The transportation by taxi is cheap, however marshrutka, a small bus for like 20 people (but can be twice more :-)), is much more cheap and you travel with locals. It can be sometimes fun sometimes helpful. Usually there are bus stations, but you can stop marshrutka anywhere on the street, if you know where does it go. There are no schedules in the bus stop, no numbers, nothing. Marshrutkas have a sign in the front with a number but the rest written in georgian. You must ask.
you can get to georgia by train from Armenia and Azerbaijan by SilkRoad Express
If you wanna get from Tbilisi to Borjomi or Batumi you can also use train.
Tbilisi,15 Tamar mepe ave. 0112
The georgian railway system is in extension.
If you want to buy train tickets don't be irritated by the ticket sellers.
Some are very rude and refuse to sell a ticket.
Write the depurture time, the train number and the destination also in kyrillic letters
on a piece of paper.
Insist to buy a ticket and don't go away!
Georgian trains are similar to russian trains.
You can choose between first class (2 beds)
Coupé 4 beds and Platskarta (shared open wagon)
Aboard our VT-Mobile we entered Georgia near the Turkish city of Posof. We were the first team to reach the country and the border officers were quite puzzled to see us there. The procedure was lengthy and everybody there came out to check us and satisfy their curiosity. In a mix of languages and gestures, we explained the scope of our visit and showed the route of our rally which was printed on the large stickers covering our car. A few days before we decided to cover - with stickers randomly collected here and there - the portions of images displaying guns, as we certainly had no intention at all to make fun of warfare situations.
The personnel were not tough on us but it took quite some time to get through. Our passports and the vehicle's documents were checked over and over. The delayed process made me think that some bribing would help, but no such offer was eventually made. We let them understand that more racing vehicles would follow and asked them to distribute our VT cards! Not only to let others know that we made it - we had lost communication - but that we were the first!
Note that this border point is not open 24 hours a day. A few teams later informed that they had to wait until morning hours.
From Akhaltsikhe we tried a shorter, eastbound route to Tbilisi through Akhalkalaki, Tsalka, Manglisi. A horrible unpaved road. We lost and repaired our lights near a lake before deciding to abort the option, turning back and return to Akhaltsikhe in the middle of the night. Next morning we then took the the main road through Borjomi, Khashuri, Kareli and Gori. It follows a valley and passes very close to South Ossetia. Heavy traffic and fast vehicles dangerously passing both ways in impassable conditions. Apply extreme caution and be ready to take emergency maneuvers if you drive here. Tbilisi traffic is congested and challenging, especially if you're trying to find your way or, even worse - and our case, the clutch of your Moskvich decides to go bad right there.
While I rode a mini bus in I flew out. Tbilisi has a modern airport that is served by a number of airlines. A few that I saw were CSA which just started 3x's weekly service to Prague, Lufthansa, Turkish whom I flew to Istanbul, and even Georgian Airlines with service to Amsterdam. Most of the European flights leave in the early am hours so they can connect with the morning banks to North America etc...
One note...if you need souvenirs you need to buy them at the shops by the airline check in counters since there is nothing but a food court and duty free shops selling western goods on the other side of security.
The easiest and fastest way to travel between cities is by white vans called "marshrutka" (a russian colloquialism for a small bus travelling along a certain route). They often start their trip when they are full or almost full and not accordingly to a fixed schedule. So be flexible.
Many of the historical monuments or other places worth to see are located outside cities and no regular transportation is provided to get there. When we visited Kutaisi, there were 2 must-sees of this kind - the famous Gelati monastery and Sataplia cave. So - we hired a taxi. In the city you will see many taxies most of which were produced in Soviet times - but dont you worry, it is sometimes easier to get where you want to get sitting in this kind of an old car instead of a more up-to-date model. As we were wandering around the area of the market, there were dozens of them. So we asked the driver how much he wanted and it was 20 lari to get to each of the places. But please notice that it was in early 2007 and i know that already the prices have gone up. Sure, you can always bargain. For the final price he will take you to your destination point and wait for about an hour until you have seen everything.
If you're planning to fly between Tbilisi and Baku it seems that the only airline offering this service is the Azeri national airline. The girl in the Azeri air office at 28 Chavchavadze Avenue near the university in Tbilisi told me that this is a daily service.
If you do not have an Azeri visa you can obtain 1 at Baku airport assuming you have fulfilled the requirements listed on the website of the Azeri embassy.
