Overnight train to Baku
Saying goodbye to Georgia
I was in a rush from dinner, but arrived to the Tbilisi Train Station with 30 minutes to spare. My friend, Jorieke from the Netherlands, wanted to make sure I had one last big meal in Georgia before boarding the overnight train bound for Baku, Azerbaijan. The Georgian food is so filling and rich that I only brought a bottle of water with me for the journey.
Jorieke and I had spent a little over week traveling together in Georgia, from a long four day hike in Mestia we visited stayed in some villages in the mountains, we had survived a 9 hour soviet era bus that across the country and a few days in the Telavi wine region. It’s not often that I get a chance to share the road with someone for so long, and you really get a chance to connect and get to know the other person. I’m looking forward to her visiting Los Angeles someday!
Aboard the overnight train
Aboard the train, you feel like you have just stepped back in time with the long corridors and green pleather upholstery. I had purchased a second class ticket, which guarantees me a bed in a four person cabin. Luckily I was paired up with just one other, a nice older Russian lady.
The train pulled out of the station around 8:45pm and we arrived at the Georgia boarder around an hour later with a sudden stop. Aboard the train one of the Georgian officers walk room to room collecting passports and checking that everyone who needed a visa for Azerbaijan had one. The whole process took a little over 30 minutes, the train continues to move and we are handed our passports back with an exit stamp from Georgia.
Crossing the boarder
After twenty minutes we were called up room by room to walk down the hall to one of the first cabins where they have turned it into a make shift immigration office. I take a seat across from the Azeri officer who tells me to look at the camera several times. After what seemed like 10 minutes of typing and checking, he stamps my passport and says “welcome”. Later onboard another officer passes through to check everyone’s luggage, he sticks his hand in my bag, looks disappointed and moves on to the next room. Looks like we’ve officially entered into Azerbaijan!
The overnight journey
As I prepare to turn down my bed for the evening, the Russian lady saw me struggle to make my bed. She pointed out that we were all given a mat to place upon the bench to make it more comfortable. Glad she helped out, it made a big difference.
I was a little skeptical about sleeping in a train, but being 5’10” I was able to lay down comfortably and fully stretch my legs out. The train keeps rocking steadily and I find myself fast asleep by midnight.
After a restful night, the morning wake up calls start around 8:30am, the attendant knocks on everyone’s door and also asks if they would like purchase tea. It’s exciting to wake up and realize that you will shortly step foot in another country. I look the window and see the dry desert landscape in front of us, lots of small hilltops and a few small bodies of water here and there. It wasn’t until we reached out the outskirts of Baku that you see this gigantic city that seems to come out of nowhere. (Same sort of feeling you get after traveling 5 hours through the dessert from Los Angeles to Las Vegas via car.) It’s stark contrast and you soon begin to see the large skyscrapers built around the older looking city that surrounds them. Finally we arrive at the Baku station and take my first steps into Azerbaijan.
Overall the entire experience was pleasant, well rested and ready to explore the city. If I had to do it over, I would had saved a little money for the morning tea!
Departure: Tbilisi, Georgia
Arrival: Baku, Azerbaijan
Time of departure: 8:30pm*
Time of arrival: 10:00am
Cost: 52 GEL (~$21 USD)
*Time of departure will vary depending on the time of year, the trains will be scheduled accordingly. The best way to catch one is to show up at the ticket office and ask in person.