We applied for visas online, and apart from needing to send a reminder email or two, it was pretty slick. Apply, wait a week (supposedly two days), then print out your visas. Only $15 per person.
We bought tickets for the night train from Tbilisi to Yerevan, leaving at about 8:30 pm and arriving at 8 am the next morning. We had purchased 2nd class or "coupé" which is a compartment with two beds down low and two above. When we got to the platform and showed the officials our tickets, they looked at our passports, then showed us right to our bunks. Only 2 problems: first, there was no door or compartment-- it was all open; and second, there was a girl on one of the bunks already! The train officials said, oh we'll sort it out once the train gets going. It happens all the time apparently...
So we just piled in on one of the bunks and let her have the other one. Since it was open we could see the neighbors, and there was a family with a little girl next to us. They came and got Jude from us and sat him down with their little girl. They were playing and smiling at each other so adorably. Then the customs police came on so they had to hand Jude back to us, and the poor little girl was beside herself. Sobbing. Inconsolable. After the police left, the aunt came and got Jude again, and the girl was instantly happy. His first Armenian would-be bride :) btw everyone on the train was Armenian. Employees, travelers, everyone.
It was so so so humid, and even at 8:30 at night with the train windows open, we were all pretty sticky and gross. Even so, we enjoyed getting to know our new friend. She was Russian, from moscow, and was taking a graduation trip with some friends and was visiting armenia and Georgia. Just as we were getting to be friends the train peeps came back and explained that we had coupe tickets, didn't we know that? and why were we in the general seating area? Um...because this is where you put us? So we packed up our stuff and herded the kids through a few train cars until we got to....
Air-conditioning and second class! Hallelujah. There was only ac in the corridor, but oh my, was it lovely. The whole train, btw, was totally james bond. Minus the guns, glamor, and intrigue. Corridors, compartments, russian, clackety clack, the whole bit.
We got settled and then shut our door (a door!) so the kids could get changed into jammies. Then got up to take them to the bathroom...and couldn't. open. the. door. it took us seriously 15 minutes of trying, knocking and calling out for someone to help, getting out the multi-tool, praying, and finally just getting lucky enough to fiddle with it in just the right way to get it open. We didn't close it all the way again needless to say. Accidentally caught a pic of Luke getting jammified...
So. We got everyone to the potty. Got beds made. They gave us linen packages with sheets, pillowcase, and towel.
This is how I felt about no ac in our room:
Jude was so hot I finally took off his top and let his tummy hang out, which everyone on the train loved. Since it was still roasting hot, all the Armenian men were shirtless, in shorts and flip flops. They all loved Jude and wanted to hold him...he totally went to them, grabbed their chest hair, smiled his toothy smile for them. What a kid.
We eventually got to the border at around 11 pm, got off, got our stamps, got back on, and were on our way. No problems whatsoever. Apparently we could have bought a visa right there at the border if we hadn't gotten e-visas. We settled in for the night: Paul and luke took the top bunks, Liam got a lower one to himself and I got to share with Jude, who was so happy to get to stay with mom all night long. I was not as enthusiastic about it, but we had no bed or car seat or stroller or chair. What can you do.
As we were going to sleep, the AC miraculously came on in our room! Bliss! We slept well and awoke at 6 when they announced that we were close and that we needed to give back our linens. We were wondering what exactly we were going to do since it was so early and we hadn't been able to connect with the people we were going to stay with (our Georgian phones quit working before we crossed the border and we couldn't call them). We were just standing out in front of the train station when Justin Budd, our host, came up to us. Bless him, he had come to meet us, with his minivan, and whisked us back to their home.
More to come about the wonderful Budd family and our further adventures in armenia!
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Location:Soviet era night train