Wedged between steep tea growing hills and the blue waters of the Black Sea, the Sarpi border crossing is the busiest crossing between Turkey and Georgia. In recent years it’s become more accessible and safe for travellers.
Open 24 Hours
Bus connection to Batumi on Georgian side
No dolmus / bus in Turkey. Book a bus from Batumi to Trabzon
ATM / Currency Exchange /Food on both sides
Helpful Georgian Tourist Office
Top tip – Toilets are free on the Georgian side!
Georgia – 360 day (wow!) unlimited visas are free for the countries listed. $20 fee for all other countries – Apply here.
Turkey – 90 day visas. A mixed bag. Many countries (e.g. Germany) are exempt from visa fees but some (eg Oz) are hit with a mad $60 fee. Others are $20. Costs here – Apply here.
For travellers, while it does get busy, crossing here is quite straight forward. Be wary of coming from the Turkish side, as our bus from Trabzon turned around at the border and didn’t come through the Georgian side, leaving us stranded without any idea of what to do!
The queues are quite long but surprisingly quick. Bus passengers must disembark and walk through (with luggage) while the driver comes through with the bus. Be prepared and make sure you have a copy of your Turkish E-Visa with you, along with your passport, as the Turkish officers will ask for this. It’s hard to judge the stone faced Turkish guards but the process is quite swift.
Under ominous dark clouds and dodgy trucks, we marched across No Mans Land towards the funky looking Georgian border crossing. At the time, our Lonely Planet said there was a visa fee for Georgia, so we were winging it and hoping they would accept Turkish Lira or Mastercard. Turns out the visa was now free, hurrah!! The border guards were quite welcoming, and seemed excited at seem Australian and Irish passports. A hassle free entry into this new country. And then the rain came…. but where was our bus?!
We had left Trabzon, after confirming that the bus would go to Batumi. The driver said after crossing he would be waiting at the Georgian side for us. After half an hour of standing in the rain, we saw our bus doing a swift U-turn in No Mans Land and returning to Trabzon. WTF.
We were stranded, late at night in a thundering mid-summer downpour. And of course in a new country, with a baffling language and no one who spoke English. We spoke to an Armenian family, on their own adventure from Izmir to Baku (via Georgia as the Turkish-Armenian border is closed), and they helped us figure out which bus to get into Batumi. And so we were off again!
Continuing Your Journey
Local bus #16 goes directly to Batumi, the closest city to the border. It’s a modern green city bus, and departs every 30 minutes from opposite the currency offices. You’ll need change, so find an ATM or exchange office. The driver hasn’t a word of English so just do the usual traveller thing and give him whatever you have. He’ll grunt and eventually give you change (In our case we gave too little and he wouldn’t let us off – finally understood we underpaid him!).
The bus stops in the centre of Batumi, at Tbilisi Square (full of marshrutkas and taxis – along Chavchavadze Street) and from here it is a short walk to the sights and sounds of Batumi. There are marshurkas to the train station (2GEL), from here trains depart to Tbilisi and other towns in between. You can also get marshrutkas up the coast and inland to Tbilisi and Borjormi.
Train Connections from Batumi
Tbilisi (თბილისი) – From 19GEL; Departs 01.43, 08.03, 15.33, 18.18 daily. 5 – 6 hours
→ See our guide to the fantastic night train
Yerevan (ერევანში), Armenia – 15.33 (Via Tbilisi / No price available)
Bus / Marshrutka
Tbilisi – 20 – 25 GEL (6 Hrs)
Kutasi (ქუთაისი) – 10 – 15 GEL (2- 3 Hrs)
Kobuleti (ქობულეთი) / Poti (ფოთი) – 5- 10 GEL (1½ Hr)
Svaneti (სვანეთი) – 20 GEL (5 – 7 Hrs)
We highly, highly recommend that you book a bus from Batumi into Turkey as it is not guaranteed that there will be a dolmus waiting at the Turkish side. We didn’t see any when crossing or coming back. There may be one to the nearest town – Hopa – but don’t count on it!
We booked our journey at one of the many bus agencies that line Chavchavadze Street in Batumi. We ensured that the bus was definitely going to Trabzon, as we got screwed over coming to Batumi. There’s not much in between Sarpi and Trabzon, apart from tea trees and Rize, the childhood home of Turkish Prime Minister / Autocrat Erdogan (you’ll see hundreds of posters and flags of him).
Once in Trabzon, you’ll be dropped off at the main bus station. There is a free dolmus into the centre, just ask the driver or an attendant. From Trabzon you can catch buses to literally anywhere in Turkey, with dozens of operators offering services.
Bus Connections from Trabzon (Example prices from the excellent BilletAll)
Kars (For Ani) – 60TL (8 hours)
Ankara – 60TL (12 – 15 hrs)
Van – 65TL (10 hrs)
Istanbul – 90TL (20 hrs)
Antayla – 85TL (22 hrs)
Sochi, Russia – Currently suspended.
This is part two of our guide to Border Crossings – next up we’ll feature the border between Bulgaria and Turkey. Any feedback greatly appreciated.