Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Border Crossing: Overland By Bus/Marshrutka From Tbilisi, Georgia To Yerevan, Armenia

The driver slammed his cab's boot shut, as if to seal our two-week Georgia affair tight. He drove without a word. We were at the finish line of one Caucasus journey, and were about to begin afresh in a neighboring country. Yet another border cross my passport with a detached cover had to survive.

I was concerned. Though not as worried as finding out how much the driver's ten-minute wait would cost us. We only had a few lari left.

Sign says "Yerevan". The capital and largest city of Armenia.
Ortachala Bus Station
Our short morning weekend cruise to Ortachala bus station, about two to three kilometers away, was a parade of emotions. It's a pain to depart a city filled with magnificent, decrepit buildings that are a mishmash of Georgian, European, Russian and Byzantine architectural styles. But at the same time we're on tenterhooks to trample on another land we know so little of.

The driver dropped us off right by where the marshrutka (a form of public transportation similar to a route share taxi) for Yerevan was parked. Although he overcharged us, I say five dollars is a fair price for convenience.

Inside a marshrutka. Cozy, with decent leg room.

We were lucky to snag the last seats (fare's about $20). I assumed it was the second trip of the day for I read somewhere that buses for Yerevan depart Tbilisi every hour, from 7:00 AM to noon. There's no schedule posted at the station, at least none that's written in the English alphabet (Georgia has their own unique alphabet). It was wise that we referred to the one we found online.

Georgia-Armenia Border

We arrived at the border past ten and found two equally chaotic lines (left our luggage in the marshrutka). It seemed queuing's not a norm on this part of the world. Our turn took forever. And because I did not (and was not asked to) pay for visa on arrival when we entered the country via Tbilisi Airport, the immigration officer spent a long time inspecting my battered passport and conversing with a colleague. Perhaps they were discussing whether I should be charged or not.

Georgian border control.

Fortunately, my passport was stamped without me being questioned. We quickly exited the building and crossed a bridge on foot to the Armenian border control. I was scared to look back.

Armenia e-Visa Application

How to apply for the e-Visa? We applied for an e-Visa through this website beforehand. Hubby simply filled out the online form. The price for a 21-day visa, single entry is $10 (120 days for $40) and can be paid by credit card. Visas are issued online within two business days and applicants are given a link to check the status.


It's advisable that visitors present a printed electronic visa, but we got through even just by showing photos of ours in a digital camera. e-Visa holders will be able to enter Armenia via Zvartnots International Airport, Gyumri Airport, Ayrum Railway Station, and the Bagratashen, Gogavan, Bavra and Megri land borders.

Visitors eligible for visa on arrival may apply at the border. It's a no sweat process of filling out a short form and paying. At the time of our travel, only Armenian dram was accepted. There's a currency exchange service but expect the rate to be bad.

Crossing a bridge on foot to the Armenian border control.
Border To Yerevan

Unlike the uneventful Tbilisi-border drive (except for that moment when we spotted a turtle crossing the road which we avoided and almost got us into an accident) the border-Yerevan drive made a spectacular first impression, thanks to the dramatic Mount Ararat backdrop. It provided that much needed consolation.

The ride terminated at Yerevan Central Station. One cab driver agreed to accept our leftover Georgian lari and took us to Tashir Pizza where we were meeting up with an AirBnb host, whose house will be our Armenian home for one week.



Carlo said...
October 2, 2013 at 8:54 PM

I really wonder what sets georgia and armenia apart from their neighboring countries they look really really interesting from the documentaries I have watched before. :)

flipntravels said...
October 2, 2013 at 10:06 PM

Oh it's like Cyrillic script... I write in Cyrillic when I was in high school (geek) para walang manghiram ng notebook. hahaha ~ROn said...
October 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Hahaha! Royal geek! *I bow down* said...
October 3, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Would love to visit the other neighboring countries so I could answer that :)

Ayan Villafuerte said...
October 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM

wow. talk about going the extra mile. haha

paul | walkflypinoy said...
October 4, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Ah yes. The loud stamping sound of an immigration officer. The most comforting and relieving sound in the world. Definitely eager to read more stories from Caucasus. I'm intrigued by this region.

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