Azerbaijan

For other places with the same name, see Azerbaijan (disambiguation).
Capital Baku (Baki)
Currency New Azerbaijani manat (AZN)
Population 9,686,210 (July 2014 est.)
Electricity 220V/50Hz (European plug)
Country code +994
Time zone UTC+4

Azerbaijan is a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus and variously considered part of Europe or Asia. The country lies on the Caspian Sea between Russia and Iran and is bordered to the west by Georgia and Armenia. The autonomous exclave of Nakhchivan lies between Armenia and Iran with a short border with Turkey.

Regions

Regions of Azerbaijan
Baku Region
The political, economic, and cultural center of Azerbaijan. Oil has been extracted here since 1871.
Ganja Region
Nakhchivan
An exclave bordering Turkey to the west
Northeastern Azerbaijan
An ethnically diverse region in the Greater Caucasus mountains covered with lush green forests
Sheki Region
A beautiful green mountainous region bordering Georgia, containing Azerbaijan's loveliest city
Southern Azerbaijan
Talysh Region
Nagorno-Karabakh
Ethnic Armenian region controlled by an unrecognized independent government. Only accessible via Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh is covered in this guide separately from Azerbaijan; while its government is not recognized by any UN member state, it does have de facto control over the area. This is not a political endorsement of any party's claim in the dispute.

Cities

Other destinations

Petroglyphs of Qobustan

Understand

History

Ever at the cross-roads between east and west, Azerbaijan has seen the comings and goings of several great empires.

Ancient

Some of the country's best attractions are the Gobustan petroglyphs. These are the markings of people who lived in the area 40,000 - 5,000 years ago. Scythians and Iranian Medes occupied the area in around 900–700 BC. The Achaemenids made things interesting by introducing Zoroastrianism in around 550 BC. Later, the area was on the fringes of Alexander the Great's empire, and also the Romans'.

Feudal

Christianity came in the fourth century but left when the area became part of the second Islamic (Umayyad) Caliphate in the seventh century. Various local kingdoms emerged after the Caliphate fell in 750 AD, before the Mongols took charge in the 11th century.

Early Modern

After the various Mongol empires withdrew, the area fell to the Persians. Persian control was not tight and highly independent khanates controlled the region until the Russian Empire expanded southward in the early 19th century. Oil was first drilled here in the late 19th century.

Soviet

The fall of the Russian Empire saw the brief emergence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918. However, Lenin realized that the region's oil was vital to the Soviet army and, along with Georgia and Armenia, Azerbaijan was rolled into the USSR by the 1920s. The Azerbaijan's oil was vital again to the Soviets in the Second World War, which saw 250,000 of the country's 3.4 million people killed at the front.

Post-Soviet

As Soviet control weakened in 1991, the ethnic Armenia Nagorno-Karabakh region, backed by Armenia, fought for independence from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan lost 14% of its territory and gained some 800,000 refugees and internally displaced. Despite a 1994 cease-fire, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has yet to be fully resolved and relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan are far from cordial. Armenian troops continue to ensure Karabakh remains beyond Azeri control, and occasional minor skirmishes continue to break the cease-fire agreement.

Culture

The majority of the population (over 90%) is composed of Azeris, who share a culture very similar to Turkey. Ethnic Azeris are also a significant share of Iran's population, although over time the influence of Russian and Persian culture produced some differences between the Azeris of Azerbaijan and the Azeris of Iran. In particular, almost two centuries of Russian colonialism and Soviet rule have brought a very liberal attitude towards Islam among the Azeris of Azerbaijan, who nevertheless remain mostly Shi'i Muslims.

Following independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has allowed western companies to develop its extensive energy resources and has seen oil production skyrocket especially since the mid-2000s. Despite this and related investments, most of the new-found wealth remains in the hands of a small number of people. While downtown Baku is thriving with brand new buildings and a growing middle class, much of the country's countryside remains poor and relatively undeveloped. Government remains strongly autocratic.

