Crossing the border from Armenia to Georgia – Alaverdi to Tbilisi

The most common way to cross between Armenia and Georgia is the overnight train between the capitals, but as we wanted to visit the northern UNESCO monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat we put them at the end of our Armenian adventure so that it’d be a short hop to the border. Here’s our account of the straightforward crossing using public transport, the only drama being the manufactured kind at the hand of taxi drivers keen for business at the end of the off-season.

~09:00 Alaverdi ↝ Bagratashen (500 Dram, 1hr)

Alaverdi, Armenia

The main road through Alaverdi – marshrutkas depart for the border from where the yellow bus is parked

We’d been told by our guesthouse that the marshrutka from Alaverdi to Bagratashen (the Georgian border) would leave at 08:50 so we got there about 10 minutes early, which just added another 10 minutes to the wait as it didn’t arrive until 09:15. One local taxi driver insisted that there wasn’t a marshrutka to the border that day, and another said that if it didn’t arrive by 9am then it wasn’t coming at all so we should obviously just hire his taxi instead. We politely declined and said we weren’t in a hurry!

Marshrutka to the border, Alaverdi, Armenia

The marshrutka arrived already pretty full with locals. They made space for our bags under the bench seats and I ended up on that small wooden stool next to the sliding door – at least I had a seat!

~10:15 Border crossing (15min)

No Man's Land, between Armenia and Georgia

The footpath follows the road over a bridge, and from there the Georgian border building awaits

The marshrutka dropped us about 100 metres from the border and the driver pointed us in the right direction though it was pretty obvious. After dredging up “hello” in Turkish to speak to some very friendly Turkish lorry drivers waiting to cross we walked through the almost empty Armenian Border Control building, had our passports stamped without a question or delay and continued through the building and outside.

It’s a 5 minute walk across a bridge spanning the Debed river to the Georgian Border Control building. Just inside the entrance is a bank counter – it’s a very good idea to change any remaining dram or withdraw some Georgian (GEL) money here as we didn’t see an ATM the other side of passport control.

All of our bags were X-Ray scanned before reaching passport control. No queues or questions for us here either and we walked out the other side into the small car park looking for our onward marshrutka – a Ford Transit or Mercedes Sprinter-style van.

~10:45 Sadakhlo ↝ Tbilisi (5 Lari, 1¼hr)

Fortunately for us the marshrutka driver had parked right next to the exit and was standing in front of his van having a smoke so we asked “Tbilisi?”, he nodded and waved us on board.

A taxi driver saw us getting on and had a bit of a go at him in Georgian – we presume because we’re tourists and should therefore have taken a taxi. His taxi. Our marshrutka driver didn’t seem at all bothered by his plight. We waited in the marshrutka for about 10 minutes to see if anyone else arrived before we set off.

Samgori Metro Station, Tbilisi, Georgia

The Tbilisi metro is 0.50 Lari to go anywhere, charged onto a contactless travelcard which is also handy for buses and the cable car, and costs a refundable 2 Lari which can be purchased from the counter inside any metro station

The final destination in Tbilisi is the western bus station which is also conveniently close to the Samgori metro station making it trivial to get anywhere in the city. Including a trip on the metro, the total cost from Alaverdi to Tbilisi was the equivalent of £2.70 each.

5 thoughts on “Crossing the border from Armenia to Georgia – Alaverdi to Tbilisi

  1. Bill

    I will be visiting Tbilisi in July and want to visit the monestaries of northern Armenia. All of the tour groups do not have enough folks to do the tour, so my only option is to pay through the nose for a single person tour. I hope to just take public transport. Your info has been very helpful. I do not speak Russian, Georgian or Armenian. Do you think this will be a problem? Not sure if I can find a simple ride just to the border from Tbilisi, walk across it then find a taxi to Alaverdi. Pretty sure I can make it to the border. Not sure of the cost of taxi from the border to Alaverdi or how often they might be available. Thanks again for your info.

    Reply
    1. Andrew Post author

      Hi Bill, great idea – of course you can make the trip yourself; simply reverse the steps in this here post! As you see it takes about ~2 hours depending on your starting location in Tbilisi. The language will not be a problem :o)

      If you’re intending to make it a day trip, ask at your accommodation (or any hostel / backpackers) in Tbilisi for the time of the first marshrutka from the western bus station / Samgori metro to the border and there’ll be an Armenian marshrutka on the other side waiting for you – I’d recommend getting the Armenian marshrutka to Alaverdi then picking up a taxi to see the monasteries from there – it’ll be a lot cheaper than a taxi from the border – even more so if you can find some other like-minded travellers to join you and share the cost of the sightseeing taxi from Alaverdi!

      I’d recommend this because Sanahin, Haghpat and Akhtala Church aren’t too far from Alaverdi though they’d be difficult to see by public transport from Tbilisi in a day (there aren’t any busses between the sights, just to and from Alaverdi), and if you’re a canny haggler you might be able to get your taxi driver to include a drop off back at the border as well then hopefully pick up the returning marshrutka!

      Getting a taxi to the border if there aren’t any marshrutkas won’t be a problem as there will be at least one waiting, and for reference the drivers were asking for 4x-6x the marshrutka price (i.e. Alaverdi < -> border = 2,000 – 3,000 Dram). Similar prices were quoted for the Georgian border taxi (~20 – 25 Lari).

      Best of luck, Andrew and Julie

      Reply
    1. Julie

      Hi Simon,
      We did the crossing in March 2017 and the border was open then. I believe the main road between Yerevan (actually Vanadzor) and Alaverdi is closed at the moment for upgrading works (maybe tunnels?). But it is still possible to travel between the two – we took a marshrutka from Gyumri to Vanadzor and changed there for one to Alaverdi and it took the road via Stepanavan.
      I hope that helps!

      Reply

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