While most tourists prefer to cross from Turkey to Georgia at the Sarpi crossing close to Batumi on the Black Sea coast, I opted for the lesser known Turkgozu crossing, which connects Kars in Eastern Turkey with Akhaltsikhe in Georgia. With this Turkey-Georgia Border Crossing, you’re closer to Tbilisi in Georgia, making it convenient if you want to visit the capital.
The guide to crossing the Turkey-Georgia border details my experience taking a bus from Kars to Tbilisi.
Kars is certainly not an overly exciting place, however, it’s also not a bad base to spend the night. It has all the necessary amenities and decent hotel options. It does have an interesting cultural mix of Turkish, Kurdish and Azeri, making it distinctly different from the other towns I’d stayed in eastern Turkey.
The main reason people visit Kars is because of Ani, the former Armenian capital. You can read more about how to visit Ani in my post here.
Where to stay in Kars
Hotel Kent Ani | This is the main budget option in town. However, I met people who had just wandered the main street and found a cheaper hotel. Still, Hotel Kent Ani was one of the nicer places I’d stayed in Eastern Turkey and it was certainly a bit of luxury for me. It cost AUD$25 per night for a double room with a private bathroom and I met other travellers there too. Check availability here.
Kars to Tbilisi bus
From Kars, I wanted to cross to Georgia. I discovered that there was one bus company running services across to Tbilisi from Kars and so I went the day before to buy my ticket.
The company is called Kars VIP Turizm and their office is conveniently just across from Antik Cafe on Faikbey Caddesi in Kars. They run every few days to Tbilisi, probably more like every second day in high season but you would have to check in their office. A ticket costs 100 TL (AU$19).
The bus was meant to depart at 9am but when I arrived at their office at 8.45, they told me it had been delayed. The bus still didn’t depart until 2pm and we were very late getting to the border at 5pm and didn’t arrive into Tbilisi until 10pm.
The journey time was only 8 hours, including the border wait time at immigration.
The bus stopped relatively close to the old town in Tbilisi, which was convenient, as most accommodation options are a short distance from there.
Read next: 11 Free Things to Do in Tbilisi
Border crossing and immigration
The border crossing was relatively quick and painless for most people as it was basically deserted with hardly any activity.
However, I was held by Turkish officials and they didn’t want to let me exit. None of them spoke English, other than the word “problem”, which they kept repeating as they pointed to me. I knew that it was because I had been in Iraqi Kurdistan and then spent all of my time in Turkey in the predominantly Kurdish areas. They did eventually let me go, but unfortunately it meant that I had held the bus up for 20 minutes.
On the Georgian side, I wasn’t asked any questions and I was stamped through in a minute. There was an official money exchange counter near the Georgian immigration desk and I changed my Lira there to Lari before jumping back on the bus.
Turkey visa policy
Many European nationals, British, American and Australian passport holders require a visa to enter Turkey. Some European countries along with New Zealand, Japanese and Korean nationals do not need a visa for up to 90 days. Check the most up to date information on the Turkish visa website here.
The easiest way to obtain a visa is through the e-visa platform here. There are different rules, costs and validities for different nationalities but Australians can get a multiple entry visa, valid for six months with a maximum stay of 90 days through the e-visa platform. It costs USD$60 and must be paid online with a credit card.
It’s approved basically instantly and you can download the visa onto your device. Visas on arrival are generally more expensive now as they’re trying to encourage everyone to use this e-visa platform, which saves time.
I didn’t bother printing the visa but saved a copy on my phone just in case. The immigration official asked to see it but he had all the information on his computer anyway and just needed my passport.
Georgia visa policy
Georgia has a pretty liberal visa policy. There is a long list of countries that are able to enter and stay visa-free for up to 12 months. This includes the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, US and UK.
Otherwise, e-visas can be obtained online before arriving for other country citizens. For more visa information and requirements, check out the Georgian Foreign Affairs website here.
Travelling in Eastern Turkey and the Caucasus?
Check out some of my helpful posts on travelling in this region:
- The Ultimate Eastern Turkey Itinerary
- Everything You Need to Know About Travelling to Eastern Turkey
- The Ultimate Travel Guide to Georgia in the Caucasus