© Emily Lush 2017

How to Travel by Overnight Sleeper Train from Tbilisi to Yerevan (or Vice Versa)

[Update January 2018]: In response to questions from readers, I have now updated this post to include a ‘frequently asked questions’ section. I hope this additional information proves useful for those of you who are planning to travel by train from Tbilisi to Yerevan (or Yerevan to Tbilisi). As always, please check the comments section at the end of the post for additional info. Feel free to leave any specific questions you have in the comments and I will do my best to answer. Please remember that all information provided here is based on my own personal experiences. If in doubt, please contact your consulate for up-to-date information, especially regarding visas and entry requirements.

 

Travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan or vice versa? The bi-nightly sleeper train (winter months, October to May) or daily afternoon/evening train (summer months, June to September) is a safe, convenient way to travel between Georgia and Armenia. Tickets are cheap, the ride is comfortable, and waking up to early morning views of Mount Ararat as your roll into Yerevan is something you won’t soon forget. If you’ve been to Azerbaijan, the Armenian immigration experience is also memorable – but for different reasons.

 


 

Looking for things to do in Yerevan? Here are a few free and awesome activities to get you started!

 


 

We took the overnight train from Tbilisi to Yerevan and back in April 2017. This report from the road (or rather, the tracks) summarises both legs of our journey and highlights some key travel tips. 

 

 


 

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER –

 


 

Tbilisi to Yerevan by train

During low season (approximately October to May), overnight sleeper train number 371 from Tbilisi to Yerevan departs Tbilisi Central Station (Station Square) every second night on odd days of the month (i.e. the 3rd, the 5th, the 7th, etc.). During the summer months (approximately June to September), train 202 takes over this service, making a nightly trip from Batumi to Yerevan via Tbilisi. Since we were travelling in winter, we travelled on train 371.

We bought our second-class tickets a day in advance from the desk at the station using the same process described here. As with before, we needed our passports and had to pay in cash. Second-class tickets cost us 56 GEL (approximately 22 USD) each.

Overall, the trip from Tbilisi to Yerevan was smooth and enjoyable. The train departed on time at 8.20pm, and since it was still shoulder season, we shared our four-bunk berth with only one other traveller. We did, however, experience a few headaches at Armenian immigration.

 

Armenian immigration

We passed Georgian immigration at around 10pm. Our passports were collected and after about an hour, returned to us with exit stamps inside.

Why can’t every checkpoint be as straightforward as Georgia’s?

By the time we pulled in to Armenian immigration just after 11pm, we were tired and irritable. Those of us who needed to buy a visa on arrival disembarked into the cold, dark night. We were ushered into the first of two immigration rooms, where we filled in a standard visa application form (length of stay, address of first hotel, etc.). There was a space at the top of the form to attach a passport photo, but no one had one.

Two good-natured immigration agents processed our forms and printed off our 21-day tourist visas. (These are full-page visas, so make sure you have enough room in your passport.) The official fee for a 21-day tourist visa is 3,000 AMD or 6 USD (not 10 USD as stated here). The agents insisted we pay in AMD. None of us had AMD, so we paid 20 GEL instead, which is roughly the right amount – although we should technically have received some change. There is a staunch anti-bribery policy at the border, so the agents were reluctant at first to except the Lari should we think they were short-changing us. One woman who presented a 10 USD note was turned away and we had to lend her Lari. The agents told us to bring AMD next time so we could pay the correct amount.

Once our visas were pasted in, we were led into another room where a different agent scanned our passports and ran through the pages. As he was handing my passport back to me, he asked if I had ‘been in Azerbaijan?’ I answered honestly, ‘Yes’, and at that, he snatched my passport away again.

So began a long process of sweating it out on the sidelines as every other passenger from the train sailed through immigration. We were the last ones standing.

The agent asked a series of questions about our visit to Armenia (where we were going, for how long, etc.) as well as the nature of our trip to Azerbaijan. He soon pulled out a piece of scrap A4 paper and started taking freehand notes. He wanted us to confirm our travel dates, give him a list of all the places we went to in Azerbaijan, plus the name and address of our hotel in Baku (which I thankfully had on me). After a few more tense minutes, he handed the passports back and we were free to board the train.

Our bunk mate – an elderly Japanese man who was travelling solo and like us, had just come from Azerbaijan via Tbilisi – didn’t fare so well. His limited English (paired with the fact that he didn’t have his hotel information with him and kept having to return to the train to rummage through his papers) meant that he was kept in the immigration office for over an hour. He seemed to take it in his stride, but it couldn’t have been a pleasant experience.

