You can enter Abkhazia through Georgia from the east or via Russia through the western border. There is no alternative: to the south of Abkhazia there is the Black Sea, and in the north there are the North Caucasus mountains.

Before we discuss the best route to Abkhazia, it is necessary to clarify a very important point which is ignored by many. Abkhazia is a partially recognized republic, its independence is actually recognized only by Russia, a few Russian allies (Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru) and a number of neighboring unrecognized republics (South Ossetia and the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics).

Even if you are a Russian citizen, a trip to Abkhazia can cause some troubles. So, I strongly recommend to do some hard thinking of all possible undesirable consequences the trip may cause.

But first things first. So, there are two ways to Abkhazia: a legal one (no breach of the international law) and an illegal one, through the Russian border.

Ardzinba Prospect in Gagra is a part of Sukhumi Highway
Ardzinba Prospect in Gagra is a part of Sukhumi Highway. Photo by Andrew

Legal way to Abkhazia

The international community considers Abkhazia to be an occupied part of Georgia. And, since it is a part of Georgia, you can officially enter the Abkhazian territory only through Georgia with the permission of the Georgian Border Guard (not through the Psou checkpoint on the Russian border).

Otherwise, your trip to Abkhazia doesn’t comply with the international law. It is easy to enter Abkhazia through the Russian border and the Georgian border guards can do nothing about it, they won’t even know. But later you may wish to visit Georgia and learn that your previous visit to Abkhazia through the Russian border made you an illegal migrant with all the consequent problems. So, you may be deported from Georgia and be permanently banned to enter the country or even put in jail.

Illegal way to Abkhazia

Russian citizens can get into Abkhazia on a national Russian passport with no transition mark on the border. It is a safe way, because the Georgian border guards will never know whether a Russian citizen crossed the Abkhazian border or not – there won`t be any stamp in the passport. Citizens of other countries can enter Abkhazia only on their international passports (including citizens of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan), so they will get a transition stamp on their passports at the Psou border checkpoint. Such a stamp will make any future visit to Georgia impossible. But some people never plan to go to Georgia, so they can adventure. Otherwise, you’d better choose the legal way to Abkhazia.

The road from Adler airport to the Abkhazian border (Psou border checkpoint)

Visa to Abkhazia and border crossing

There is another problem. Since April 2016 any tourist, except citizens of Russia and abovementioned countries recognizing Abkhazia as an independent republic, has to get an Abkhazian visa.

So, citizens of almost all other countries need visa to stay in the territory of the country. To tell the truth, the visa problem was invented just for pumping money out of foreign tourists. It is impossible to get visa outside Abkhazia: the unrecognized republic has an embassy in Moscow, but it issues no visas. You cannot buy visa even at the Psou border crossing point. So, all foreign citizens have to go to Sukhumi to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get that damned visa. You can visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs only on working days and you cannot avoid their bureaucracy.

In fact, you need visa to leave Abkhazia legally. Anyone can enter the country with no problem, but the border control won’t let you out without visa... until you bribe the guards. When we visited Abkhazia the usual bribe amount ranged from 1,000 to 2,000 rubles depending on your negotiation with the border guards. For those who do not speak Russian, prices are much higher as a rule.

How to enter Abkhazia through the Russian border

You can do it by car, by bus or by train.

There is no airport in Abkhazia, the nearest one is in Adler (Russia). Note that if you fly to Adler, then you will have to spend a considerable sum for a taxi to the Abkhazian border. Prices are especially high in summer. Or you can reach the border from the airport by public transport: take a bus to Adler, then change for another bus to the border (Psou border crossing point).

These are Psou buses:

  • №125P Sochi Center — Psou;
  • №57 №57 Railway station Adler — Olympic Park;
  • №100K Railway station Adler — Sochi Park;
  • №57K Railway station Adler — Olympic Park.

On the other side of the border you may take any bus to Abkhazian towns Gagra, Pitsunda, Sukhumi.

You may also enter Abkhazia by train from Russia:

  • Train №306M Moscow (Kazansky Station) — Sukhumi;
  • Train №479A St. Petersburg — Sukhumi.

And you can always rent a car for a trip to Abkhazia.