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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Project Georgia & Armenia



I believe that we should all try and make our travels as easy as they can get. I don’t mean to ruin the fun and intrepidness of your journey, only to help you better plan and organise your travels (both time-wise and money-wise), so that you don’t miss out on the attractions that you are dying to see! :)
Here are some important details of my last trip, October 20th – October 30th 2012.

Project Georgia & Armenia:
  • Day 1:
-          18:30 – 19:30 (Italian time): flight from Bucharest Otopeni to Rome Fiumicino
-          22:10 (Italian time) – 04:10 (Georgian time): flight from Rome Fiumicino to Tbilisi
  • Day 2:
-          Trains from/to the airport start running at 8:00; buses from/to the airport start running at 7:00 >> cab to the train station: 35 GEL
-          08:00 – 12:45 Train from Tbilisi to Batumi (Makhindjauri): 24 GEL [Be sure to book online (www.railway.ge), as it can get pretty crowded even at the end of October, which is still high season, and be prepared for delays.]
-          Local marshrutka ride to Batumi centre: 0.50 GEL
-          18:00 – 21:00 Marshrutka to Zugdidi [from Maiakovski Bus Station): 12 GEL [The last marshrutka to Zugdidi leaves at 18:00.]
-          Accommodation in Zugdidi, Hostel Zugdidi: 25 GEL/person, private room [I do not recommend it – see here why: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g2156155-d2172021-r144135322-Zugdidi_Hostel-Zugdidi_Samegrelo_Zemo_Svaneti_Region.html –, so try and find some other place to stay.]
  • Day 3:
-          Ask the manager of the place you are staying in to book the marshrutka to Mestia, so that it comes and picks you up in the morning.
-          07:30 – 12:00 Marshrutka to Mestia: 20 GEL [This bus ride to Mestia could take less; it really depends on the driver and on how frequent his breaks are. Word of advice: try not to eat food from dubious restaurants found along the way to and from Mestia. I got food poisoning.]
-          Accommodation in Mestia + small lunch + dinner + breakfast [also suited for vegetarians], Nino Ratiani Homestay [http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g1902860-d1544183-r144132261-Nino_Ratiani_Guesthouse-Mestia_Upper_Svaneti_Samegrelo_Zemo_Svaneti_Region.html]: 40 GEL/person
-          Vehicle ride to Ushguli (5-6 hours): 180 GEL/car
  • Day 4:
-          Ask the manager of the place you are staying in to book the marshrutka to Gori (Tbilisi), so that it comes and picks you up in the morning.
-          04:30 – 13:30 Marshrutka to Gori: 30 GEL [Expect long breaks and difficult-to-handle smells.]
-          Stalin Museum (32 Stalin  Ave., opening hours (Monday-Sunday): 10-17): 10 GEL + 5 GEL (for Stalin’s private train car) [Students: 10 GEL, Stalin’s private train car included]  
-          Taxi ride to Uplistsikhe (return to Gori): 30 GEL/car
-          Uplistsikhe (opening hours (Tuesday-Sunday): 10-18); if you manage to get in before 18:00, you may stay for as long as you like): 3 GEL [Students: 1 GEL]
  • Day 5:
-          Ask the receptionist of your hotel to book you on a shared taxi to Tbilisi.
-          08:30 – 09:30 Shared taxi to Tbilisi: 5 GEL
-          Buy a metro card (2 GEL) and charge it with money worth at least 2 trips (0.50 GEL each); take the metro to Samgori Bus Station.
-          11:00 – 12:30 Marshrutka to Sighnaghi: 6 GEL
-          For the wall, take the cobbled road down to Tsnori, enter through the tower at the arch. [There is an old man on a street parallel with this road charging you only to climb up a tower; it’s not worth it, you will find several towers on the road to Tsnori.]]
-          Book in advance a wine tasting at Pheasant’s Tears (18, Baratashvili Street, http://www.pheasantstears.com/), Pheasant’s Flight (4 wines): 18 GEL [The food is also delicious here and not so oily as in other parts of Georgia; they also have many vegetarian and vegan dishes. You may try eggplant with takhini & mushroom rice biryani with Georgian herbs and saffron, you will not regret it.]
-          16:00 – 17:30 Marshrutka to Tbilisi: 6 GEL
-          Warning! Trains to Yerevan run on odd days, trains from Yerevan run on even days. Marshrutkas to Yerevan start running from 07:30 and until 17:30 [07:30; 08:15; 09:45; 10:30, etc.) from ‘Ortachala’ Bus Station.
-          Accommodation in Tbilisi, Walker Hostel [http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294195-d3245645-r144128814-Walker_Hostel-Tbilisi.html]: 30 GEL/person, private room
  • Day 6:
-          Ask the manager of the place you are staying in to call for a cab [you should pay between 3-6 GEL/car from the centre of Tbilisi to ‘Ortachala’ Bus Station].
-          07:30 – 13:30 Marshrutka to Yerevan: 30 GEL
-          Armenian Visa (if applicable): 8000 AMD (approx. 8 USD) [Bring 10 USD with you, but don’t expect any change. :)]