If you do not speak Georgian and you are using a cab driver who does not speak English to get you to Chachavadze Avenue asking for "Chavchavadze Prospekt" will get you there.
If you ask at Ortachala bus station about travelling to Azerbaijan the cab drivers there will likely tell you as they did me that the only possible way to do this journey is by cab. This is of course complete lies, you simply have to get yourself across to the correct bus station, namely the 1 at the train station.
To go from Tbilisi to Baku mini buses run from Tbilisi train station to the border crossing at Krasny Most. Look out for the sign in the attached photo being displayed in the minibus window.
If you are taking a cab to Tbilisi train station and you don't speak Georgian and your driver doesn't speak English the Russian word for 'station' is 'vaksal'. A taxi between the station and Freedom Square in Tbilisi cost 5 lari.
I asked one of the mini bus drivers at the train station to write down the timetabled departures. He wrote down that mini buses start at 5.45 am and run every thirty minutes from then onwards. However the scheduling must change during the day as I arrived at 12.05pm expecting to catch the 12.15 service but was told that the next service would be at 1 pm. The 1 hour journey costs 4 lari. I asked a cab driver at the station how much he would charge me to Krasny Most and he said 50 lari.
See separate note on Krasny Most border crossing.
Krasny Most (meaning "Red Bridge") connects Azerbaijan and Georgia. It is an arch bridge dating back to the 12th century crossing the Khrami River. The historic bridge has been replaced in 1998 as the main crossing by the TRACECA (Europe-Caucasus-Asia) bridge.
If you are travelling in the opposite direction there is of course the return journey available on the mini bus. In the afternoon at least this is scheduled to depart on the hour. There are cab drivers hanging around looking for people coming through on foot and will spin tales about there being a problem with the mini bus and that the only way to progress is by taxi. This is of course complete lies I can guarantee since after having being told of the mini bus problem by such a cab driver I was merrilly on my way in a mini bus to Tbilisi 5 minutes later without fuss.
Please note that if you are from a nation requiring an Azeri visa you cannot obtain this at the border. The only place where you can enter Azerbaijan and obtain a visa on the spot (see the Azeri embassy website for details on requirements) is Baku airport.
The trip to Davit Gareja takes 1.5 hour on a cab if driving on the new road or alternatively 2.5 hours on a very bad road, like we did on our way there since the driver did not know how to go the new way. On our way back we went through the new road.
Buses to Pasanuri (a village close to Ananuri) from Didube are quite a rara avis, so if you are in a hurry or want to save the day, it’s worth paying a little extra, hop in a Kazbegi bus and then ask to stop an hour later at Ananuri.
For the return to T’bilisi however, you’ll need to hitchhike until the first village, around 20 km, from where there are regular masrhrutkas to T’bilisi. I waited about 20 mminutes until i got the ride.
Marshrutkas for Kazbegi leave Didube station from morning until early afternoon, depending on the length of day , as they have to arrive in Kazbegi before night falls. The journey takes 4 hours and costs 10 lari.
The last hour on the road to Kazbegi leads through what's left of the “Georgian military highway”, a bumpy and virtually unpaved path climbing up mountains in narrow U-turns. Pretty cool!
Most marshrutka routes within Georgia departing from T’bilisi seem to use Didube station as hub. (Kutaisi buses can be taken from the railways station as well). This is good news, especially when you need to travel from one town to another and don’t find direct connections.
Frequency of connections largely depends on how close to T’bilisi and how large the town of destination is. After passing through Didube a dozen times, I can say that:
- Mtskheta – at least every half an hour, all day long, journey takes 20minutes , 2 lari
- Gori – at least every 2 hours, all day, journey a little more than 1 hour, 5 lari
- Kutaisi – from 07,30 am to 18,00 pm, 4 hours, 10 lari
I arrived in Sighnaghi from Sheki, in Azerbaijan, on a somehow off-the-beaten-path route..
While I’ve seen some marshrutkas Telavi (Georgia) – Qax (Azerbaijan) on the road, indicating that there may be a return from Qax, I took a morning marshrutka (10,15) from Sheki to Balakan (1 manat, 2 hours), and a taxi from Balakan to the Georgian border (3 manat). Luckily, other taxis were waiting on the Georgian side (10 lari to nearest village, 30 lari for Sighnaghi after bargain). Arrived in Sighnaghi around 14,00 hours.
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