Prepare Your Trip

Visa and Formalities

  • Russian visa
    South Ossetia shares its borders with Georgia and Russia. Tourists can only enter the republic from Russia because the Ossetia - Georgia border is closed and there are no airports in the country. Check if you need a visa to visit Russia (you can do it by clicking here). Keep in mind that to visit South Ossetia you will need a multiple entry Russian visa because the way back lies across the Greater Caucasus Mountains as well.
  • Entry Permit
    Citizens of all countries who have not recognized the independence of South Ossetia are required to obtain an entry permit in advance. You can't get a permit on your own - you have to get an invitation from a citizen of the Republic of South Ossetia or a tourist company registered in South Ossetia. Moreover, the person who has sent you the invitation has to accompany you on your trip around the country at all times. You have two options:

    • Ask a citizen of South Ossetia to issue a permit and accompany you on your trip;
    • Contact your local travel agency or us to arrange a tour that includes an entry permit.
  • Pass to the Border Zone
    A large proportion of the South Ossetia's attractions are located in the border zone which requires a separate pass. Fortunately, the pass is quick and easy to get. It officially takes 3 working days to issue it, but in practice it takes just an hour. You will have to personally visit the KGB Border Guard Department of South Ossetia located in the government building in Tskhinval (separate entrance from the north side). If you want to apply for the pass in advance, please contact a tour operator.

How to Get There ?

The nearest major Russian city to Tskhinval is Vladikavkaz. You can get there by plane or train from Moscow or St. Petersburg. If you are coming from abroad and want to bypass the Russian capitals, look for flights to the Mineralnye Vody Airport or Grozny through Istanbul. These North Caucasian cities are not far from Ossetia. There is a good asphalt road that leads From Vladikavkaz to Tskhinval through the Roki Tunnel.

Clothes and Weather

The climate in South Ossetia is dry and warm. Summers can be quite hot, but temperatures rarely rise above 30°C (86°F) in Tskhinval. Snow and frost are very rare in the plains and foothills. However, the mountainous areas could get up to 10 meters (33 ft.) of snow in winter. The trails on the Keli Highland are snow-free from late June to mid-October, but you can get some snow at high altitudes even in August.
For a comfortable journey throughout the country, stock up on clothes with a warm layer up to 0°C (32°F) and -10°C (14°F) in winter. Even if you're not going on a mountain hike, you'll need comfortable trekking boots and waterproof clothes for walks in nature and villages.
South Ossetia is an absolutely safe place to live and travel. Possession of firearms is prohibited and strictly controlled by the authorities, so you won't meet armed people there. The way of life in the republic is leisurely and relaxed. It is a small country where everyone knows each other. Crimes happen very seldom and every time they become breaking news. And there have been no attacks on tourists over the past 11 years.

The locals are incredibly hospitable, especially in the villages. You will be offered not only lunch and accommodation, the host is traditionally responsible for the life and well-being of his guest. However, there is also a downside to this hospitality - don't be surprised when you are always asked to take part in feasts and when the host's attempts to get you drunk. Getting a guest drunk is the first responsibility of a good host.


Planning your trip to South Ossetia, you should keep in mind that not so many people there speak English. Most of them speak three languages (Ossetian, Georgian, and Russian), which isn't really helpful for most of the travelers.

The official currency of South Ossetia is the Russian ruble. But only the Russian Mir payment system works there, all Visa and Mastercard bank cards turn into useless plastic behind the Roki Tunnel. So, stock up on cash.

There is only one cell phone carrier in South Ossetia, Megafon. It is a subsidiary of the Russian company with the same name. But even Megafon subscribers in Russia shouldn't count on any concessions when it comes to. As soon as you arrive in Tskhinval, we recommend you to buy a local SIM card. In the flat and foothill part of South Ossetia, you will enjoy 4G networks, but in the mountains, especially away from the villages, be prepared for no cell service whatsoever.

It is Moscow Standard Time in South Ossetia. It is the same throughout the North Caucasus. However, some smartphones can automatically set the clock one hour ahead, like in Tbilisi. When making an appointment with someone, make sure that the time in your phone is set correctly.
Food in Ossetia costs about as much as anywhere else in the south of Russia; imported products are somewhat more expensive because of the need to bring them through customs. The average check in a cafe is 350-750 rubles ($5-10) per person (no alcohol).

Public transport is rarely used, and you should not rely on it as the main means of transportation, although catching a ride on a "marshrutka" (micro-buses used as public transportation) is a great way to immerse yourself in local life. When you hitchhike on the main highways, you won't have to wait for a long time to get a ride. However, in the countryside you are to reach the neighboring village on foot faster than wait for a car. Renting a car with a driver for an entire day to travel around the country will cost you about $100 a day. Taxis around Tskhinval cost no more than 100 rubles (1,5 US dollars) per trip.

Overnight Stay
A night in a hotel in Tskhinval will cost you 1,500-6,000 rubles (23-92 US dollars). In rural guest houses, expect to spend 1,500-2,000 rubles (23-30 US dollars) a night per person. This price includes accommodation, dinner, and breakfast.

Individual all-inclusive tour will cost approximately 500 US dollars a day and much cheaper as part of the group.

Plan Your Trip

Road Trip
When planning your trip to South Ossetia with this map, remember that the main cultural heritage of the republic is the hospitality of its residents. The main reason for coming there is a possibility to communicate with people. We recommend sightseeing as a way to get on the road. Although South Ossetia has preserved some real architectural masterpieces and many of the sights help understand history and culture of this part of the Caucasus. Try to have some spare time for unexpected meetings and spontaneous discoveries. Remember to take a moment and just stop to enjoy the moment. After all, it is the stopovers that you will remember the most, not the endless race for impressions.
Trekking, Climbing, Horseback Riding, and Cycling
The mountains of South Ossetia are a vast area of pristine nature. There, you can always find a place for an infinite number of walks, hikes, ascents, and a variety of adventures. This map only features the routes that we have travelled ourselves and find the most interesting. Please note that these are mostly non-official hiking trails - no one is responsible for their condition. Some of them are well trodden due to the development of tourism in recent years. For example, the trail from the village of Erman to the Keli Lake or the parts of the trails leading to popular holy sites. Several trails in the Mejida Valley were specially cleared and marked by us as part of a special project in October 2018. They are highlighted in a darker shade. However, the rest of the trails may be in semi-overgrown state.

The map shows the extreme trekking trail from the Mejida Valley to Largvis in the Ksani Gorge. Ask the enthusiasts in the Mejida Valley in advance to help you get on the route because you will have to spend some time working with spades and chainsaws.

We recommend cycling routes to the west of Tskhinval, but you'll have to take your gear with you as there is no place in South Ossetia to rent mountain bikes yet.

Tourist Service and Hospitality Industry

Tourism in South Ossetia is just beginning to develop. There have never been big resorts and visitor centers there. However, underdevelopment of the industry and the shortcomings of service are compensated by the tradition of hospitality which is important for the entire Caucasus. For the majority of people mentioned in this guide, receiving tourists is not the main occupation or profession, but just an attempt to take a fresh look at the world, distract from everyday life, contribute to the development of the country, and, at the same time, earn some money.

Know more

Read our articles about the culture, people, history and life of this beautiful country.
© 2019 Caucasus Explorer
This travel guide was created by Caucasus Explorer. Our company conceived this project to respond to the hospitality of the highlanders and, at the same time, to support the urban development of Tskhinval and help preserve the traditional way of life in the villages.
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