After 10 years since my first visit to Batumi, I decided to take another trip there this summer for a week, to see how much has changed since the last time.
We decided to travel with the train and take the South Caucasus Railroads’ 15 hours trip passing by several towns in Armenia and then Tbilisi and finally to arrive in Batumi at 7:30 in the morning.
For this trip, my friend from France joined us and I took two of my kids with me, the other two were traveling to see family in Canada. Sometimes it gets quite expensive to arrange for family vacations so you need to find new ways. And this year we decided to split the groupJ
So I took the oldest and the youngest and was looking forward to see how it’s going to be to have a vacation with a young child and a teenager.
Our accommodation was booked through Airbnb; a nice apartment in the city, close to the sea.
The train ride:
I had booked the tickets 3 weeks before the departure from Sasuntsi David Station. It costs us approximately 50 USD one way per adult and 30 for kids in the comfort wagon (comfort meaning you had air conditioning and wifi in a 4 place small room).
So we boarded the train at 3:30pm and installed our stuff and baggage under the seats, waiting anxiously for the train to depart. My 4 year old was excited to sleep on the upper bunk bed for the first time and was asking son-stop different questions about the trip, the train, the windows, the driver and everything else. My teenager didn’t express too much excitement and was not that impressed, mostly annoyed and headphones on her ears, was drifting slowly in her own world and music.
The first 2 hours of the ride was hell. The air conditioning was not functioning, there were no windows in the wagon that could be opened, so we were sweating like crazy and almost suffocating from the heat and lack of oxygen. I complained a couple of times to the person in charge in our wagon, but no concrete actions were taken. In the contrary, he was trying to convince me that the air conditioning is working that I need to be patient to feel it. Others were complaining as well, so i started chatting with them and trying to convince them to go together as a group and complain. No one was really interested or had faith that it will work. They mostly tried to "yolla gnal"(accept the situation and live through it, an expression i heard often from locals in Armenia)
I ended up writing an online complaint after finding the email address of the railroad company on Spyur.am – and 20 minutes later the chief of staff of the train burst in our compartment asking why the air-conditioning was not working? and after hearing some arguing outside I finally heard him saying that “some travellers are complaining…” so I automatically walked out saying “yes it is me who is complaining…” after chatting with the chief and explaining to him our situation, they finally moved us to another wagon with much better breathing air and wifi and the rest of the ride went smoothly. We were able even to sleep a little before arriving to Batumi.
- You can sleep and move in the train, and if you have small kids it is easier for them than the bus or taxi ride.
- You get to read, work, write and play games and relax.
- You don’t worry as much about speed, or crash
- You walk, and talk to others.
- The bumpy rhythm of the train will rock you to sleep
- You need to bring your own food for the whole trip
- Sometimes you don’t get what you paid for (lack of air conditioning, wifi)
- Long ride – 15 hours
- Longer stop on the border approx. 2 hours and when the train stops, air conditioning stopsJ
- You don’t choose your neighbours and sometimes you get annoying ones but you can still close your room’s door and not see anyone.
- Toilet smells after 6-7 hours ride so if your room is close, hmmm…
So we arrived safely to Batumi at 7:30 sharp early morning, took a taxi from the train station and were greeted at the door of our apartment by our host Keti, with a big smile, giving us the keys and wishing us a good stay!