Celebrate

Ramadan

Ramadan is the 9th and holiest month in the Islamic calendar and lasts 29–30 days. Muslims fast every day for its duration and most restaurants will be closed until the fast breaks at dusk. Nothing (including water and cigarettes) is supposed to pass through the lips from dawn to sunset. Non-muslims are exempt from this, but should still refrain from eating or drinking in public as this is considered very impolite. Working hours are decreased as well in the corporate world. Exact dates of Ramadan depend on local astronomical observations and may vary somewhat from country to country. Ramadan concludes with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which may last several days, usually three in most countries.

  • 6 June – 5 July 2016 (1437 AH)
  • 27 May – 24 June 2017 (1438 AH)
  • 16 May – 14 June 2018 (1439 AH)
  • 6 May – 3 June 2019 (1440 AH)
  • 24 April – 23 May 2020 (1441 AH)

If you're planning to travel to Azerbaijan during Ramadan, consider reading Travelling during Ramadan.

These are the nationally recognized holidays for people living in Azerbaijan.

Climate

Subtropical forests near Lerik.

Azerbaijan is known for having nine of the 11 existing ecological zones. Much of the country is temperate year-round. Nation-wide the average temperature for the year is 14-15°C (57-59°F). The Caucasus Mountains protect the country from the Arctic air masses that affect Russia in winter while the Caspian Sea shields it from the hot, dry air of Central Asia in the summer. Temperatures in the winter are mild (0-15°C/32-59°F) at lower altitudes and along the coast and drops moderately as you head inland and drastically as you head into the mountains (-20°C/-4°F) is possible in the Caucasus Mountains). Summers range from warm to hot (20-40°C/68-104°F) and humid throughout most of the country, although breezes off the Caspian provide some relief along the coast. Nakhchivan is quite different, high and arid, summers here can easily surpass 40°C (104°F) while winter nights often drop below -20°C (-4°F)...in fact the country's extreme minimum and maximum (-33°C/-27°F & 46°C/115°F) were both recorded in southern Nakhchivan!

Snow is rare in Baku and along the coast in general while common inland and copious in the mountains, where many villages may be cut off during the winter. The southern forests are the wettest part of the country, with plenty of rain in late autumn and early spring. The western central coast is fairly dry. Lankaran receives the most annual precipitation (1600–1800 mm/63–71 in) while the region around Baku averages 600 mm (24 in). Baku is very breezy, much like Chicago or Wellington, most of the year.

Terrain

Mud volcanoes in Gobustan.

Much of the large, flat Kura-Araks lowlands (Kur-Araz Ovaligi) are below sea level with the Great Caucasus Mountains towering on the northern horizons. The Karabakh uplands (Qarabag Yaylasi) lie to the west where Baku is situated on the Apsheron peninsula (Abseron Yasaqligi that juts into the Caspian Sea.

The lowest point is the Caspian Sea at -27m (-89 ft) with the highest point being Bazarduzu Dagi at 4,466m (14,652 ft)

Absheron Yasaqligi (including Baku and Sumgayit) and the Caspian Sea are ecological concerns because of pollution from oil spills that date back more than a century ago. Heavy car traffic in the capital contributes to heavy pollution as well.

Electricity

Electricity is supplied at 220V 50 Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Azerbaijan.

Additionally, some older buildings may be still equipped with Soviet-era outlets. The Soviet GOST-7396 standard was very similar to the current European CEE-7/7 "Schuko plug", but the pins were of a 4.0 mm diameter, while the Schuko features 4.8 mm pins. As such, the pins of a Schuko may be too large to fit into a Soviet-era outlet, although the smaller Europlug will still fit. Although the Soviet-era outlets have largely been phased out, travelers who are particularly concerned with having the ability to plug in at all times may consider packing an adapter for the Soviet-era outlets too, just in case.

Also, make sure to bring your own automated voltage adapter because the electricity in Azerbaijan short circuits and "jumps" a lot and many items may get shocked if you don't bring the adapter.

Get in

Visa restrictions: Evidence of travel to Nagorno-Karabakh will cause you problems upon trying to enter Azerbaijan. Azeri authorities will deny you a visa, cancel any Azeri visa you may have previously obtained and ban you from their country. Upon trying to enter Azerbaijan, you will be turned away, deported, or possibly arrested.

