Abkhazia was the jewel of the Soviet Riviera, the mountainous coastal paradise where many of the supreme Soviets had their dachas, and is now relatively straightforward to visit, safe and the only land route at present from the South Caucasus (GE, AM, AZ) into Russia.
It's stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful, the people are warm and overjoyed to see foreigners, and, best of all, it has a quirky Soviet feel as very, very little has changed since 1991. Of course, it is the site of one of the bitter civil wars following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and a major thorn in the foot of Georgia / Russia relations. But it's safe and has opened up to western travellers.
You can enter Abkhazia from either Georgia (Inguri Bridge) or Russia (Adler / Psou). To enter from Russia you need a multiple entry Russian visa, and you CANNOT proceed into Georgia. To enter from Georgia is straightforward, but you also, theoretically, need a multiple entry Russian visa. The reason for this is that they do NOT stamp your passport when you enter / leave Russia, which could cause problems with a single entry visa. I don't know how strictly enforced this is. Note that if you exit Abkhazia to Russia, you will have no exit stamp for Georgia, so it's unlikely you'll be able to visit Georgia again with the same passport.
The first step is to make a visa application here:
Visa to Abkhazia
Make sure you fill in all the sections, particularly your vehicle details. Call the consular department after a week on this number: +99544 263948 or 844 263948 from within Georgia.
I was initially refused, and it required persistent needling to get to speak to the head of the consular department to get entry clearance. Once you have been accepted, they will email you a .pdf of your entry clearance. You should take two copies for entrance, one for the border and one for the MFA in Sukhum.
Once in Sukhum, the capital, you pay $20 at the Sberbank in the customs yard (ask for Tamozhnye, opposite the main pier), then collect your visa from the consular department of the MFA, the big grandiose building at 21 Lakoba Street. It's a conventional visa, but for whatever political reasons they won't stick it in your passport (though you could do it yourself?).
Technically, you need to register your vehicle. I'm not sure if this applies to motorcycles, as they are practically absent from Abkhazian roads. To register, you should go to the GAI (Road Police). It's on the way out of town, near the Novy Rayon, past the bus station. Take the Number 1 trolleybus from the bazar (Rinok) past the station (Vokzal) until it reaches a petrol station and turns left. Get off, walk back past the petrol station towards town, and take the first left (heading inland). The building is about 300m up here amidst general dereliction, on the left.
You need your passport, original vehicle registration papers (tekpassport) and an address in Abkhazia (can be a hotel). Registration costs R150 per 30 days for a car / 4x4 up to a maximum of 180 days, double that for a truck or bus.
Technically, I imagine you also need insurance, but I didn't bother. Russian insurace, as far as I know, is not valid in Abkhazia.
I had no problems with the Abkhazian police, they keep a low profile and never stopped me on the road. I'm pretty sure you can get away without insurace / registration.
Abkhazia uses Russian Roubles, the ATMs don't accept foreign cards, but moneychangers are widespread. There is a kiosk at the harbourmaster's office (next to customs where you pay for your visa) which gives very good rates on USD.
Entering from Georgia was easy - the Georgians were a bit puzzled by a private car, but made no problems. They just asked that I write a letter acknowledging that I was going under my own free will, and that the Georgian authorities could not assure my safety once in Abkhazia. On the Abkhazian side, the guys were very friendly, just wanted to see the entry clearance and let me go.
After Gali, the Russian army stopped me and thorougly, but very politely, searched the car. They control the southern buffer zone, and do a good job of it according to the local EU monitors. The area around Gali is pretty much uninhabited, ruined and the roads are trashed until Ochamchire. From Ochamchire to Sukhum and on to Russia, the road is pretty good.
Leaving Abkhazia, customs just wrote my car number in a ledger. There was no passport check. Entering Russia was surprisingly easy. No bribes / payment at all. The old system of a red / green registration document for your car was apparently scrapped 3 months ago, and now there is a barcoded sticker which is stuck to your customs declaration. They gave me 90 days clearance for the car without asking, none of the old 14 day nonsense with a 'payment' to get the full 90 day entitlement. You can buy insurance (strakhovaniye) on the border: 3 months' worth cost me R 3802 (about $131) for a 2.4L 4x4. Because of the disputed status of Abkhazia, the Russians did not stamp my passport, only the migration card. So don't lose the migration card! Of course, a bonus of this (if you have a multi entry visa like mine which only gives you 90 days stay out of 180) is that once you leave Russia, there is no mark of when you initially entered (no Abkhazian exit stamp), so you could probably get more than your normal entitlement... I've not had any trouble yet for not having an entry stamp (though it's early days), and managed to register without a hitch.
As said, I found Abkhazia stunningly beautiful. The snowcapped peaks of the high Caucasus give way to lush, rolling hills of deciduous jungle, lapped by a the Black Sea, which is a nice turquoise, and full of dolphins. Also, it's fascinating for it's timelessness. I've been to many parts of the old Soviet Union, but Abkhazia is about as Soviet a place as I've found.
There's plenty to see in the little country, though anything off the main road or Lake Ritsa road will soon become an off-road adventure. Highlights for me were:
-Sukhum: Interesting, part grandiose, part derelict city, very Soviet bazaar.
-Lake Ritsa: Gorgeous mountain lake at 900m, reached by a stunning, winding mountain road.
-Pitsunda: Timeless Soviet holiday resort off the main road where you step back into the 1980s.
I don't think there's any real danger in Abkhazia (there are a lot of mines, but I never saw any warning signs), though people say not to travel at night in the Gali area (i.e. south of Ochamchire).
Any questions, just ask