Overnight Train from Baku to Tbilisi

Baku - Tbilisi Overnight Train #38

Train Number: 38

Travel Time: ~13 hrs

Travel Class: 4-bed sleeper, upper bunk (kupe)

Price: 34 AZN (~20 USD at time of writing)

Departure Time: 21.50

Arrival Time: ~ 11.00

To save on one night’s accommodation and also travel efficiently, I booked a second-class, four-bed train from Baku to Tbilisi. The trip took about 12 hours, although quite a bit of it was basically waiting to clear immigration on both ends.

Baku - Tbilisi Overnight Train #38

Booking the Ticket

Azerbaijan Railways actually has a website, where you can book the tickets online. I did muck around the website, and even got as far as selecting seats. In the end, I didn’t click through to buy, although there are reports of people being able to do so online. I am not sure how payment works, although for sure, it is possible to purchase online. Why? Because when I showed up at the train station to buy my ticket, the attendant asked if I were here to collect my online ticket. During popular months of travel, I’d suggest you purchase online, just to guarantee your seats.

After checking that there was plenty of availability, I decided to just buy my ticket the day before departure. I rolled over to the railway station, which is at the 28 May metro station. Follow the signs for “Railway Station” exit, and then turn left. The railway station is at a mall of sorts, and the ticket sales is near the KFC in the mall.

In the middle of the ticket sales is an attendant. You want to talk to her to get a queue number. I waited for about 20 mins before I was served. Remember to bring your passport. I told the ticket agent my route, date, and class of service (in English), and she ticketed it in 5 mins. Online reports of cash-required are outdated. I was able to purchase my ticket with a credit card at the window.

Baku - Tbilisi Overnight Train #38

The Trip

I’d say the announcement system wasn’t particularly helpful. Thankfully, at around 9.30 pm, there were only two trains. I just walked down the platform, and located my train, which wrote Baku-Tbilisi.

If you can’t understand your ticket like me, just approach the ticket attendants. They will point you in the right direction and tell you your seat number as well.

The four-bed cabins are pretty okay. At around 10.30 pm, a train staff came by to distribute bed linens, so you won’t have to sleep on their rather well-used pillows. I actually passed out for a good 9 hours, and by the time I woke up, we were already at the Azerbaijan-Georgia border on the Azerbaijan side.

On the Azerbaijan side, the immigration officers board the train, and proceed to check out passengers individually, so expect an interview with the immigration officer. After about 1.5 hrs, the exit immigration was done, and after about 20ish minutes, we were on the Georgia side.

On the Georgia side, they simply boarded the train, collected everybody’s passports, and processed them in a building. They did call some individuals, although that is more the exception than the rule. At about 10 am, we pulled away from the border and headed towards Tbilisi.

The train pulled into Tbilisi station at around 11 am. The Tbilisi railway station is actually very close to the Station Square metro station. Just exit the railway station at the ground level, take a right, and you’ll be at Station Square metro station.

Overall

The train journey was pretty fine. They don’t have anything on board, so bring supplies. Also, although I didn’t personally venture, apparently, according to my German cabin-mate, the bathroom is nasty. It is not the Orient Express, but it’s a functional overnight train ride. The few daylight hours we had on the train weren’t particularly scenic; I am not sure if this would be different for a day-time train.

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Hotel Review: Hyatt Regency Baku

Hyatt Regency Baku

Elite Status: Hyatt Globalist

Hyatt Regency Baku is a 5-star category 3 Hyatt property that is located some 3 miles from downtown Baku. The grounds of the property are lovely, and they have the most amazing service staff there.

I spent two nights here on a cash rate.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Check In/Check Out

Both check in and check out was fast. I also requested a 4pm check out, and that was honored with no issues.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Room

I was upgraded to a lovely Regency Suite, which is generously-sized. Upon entry, there is a guest bathroom to the right, and a closet. Beyond the entryway is a living room with a 5-seater sofa and a large coffee table. There’s also a four-seater rectangular dining set. Atop a little console are coffee/tea-making amenities.

Hyatt Regency Baku

The bedroom is of a good size, with the king-sized bed in the middle. There’s a work desk and lounge chair by the window, and a mini-fridge by the TV console.

Hyatt Regency Baku

There are power outlets by the bed, and the wifi is decent.

Additionally, I also received a welcome amenity of a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Hyatt Regency Baku

Bathroom

Hyatt Regency Baku

The large bathroom has a double-sink vanity, toilet, bidet, tub, and shower.

Hyatt Regency Baku

They stock Portico amenities, which is fine by me.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Food

Breakfast for globalists is served in their ground floor restaurant, and the spread is generous. They have an egg station, and at least six hot options. Their pastries selection is also amazing. More incredibly, the hotel actually has a section for special dietary needs, e.g. diabetic, gluten-free, etc.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Their outdoor terrace is really lovely.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Service

The service in this hotel is outstanding. Ms Aziza at breakfast gave suggestions of a local egg dish to try at breakfast, and I’m glad I took her suggestion. Mr. Nizami at the club lounge also provided really attentive service.