By the time the three of us got back on the train, it was well past 1am. The steward must have forgotten about us because he neglected to make our beds before he turned in for the night. Luckily we had our silk sleeping bag liners with us and we were able to use those for sheets. We arrived in Yerevan at 7am with a stunning view of Mount Ararat to welcome us. It almost made up for the dramas of the night before.

 

Yerevan to Tbilisi by train

Our return journey to Tbilisi was comparatively easy with no issues at immigration. In winter (October to May), train 372 leaves from Yerevan’s main railway station every second night on even days of the month (i.e. the 20th, 22nd, 24th, etc.). In summer (June to September), train 201 takes over this service, leaving Yerevan in the afternoon and arriving in Tbilisi just after midnight. Technically, it’s only possible to travel from Yerevan to Tbilisi by overnight sleeper in the winter months—which is exactly what we did.

Our train departed on time at 9.30pm. The only downside to this leg of the journey is that immigration takes place in the (very) early hours of the following morning. The steward woke us at 3am for Armenian immigration and we didn’t get back to sleep until Georgian immigration was cleared at around 5am. The train arrived in Tbilisi at 8am. Mercifully, all the immigration proceedings take place inside your berth using a portable computer, so you don’t have to leave the train.

 


 

Love trains as much as I do? Here’s how you can travel between Tbilisi and Baku, Azerbaijan by sleeper train.

 


 

FAQs

Can you enter into Armenia after you’ve visited Azerbaijan?

The short answer is yes. There is no law or rule against visiting Armenia after you’ve been to Azerbaijan – as long as you’re visiting for tourism purposes and you meet Armenian visa requirements. However, it’s no secret that the two neighbours don’t exactly get along, and immigration agents seem to be mandated to discern your prior movements in Azerbaijan. Having just come from Azerbaijan (via Tbilisi), we were singled out and questioned far more intensely than the other train passengers who had not been to Azerbaijan.

While everyone’s border experience seems to be slightly different, I don’t think our encounter with Armenian immigration was unusual. Other travellers have reported a similar situation of having to turn hotel details over to border agents – one traveller’s report on Seat 61 tells of how immigration went one step further and actually telephoned the hotels in Azerbaijan she had stayed at to verify her information. Be prepared to answer the border agents’ questions, and make sure you have your hotel information written down and on your person.

For up-to-date information about visas and border requirements, I recommend contacting the relevant consulate.

Is the train safe?

In my opinion, the train was safe and I’d have no trouble recommending it to travellers, including solo females. Just how much security and privacy you have depends on what kind of berth you choose (see more below). The door to our four-person berth was lockable from the inside and fitted out with good lighting. The hallways were also well-lit throughout the night.

What classes/ticket types are available?

There are three types of berth on this train – first class spalny vagon, which sleeps two people; second class kupé, which sleeps four people; and third class platskartny, which are open-plan sleepers (no doors). As mentioned, we chose the second-class option and found it to be comfortable enough. Our second-class tickets cost us 56 GEL (approximately 22 USD) each. First class is obviously more expensive – around 75 GEL (29 USD) – and third class cheaper – around 35 GEL (13 USD) – according to Seat 61.

Where do you buy train tickets?

Tickets are available to purchase at the railway station. To be safe, I recommend buying tickets a few days in advance. Tbilisi’s main railway station is located at Station Square and serviced by the metro line of the same name. The ticket counter is located on level 3, and according to Lonely Planet, open 7am until 11pm daily. Yerevan’s main railway station on Tigran Mets Ave is listed as ‘Yerevan Railway Station’ on Google Maps. Opening hours are similar.

Can you reserve tickets online?

As far as I know, there is no reliable way to purchase Tbilisi to Yerevan or Yerevan to Tbilisi tickets online. It may be possible to book tickets in advance through a local agent – if you have any information about booking tickets ahead of time, please share it in the comments.

UPDATE (February 2018): It’s now possible to reserve tickets for train journeys within Georgia online using the online Matarebeli service by UniPAY. You are required to supply your ID number (passport number for international travellers) and can pay by credit card. As far as I can tell, this service is for domestic journeys only and cannot be used to purchase tickets to Yerevan or Baku. If you have personal experience or information to the contrary, please leave a note in the comments section.

