travellers asked the chef if there was a vegetarian option and were delighted when the chef answered ‘no problem’. While we had a delicious chicken with rice, they had rice; the next day we had a succulent dish with chicken and potatoes, they had potatoes. Sadly no dessert!
The cargo ship crossing from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Aktau (Kazakhstan)
After a few days of waiting in the hostel, we finally got the green light, we could finally go to the cargo terminal in Alat, as the boat would probably leave that day. That would not be the case, as we found out when we arrived at the port.
We were equipped with the Uzbek visa, which we got at the Uzbek Embassy in Baku (read here). And we were ready to get the ferry to Kazakhstan (Aktau), for a few days on the Mangosteen desert before reaching the border (Beyneu) that would take us to Uzbekistan (Karakalpakestan).
Waiting at the Alat Port (Baku)
A couple of cyclists were already at the port. The two tents set up, let us guess that they had slept the night there and that they foresaw another night at the port. The officer at the ticket office confirmed that there would be no boat that day, but ‘maybe tomorrow’. Without any other explanations, we bought our tickets (we were asked 80 dollars per person and 110 dollars for the motorbike). With regards to our tickets, we were not really given a choice. The officer asked if we were a couple and assumed we wanted the ‘expensive’ two bunk bed cabins. No one told us there were also the 70 dollars cabins for four persons. In the end, we were happy we were offered no option because the two-bulk cabin came with a precious window in a cargo boat that doesn’t offer air-conditioning. There is a tiny cat at the port, adopted by all the waiting passengers who pass the word to the next ones to come to feed the kitty.
Onboard the Professor Gul
We set up our tent and eventually, that night, we would be 6 tents, eight passengers and one dog, all waiting for the boat to Kazakhstan. Information was never volunteered, we had to approach the officials to know if there were any news at all. Next day, as soon as they had the green light from the boat, we were asked to go to the immigration office. That was all quite quickly and soon we were onboard the cargo ship, Professor Gul, where a Sargent-like woman gave instructions in a way that would make many military blush! She commanded, we obeyed. Soon we were all in a line and being directed to our cabins with bedsheets and towels. There is no toilet paper on board. Don’t make the mistake of asking Ms Sargent for some, she will make you run with her ‘Go away!’
Customs in Aktau (Kazakhstan)
Yelling Sargent took us out of bed at 2 in the morning. We were docking in Aktau. So early, we thought. What were we going to do all that time until shops and accommodation would be open! No need to have such worries, the customs officials would keep us busy during eight long hours, making us all nervous with the amount of paper that needed to be filled in and stamped (with different kinds of stamps, square, round ones, bla, bla, bla…). We were not sure if the officials were just incompetent, if they had any intent to deceive us, or if they just tried to tire us for a bribe. We left the port at 11 am.
Without having paid for any bribes, we just paid the official taxes (motorbikes pay 6 dollars for the use of port infrastructures, fair enough), and we decided to buy insurance there, for a minimum of 15 days (15 EUR).
If you found this useful, you may also like the following:
We are an older married couple who will be taking (trying to ) the ferry from Baku/Alat to Aktau this coming August.
We will be buying our tickets on line from Caspian Seas Ferries in advance simply because we can use credit card to buy.
Can we trade the e-tickets for paper tickets at either Baku or Alat ( when you get the green light to proceed to Alat ) or must it be done specifically at one of the two ports ?
Once you arrive in Alat and are waiting for the boat, is there anywhere to stay ? We don’t have a tent.
Thanks for your help.
Many thanks for your message! Unfortunately, we cannot help much with regards to the e-tickets, because we don’t know of anyone who bought the tickets online. All passengers were buying their tickets when arriving at the Alat port. We bought our tickets directly at the Alat port, and had to pay for them in cash because there was no other available payment. But there is a bank near the ticket office.
There is no accommodation at the port and the nearest accommodation is perhaps in the village of Alat, which is still 5 kilometres from the port! Unless you have your own transport, you are better off staying in Baku and have your hotel/hostel phone the port every day to know when there will be a boat. We decided to go to the port before the go-ahead from our hostel (they told us correctly that there was no boat the day we left) because we wanted to visit the mud volcanoes, on the way to Alat). Many passengers arrived only on the day the boat left, because their hotels kept them informed, they are used to this service, I think. 🙂
I hope this can help you a bit. Please feel free to contact us if you have any other questions! And we would love to hear about your trip with your wife! Take care
anabela & jorge
Hey , You didnt mention what year was the trip , im planing mine ( on the bike ) in 2019 .
you think the regulations will be the same , im very well familiar with the boats of the third world , i live in the Middle east .
Hi Mohammed, it was this year (2018), it must have been around June. We hope you will enjoy your trip! Where are you heading to?
Thanks for your information, I decide to travel from Tehran to Nepal by bicycle, so at the first, I must go to Azerbaijan ( Baku ) and then go to Kazakhstan, The best decision is to save time by traveling by sea. but unfortunately, as you said, I can not find the timetable for the ship. My question is: will the ship sail from Baku to Kazakhstan? How many days do you have to wait for the ship to leave?
From Tehran to Nepal, what a beautiful journey that will be!!!
The ferry from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Aktau (Kazakhstan) doesn’t have a fixed schedule, that’s why we don’t find information of its schedule online. The ferry departs when it is full (with trucks, don’t worry, there will be room for another bicycle). The port of Baku is not really in Baku, but some kilometres south of Baku. Get the correct location of the port, because, with the bicycle you still have a long way to ride! The best to do is, either you wait at your hostel and they will phone everyday to the port to know when the boat departs. Or, you can go directly to the port and you can camp there, and you wait there for the boat to depart. When we arrived at the port, there were many cyclists waiting there already for a couple of days. We also camped there one day and waited. I think, the maximum that you will wait will be around one week 🙂 But, make sure all your papers are in order, or they will not let you board the ferry to Kazakhstan. Have a good trip!
Thank you for writing such a clear story about the ferry! Me, my boyfriend and our (rather large and incredibly sweet) dog are travelling with our campervan to Kazakhstan and we want to take the ferry from Azerbaijan, probably somewhere in May. I see that you wrote that dogs can come for free. Do you know if it is difficult for dogs to be allowed on board, or is that a thing that commonly happens? Do you know how/where the owners let the dog do its business/pee? It would be perfect if we can bring our dog on the ferry, since Iran and Turkmenistan don’t give out visas at the moment, so driving is difficult.
I hope you’ll still see this, I realize it’s a long time since the last post. Thanks in any case.
All the best,
Dear Petra, many thanks for your message! We are not sure if we can answer all your questions, because at the time we did not travel with our own dog, but, a couple was in the same ferry with a dog, and they were happy that their dog could travel for free. That much we remember! It is probably best to ask for a cabin for two. We didn’t ask for it, but they did give us one double cabin. The couple travelling with the dog got the same offer, while the cyclists that were travelling alone were all put together in a common sleeping area. I can imagine that the dog could release himself outdoors n the deck, and then their owners just cleaned after him, but I really cannot tell you how they did it. Sorry! I hope you will enjoy the trip, and that borders will soon start opening up again! Cheers, anabela & jorge