Contributed by Shelly Viajera Travel
Armenia and Georgia are two distinctively beautiful countries that sit beside each other. With enough time, it’s best to visit them both. I’d like to share my experience on how I was able to visit these two countries in a single trip.
I started my trip all the way from Manila. Since there are no direct flights to Yerevan (the capital of Armenia) or to Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia), I had to take multiple flights.
A common route is Manila-Dubai then Dubai-Yerevan, offered by several Middle East Airlines. But, this usually has a long transit in Dubai (19 hours, when I last checked). To skip the wait, I figured out an alternate route by taking three flights to reach Armenia, namely: Manila-Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific), Hong Kong-Moscow (Aeroflot), and finally Moscow-Yerevan (Aeroflot).
If asked where one should begin a trip between Armenia and Georgia, I’d say it can go either way. In my case, I chose to start in Armenia because the Moscow-Yerevan flight was cheaper than the Moscow-Tbilisi flight during my chosen travel date.
As a Philippine passport holder, I had to get a visa in order to enter Armenia. I easily applied for this online, but getting a visa-on-arrival (VOA) is also possible.
I’d generally describe Armenia as a country with a lot of beautiful old churches. Interestingly, the first spread of Christianity actually happened in this religious country. Aside from the capital city, Yerevan, the Kotayk province is also a popular side trip. This is where the Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery are found.
Yerevan to Tbilisi, Georgia
From Yerevan, you can travel to Tbilisi by land in just five hours. There’s a distance of 272 kilometres between the two cities. The route is mostly on flat roads, and I’d say the journey is safe. The Armenia-Tbilisi route (and vice versa) is very common, thus public transportation is also very accessible. While private transfers are offered, it’s cheaper to take a public vehicle — a 12-seater van locally known as a marshrutka.
In Yerevan, you can get a marshrutka to Tbilisi at the Kilikia Bus Stop located at Admiral Isakov Avenue. From Yerevan’s main square, Republic Square, you can take a taxi to the bus stop. This will cost you around AMD 800 (US$ 1.65).
At the bus stop, I was greeted by several drivers. Unfortunately, none of them could speak in English. Despite this, a simple uttering of “Tbilisi” got them to understand me. They pointed me to the right marshrutka among the few parked inside. A one-way trip cost me AMD 7,000 (USD 15). I bought the ticket straight from the driver.
The bus stop is quite old and very simple. There’s a small store if you wish to buy snacks and drinks. A toilet is also available, but you need to pay a small amount (AMD 100) to use it.
The five-hour ride from Yerevan to Tbilisi was smooth. There was one stopover for snacks and toilet usage somewhere in Tsovagyugh, where I was able to catch a glimpse of Armenia’s snow-capped mountains. (I travelled during the winter season, particularly in late March.)
Reminders at the Armenia-Georgia border
A few kilometres before reaching Tbilisi, the marshrutka stopped at the Armenia-Georgia border. All passengers were requested to go down, enter the building, and pass through immigration. Luggage was brought in for security checks, just like at any other airport.
Being a Philippine passport holder, I had to secure a Georgian visa in order to cross the border between Armenia and Georgia. You can either apply for a visa upon arrival, or secure an e-Visa ahead of time. I opted for the latter, since I tend to feel more at ease knowing my visa is already approved before reaching my destination.
After sliding my luggage through the x-ray machine, I went straight to the immigration counter. If you have to get a VOA, though, you will have to fall in line at a separate counter, then head to immigration afterwards.
During my experience, the immigration officer wasn’t as strict as I’d expected. He only asked for my passport and e-Visa, then asked how long I would be staying in Georgia. Even though the e-Visa indicate that health insurance is required, I wasn’t asked to present anything else. Likewise, I wasn’t asked to show any proof of accommodation, financial means, or a return ticket. To be safe, however, I suggest to always have all these requirements ready.
And that’s it! After all the passengers were cleared at immigration, the trip continued. In a few minutes, we reached the final stop in Avlabari, Tbilisi. The Avlabari Metro Station (Line 1) serves as a landmark. When you walk further up, you can reach the huge Tbilisi St. Trinity Cathedral in just 15 minutes.
Just like I did in Armenia, I had a great time in Georgia. They may be two neighbouring countries, but each has its own ambience. This said, Armenia and Georgia are both worth visiting because you get different experiences. Aside from going around the capital, Tbilisi, I made a few side trips to neighbouring Georgian towns like Mtskheta (the old capital) and Gudauri (a popular place for winter sports).