I took a trip to 3 countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia) in this region bordered by the Great (North), Lesser (South) Caucasus mountain range, and the Black (West) and the Caspian (East) Sea. I planned this trip for almost a decade and finally, I got to realize it. I took a vacation in combination with holidays and got 12 days to travel. Below you will find my activities by day and grouped information by topic (budget, transportation, accommodation, …)
Table of Contents
- Around Yerevan
- To Batumi
- To Kutaisi
Transport was an important part of this trip. In different means of transport, I made almost 10000 km in more than 50 hours.
On average I would walk around 10 km per day, around the city, to some attractions even one hike in Georgia.
I had 3 flights (4800 km), from Budapest to Baku (Wizzair, 105 €), from Baku to Tbilisi (Azerbaijan/Buta airways, 80 €) and last Kutaisi to Budapest (Wizzair, 100 €). Wizzair flight as expected, with small space, once I used seats at the wings for a short period, and in Budapest we waited for stairs to get off the plane. On Buta’s flight, we got a sandwich and a drink, not common lately on short flights. To get to/from the airport I used a rented car, bus, marshrutka, and Bolt.
I started and ended the trip with Flixbus on the distance between Ljubljana and Budapest (6h, 47 € one way). I tried city transport in Budapest (350 HUF-city bus and 2200 HUF-airport shuttle; I used the phone app BudapestGO) and Tbilisi (1 GEL bus ride, you need a card for public transport available at Metro stations 2 GEL), which can be crowded.
In this area often people use marshrutka – vans for 8-20 people. They are usually cheaper than buses and are scheduled more often. Drivers are speeding most of the time. From Yerevan to Tbilisi I paid 7000 AMD, from Batumi to Kutaisi was 20 GEL and From Kutaisi to the airport 3 GEL.
On tracks, I spent also some time. Metro I used in Budapest (350 HUF ride, 2nd oldest metro in the world, used the same app as above) to the bus station from the city on the last day. I used the metro also in Tbilisi twice (1 GEL for the ride, the same card as above, the metro is deep and stairs run fast).
On the train, I was twice. 1st class ride sleeper from Tbilisi to Yerevan was 172 GEL, 10 hours. Interesting experience, nice berth with a pillow and linen, and got toiletries and a towel, slippers, water, coffee, and cookies. There was even a shower on board. The other time was from Tbilisi to Batumi, 34 GEL, 5 hours. It was typical 2nd class seats, you had toilets and vending machines. It was interesting that all the train stations were quite out of the city center, 30 minutes plus of walking.
I drove more than 1000 km in Azerbaijan with a rented car (KIA Rio, got upgraded from a micro car for free), for 3 days with the insurance I paid 100 € and for the gasoline 60 € (1 AZM per liter of 92, 2 AZM for liter of Super-no difference in performance). I scratched the car a bit, but they didn’t charge me.
In Georgia, with a German couple, we made around 750 km in 2 days (40 $ per day and 170 GEL for fuel). The second day we picked two more people from the hostel so we shared the expenses for that day with them. In Armenia with Lili, we made around 140 km, she borrowed a car from her sister, Nissan. When she comes to Slovenia I will drive her around Slovenia.
As for the car, renting is a good option if there are more people together. I tried renting single to renting in group of 5 people and even a friend drove us one day. As for fuel, it is very cheap compared to Europe (0.6 € in Azerbaijan, double for Super; 0.8 € in Georgia, 1.2 € in Armenia – they use a lot of LPG).
I used also taxis and Bolt on a few occasions, for a few € they will drive you for half an hour, a cheap option, especially in Azerbaijan, and the most expensive was a taxi in Ljubljana – an 8 € drive home.
On the road it is quite hectic, a lot of times someone takes over from the right lane, usually, a Lada of my age leaving you in a black cloud. On highways, they have U-turns, so cars from your left will join at low speed. You should watch for cows, dogs, horses, and pedestrian crossing on all types of roads.
I suggest you start your day as early as 6 am when cities are empty and you will get a headstart. If you are stuck in traffic, it will easily take 1-2 hours extra and you will need to act quickly among those cars. Roads come in different quality, from decent ones to those with deep potholes.
15 km on a bit over 1-hour boat cruise in Budapest, 13.5 €. From a river perspective, you see all the important sights. We even got two drinks during the ride and an audio guide. It is possible to step off at Margaret Island to walk in this green space.