Club Lounge

Located on the 7th floor, the club lounge has evening cocktail service from 6 to 8. They serve an excellent array of canapés. The double-story lounge is also a lovely space to sit in.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Amenities

They have a lovely lap pool, and a large gym.

Hyatt Regency Baku

Overall

Although Hyatt Regency Baku is located some ways from most tourist sites, it has a lot going for it. It has lovely grounds featuring a garden, excellent pool and gym, and above all, they have amazing staff.

Flight Review: Economy Class in Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 from Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD)

Flight time: 2hr 45 min
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-800
Route: IST-GYD
Seat: 22F (Aisle seat of the middle row)

Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD) Boeing 787-800 Economy Class

I usually fly alliance airlines to maintain status and the perks associated with it, but sometimes destinations are not served by alliance, or in this case, an alliance airline was less convenient, and would have cost almost twice as much.

Azerbaijan Airlines has several daily flights between Istanbul and Baku. They usually deploy their narrow-body aircraft on this route, but in my case, I lucked out – I ended up with their Dreamliner aircraft, which I love.

Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD) Boeing 787-800 Economy Class

They have three classes of service on this aircraft: Business, Premium Economy, and Economy. Business is 3 rows of 2-2-2; Premium Economy is 5 rows of 2-3-2, and Economy is a lot more rows of 3-3-3. In aircrafts where the Economy seat arrangement is 3-3-3, I usually choose the middle aisle, because it minimizes disruption – middle seat person has a 50% chance of bothering you. Look cranky, and maybe s/he will choose to bother the other person instead of you.

Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD) Boeing 787-800 Economy Class

The flight was great, actually! The aircraft is new, clean, and the seat is decent. I got an aisle seat, and the legroom was decent as well. Seats also have IFE with USB chargers, although I didn’t find anything to my liking (I usually just watch sitcoms). I did stream some Azerbaijan music just for kicks. There’s also a USB charger on the IFE if you want to charge your phone.

Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD) Boeing 787-800 Economy Class

Although this is a short 2.75-hr flight, the service was good. After takeoff, the flight attendants came around with hot towels. After hot towel service, lunch was served. I got their beef plov (pilaf), which was edible.

Azerbaijan Airlines J2 76 Istanbul to Baku (IST-GYD) Boeing 787-800 Economy Class

Overall

I don’t know what it’s like to fly their narrow-body aircraft, but I’d say that their Dreamliner is a solid option for short-haul economy.

I Finally Met the Caspian in the Caucasus: A Week in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, 10 – 17 September 2018

Baku

Seeing the Caspian has been an obsession of mine since I read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. I visited Iran after the book, but not the Caspian Sea, due to time constraints. I did get Azerbaijan’s view of the Caspian on this trip. It wasn’t too glorious; I probably went to the wrong place. I will try again from another spot.

Having said that, do visit the Caucasus. I experienced amazing hospitality in my week-long visit. Here goes:

Total Cost

Flight

8,000 UR + $31.50: Air Azerbaijan from Istanbul to Baku, booked through Chase portal ($131.50)

Hotels

23,000 UR points (as statement credit): 2 nights, Hyatt Regency Baku ($230). It’s a Cat 3 Hyatt, so transferring to Hyatt made no sense. I also needed the night credits for requalification, so I didn’t book through the portal

20,000 IHG points: 1 night, Holiday Inn Tbilisi

8,000 UR points (transferred to Hyatt): 1 night, Hyatt Place Yerevan (I wanted to stay here all three nights, but they weren’t available for the other two nights)

60,000 Hilton Honors Points: 2 nights, DoubleTree Yerevan

Others

Local Transportation (train, mashrutka, metro): $42

Food: $46 (food is actually cheap there, I just went to some nicer restaurants)

Azerbaijan Visa on Arrival: $20

Total: ~$140 + 39,000 UR + 20,000 IHG + 60,000 HH

Itinerary

10 September 2018: Istanbul to Baku on Air Azerbaijan, Hyatt Regency Baku

11 September 2018: Baku, Hyatt Regency Baku

12 September 2018: Baku to Tbilisi, Overnight Train

13 September 2018: Tbilisi, Holiday Inn Tbilisi

14 September 2018: Tbilisi to Yerevan by Mashrutka, Hyatt Place Yerevan

15 September 2018: Yerevan, DoubleTree Yerevan

16 September 2018: Yerevan, DoubleTree Yerevan

17 September 2018: Yerevan to Kiev to Almaty on Ukraine International Airlines

Baku