How to travel from Armenia to Georgia (or from Georgia to Armenia) on the Tbilisi to Yerevan train. This Georgia Armenia train guide provides detailed information about tickets, immigration, what it’s like on the train, plus first-hand tips.
First published: April 2017. Last updated: October 2019.
Travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan or vice versa? The sleeper train that runs every other night during the winter months (October to May) and daily during summer (June to September) is a safe, convenient and best of all, atmospheric way to travel between Georgia and Armenia.
It takes a little longer (10 hours and 20 minutes, to be precise), but tickets are affordable, the train 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’re at all nervous about road safety, the train is a more reliable choice than marshrutky minivans, which are notorious for driving at high speeds and with little regard for the rules.
We’ve travelled between Georgia and Armenia by train three times now – twice in winter, and again in summer.
Read on for my tips for buying train tickets, negotiating immigration, and making the most of the journey from Tbilisi to Yerevan or Yerevan to Tbilisi by train.
In This Post:
- Why take the train?
- Tbilisi to Yerevan train schedule
- Train stations
- Buying tickets for the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan
- Train tickets FAQ
- Boarding the train
- On the train
- Crossing the border from Georgia to Armenia
- Crossing the border from Armenia to Georgia
- Arriving in Yerevan
- Arriving in Tbilisi
- Other ways of travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan
- Tbilisi to Yerevan train: Summary
Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Wander-Lush is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. Learn more.
Why take the train?
The first two times I took the Tbilisi to Yerevan train, I thought it was a cool way to travel. On my third ride, I fell in love with the journey.
The summer train in particular is a lot of fun. The old Soviet locomotive itself is a piece of history, and the genuine excitement of locals travelling to visit family or maybe spend their annual leave on the Black Sea Coast is infectious.
On our most recent trip, the cabin next to us slept four generations of one Armenian family who were off to Batumi for a holiday. They had a tablecloth laid out and a full spread of nibbles, which they generously shared with us.
As well as being a cool local experience, you see a lot more of the landscape when you travel by train versus marshrutka or bus. Travelling in the direction of Tbilisi on the summer train, you get to see a big chunk of northern Armenia – from the rusty skeletons of industrial factories in Alaverdi, to the lush Debed Canyon and the rolling fields outside Gyumri.
Check out this short video for a taste of the scenery and people on the Tbilisi to Yerevan train. This was filmed on my most recent journey to Georgia in summer 2019.
Tbilisi to Yerevan train schedule
The Tbilisi to Yerevan train has two timetables depending on the time of year.
Winter schedule (low season)
During low season (October 2 until June 12), overnight sleeper train number 371 runs from Tbilisi to Yerevan every second night on odd days of the month (i.e. the 3rd, the 5th, the 7th, etc.). The train departs at 8.20pm and arrives in Yerevan at 6.55am the next morning.
Travelling from Yerevan to Tbilisi in winter, 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.). This train departs at 9.30pm and arrives in Tbilisi at 7.50am the next morning.
Summer schedule (high season)
Extra trains run during the ‘peak’ summer months (June 15 until September 30). Train 202 takes over this service, making a nightly trip from Batumi to Yerevan via Tbilisi. This train departs Batumi at 3.30pm, departs Tbilisi at 10.15pm, and arrives in Yerevan at 7.30am the following morning.
Travelling from Yerevan to Tbilisi in summer, train 201 takes over this service, leaving Yerevan at 3.30pm in the afternoon and arriving in Tbilisi at 12 minutes past midnight. It then continues on to Batumi, where it arrives just after 7am the next morning.
Where does the Tbilisi to Yerevan train stop?
The Tbilisi to Yerevan train route looks like a reverse ‘S’. Firstly, the train travels directly south to the border. After passing immigration, it tracks through the top of northern Armenia before turning west to Gyumri then south to Yerevan.
In winter, the train stops at 5 stations between Tbilisi and Yerevan – in Sadakhlo (Georgia), and in Ayrum, Vanadzor, Gyumri and Amavir (Armenia).
