Georgia is just another word for the Caucasus. An untamed land that has captivated adventurers of all kinds and has served to inspired writers such as Tolstoy, Pushkin, and Alexandre Dumas. Its spectacular landscapes are covered with impenetrable monasteries and snowy peaks that cover the whole sky. The rampaging Tbilisi, the distant villages, and the historical sites of this country will really give you the impression that you have traveled not only in space but also in time.
Despite its attractions, Georgia is still a greatly unknown country. However, it is currently experiencing one of the largest tourist booms. What is the main reason? The highest mountains in Europe, landscapes that take your breath away, a unique historical heritage, a nation with biblical origins, and the legendary hospitality of the Caucasus people. In addition, the significant increase in public safety and the democratic opening following the Rose Revolution (2003) have acted as a catalyst to catapult the country into better economic heights.
Georgia is very complete: it has unique gastronomy, it is one of the oldest cultures in Europe, and it is also the perfect place for hiking, high mountain routes, adventure sports, and enjoying a few sunny days on the coasts of the Black Sea.
We here at Caucasers are a group of journalists from the UK, Spain, and Armenia. We have been discovering the secrets of Armenia for more than 10 years. We have written several travel guides about the Caucasus as well and now we offer you all our experience in this blog. Are you ready?
Georgia, Mountains of God
Georgia is the country where Europe meets Asia and its heritage is a mixture of the nectar of these two ways to understand life. Its strategic location has turned it into a mandatory stop on the Silk Road, but it has also been targeted by the spotlight of many empires. Persians, Romans, Arabs, Mongols, and Ottomans passed through here, but they never succeeded in breaking the spirit of the Georgian people.
However, Georgia has always focused more on Europe rather than the East. All you have to do is take a look at the balconies that are lost in the labyrinth of alleys of old Tbilisi, the modernist buildings of some cities, their ancient monasteries, and the vineyards covering the landscape.
Georgia is showing its attractions and the secretive years of the time of the sickle and hammer are now left behind. That said, knowing its secrets is easy, safe, relatively comfortable, and affordable for your pocket.
The country has a good tourist infrastructure and the government is making a great effort to introduce the nation to major international tourist circuits.
Wine tourism is experiencing a spectacular boom and experts are beginning to surrender to the wine-making nation. The Georgians, like the Spaniards, are passionate people who enjoy life to the fullest and they like to give in to the pleasures of good food. So much that you do not know the soul of the country until you get involved in a supra – the typical Georgian banquet.
As if from a past bad dream, there are barely any blitzkrieg scars left from 2008 when Georgian and Russian troops faced off for the control of the separatist province of South Ossetia. Georgia received a multi-million dollar credit for its reconstruction by upgrading its infrastructures and putting it at the forefront of Eastern countries.
Culture, nature, and gastronomy merge with hospitality on this side of the world. The country is perfect for those who want to get away from the typical international circuits and improve the way they see the world. And as the French philosopher, Hippolyte Taine, already said: “We travel to change, not of place, but of ideas”. And if you travel to the Caucasus, you will change your own perception concerning the world forever.
What to Visit in Georgia?
The capital of Georgia is an example of harmony between different cultures and the most visited city in the country. Tbilisi was a stop on the Silk Road and among the multi-colored balconies of the old town, there is a mosque, two synagogues, Catholic, Armenian, Orthodox churches, and even an ancient Zoroastrian sanctuary.
The oldest district of Kala is a mixture of traditional Georgian architecture, but with a slight oriental touch in some places. It is known for its museums and the environment in its cafes and bars. It’s also known for combining avant-garde architecture with traditional styles.
It is the holiest town in Georgia and some of its churches are world heritage sites. Mtskheta was the capital of the kingdom of Iberia and a location for crowning Georgian kings. It is one of the most common and comfortable day trips from Tbilisi since it is just about twenty minutes by road.
