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Europe Trains Guide Forum  |  General discussion  |  Travel plans, routes and timetables  |  Georgia - Armenia Transit Question
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warlord
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« on: January 09, 2019, 06:52:24 pm »

  I am trying to figure out if there is any good way to get between Yerevan to Tbilisi via a night or two in either Alaverdi or Odzun.  The main thing there is to hike to Haghpat and also somehow try and get to Debed Canyon.

  Figure I'd ask here being it's more "Europe" rail, but figure maybe Georgia kind of counts.

  I did some research and found out the train between Yerevan and Tbilisi is not only long, uncomfortable and just highly not recommended, so was curious about other options if they exists trying to get between Yerevan and Tbilisi and spending a night.

  I know they have the mini buses (Marshrutka's or whatever they call them there), but I don't like being in those for long extended periods of time (did the one between Chisinau and Odesa and 5 hours on those was way too cramped with no toilet breaks).  So just wondering if you had any input on this idea at all?

  Another option would be actually just flying into Tbilisi and flying out of Batumi.  That way I would just need to find a way from Tbilisi to Alaverdi/Odzun and back.  It seems there is a that same train from Yerevan that goes to the station in Alaverdi, but it seems like it's once a day.  I could manage that as it's only a few hours.  But didn't know if there was another option.  Getting to Alaverdi, I can't seem to find any train for some reason.  Also can't find any buses either.  (The train from Tbilisi to Batumi though seems very straight forward and easy).

  Haven't committed yet to this at all 100%.  It's another option before I get a flight in Feb.  The others we talked about in the past being Serbia and Montenegro which you helped me with already and have all the notes to easily do that if flights are good.  The other was Kosovo/Macedonia which you also helped me out and that is also ready to go.

  But just curious if you had an input on this possible trip at all?

Thanks
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 08:00:26 pm by warlord » Logged
tUt
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2019, 10:56:57 pm »

I did some research and found out the train between Yerevan and Tbilisi is not only long, uncomfortable and just highly not recommended, so was curious about other options if they exists trying to get between Yerevan and Tbilisi and spending a night.
Armenia & Georgia are both very marshrutkas based countries, Ukraine is the "railway heaven" compared to those two :) In Armenia and Georgia train is an ok option only on very few connections (like Tbilisi-Batumi), so in this context overnighter from Yerevan to Tbilisi is actually not that bad in terms of travel time/comfort, especially taking into consideration its curvy route on the Armenian side
So just wondering if you had any input on this idea at all?
An alternative to marshrutka in that part of the world is actually a taxi (on popular routes, like Tbilisi-Yerevan, it can be even in form of car sharing --> used it myself). Using a taxi won't be much faster, however way more comfortable. A few years ago it was about 200-250 lari (or 75-100 USD) per car for the entire 6 or so hour ride from Tbilisi to Yerevan, so if it was 4 passengers, then the price per person was not that much higher than marshrutka actually ;)   
It seems there is a that same train from Yerevan that goes to the station in Alaverdi, but it seems like it's once a day.
Yep, it's the same Yerevan-Tbilisi train, but it doesn't even run every day, only once in two days - http://www.ukzhd.am/raspisanie/en/raspisanie.html . And the schedule for journeys to Alaverdi is horrible, so don't think it makes sense to use it. The train is only for direct passengers between the capitals

But didn't know if there was another option.  Getting to Alaverdi, I can't seem to find any train for some reason. Also can't find any buses either.
Well, if I were you and wanted more or less comfortable trip, would probably do it this way: a) take a local bus/car shared taxi from Yerevan to Alaverdi (=will be rather cheap); b) next day with a help of your hotel/B&B personal rent a local taxi for yourself and just go around to those places you are interested; c) on the third day either get a local taxi to take you all the way to Tbilisi (with the sightseeing stops along the way) or, if it's too expensive (like >40-50 usd or so), then just take it across the ARM-GEO border to Sadakhlo and then use local marshrutka/shared taxi to Tbilisi (=again a very cheap option). NB: dealing with taxis should be done only when you already in Armenia/Georgia (won't be a problem, locals will gladly help), because pre-booking it from abroad is a bad idea, since you'll overpay a lot.
Totally different approach might be to try to find some travel agency with the organized tour (like Tbilisi to Northern Armenia), it's more like an option for lazy ones and those who don't want to deal with local transport, but it can work and save you time.   

It's another option before I get a flight in Feb.
You want to go to Georgia/Armenia in February? Though the winter scenery will be rather nice, but the weather might not be perfect for those long journeys through the mountains with many sightseeing stops. Think that recently many people these days do go to Georgia during the winter season, but it's mostly for skiing (Kazbegi or Svaneti region) and staying in bigger cities (like Tbilisi/Batumi) with the nightlife, food, etc.
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warlord
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 06:14:17 pm »

No this trip is for May not Feb.  I always plan ahead before getting a ticket.

