Yerevan, Armenia to Tbilisi, Georgia by taxi (Yandex)

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Returning from Armenia was a challenge, but an opportunity presented itself at the last moment. The only problem was that my flight was departing from another neighboring country which I could not reach by plane, bus or train due to time constraints. I took a taxi instead and that was my experience.


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No seat for me

One of the drawbacks of difficult routes at the moment is the lack of available seats, the fares airlines get for even the worst routes imaginable, which also reduces the availability of award seats at reasonable prices.

Yerevan has limited air traffic but good coverage from Star Alliance carriers. Here are the main hubs served from Yerevan:

  • Frankfurt (Lufthansa – Star Alliance)
  • Paris (Air France-SkyTeam)
  • Warsaw (LOT – Star Alliance)
  • Vienna (Austria – Star Alliance)
  • Athens (2x) (Aegean – Star Alliance)
  • dubai
  • Doha (Qatar – oneworld alliance)

Without going into details, there were no reward seats in Yerevan (bus was $5000+one way, business class was $3000+one way) but I was able to regularly find some place from Tbilisi, Georgia, a five-hour drive. , 10 hours by train or 45 minutes by flight.

I had gotten a flight home with a terrible itinerary I mentioned in this post, but it was longer than I wanted to stay and a really tough trip to make after what had already been an exhausting trip.

I came back every day from Yerevan and Tbilisi for better routes and earlier departure, alas I found one. I traded a 38 hour return itinerary on three flights for 23 hours on just two flights getting me home on Monday night rather than Thursday night.

All that remained was to reach Georgia. It should be a piece of cake.

Timing is everything

Flights from Yerevan and Tbilisi (maybe all over the caucuses) arrive very early in the morning and depart very early in the morning. The only time this causes a problem is during positioning.

I would have liked to take a train overnight, but departures from Yerevan were at 9:30 p.m., so the 10.5 hour trip would get me to Tbilisi at 7 a.m. (assuming everything is on time) two full hours after my flight departed.

The daily flight between the two cities, a short affair of 45 minutes costs $110-130 one way but is normally scheduled at 6:15 p.m. departing from Yerevan and arriving in Tbilisi at the end of the hour. This would have worked very well for me (leaving Tbilisi the next morning at 5:05am, however on Sunday the flight is scheduled for a 10:15am departure and this made it impossible to execute.

The short-notice vans (cheap, cheerful, and frequent) require 24 hours notice, but were all booked for two days regardless. That left me with only one option if I had to save myself three days and a whole lot of hassle.

Trying to get a taxi (Yandex) from Yerevan, Armenia to Tbilisi, Georgia

Yandex is ride sharing like Uber but also uses taxis. I’ve covered the service in this article for those who want to learn more about it. I have selected the cross-border destination

The fare quoted was about $120, a reasonable price for a private car although the train would have been cheaper and the flight about the same price with less travel.

The first Yandex driver made me wait about 10 minutes before bothering to point out that the fare was insufficient for the ride (passengers don’t set prices, the app does).

Trip cancelled.

Another driver accepted the ride and showed up at the curb only to say he didn’t have a passport and couldn’t make the trip. He also feigned ignorance by canceling the ride which cost me $2, the least of my worries.

Trip cancelled.

Another driver agreed and immediately indicated that the amount for the ride was insufficient and attempted to negotiate $200. This is where I have trouble. Sometimes in countries where the costs are low, I reset my valuations in such a way that I lose sight of the objective. I also hate being scammed.

The driver suggested a price of $200 – not only against the rules of the app, but a pretty steep 40% increase. I pushed that away and offered $150. No dice. The driver pushed for more, provided highlights as to why, then offered to take me to the Georgian border where another car (his friend) could take me the rest of the way.

I countered $170 for the whole trip and he declined.

Trip cancelled.

I started considering my options which included not doing the flight but instead hit the button to offer the ride again on the app anyway.

