Hotel Review: DoubleTree Yerevan

DoubleTree Yerevan

Elite Status: Hilton Gold

The DoubleTree Yerevan is an 4-star Hilton property in downtown Yerevan, within walking distance from Republic Square. I spent two nights here using Hilton points rate, using 60,000 points for two nights.

DoubleTree Yerevan

Check In/Check Out

I showed up at noon, and was given a room immediately. Check out was fast, too.

Room

As a Hilton Gold, I was given a high floor room. The room is of a decent size, with the King bed occupying majority of the room. There’s a long table by the wall, and a mini-fridge. Interestingly, the contents (3 bottles of soda) of the mini-fridge was complimentary according to the front desk. The wardrobe has a safe and ironing board.

DoubleTree Yerevan

DoubleTree Yerevan

There are power outlets by the bedside, and the wifi worked fine during my stay.

DoubleTree Yerevan

Bathroom

The bathroom is fairly standard-sized, with a rain shower, toilet/bidet, and single sink vanity. It also has something that you don’t see often – towel warmer! While the weather wasn’t cold during my stay, it’s always nice to have a warm towel.

They stock CrabTree & Evelyn products.

DoubleTree Yerevan

DoubleTree Yerevan
Food

I chose breakfast in lieu of points as my Hilton Gold amenity. Breakfast has a large selection, but it didn’t vary much over the two days I was there. You can get a substantial breakfast.

DoubleTree Yerevan

DoubleTree Yerevan

Amenities

There’s a 24hr gym at one of the top floors, but I didn’t check it out when I was there.

Overall

Although it is located in downtown Yerevan, DoubleTree Yerevan is located ~10 min walk from Republic Square, i.e. some ways from tourist attractions vis-à-vis other major chains like Marriott. However, it’s a perfectly functional hotel. I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay at it, but also have nothing bad to write about it.

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Lounge Review: Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Airport Lounge

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Location: Entrance within Duty Free

Hours: 24 hrs

Access Method: Priority Pass

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Yerevan International Airport’s Converse Bank Airport Lounge is a long lounge vaguely separated into four areas, and almost spans the length of the airport’s departure waiting area. There’s a TV area with some sofas, a dining area with dining tables and chairs, a sofa area, and an area with lounge chairs.

The floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the departure gates, so you can see when your flight starts boarding. There’s also a smoking room.

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Food/Drinks

The food is sandwich and snack in nature. They feature local wines. I didn’t try the food, but did get some soda.

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Bathroom/Shower

The bathroom was clean.

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Service

Brisk – dirty dishes were cleared quickly.

Wifi / Power Outlets

Wifi worked well when I was there. There were power outlets by the window.

Overall

The food selection is somewhat underwhelming, but the spacious lounge is a comfortable spot to get some drinks and get some work done while waiting for a flight.

Yerevan International Airport Converse Bank Business Lounge

Hotel Review: Hyatt Place Yerevan

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Elite Status: Hyatt Globalist

Hyatt Place Yerevan is a 4-star Category-2 Hyatt limited service property centrally located in Yerevan’s Republic Square. The 8-story building is a standard Hyatt Place, with a very solid breakfast.

I spent one night here using points, paying 8,000 Hyatt points.

Check In/Check Out

Check in was a little bit delayed, because they were having some trouble coding the card, but beyond that, standard brisk check in and check out.

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Room

As a Globalist, I got a standard King room, but on a high floor. It didn’t have views, since it looked into the building opposite the Hyatt Place.

The room is of a good size, with a large sectional couch by one wall, and a large King bed. There’s a long work desk by the wall, wardrobe with safe/ironing board, and a mini-fridge as well.

While welcoming elite members is not the standard procedure, Hyatt Place Yerevan actually delivered a small platter of cheese, honey and bread sticks, along with a bottle of wine. The gift was appreciated.

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Bathroom

Hyatt Place Yerevan

The bathroom is a bit small, but they packed in a lot – single sink vanity, and a tub with shower.

They stock Barney Kenet MD products, which is okay.

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Food

The breakfast is a surprisingly good spread. They have an egg chef who made cooked-to-order eggs. The breakfast area was also well-stocked with breakfast pastries, fruit, and there were several hot selections as well.

Hyatt Place Yerevan

Service

Friendly and professional.

Amenities

There’s a 24hr gym on site on the second level, but I didn’t check it out.

Overall

Hyatt Place Yerevan’s location works both ways. Its Republic Square location makes it excellent, but when I stayed, there was some construction. The windows are also not completely soundproof against the festivities that might occur in Republic Square. The property is very much a standard Hyatt Place, but it has good breakfast, and goes beyond for elite recognition.

Marshrutka from Tbilisi to Yerevan

Please note that information is only accurate at time of posting, so please note date of posting, and check for updates accordingly.