For sleeping I used many different options. On the first and last day, I was (not) sleeping in a bus/airplane. It is a cheap option and you are at the same time traveling and sleeping, but you are tired after this. Also, one night I slept on a train to Yerevan, 1st class 172 GEL (64 €), really good sleep, worth it.
Next would be staying with the Couch Surfing host. I stayed 2 nights in Tbilisi with Fraiser, a nice Canadian guy speaking Serbian. In general, that means sleeping for free. But I brought cognac from Azerbaijan airport for 20 € as a gift and the next day bought beer and toilet paper, so the hostel would be cheaper, but the experience here was great and worth it.
One night I slept in a Backpackers hostel in Tbilisi for 18 GEL (6.5 €), very cheap. But the problem was a bad mattress in combination with my back, also my snoring woke people that woke me. Speaking to other travelers in the common room was nice. So in short, cheap but I guess I am getting too old for it.
Similar to a hostel would be home stay with a shared room. I used it in Ganja at Huseyn Houses, 15 AZM (8 €), and Kutaisi at 4 Brothers 40 GEL (16 €). I had luck because it was not high season so in the first case I had room for myself and in the second the whole apartment. In Yerevan, I took a private room at AMIGO Guest House for 2 nights, 27000 ARD (32 € per night), good, clean
In Batumi I rented an apartment (similar to Airbnb) in one of the fancy buildings, Orbi City Suites, 113 GEL (41 €) for one night, good equipment, nice view but too expensive.
In Baku, I took 5* hotel Lake Palace for a low price, 55 AZM (29 €). It was below the usual 5-star hotel standard, but still, it was worth the price.
To conclude, we can have different price ranges for different types of travelers. Backpackers would usually use free and cheap options in a range of 5-15€ per night. The average traveler would be using options in a range of 20-40€ per night. And luxury would mean 50 € +. I wanted to try as many as possible
Food and drinks
With food it is similar I tried cheap to more expensive local and international options. I started from home with two homemade sandwiches, one for dinner and one for breakfast on my way to Baku. In Baku, I ate some bananas and cookies from a shop for 10 AZN (5 €), and later in the evening Mexican food with jalapenos and beer, 25 AZM (13 €) with tip, expensive.
The next morning I stopped by the road and tried Quatab, flat bread stuffed with greens, 2 pcs for 5 AZM (2.5 €). In the evening I ate in Ganja dolma (stuffed tomato, pepper, and grape leaves with minced meat and rice) with bread, salad, yogurt, and tea for 8 AZM (4 €), later I tried one baklava 2 AZN (1 €).
Again, the next day I stopped by the road for breakfast, bread cheese, and tea for 5 AZM (2.5 €). At the airport I ate at Mcdonald’s, a cheeseburger, 4 AZM (2 €), not that good.
In Tbilisi again a trip to shop and bananas 3 GEL (1 €). I stopped for lunch in the restaurant and tried some local cuisine (chicken soup, beef stew, and a few khinkali), 40 GEL (14 €) with tip and free wine, but he added tax at the end? Next morning some cookies for breakfast 5 GEL (2 €). In Stepantsminde I tried lobiani bread filled with cheese for 4 GEL (1.5 €). In Gori we went to a shop and bought some food, 15 GEL (5 €). In Mtcheta I tried sweet churchkhela, Georgian Snickers option, 2 GEL (1 €).
In the morning I didn’t eat much, in the afternoon I ate (buckwheat, chicken in walnut sauce, spinach, peppers, and bread filled with greens) at the train station cafeteria, 22 GEL (8 €) with beer. In Yerevan, I tried a kebab, 1000 AMD (2 €), not the best one. Later in the afternoon we went with Lili and her friend to Kilikia Beer House – a local brewery, had some khachapuri, fried potatoes, and chicken wings with beer, don’t know the price.
The next day we ate at SAS food court, I had Gonio chicken cooked in josper oven with mushrooms and cheese, 1300 AMD with tabouli salad (parsley, mint, bulgur, vegetables, and dressing) 800 AMD (together 5 €). In the evening we went to some place and picked up some food for 1000 AMD (2 €).
On my way to Tbilisi, I bought some chips at one gas station for 1000 AMD (2 €). In Tbilisi, I went to McDonalds close to station, 22 GEL (8 €). On a train to Batumi got a club sandwich from a vending machine for 6 GEL (2 €).
