Couple’s experience with Azerbaijan guide

By Neil Johnson
This item appears on page 28 of the December 2019 issue.

For our May 2019 trip to Azerbaijan, my wife and I booked Elnur Babayev as our driver/guide. We found him on TripAdvisor and contacted him through his website,

The booking processes went smoothly, with Elnur communicating promptly by email in good English, and we soon had our itinerary set for Azerbaijan. We paid $950 for a 4-day tour, including hotels with breakfast.

My wife and I flew to Baku, and Elnur (who also goes by the nickname Elba) was waiting for us at the airport. We expected that he would be our driver/guide, but he told us he was having car problems and so he had hired a driver and car for the whole trip.

We were taken to our hotel in Baku. We had already scheduled the next day to be free so we could sightsee the country’s capital on our own.

Following our free day, we were picked up at the hotel, and the day of sightseeing went smoothly except for the lunch stop. Elnur announced that we would stop at a buffet restaurant for lunch. We told him we didn’t want to do that since all of the large tour buses stopped there and we preferred a restaurant where we could order from the menu. However, he insisted on going to the buffet restaurant, so that is where we went.

(Part of the reason we booked a private driver/guide was to have the flexibility to go where we wanted instead of having to go where tourist buses were stopping.)

Our final two days in Azerbaijan were to consist of a day of sightseeing on the way to Sheki for an overnight stop, followed by sightseeing in Sheki in the morning before being dropped off in Georgia.

The next-to-last day started smoothly. We stopped at the first two scheduled sites for the day, then at a small roadside café for lunch, which we appreciated.

As we were leaving the lunch stop, my wife asked Elnur which stop would be next. He replied that we would be going straight to Sheki. I had a copy of our itinerary in my pocket and showed him that we were scheduled to see three more sites before arriving in Sheki. He agreed that we would stop at these sites, and off we went.

We ended up stopping at only two of the three other sites (I think we had already passed one of them, the 7 Domes Mausoleum), and at one point Elnur told my wife to hurry up with taking pictures as we needed to get to Sheki.

We arrived in Sheki expecting to be dropped off at our hotel; instead, we started sightseeing. I told Elnur we were scheduled to see the sites in Sheki the next morning, but he told us ‘No,’ that we needed to see Sheki that afternoon and leave in the morning for Georgia.

Feeling that we had no choice in the matter, we quickly visited some of the sites in Sheki. At one point, while walking past an old mosque, my wife expressed interest in stopping to see it. Elnur told us that the building wasn’t part of the program, so we kept going and checked into our hotel for the night, Elnur and the driver sharing a room.

The final morning, after the driver loaded our luggage, Elnur showed up and we asked him to take us to Sheki again so we could spend more time in the Old Town. He agreed to do that. After spending two hours there, Elnur told us he needed to be back in Baku for another tour and that our driver would take us on to Georgia without him.

We assume his need to get back to Baku early was the reason he had rushed through our itinerary, trying to skip scheduled stops.

Just to clarify, Elnur asked us if we were OK with him leaving us to get back to Baku, giving us the choice. I assume if we had said ‘No,’ he would have come with us to Georgia, but we were tired of dealing with him by that point, so we were happy to continue with only the driver.

We would not recommend Elnur Babayev as a driver/guide.


Nipomo, CA

ITN sent Elnur Babayev emails, but they bounced back with “Recipient inbox full” errors. A message sent through his website received no response.