Dozens of Russian tourists stranded at Turkish-Georgian border due to incorrect license plates

An unexpected obstacle appeared on one of the few free routes of foreign travel by Russians in private cars. One popular route is via the land border with Georgia to Turkey: Russian citizens can enter both countries without visas. However, this journey does not end well for everyone.

In June and July, dozens of Russian cars and motorcycles were detained on the Turkish-Georgian border. Their drivers went to Turkish resorts across the Russian-Georgian border in Upper Lars, then across Georgia, rested in Turkey, but could not return through the Sarpi border crossing: Georgian border guards prohibited them from entering the country due to incorrect numbers in the car.

As VPost learned from communication with victims, as well as employees of travel agencies, transport companies and people who often cross the border by car, the border guard refers to the Vienna Convention (paragraph 1a, art. 37). It requires that on each car in international traffic, in addition to the registration number, there should be a sign distinguishing the country in which it is registered at the back” – the car’s registration plate must have the flag of the country of registration or the name of RUS, and the number itself must comply with international requirements. In Russia, especially in the south, numbers without a flag have been in vogue since the 1990s. It is believed that the car is associated with special services or law enforcement and simply emphasizes the car on the road. Driving with such numbers in the country is not prohibited.

The border guards also rarely pay attention to the appearance of the plates, and cars with “incorrect” signs still freely enter Georgia from Russia through the Upper Lars border crossing and leave for Turkey. But there are problems on the way back.

Those who met them are now wondering how to get the transport back to Russia. “It’s called, we went to rest,” says Elena, a resident of Krasnodar, whose Nissan crossover with license plates without a flag has been standing in Georgia for three weeks.

She was particularly unlucky – in Sarpi, the border guards photographed her and the car and issued her an irreversible ban on entering Georgia. In this case, she cannot enter the country by herself or send the car across the border with another driver. Several motorcyclists from Moscow found themselves in the same situation. “Our numbers are ostentatious, non-standard, there is no flag and the letters are stretched, and someone has vinyl film so that the cameras catch worse,” one of the detainees admitted to VPost.

He considers the behavior of Georgian border guards a mockery – after all, they were detained on the way back, while they were quietly admitted to Georgia and released to Turkey. Georgian border guards on the border with Turkey sometimes show amazing adherence to the rules. In February, they refused entry to Russians who had not received a tourist residence permit in Turkey and had stayed in the country longer than required for visa-free travel. “We are thinking about how to deliver transport to Russia, apparently we will have to carry cargo,” the Moscow motorcyclist shares his plans.

Most of the travelers turned out to be luckier – “only” they were not allowed to cross the Turkish-Georgian border. In this case, a cheaper solution than arranging freight transport is to send a messenger to Vladikavkaz to make the correct numbers with the flag and bring them to Sarpi: then the car will be let through.

“Intermediaries have appeared to solve problems with the delivery of cars, if there is no irreversible ban on entry,” says Elena. “In general, it all depends on the border guards – a family with children crossed the border next to us in a car with wrong numbers, so mother and children cried so much that they were finally let through,” he continues. And one traveler shared his lifehack in a chat about crossing the border – when he heard about the problems with entry, he simply drew a flag on the license plate with markers – and it worked.


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