The distant Svaneti, surrounded by some of the highest peaks of the Caucasus and its hundreds of tower houses adorning the landscape, was always a land of free men and an impregnable fortress.
No army managed to conquer these valleys and it is said that the soul of Georgia is preserved here. Its amazing landscapes and its cultural heritage meant that in the nineties, UNESCO declared it a Patrimony of Humanity. It is a good place to do some trekking, cycling, and mountaineering.
It is surrounded by nature and it is located in the heart of the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus. Borjomi is famous in all countries of the former Soviet Union for the water flowing from its depths. However, its second treasure is on the surface.
The Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park is home to one of the largest intact forests in Europe and it was named by the British Travelers Association in 2012 as one of the three most exciting destinations in the world.
It is a city carved into the rock that could accommodate 50,000 people in its heyday. An earthquake destroyed two-thirds of its area and the kings at that time decided to renovate it into a huge monastery. Nowadays, there are about 600 caves in Vardzia and a small religious community lives there.
There is good weather, summer atmosphere, perfect sunsets, and the warm waters of the Black Sea here. Batumi is sun and beach destination par excellence of the Caucasus and it is a good place to spend a couple of days off here. It is the capital of the autonomous Republic of Adjara, a Georgian region with a long history behind it and an important Muslim community resulting from the three centuries of Turkish domination in the area.
Kutaisi is the second-largest city in the country and it was the capital of Georgia during part of the Middle Ages. The Bagrati Cathedral and the nearby Gelati Monastery are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But we really fell in love with this place and you can not miss it: The Caves of Prometheus. If you want to visit it, you are going to become deeply involved in a surrealist place. For thousands of years, nature has created whimsical nooks and crannies in this cave that the imagination can well run riot. Today, man has turned various parts of the caves into works of art through a light show.
The village of Kazbegi is one of the most visited destinations in the Greater Caucasus. Not only because it is the most accessible site of these huge mountains through the legendary Georgian Military Road, but also because it offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the country. It is also the starting point of the ascension to the Tsminda Sameba church, the snapshot of which has become one of the most representative images of the nation.
Kazbegi is located in the shade of Mount Kazbek, where it is believed that Zeus chained Prometheus after stealing fire from the gods and giving it to humanity. The area is a good place to go hiking, cycling, and to escape from everything.
Tusheti is the most distant place in Georgia and this was where people who did not want to be found run away to in the past. Nowadays, it has become a paradise for nature lovers. It offers routes on foot or on horseback rides for all physical levels, between villages where time seems to have stopped. It is a very special place where the pagan traditions of the Tushetian still survive.
Signagi is a picturesque town in the Kakheti region, the soul of the wine culture in Georgia. It is surrounded by a wall of several kilometres and it offers a good hotel and charming restaurants.
One of the most typical day trips from Tbilisi is to the monasteries of Davit Gareja (46 miles). It is a group of monasteries excavated directly on the rock scattering throughout a large semi-desert area on the border with Azerbaijan.
This is one of the three cave cities that you can find in Georgia, and it is the oldest one of all. It is believed that it was inhabited since the second millennium B.C. and that more than 20,000 people lived there in its heyday. Some have called it the Petra of the Caucasus.
Telavi is the main city and the capital of Kakheti. It is a pleasant and peaceful village extending over a hill of 1863 feet tall, where you can see the Alazani valley. Its surroundings hide some of the most famous wineries in Georgia.
Lagodekhi goes into the Caucasus Mountains with a difference in altitude from 1312 and 11482 feet tall. Since the 19th century, it drew the attention of botanists for its biodiversity and it was the first protected area in the country. That status has helped preserve its ecosystem at an almost intact state.
- Surface: 69.700 km² (26.911 sq mi)
- Capital:Tiflis (Tbilisi in Georgian)
- Population: 4.942.000, of which 83,8% are ethnic Georginas, 6,5% Azeris, 5,7% Armenians, 1,5% Russians and the remaining 2,5% belong to several minorities.
