Azerbaijan: Hotels

There are some reviews on Trip Advisor for these hotels, but I often find that most reviews don't have the crucial details that women travelers need - like does the place have a hair dryer so I don't need to lug mine?

Landmark Hotel - Baku This hotel has a hair dryer that is attached to the wall. The good news is that the provided hair dryer will get the job done. Even for those afflicted as I am with frizzy hair. While Baku is on the waterfront, the high winds in the winter make it dry enough to make drying your hair pretty easy. The downside is that you have to hold down a button to get the dryer to blow which can lead to serious hand cramps if you have a lot of hair like I do.

Bathroom amenities include bar soap, gel, shampoo, conditioner (though I found the conditioner to be pretty weak), and hair cap. It also has cotton swabs for your ears.

The room, however, has a terrible mirror for applying make-up. It does have a magnifying mirror for contemplating your pores, but the lighting is so bad that it doesn't make it much fun.

This hotel has a good gym. It's as state of the art as I think you can fairly expect for a developing country. It also has a pool and a 360 view of the city. You should note that the pool does have women hours - meaning, hours where only women may swim.

Finally, the laundry service here was good. I would advise getting your laundry done only in Baku. It's unclear what level of service you would get at hotels (even the best ones) outside of Baku.

Seki Saray - Seki The rooms are pretty simple, but they have much better bathroom mirrors and shallow counters so you can position yourself really close to the mirror for application of make-up. The bathrooms do have a built-in blow dryer but they are so ancient that they won't do you much good. The blow dryer is one of those ingenious designs where the hot air comes through the handle and will eventually burn your hand. I had to grip it with a towel to even use its weak air flow.

But the good and bad thing is the heat in the hotel (at least in winter) is turned up so high that when I exited the shower, I didn't have to towel off - the water instantly evaporated on my skin. Which is also to say, use the ancient device to shape your bangs and then let the room's excessive heat problem do the rest.

By excessive I mean you will sweat it's so damn hot. We're not talking comfortable mid 60s or even mid 70s. The rooms are 80s and beyond. The hotel uses an old radiator system and I learned later that is why most people have their windows open even in the dead of winter. There is no other way to control the temperature. I, being from California, had no idea and suffered one night above sheets sweltering.

Also worth noting is that the electricity goes out often in the hotel.

Further, when I asked for an iron to press a skirt, they took a long time (over an hour) to bring me one. I think this was because they were probably in deep debate over whether they should entrust it to me because I later learned (when the front desk called me in the middle of the night and out of a dead sleep to tell me) that this was the only iron the hotel owned and they needed it back to press the pants of another guest.

This hotel does not have a gym. Interestingly, the bathroom amenities did not include conditioner (only shampoo), but did include cotton swabs!

Ramada Hotel - Ganja This is an American chain so it looks pretty much like a chain hotel you'd encounter at home. The room configuration is pretty strange and the furniture is positioned fairly close together making it difficult to walk around.

The good news is that the rooms do come equipped with big ol' U.S. style hair dryers. We're talking ConAir 1200s. The downside is that for some odd reason they are plugged in behind a mirror on a wall directly behind the front door and unmovable. For this reason, it's dark and difficult to see what you're doing. There is a stand for resting the dryer, but nowhere to place your brushes and clips. There is also a wall-attached hose dryer in the bathroom should you want to use antiquated technology.

The bathroom has the full suite of soap, shampoo and conditioner - but not cotton swabs.

This hotel does have a gym. It's not as nice as the gym at the Landmark but it's serviceable. It has treadmills and free weights mostly.

These hotels are thought to be the best in their respective cities. The Landmark is nice but it's not five star. It will be interesting to see if it ups its game because a new Four Seasons is set to open in Baku soon.

So there you have it. I only stayed in three hotels, with the bulk of my stay at the Landmark Hotel. I hope you find this useful. Happy travels!