Here’s up to date information on how to cross the Caspian Sea from the port of Kuryk (Aktau – Kazakhstan) to the Baku Sea Port in Kotal (Azerbaijan)
I got to Aktau from Nukus, in Uzbekistan, on a 30 hours train ride. There isn’t much to say about Aktau, it’s a pleasant town, Kazakhstan is kind or richer compared to the rest of Central Asia, you can find lots of imported products in the supermarkets, like real coffee, just to mention one, and nice restaurants around. You can go for a walk or a swim along the shore of the Caspian Sea.
I remained only one night, then I contacted the port of Kuryk (www.portkuryk.kz Phone: 8(7292) 462-475) and they told me there might be a ferry to Baku in two days. Indeed, there is no fixed schedule, you have to call and ask. It’s useless to go to the office in Aktau, as they will just tell you to call the number I just provided.
Normally, your hotel or hostel will be able to call for you and also organise a taxi to go to the port, which is about 70 Km from Aktau. The only way to go is by taxi, there is no public transport. I paid 15 USD, because I am really bad at negotiating prices, I am sure it can be cheaper.
The drive is also kind of interesting, through the Kazak steppe in between pipelines of all kind (oil, mostly), old nuclear power stations now turned into wave energy, the names of some of the biggest oil companies in the world popping up here and there, and camels and horses.
So I decided to go to the port and sleep one night in the hotel there (about 10 USD without food, only cards accepted, but there is a canteen, where only cash is accepted). Good choice, as the ferry arrived overnight, and early on the following morning I had to go to the terminal to do all the procedure to board. I bought the ticket the previous night, only cash accepted for the ferry ticket. At the terminal there is a cash machine.
It’s a freight ferry, carrying trucks and containers and train wagons, but there are some cabins for passengers, the price can be 70 USD or 80 USD for one passenger only. Food is included in the ride.
And that is all. The ride is quite comfy, the food is ok, I had the company of about 10 other travellers. It takes 20 to 40 hours depending on weather conditions to go across the Caspian Sea, sometimes there might be a long waiting time before docking at the Baku port.
Border controls are pretty smooth and you are in Azerbaijan. From the port, you can take a taxi to Baku, or you can go and visit Shirvan Nature Reserve, about 40 Km south, or one of the mud volcanos not far from the port area, before heading towards the capital.
That’s 500 words, let’s go!