In order to take a day trip outside of Tbilisi, a lot of people will have to use the so-called main “bus station”. “Chaos” is a better word. Once exiting the Didube metro station, I was overwhelmed. That doesn’t happen to me very often. Imagine an outdoor market selling all kinds of goods, a taxi stand, a bus station, and a marshrutka station all intermixed into one giant glob of non-stop action, hordes of people walking in every direction, not even a glimpse of anything written in English, and seemingly no organization whatsoever. That’s the Didube bus station.
If anyone out there in cyberspace is going to Gori or Mtskheta, I’m writing this entry because I don’t want you to lose time trying to find your marshrutka for a day trip. Unless you want to – it’s actually an interesting place. For both of my day trips, I wandered around for a good 30-45 minutes before I even located my marshrutka.
My first attempt at navigating through the chaos was for my trip to Gori. I wandered around out of curiosity just to see if I could find the marshrutka on my own. It didn’t work. I ended up seeking out the nearest young people to ask for directions (something I hate doing), hoping they would speak English. That also didn’t work, but one woman was happy enough to point me in the right direction. I had to walk down a long alley filled with taxis going to Makhachkala in Dagestan (now THAT would be interesting!). I reached a muddy area where on the left side there was a bus station with buses going to Kutaisi, and on the right side a bunch of men shouting out destinations. I located the man shouting out “Gori” and he took me to the correct marshrutka. Aaaaand the sign in the windshield was written in English. But still, I wouldn’t have found it on my own. I asked the driver if I pay on the marshrutka or at the ticket window, and he pointed to the marshrutka. I had to wait about 20 minutes before it left and I paid at the end of the journey in Gori, just over an hour later.
The second time for my trip to nearby Mtskheta, I wandered out of stubbornness. I figured it out on my own thanks to the Lonely Planet pdf on my iPhone. I matched the squiggly lines for the transliteration of Mtskheta to the squiggly lines written on the front of the marshrutka – მცხეთა. Yeah, difficult, right? I double-checked by showing the driver, and he motioned to me to buy a ticket at the window and jump in. I waited about ten minutes before it left. Success! Wait, is that cheating? Whatever. It worked.
On the map below, I’ve pinpointed the marshrutkas for Gori, Kutaisi and Mtskheta. Those are the only three I really know. If you have questions, please feel free to ask me and I will try to help you.