The Ferry from Alat, Azerbaijan (Baku Sea Port) to Aktau, Kazakstan – (actually it’s closer to Kuryk.)
The Ferry from Alat, Azerbaijan (Baku Sea Port) to Aktau, Kazakstan – (actually it’s closer to Kuryk.)August
From reading other blogs and talking to other travellers it feels like the Baku Sea Port has got some things in order this year. There’s also a Sea Port in Kazakhstan – a new development so things have never been easier.
At Baku you can now buy your tickets for the ferry at the ferry port and finding your way around isn’t too difficult as the staff are really kind and helpful. That being said, this blog will save you some time as sign posting isn’t used at the port.
Let’s clear some things up!
Before we get into his, let me clear something up straight away – the ship does not dock at Alat, it docks north of Alat at Baku Sea Port, hardly surprising, but it might save you a few miles. It’s easy to find on the map. For navigating this part of your trip I would suggest you reply on Maps.Me entirely, it is much more detailed than Google maps.
The ship will dock roughly 50kms South of Aktau and 17kms West of Kuryk Village, Kazakstan (not Aktau). Long/Lat: 43.163696, 51.442134.
From here you have the option to cycle to Aktau (74kms) or to continue on your ride from Kuyrk. The nearest town is Shetpe, 142kms away, but the port in Kazakhstan and Kuyrk village has enough for you to get what you need for 142kms.
The port itself has a good hotel, a cash point and canteen so you can spend a night there too.
If you’re travelling from Alat to Aktau (or Baku Sea Port to near Kuryk) you will be boarding an old cargo ship. The ship only leaves when it’s full which is why there are no strict timetables. The guards estimate times of departure based on ship position and this changes throughout the day. It’s important to keep checking in.
If you’re boarding the ferry you need to be flexible – and you need plenty time on your visa. I wouldn’t like to have any less than 5 days personally – ideally no less than 10 days. If the weather is bad the cargo ship will anchor in the sea until the bad weather passes and if you’re caught up on land waiting for a ferry you could risk outstaying your visa. They will take this seriously in Azerbaijan – take it from us – we can’t enter the country again without paying 200USD (400 manat) for not sticking to our visa terms! You can read about this here.
What to take to the Sea Port?
Outside of what is totally logical I’d think about taking:
- Snacks – bring snacks of your choice and be sure to include some fruit or vegetables as you won’t find much in the meals available at the Sea Port or on the boat. This isn’t essential, but preferred. I wish I had more fruit.
- 5 litres of water for 2 people was enough for us. There’s a water cooler on the ship, but it isn’t always full. We used the cooler but had our own water. The cooler also dispenses hot water so you can make your own tea and coffee as you like. I wish I’d known that before.
- A sleeping mask – we ended up having a night in the waiting room, so we were glad of this!
- Toilet paper
- Antibacterial hand wash
- Something to do: a book, some podcasts, some games etc.
We recommend getting supplies in Baku before you go to the Sea Port. You can pick up a few bits and pieces at the Sea Port like water, crisps, biscuits, bread, fruit, tinned meats, toilet roll and cheese. There is not a shop on the boat.
I found the fruit and veg to be slightly redundant, so I’d recommend stocking up on good fruits in Baku and taking it with you. The store is also small/limited, so if you want options, grab your snacks in Baku. I also wouldn’t trust the above to available all of the time, so it’s best to be prepared.
What’s at the Baku Sea Port?
- A comfortable air conditioned waiting room. There are rows of seats, the toilets are pretty clean and it’s manned 24/7. You can sleep along the seats or you can lay out your camping mattress and sleep at the back too. The lights will go out late at night and I slept reasonably well all things considered! They won’t let you take your bike into the waiting area which I think is a little mean, as it’s plenty big enough. We locked our bikes to some seats outside, near the camera and they were fine.
- WiFi The Wi-Fi situation made us laugh! There is a Wi-Fi network called “Eurasia” if you try to log in it will ask for a voucher code, we asked around, googled it and could not find how to purchase a voucher code. The staff knew nothing about it. If you ask around the staff will give you some access to WiFi for free anyway.
- Cash point free to withdraw and available 24/7 – you can withdraw dollars or manat.
- A cafe/restaurant – there is a comfortable, air conditioned cafe near the checkpoint for the boat. We spent a lot of time in here. The food is good and Stew and I both ate well for around 10manat (£5) for the 2 of us. The meals consist largely of rice/potatoes with meat – chicken or beef. Overall I’d say the food is very good, very cheap and plentiful. Tea is just 0.50 manat (25p), so you can waste the day in there for a small price.
- Toilets/showers I recommend you stick to the toilets in the waiting room as much as possible. They’re much cleaner. There was 1 useable toilet at the Sea Port. There are showers, but we didn’t bother with them.
- A small shop. The shop stocks everything you need if you’re not too fussy. I think it’s preferable to take things with you – it’s a flat run from Baku anyway. As listed above you can find water, crisps, biscuits, bread, fruit, tinned meats, toilet roll and cheese.
- Hotel – Just outside the Sea Port there’s a blue hotel…it simply says “Hotel” on the building, but on Google Maps it’s listed as Alat Hotel. It’s pretty good and comfortable. We had a twin room for 50 manat (£25) – he originally asked for 60 manat, but I haggled a little. The shower is good and the room is clean enough. Our bikes came into the hotel and there’s a WiFi spot in his bar. We didn’t bother with breakfast as it was cheaper and more convenient for us to eat at the Sea Port.
