Azerbaijan has reported a 43.4% rise in the first eight months of this year in the number of its citizens crossing the border to Iran, AzerNews reported on September 23.
The collapse in the value of the Iranian rial under US sanctions pressure has made purchases in Iran more attractive for Azerbaijanis, especially for those bearing US dollars or other hard currencies. Another factor in the surge in border crossings may be Iran and Azerbaijan’s mutual relaxing of visa restrictions on travel between the two countries. As of 2017, Baku and Tehran agreed to a visa-on-arrival system, costing roughly $25 for a three-month stay.
Azerbaijanis living in Baku and cities closer to the Iranian border are increasingly taking day trips over the border to pick up weekly shopping and cheap home consumer items. The vast majority of the travellers pass through the Astara-Astara border point, with many people crossing on foot.
According to Azerbaijani official statistics, 29.7% of all outbound travel from Azerbaijan was conducted into Iran in the eight-month period.
However, trips by Iranians going the other way saw a marked decreased in the same period, with only 9.4% of inbound travellers arriving in Azerbaijan coming from Iran. Year on year, Azerbaijan has witnessed a 25.4% decrease in the number of Iranian arrivals.
The numbers put out by Azerbaijan’s border authorities show that Iran was the second-most-popular destination for Azerbaijanis, with Georgia ranked first as accounting for 30% of outbound travel in the period. Russia followed Iran with 19.6% and Turkey came in fourth with 13.4%.
Three Iranian airlines offer services to Baku from several Iranian cities, while Azerbaijan’s low-cost Buta Airways flies to Tehran.
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