If requested, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities can issue their visa on a piece of paper separate from your passport, although sometimes they forget to do this even if instructed to do so.

Entry to Azerbaijan is also refused to citizens of Armenia and anyone of Armenian descent or with an Armenian name or surname. Taking into Azerbaijan any products made in Armenia or ostensibly bought in Armenia is also prohibited. If you have a visa from Armenia proper in your passport, you may also be hassled at the border.

Overall, consider planning a trip that takes in Azerbaijan before Armenia. Travellers have had border guards and police confiscate guidebooks which describe Nagorno-Karabakh as separate from Azerbaijan, especially Lonely Planet's Georgia, Armenia, & Azerbaijan.

Visa Requirements

A visa is not required for stays of 90 days or less for citizens of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
A 30-day visa on arrival may be obtained only when arriving by air by citizens of Bahrain, China, Israel (60 days), Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey (only at Heydar Aliyev International Airport) and United Arab Emirates.
Citizens of the United States may also obtain a visa on arrival, but only if arriving via a direct flight of Azerbaijan Airlines from New York.
Citizens of Iran may obtain a 15-day visa on arrival for Nakhchivan only.

If you have an Armenian name, you will not be issued a visa, no matter what country you hold citizenship in.

Single-entry visas can be obtained by mail or in person from any Azerbaijani embassy offering consular services. Travellers are no longer able to obtain visas at Heydar Aliyev Airport in Baku. Multiple visas are generally not issued for tourists outside of Azerbaijan. EU nationals generally pay 60 AZN while US passport holders pay US$160 (based on reciprocity) for any visa from 1 to 3 months length.

A letter of invitation (LOI) from a contact in Azerbaijan is required.

The embassy of Azerbaijan in Washington, D.C. will issue visas without a LOI, provided your stay in Azerbaijan is no longer than a few days. According to Azerbaijani law, foreign nationals intending to remain in Azerbaijan for more than 30 days must register with local police within three days of their arrival. Foreign citizens should approach the passport section of the local district police office and fill out an application form. The registration fee is 9.90AZN. If you should fail to register within the first three days of your arrival, you are liable to a fine of 300AZN. If you are still within the 30 days and happen to have a double or multi entry visa, an option is to hop over to Georgia and the period will start over.

It is also possible to apply for an e-visa online via selected travel agencies, as per the website of the Foreign Ministry.

Foreigners staying in Azerbaijan for longer than 10 days should register with the State Migration Service within 10 working days of arrival. Failure to register withing this time frame will incur a fine of 300 AZN (2015). The registration is free and can be done online by submitting copy of the passport and filled in application form or in person at specially designed offices of State Migration Service (one of such offices will be opened eventually at the Train Station, however it was closed as of 2015). Hotels may provide this service for their guests, but travelers are strongly advised to ensure the registration has been completed indeed as hotels are more than often skip doing it.

By plane

The primary international gateway is Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku, with additional international airports (whose international routes are basically just Moscow & Istanbul) found in Nakhchivan City, Ganja, & Lankaran.

National air company AZAL (Azerbaijan Airlines) is the main carrier which flies to Ganja, Nakhchivan, Tbilisi, Aktau, Tehran, Tel-Aviv, Ankara, Istanbul Atatürk, Istanbul Sahiha Gokchen, Antalya (seasonal), Bodrum (seasonal), Dubai, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kiev, Rostov-on-Don, Ürümqi, Mineralniye Vodi, Milan, London (daily) and Paris, Prague, Rome. BMI flies seven days a week to Baku. Lufthansa also has a couple flights a week to Baku (which continue onwards to Ashgabat). Turkish Airlines is another carrier connecting Baku with and via Istanbul. Also, there are several Russian, Ukrainian, Uzbek, Iranian, and Austrian airlines connecting Baku with several cities of the world. Qatar Airways will start flying to Baku from 1 February 2012 with 2 flights a day, one to Tbilisi and one to Doha connecting to their global network.

