I went to Tabriz in Iran by bus from Yerevan. A few weeks before leaving home I booked a ticket via email through Tatev Travel, but not until I picked it up I had to pay for it, 17 000 drams (about 40 dollars). I was going to Tabriz, but the price was the same for Tehran, to where the bus was continuing. There is supposed to be a bus every day, but when I arrived to Yerevan I was told the Monday bus was cancelled and I had to leave one day earlier.
At 10.15, 15 minutes late, the bus left Kilikya Avtokayan in Yerevan. It was a big comfortable and air-conditioned bus with Iranian plates. It is a long journey. A man on the bus was sick and we stopped several times for him to go out (once we stopped by some cherry trees with yummy cherries). After 5,5 hours we passed Goris and a litter further south it was time for food break and we stopped by a restaurant.
The journey through southern Armenia was very long, it doesn’t look so long on the map, but there are many high mountains (with beautiful views) and no tunnels.
The tip is to long, but continues below...
At 20.30 we arrived to the border, where it took two hours on the Armenian side. I was the last one to be ready as the Russian controller took long time to check my passport. Not until everyone was seated in the bus and we crossed a bridge all women took their scarves on. As we arrived on the Iranian side all our passports were collected and we waited. While I waited I changed money at an exchange office and bought some crisps at a shop. Everyone changed the time on their watches back 1,5 hours. At the Iranian side of the border it took 1,5 hours before we were finished and could continue.
Before arriving in Tabriz we stopped for another food break. Back in the bus I wished I was going to Tehran because I wanted to sleep, but suddenly we where in Tabriz and there only I and another passenger left the bus. The driver of the bus asked the other passenger to take me to my hotel in the same taxi as he was taking (even if I don’t speak Farsi and they didn’t speak English) and I was glad for not being left alone in the outskirts of Tabriz in the middle of the night, even if there were other taxis around.
I had been told the bus ride between Yerevan and Tabriz should take 14 hours but it took more than 18 hours. It didn’t feel so long, but it was inconvenient to arrive in the middle of the night.
If you are a handicap planning a trip to Armenia, watch out. You must be careful which airline you choose because with some you have to go up and down the stairs and that could be difficult.
As for transportation in the city of Yerevan, one would not have any trouble because there are many taxis and marshutkas (mini bus) but again it will be difficult for the handicap, specially when considering there are stairs everywhere you go. Although there is major improvement in the city center for handicap access. Once again all the rest of the country falls behind.
ARM - Armenian Railway
Network length, gauge and electrification (for the year:2000):
845km broad gauge(1520mm), all electrified at 3000V=
The Armenian Railway network consists of 845km electrified line, mostly single track not very fast but secure. All lines are electrified, electric power is 3kV DC. The area is mountainous, so several of the lines are heavily graded and have very narrow curves.
There is a new website that details all marshutni routes in Yerevan, as well as metro routes and an interactive flight map. This is the most comprehensive source of info available about transportation options in Armenia. There is even a section detailing routes, prices, and departure stations for regional minibuses!
If you intend to depart Armenia from the Zvartnots (Yerevan) international airport, save 10.000 drams (20$) per departing passanger as this extra airport tax is never included into your ticket price. Although not mentioned anywhere at the airport, first go to the exchange booth (BTW, very bad rates) and pay this tax. You will get a receipt that will enable you to check in. Of course you will get a special extra service for this tax, e.g. a very slow check-in procedure, way too many bored employees standing or walking around the airport, I was almost proclaimed a terrorist just becuse the metal detector always detected a zip of my side trousers pocket, boarding passes were indeed checked more times than necessary and last but not least, due to very slow procedure the plane departure was delayed by almost an hour and the staff put my (and probaly half of other passangers' ) luggage into a wrong plane.
In 2004 probably the cheapest airline flying directly to/from western/central Europe (and thus avoiding a need for a former USSR countries' transit visas) was ČSA (Czech airlines) from Prague, costing "only" 350€. Book the flight as early as possible as the airline seems to be popular among numerous Armenian diaspora in North America.
As you walk around in Yerevan or any other cities, you can see mini-buses in different colors packed with people..
They are called "Marshotni" in Armenia and they are all numbered.. The number appears from the side window and each number has a specific route and destination..
Riding the marshotnis is a lot cheaper than taking taxis especially around town.. They charge 100 drams (US 0.20) for the route within the city..
If you're traveling on a budget and spending US $2-3 can hurt the budget, you may take advantage of the marshotnis.. The only problem is knowing which number has what destination.. I didn't get the chance to ride in one but if you ask around, I'm sure you'll come across people who know..
In Armenia, you may take a Taxi to go literally ANYWHERE.. We were fortunate to come across a taxi service, via referral from a friend who had used them before which we liked the services very much..
The service is Called Comfort Taxi Services and they're based in Yerevan. The name of our taxi driver was Hovik, a very nice man who drove us around Armenia for 3 weeks. We drove anywhere from Anipemza to the western border, Nagorno Karabakh which is all the way to the east.. We went as high up north as Noyemberian and as south as Khor Virap.. The taxi service charges 100 drams (US $0.20) per kilometer and 1200 drams (US $2.40) per hour of wait time. Although Hovik or any of the members of the taxi services do not speak English, most speak Armenian and Russian. When in Yerevan, ask for Hovik and if you want, you may give my name (Rafi) as a reference.. He will provide you with the best service.
There are other Taxi Services which charge less; as low as 70 drams per kilometers..
Doka Taxi Services charges 150 drams (US $0.30) per kilometer and you will be taken around in a Mercedes Benz.. Their phone number is 555-555. You can give them a try if you wish.
Getting to Armenia is done by either airplane or by crossing the border via Iran in a vehicle or by bus.. While on the road in Armenia, I saw many buses with Iranian license plates.. Suppose they were transfering tourists back and forth, not sure.. Airplane is the best choice flying into Zvartnots airport in Yerevan, capital of Armenia.. Please refer to General information for Airport description and tips..
The primary mode of transportation throughout the country is the Marshutni, or mini-bus. They are 10-14 passenger vans that are frequently filled way over capacity. If you're claustrophobic, beware. They are generally more comfortable on long trips, where they are almost never over-filled. Within Yerevan, you have the added options of the local buses, taxis, and single-line subway. All transportation is dirt cheap, even cross-country trips, often costing less than $10.
A cable car goes from Alaverdi up the steep mountain to Sanahin. It goes from behind the post office, just north of the city centre and busstation. Buses comming from Vandazor stops at the cable car stop.
The cable car is not running all day. When I was in Alaverdi, in June 2003, it was running as follow:
07.15 - 09.45
11.00 - 14.00
15.00 - 19.30
23.15 - 23.45
00.15 - 00.45
It is very cheap. One way costs 50 drams.
Very important to remember that the Turkish-Armenian border is CLOSED and will remain so for some time.
Buses are fine except in the mountain areas on the way to the part of Georgia near Turkey, where the roads are in such terrible condition that our driver constantly veered down the mountainside searching for better grip than the road would afford. It was noticeable that car drivers were much less willing to pick up hitchikers in Armenia than other parts of the FSU.
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