Here there and everywhere
I took a taxi organsied from Envoy hostel from the airport but at 40Lari thats a bit of a con.
I got a taxi back from the street for 20 Lari.
Marshrukta to Kazbegi leaves Dadubi for 10 Lari
To Yerevan by overnight train is 49 Lari (£19) in a Kupe (4 bed closed door) for the 9 hour trip.
A taxi return to Davit Geraja is 140 Lari , including a 2 hour wait, its a 2 hour drive away.
We took a ride on the Mtatsminda Funicular during our visit to Tbilisi in February 2013.
We were under the impression that the funicular had closed, and indeed it had been closed for some time for renovation work, but one day we noticed that it was in action. We walked to the lower station (a steep walk up 9 Aprilis qucha, to the side of the Parliament Building, from Rustaveli Avenue) and discovered that it had recently re-opened.
To ride the funicular you need to purchase a card from one of the manned booths. It is a card for Mtatsminda Park (which is at the top of the steep mountain that the funicular climbs up) and can be topped up with credit for use on the funicular and on the park's various rides and attractions. The card costs 2 GEL (£0.80) and a ride on the funicular costs 2 GEL (£0.80) each way. We were able to purchase one card to share between the two of us.
As it was a weekday in the middle of winter the funicular (and the park at the top) was practically deserted. After passing through the turnstiles to board the funicular (a modern train carriage with several compartments and large windows on all sides) we found ourselves waiting for 15-20 minutes until the funicular departed. When it did so, there were only two other passengers on board. I imagine the funicular is much busier, and runs more frequently, during weekends and the busier summer months.
The steep ride to the top station took around 5 minutes and afforded us some breathtaking views over the city. In fact, the views from the funicular were far better than they were from the park at the top, as the views from the park were obscured by trees.
We passed another train coming down at the midway point. We didn't stop at the midway station on the way up, but we did so on the way back down. There is a church that is a short walk from the middle station; I assume the two passengers who boarded at this station on the way down had been visiting the church.
Mtatsminda Funicular – the easiest way to get to the mountain-top Mtatsminda Park!
Marshrutky between Tbilisi and Mtskheta
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.
We made a fair bit of use of the Metro during our stay in Tbilisi in February 2013 and the following information was correct as of that date.
The Tbilisi Metro consists of 2 lines, with 21 stops, which connect at "Sadguris Moedani". There are a handful of stops that are particularly useful for tourists:
Tavisuplebis Moedani (Freedom Square) – at one end of the shop and restaurant-lined Rustaveli Avenue;
Rustaveli – at the other end of Rustaveli Avenue;
Sadguris Moedani (Station Square) – connected to the city's new main railway station and the meeting point of the two Metro lines;
Didube - connected to the major marshrutka (minibus) station, with minibuses to many towns and cities throughout Georgia;
Avlabari - a short walk (10 minutes) from Rike Park, Peace Bridge and the new cable car system up to Nariqala Fortress. Also close to Metekhi Church and the Old Town.
To use the Metro you need to purchase a Metromoney card and load some value onto it. The card costs 2 GEL / £0.80 and can be purchased (and topped up) at any Metro station. More than one person can share a Metromoney card. We purchased one card between the two of us. The card could also be used to ride on the city's new cable car system between Rike Park and Nariqala Fortress.
The first ride of the day costs 0.5 GEL (£0.20) per person, regardless of distance travelled. Subsequent rides on the same day become cheaper, falling to 0.3 GEL and then 0.2 GEL. You swipe the Metromoney card at the turnstile to access the Metro platform at the beginning of your journey and you don't need to do anything with your card when you exit the platform at the end of your journey.
All of the station names above the station entrances appear only in Georgian script. However, don't let that put you off entering. At platform level, signs and route maps are translated into English. On board the trains, all announcements (current station and next station) are made in both Georgian and English.
A digital clock on the platform indicates the time since the last train departed. I've seen this on other Metro systems and always wondered what the point of it is; surely it makes more sense to show the time until the NEXT train departs? In any event, we tended to find that trains came along every 3 to 4 minutes during the day time and that stations were about 2 to 3 minutes apart.
In common with many other Metro systems in the world, the trains tended to get very busy (i.e. standing room only...and not much of it!), especially during the day time and between the major central stations.
The Tbilisi Metro is not as modern as many others in the world. The carriages are a bit more worn, the ride is a little bumpier, and there are no on-board route maps in the train carriages. The fact that regular announcements are made over the tannoy negates this last fact somewhat.