Mashrutka from Tbilisi to Yerevan

Time taken: 4 hrs (11.00 – 15.00)

Vehicle: Mercedes Vito

Price: 35 GEL (13.50 USD at time of posting)

Getting from Tbilisi to Yerevan by Marshrutka

Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but my first marshrutka (shared minivan) ride went very well! Tripadvisor actually has several reports of crappy vehicles, crappy drivers, waiting forever for the van to fill, but none of that happened to me.

First off, there are several bus stations for marshrutkas going from Tbilisi to Yerevan. From my understanding, there are three, one from the Tbilisi Railway Station, one from Ortachala (the most popular, apparently), and one from Avlabari metro station. I chose the last option, because it’s convenient by metro, and more recent reports suggest that you get better vehicles, and there’s supposedly a timetable of sorts.

Based on a supposed timetable by someone on Tripadvisor, I aimed to go for the 11 am departure. I arrived at Avlabari station at 10.50 am. Following the excellent directions from another traveler on Tripadvisor, I located the marshrutkas easily.

Where are the Marshrutkas in Avlabari?

When you come to the top of the escalators, take the left door. Once you exit the door, look to the right. There is a parking lot with several mashrutkas. On the day I was there, they were all heading to Yerevan.

Despite comments suggesting that English isn’t used, the marshrutkas had the English word “Yerevan” written on the signs displayed on their dashboard. Once I got there, I approached a gentleman holding a notebook. I said “Yerevan”, he asked if I had reservations (so, you can make reservations!). I said no, after which he directed me to one of the marshrutkas. I was the second last person on that marshrutka. He filled the last spot in less than 2 mins, and we were off before 11 am.

The marshrutka I got on was a new Mercedes Vito seating 7. It also seems to have a functioning wifi, as advertised – I say “seem” because I didn’t try it myself, but the guy in front seemed to have used it with no problems. I was in the front row, middle seat. Even though I was in the middle seat, it was actually very roomy. I didn’t feel cramped or uncomfortable throughout the trip. I did have to buckle up, because the driver occasionally jammed his brakes, and the seatbelt prevented me from flying forward.

Mashrutka from Tbilisi to Yerevan

Georgia – Armenia Border Crossing

This was easy peasy. The Georgian side didn’t take took long to check me out of their country. We then hopped back on the marshrutka, and he drove a short distance over to the Armenian side. The Armenian side took slightly longer. Be prepared with address/proof of your accommodation in Armenia. It’s not a super strict requirement. The immigration officer just read the address off a third party app on my phone. He also scanned in my Azerbaijiani visas without comments.

For the border crossing, either remember the people in your marshrutka, your driver, or take a picture of your marshrutka. There are several similar-looking vehicles heading in the same direction. I’d say the whole border crossing took under 30 mins.

Changing money at the Georgia – Armenia Border

I changed the last of my GEL into Armenian drams at the exchange after the Georgian border. Rates were ~10% worse than market rates, but whatever.

We stopped for a short rest on the Armenian side of the border. And about 1 hr after the first stop, we stopped for another break, and also for the driver to fuel up. He dropped several people off en route on request.

We finally pulled into Kilikia Bus Station in Yerevan at around 3pm.

Quite frankly, I was expecting the worst after reading all those reports about marshrutka travel. It did not reflect my experience. I had pleasant ride in a new vehicle and a decent driver. I didn’t stumble out of the marshrutka thinking to myself “never again”, so yay!

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

Yerevan Airport Express Bus

Yerevan Airport Express Bus

Yerevan Airport Bus from Zvartnots International Airport to Town

Price: 300 Drams

Distance: 15 km/10 miles

Time taken: ~30 min

Frequency: every 30 min?

Bus Number: 201

Where to find the bus?

From Yerevan Zvartnorts International Airport

The Airport Express Bus is located at Arrivals level. It is on the island beyond where the taxis are lined up. You should see the signage fairly easily. It costs 300 drams, and there’s wifi and credit card advertised. I wouldn’t count on it. I paid cash.

Yerevan Airport Express Bus

Yerevan Airport Express Bus

From Yerevan to Zvartnots International Airport

I boarded at Yeritasardakan. The bus can be “found” opposite the SAS supermarket. It makes several stops along Abovyan, Amiryan etc, Kilikia central bus station. (more on this later)

An article online suggests that the frequency is half hourly. I’d say, it shows up when it shows up, and it really depends on the driver. When I went on a mission to locate the bus the day before, one driver was waiting at Yeritasardankan, and departed on the dot at 13.00.

When I actually went to take the airport express bus from Yeritasardakan, the driver was 5 min late. And although Yeritasardakan is actually the first stop, he didn’t actually make a hard stop. Thankfully someone else was also looking for this bus, so he stopped when she flagged him down. In the other “stops” that he was supposed to make, he just made a quick visual scan, and kept driving.

If you are planning on taking the bus from other stops, be sure to be standing by the side of the road, scanning for the bus.

I’ve posted some maps of where to find the bus.

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At Yeritasardakan, wait across the street from SAS supermart, right by the underpass.

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On Abovyan, wait around the benches opposite the Singing Fountains.

IMG_7603.PNG