Checking ferry times and position
It’s useful to know that you can follow the ferry and it’s position online.
On marinetraffic.com you can search the name of the ships travelling between Alat & Aktau to estimate when yours might arrive. You can search for the ferry by name and it will tell you when it’s going to depart. We travelled on Professor Gul.
We found, on the whole that this was pretty accurate. In fact it was more reliable than the guards at the port, but we played it safe and listened to what the guards had to say about the ferry and it’s arrival time. For example we were told by the guards the ferry might arrive at 3am, so we slept in the waiting room for one night – it seemed pointless to pay 50 manat for 5 hours sleep. When the guards said it might arrive at 3am, the website said 7am and we ended up boarding at 12:00…taking loading time into account the ship probably did arrive at 7am.
Enquiring about the ferry & getting your ticket
The first thing you’ll want to do is find out which ferry you need, when they estimate it will arrive and what time you can get on.
Here are a couple of contact numbers you can try before you arrive – it isn’t necessary to contact them beforehand, but it can be useful.
- +994 50 214 04 13 (Name: Oktai – uses WhatsApp)
- +994 55 999 97 24
- +994 55 999 91 24
When you arrive at the Sea Port you’ll want to:
- Head to a cabin behind the bank and speak to the member of staff there. He will give you a slip of paper for your ticket and he can advise on times of arrival and boarding times. Remember to check back every now and again depending on his advice.
- Head to the bank and pay for your ferry ticket. He needs the slip of paper given to you before. He will take your money and your ticket will be printed in the first cabin you visited, so you will need to return to pick that up. This ticket has the name of your ship printed on it. Track using marinetracker.com.
- When it’s time to go you can head to the checkpoint to leave! We had to go to “Check Point 1” for Kazakstan.
That’s pretty much all there is to it! If you’re lucky like a couple cyclists we know you’ll turn up and board on the same day. If you don’t, it’s really not that bad, maybe a little frustrating at times – it’s just a bit of a waiting game, but just enjoy the experience. You can eat well, catch up on blogs, read a book. I enjoyed the downtime! We met some really great travellers who added greatly to our experience.
The prices of the ferry includes:
- The bicycle (it’s free to take the bike)
- Accommodation on the ferry – a cabin
- Bed linen
- Meals in line with the timetable – ours was 07:30, 11:30 & 19:30
From speaking to other travellers, and our experience we found you will simply be offered the logical option for you. If you’re travelling as a couple you can take a private room – 2 beds (bunk beds) and a private bathroom. The cost of this cabin is $80/person.
If you’re travelling solo you will pay $70/person and you will have a cabin that sleeps 4.
A couple of we knew opted for a shared cabin at $70/person and came up trumps – they ended up just the 2 of them in a room for 4!
If there are no cabins I believe (and I could be wrong!) that you can just pay for a seat. Whilst you won’t get a bed you can sleep on the seats, which is a long cushioned bench along the wall. Someone we met on the ferry actually slept better here than in her cabin as she found it was too stuffy and air flow wasn’t the best in her room!
We came up trumps with our private room. We had Room 1 on the Professor Gul ferry. When they showed us the room they said it was the best and I believe this might right! We had bunk beds, a private shower and toilet and best of all – a WINDOW that opens and closed!
We caused a lot of problems for the ferry, the captain and everyone on board causing a 4 hour delay – you can read about that here. We did not feel worthy of such a luxury cabin!
What can you find on the ship?
There’s nothing on the ship. I was surprised to find there’s no shop. There is a water cooler so you have access to cold water most of the day (sometimes it runs to empty, so have your own water – we took 5 litres plus our bike bottles.)
You will get 3 meals a day at set times: 07:30, 11:30 and 19:30.
Breakfast was 2 x eggs, bread and cheese
Lunch was soup and meat (beef/chicken) with pasta, 1 x fizzy drink – cola or fanta
Dinner was soup and chicken with rice, 1 x fizzy drink – cola or fanta
On the whole the food was good! I had plenty of food, Stew had a little less than he would’ve liked, but I threw over what I didn’t eat. Definitely take some snacks. The food is mostly meat and carbs with some veggies/legumes in the soup. I wish I had bought more fruit so my meals were a little more balanced, but overall, as I said, it was very good.
What can you find when the ship docks in Kuryk?
The boat will dock 17kms from Kuryk. Here you will find everything you need. It’s a new development, very modern and smart.
- Hotel there’s a hotel at the port and costs just £7/bed. Stew and I stayed here and we thought it was great.
- Canteen there’s a nice, cheap canteen at the port, and another outside the hotel. Probably 1km between them.
- Cash there’s a cash point in the port. Free withdrawal for us – the only downside was it dispensed very large notes. You’ll want to break those up as soon as possible.
From here you have 2 options for your cycling trip:
- You can take the road to Aktau which is about 50-70kms away. In my opinion the only benefit of going to Aktau is that you might get a SIM card. We didn’t bother as it seemed like an unnecessary detour.
- You can take the road to Kuryk. Kuryk is a village but you will find a cafe and market. From here you take the one other option – the eastern road which joins the southern road from Aktau. It’s a great road, we loved it. Rideable, but not perfect tarmac. For 70kms you won’t see much at all, but once you get to Munayshi things are a little more built up. You’ll find a shop, some shade etc.
If you take the second option and you choose not to go to Aktau, prepare to camp the first night.
I wrote this blog after our experience between 23rd – 27th August 2019. Things could change!