In summer, the train makes an extra stop in Marneuli, just outside Tbilisi. Between Tbilisi and Batumi, the train also stops in Zestaphoni (the station for buses to Mestia), Samtredia and Kobuleti.
The train waits for 4-6 minutes at each stop, except in Gyumri, where the train pauses for a full 15 minutes.
The summer train waits for 30 minutes in Tbilisi. Immigration takes about 60 minutes on each side of the border (more info about immigration later).
In Tbilisi, trains arrive and depart from Tbilisi Central, which is nested inside a four-storey shopping complex.
In Yerevan, trains arrive and depart from the historic Yerevan Railway Station, located just off Tigran Mets Avenue.
Getting to Tbilisi Central
Tbilisi Central is located in the northeast part of the city, approximately 5km from Liberty Square. It’s adjacent to metro stations Station Square I and II, where the city’s two underground lines intersect.
To get there from Liberty Square or Avlabari, ride the red metro (First Line) to Station Square I. When you get off the subway, follow the signs towards the Tbilisi Central exit.
If you happen to be on the green Saburtalo line – for example, if you’re coming straight from Didube Bus Station – you’ll need to cross over the red line platform to exit. If you don’t, you’ll pop up in the middle of a hectic market a long way away from the train station. We took the wrong exit a few times before we realised our mistake.
The entrance to Tbilisi Central is 100m from the metro exit. As you walk out of the metro, you’ll see a TBC bank on your left. The railway station is the next building over, the one with the white wave-shaped roof.
If you’re taking a taxi, your driver will drop you right out the front of the station. A taxi to Tbilisi Central from Liberty Square or from Didube Bus Station costs 5 GEL when booking through Bolt.
The ticket desks and railway platforms are located inside the station building. Once through the main door, ride the two escalators up to level 3.
The exact location of Tbilisi Central is marked here on Google Maps.
Getting to Yerevan Railway Station
Yerevan Railway Station is located in the south of the city, approximately 3km from Republic Square. To get there from downtown, ride the subway to the adjacent Sasuntsi David metro station. The metro station is connected to the Railway Station by an underground pedestrian tunnel. Plastic tokens for the metro cost 100 AMD per ride, and can be purchased from the desk inside every station building.
After you come down the escalators at Sasuntsi Station, turn right and walk through the longer of the two underpasses. Enter the train station building from the metro by taking any of the narrow staircases up from the underpass, or just walk right to the end, pop up on street level, then double back into the station via the main door.
Alternatively, a taxi from the centre of Yerevan to the Railway Station costs around 400-600 AMD. If you’re taking the summer train that departs in the afternoon, make sure you leave yourself enough time. The traffic was so bad on the day we travelled (a Monday) that it took a full 45 minutes for us to get to the station from Republic Square.
The exact location of the Yerevan Railway Station is marked here on Google Maps.
Buying tickets for the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan
When buying tickets for the Tbilisi to Yerevan train, you have three options: Purchase tickets in person from either train station; buy your tickets online with Mastercard via the South Caucasus Railway website; or pay a fee to have an agent buy and collect the tickets for you.
We purchased tickets ourselves from the station both times we travelled. In this section, I outline all three procedures in detail.
Ticket types & fares
There are three types of berth on this train: First class spalny vagon (abbreviated to CB in Cyrillic), which sleeps two people; second class kupé (Купe), which sleeps four people; and third class platskartny (Плацкарт), which are open-plan sleepers (no cabins). We chose the second-class option both times we travelled and found it to be comfortable.
Note that if you’re travelling in summer from Yerevan to Tbilisi on the evening train that departs at 3pm, you still need to reserve a bed because there are no seats.
Children’s tickets are discounted at roughly half the cost of an adult. It’s also slightly cheaper to buy a ticket for an upper bunk (Верхнее) in 2nd or 3rd class (a saving of just under 1,000 AMD or $2 USD) versus a more lucrative bottom (Нижнее) bed.
