Resting on the Beach in Abkhazia: Practicalities
Русская версия After three weeks of the great, but tiring trip in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russian Caucasus, we decided to take a rest on the beach during the last few days. We chose Abkhazia, historically well-known for its resorts and lying on our way. This post tells how to organize the rest here, and explores Abkhazia’s positive and negative sides.
How to get there
We came to Abkhazia from Elbrus, taking the train from Mineralnye Vody to Adler. This is the only functioning land border: after the war, it is not possible to get the Abkhazia through Georgia.
During our trip, Russia, including its railroad, was getting ready for the Olympic Games, trying to become international enough by translating its signs into English too. This cloakroom works 24/7:
In Adler, we took a minibus (marshrutka) to the Abkhazian border. The competition between marshrutka drivers is very tough there: several of them wait to get full simultaneously, and, as a result, it takes a long time. At some moment, we did not want to wait any more, and took a bus, which cost much less and was even faster. The bus arrives at the stop next to the border (10 mins on foot). If you have a lot of luggage, you may pay for the improvised porter service.
On the Russian side, they checked something in their computer, on the Abkhazian – only looked into the passport. Nobody put any stamp. This information is important for those who will visit Georgia after Abkhazia: Georgians may punish for using this unacknowledged Russian-Abkhazian border, but if there is no stamp, they cannot prove that you crossed it. We wrote more on how to organize your trip in Caucasus and avoid any problems at the borders caused by the conflicts in these countries here.
After crossing the border, you may take a bus to any town; we decided to stop at New Athos (Novy Afon). The trip took 1,5 hours and 100 roubles (in 2013). The bus followed the schedule, and did not have to wait untill it was full. The transport between the bigger towns functions well, but getting to the natural sights is a problem. Hitchhiking is not free here during the peak season; other depressive options include taxis and tour companies.
Abkhazia uses Russian ruble as its currency. All the prices given here are of 2013, when its rate was much higher, about 40 rubles per 1 euro. The money could be changed at the border (with the very low rate), at rare banks, or withdrawn from the ATMs only in the bigger cities like Sukhumi.
Looking for accommodation in Abkhazia in advance does not make any sense: you will get a great amount of offers on the spot. It is reasonable to ask about accommodation in the shops, or just to walk around. The owners do not want to rent out rooms for short periods, and even get angry if you ask for the room for less than 3 days. We checked several rooms for 300-350 rubles, and finally found a room for 250 rubles, 10 minutes walk from the beach. At that moment we thought that it was decent, although much worse than what we had had at the Georgian beach. We did not know then that the whole house where we were renting the room was annoyed by a huge rat who brought garbage into the rooms and made a lot of noise at nights. On the first sight, the rooms seemed clean. We were lucky to find a rat in our room on the last day only, unlike our flatmates who were visited by the rat every night.
The sea in Abkhazia is, perhaps, its only absolutely positive feature. It is very clean and quiet, and there are not too many people on the beach. The only trouble is that the beach is pebbly.
The food in Abkhazia is its weak side. As at any resort, you may either cook yourself, or eat out. Eating out is quite expensive and not too good if compared to the neighboring Georgia or Armenia. The dishes we tried there are not compared to the same ones in Abkhazia. Also, in 2013 one main dish cost around 250 rubles, not too big or tasty.
We can, perhaps, recommend the café “Veterok” at the beach, at least tastier than the others we tried.
Cooking on your own is also not so easy: there are no good products to cook from. When we just arrived, we came across a scandal in the shop where a woman was trying to return the frozen chicken she had bought as it consisted mostly of water. The shopkeeper refused to reimburse the price of the chicken, explaining that due to the war they lost good farms or plants, so only these kinds of products are available. This explanation was not reasonable for us too, since the war finished long ago, and they get so much money from the tourists (everything is quite expensive), that it is time to correspond to what is being paid. Most of the food is of low quality: we also threw away, for instance, khinkali that we bought frozen: they were not edible even for so us, though we are not picky at all. If nothing changed since then, do not hope to get healthy and tasty food in Abkhazian resorts.
In 2013, there were two internet-cafes in New Athos; only one of them really had the internet connection, but there was always a long line for it. Skype cost 150 rubles per hour.
People and safety
Abkhazia seemed safe. As we learned later, New Athos where we stayed was “a resort for moms with baby carriages”, it is not surprising that we could easily take late night walks.
Of course, they cheat, but mostly it is a “legal” cheating of those who are exposed to it. Next time we will tell how we were cheated trying to visit various sights of Abkhazia and give advice based on our own mistakes.