I noticed "no photos" signs at the entrances to some of the stations, and plenty of security staff in all of the stations, so the accompanying photos at platform level were taken discreetly at stations where I didn't see a forbidden sign.
While the central stations are underground, at least some of the less central stations (Didube, for example) are above ground.
Tbilisi Metro is a cheap and convenient way to travel around the city! It is especially useful for connecting to the train and marshrutka stations and bustling Rustaveli Avenue.
Free wi-fi at Tbilisi Airport
Thanks to inconvenient flight times, we found ourselves waiting around Tbilisi International Airport for quite a while during our visit in February 2013.
Thankfully, we discovered that Tbilisi is one of those airports that provide free wi-fi access, so we were able to use my netbook to kill some time on the Internet. The service is an unsecured network operated by Silknet.
I assume that wi-fi is free throughout the entire airport, but if not, it certainly worked in the following areas:
In the arrivals hall/check-in area, we used the free wi-fi while sitting at the seating area adjacent to Burger King. The connection speed was pretty slow and the connection dropped a few times.
In the departure lounge, we used the free wi-fi while having a drink at the Efes Beer Port restaurant. The connection speed was much quicker and more reliable here than it had been at Burger King.
Free wi-fi at Tbilisi airport!
Airport Bus #37
We used airport bus #37 to get from Tbilisi International Airport to the city centre during our trip to the Georgian capital in February 2013.
The information contained in this review was correct as of that date.
The first thing to note is that the "airport bus" was not of the kind that we were expecting. We thought it would be a coach, or at least a full sized bus, with an undercarriage or storage area for our suitcases. It wasn't. It was a small yellow minibus with seating for maybe 10 or 15 passengers and no area assigned for storing luggage.
Nor was it an express bus/shuttle bus. It was simply a local bus that happened to call at the airport along its route. It therefore stopped every few hundred metres on the journey from the airport to the city centre. Despite little traffic on the roads at 7am, the journey from the airport to Avlabari metro station took around 30 minutes. The reverse journey, at the end of our stay, took just 12 minutes by car (but cost 50 GEL / £20 compared to the 1 GEL / £0.40 that the two bus tickets cost!).
It certainly wasn't a comfortable ride. We were fortunate that there were seats available when we boarded at the airport and we were able to rest our suitcases at the side of us. However, within minutes of leaving the airport (and picking up more and more passengers at each stop), there were twice as many standing passengers as seated passengers, but the driver still stopped at each stop to let more on. I'm being entirely serious when I say that at least another dozen passengers boarded the bus after the point where I was convinced that no more could physically fit inside. They were crammed in the aisle like sardines and practically hanging out of the door. We were hemmed into our seats by our suitcases, but that was still far preferable to being squashed in the aisle. I did worry about how we would ever get off the bus though when our stop arrived!
Although buses run fairly frequently (every 30 minutes) during the day, the timetable wasn't very convenient for us. Our flight landed at Tbilisi at 3:20am and by 4:00am we were ready to make our way into the city. However, the first bus of the day didn't run until 7:00am, so we found ourselves waiting around the airport for 3 hours. The first train of the day was even later (around 8:30am I believe) and they run very infrequently; just 3 or 4 times a day.
There is a handy website with bus times and journey planning tools HERE.
As we were waiting for the bus, we were approached by several taxi drivers offering to take us into the centre. After hours of resisting their advances, we were being quoted fares of $US 10 (16 GEL) to anywhere in the centre. If we'd known for sure that our hotel would be open at that early hour, we'd have probably taken them up on their offer. Incidentally, our Lonely Planet guide was suggesting that a taxi fare from the airport would likely be 20-30 GEL at that time of night/early morning.
Tickets for the bus cost just 0.5 GEL / £0.20 each and are purchased from a machine on board the bus. Despite its simple appearance, there are no clues as to how to use the machine. There are two small buttons with a '+' and a '-' next to them and a larger button with "Stop" written underneath it. A local passenger, seeing that I was struggling, helped me out and made it all look very simple. The key is to use the '+' button for the number of passengers, then insert your money and hit the "Stop" button to get the tickets. The machine doesn't give out change, so you might need to change a banknote for coins inside the airport before catching the bus.
The bus route from the airport ultimately ends at the train station and includes key central locations such as Freedom Square ("Tavisuplebis Moedani") and Rustaveli Avenue. We got off the bus at Avlabari metro station and I noted that we had also stopped outside the "300 Aragveli" metro station on the way.