By train

Trains connect Azerbaijan with Georgia & Russia. The Russian border is closed to non-CIS passport holders with no change likely in the foreseeable future, so the weekly trains to Moscow via Mahachkala are not a viable option for most.

There is an overnight train connecting Tbilisi, Georgia and Baku. Heading out of Azerbaijan, this costs 26AZN and departs nightly from Baku at 20:00. The time of the trip varies considerably based on how long is spent at the border (longer when entering Azerbaijan). This segment of track is currently being modernized as part of a project, financed in part by Azerbaijan, which includes the construction of a rail segment from Akhalkalaki, Georgia with Kars, Turkey. Originally scheduled to open in 2010, it is now planned to finish in 2012 connecting the railroads of Azerbaijan with Turkey via Georgia. Look out for Baku-Istanbul service once completed!

There is a domestic train line running from Astara on the Iranian border to Baku and there are high hopes to get a 300 km connector line built from Astara to Qazvin, Iran to connect the Azerbaijani and Iranian rail networks. Rail service to Iran, which once existed from Nakhchivan after crossing through southern Armenia, was severed after the border with Armenia was closed.

By car

There are roads to all cities of Azerbaijan. They are not really wide and most of them have only two lanes. Local travel agents can arrange private cars to the borders. Some Georgian travel agents such as Exotour can arrange pickup in Baku to delivery in Tbilisi. Although more expensive than bus or train, it will be faster and can be combined with sightseeing along the way. Pay attention to the fact that Azerbaijani customs will request you to pay a deposit of several thousand US dollars for your car.

By bus

There are buses that run daily from Georgia, Turkey, Iran and Russia to Azerbaijan.

A minibus also runs from the Georgian border at Krazny Most (Red Bridge) and should cost about 10 or 12 mannat (or 25 lari). It can be picked up at either side of the border (don't worry if they ask you to pay on the Georgian side - they turn up to pick you up. Insist on bringing your own bags across, however). Journey time to Baku should take about 8 hours. Be warned, driving in Azerbaijan is a genuinely scary experience. Virtually all drivers have scant regard for the rules of the road and the standard of roads themselves is shockingly poor. It is emphatically not for the faint-hearted, so whilst the long train might challenge your stamina they won't your nerves. Check AZAL flights from Tbilis-Baku well in advance for some reasonable deals.

Return to Tbilisi can be caught at the indescribably chaotic bus station, which doubles up as an eerily quiet shopping-centre (take bus 65 from outside Double Gate in the old town for the 20min trip, which leaves you with a 400m long dodgy stretch of road/highway with pestering taxi-drivers on which to walk: Cost 20q) or simply taxi it from the centre for approx. 15 mannat (worth it!), which saves on hassle. Both buses and minibuses are available from this station direct to Tbilisi, price approx 12 mannat for both. Bus counter 26 at very back of ground floor. The bus is a few hours slower and not guaranteed to pick you up once you cross the Georgian border, so minibus is preferable.

By boat

There is currently no ferry or cruise service with any other country on the Caspian. Be forewarned that the much talked about "ferries" on the Caspian are simply cargo ships with some extra space to take on passengers. Getting a ride on one of these "ferries" is no easy task. First you must find the notoriously difficult to find ticket office, which basically keeps track of ship which are departing. If you manage to find the ticket office and manage to get a booking, you still have little idea of when the ship will depart. Give them a phone number to reach you and be prepared, they may call you an hour or two prior to departure...two days after the first departure the office gave you and the day before the second departure date they gave you! This is only the first of you troubles. After paying for your place on the boat (about US$50–100), the captain and perhaps other crew members will expect an additional amount to get a bed and a shower. You are expected to bring your own food. The crossing will only take 1 day (Turkmenistan) or 2–3 days (Kazakhstan). Most ships go to Turkmenistan, where ships must wait for an open berth...so you can wait 2–5 days on the boat just waiting for a place to dock! Unless you are on a very small budget or have a bike and especially if you are on a short timeschedule, you should pay twice as much (~US$200–250) for a one way airfare to Kazakhstan, Russia, or Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

Get around

By car

Mountain road leading to Khinalug.
Highways
total: 36,700 km
paved: 31,800 km (19,760 mi) (includes some all-weather gravel-surfaced roads)
unpaved: 1,900 km (1,181 mi) (These roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather.) (1990)

Buses, minibuses (marshrutka), and taxis connect most cities. There is often a hub such as a bus station near the bazaar in these cities. The fares for buses and minibuses are posted usually in both old and new manat(qupik). Taxies on the other hand require negotiating skills, and this usually takes a proficiency in the language that ordinary non-Azeri/Russian/Turkish speakers do not have.

