When I was sitting in my hotel room in Kars mapping my next move, I did a few research on what would be the best way to go to Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia from Kars. The result I got was unsatisfactory. Many blog posts illustrated how hard it was to go from Kars to Tbilisi and everyone recommended going through the northern border via Batumi instead.
The problem was that I recently came from Trabzon and I did not want to make my way back there. It did not make sense to go even further up away from Tbilisi and increased the traverse time from 4 to 8 hours instead of going through Kars which would take 4 hours less. For the sake of adventure, I decided to go through with my plan and figured my way into Georgia from Kars. It was not as hard as what people made it to be and here is how I did it.
NOTE: I was there in June 2015 during Ramadan. Since it was during the summer, most of the transportation ran as usual. If you are there during the winter, there would be less buses (or even none) going to Tbilisi so keep that in mind.
0. Asked Celil for more information
The further east you go, the less the buses stick to their schedule so prior to arriving or while you are in Kars, asked someone who knows how the bus works in Kars. This is especially important if you are traveling off-season. I would suggest asking Celil Ersoğlu, the only Ani tour guide in Kars, about the best way to go to Georgia (Gurcistan in Turkish). Everyone knows this guy so ask your hotel owners and get in contect with him
1. Get up early and find the bus station
Ask your hotel for the direction of the bus that goes to the Otogar to Georgia and get on the public bus to the international Otogar. Right before you seated yourself, asked the bus driver if he/she would drop you off at the international otogar. I said "Otogar to Gurcistan", and made a driving hand sign. The bus driver got it right away and dropped me off at the right place.
Keep in mind, the international otogar is NOT the same bus station you arrived in (don't go to Kars Şehir Otogarı). From Hotel Tamel, it took only 5 minutes with the public bus to go to the international bus station.
2. Spot the "Tiflis, Gurcistan" sign
When you arrived at the Otogar, you will be bombarded with bus companies to choose from. Look around and spot the bus companies that have a sign saying "Tiflis, Gurcistan" and go in there and buy the ticket.
3. Wait and get on the right bus at the right time
Stick to the person you bought your ticket with and he/she will tell you when you have to get on the bus. The bus was scheduled to leave at 10:30 AM for me but it did not come until 11:15 AM so don't panic if it is already passed the scheduled time. Apparently, it is quite common that the bus is late.
4. Switch buses in Adrahan (the driver will tell you to)
If the bus said it is going to Tbilisi, it will take you to Tbilisi in one form or another so don't worry when the driver asked you to switch cars. After around 30 minutes, I had to switch into another bus in Adrahan. Now there were only 2 persons left on the bus, which confirmed that not many people take this route to Georgia.
5. Crossing the border
The new bus left Adrahan in no time and we drove pass the rolling green hills in Posof and arrived at the border. I had to get off the bus, carry my backpack and walked through the immigration. When I passed through the immigration, the bus driver was waiting for me. We put our bags back and the bus carried on to Akhaltsikhe in Georgia.
6. One last bus change
At Akhaltsikhe, the bus driver stopped and dragged us to the minivan that would take us to Tbilisi. I did not have to pay anything at this point since the bus driver from Turkey paid for our ride in Georgian money to the new bus driver. If the new bus driver asked you to pay, tell them that you came from Turkey with the Turkish bus driver (you know.. point to the Turkish bus driver) and they will bother you no more.
7. To Tbilisi!
In Georgia, they called the dolmus, the marshrutka and that was what I was on for the rest of the trip to Tbilisi. It was a small, cramped minivan and we drove for 3 hours until we eventually arrived at the Tbilisi bus station.
Congratulation, you have arrived in Tbilisi in one piece. The process of traveling to Georgia from Kars was not as difficult as most people made it to be. Simply follow the instructions provided by the staff of the bus company and you will be in Tbilisi in no time.
Have you ever traveled to Georgia from Kars? I would love to hear your experience and how you handled it in the comments below.
NOTE: Again, I was there in June - July 2015 during the summer and the experience might be completely different during the winter so do keep that in mind when traveling to Kars.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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