The same driver came back accepting the ride again, taking another round of negotiation. I was ready to quit and give up at this point and almost accepted the $200 fare but he started wanting to drop me off the border again and I would be open if I crossed alone with my bags in the Georgian countryside, 90 minutes from my destination.

I thought it might work, but there were danger signs everywhere and I decided to try one more time, before resigning myself to the fact that I would take the night train instead and delay my departure for two days. .

A new driver sent a message, but the same old message: “I can’t do it for this fare.” I immediately offered him the same cash payment of $50 in addition to the application payment of $120 and he accepted without further ado.

What followed was a lovely walk filled with hand shakes, agreed laughter and agreement in our eyes as we didn’t speak a common language. The Yandex app was able to translate the main points and I had a general understanding of what I needed to do at the land border which made it easier for both of us.

Crossing the border

The five hour drive was a great experience and everything that makes the trip worth it. We drove through the rolling hills of northern Armenia’s countryside slowing down for cows on the road, passing cars with produce strapped to the roof and families returning from weddings in the city.

Growing up in Nebraska, rural America was never far away. My elementary school had a farm across the street where the first grade teacher (her family owned it) went to visit horses on certain days as part of a field trip. There was a certain comfort in seeing bales of hay, fields of golden wheat and patches of corn six weeks from harvest. A shepherd moved his sheep through a valley with a stick in his hand.

Armenian hay bales

Armenian campaign

Rolling hills gave way to rocky passes, switchbacks with no rails, and then we chased a river between the peaks that looked like Colorado. Colorado with stray dogs, roadside fruit stands and occasional bakers peddling half-yard loaves in thin paper sheaths.

Armenian abandoned mine

Armenian cable car

Armenian laces

roadside fruit stand in armenia

Roadside fruits in Armenia

Soon we are approaching the border. First, leaving Armenia required me to walk with my luggage through border security. Some were interrogated and scanned, I wasn’t. I appeared on the other side where I waited for my driver to join me. There was a slight apprehension that the driver would abandon me here as the other drivers had suggested, even though he was kind and generous during the four hours at this point.

Northern Armenian border

The driver stopped, loaded my bags and drove the short distance to the Georgian border where I repeated the process, pissed off as I was before, although more confident that he would join me now than ‘previously. A taxi driver pushed his way through the crowd saying “Tbilisi”, which no doubt would have cost a lot more than it should have but would have been a solution nonetheless.

Georgia's southern border with Armenia

My concerns were unfounded as my driver again pulled up next to me and helped load my luggage.

The two of us, on this random and unexpected trip north, became friends, bonding over drivers cutting passes way too close – some things are universal.

Along the way, my driver took money out of his own pocket to bring me water and an undeniably perfect, flaky, flavorful and satisfying khachapuri.

khachapuri

Coming down to Tbilisi, I was surprised and delighted by the city. From the perspective of the passenger side rear window, the city had all the charm of a European capital on summer evenings on the terrace. The buildings are carved into the cliffs of the river banks in a way I’ve never seen before, and I’m afraid I’m not brave enough to visit.

Tbilisi Bridge

Tbilisi Square

Georgians and visitors to the caucus state walked along the cobblestone streets talking and taking selfies, their faces lit up by their phones. It was beautiful and normal and everything I expected but was nothing like the Yerevan I had just spent two weeks in and was heading back to. It felt much closer to Prague, Rome or Lisbon.

When I was dropped off at my hotel, I thanked my driver and gave him an extra tip to the point that I could have saved myself 45 minutes of sitting on the sidewalk in Yerevan haggling via translation on the phone. Yandex application because I had paid almost the same in total. But it was different. It felt like gratitude to both giver and receiver rather than a request.

Despite this, I had only one regret on my half-day cross-border journey that took place in the evening. I only wish I had put Tbilisi on my bucket list earlier and had my family there to enjoy it with me. It’s LiveAndLetsFly, but in this case it was live and learn, and fix your mistakes. I will see Tbilisi again, but next time I bring everyone with me and settle down for a while.

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