Talk

See also: Azerbaijani phrasebook

Azeri is the official language. This is a Turkic language, closely related to Turkish itself. However, English is spoken in some places frequented by Westerners. Most people speak Russian (which is now declining and slowly being replaced by English), especially in the capital city, Baku.

See

Atesgah of Baku (the "Fire Temple") is a 16th-century Zoroastrian compound near Baku.

Do

Buy

1 New Azerbaijani manat denomination

Currency: New Azerbaijani manat ("Yeni Manat")

Currency code: AZN

Due to inflation, the "old" manat AZM, were replaced by "New Azerbaijani manat" on 1 January 2007, but the transition is still continuing and old manat can still be swapped for new.

New banknotes of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 New Azerbaijani manat and metal coins of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 New Azerbaijani manat and 50 gapik (AZN0.5) circulate. The banknotes are of a uniform design somewhat reminiscent of euro banknotes since the same designer worked on both sets.

The new Azerbaijani manat (AZN) symbol, , has been assigned to U+20BC in Unicode but m. or man. are sometimes used as a substitute for the manat symbol on price tickets and in local publications.

Exchange rates

On 14 July 2013:

For more rates, please visit the web page of the Central Bank of The Republic Of Azerbaijan

Keep in mind that import and export of New Azerbaijani manat is strictly forbidden. (Collectors can export small quantities of old manat banknotes - but not coins - with relative impunity)

Economy

Azerbaijan's number one export is oil. Azerbaijan's oil production declined through 1997 but has registered an increase every year since. Negotiation of production-sharing arrangements (PSAs) with foreign firms, which have thus far committed $60 billion to oilfield development, should generate the funds needed to spur future industrial development.

Azerbaijan shares all the formidable problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its considerable energy resources brighten its long-term prospects.

Baku has only recently begun making progress on economic reform, and old economic ties and structures are slowly being replaced. An obstacle to economic progress, including stepped up foreign investment in the non-energy sector, is the continuing conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics is declining in importance while trade is building with Turkey and the nations of Europe. Long-term prospects will depend on world oil prices, the location of new pipelines in the region and Azerbaijan's ability to manage its oil wealth.

Eat

Appetizers and snacks.

Cabbage, grape leaves, and eggplant wrapped meat (kelem, yarpaq, badimjan - dolmasi), kabab (kebab), rice with different variety of toppings (plov - It is said that plov is the king of Azerbaijani cuisine), gutabs and meatballs (kufta) are some of the several specialties of Azerbaijan.

Yarpaq dolmasi is often considered to be the national dish.

Bread is a staple, and is quite revered by the people of Azerbaijan.

Georgian food, in particular kajpuri (a cheese-filled bread), along with some Russian staples (borsh, creps) have become common throughout Azerbaijan. Other cuisines such as Turkish, Italian, Asian, Western & fast food, along with Asian food can be found in Baku.

Drink

Some local drinks include ayran (a yogurt drink based on sour milk) and sherbet (made from rose petals or saffron). There are also different sorts of quite decent wines produced from local grapes and a wide array of mineral waters from natural springs. In some areas of Azerbaijan the markets offer lemonades (limonat/dushes) made from pears or taragon.

Sleep

There is a good selection of hotels in Baku, including many Western chains, but options elsewhere in the country are limited. Prices for the hotels start from $60 and higher. Rental apartments might be a good choice as they are cheaper than hotels and sometimes are even more comfortable.

Learn

You can get the information you need about Azerbaijan from the hotels where you will stay. They have different guides for Azerbaijan. Also at some new bus stations in Baku there are maps of the capital.

