During our visit to Tbilisi in February 2013, we decided to undertake a day trip to the nearby town of Mtskheta, a former capital of Georgia.
We ascertained that the cheapest way of getting to Mtskheta was by marshrutka (local minibus) and the following details were correct as at the time of our visit.
Tbilisi – Mtskheta
The marshrutky (plural of marshrutka) from Tbilisi to Mtskheta leave from the busy marshrutka station at Didube. This station is easily reached on the Tbilisi Metro. It took us around 15 minutes (7 stops) to get there from Avlabari Metro station. The journey from Freedom Square or Rustaveli would take a little over 10 minutes.
The marshrutka station is adjacent to the Metro station and just a couple of minutes walk away. It is a rather confusing place with dozens of marshrutky, buses and taxis in all directions, as well as a bustling market attached to the station. Presumably, there is some sort of system in place and locals know which marshrutky leave from which area, but we had no idea.
To further complicate matters, the destination boards in the front windscreens of all marshrutky are written solely in Georgian script. I was aware of this fact before we got to the station, so had taken it upon myself to learn the start of the work Mtskheta in Georgian (a back-to-front 6, a letter similar to a capital B, a letter similar to a small b and then a back-to-front c). This wasn't much use as we wandered, lost, amongst the minibuses.
Clearly lost, we were approached by a taxi driver. We told him that we were looking for the marshrutky to Mtskheta and he offered to drive us there himself. He reasoned that the marshrutka would cost us 1 GEL per person each way (a total of 4 GEL) and then a return taxi ride from Mtskheta to the mountain-top Jvari Monastery would cost us a further 25 GEL (including waiting time), giving a total of 29 GEL. He offered to take us on the same trip for the same price. If we had been intending to visit Jvari Monastery we may have taken him up on his offer (or more likely, taken the marshrutka to Mtskheta and then ascertained the taxi prices to Jvari), but as we weren't planning to visit Jvari it was a moot offer. Despite our rejection of his offer, he cheerily pointed us in the direction of the marshrutka we were looking for. I knew it was the right one when I saw the familiar Georgian characters that I'd learnt displayed in the windscreen.
We purchased our tickets (1 GEL / £0.40 each) from a booth next to the marshrutka and got on board. It was fairly crowded, but we managed to get a couple of seats. Another Mtskheta-bound marshrutka was already filling up behind ours; they leave every 15-20 minutes during the day.
We caught the marshrutka at 11:40am on a Thursday morning. Traffic wasn't too heavy and the journey time to Mtskheta (with a couple of stops on the edge of the town before we got to the centre) took around 20 minutes. We alighted on the main road of Davit Ashmashenebelis qucha, directly opposite Samtavro Church.
Mtskheta – Tbilisi
We caught the marshrutka back to Tbilisi at around 4:00pm the same afternoon.
We boarded the marshrutka on the opposite side of the road from where we had alighted that morning (i.e. outside Samtavro Church).
There was no booth to purchase tickets, so we got on board and handed 2 GEL (1 GEL each as per the outbound trip) to the driver. He didn't give us a ticket and we also noticed that nobody else was paying as they got on board. As the journey progressed, and passengers were alighting at various points in the Tbilisi suburbs, we realised that it is customary to pay the driver as you get off the marshrutka.
The marshrutka was again busy, but we found two seats together at the back of the minibus.
The journey time back to Didube station was again around 20 minutes.
It is worth noting that some of the best views of Mtskheta are to be enjoyed from the opposite bank of the river on which it stands, and these can be had from the window of the marshrutka. Sit on the right hand side of the marshrutka when travelling to Mtskheta or the left hand side when travelling back to Tbilisi for the best views.
Getting to Mtsheta is easy. One just has to use subway or marshrutka (minibus – taxi with assigned route) to reach this sprawling market north of the center of Tbilisi. From there another marshrutka takes you for 30 minutes and less than a dollar to the old capital. Do not forget to tell the driver that you want to stop in the center of town - it is not very obvious. The double pleasure of this destination is that on the way back one can stop at the market and concentrate on some serious shopping. The CDs with Georgian and other worldly music cost 2 dollars each! The copyright dictatorship has not arrived yet!
From the Didube bus station in T'bilisi there are frequent buses to Mts'ket'a.
The busses in Mts'khet'a leave at the maine road opposite the small shop.
Just shake your hand to stop the bus.
The busses have the pictures of the monastary in front.
You can by the tickets at the counter near the bus.
Please take a look at the Georgia by bus transportation tip.
One ticket is about 1 $
The journey takes about one hour.
You could arrive there by taxi, you could bargain with the driver and you must pay no more than 20 USD for a trip there including a waiting of 2-3 hrs. for visiting.
This old city is located around 45 kms away from T'bilisi,then taxi is the best option and it is not expensive.