There is set to be a mass exodus of Londoners heading to Azerbaijan around May 29, with Chelsea to play Arsenal in the final of the Europa League in Baku.
The Baku Olympic Stadium will play host to the event, though at some 2,468 miles south east of the British capital and in relatively uncharted tourist territory, it promises to be a complicated and expensive trip for supporters.
Fans of each club have been given only 6,000 tickets each, and it will test the loyalty and pocket of even the most ardent supporter to make the 5,000-mile round trip for the match.
How to get Europa League final tickets?
Although the Olympic Stadium in Baku holds close to 70,000 people, Arsenal and Chelsea have been given a sum total of 12,000 briefs for the match, split equally between the two clubs.
Arsenal have branded the allocation “disappointing” and said that they are now presented with “extreme difficulties” with the allocation process.
“There will be thousands of fans who have supported the club for years and been part of our Europa League journey this season, who will be unable to attend,” the Emirates side lamented.
Tickets range from £26-£121 in price.
Arsenal are guaranteeing a ticket to members of the 2018-19 Away Scheme and Platinum and Gold registered members who have 15 or more away points in each of the last two seasons. The option on these tickets must be taken up between 10am-1pm on May 13.
Platinum and Gold members who have 14 or fewer points are asked to register their interest between 10am on May 9 and 4pm on May 13.
Only on May 14 will the Gunners give further sales and ballot details.
Chelsea, who played Qarabag in last year's group phase and have therefore made the journey before, have announced fans on the UEFA away scheme can buy one ticket between May 9 and May 10.
From May 13, season ticket holders can purchase a brief based on the number of loyalty points they have accumulated. The more loyalty points accrued, the earlier the ticket can be bought. Chelsea will announce this figure on May 10 by 6pm.
Should there be any tickets left over by May 14, members will be allowed to purchase on ticket based on the number of loyalty points they have accrued.
What is the best way to travel to Baku?
Arsenal have made it clear to their fans the difficulty of making the journey, stating there will be “significant travel difficulties and cost implications” and estimating that it will cost “in excess of £1,000 per person” to go to Baku.
However, the London club are working with Thomas Cook Sport to offer travel to the match, though due to the fixture falling on half-term week, aircraft capacity is likely to be limited.
Anyone planning a road trip from London to Baku, which stands on the banks of the Caspian Sea, better have plenty of time on their hands. According to Google Maps, it is a 57-hour drive one way to reach the capital of Azerbaijan, with the route passing through Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Russia before reaching its final destination.
Flying would, therefore, seem a far simpler option, but the only direct flight from London to Baku on the week of the final is already full.
Connecting flights are also something of a headache, too, as the stopovers are inevitably long. Nevertheless, it is possible to reach Baku via Kiev, Istanbul or even Doha, whose Hamad International Airport has just been named the world’s best by AirHelp.
Flying out the day before the game with a return the following day, total travel time for the flights range from 11 hours up to nearly 24 hours, with prices starting at around the £500 mark at the time of writing.
If time is a luxury that can be afforded, then travelling out on Monday and returning on the Friday appears the best option as it cuts down journey time to between nine and 14 hours, albeit for flights starting at the £800 mark.
Travelling by train is also a possibility from London St Pancras, taking in the route of the Orient Express as far Istanbul, with a journey time of around four days, though some of which is likely to involve poor conditions.
Around 11 changes should be anticipated.
Seat61.com, an international rail website, states: “It’s easy, cheap and comfortable, not to mention very scenic, to take a sleeper train right across Turkey from Istanbul or Ankara to Erzurum or Kars, then transfer by bus to the Georgian border at Sarp/Batumi for an onward train to Tbilisi.”
It is then possible to catch a train from Tblisi to Baku.
Do I need a visa?
A visa is necessary for fans travelling for the Europa League final, though as for the World Cup in Russia, it has been made simpler for supporters to attain one.
Visa can be obtained via the Asan Visa website.
Advice from the Foreign Office states: “If you’re applying for an e-visa to come to Azerbaijan for the Europa League final on 29 May 2019, please note in the “purpose of visit” of your e-visa application you should select ‘Europa League Final’.”