Work

There is a great deal of work to be done in Azerbaijan from teaching and NGO work to work in the oil and tourism sectors.

Stay safe

Robbing and pickpocketing in the capital Baku, especially in poor and sparsely populated areas is possible but rare and is higher across the capital at night. Common sense is useful as in all other countries. Also watch your stuff in public transport.

Corruption is widespread. But as a foreigner you have a fairly strong position in refusing to pay "hörmet" (bribe). Never give any bribe. Often Azeris are so ashamed of their corrupt economy, that they might hide it from you anyway.

Safety tips

Emergency contact numbers

You must speak in Azeri, Turkish or Russian to communicate your needs. It would be a good idea to memorize key phrases before coming to Azerbaijan - see the Talk section for phrasebooks.

Stay healthy

Make sure your diphtheria, tetanus, and Hepatitis A & B immunizations are up to date. Malaria is a risk in lowland Azerbaijan, particularly around the border with Iran. Anti-malarials are not a must for Baku, but the risk is present in rural areas not far from the city.

Water should not be consumed unless from a sealed bottle. Bottled soft drinks or boiled drinks, such as tea or coffee, also reduce risks.

Respect

Azerbaijanis are a very reserved but very polite and well mannered people.

Things to do

Things to avoid

Politics

Religion

Social custom and etiquette breaches

Other things to watch for

Gay and lesbian travelers

Homosexuality is no longer criminalized in Azerbaijan, but the negative stigma still is strong throughout Azerbaijan. Same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government and showing your orientation openly is very likely to draw stares and whispers. The few establishments geared towards homosexuals are almost (if not exclusively) in Baku and are mostly underground. Azerbaijan is not the happiest place in the world for GLBT travellers; be quite cautious when travelling as a GLBT traveller.

Connect

There are three mobile operators: Azercell, Bakcell, Nar Mobile, Azerfon-Vodafone. Azercell is the largest one. To dial an Azercell number you need to dial (050) or (051) and then the number. Only with Azercell can you talk in the metro(subway) in Baku. Nar Mobile is pretty cheap but doesn't work in some regions. For dialing Nar Mobile numbers you need to dial (070) and then the number. Azerfon-Vodafone is new operator have 3G. For dialing Azerfon-Vodafone numbers you need to dial (077) and then the number. Bakcell is ok. It works almost everywhere and is cheaper that Azercell. To dial a Bakcell number you need to dial (055) and then the number. The numbers have a 3 digit code (different for each operator) + 7 digits number. For example (050)xxx xx xx, (051)xxx xx xx, or (055)xxx xx xx, or (070)xxx xx xx, or (077)xxx xx xx You can buy cards for use with different operators almost in every store.

Area Codes

Akchabedi 113, Agdash 193, Agsu 198, Agstafa 244, Astara 195, Babek 136, Baku 12, Balaken 119, Berde 110, Beylagan 152, Bilesuvar 159, Dashkesen 216, Devechi 115, Gandja 22, Gedebey 232, Goranboy 234, Goichay 167, Hajigabul 140, Horadiz 141, İmishli 154, İsmayilli 178, Jebrayil 118, Jelilabad 114, Julfa 36, Kurdemir 145, Lenkeran 171, Lerik 157, Masalli 151, Mereze 150, Mingechevir 147, Nabran 156, Naftalan 255, Nakhchivan 136, Neftchala 153, Oguz 111, Ordubad 136, Qakh 144, Qazakh 279, Qazi Memmed 140, Qebele 160, Qobustan 150, Quba 169, Qubadli 133, Qusar 138, Saatli 168, Sabirabad 143, Salyan 163, Samukh 265, Sederek 136, Shahbuz 136, Shemaki 176, Sheki 177, Shemkir 241, Sherur 136, Shirvan 197, Siyezen 190, Sumgait 18-64, Terter 246, Tovuz 231, Ujar 170, Khachmaz 172, Khanlar 230, Khizi 199, Khudat 172, Yardimli 175, Yevlakh 166, Zagatela 174, Zerdab 135.

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