27 Apr Tbilisi to Yerevan by Bus: The Cheapest Way to Travel to Armenia
Bus is not my preferred form of transport. Actually, it is the type of transport I avoid like the plague. But, when I travel from Tbilisi to Yerevan, I always prefer to travel by bus. Going from Tbilisi to Yerevan by bus, or marshrutka (a minibus still prevalent in many former-Soviet states), is cheaper, faster, and allows you to witness spectacular views along the way. And if you’re traveling to Georgia on a budget, you will like this cheaper option. While marshrutka rides can be my nemesis (people PLEASE turn off ringtones, keyboard noises, and spit out the sunflower seeds… I don’t know what it is with people needing to be so accessible at all times over this way), they almost always leave me with an interesting story later on or, if I am lucky, a new friend. This trip takes about six hours once you leave Tbilisi. This is how to get from Tbilisi to Yerevan by bus… and some tips for making the journey from Georgia to Armenia.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Getting to Station Square or Ortachala Station in Tbilisi
- Arriving at the Georgia – Armenia Border
- Have You Been to Azerbaijan?
- Do you Need a Visa for Armenia?
- The Journey Through Armenia
- Arriving in Yerevan
- Taking a Taxi in Yerevan
- Travel Tips for the Tbilisi to Yerevan Bus Ride
Getting to Station Square or Ortachala Station in Tbilisi
Depending on your location and preference, you will need to get to either Station Square (Sadguris Moedani or სადგურის მოედანი) or Ortachala Bus Station (ორთაჭალა) to catch your bus from Tbilisi to Yerevan. The map above has all locations listed. The last time I was making this journey, my taxi driver in Tbilisi decided it would be convenient to ignore the hostel that ordered me the taxi and he took me to Didube Bus Station. If you show up at Didube, you may find a shared taxi to Yerevan, but basically, you’re going to be finding marshrutkas to other destinations in Georgia, such as Kazbegi, not abroad. From Station Square, the first bus leaves at 0900 and from Ortachala Bus Station, it is about the same. The buses at Station Square tend to be more efficient filling up and leaving Tbilisi for Yerevan on time. Ortachala can be a pain. I waited three hours for the marshrutka to fill up the last time I was making this journey. During those three hours, we still didn’t fill to capacity. There were protests happening in Yerevan that day, so I am going to blame that. But usually, it takes under two hours to fill up at Ortachala. There are better things to do in Tbilisi than wait on a marshrutka to fill up, anyway.Tbilisi to Yerevan by Bus: The Cheapest Way to Travel to Armenia #travel #ttot @armenia Click To Tweet
Once at Station Square (which is also the Central Railway Station), you will need to be pointed toward the marshrutkas. There are plenty of people speaking English there and you shouldn’t have an issue. The bus from Tbilisi to Yerevan costs 35 GEL. While these buses seem to stay on schedule a bit better, you will also go to Avlabari (ავლაბარი) in Tbilisi after you leave the Railway Station as it will pick up additional passengers there. So, you are able to take these buses from the Central (Railway) Station or Avlabari depending on your location and desires. I have never taken or seen them at Avlabari but I do know people that have taken them from here. Update: I took one from Yerevan on the way back to Tbilisi that had a final destination of Avlabari. I found the marshrukta slightly less comfortable, but it left quicker.
Ortachala Bus Station
Ortachala is a bit more difficult to get to as it is out of the city center a bit. A taxi shouldn’t be too much getting there- expect to pay around 5 GEL for one. Once you arrive, you will see heaps of vans and shared taxis. These are not the ones you want to take. I took a shared taxi there one time with my friend and we paid for it to just be us. I am 97% certain our taxi was making a drug run into Armenia, but that is another story for another time.
Once you arrive at Ortachala, start walking toward the actual bus station building. You will eventually see a sign that says ‘Tbilisi to Yerevan – 30 GEL’. Go down the stairs where this points and you will be in the right place. Once down there, someone will likely see that you have a lot of bags and will inevitably assume you’re heading from Tbilisi to Yerevan. Just get pointed in the right direction and there should be a marshrutka underneath the building spelling Yerevan in Russian. Just in case, here is the spelling of Yerevan in Georgian, Russia, and Armenian:
ერევანი – Georgian
Ереван – Russian
Երեւան – Armenian
From there, you will want to pay the driver 30 GEL. Depending on other passengers already inside of the marshrutka, he may take your passport then or wait a bit. But, give him your passport and the money and then he will go get the ticket at the office himself. Take a seat (preferably a window seat!) and enjoy the wait until you get going. There are a few shops around that sell bread and snacks for the journey. There will also be loads of other buses heading to different destinations down here (several to Russia), so you won’t be alone. If you haven’t changed over to Armenian drams yet and want to do so, you can also do that around there.
Arriving at the Georgia – Armenia Border
It’ll take an hour or an hour and a half to arrive at the border of Georgia and Armenia. You don’t need to remove your bags at the Georgian border. Just head inside and get stamped out. Once you arrive at the Armenian border, however, you will need to grab all of the bags you have on the bus. Head inside and wait in line to get stamped into Armenia. My wait was no more than 15-20 minutes in this line. There was a large bus that pulled in ahead of us, but I knew that many people would end up delayed by me, so I let many of them go in front of me.
Have You Been to Azerbaijan?
