Crossing Borders

Mt Ararat

Well, that was quite a day (yesterday, 19 September).

I was out of my apartment at 10am to get a minibus to Yerevan, in Armenia.

It is 173 mile (277 km) drive from Tbilisi. It took 5.5 hours, which is normal according to Google maps. The road is not good. The traffic is very slow in places. A lot of the road is through hills and mountains.

We were lucky with our stops at the border, and it only took us 20 minutes. The Armenian immigration officer was unimpressed by the Azerbaijan stamps in my passport, but let me in.

We also stopped for fuel – LPG I think. I could have bought lunch there, but had no Armenian money. The currency exchange booth at the border declined my English notes. In fact the guy gave me a “do you think I’m stupid?” look.

Lunch Stop (Or Not)

Just before the border we stopped for the driver to buy 10kg of oranges at a roadside stall. I guess they looked good, or cheap, or both.

He also stopped to buy a car door just after we got into Armenia. Then he discovered there was no room for it in the van. We had to leave it for him to collect another time.

Google does not factor in these random stops, so I guess we made good time. His driving was wild, but no more so than that of other drivers.

The other thing of note on the journey was passing 4 surface to air missiles in a field.

When we stopped for fuel and had wifi (but no lunch) I saw we had been right beside the Azerbaijan border when I saw the weaponry. We may even have driven through Armenian occupied Azerbaijan.

It is an interesting part of the world.

Sunset, Downtown Yerevan

Armenia’s long border with Turkey is closed. So is its long border with Azerbaijan. That leaves north to Georgia or south to Iran.

Of course the Republic of Artsakh also deserves a mention, as it borders on Armenia. It used to be Nagorno-Karabakh. It used to be part of Azerbaijan. It is not recognised as independent internationally – not even by Armenia.

Its border with Armenia is open, however. Its border with Azerbaijan is not, and you risk landmines and sniper fire if you stray too close.

Dusk in Yerevan

Brits need a visa to visit Artsakh. An Artsakh visa in your passport will mean automatic refusal of entry to Azerbaijan. Indeed, even an Armenian stamp in your passport will result in close questioning by immigration in Azerbaijan.

If I mention Artsakh, I should also mention the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is part of Azerbaijan, but an enclave surrounded by Turkey, Armenia (closed border, obviously) and Iran. The population is just over 400,000 and is 99% Azerbaijani.

Georgia seems to be on reasonable terms with Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Its problem is Russia, with South Ossetia and Abkhazia being de facto seceded. Armenia appears to be on good terms with Georgia, and even more so with Russia.

Busy Day – Beer Needed


ⓒ iain taylor, 2019


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