I keep hearing a lot of mixed information about travel to the Republic of Abkhazia, the northwestern tip of Georgia, which proclaimed itself independent after a bloody conflict in the early 90s. So I’ll be sharing here my experience getting to Sukhumi, with details on how to travel to Abkhazia from Georgia.

How to Travel to Abkhazia from Georgia - Sea View in Sukhumi

WHY TRAVEL TO ABKHAZIA?

The area so called Republic of Abkhazia is one of the most beautiful regions in Georgia. You’ll find mountains, lakes, monumental churches and many secluded beaches. People are friendly and, apart from a few Russian tourists, there are not many visitors, so the area is nearly unspoilt.

IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO ABKHAZIA?

Yes, at the moment it’s definitely safe to travel to Abkhazia. Despite all the warnings you will see on the internet, the place is and feels safe.

The Georgia-Abkhazia war took place in the early 90s and it’s considered a frozen conflict. Many websites say it could reignite at any time, but at the moment there’s no evidence to support that theory and life goes on as normal on both sides of the border.

Petty theft is bound to occur, so just don’t leave your belongings unattended anywhere, as you normally wouldn’t.

HOW TO TRAVEL TO ABKHAZIA, THEN?

There are two entry points to Abkhazia. One is from Georgia and the other is from Russia. However, it’s not possible to travel from Georgia to Russia via Abkhazia (or vice-versa). You must leave from the same border crossing you used to enter the region.

APPLYING FOR THE ABKHAZIA ENTRY PERMIT

Before you set off on your journey, you must apply for an entry permit to Abkhazia and this is what you need to do:

– Apply at least 7 working days before your intended travel date.
– Send a copy of your passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
– Fill in the application form with all information required (even the points not translated into English).
– Email it to visa@mfaapsny.org

We exchanged a few emails in the meantime, and they were very friendly and professional. Officially, it’ll take 7 working days to process your visa, but only 3 days after I sent my documents I received my authorisation letter. You must print the letter, which is fully in Russian, and take it with you.

How to Travel to Abkhazia from Georgia

Zugdidi Train Station

ENTERING ABKHAZIA FROM GEORGIA

I took an overnight train from Tbilisi to Zugdidi, near the border, and arrived around 7am. Just outside Zugdidi station, I took a minibus to the border.

CLEARING IMMIGRATION WITH THE GEORGIAN AUTHORITIES

First, I had to show the Georgian authorities where I was going. I gave them my passport and showed the letter from the Abkhazian authorities. If they ask you any questions, don’t refer to Abkhazia as a separate country. It took only two minutes for them to put me on their computers and off I went. Your passport will not be stamped, since the Georgian government doesn’t consider you’re leaving the country.

How to Travel to Abkhazia from Georgia

You will then cross the bridge over Inguri River, which serves as a natural border. Although there’s no real conflict, this is a sensitive area and there are many EUMM (European Union Monitoring Mission) people on the Georgian side, so it’s not advised to take pictures here.

It’s a long bridge, so it’ll take you 10 minutes to cross it. If you prefer, there were some horse carriages to help you cross, but I didn’t find it necessary, and the journey is bumpy.

CLEARING IMMIGRATION IN ABKHAZIA

When I arrived, the border crossing was still closed and there was a large queue with locals. I was the only foreigner.

Clearing Abkhaz immigration was fairly simple. I handed over my passport and the letter and waited. The officer asked what I was going to do in Abkhazia, how long I was staying for, and made some phone calls. Another officer came, asked me the same questions and I was free to go.

TRAVELLING FROM THE BORDER TO SUKHUMI

Right by border, I walked passed some Abkhaz and Russian officers and saw many taxis and marshrutkas (minibuses). I took a minibus to the town of Gali (50 rubles), and there I took another one to Sukhumi (200 rubles). The whole travel time is about 1.5 hours.

COLLECTING YOUR VISA IN SUKHUMI

Even though you entered Abkhazia, you still need to collect your visa. I went to 33 Sakharova street, in Sukhumi, and paid for my visa there and then.  It seems the process has changed and you have to pay for your visa at a bank.

How to Travel to Abkhazia from Georgia - Visa for Abkhazia

THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND

– Make sure you have enough Russian rubles before crossing the border from Georgia. There is no money change on the other side of the border.

– Don’t take pictures of sensitive areas, such as government buildings.

– When leaving Abkhazia, the officer asked me a few questions in a polite and friendly manner, and then asked to see my photos. In fact, I was being interrogated. He asked to open my small rucksack and he confiscated my Lonely Planet guide, because it states Abkhazia is part of Georgia. In short: don’t bring your travel guide to Abkhazia.

– If you want to travel to Abkhazia from Russia, the procedure is the same, but I haven’t done this myself. You will need a double or multiple entry visa for Russia.

– If you do decide to enter Abkhazia from Russia, remember that, for the Georgian authorities, you’re entering Georgian territory illegally.

It may all sound a bit complicated, but from my experience it was all very straight forward. Even the officers’ questions at the border were asked in such a way that you never feel threatened. As long as you haven’t done anything wrong – and they know you wouldn’t – you will find the trip worthwhile.

Have you been or considered going to Abkhazia? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!
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7 Responses

  1. TOP 14 REASONS TO TRAVEL TO GEORGIA NOW! | GEORGIA TRAVELS

    […] finished in 2008, and the Abkhazia conflict is frozen, you can even travel there with no problem, as I explain here. To avoid any shadow of doubt, Georgia is one of the safest countries you’ll ever […]

    Reply
  2. Frank

    Hi Pedro,
    I’ve done the Russia to Abkhazia border crossing several times and it is the same; the last one I did was in July/August 2016. Russian customs will not stamp your passport when you exit to Abkhazia and return to Russia. Of course, you are required to have a double-entry or multi-entry visa.

    Safe Travels and make new friends!

    Reply
  3. Andreas Moser

    Thank you very much!
    Exactly the information I was looking for, as I am going on a Caucasus trip this July. I am already excited.

    Reply
    • Pedro

      Hi Andreas, you’ll love it! The whole region is quite interesting and surprisingly diverse.

      Reply

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