The table below outlines the different train classes, the sleeping arrangements and ticket costs. Prices displayed are lower bunks for adults, and are correct as of October 2019.
|Class||Layout||Fare (Tbilisi to Yerevan)||Fare (Yerevan to Tbilisi)|
|1st class (spalny vagon or CB)||Private compartment with 2 beds for 2 people||115 GEL (42 USD)||19,455 AMD (41 USD)|
|2nd class (kupé or Купe)||Private compartment with 4 beds for 4 people||67 GEL (22 USD)||15,015 AMD (32 USD)|
|3rd class (platskartny or Плацкарт)||Open-plan sleeper (no compartments)||41 GEL (14 USD)||10,315 AMD (22 USD)|
Note: Base fares fluctuate season to season, year to year – but only by a few dollars. The prices listed above were given to me in person by staff in Yerevan and Tbilisi. I try my best to keep the prices up to date. If you recently purchased tickets and the price was different, please leave a comment at the end of the post. You can cross-check prices (in dram) here.
Buying train tickets at Tbilisi station
In Tbilisi, the ticket counters are located on level 3 of the Tbilisi Central complex. They are open from 8am until 11pm daily. When you arrive, first take a paper ticket from the little dispenser and wait until your number flashes above one of the 14 cash desks.
We bought our second-class train tickets a day in advance from the station using the same process described here. Staff speak excellent English. We needed to present our passports* to buy the tickets and could have paid in either cash or by card (ticket counters are fitted with EFTPOS machines). There are ATMs inside the complex if you need to withdraw money.
Buying train tickets at Yerevan station
Yerevan Train Station is open 24 hours a day, but ticket desks are only staffed from 9am until 6pm, with a break for lunch between 1pm and 2pm.
Pro tip: Avoid arriving at 9am on the dot, because this is when agents come to purchase bulk lots of tickets on behalf of their clients. We arrived at 8.45 and queued behind two men, each carrying a wad of passports 10 thick. We had to wait a full hour before it was our turn.
The 4 cash counters for the Tbilisi/Batumi international train are located in the left-hand wing of the station as you enter. Tickets for domestic electric trains to Gyumri are sold in the right wing. The staff member who served us was extremely kind and good humoured, and spoke good English.
When it’s your turn at the counter, tell the cashier your desired destination and the date you wish to travel. Hand over your passport* and he/she will enter your full name and document number into the system. This will be printed on your ticket. Some ticket counters appear to have EFTPOS machines, but when we travelled, staff emphasised that it was cash only.
*The last time we travelled on the Tbilisi to Yerevan train, I reported that it was possible to buy tickets with a scanned printout or a photograph of your passport rather than the physical document. This appears to have changed – in Armenia, anyway.
In the waiting room, we ran into a tourist who was trying to purchase tickets using a photo of his passport but was denied. Some agents still appear to use photocopies, but to be safe, I highly recommend taking your physical passport/ID card with you when buying tickets from Yerevan train station.
Pre-purchasing train tickets online
As of March 2018, it’s possible to purchase train tickets for the Tbilisi to Yerevan/Yerevan to Tbilisi train online via the Armenian South Caucasus Railway website. The page is available in Armenian, English and Russian.
The booking system is a bit fiddly, but if you follow the directions compiled below, you should be able to successfully purchase tickets online. You can also use the website to confirm the train schedule and ticket prices.
Ticket sales open 40 days prior to departure and you can buy online right up until 2 hours before the train leaves. You can buy up to 4 tickets at a time and you can only pay by MasterCard (no Visa or PayPal). There is an additional 2000 AMD service fee for buying tickets online.
Directions for using the South Caucasus Railway website:
From the homepage, navigate to the ‘Ticket Online’ window (right sidebar) and set up an account. Select the ‘Purchase a ticket’ option from the top menu.
Enter your departure date and select ‘Mode to and back’ if you want a return ticket. Enter your stations of departure and arrival (‘Tbilisi-pass’ and ‘Yerevan’), the number of tickets you’re purchasing, coach category (‘non-modernized’) and class (‘soft-seated carriage’ for spalny vagon).
