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.
Open 24 Hours
Bus connection to Batumi on Georgia 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 here. $20 fee for all other countries.
Turkey – 90 day visas. A mixed bag. Many countries (e.g. Germany) are exempt from visa fees but some (eg Oz) are hit with an expensive $60 fee. Others are $20. Costs here – Apply here.
While it does get busy, crossing here is pretty easy and you should have no problems. However be careful when coming from the Turkey to Georgia, as our bus from Trabzon turned around at the border and didn’t come through the Georgian side. This left us stranded at the border late at night without any idea of what to do! So triple check at Trabzon bus station that the bus is definitely going all the way to Batumi.
The queues on either side 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 or Georgia E-Visa (if required) with you, as the passport officers will ask for this. It’s hard to judge the stone faced Turkish guards when they’re going through everything but the process is quite swift.
OUR CHAOTIC EXPERIENCE FROM TURKEY TO GEORGIA
Under ominous dark clouds and dodgy trucks, we marched across No Mans Land from Turkey 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. After some confused conversations, it turns out the visa was now free, hurrah!! The Georgian border guards were quite welcoming, and seemed thrilled when they saw our Australian and Irish passports. So far a hassle free entry into this new country. Then the sky erupted and the rain poured down…. “hey, have you seen our bus?!”
We had left Trabzon otogar on a Batimi bound bus. We had get out and cross the border by foot but the driver said he would be waiting for us at the Georgian side. After half an hour of standing in the rain and waiting for the bus, 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. Thankfully we spoke to an Armenian family, on their own incredible adventure from Izmir to Baku (via Georgia as the Turkish-Armenian border is closed). They helped us figure out which local bus to get into Batumi. And so we were off again!
Continuing Your Journey into Georgia or Turkey
From the border at Sarpi, 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 which 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; Frequent departures 5 – 6 hours
→ See our guide to the fantastic night train
Yerevan (ერევანში), Armenia – One departure daily (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 of the border. 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. Apart from tea trees and the town of Rize (the childhood home of Turkish Prime Minister / Autocrat Erdogan) there’s not much to see until you reach the port city of Trabzon
Once in Trabzon, you’ll be dropped off at the main bus station. There is a free shuttle dolmus into the centre, just ask the driver or an attendant. From Trabzon Otogar 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.