Getting there & away
Tbilisi has three long-distance bus and marshrutka stations: Didube (the main hub for national transport), Ortachala (for Kakheti, Armenia, Turkey and Greece) and the main train station (for western Georgia and further Yerevan services).
Didube bus station (347239; Tsereteli; Didube) is a sprawling chaos outside Didube metro station. In the first yard you reach, just outside the exit tunnel from the metro, you’ll find marshrutkas to Gardabani, Borjomi, Bakuriani and Akhaltsikhe. A second yard, straight ahead from the metro tunnel, then across a small road and behind a line of buildings, is the departure point for marshrutkas to Mtskheta and Kazbegi, and the bus to Barisakho. For further services walk 300m to the right along the above-mentioned small road. Here you’ll find the Okriba bus station on your left, with buses to Kutaisi, and two chaotic yards on your right, with marshrutkas to Gori, Kutaisi and Batumi and further marshrutkas to Borjomi and Akhaltsikhe. Buses to Gori leave from the back of the first of these yards.
Ortachala bus station (753433; Gulia 1) is something of a backwater, about 2.5km southeast of the Old Town. From here marshrutkas depart for Yerevan (30 GEL, six hours) via the Sadakhlo border point, Vanadzor and Sevan, hourly from 7am to noon. Note that if you want to get off before Yerevan, you still have to pay the full 30 GEL fare. Marshutkas leave for Qax, Azerbaijan (10 GEL, five to six hours), via the Lagodekhi border crossing, at 8am, 11am and 1pm. A minifleet of four or five buses run by different companies departs at noon for Istanbul (US$40, 27 hours) via the border at Sarpi, Hopa, Rize, Trabzon (US$25, 11 hours) and Samsun. There’s also a minibus to Trabzon (US$25, 11 hours) at 8pm by Golden Travel (877457680), and a 6am bus by Özlem Ardahan (899919958) to Istanbul (US$50, 27 hours) via the Posof border point, Kars, Erzurum and Ankara. For the truly hardy, several companies run buses to Thessaloniki and Athens (€100) from Ortachala. You can reach Ortachala on marshrutka 94 from in front of Tbilisi’s Borjomi train station via Marjanishvili metro station, Vardebis Revolutsis moedani (lower level), Tavisuplebis moedani and Gorgasalis moedani. Bus 55 runs to Ortachala from Vake via Rustaveli (it stops opposite the Opera House) and Tavisuplebis moedani, and marshrutka 150 runs between Didube and Ortachala bus stations.
Further marshrutkas to Yerevan (30 GEL, six hours) go from the front of the main train station, on Vagzlis moedani, at 8am, 10am, 1pm and 5pm.
There is no bus or marshrutka service from Tbilisi crossing into Azerbaijan via the Krasny Most border crossing. If you don’t want to take the train, fly or go via Lagodekhi, you have various choices.
Take a marshrutka from the main train station to Krasny Most (4 GEL, one hour); buses and marshrutkas run from there to Gəncə and Baku.
Get a bus from Lilo market, near Tbilisi airport, to Krasny Most or beyond.
Get a marshrutka from Tbilisi train station to Marneuli (2 GEL, 45 minutes), 30km south of Tbilisi, where buses depart for Baku.
Taking a taxi for an intercity trip can be surprisingly inexpensive, especially if shared between three or four people. Your accommodation can usually organise this for you, or you can go to one of the bus stations or the train station, where drivers wait. Typical one-way fares are 80 GEL to Kazbegi or 100 GEL to Yerevan. A return trip to Davit Gareja is also around 100 GEL.
If you fancy your chances driving yourself on Georgian roads, car rental is easy enough to arrange, though not necessarily cheaper than taking a car with a driver.
Avis (923594; www.avis.com; Tavisuplebis moedani 4) Also at the airport.
Cosmo Group (920960; firstname.lastname@example.org; Atoneli 31)
Hertz (987400; www.caucasustravel.com; Caucasus Travel, Leselidze 44)
Tbilisi’s main train station (566253, 993253; Vagzlis moedani) is the railway hub of Georgia. Trains from Tbilisi are generally slower, less frequent, more comfortable and a bit cheaper than marshrutkas and buses.
The station is due for rebuilding but meanwhile remains a slightly confusing place. Schedule information is currently available at the left-hand end of the line of ticket windows. Some is also given in English on www.info-tbilisi.com and (in Georgian) on the Georgian Railway site (www.rail way.ge).
The only international trains are the overnight sleepers to Baku and Yerevan. The train to Baku (2nd/1st-class 40/78 GEL, 14 hours) leaves at 5.15pm daily. Given the shortage of road transport from Tbilisi to Azerbaijan, this is the most convenient way to get to Baku and to stops en route such as Gəncə. The train to Yerevan (4th/3rd/2nd/1st-class 12/16/24/45 GEL, 15 hours) however takes a painfully slow, roundabout route via Vanadzor and Gyumri, and only runs every two days (on odd dates from Tbilisi to Yerevan and on even dates from Yerevan to Tbilisi). It leaves Tbilisi at 3.40pm.
Tickets for the Baku and Yerevan trains are sold at window 7 in the main train station. It’s advisable to book a day or two ahead, though at busy times (eg the summer holiday season) you might be told the train is fully booked.
Within Georgia, the most useful trains include the night train to Zugdidi (3rd/2nd-class5.50/11 GEL, eight hours, 9.30pm) and the night train to Batumi (3rd/2nd/1st-class 15/23/40 GEL, eight hours, 10pm). This Batumi sleeper, with air-conditioned 1st- and 2nd-class compartments, is another train for which it’s advisable to book ahead. Note that Batumi appears as Makhinjauri (the exact location of its station) on some timetables.
Day trains include the 8.50am to Batumi (20 GEL, eight hours), the 2.45pm to Poti (8 GEL, six hours), both with 3rd-class seating only, and the 9.15am to Kutaisi (3rd/2nd-class 5/10.50 GEL, 5½ hours) and Zugdidi (3rd/2nd-class 6/11.50 GEL, eight hours). There’s also an 11.40pm departure to Poti.
Elektrichky (electric trains with seating only) run from Tbilisi’s Borjomi station, next door to the main station, to Borjomi (2 GEL, 4¼ hours) at 7.15am and 4.55pm, and to Kutaisi (3.50 GEL, 5½ hours) at 4.10pm. For these you pay on the train.
Tbilisi airport (433121/41), 15km east of the centre, has a modern terminal opened in 2007 and a growing range of international flights. There were no domestic flights at research time, though Batumi and Mestia flights are constantly talked about.
Airline offices in Tbilisi include the following:
Air Baltic (932829; www.airbaltic.com; Berika Travel Agency, Kostava 14)
Airzena Georgian Airways (485560; www.georgian-airways.com; Rustaveli 12)
BMI (940719; www.flybmi.com; Tavisuplebis moedani 4)
Georgian National Airlines (www.national-avia.com; 922020; Rustaveli 5)
Lufthansa (243324; www.lufthansa.com; Paliashvili 16)
SCAT (921800; www.scat.kz; Contact Travel Agency, Ingorokva 12)
Turkish Airlines (959022; www.turkishairlines.com; Davit Aghmashenebeli 147)
Ukraine International Airlines (www.flyuia.com; 433555; Ekaladze 3)