 

Summary

  • During the low season winter months, the overnight train between Tbilisi and Yerevan runs every second night (even days for Yerevan to Tbilisi, odd days for Tbilisi to Yerevan)
  • From June to September (high season), a daily train takes over the route, also continuing on to Batumi
  • If you need an Armenian tourist visa, you can obtain one on arrival at the border
  • A 21-day tourist visa costs 3,000 AMD or 6 USD – and Drams is the preferred currency, so try to change some in Tbilisi before you board the train
  • If you’ve previously travelled to Azerbaijan, you should have your travel details and hotel addresses handy (i.e. written out on paper and kept on you during the border crossing)
  • There is no dining cart on the train and no stopping for food, so bring your own snacks

 


 

PIN THIS POST FOR LATER –

 

15 comments on “How to Travel by Overnight Sleeper Train from Tbilisi to Yerevan (or Vice Versa)

  1. Hello,

    This is very helpful, thank you so much. I planning to travel this coming December.
    Do you know how much is the fare from Yerevan to Tbilisi and vice versa?
    Is there any way to book the train ticket online?

    • Hi Lilay! Thanks for your comment. I can’t remember exactly what we paid, but Seat 61 puts a second-class sleeper ticket at 32 USD, and I think that’s still about right (maybe a little less). Georgian Railways has an online booking system, but many say the website doesn’t accept foreign credit cards. We didn’t have any luck booking online – we picked up tickets at the station the day before.

      Good luck and enjoy your trip!

  2. Hello. Thanks for these informations. What accomodation class options are available? Economy, First, Business and what are the differences? Is there any shower available? Is it possible to book reliably online in advance?

    Thanks

    • Hi Sven! You have three options on the Tbilisi to Yerevan train—1st class (2-berth sleepers), 2nd class (4-berth sleepers) or 3rd class (open-plan sleepers). Apart from the sleeping arrangements, the only real difference it price—and 1st class is probably furnished a little nicer than 3rd. We went 2nd class and it was adequate. I don’t think there are any showers on board.

      As far as I know, there is no online booking service. If you need to arrange a ticket ahead of time, I would try contacting a travel agent in Tbilisi.

      I hope this helps! Enjoy your journey.

  3. Thank you. This is very informative. I’m traveling to Georgia on Monday- Thursday vice versa. Kinda nervous cause i’m traveling alone. Thank you for this. I’m a backpacker so i don’t want to spend more $ using taxi hehe

    • Hi Glenn! Glad you found the post helpful. Don’t be nervous! It’s a pleasant journey by train and both cities are wonderful. We met some lovely locals on the Tbilisi to Baku train, which made us feel a lot more comfortable.

      Enjoy!

  4. I want to ask a question. I have an Azerbajani visa on my passport and I didn’t recall any information where I stay when I was there. I was thinking to get a visa on arrival but I guess that would not be a wise choise. Do you think that apply and get an e-visa before I get there can solve the problem? Or you think I will be face that questions any how? Maybe I should look for where I stayed in Baku. 🙂

    • Hi Mesut,

      How are you planning to travel to Armenia? I think you may be questioned at immigration, even if you do get the e-visa in advance. I can’t say for sure. I think it would be a good idea to dig up the hotel name and address though, just to be safe!

      Happy travels.

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for this information, it is very handy! I am currently planning a trip to Georgia, Azerbijan and Armenia for March, 2018 for my boyfriend and I.

    I would like to know whether you planned things in advance? I am finding it difficult to book online for train tickets, so I am hoping we can turn up and purchase these at the station. How did you do your trip? Did you book trains and hotels in advance? Do you think there is an issue if we turn up that morning to purchase train tickets for our journey from Tbisili to Yerevan?

    • Hi Laura!

      That’s right—there doesn’t seem to be any way to reserve tickets online. We showed up for tickets a day in advance and got the final two berths—but that was in April when things were noticeably busier. I can’t say for sure, but you should be ok.

      We didn’t do much planning in advance at all… We booked Airbnbs and guesthouses as we went, maybe a week in advance at the most. My itinerary post has some helpful info about how long to stay in each place and accommodation options.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions 🙂

  6. Hi did you purchase your ticket in the train station? Is the ticketing office always open?

    • Yes, we did purchase at the train station. I’m not 100% sure of the opening hours, but the ticket desks should be open from early until late to accommodate for arriving trains. There is a 24-hour customer service number listed on the Georgian Railways website. You could give them a call to check.

      • A quick update—Lonely Planet lists the ticket counter opening hours as 7am until 11pm daily. I will update my post to reflect this.

  7. Hi. Our plan is to travel on March 3 going to Armenia then we will go back on March 4 in Georgia. Do we still need to book out accomodation? We will only stay in Armenia for few hours just to visit the main tourist sights. Do you think tje Immigration will ask us for any booking for accommodation?

    • Hi! Sorry for any confusion—we were asked to provide the details of our Baku accommodation, not our Yerevan accommodation. If you’re only staying in Armenia for the day and you have proof of onward travel, that shouldn’t be a problem. I recommend double checking with the consulate first though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *