International Transport links from Tbilisi
I'm going to be going to Dubai shortly and I made a trip to Yerevan a few months ago and thought it
would be worth making some notes about what I have found out from my own research and friends recommendations
about international travel links from Tbilisi. I have several references to FlyDubai, since I am flying
on that carrier to the Persian Gulf this next week. If they provide bad service, I'll update this post to reflect that,
otherwise you can assume that I recommend considering them.
Georgia is near the center of the Eurasian land mass, yet retains a somewhat isolated feel. This is likely due to historical reasons,
being a small group of people surrounded by neighbors with which they have had difficult relations, and more recently by the
travel restrictions during soviet times and the unrest subsequent to the breakup of the soviet union. As Georgia
emerges from its economic downturn, normalizes relations with Russia, and further integrates with neighboring economies
and the EU, travel links will likely improve. The attention that Georgia is receiving from the Persian Gulf countries is reflected
in the good transportation links to those countries (many readers of this blog are also from Iran and the UAE).
- Armenia: You can get there by train or Marshrutka. For train information, see http://www.railway.ge/?web=0&lang=eng. Marshrutkas can be taken from the Ortachala bus station. The Marshrutkas leave around 8AM (or whenever they fill up). The cost is about $30 one way and takes about 5 hours with a short stop at the border about an hour into the journey and a bathroom break about mid way through in a tiny village beside a stream. Nice trip.
- Azerbaijan: You can get there by train or bus. Visas are a must for most nationalities and tend to be expensive, so you should sort that out before leaving Tbilisi. For Azeri train information, see http://www.railway.gov.az/index/en/. I've heard that there is a bus which takes about 8 hours and that it leaves from Ortachala bus station. You may also look at flying, since the bus is 8 hours and the train about 16 hours.
- Turkey and Greece: The carriers that friends have recommended looking at are: Pegasus, a low cost carrier and Turkish Airways. FlyDubai also goes there from Tbilisi. If you enjoy excruciatingly long bus rides, there is a 30 hour bus you can take from Tbilisi to Istanbul. A friend took it and said it only cost $30, but it was a few years ago.
- Persian Gulf: It looks like FlyDubai is the best for price and convenience. They also serve Central Asia, and would be
worth looking at if you are going to go there.
- Europe and Russia: I don't have much insight into this area, since I've only gone on Lufthansa and now the best deals look like they
are either on Pegasus or LOT Polish airways. There aren't any direct flights from Georgia to Russia, which is unfortunate, given that it
is a neighboring country. For example, to climb Elbrus, a well known mountain on the Russian side of the border, you could use FlyDubai which serves Mineralnye Vody (MRV) the nearest to Elbrus.
But you can't buy a ticket originating in Georgia, even if it routes through Dubai. You can, however, buy separate
round trip tickets to Dubai for $250 and then MRV for $500 so it would be about $750 round trip connecting through Dubai. The actual distance by road is only 423 km (around 250 miles).