Means of transport and other practicalities
The drive for BRC volunteers and visitors to the project can be arranged beforehand. Just let us know when and where you will arrive and a car with BRC-sign will pick you up. Common pick-up places are the Batumi airport, Batumi International Bus station or the square in front of the Makhinjauri train station.
When you come by car from Batumi, take the main coastal road north (direction Kobuleti & Poti). Continue passing Makhinjauri and just after the tunnel take the first road on the right that takes you up, next to the sign 'Sakhalvasho'. Follow the road to up to the school, and take the gravel road below the school to the right. Ask at one of the houses for us.
Flight and public transport
Flight to Batumi
You can fly to Batumi airport (usually one stop in Istanbul) with Turkish Airlines and Aerosvit from Europe and some other countries. Prices easily exceed 450€. Recently (low-cost) Pegasus airlines also connects Istanbul with Batumi. From the airport, you can be in Sakhalvasho within 30 minutes by car. Make sure to arrange pick-up beforehand.
Flight to Tbilisi, and then by bus or train
It might be cheaper to fly to Tbilisi. Several (low-cost) air-companies fly to Georgia's capital. With AirBaltic you can book flights from 250€ on, with a stop in Riga. Also Pegasus airlines offers cheap flights to Tbilisi, over Istanbul. Or you can fly with AeroSvit through Kiev.
From Tbilisi you can take the (night)train to Batumi. Trains leave at 8:30 and 22:45 from the central station. The trip to Makhinjauri takes (without delay) almost 8 hours. The night train allows you to travel while sleeping, comfortable in 2nd (4 person coupé) and 1st class (2 person coupé). 2nd class will cost you approximately 25 lari (ca. 10 euro). The final stop of the train is in Makhindjauri, which is also the meeting point for the BRC driver. Recently there is also a fast train that only takes 4h of travel, leaving every morning, but is very popular so make sure to buy tickets beforehand. The train schedule you can check at http://www.railway.ge; where you can buy your tickets online as well. A small train connects the airport to the central station. It leaves from a rather futuristic building opposite the main entrance of the airport on a fixed schedule. You can also take a cab from outside the airport, a trip to the train station shouldn’t cost appreciably more than 25 lari.
You can also take a bus or marshrutka (minibus) for even lower prices which you will find at the bus-metro station “Didube”. When you are almost in Batumi, ask the driver to drop you off at Makhindjauri train station. Most marshrutka drivers drive fast, with brief sanitary stops, and the trip takes 6 hours. Given road safety we do advise to use trains whenever possible.
Flight to Istanbul, Turkey, and then by bus
Airfare prices to Istanbul below 120 € can be found with e.g. Ryanair, Pegasus, Germanwings ... You can travel from Istanbul to Batumi by bus. It will take about 22 hours to reach Batumi, but the buses are usually very comfortable, have regular stops and drinks are included in the price.
If your flight lands on the Ataturk international airport in Istanbul, it isn’t very difficult to reach the bus station. Take the metro inside the airport building and simply get out at the bus station stop. The Sabiha Gokcen airport (most cheap flight companies land here) is located on the Asian side of Istanbul. Free or cheap bus rides are found at the main exit of the airport. Ask around for büyük otogar (= big bus station).
- In bus stations all over Turkey and Georgia you should always take good care of your luggage!
- Although problems seem to occur less and less (especially in Turkey) keep your guard for overcharged tickets!
- When arriving in any bus station you will most likely be approached by one or more Turks asking about your travel plans. They will take you to the operator they are working with if they serve your destination. As said, bus service is done increasingly correct but don´t worry to check out other companies!
Buses to Batumi from Istanbul usually cost well under 40 € (one way), so beware not to pay more. You will be able to choose from several companies but Metro generally serves best quality.
Flight (via Istanbul) to Trabzon, Turkey, and then by bus
… and take the bus to Batumi from there. It will only take a few hours (4-5h) to reach Batumi from Trabzon, but flying there will be considerably more expensive than flying to Istanbul (guiding price about 200-300 € in 2012). The bus to Batumi won’t be expensive, 20 € is surely sufficient. Start by taking a taxi to the bus station. If you end up telling the driver you are going to Georgia (since he will ask you after you tell him ´otogar´) he might offer to drive you to the border for a very high price (e.g. 100 dollars) or try to convince you there is no bus going there. It is your decision if the price difference is worth it but don´t be shy to make your demands clear to taxi drivers! Also, the drive from the airport to the bus station should not take more than 10 minutes in Trabzon; be mindful of being taken for a ride!
From time to time travelers using the bus service from Trabzon to Batumi are dropped at the Turkish border. Since you need to take your luggage for border control you may find your bus not to appear at the Georgian side of the border. In this case just make use of Marshrutka´s or a taxi to get to Batumi.
Alternative travel opportunities
Although flight is the most straightforward way of traveling to Georgia it ain't the most environmental friendly. Other possibilities include simple car journeys, hitchhiking, bus trips from many adjacent countries (e.g. from Turkey as described above) but also by boat. The last option may be interesting for anyone traveling in the Black Sea region before coming to Georgia! Cargo-Ferry ships are heading to Batumi from Varna, Bulgaria and Odessa, Ukraine and are an interesting experience but very expensive and less comfortable as one would expect for this price.
People traveling from Azerbaijan or Armenia may use the train service between Batumi via Tbilisi to Baku or Yerevan that runs until the middle of September.
You can also take your bike, like our two French coordinators Simon and Maël did in 2011.
The village of Sakhalvasho is basically a small maze of trails bordered with lush gardens and typical small, often two-story, houses with a porch in front. The surroundings are normally quiet and peaceful, although of course some hunters and trappers live in the same village.
In the village you find a small shop where you can buy a quick drink or a snack, cigarettes, etc. To do your own shopping (apart from food requirements), you will need to get to Makindjauri or Batumi (see below) or Chakvi where the BRC bus for station 2 is going almost daily in the evening after the count.
Georgian money can be ordered at your local bank, but it’s much easier to go to a bank in Georgia and take the money from an ATM (= “money from the wall”). Sometimes, dollars are also accepted. Take care not to use a new card for the first time in Georgia!
In Batumi you’ll also find a drug store, a barber, shops, disco’s… There is also a drug store in the suburb of Makhinjauri (in any case near the stations) as well as an ATM.
Depending on your country you will need a VISA for Georgia. In 2014 the VISA regulations changed. Request the recent informations from the Georgian embassy in your country.
Warning about medicines
If you are under medical treatment make sure that the medicines you bring are allowed in Georgia. Some commonly used medicines in Europe are forbidden in Georgia, for instance those containing codeine. Conditions to import them to Georgia are very strict. Contact the Georgian embassy of your country to check the list of forbidden medicines and to know which procedure to follow if you need to bring any of them with you.