If so, no fear. I had no issues at the border regarding this. I was asked ‘Have you been to Azerbaijan?’ The answer was ‘Yes, I just came from there via Tbilisi’. He would have found the stamps anyway. He asked what I was doing in Armenia. He also asked if it was my first time there (it was not). And then he asked for the address where I was staying. Have this ready on your phone. Once he checked it all out and everyone in line was sighing at the holdup, he stamped me into Armenia. My trip to Azerbaijan gave me no issues for entrance into Armenia.
Do you Need a Visa for Armenia?
I used to need a visa for Armenia way back in the day, but Americans no longer need one. We get 180 days a year inside of the country visa-free. But do check before you go there.
These are some of the countries that do NOT need a visa for a 180 day stay in Armenia annually (based on my readership here): EU Citizens, United States, Norway, New Zealand, Australia. To see this full list, click here.
If you are from Canada, South Africa, or Mexico- you do need a visa and it can be picked up on arrival at the border. This permits you access to Armenia for 120 days maximum annually. The cost of the visa is 15,000 drams (about $30). You can also apply for this online via the Armenia e-visa portal.
The Journey Through Armenia
Unfortunately, once you get into Armenia, you will notice a major slow-down in your speed. Armenian roads are in desperate need of a facelift and there are potholes everywhere. This hasn’t changed since my last time on these roads in 2013 and likely won’t be a priority to change any time soon as Armenia has bigger issues on their plate. But, the Armenian scenery is so outstanding that you won’t even notice after a while. You will make a few stops here and there for food, smoke breaks, etc. We stopped fairly quickly after hitting the border and then again for a while in Stepanavan. The air was brisk that day, so the stops were really enjoyable and refreshing.
Arriving in Yerevan
You will arrive in Yerevan at the Central Bus Station, which is often referred to as the Kilikia Bus Station (Kilikia is a popular beer in Armenia). Once dropped off, you can take a taxi, bus, etc.
Taking a Taxi in Yerevan
Taking a taxi in Yerevan is fairly easy and cheap. There is a standard flat rate of 600 drams (around $1.25) for 4km or less. Anything over that becomes 100 drams per kilometer. Try to know your place of accommodation or have an offline map loaded before arrival so that you don’t end up screwed over. I was willing to pay 1000 drams without negotiating once arriving (like $2.15) because my journey ended up especially long due to filling up the marshrutka and then being stopped because of protests in the city. I didn’t have a SIM card, I didn’t have any idea of where my hostel was, etc.
If you want to download an app, you can try Taxi GG, which comes highly recommended by my local friend in Yerevan. But, I had issues downloading due to the number I was trying to use with it. Uber does not work in Armenia currently.
Travel Tips for the Tbilisi to Yerevan Bus Ride
• If you can change money before entering Armenia, it is nice to have a little bit on you for the journey. If you don’t have Armenian Drams on you, bring some USD or EUR. We stopped at a supermarket on the way that had a currency exchange.
• If you make a stop at the supermarket, there are some really malnourished, young pups hanging around that are curious and hungry. Try to see if you can grab them something inside of the shop. The shop only takes cash.
• Your Georgian SIM card will not work in Armenia. There was a Beeline in Stepanavan that I ran into to see if I could get a card, but they only took cash and there was no ATM nearby. I found the ride from Tbilisi to Yerevan was done best with good music and getting lost in my own world, however. Dodging potholes and the roads would have been nauseating if I had had access to the outside world.
• Bring some food and water for the trip. I didn’t bring nearly enough with me and my journey from Tbilisi to Yerevan took longer than usual as the protests in the Armenian capital slowed things down majorly. Fortunately, people constantly purchased bread at every stop we made and always shared. The bread that was purchased in Stepanavan is probably the best bread I have ever had in my life.
• If you are claustrophobic, try to secure one of the ‘single’ seats in the marshrutka. I was there early enough that I got a single seat with a lot of leg room.Tbilisi to Yerevan by Bus: The Cheapest Way to Travel to Armenia #travel #ttot @armenia Click To Tweet
• Get a good night’s sleep the night before so you can stay awake for the journey. It really is jaw-dropping!
• Have your Yerevan accommodation information with you at the Armenian border as they will likely ask. I handed over my phone with the screenshot of it and that sufficed.
• Once you arrive in Yerevan at the Kilikia Bus Station, there is no ATM on the bus station side. You will need to go under the road (there is a tunnel) and to the other side to the right. There is an ATM. It shot me out large bills and it was a pain to exchange them out, but one little market permitted me to purchase a water for change back for a taxi.
• The taxi should be 600 drams into the city center. Give yourself a limit and accept it. Mine was 1000 drams at that point as I had been on the road for far too long that day!
• Wear the right clothing and shoes for the journey. Something comfortable and suited for travel is always good. Click here for some great travel clothing ideas.
Getting from Tbilisi to Yerevan is actually quite the simple process by bus, or marshrutka. The train is at least double or triple the price, so if you are on a budget and have ‘been there, done that’ with Soviet-style trains before, this is definitely a feasible option. Also, the train is an overnighter, so if you want to see some scenery, it is not the most viable option. Many people want to take the train to save on accommodation, but if you’re a budget traveler, you likely won’t be paying more than $4 a night for a hostel bed in Yerevan, so the process will actually save money if you decide to take the bus from Tbilisi to Yerevan. If you have any additional questions or simply want to share your experiences (good and bad!), please drop them in the comments below.
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