When you hit search, the page will refresh and display a ticket option below the search box (see screenshot below). Click ‘View the trains’ to see your assigned berth. If you’re unhappy with your spot, click ‘Search again’.
To complete the order, click on the green check mark on the bottom left, enter the details for all passengers, then proceed to the payment page. Select the Inecobank logo to pay with Mastercard.
You should receive a confirmation email, in English, to the address specified. This is your boarding pass. Print it, and present it to the conductor when you get on the train.
Please note: A few travellers have recently reported difficulties with navigating the website. Others have successfully purchased tickets. If you have any experience or tips for booking tickets online, please leave your comments below for other travellers. A big thanks to Jamie and Jenni for their recent reports on using the e-ticket system.
Pre-purchasing train tickets through an agent
The third option is to use an agency to book train tickets on your behalf. As mentioned, agents are permitted to buy train tickets using a photocopy of the traveller’s passport.
This is a convenient option if you want to secure your tickets in advance but prefer not to use the online booking system. It will, however, cost you significantly more.
Advantour dominate the market. They charge a $40 USD service fee for the first ticket, then $30 USD for each additional ticket purchased through their website.
I have never used Advantour so I can’t personally recommend their service – nor do I stand to gain from recommending them. I don’t endorse using a third-party agent unless it’s an absolute emergency. In my experience, train tickets can always be bought a few days in advance from the station or online.
Worst case scenario: The train is sold out and so you go by road instead. At the end of this post, I’ve included more information about alternative ways of travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan / Yerevan to Tbilisi.
Train tickets FAQ
How far in advance should I buy tickets?
This is the question I’m most often asked by other travellers. My advice is always the same: Try to buy tickets at least a few days before your travel date.
In my experience, there is a much higher demand for the train during the summer months – especially on weekends and holidays. If you’re travelling in June/July/August, I highly recommend buying tickets at least 3 days ahead of time. In winter, you might be able to get away with buying tickets the day before or the day day of travel like we did.
When we travelled from Yerevan to Tbilisi in July 2019, tickets were in high demand. On the Friday we arrived, there were only 6 tickets left for the train that day, 2 tickets left for the Saturday train, and 22 remaining seats on the Sunday train.
I know this because a TV screen above the information desk inside Yerevan Station displays upcoming train departures for the next 14 days. The first image shows the different classes and prices, and the second image shows you how many tickets are left for future dates.
Are tickets refundable/exchangeable?
If you no longer wish to use a ticket you’ve paid for, you can obtain a refund right up until 1pm on the day of travel. To do this, you’ll need to present your ticket at the cash desk in person. There may be a fee for changing or refunding a ticket. It may also be possible to upgrade your ticket on the day of travel for an additional fee.
Do ticket prices go up or down closer to the date of travel?
Ticket prices are the same right until the day of travel, at which point the price goes up (but not by much). At Yerevan Station, tickets for the Tbilisi/Batumi train cost an extra 400-500 AMD if you purchase them on the same day.
Boarding the train
If you’re boarding the train at its point of origin (in Tbilisi in winter or in Yerevan in summer/winter), the train will probably be waiting on the platform an hour ahead of time. You can board at least 30 minutes before the departure time.
Remember the summer train originates in Batumi and only makes a 30-minute stop in Tbilisi on its way to Yerevan.
Either way, I recommend arriving at the station at least 30 minutes early to claim your bed and settle in.
Departing from Tbilisi
At Tbilisi Central Station, there is a large-ish waiting area with seats adjacent to the ticket desks. You’ll see an electronic timetable board hanging above the escalators, where you can track the progress of your train. There are also plenty of cafes, restaurants and convenience stores—plus ATMs and currency exchange desks—located inside the same building.
Above the boarding area there’s a food court and public toilets that cost 50 tetri. Note that most food shops close before the night train departs.
