25.09.2014 - 28.09.2014 13 °C
Arrival from Tbilisi: Be ready for a long long wait at the border crossing. 4 hours was our time and that seems to be normal.
We decided to get a mashrutka from Tbilisi to Kazbegi, which is quite a touristy town, popular with fitness types from the west. So it was easy and relatively cheap to get there.
But from Kazbegi to get over the border and on to Vladikavkaz was not so easy. Our mashrutka driver helped and after about 10 refusals from other Russian drivers, he found a mini bus driver willing to take us for a fee (1,500 roubles I think). But this still took 4 hours to get over the border, making the 170k journey from Tbilisi last a total of 10 hours.
Hotel: We can strongly recommend the Planet Lux hotel, for helpful staff, a good restaurant (but closed Saturday evening which was awkward), and did our laundry for us (at a price of course). Also close to the 2nd bus station, from which we caught our bus to Makhachkala.
Cinema: Planet Lux is also close to a good cinema, but beware: Russian cinemas tend to dub their fims so good luck if you don't have Russian.
Coffee: Get to La France Kofeyna, not far from centre of town on the north side of the river.
Tea: Great loose leaf teas at Cafe Magyar, also on north side of the river, just off Boulevard Mira, which is the main pedestrianised street. Trams trundle along Mira but we didn't get a chance to try one so can't tell you how the system works.
Getting out: There's a direct bus to Makhachkala leaving at 8am. We saw a bus behind it signposted for Derbent but as it stood there empty, we guessed it would leave much later, but it's good to know a direct Vladikavkaz-Derbent bus does exist