Everybody knows Russia has annexed Abkhazia, but people are still busy keeping up appearances. Georgians keep up the illusion Abkhazia is still a part of Georgia. Abkhazians keep up the illusion that it is somehow a separate country, as do the Russians. It all makes for complicated reading, but getting in and out of Abkhazia is possible and not all that difficult. Don’t forget to read Abkhazia visa!
For an exact location of these and all other border crossings on the Silk Road, see the border crossing map.
Exit and entry: important notes
- CIS nationals can only enter Abkhazia from Russia at Psou. They cannot enter from Georgia at Inguri.
- Driving your own car into Abkhazia is only possible from Russia at Psou. You cannot take your car in from Georgia at Inguri.
Exit and enter from the same border. If you enter from Russia and exit to Georgia, you will have illegally entered Georgia according to Georgians, who see Abkhazia as part of their country. Recent info seems to indicate this route has been decriminalized, and no longer carries prison sentence, but only a fine. Estimates of the fine range from 400 to 2000 lari.
We cannot say for sure it is not going to land you in prison: it might.
Entering from Georgia and exiting to Russia is possible, but unadvised. You will not be able to visit Georgia on the same passport, but it is unclear how well their database works if you return to Georgia with a new passport – it seems currently you can still get away with that, but once again, we cannot guarantee. It is also a bit tricky as Russian border guards don’t stamp you in when entering Russia from Abkhazia, possibly leaving you with awkward questions when exiting Russia; they do stamp the immigration card so be sure to keep that one.
However, just having entry and exit stamps from Inguri in your passport is not a problem if you want to travel to Georgia.
If you want to leave Abkhazia via Russia you need a Russian double, multiple or transit visa. In case you have a single-entry Russian visa, you can apply for a transit visa in Sukhumi to the Consular Office of the Russian Embassy in Abkhazia (Zvanba Street 9) , which enables you to exit the country through Russia.
Russian transit visas are issued within 5 working days.
The Russian Embassy in Abkhazia will not issue transit visas to the citizens of these countries: Algeria, Angola, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, India, Iraq, Iran, China, North Korea, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Syria, Somalia, Chad, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia.
Abkhazia – Russia border crossings
Psou – Adler: The Russian guards do not stamp your passport at this border and sometimes questions can occur. It helps to save the Abkhaz visa, and be sure to keep the immigration card. The border control does stamp the immigration cards that are handed at your entrance into Abkhazia and taken away during your exit from Russia. During re-entry from Abkhazia you will receive a new immigration card (that is why you need a valid re-entry documentation) which will be stamped with your entry date, you will submit this at your final exit from Russia.
Info on public transport from and to the border is welcome.
Georgia – Abkhazia border crossings
Inguri: Delays and questioning by the police is definitely a possibility. No need to fear, you are not doing anything illegal. Do keep in mind the Russian border guards are known to ask you to unlock your phone.
Due to tensions with Russia, this border is not always open. We gather the latest updates at the Inguri forum thread.
Zugdidi to Sukhumi or reverse takes minimum 5 hours, so make an early start. Border opens at 8am, closes at 7 pm. Don’t forget to exchange lari into rubles before you enter Abkhazia from the Georgian side, or to have dollars on hand, there are few if any options to exchange lari once in Abkhazia.
GEO -> ABK: From Zugdidi to the border, a taxi costs 10 lari, a marshrutka is 3 lari. Marshrutkas from the border straight to Sukhumi are available and leave when full. Otherwise, marshrutkas to Gal (50 rubles) are also possible, from where you can take another transport to Sukhumi (200 rubles).
ABK -> GEO: Your visa is not stuck into your passport – when leaving Abkhazia, take it out of your passport if the Russian border guards didn’t do it for you; the Georgians are not happy to see it. A taxi from Sukhumi to the border might cost 2000 rubles. Buses at the border go to Zugdidi (1 GEL) or straight to Tbilisi (15 GEL).
Some more good info collected from blogs no longer online: It is well known that the area immediately surrounding the ‘line of occupation’ is a dangerous one with Abkhaz troops and various bandits extracting bribes from visitors to the territory with relative impunity. The LonelyPlanet forums are full of examples of cases where tourists have faced threats and violence at the border.
Gali is now the only truly multi-ethnic part of Abkhazia and is home to the majority of the 40,000 (out of 250,000) Georgians who have returned to their homes since the end of fighting. The town is also dirt poor and entirely overlooked by the ethnic Abkhaz administration; full of shattered and bombed-out buildings and riven with organised crime.
Georgians in Zugdidi claim muggings and hold-ups in Inguri are at their lowest in the morning, increasing steadily until the Abkhaz close the ‘line of occupation’ at 19:00. You are apparently most likely to find a direct service to Sukhumi if you are there when the border opens at 08:00.
Given that even a direct service from Inguri to Sukhumi takes at least 2 hours, we have also been advised that those returning to the Georgian side make an early start so as to avoid potential hold-ups such as bogus document checks in Gali that could see you stranded in the dangerous border area after 19:00.
The drive to Sukhumi is beautiful and depressing in equal measure. Updates collected in the Inguri forum topic.