  Yes it also seems the train arrives in Alaverdi at 3am anyways so that option is out.

  Someone did suggest this (https://gotrip.ge/en/) and I contacted them and they said they have drivers that can both take me to Alaverdi and then I can get another one to get back for about $36 US each way.  That's probably what I'd have to do and gives me a chance to stay 2 nights or so there and hike around a lot.

  I've always tried to avoid local taxi's being a foreigner and the reputation of them scamming people, especially when I don't speak the language (or at least very well).  So I tend to avoid them.  I might just have to go with the one I mentioned before.

  Also with flights I didn't realize the tension between Armenia and Turkey and flying to Yerevan isn't as easy as others.  So I've decided if I go on this trip, I'll just fly into Baku and spend a few days there and take the night train sleeper to Tbilisi.  I have friends from the UK that told me I should do it anyways.  Much better connection times and easier to fly to there and out of Batumi than going to Yerevan.

  I just would like to somehow have some time and a few nights somewhere worthwhile in Armenia at least.  Maybe there are cheap flights from Tbilisi to Yerevan and I can just spend a few days around the capitol and fly back?  Kind of weird, but an option I guess...
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tUt
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2019, 05:34:21 pm »

Someone did suggest this (https://gotrip.ge/en/) and I contacted them and they said they have drivers that can both take me to Alaverdi and then I can get another one to get back for about $36 US each way.  That's probably what I'd have to do and gives me a chance to stay 2 nights or so there and hike around a lot.
Sounds like more or less ok price for such trip (unless there are some hidden commission or something) and since it's an agency it should be safer than trying to find a taxi yourself
I've always tried to avoid local taxi's being a foreigner and the reputation of them scamming people, especially when I don't speak the language (or at least very well).  So I tend to avoid them.
True, sometimes it's a risk, especially in countries where you don't speak local language, while locals almost don't speak English (once had a taxi trouble of that kind in Egypt), but one option also can be to find a reliable driver via friends/fellow travelers who traveled there earlier and know someone trustworthy. I think local taxi drivers quite often try to give their client a card or tel. number, so that they or their friends use the service again. 

Also with flights I didn't realize the tension between Armenia and Turkey and flying to Yerevan isn't as easy as others.  So I've decided if I go on this trip, I'll just fly into Baku and spend a few days there and take the night train sleeper to Tbilisi.  I have friends from the UK that told me I should do it anyways.  Much better connection times and easier to fly to there and out of Batumi than going to Yerevan.
Tensions between Turkey and Armenia are very old, however you shouldn't forget about tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan as well (google Karabakh conflict). Not sure about exact situation nowadays, but it used to be not recommended to visit Armenia and Azerbaijan on the same trip with one and the same passport, because if the border guards will see Azeri/Armenian stamp in your passport you might end up having rather unpleasant conversation conversation with the officials (afair, it's worse with Armenian stamp on Azeri border than with Azeri stamps on Armenian border, but still). So unless you have two passports (one to enter/exit Azerbaijan and the other for Armenia), you should check the current situation visiting both countries in one trip.

I just would like to somehow have some time and a few nights somewhere worthwhile in Armenia at least.  Maybe there are cheap flights from Tbilisi to Yerevan and I can just spend a few days around the capitol and fly back?
You really that against the Yerevan-Tbilisi train ride and a short bus ride? E.g. Taxi Tbilisi-Alaverdi --> sightseeing --> local bus to Yerevan (it won't take more than a few hours) --> sightseeing --> overnight train to Tbilisi. Remember it was super expensive (counting the very short distance between Tbilisi and Yerevan) to fly from Georgia to Armenia + with a flight you miss the view along the road
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warlord
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« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2019, 06:21:40 pm »

  Yes it seems from the New Zealander that gave me the gotrip.ge/en/ that she talked to a few other people that used it and they said it was great.  So think that would at least be my best option from Tbilisi to Alaverdi since I won't be flying into Yerevan due to the bad layover connections.  I don't want to attempt another 1 hour layover at the new Istanbul airport as they all are showing me.

  And yes I know about the conflict and have already asked the same question about the passports.  As long as I haven't visited that one separated area of Azerbaijan everyone I talked to said there is no issues travelling between the two countries.  I won't be anywhere near that area anyways.

  Seems there are lots of marshrutka's in Alaverdi that go to Tbilisi so will just either try that, or as you stated, ask at the hotel I'll be staying in for their recommendations.  I know I have done this in the past in other countries and the last time in Moldova they had their own drivers they hire for all guest's need, so will inquire about that...
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