The train platforms are located two levels down and accessed via outdoor staircases next to the ticket windows. The train to Yerevan usually departs from platform 3. On the platform, someone will collect and stamp your train tickets before you board the train.
Storing luggage at Tbilisi Central
If you want to drop your bags off early, there is a luggage storage facility at Tbilisi Central. It’s located inside a separate de-mountable building to the left of platform 1.
Luggage storage is open from 6.30am until 11.30pm daily. It costs 10 GEL to store one piece of luggage for the day.
Departing from Yerevan
Yerevan Railway Station has a more conventional set up. The historic station building itself is huge and quite beautiful, with ample seating. As well as the amenities in the pedestrian underpass described below, there are diner-style cafes and a few little shops directly outside the station building.
There are some handy shops and services under the train station, including xerox/copy shops (in case you need to print off an e-voucher), currency exchange desks, snack shops, and a pharmacy.
There’s also a public toilet, which costs 100 AMD to use. Note that there are no toilets inside the railway station so unless the guards are kind enough to let you use theirs (which happened to me the first time I rode the train), this is the closest bathroom to the trains.
As you enter the station building, you’ll see a VTB bank and ATM immediately to your right. The ATM works 24/7. If you have to kill some time, there is a small train station ‘museum’ inside on the right.
Platforms are located at the back of the building. The Tbilisi train departs from platform 1. Someone will be waiting at the main entrance to the platform to check your tickets and direct you to your carriage.
Carriage numbers (printed on your ticket in the ‘No.’ column) are marked on the outside of the train, close to the doors. Each carriage has its own steward who will meet you at the door to check your tickets again and cross-check them with your passport/ID.
On the train
What to bring on the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan
For more packing inspiration, check out my new Georgia packing list. It includes tips for how men & women should dress in Georgia.
There is no food cart on the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan, so you’ll need to bring enough snacks and water to last the night. I always recommend travelling with a reusable water bottle. I carry this 500mL insulated bottle from S’well (the larger version fits a full bottle of wine – very handy in the Caucasus!). When I last travelled, the potable water dispenser on the train wasn’t working. I think it’s a good idea to bring an extra bottle of water just in case, or pack your LifeStraw if you use one.
I also carry cold tea infusers (I like Twinings’ ginger and orange tea) on long journeys, especially since there’s no hot water dispenser in second/third class.
Three years living and travelling in Southeast Asia taught me to always travel with a sleeping bag liner when using overnight transport. They pack down small, and can come in really handy if you don’t like the look of the sheets, or if you need an extra later.
Clean pillowcases are provided on the train, but the pillows themselves leave a bit to be desired! The ones I’ve seen are always beat up and a bit moldy. I don’t think they’re replaced very often. My partner folds up a towel, and I use my roll-up travel pillow, which has come with me on every trip since 2015.
You should also bring along any important travel documentation—including details of your accommodation and travel dates if you’ve previously been in Azerbaijan (see the immigration section below for more details).
What is the Tbilisi to Yerevan train like?
The Georgia Armenia train is an old Soviet locomotive. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it’s generally clean and comfortable. I’ve definitely experienced much worse (i.e. Vietnam’s Reunification Express in the early 2010s).
Second class is done up in a soothing shade of ‘Soviet brown’. There are soft covers on the bottom seats and floral carpets on the floors. Beds have double-layer plastic mattresses and thick pillows – they’re actually pretty comfortable.
Speaking of beds: When you board the train, the top bunks will be folded up and the bottom beds set up like regular seats. About 15 minutes into the journey, the steward will hand out sealed plastic packs containing two sheets, a pillowcase and a small towel. You can use these to make up your own bed.
Luggage storage, bathrooms & other amenities on the train
Please note that this section mostly refers to the second-class (kupé) compartments. If you have any insights about first or third class, please leave your feedback in the comments section at the end.
The Tbilisi to Yerevan train has overhead luggage storage above the compartment doorway. These slots are suitable for keeping small bags that are light enough to lift above your head. (To give you an idea of the size of the nook, you could comfortably fit 4 carry-on-sized suitcases side by side.)