The next day in Batumi at Exodus restaurant on the promenade I paid 35 GEL, (13 €) for khachapuri and tea, too much. Last day bought some bananas in Kutaisi 5 GEl, (2 €). In Budapest bought some nuts for 1300 HUF (3.5 €) and later a slice of pizza for 590 HUF (1.5 €).
In general, I ate a little, twice a day, and tried some new stuff, but nothing too exciting.
With drinks, first place would take water, next would be tea, and lastly fruit juices. As for alcoholic drinks mainly beer, some wine, and spirits were cognac and chacha.
I started with 2 small Changs from Roza Slon for 3.4 € while waiting for Flixbus. In Budapest had a few beers, 11 €. In Baku, two small beers were 3 €. At the airport bottle of cognac was 20 €. In Tbilisi, some wine was free with lunch, some was free at a tasting, for 2 bottles I paid 27 €, and beer in the shop was 1 €.
In Yerevan beer was from less than 2 up to 5 € for kraft ones, last night there I spent some money, and my backpack was stolen. Again in Budapest some beers for 8 €, a tax was added?
Azerbaijan is a land of fire, most natural sights here are connected with natural gas; burning mountains, fire temples, or mud volcanos. The City of Baku is, in my opinion, Dubai of the Caucasus, with modern, new, expensive, and interesting architecture but also with old town worth visiting. Close to the city are those fire phenomena and some beaches. In the north, there is Shaki with a fort, palace, caravanserai, and Kish church. On the way there, you can stop at Gobustan for a mausoleum and at Shakshi for a nice mosque. In Ganja, you could visit a mosque, hammam, park, and bottle house.
Capital Tbilisi is interesting, on one side of the river the enormous cathedral is not finished yet, on the other side new architectural wonders and an old town with a fort up the hill, also some natural spas (you need to reserve a few days before). In the east there is a wine country, so go there if you are a wine lover (special wine-making old technic).
There is also a walled city of Sighnaghi and Gombori Pass. In the north, there is Stepantsminde with Gergeti Trinity Church. On the way there you can stop at Jvari monastery and the previous capital Mcheta. A bit out of this way is Gori, the hometown of Stalin. In the west, there is Kutaisi, the second biggest city with a previous parliament building, monastery, … Even further to the west, you will come to the city on the Black Sea, Batumi. This city is Las Vegas of region, big buildings in lights, fountain, casinos, expansive and it has a beach in addition, popular among locals and in the region.
Yerevan as the capital is worth visiting (cascades, squares, …). Close to the city you have a few attractions, in the east Garni with an antic temple and gorge having special rock formations called the Symphony of Stones. A few minutes away it is Geghard Monastery carved into the rock. In the south, you can find the church Hor Virap (there was imprisoned St George, who converted the king and later the whole country to Christianity, the first Christian country).
For accommodation, I paid 220 €. For transport, I paid 580 €. Food was close to 100 € and drinks as well. All the rest with visa, entrance, and souvenirs would be less than 100 €. So the total would be around 1000 €, where the main expense is connected to transport-flying. When in the area you can spend very little, less than 10 € for sleeping, less than 10 € for eating and similar for transport. So if you are in no hurry and you are used to less comfort, this place can be affordable to many.
Most of the time weather was warm, around 5 degrees Celsius higher compared to Europe (daily temperatures between 15 in 25 Celsius). We had a good number of hours of sunshine. But there was even snow in the north of Georgia. Tbilisi can get windy. In Armenia, the rain started (we got lucky to be inside while raining) and it followed me to the end of the trip on return to Georgia, it was also colder in Batumi and constantly raining in Kutaisi
Again I packed lightly, just a carry-on bag with 5 sets of underwear, a T-shirt and socks, toiletries, electronics, a towel, flip-flops, and shorts/swimsuit. After my backpack was gone I traveled even lighter 🙂 One day I was just having clothes on me and the next day I carried a plastic bag.
I bought a SIM card in Azerbaijan and Georgia, but in Armenia, I leaned on free internet in cafes, hostels, Lili’s, etc.
Visa was needed only in Azerbaijan, applied online, 26 €. I didn’t know if the Azeri stamp would be a problem in Armenia, but nobody asked anything.