Trains in Georgia are a mix of slow, cheap, comfortable, Soviet machines and newer trains that are faster, slightly more expensive and a bit less cozy.
Night trains in the Caucasus used to have the perfect duration to be of use both to budget travelers looking to save money on accommodation, and to travelers on a tight schedule, looking to make the most efficient use of their time. This is still true for the overnight connections between Tbilisi and Baku, Zugdidi and Yerevan, but the Batumi train now only takes 6 hours – not enough for a good sleep.
There is no rail connection to Turkey yet, but somewhere in 2017 the railway to Kars should finally open. Russia and Iran can be reached by train via Baku. Finally, a number of commuter trains (elektrichki) connect smaller destinations in Georgia, to the great delight of slow travelers, train lovers and those fearful of mad marshrutka drivers.
Timetables and prices
You can find general timetables at Georgian Railways. For more in-depth timetables including all stops, search this page, then click through on the train route for details. If you click on the number of the train, you get prices. Prices are low and comparable to marshrutka prices.
In-depth timetables for international trains are here. I have not been able to find detailed timetables for commuter trains – let me know if you have.
10 months a year, trains run half-empty and you do not need to book in advance to save your seat. In summer however, book 1 or 2 weeks in advance to make sure you get the seat you want.
Slow Georgian trains have the standard Soviet classes:
- obshye (general – just a seat)
- platzkart (Reserved – bunks in open wagon)
- kupe (Compartment – 4-berth wagon)
- SV/Lyux (First-Class – 2-berth wagon) options.
If you are confused about this choice, read the overview page on the Silk Road by train for seat buying and route planning advice.
Daytime (Stadler) trains currently do not have sleeper bunks. Instead, there is only first and second class seating. This will change in 2017 as the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars line finally opens, serviced by new fast Stadler sleeping trains. Updates welcome!
It is possible to book domestic tickets up to 40 days in advance on the Georgian Railways website or Biletebi, paying with Visa or Mastercard. The booking procedure is equally arduous on both sites but Bileti charges a 1.50 lari service fee. An English version is available: click top-right on the GEO button.
International services cannot be booked online. Beware: this includes domestic trips if the train later crosses into Azerbaijan or Armenia!
You can always buy your tickets at the train station yourself, or have a Georgian travel agency do it for you. In case of international tickets this is definitely the way to go.
Counters work until 22:30 in Tblisi and Batumi.
Tickets can be cancelled before departure, online through the Georgian Railways website, or at the train station. At least 15 hours prior to train departure – 0 % of fare is charged. Less than 15 hours – 15 % of fare is charged. Less than 4 hours – 30 % of fare is charged.
The train experience
Trains are not immune to being delayed. Do not plan tight connection times. If you have an overnight journey, you will get sheets, a pillow and a blanket. Luggage storage is under the bottom bunk. Toilets can be nasty or clean, it depends. Do not forget to bring your own toilet paper!
Like elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, train travel is a very enjoyable and rewarding way to get around. Find more tips for succesful train riding on the Silk Road by train overview page.
Night trains between Tbilisi and Zugdidi/Batumi/Yerevan/Baku
This is the old Soviet train system, that moves at the speed of thoughts, not the speed of sound, klink-klonk until you fall asleep. Trains are relatively spacious and comfortable, and you can while away the hours chatting to your neighbours or looking up from your book, watching the landscape out the window.
As elsewhere, you will be invited to share food brought on the train in copious amounts by your fellow passengers, but there are no hawkers on the train and there is no restaurant car, so bring what you definitely need. A samovar provides hot water, but bring a cup.
Air-conditioning works and is set to a normal level; usually there is no need to either bring an extra sweater or put a wet towel over your face.
Fast train Tbilisi-Zugdidi/Batumi
Compare it to train journeys in Europe. There are no samovars, no sleeping bunks, no one is bringing their goat on the train and the interior is prim and clean.
Commuter trains (elektrichki)
I have never taken one of these trains, and there is little info about them online except for the timetable. We are curious for your experiences!
Tips on route planning
- Tbilisi – Yerevan: 10,5 hours
- Tbilisi – Baku: 14 hours
- Tbilisi – Batumi: 6 hours
Note that the station at Batumi used to be just outside the town at Makhindjauri, but in 2015 a new central station has opened in Batumi itself, closer to the centre.Comments have closed. If you have questions or remarks, head to our forum’s transport section.