It was a challenge to get home from Armenia. Due to time constraints, I couldn't get to my flight from another country, so I had to take a flight from another country. This was the experience I had when I took a cab.
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One of the drawbacks of flying difficult itineraries is the lack of seats, the rates airlines are getting even for the worst routes, which reduces award seat availability at reasonable prices.
Good coverage from Star Alliance carriers can be found in Yerevan. Here are the main hubs in the country.
I was able to find space from Tbilisi, Georgia, a five-hour drive, 10-hour train, or 45 minute flight, even though there were no award seats out of Yerevan.
I was able to get one flight home with a bad route, but it was longer than I wanted to stay and it was difficult to take after what had already been a tiring journey.
I used to check back daily out of both Yerevan and Tbilisi for better routes and an earlier departure. I took just two flights to get me home on Monday instead of Thursday.
The only thing left was to get to Georgia. It should be a piece of cake
The flights out of the two capitals arrive very early in the morning and leave very early in the morning. There is only one time when a problem can be caused.
I would have liked to have taken a train overnight, but I would have had to wait two hours after my flight departure to get to Tbilisi.
There is a daily flight between the two cities that costs $110-130 one-way and takes 45 minutes to get to Tbilisi. It would have worked for me, but on Sundays the flight is scheduled for a 10:15 AM departure, making it impossible to execute.
Vans on short notice need 24 hours notice but were all booked up for two days. If I was to save myself three days, I had only one option.
Yandex is a ride-sharing service that uses taxis. Those interested in learning more about the service should read this post. The destination I chose was across the border.
Even if the train would have been cheaper and the flight less expensive, the price for a private car would still be about the same.
The first Yandex driver had me waiting about 10 minutes before he told me that the rate was not enough for the journey.
The ride was canceled
The driver who accepted the ride showed up at the curb to say that he didn't have a passport. The ride cost me $2 and he pretended to be ignorant in canceling it.
The ride was canceled.
The driver who accepted said the ride amount was not enough and tried to get $200. This is where I end up in trouble. In countries where costs are low, I sometimes reset my valuations in such a way that I forget the goal. Getting ripped off is something I don't like.
The driver suggested a price of $200 which was against the rules of the app. I changed my mind and offered $150. There was no chance of success. The driver offered to take me to the Georgian border where another car would take me the rest of the way after he pushed for more.
He declined to pay $170 for the entire journey.
The ride was canceled.
I pushed the button to offer the ride on the app again, even though I didn't make the flight.
The driver took another turn at negotiation. He wanted to drop me short of the border and I would be open season if I walked across alone with my bags.
I decided to take the overnight train and delay my departure by two days because I thought this might work, but there were danger signs all over it.
The message was the same as before, "I can't do it for that rate" I immediately offered him the same amount of cash as the app payment, and he accepted without further delay.
We didn't speak a common language, but the drive was filled with hand movements and agreed laughs. I had a general understanding of what I needed to do at the land border which made it easy for both of us.
The five-hour drive was enjoyable and made travel worthwhile. We passed cars with produce strapped to the roof and families returning from weddings in the city as we traveled through the rolling hills of the north of the country.
Rural America was always close to where I grew up. The first grade teacher at my school used to go to the farm across the street with her family to see horses. It was comforting to see hay bales, golden wheat fields, and patches of corn six weeks from harvest. The shepherd moved his sheep down the valley.
Rolling hills gave way to rocky mountain passes and a river between the peaks that felt like Colorado. There are stray dogs, roadside fruit stands, and occasional bakers in Colorado.
We headed towards the border. I had to walk through security with my luggage. I was not one of the people questioned and scanned. I was on the other side waiting for my driver. Even though he was kind and generous, there was some apprehension that the driver would abandon me here.
The driver pulled up, loaded my bags, and drove the short distance to the Georgian border where I was more confident that he'd join me now than before. A taxi driver made his way through the crowd and said "Tbilisi" which would have been more expensive than it should have been, but still would have been a solution.
My driver helped load my bags after pulling up next to me.
Some things are universal, such as bonding over drivers cutting passes too close, and the two of us becoming friends on this random journey north.
My driver pulled cash out of his own pocket to bring me water and a delicious dish.
I was amazed by the city when we arrived. The city had all the charm of a European capital during patio summer evenings from the rear passenger side window. I fear I wouldn't be brave enough to visit the buildings carved into the cliffs of the river banks.
The caucus state of Georgia has people walking on cobblestone streets talking and taking selfies. It was beautiful, normal, and everything I expected, but it felt like a different place than the one I had just left. This felt much closer to other European cities.
As I was dropped off at my hotel, I thanked my driver and tipped him to the point that I could have saved myself 45 minutes of sitting on the curb haggling via translation on the Yandex app as I had paid him almost the same in total. It didn't feel the same. It felt like gratefulness in both the person giving and the one receiving.
I had one regret on my cross-border journey that ended in the evening. I wish I had put Tbilisi on my list earlier so my family could enjoy it with me. It was live and learn to fix your mistakes. Next time, I will bring everyone with me and settle in for a while.