Bus #37 is a very cheap, if somewhat uncomfortable, means of travelling from Tbilisi airport to the city centre.
If you need a reliable taxi for your tours in and around Tbilisi. Somebody taking really good care of you and knowing all about tourist places just call Leri. He speaks a little bit Dutch, but understands better. Just send him your adres by textmessage and at what time you expect him to be at your hotel. His cellphone number is (0099)599506572
- Hiking and Walking
- Castles and Palaces
Spent a considerable time at T'bilisi airport, fortunately it is one of the better ones to visit. Flew into and out of Georgia with BMI (soon to be taken over by BA) and also down to Batumi and back with Airzena Georgian Airways.
A schedule change caught us out on our trip to Batumi giving us 6 hours to kill and then a few days later our flight into T'bilisi arrived at 18:00 with our return to London at 05:00, so, both times just hung around the termnal.
Cappadoccia is a lovely cafe with excellent food, at airport prices obviously but, with Lari left to spend - not really a problem.
In conclusion, there are far worse airports in this world to spend time at.
Minibus for maxi distance. . .
Buses and minibuses serve most destinations in Georgia, starting from Tbilisi; you just need to know that there are three main bus stations and which station serves which destinations.
The biggest station is Didubé, located next to the Didubé metro station, easy to reach; marchroutkas starting here serve most of Georgia, except the Eastern and South eastern provinces which are served from Samgori station (metro Samgori).
The international station is Ortachala from where you can take buses or marchroutkas going to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey. . . located far south can be reached with bus 55 or 5, or with taxi.
How it works: once in the right station look for minibuses (marchroutkas) going to your destination (ask, people are very helpful), buy your seat to the driver (or his boss), this is equivalent to a reservation; the bus will leave when it will be fully booked (fully, really means full !!!). From this you should be aware that it is better to come early, specially for off beaten track destinations,, so you have a chance to get a seat, otherwise, you may wait till the next day. . . . All works smoothly in a sort of an “organised mess”. Whilst waiting for the departure, you can shop around, try the local kwas (light alcoholic drink made from fermented bread), look at people. . .
The four first pictures are from Didubé station, the last from Ortachala.
- Arts and Culture
Car Hire in Georgia
The brilliant car rental company in Georgia. They offer vehicles with or without a driver, Organizing jeep tours and excursions in various regions of Georgia all the year round, Transportation service from/to airport from/to hotel with professional drivers. Price is reasonable and service is excellent. If anything is wrong with the car, one call and they change the car with the new one for you.
- Adventure Travel
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
For train junkies
The train option seems to be the best and almost the only one according to the books. On the spot at the railway station in Tbilisi the impression was the same considering that an Azeri woman was booking her foreign friend’s ticket to Baku as well - what better way than to follow the local example. The demand is high and advance booking in the summer months is recommended. The ticket was about 100lari or 50 USD one way in first class for no more than two people in a compartment. This seemed high but the hope that there is going to be air conditioning made it acceptable and even desirable. Another matter is the reality when you discover that the air-conditioning system needs the "train to speed" in order to work!? Anyway, this is one of the branches of the Silk Road, so stuff that exotic experience down and put with it! There is more to come at the railway station when you decide to stock up on supplies even though you might think that there is going to be a bar/restaurant car in a train that charges that much. Nothing is further from the truth! The only "service" is some tea on offer that comes from an antique samovar that maybe wonderful to look at but not very sanitary to drink from. The first hurdle after the fancy "Western" style grocery store at the railway station is the mine field of fecal turds in the passage way under the tracks and on the stairwells leading to them. This first injection of immunity comes very handy when you board the train because albeit not a "chicken" train it is close relative and the washroom does not make you visit unless desperate. The car itself might have been in service for the last 50 years and this is a testament to the durability of all things Soviet. In addition to the lacking air conditioning one is provided with the optimistic/reserved smile of the ex leader and current divinity Heydar Aliev. The "stewardess" collects all passports and one quickly falls in the vacuum of uncertainty. After everything is in place, most notably the engine, the train pulls up on time and we say good bye to Tbilisi gradually and painfully passing by quarters light years away from the flashy prosperity of Rustavely.
