I want to visit 2 great cities, Istanbul and Moscow, but how can I travel safely between them?

Does anyone know if it is possible for a UK tourist to travel through Georgia?

What about a ferry across the black sea?


I'm not sure of the situation with travelling through Ukraine, but I fear it is pretty volatile region, not sure if the bit of Russia by the Black Sea is any better?

There seems to be a ferry across the black sea from Samsun to Novorossiysk, I sould then get a train up to Moscow from there. Has anyone made this train ride? Would that be a safe route?

  • You mention Georgia; however this is sort of far away from the somewhat shorter path through the Ukraine. Do you intend to avoid travelling through the Ukraine for this trip? – Greg Hewgill Aug 13 '14 at 22:56
  • You can cross over to Greece and travel safely through the EU. – JonathanReez Aug 14 '14 at 7:04
  • Yep it seems I can get a ferry from Samsum to Novorossiysk, then I could get a train from Novorossiysk to Moscow – Tim Aug 14 '14 at 8:54
  • A plane is a whole lot quicker and it doesn't fly over the combat zone anymore – Karlson Aug 14 '14 at 12:04

I am a UK citizen and have visited Russia, Turkey and Georgia recently (only came back from Georgia 2 weeks ago - via Turkey).

It is safe to visit Istanbul (apart from the usual risks associated with being a tourist in an unknown city) and it is safe to visit Moscow. If you want to visit both on one trip, I would strongly recommend that you fly between Istanbul and Moscow. The flight is about 3 hours long and there are several flights per day, operated by both Turkish and Russian airlines.

Georgia would only be a concern if you want to travel from Turkey to Russia by land, however from Istanbul you'd have to drive east all around the Black Sea, then cross north into Georgia, cross Georgia and into Russia. Then it's all the way north to Moscow - all in all you are looking at about 3,000 km on the road.

Another option would be to travel by sea ferry from Istanbul to either Odesa, Ukraine or Varna, Bulgaria - and then make your way up north-east into Russia. This would take a quite a bit of time, too.

You didn't specify any of your specifics: do you want to get quickly between the two cities? Do you want to see a lot on your way? Do you want to visit other countries while you're at it? All of these would factor in your itinerary.

If, however, all you are interested is Istanbul and Moscow, then just fly. Besides being so much quick, it's also likely to be the cheapest option.

Note that with a UK passport, in Turkey you can get visa on arrival, you do not need visa for Ukraine or Georgia - and you have to apply for the visa to Russia in advance. In Russia, visa on arrival is not available.

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Travelling from Istanbul to Moscow overland is adventurous at best. For example, there's a big country between the two places called the Ukraine.

Assume you take the Asian route, you will almost certainly pass near Kharkiv border and other hot spots along the border of eastern Ukraine. These would include Donetsk and Lugansk. Anywhere near those places exposes you to robbery, kidnapping, and possible loss of life.

Along the way, you would pass through Georgia. You'll need to avoid the volatile regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, If your passport has stamps from these or other separatist entities you will be in trouble with the Russians when you get there. Note that if you enter or leave from Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, or North Ossetia, you may be detained as an illegal entrant.

Georgia will honour a UK driving permit, but driving at night is risky verging on outright dangerous. Wandering livestock, for example, are not clearly visible due to the poor lighting. If they notice you're a foreigner, you're fair game anyway. So if you're driving at night, do not stop for any reason, and be sure you have enough petrol to carry you through the entire night.

Travelling by train through Georgia is only slightly less risky. Keep the door locked, and of course never leave your stuff unattended.

After transiting Georgia, you will be in the Caucus, most likely travelling through Stavropol. Stavropol City is safe enough but the Stavropol Krai is a tinderbox of hot spots. Avoid Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky whilst transiting Stavropol Krai, and if you get in to trouble, don't expect immediate help from the Consulate.

From Stavropol, it's almost impossible to head north without getting near the border of East Ukraine. You can take a difficult overland route to Volgograd and travel in safety from there onward, but like I said, it's difficult. Travelling from Stavropol to Volgograd takes about 4 days through desolate poverty. No fun at all.

If you take the European route from Istanbul to Moscow, you'll be generally safer. Moldova and the West Ukraine are mostly stable and once you hit Belarus it's safe. As long as you define ANYTHING safe in that region. Overall, the European route is safe enough to consider a trip, but it will take a lot longer than the Asian route. So it's really your call. Like Clint Eastwood said, "Do you feel lucky?"

Finally, it's always sound advice to read this: https://www.gov.uk/how-to-deal-with-a-crisis-overseas

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  • 2
    I am amused by the thought of wandering livestock noticing that you're a foreigner. :) – Greg Hewgill Aug 18 '14 at 1:20
  • @GregHewgill, sharp-eyed spotting! well done. – Gayot Fow Aug 18 '14 at 9:11

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