First I would like to say that in every hotel that we stayed at people were so nice that I feel bad to give any negative feedback and hope that my comments will be taken in good sprit and used constructively.
Second, my fav hotels.com has a very limited inventory in Azerbaijan and so is Expedia. Mostly I used booking.com and occasionally Lonely Planet.
Third, the prices are completely negotiable and each hotel which we didn’t pre-book we managed to get between 5 to 15 manat off.
Fourth, even if pre-booked, it’s almost always “pay at the hotel” option and they all ask for cash. Only rarely we managed to pay with credit card.
The first hotel we stayed at was Kichick Gala hotel, right in the old town close to one of the upper gates. It was the cheapest available option at the time (70 manat). We stayed there 4 nights and 1 more night at their sister Hotel Horizon. Really good location to explore the old town but can get tiresome to walk uphill several times a day. Since we were arriving at 4 am and the hotel wasn’t prepaid we called ahead to ensure that our room will not be given away. They were very nice and arranged for a taxi (20 manat) to pick us up. At 4 am it was very convenient not to think about transportation. The entire stuff was extremely helpful. They advised us that we need to register with the authorities because we are spending more than 10 days in the country. I sort of missed that and if they didn’t do it for us we could be paying $300 p/p fine. One day Roman was sick in the room and the reception guy offered to go to the pharmacy to bring him medication if needed. They were trying very hard to make our stay enjoyable.
On the other hand the hotel is very basic, sheets are very worn out and the plumbing is not the best. Breakfast is fine.
Horizon hotel is about the same class as Kitchik Gala. It is located right in the maze of the little streets of the old town and frankly we were getting lost each time we needed to go back to the hotel. There is no elevator in either one.
Nemi Hotel – On the way back from the south we stayed here for one night. (65 manat). The location is very good, close to the Fountain Square and in the middle of everything. It has an elevator and breakfast is the best. The stuff was also nice; we arrived at 7 am from the night train and they invited us to have breakfast even though we didn’t stay the night and let us check in as soon as the room was available around 9 am.
The room is on the small side and the bathroom is “funny’. The shower is not enclosed and after you take a shower the entire bathroom is flooded no matter how careful one is trying to be. Also, for that class of hotels, their towels are completely worn out and frayed. Probably because everybody is throwing them on the floor trying to soak up the water.
After the disastrous home stay we moved into Hotel Sane. (55 per night after a long negotiation). I think it’s a 4 star and if not it deserves to be. We got a very nice warm room, hot water and delicious breakfast. I also arranged with one of the ladies working there to do our laundry. The hotel provides that service but they charge per item and if would come up to a very substantial sum if we start counting every sock and every piece of underwear. The woman was happy to earn an extra buck and we were happy to get clean cloth.
It is not right in the center as we like, but it’s a walking distance and there isn’t much to do in the center anyway.
In Lankaran we took a chance and just showed up at Xan Lankaran which is recommended by everybody and they all are right. It’s as fabulous as they say it is. Maybe a little kitschy décor, theme park like, but it is cute and you just want to hang out there. (65 manat after negotiations)
The bar doesn’t have much for drinks, but we did drink a lot of tea there. There are wooden tables with nice cushions on benches and you can just hang out there drinking tea while using a computer, which we did a lot.
First I booked Lahic Yolu Hotel, which we absolutely didn’t like and refused to stay there. It was much further from the main Baku-Sheki road then looked on the map. There was no view as promised, instead of the mountains our room was facing construction, and I wouldn’t even call it a room. It was a wooden wagon, which was cold and dark.
So we moved to a Lahic Guesthouse, a.k.a Rustam’s Guesthouse. It’s a piece of paradise, located at the far end of the village. There was a bit of confusion at first because the room we reserved was incorrectly quoted at 80 manat by booking.com but in fact it was the better room that he priced at 90, but he owned up to the mistake at let us have it at the quoted price. It was a huge room with separate entrance and a little balcony and kitchenette (which we don’t need). The only problem I could see was the same thing in the bathroom: shower is not enclosed and there is a lot of water on the floor after showering. The breakfast was very good and we had it outside in the garden, the first truly nice day since we arrived.
The owner, Rustam, is a nice educated man and we spend a long time talking to him. The guesthouse is his labor of love and the dream he has fulfilled doing much of the work himself and he is proud of every item in the hotel. At the end he organized a taxi for us for our next endeavor.
Considering the above what happened next makes it so much worse. I have complained to booking.com about that unacceptable Lahic Yolu Hotel so they won’t charge me a cancellation fee but instead of sending my complaint to them they sent it to Rustam. Unfortunately over 24 hours passed before I found that out. I immediately called booking.com and they straightened it out and connected me to Rustam who was completely devastated by my complaint and was extremely grateful that I took the time to correct the mistake.
Lahic Guesthouse (Rustam’s)
We got very encouraged by just showing up in a hotel and getting good deals, so we didn’t bother to book anything after that while in Azerbaijan. In Sheki we walked straight to hotel Isaam Hotel and Spa. We worked out a routine: I stay outside with luggage so they don’t thing we are desperate and Roman goes in, checks out the rooms and negotiates the price. (50 manat)
Isaam, which doesn’t look much from outside turned out to be a very nice place with real spa. Nice rooms; I used the hamam and then both of us got massages. It is not right in the center, about 5 minutes away but well worth it.
Karavansarayi –we didn’t stay here because of some bad reviews about the quality of their service and the rooms and also sounded like it’s in isolated area up the hill and we like to stay in the center with more choices for a nightlife but this hotel is worth mentioning. It is authentic caravan sarayi used on the Silk Road and is very impressive. It has a beautiful courtyard and a huge restaurant area. The service at the restaurant is not the best…
I was getting very concerned about accommodations at Zaqatala because none of the usual websites had anything at all there. I couldn’t find anything on Google either. Lonely Planet mentioned couple of hotels so I decided to call at least one to make sure there are rooms (Silly me I don’t like to sleep on a street…). So I called hotel Grata, a 4 star main hotel in town.
I called and someone answered. The following conversation took place:
Me: “Hotel Grata?”
Me: Do you speak Russian?
Me: Do you speak English?
I am trying to ask if they have rooms available. Room in Russian is the same word as number, so I have asked for a room/number
He: “50 30…” obviously not understanding me. So I try to simplify:
Me: room!! –no reaction, bed!! – no reaction. Sleep!! – no reaction.
Tried the same in English: room.. bed.. sleep – not understanding
Me getting creative: le chambre..(Maybe 6 years of high school French will come handy in remote Azerbaijan) – no luck
Me: Zimmer!! (Lots of German tourists, maybe something sunk in) – Nope
Getting desperate, need to dumb it down again
Me: You –hotel?
Me (Jane, I thought to myself): – sleep?
He: 50 manat
Me: thank you
So we arrived to Zaqatala, hotel Grata is right on the main square where marshrutkas and taxis are – very convenient. Got a very nice room for 40 manat including a fine breakfast. Absolutely no complains except for the fact that nobody speaks either Russian or English. They couldn’t even show us the direction of the Old Town… but luckily we can figure it out ourselves.