Crossing the border between Georgia and Russia

From Sebastiaan: A guide to crossing the land border between Georgia and Russia via the Georgian Military Highway.

 

Hanging out in Georgia (Kazbegi) or southern Russia (Vladikavkaz) and interested in crossing the Georgia – Russia border by land? I got you!

Here’s a guide to crossing the border between Georgia and Russia on foot. This border crossing guide includes transportation information, visa advice, tips for the actual border crossing process, and everything else you need to know to make your border crossing as smooth as possible.

Before crossing the Georgia-Russia border

Getting a Russian visa

Most people need a visa for Russia. You can get one in your country of residence. However, if you need to get a Russian visa while traveling you can apply for a Russian visa in Tbilisi. Here’s a guide to applying for a Russian tourist visa in Tbilisi, Georgia.

There are no ATMs on either side of the border. Money changing facilities are available at the border crossing, but they’re not always open. Better you bring some Russian rubles or Georgian lari, depending on which direction you’re going. Once you’ve crossed the border, both Vladikavkaz, Russia and Kazbegi, Georgia have ATMs.

Getting to the Georgia – Russia border

How to get to the Georgia – Russia border from Georgia

Taxi or car from Kazbegi

Kazbegi is the closest town to the Georgia – Russia border.

It’s a 20-minute drive from Kazbegi to the border. A taxi to the border costs around 15 GEL, but you might have to haggle hard for this price. Note that Georgian taxis are not allowed to cross the border. It’s impossible to take a taxi from Kazbegi to Vladikavkaz unless the driver is Russian (or Armenian).

Hitchhiking is another option. Many Russians and Armenian cars drive across the border daily.

Marshrutka from Tbilisi

It’s also possible to jump on a marshrutka going to Vladikavkaz from Tbilisi if they have enough space. The ride from Tbilisi to the border takes about 3 hours. Direct marshrutkas run from Didube bus station for 30 GEL. They go hourly… if there’s demand. If not, at least one goes at 5:00 in the morning. To make sure you secure a seat, head to Didube the day before to reserve one.

How to get to the Russia – Georgia border from Russia

Buses and marshrutka run from Vladikavkaz to Kazbegi and Tbilisi throughout the day, leaving from the main Vladikavkaz bus station. This is a popular route; show up early or reserve your seat in advance. Tickets are 700 – 900 rubles per person.

You can also take a taxi to the border, Kazbegi, or all the way to Tbilisi. This will cost anywhere from 1000 to 1500 rubles. The drive to the border takes about half an hour.

Hitchhiking to the border should be possible, though finding a good starting point might be tricky. It’s best to take a taxi or local bus to the highway and start from there.

Crossing the Georgia – Russia border

Important: You can’t walk across this border. If coming from Georgia you can walk into the customs area, but after that, you have to hitch a ride to the Russian side. If coming from Russia you have to take a car starting from the Border Logistics Terminal.

Crossing the Georgia – Russia border from Georgia

Georgian side

As noted above, you can’t cross by foot (it’s too long anyway: the buffer zone is a few kilometers long). However, you can walk into the customs area and get your passport stamped. You have to find a ride to the Russian side—and further to Vladikavkaz—after this, but based on my experience it’s easy to do so.

The Georgian side of the border crossing is a breeze; it took me two minutes. Officials check your passport and make sure you have a Russian visa. The end.

Interrogations on the Russian side

Fill out an immigration card in duplicate, then give the cards and your passport to the immigration officer. They might ask questions, but the lady who handled my passport didn’t speak English. After perusing my passport, she told me to sit down and called a colleague.

After 15 minutes, a FSB officer brought me to a back room in a different building. My Pakistan and Afghanistan visas had sparked suspicion!

I was questioned for an hour, mostly through Google Translate. He was never unfriendly and I was in an open room, so I never felt like I was being treated criminally. However, I was asked questions like: “Were you in contact with state security services in Pakistan?” and “Were you in contact with terrorists in Afghanistan?” (Would I really answer yes if so?) They also asked for a lot of personal information: phone number, home address, my parents’ details, where are you going in Russia, etc. They even took my phone’s IMEI number.

I don’t know if this is standard procedure, but be prepared to face questioning when crossing the Russian border. Be polite, answer as truthfully as you can. In most cases, I assume questioning won’t be as intense as mine unless you’ve been to “suspicious” countries as well.

In my case, the process on the Russian side took two hours.

Getting to Vladikavkaz

After questioning I was led back to the immigration post, and my ride—I’d hitched a ride with a friendly Russian man—was still waiting for me. He brought me to the Logistic Terminal, from where I hitched a ride further to Vladikavkaz.

If taking on a bus, make sure to take your bags off before the official crossing. They’ll probably wait for you while you’re being questioned… but you never know.

You can get a taxi to Vladikavkaz for 700 to 1000 rubles if you get stuck at the Logistics Terminal. In my experience, hitchhiking is also easy. You can change money at the Logistics Terminal, but there is no ATM.

Crossing the Russia – Georgia border from Russia

Crossing from Russia is more straightforward; it’s unlikely you’ll be questioned for long when leaving. Just remember you can’t cross the border by foot, and you must be in a vehicle from the Logistics Terminal onwards.

You can buy car insurance for Russia and Georgia at the Border Logistics Terminal if  traveling with your own vehicle.

Where to stay in Kazbegi, Georgia

If you’re going straight to Tbilisi, Georgia, here’s a guide with things to do in Tbilisi.

Most people, however, take time in Kazbegi to go hiking and visit the Trusso Valley.

Kazbegi is a popular tourist destination, so in high season it’s useful to book ahead. Below are some of my recommendations for where to stay in Kazbegi:

Check out more accommodation options in Kazbegi on Booking.com

Where to stay in Vladikavkaz, Russia

Vladikavkaz is the nearest city to the Russia – Georgia border in Russia. The city is pleasant enough to stay for a day or two, but doesn’t offer any definitive highlights. Note that prices are higher than in Georgia. Here are a few solid accommodation options in Vladikavkaz:

  • Budget: Hostel One. Don’t expect many foreign backpackers—or much English—here, but it’s the best budget option in Vladikavkaz. Book Hostel One here.
  • Mid-range: Hotel Standard. Good 3-star hotel in Vladikavkaz with all the amenities you need. Check out Hotel Standard here.
  • Luxury: Penthouse Alania. If you want to stay in style, where better than a penthouse? It’s a bit outside the center, but free bicycles make up for it. Book Penthouse Alania here.

Check out more sleeping option in Vladikavkaz here!

There you have it: a complete guide on crossing the border between Georgia and Russia. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

 

Woop, transparency! Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you book or buy something through one of the links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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