Crossing the Georgian border
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
I am well accustomed to being pulled out of line and investigated at airports on what is routinely termed a ‘Random Person Search’.
When this happened 7 out of 7 times at different European airports in just one month, I realised that I must fit the visual profile of some type of extremist.
Thus, you can imagine my anxiety at the Turkish border when the inspector questions me thoroughly about my Georgian itinerary but is unimpressed with my incoherent answers. My passport is taken and I’m ordered to wait in the naughty foreigner pen.
My unease lessened when The (white) Boyfriend was also instructed to join me, followed closely by the two Aussies we’d join forces with earlier to save taxi money. Perhaps this was just a foreign-thing…
All those in the passport queue quite happily passed the time staring at us, no doubt trying to work out what misdemeanours we may have committed.
We also would have liked to know but were never to find out. Our documents were later returned, with no explanation, and I was relieved to finally leave the holding pen and be allowed onto Georgian soil.
Route from Kars (Turkey) to Batumi (Georgia)
Journey completed: Friday 15 November, 2019
Total time: 8.5 hours
Total cost: Bus 80TL (£11), 1st taxi 60TL (£8), 2nd taxi 20GEL (£5) = ~£14 per person
One key thing I’ve learned since travelling in this part of the world is that the internet is NOT king when it comes to transport arrangements.
This is because there are so many small-scale travel options which are not online and often only run when they are full. Or it’s a Friday. Or the driver feels like it.
Another thing to be mindful of is that bus and train tickets are often gendered, so be careful where you sit.
Kars – Hopa
We took the 9.30am local minibus from Kars Köy Otobüsleri Terminalı:
You can buy your tickets to Hopa at the office in cash, 80TL (£11). Journey time is around 6 hours and you get dropped off at an intersection under a flyover outside Hopa.
Hopa – Sarpi border (Turkish side)
There are rumours of minibuses you can take from here to the border but it is not apparent where they go from or how often. There will be a taxi office on your left and another one across the bridge to the right.
We were a group of 4 so we took a taxi for 60TL (£8). Make sure to negotiate and ignore them when they count your luggage as a person. Journey time is about 20 mins.
Crossing the border
Walk through the ‘Departing Passengers’ entrance to border control – this takes about 10 minutes. To save time, try not to get put in the naughty foreigner pen (see above) as you pass into Georgia.
Sarpi border – Batumi (Georgia side)
Ignore the chancers who first approach with their exorbitant offer of 40GEL for a taxi to Batumi. You should aim for half of this – we paid 20GEL (£5) for the four of us.
Do not distract your taxi driver as he navigates the roads to Batumi – the drivers here are worse than those in the Balkans, and that is quite an achievement.
A roundabout outside Batumi.