Next experience of major importance is the border crossing point. It involves new collection of the same passports and an hour worth of stamping them while the customs officer goes through your belongings with his greasy fingers. Nevertheless his uniform is new and outlandish so you are numbed for a while – exactly enough to put up with his manual examination. Finally the passengers are allowed to disembark and buy their beers from the only kiosk available and watch some mutt finery around the customs house. Time works in our favour and eventually the train pulls up to the next endurance test. The Azeri side of the border is way more impressive with a significant building and massive propaganda posters. Guess who is welcoming you – the fellow that you got to know in the very moment you stepped in the train. The control seems even more serious than the Georgian one but this is normal since train just left Georgia where here it enters Azerbaijan and everybody in uniform is on their toes to prevent the devil from coming in. Sentries are posted every 20m along the train so nobody jumps off while a team of border guards check all the crevasses of the compartments with special periscope equipment. Meanwhile even the Sun has gotten tired of the procedure and has set leaving the passengers with the mucky atmosphere of the long summer day. Eventually all paper work is done and the happy crowd is on the way to Baku. There is no equivalent of the train approach to Baku because the other option is flying directly which means that you will be exposed to the modern terminal of the airport than transported over a super-duper high way with “Potemkin” style fences along it all the way to the beautiful center of Baku and the impression of Azerbaijan would be very different and one-sided. The train is the way to go!
- Budget Travel
turkish airlines adress:147, David Agmashenebeli Avenue Tbilisi GEORGIA
Telefon: 995-32-95 90 22 /995-32-94 07 03
Faks: 995-32-94 07 04
Çalýþma Saatleri: Haftaiçi: 09:30-17:30
Train from Armenia to Georgia
The train leaves Yerevan at 7:15 p.m. on even days and leaves Tbilisi on odd days of the month (every other day both ways). It cost around 29 us $ for a sleeper cabin. it reached the Boarder around 4:00 a.m. and we finnished our coustomes on Georgian sides of the boarder @ around 6 a.m. Needles to say that the train is slow but hay you have one night less to worry about accomedation.
I traveled in Late May so only 4 sleeper cabins in the train were occupied. I had one of them for my self. There was no air condtion so it was VERY hot for the first 2 hours but after that it was very nice. I think there is a heating system for winter. There was no food or drinking water on the train so make sure you bring all your needs with you. Toilets are closed when train stop @ station. Both the Tbilis and Yerevan train station are will conected with the city Metro station.
I used the train from Yerevan to Tbilisi.
The boarder Scurity in Georgia insisted that I have to get a visa. I told him few times I don't need one, as I was told by the Georgian Embassy "I was exceimt" but he did not buy it. I finnaly told him to go ahead with issuing a visa but I will complain next day @ the Georgian Forign Minestry about his action. This certainly got his attention and @ 5a.m, he was able to get hold of somebody and confirm that I did not need a visa. If you are coming from a small country like mine. The boarder gard might not know that you are excempt from Visa, so insisit on it and hopefully they might see the light
I found the Metro very usful to travel around the city. It will take you to the Train and bus stations but not to the Airport. At the enterance there is a ticket booth, a Bank of Georgia branch and an ATM. Police are always present at the entrance and @ train platform.
I was told by the police not to take picture after taking few shots but the police officer did not insist that I delete my picture nor he tried to confiscate the "film". Signs are occasionally written in English but that shouldn't be a problem since Georgian are always willing to point you to the direction Ticket was cheap .2 lari
Mini buses between Yerevan and Tbilisi
I went into a travel agent on Mashtots Ave in Yerevan to ask when the mini buses are time tabled to run from Yerevan to Tbilisi. I was told that there would be one each day from the bus station ('Avto Kayan' if you ask a cab driver to take you there) at 8 am, 9 am, 10 am, 11 am and 12 noon. The fare was 6600 AMD.
Please note that a mini bus is liable to be cancelled if there aren't enough passengers for the driver to make it worthwhile to make the trip.
The fare to Yerevan from Tbilisi was 30 GEL.
The time for the border crossing can unpredictable. For crossing into Armenia it took 2 hours for the border crossing meaning the whole journey took 7 hours duration. From Armenia to Georgia the border crossing only took 30 minutes and so the duration of the entire trip was only 5 1/2 hours.
In Tbilisi the mini buses run from either the train station or 1 of the bus stations so you need to know in advance the correct departure point for your trip. Look out for the writing in red in the attached photo. This photo is from the minibus front window and means, "Yerevan" in Russian.
When I visited these countries there was a time difference of Georgia being 1 hour behind Armenia.
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