Larger bags and suitcases should be placed under the bottom bunks. On one of the trains, the bottom seats flip open to reveal bins where you can store larger items. If you have a large suitcase or something heavy that you can’t lift overhead, you’d do well to reserve a bottom bed.
There are no power sockets in the cabins, only a limited number in the hallways. These are usually in high demand, so it’s a good idea to charge up before you board the train. There is no WIFI on the train, but there is open/free WIFI at both stations.
The rest of the train is fairly basic. Each cabin contains a large window fitted with a block-out blind and curtains. To raise the blind, pinch the metal clasp in the centre. There’s also a folding table, ladders for the top bunks, coat hooks, overhead lights, and a little shelf for each bed.
First class is a bit fancier – as well as sheets and a towel, passengers get a care package containing slippers.
In second class, there is a cold drinking water dispenser at one end of the carriage. It works by pinching the silver button on the spout (although it wasn’t working at all when we travelled). On the summer train, everyone jumps out at Gyumri to fill up their bottles at pulpulaks (fountains) outside the station.
Each carriage has a Western-style toilet with a washbasin at either end. If you’re lucky, there will be soap and paper towel inside. As is the way with public bathrooms, these get progressively less appealing as the journey goes on. Note that they’re old-fashioned toilets that can’t be used when the train has stopped.
Smoking is prohibited inside the cabins and in the hallways. You will probably see people smoking in the interstitial spaces between carriages where the windows can be left ajar.
Just to reiterate: There is no dining car on this train, so be sure to bring your own drinking water and snacks.
When I first rode the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan in winter, I noted that it was particularly cosy.
In summer, it can get pretty hot on the train, especially when you first board. That’s because the central AC system only works when the train is moving. When you’re in station or waiting at immigration, there’s no air circulating.
Cabin windows are sealed and cannot be opened. There are a few quarter-sized windows in the hallway that open up, and people tend to congregate around these when the train has stopped. There is no AC in the hallway.
Shortly after the train departs, the steward will come through to close up all the hallway windows and cabin doors. After this, the overhead AC kicks in pretty quickly. As long as you keep the door closed and the blind down, it’s actually quite pleasant. I was wearing jeans when I last took the train on a stinking hot July afternoon, and I was quite comfortable.
If you need a breath of fresh air, stick your head out the hallway window on the stretch between Vanadzor and Alaverdi. The fresh air from the thickly forested Debed Canyon area is spectacular!
The landscape between Tbilisi and Yerevan is magical. You’ll obviously see much more scenery on the summer train, especially on the Tbilisi-bound train which arrives in the beautiful Debed Canyon area at dusk.
Arriving in Yerevan in the morning, you’ll be treated to views of Mount Ararat.
Outside of Yerevan, it’s mostly grasslands, farmland and distant hills. Near Debed (especially between Vanadzor and Alaverdi), the landscape changes dramatically as the train cuts through tunnels hewn from rocky slopes lined with thick green forest. There is a nice lake to see near Amavir.
Staying safe on the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan
I personally felt very safe on the train from Tbilisi to Yerevan (and Yerevan to Tbilisi), and I’d have no problem recommending it to travellers—including solo females. Just how much security and privacy you have depends on what kind of berth you choose. The door to our four-person kupé berth was lockable from the inside and fitted with good lighting. The hallways were also well-lit throughout the night.
Don’t be bothered by the red tape all over the doors, air vents and light fixtures: These are intended to stop people from smuggling things over the border. Don’t mess with the seals, and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
In summary: Exercise common sense, and lock the door to your berth.
Crossing the border from Georgia to Armenia
The Tbilisi to Yerevan train crosses the Georgia Armenia border at the Bagratashen – Sadakhlo Border Crossing.
The state line is about 70km south of Tbilisi, or 1 hour and 45 minutes into the train journey. From Yerevan, it takes 5 hours and 50 minutes to reach the state border, which is 200km north of the capital.
