The Port The ferry port is not in Baku itself, but 75 km’s further south in Alat
There are three different types of cabins (the prices below are for one Passenger ticket, a bicycle is free of charge):
2-bed cabin: 80$ (with window, toilet, and shower)
4-bed cabin: 70$ (no window)
6-bed cabin: 60$ (no window)
Children (older than 5) have a 50% discount. Meals on the ferry are included in the price. If you’re traveling by car or motorbike, there are additional costs.
How to book a ferry
There are two ways to book a Caspian Sea ferry, either online or at the port itself.
online: You can book tickets directly on the Website of the Caspian shipping company
If you do so, the price is automatically set to 80$ (there was no option to choose the cabin). So with this price you should get the double room, as I did, as I was one of the first ones boarding the ferry. But there is no guarantee for a double room if multiple people booked online. As I remember there were only two double-rooms on the ferry.
at the port: There is a container at the furthest ferry terminal (as you can see on the map above), where you can add yourself to the waiting list. You will pay later when you are assigned to a ferry.
As you can see, there is no big advantage in booking the ticket online as you still need to add yourself to the waiting list. However, this way you can pay with a credit card in advance.
There is no fix schedule for the ferries. It all depends on the weather conditions and until there are enough trucks to fill the cargo. In principle, the ferry leaves when it’s full, which is about all 3-5 days. The passage takes about 24-30 hours, also depending on the weather.
What you can do before heading to the port is calling the port office regularly / daily to ask if there is a ferry +994 55 999 91 24
The other option is to just go to the port in Alat and hope there is a ferry leaving soon. If not, you might have to wait there for 3-5 days. There is a small store with eggs, vegetables, pasta and some other basic groceries. There is also a container where you can buy a code to use the wifi at the port. So if you have sleeping mats and the option to cook for yourself, it isn’t much of a problem to stay there. You will not be the only one 😉
The Caspian Sea ferry, a chapter which was not planned initially, but which became a part of my journey because Turkmenistan refused my visa application. The journey from Maschhad back to Baku and Azerbaijan was a long one. First, Iran rail didn’t want to let me get on the train. Although I had a pre-booked and printed train ticket, they refused to let me take my bicycle to the train. My bike was packed in a bicycle box, and luggage-wise still smaller than some luggage items of other people boarding the train. But as on paper, it was not allowed to take a bicycle to this kind of sprinter-train, they remained stubborn.
What they didn’t know was that they were arguing with a pretty stubborn person too. One thing I learned during my previous travels, is that persistence is one of the most important skills you can have. 45 minutes later and after I discussed with the train crew, the platoon leader so as the station manager, I was in the train, and so was my bike and all the other seven bags. The overnight train to Tehran however was quite modern and comfortable! In Tehran I had a full day stopover at the main Bus terminal until I was able to board the 10+ hour night-Bus to Baku. Once I arrived at the Bus terminal in Baku, I reassembled my bike and cycled to the city center where I booked a night at Cheeky Carabao Backpackers Hosel.
After a short nap in the hostel, I went out to get some Azerbaijan Manat again, to eat some delicious pastries and fresh Qutab and to explore the city a bit after it went dark. Being in Baku felt like a big change again compared to Iran, Turkey or the east I was used to now for a while. Baku felt like a huge, western metropolis like in Europe. There were skyscrapers, huge supermarkets, shopping areas, fancy restaurants and so on. It was easy to see where all the money of this oil-rich country was going to. I was almost a little overwhelmed. As a minimalist, wearing the same 5-7 shirts and one pair of shoes for more than 5 years, I’m not a big fan of the consumption-oriented world. This time, however, it was even more difficult to understand, as in the countryside of Azerbaijan, where cycled through before, the standard of living was low with a lot of people living in poor circumstances.
Besides that, Baku was quite a beautiful city, a mix between the old and the modern. A historical old town and the three majestic flame towers in the background, symbolizing the element of fire and the wealth of oil and natural gas of the country. After a few kilometers walking around the city, I was now looking for a refreshment, and after a month in Iran and me being a brewer myself, that could only be one thing. As you can imagine, it wasn’t just one beer. After a rather long night with other travelers from Denmark, USA, Germany, UK, Iran etc. in the Hostel, it was quite a tough awakening after 4 hours of sleep the next morning.
Caspian Sea ferry
However, my main goal in Baku was not to visit the city itself. Even before I went for a short nap the day before, I took care of the ferry which will bring me across the Caspian Sea. Luckily, one of the Hostel co-workers gave me the number of the port-office. On the phone, they told me that there might be a ferry leaving in the next 1-2 days. When I got up the next morning after this thirsty night, I thought I could call them again and ask if they have some news for me regarding the schedule. The man told me that there is a ferry leaving today evening and that I should get to the port as quickly as possible. So I did.
When I arrived at the port in Alat, I directly went to the ferry-ticket container to ask about the ferry. Sadly, the officer there had bad news for me. The particular ship was already full, so I had to wait for the next one. Fortunately, I was not alone. When I arrived at the port, there was another cycle-tourer! It was Favio from Argentina, 50+ years old and already cycling / travelling the globe since 5 years. For the first time on this journey, I have found someone who is on the road with a similar heavy loaded bike as I have. We were both happy to see each other, cause we knew, that It could take some days for the next ferry to arrive.