-          Accommodation in Yerevan, Grammy Hostel [http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g293932-d2695368-r144128093-Grammy_Hostel-Yerevan.html]: 7000 AMD/person, private room, breakfast included
-          Taxi from Grammy Hostel to the Blue Mosque: 600 AMD/car
-          Blue Mosque (Mashtots Avenue, opening hours: 10-18): 300 AMD [Have change on you and expect to wait if you arrive during prayer times.]
-          Book ahead by phone (+37410540000) a tasting tour at Ararat Brandy Company (2, Admiral Isakov Avenue): 3500 AMD
-          Taxi ride to Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple: 10000 AMD/car [Make sure you arrive before closing time (18:00) to Geghard!!]
-          Garni Temple (open until 19:00): 250 AMD     
  • Day 7:
-          Ask the manager or receptionist of the place you are staying in to book you on a shared taxi to Goris (there are also marshrutkas leaving to Goris between 07:00 and 9:00 every day; cost: 3000 AMD). [Expect delays, low speed, many breaks along the way.]
-          9:30 – 15:00 Shared taxi to Goris: 4000 AMD [You may probably find it also for 3500 AMD; expect to be charged a different price from local travellers.]
-          Taxi from Goris to Wings of Tatev (opening times: 10-18): 3000 AMD/car
-          Return ticket for the longest cable car ride in the world (a must!!): 4000 AMD
-          Have lunch or dinner at Wings of Tatev Restaurant. I highly recommend the traditional omelette, the salads, and the Zhingyal Bread.
-          Warning! The last marshrutka to Yerevan (Yeghegnadzor) leaves Goris at 17:00. You are very isolated at Wings of Tatev, so be cautious.
-          Accommodation in Yeghegnadzor, Hotel Arpa [http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g2135874-d2095171-r144129417-Hotel_Arpa-Yeghegnadzor_Vayots_Dzor_Province.html]: 9000 AMD/person, breakfast included
  • Day 8:
-          Ask the manager or receptionist of the place you are staying in to call a taxi for you to get around Yeghegnadzor.
-          Taxi to Areni and Noravank Monastery (return to Yeghegnadzor): 5000 AMD/car
-          Call 1 day prior to your visit to book a tasting tour at Areni Wine Factory (+37494424427). It is free and you can sample some amazing and very rare wine! You can purchase wine bottles at the end of the tasting.
-          12:00 – 13:30 Marshrutka from Yeghegnadzor to Yerevan (Khor Virap): 1250 AMD [Ask the driver to drop you off in Khor Virap.]
-          Taxi from Khor Virap to Khor Virap Monastery: 600 AMD/car
-          Taxi from Khor Virap Monastery to Yerevan Bus Station: 6000 AMD/car
-          16:30 – 18:30 Shared taxi from Yerevan to Gyumri: 2000 AMD
-          Accommodation in Gyumri, Varduhi Guesthouse (142, Frunze (L. Madoyan) Street; taxi drivers don’t know the address, so try to call Varduhi first: 093450557): 6000 AMD/person, private room [Do not expect 5-star standards, but Varduhi is very nice and she can even fix you dinner for 5000 AMD (2 persons).])
  • Day 9:
-          Leave at 08:45, go up the street into the main avenue and flag down a taxi, asking the driver to take you to the bus station.
-          10:00 – 14:00 Marshrutka to Akhaltsikhe: 4000 AMD [You may find it for 2500 AMD, it depends on the driver and on how much he wants to rip off foreign travellers. :D Do your best to be at the bus station at 9:00; there is only 1 bus/day to Akhaltsikhe and it usually gets pretty crowded.]
-          Taxi ride to Vardzia and Khertvisi Fortress (return to Akhaltsikhe): 50 GEL/car
-          Vardzia (opening times (Tuesday-Sunday): 10-17): 3 GEL [Students: 1 GEL] [Try not to be there at weekends, it can become annoying because of the crowds.]
-          Khertvisi Fortress: free
-          18:00 – 21:00 Marshrutka to Tbilisi: 12 GEL [Last marshrutka leaves for Tbilisi at 19:00!!]
-          Accommodation in Tbilisi: don’t stay at Friends Hostel [http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294195-d2418345-r144134150-Tbilisi_Friends_Hostel-Tbilisi.html#CHECK_RATES_CONT]; try to book ahead and stay at Walker Hostel instead.
-          Have dinner at Mirzaani [http://www.mirzaani.ge/]; they have excellent vegetable salads, mchadi, lobiani, and beans with walnut.
  • Day 10:
-          Have a quick salad or a frozen yoghurt for breakfast, then head to the Bath District. I recommend Bath no. 5. Private room: 50 GEL; scrub: 10 GEL; massage: 10 GEL; towel: 1 GEL
-          Take the metro to the Central Station and visit the vegetable market (Georgians are renowned for their products and the prices are really low.)
-          Take the cable car (return ticket: 2 GEL) to Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia.
-          Have dinner at a Georgian restaurant and a homemade lemonade at one of the many cafés in the centre.
  • Day 11:
-          Ask the manager or receptionist of the place you are staying in to book a taxi to get you to the airport the following day. You should pay 25 GEL.

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