Georgian and Armenian immigration are done separately by border agents from each country. It takes around 2 hours total to get through immigration.
You can stay in your berth for most of this, although train stewards do encourage passengers to be ready to leave their berth or answer to border guards if required. The steward will keep your cabin lights on and door open until the immigration agents are finished searching the carriage and processing all passports.
Always hold onto your train tickets because immigration staff may cross-check them against their passenger manifesto.
Georgian immigration – leaving Georgia
In winter, the night train reaches the Georgian border zone at around 10pm. In summer, the train reaches the Georgian border at midnight.
Georgian immigration takes place on the train, meaning no one needs to leave their berth. Agents board the train and collect everyone’s passports. You may or may not be invited into the train steward’s room to sit with border agents and answer a few basic questions (we were only questioned the second time we took the train).
Border agents use portable computers to run the passports and/or visas. After about an hour, passports are redistributed with exit stamps inside.
Armenian immigration – entering Armenia
Armenian immigration takes place 45-60 minutes after passengers have cleared Georgian immigration. In summer, the train arrives at Ayrum for Armenian immigration at 12.45am. In winter, the train gets to the Armenian border at 11.40pm.
Passengers who don’t need to obtain an Armenian visa on arrival can stay in their berths while Armenian immigration takes place. The procedure is fairly similar: Agents will collect your passport, possibly ask you a few questions, and re-distribute the passports with entry stamps once they’re ready.
Do you need a visa for Armenia?
As of April 2018, people of 45 nationalities—including Australian, US and British passport holders—no longer require a visa to enter Armenia as a tourist for up to 180 days. If you hold one of the lucky passports on the list, that means no more visa fees, and no more disembarking the train for immigration procedures at the Armenian border.
Please visit the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for a full list of visa-exempt countries.
Applying for an Armenian visa at the border
For travellers who do require a visitor’s visa (Canadian, Chinese, Israeli passport holders and others), you can either organise an e-visa online in advance, or purchase an Armenian tourist visa at the border.
For the latter, you’ll need to fill out a standard visa application form, which asks for your intended length of stay, the address of your first hotel, etc. There is a space at the top of the form to attach a passport photo, but when we travelled, no one had one. Neither were we ever asked to show proof of onward travel.
A 120-day tourist visa costs 15,000 AMD (30 USD). There is a staunch anti-bribery policy at the border, so agents may be reluctant to except foreign currency (GEL or USD) lest there be any confusion over exchange rates and change. On the night we travelled, one woman who presented a 10 USD note was turned away and we had to lend her GEL. The agents told us to bring AMD next time so we could pay the correct amount. I advise you bring the correct amount of AMD to avoid confusion.
The Armenian visa is a full-page visa, so make sure you have enough room in your passport.
The unofficial policy on travellers who have previously visited Azerbaijan still seems to stand. If that’s you, please do take note of the section below so you can be well prepared.
Have you been to Azerbaijan?
There is no law or rule against visiting Armenia after you’ve been to Azerbaijan—as long as you meet the visa requirements. However, it’s no secret that the two neighbouring countries don’t exactly get along. In our experience, Armenian 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.
After we were granted our tourist visas, an 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.
Love trains as much as I do? Here’s how to travel between Tbilisi and Baku, Azerbaijan by sleeper train.
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.
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.
Crossing the border from Armenia to Georgia
Travelling the opposite way from Yerevan to Tbilisi, immigration proceedings are much the same. There are a few things to note, outlined below.
Armenian immigration – leaving Armenia
In summer, the train from Yerevan arrives at the border point at 9.20pm. When we travelled, exiting Armenia was very straightforward. We weren’t questioned, and our bags were not searched.
On the winter train, Armenian immigration takes place in the (very) early hours of the morning, at around 3.45am. Mercifully, all the immigration proceedings take place inside your berth so you don’t have to step out into the cold night!
Georgian immigration – re-entering Georgia
Georgia has fairly strict policies around tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs. When we travelled, we were asked if we were carrying cigarettes, booze or any medication. According to signage on the train, passengers with prescription meds should have the original packaging, plus a doctor’s letter in either Russian or English.