We put ourselves on the waiting list for the next ferry at the ticket-container and went on to find a place to sleep for the next days. From blog-posts of other cyclists, we knew that it is possible to put the tent somewhere at the port. However, it turned out, that there was also a large waiting room just after the entry gate of the port. When we entered the room, there were already some other people and families waiting there, with huge amounts of packed goods. We asked the woman which was looking after the waiting room if it is possible to lock the bikes outside and taking all our luggage inside the room. She agreed, and this way we got our “camp” for the next days to come.
Just an hour later there was another cyclist arriving at the port. This time it was Andrew from Scotland, who was at about my age but traveling quite differently. He was cycling with a super light Bikepacking setup, which was contrary to our “fat ladies”, as Favio and I called our bikes. After some chatting about our previous route and experiences on our trips, we all went for an afternoon nap, trying to ignore all the shouting and noise from all the other people and kids in the room.
Regarding our stay at the port, we have been prepared thanks to the equipment we had with us. With gas and petrol stoves and some leftover provisions like rice or buckwheat, we were able to cook our food for lunch and dinner. Nevertheless, we were pretty happy to see that there was a small shop at the port selling some basic groceries. So we ended up having some fresh vegetables, eggs, tomato sauce, pasta, and some other great stuff to spice and change up our meals for the next days.
The challenge at the ferry port, for sure, was to keep ourselves busy, as there was not that much to do, and as we didn’t know how many days it might take until the next ferry arrives. Fortunately, we had a lot of strories to tell from our travels. Also I used the time to edit all the pictures I made in Iran and prepare some posts for Instagram.
The next day, our crew grew to a group of 6, as Jack and Kendall, a backpacker-couple from the UK so as Siril, a Swiss on a Motorbike arrived at the port and joined us killing time, playing cards and having a fun time. After another night, in the morning of the next day we got some good news. Word got around that there arrived a ferry and that we are able to board the ship after all the unloading and reloading of the cargo.
At the same time, some other cyclists arrived in Alat. This time it was Kata from France, her partner Andres from Uruguay and a group of three other cyclists from France. As it happened to us two days ago, this time it was them who got bad news at the ticket-office. The ferry was already fully booked.
Late in the evening, when we no longer expected the boarding on the same day, we got the message that the ferry was ready to board. Even though, it was not really clear what we had to do now. There was no fix time for the boarding and for all the families with their huge amounts of packed goods, there was a planned bus bringing them to the ferry, at some time. So we decided not to waste some time and immediately started to pack our luggage and bikes and headed over to the ferry terminal to see what we get. To our astonishment, we were able to get in straight away after some passport and luggage checks. The friendly ship crew around Samir Abbasov, the captain of the ferry named “Professor Gul”, welcomed us on board and helped us to put our bikes.
So after 50+ hours of waiting, we finally made it to the ferry, even though the ferry was not going to leave on the same day regarding some weather issues at the sea. That didn’t bother us much, as we now had a place on the ferry, a bed, and even the ability to take a shower. We went on deck to explore the ferry a while and taking some pictures, followed by some more card games and finally a peaceful sleep without all the noise we had during the last days in the waiting room.
The next afternoon on the 8. September at 14:00 o’clock the ferry then left the port in Azerbaijan for a 450km stretch to Kuryk, Kazakhstan.
The ferry ride itself was a truly great experience! Spending time with such great people and travelers, sharing stories about previous travels or having a beer on the deck while sunset is something I will remember for a long time and which is a great compensation for the previous hassles with visas and plan changes.
At 5.00 am after the second night on the ferry I took my camera equipment and went out on deck to see the sunrise, which was truly beautiful and peaceful. I had time to think about the chapter that lies ahead, a huge desert crossing through Kazakhstan und Uzbekistan and I was also happy going to share this chapter together with Favio and Andrew so as cycling in a team again.
After exactly 24h and 50 minutes on the Caspian Sea, we arrived at the port in Kuryk, Kazakhstan. It took some more hours and a passport check on the ferry until we were able to leave the ship. The port in Kuryk was fairly new and modern, definitely not what I expected to see. There was an ATM where we could take some Kazakh-Tenge and even a Restaurant selling warm pastries, cold drinks, and the usual snacks like Snickers.
The time had come to say goodbye to some great people again, one of the worst parts on a long journey like this. Jack and Kendal took a Bus towards Aktau and Favio, Andrew, Siril and I set off for the short 10km stretch to the village of Kuryk to find accommodation for the four of us.
How the first few days in Kazakhstan went by and how we prepared for the first long and flat desert stretch, is part of the next post.
Special thanks to all of you for being part of my journey: Steve, Kim, Igor, Favio, Andrew, Siril, Jack, Kendal, Kata, Andres, Samir
Howdy! I'm Fabian, a Swiss adventurer, photographer / filmmaker who loves exploring and capturing our beautiful planet. From March 2019 - April 2020 I cycled 20'000km from Bern Switzerland to the pacific coast in Vietnam, trying to inspire others to do the same, to travel more, going outdoors, enjoying nature and get to know our amazing planet wi live on.