When we travelled in summer, the Georgian border agent who processed our carriage asked my partner to present his medication and doctor’s letter. She studied everything for a few minutes before handing it back over.
According to the train schedule, the winter train leaves the Georgian border at Sadkhlo at 6.05am, giving you just under two hours for some extra sleep before the train pulls into Tbilisi Central.
Do you need a visa for Georgia?
Georgia offers visa-free travel for passport holders from more than 90 countries. Citizens of India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and a handful of other Asian and African countries are, however, required to obtain a 90 or 30-day tourist visa prior to arrival.
If you’re travelling from Yerevan to Tbilisi by train and you do require a visa for Georgia, you’ll need to obtain an e-visa in advance. You can do so via the Georgia E-visa Portal or through my partners at iVisa.
Note that if you’re travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan and later returning from Yerevan to Tbilisi and you require a visa for Georgia, you will need to obtain a multiple entry visa or two separate single-entry visas. I recommend you contact the relevant consulate for more advice specific to your situation.
Arriving in Yerevan
As the train pulls into Yerevan, passengers are treated to stunning views of Mount Ararat in the distance. Stewards give ample warning that it’s time to disembark, at which point you should gather up your bed sheets and leave them on the side of your couch.
Read next: Awesome things to do in Yerevan.
Getting from Yerevan train station to your accommodation
When you arrive at Yerevan Railway Station, you can connect directly to the metro (Sasuntsi David Station) via the underground walkway.
Yerevan only has one metro line. To get to the centre, ride the train north (in the direction of Barekamutyan) for 2 stops to Republic Square. Single metro tickets in the form of plastic tokens can be bought from the cash window as you enter the underground.
Alternatively, if you want to take a taxi, their is a cab rank out the front of the train station. If you’ve already downloaded and registered your local number with Maxim or Yandex, you can use the free and open WIFI inside the station building to order a cab that way. Note that a raucous fresh food market is held in front of the station building on weekday mornings, which makes the car park a bit frantic.
Here’s everything you need to know about travelling by taxi in Yerevan.
Arriving in Tbilisi
The train from Yerevan passes through the outskirts of the city before tracing its way across the river and through central Tbilisi. If you’re arriving in Georgia for the first time, it’s a nice introduction to the capital.
When you arrive at Tbilisi Central, take the staircase at the end of the platform. This will bring you back to the ticket area and waiting room. From here, you can either head straight down the escalators to pick up a taxi, or exit the station and enter the metro (on your right) to take the subway into the city.
Expect to pay around 5 GEL for a cab to Liberty Square or Didube Bus Station. Metro fares cost 50 tetri.
Note that from July 1, 2019 until July 1, 2020, the Tbilisi metro is undergoing maintenance works and has shorter hours of operation, from 6am until 11pm. If you’re arriving in Tbilisi on the summer train from Yerevan, the metro would have already stopped so you’ll need to take a taxi.
Other ways of travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan
If you miss the train, can’t get a seat or just prefer to go by road, there are other ways of travelling from Tbilisi to Yerevan or Yerevan to Tbilisi.
- By minivan: Hayreniq Tour runs air-conditioned minivans from Avlabari Metro Station (Tbilisi) to downtown Yerevan 6 times daily between 6.30am and 5pm. The journey takes 5.5 hours, and tickets cost $25 USD. Reserve a seat from Tbilisi to Yerevan online here or from Yerevan to Tbilisi online here.
- By taxi: Taxis from Tbilisi to Yerevan can be chartered for $100-$200 USD per vehicle. This is a budget-friendly option if you have a big family or you’re travelling with a group. The service is door-to-door, and includes whatever stop offs you want to make along the way. Reserve a taxi online here.
Tbilisi to Yerevan train: Summary
- During the low season winter months (late September to May), 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 a visa for Armenia, a 120-day tourist visa costs 15,000 AMD (30 USD). 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.