- Religion: the official religion is Georgian Orthodox Christianity, practiced by 83.9% of its population. 9.9% are Muslims and the rest of them belong to other Christian denominations and Judaism.
- Type of government: Parliamentary Republic.
- Language: Georgian. In the region of Svaneti, the Svan (Svanuri) is also spoken and in the region of Samegrelo, the Megreliano (Margaluri) is spoken as well.
- Currency: lari (GEL)
- Life expectancy: 77 years.
- Literacy rate: 99,7%
- Human Development Index (HDI): high
Useful Websites to Prepare for Your Adventure
- www.georgia.travel – It is the official tourism website for Georgia and it is a very powerful resource to use for your trip preparations. The site offers very interesting information about the places you want to go, the activities you want to do, general information that you are interested in, and it also suggests good routes for hikes and a collection of great travel itineraries or plans. It is a very useful choice to get an idea of the potential of Georgia and to make sure you have the opportunity to check it out whenever you want.
- www.gobatumi.com/en – This is the official tourism website for the Autonomous Republic of Adjara. By the way, Batumi is the tourist capital. This region has a greater degree of independence than the rest of the Georgian territories. Therefore, they have their own Internet portal.
- http://places.georgia.travel – It has a database with all the accommodations in the country. You can filter by cities. By using this link, you will never be left in the lurch and worried about knowing where to spend the night.
- www.caucasus-trekking.com – This is an online platform specialising in mountain climbing and trekking in the Caucasus. It suggest some very interesting routes through the Georgian mountains, with maps, tips, and more.
- www.gnta.ge – Its content is designed with a more professional profile focusing on the tourism sector. It does, however, show some very interesting reports and statistics.
- www.civil.ge – This is an online newspaper with English content about current events in Georgia. You will find it very useful to catch up on the reality of the country.
- www.georgianjournal.ge – You will find almost anything here. Whether a blog post or a newspaper article with more information in English about Georgia. They are active on a daily basis and publish several new articles each day. Indeed, highly recommended.
- www.apa.gov.ge/en – This site is the “country parks”, biosphere reserves, and protected areas website in Georgia. You will find very interesting information about the wildest areas of the country.
When Should I go?
Any time of year is good to go to Georgia. The best months are from April to October for all of us. It is really hot in July and August, especially in the capital, but they are the months chosen by most tourists. In addition, June, July, August, and September are the best months for mountain climbing and hiking since the snow has melted from most of the mountains.
You should not go during the coldest months of the year since some mountain passes remain closed, making some excursions impossible. However, if you like skiing and you are looking for some excitement, then Georgia offers you good choices in the winter. There are still little-known ski resorts and more extreme excursions available to you here. How about a little bit of Heli-skiing in the Greater Caucasus mountain range?
Do I Need a Visa?
To find out if you need a visa, check out the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. As long as you travel far and outside the E.U. or USA, it is important that you notify your vacations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through your online registered tour agency. Thus, you make their job easier, if necessary in emergency situations.
Customs: What Kind of Restrictions Are There?
You can only carry a maximum of four hundred liters of alcoholic beverages and four hundred undeclared cigarettes in your suitcase. If you want to bring any type of animal, it must be accompanied by its appropriate veterinary health certificate and pet passport.
You are not allowed to bring any kind of narcotics. The laws of this country are very severe with drugs and prison conditions are harsh in comparison with other countries in Europe. As for getting antiques and works of art out of the country, permission is required from the Ministry of Culture and a photograph of each article, too.
Vaccines: Do I Have to Receive Any?
It is not mandatory to receive any vaccine, but it is important to receive hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, and typhoid fever vaccines. For those people who are going to be in contact with animals or are expecting to stay for a longer time, they should have the rabies vaccine.
You may usually see wild dogs hanging around the villages and some cities, especially at night. It is also common to be in mountain areas with shepherd regional dogs. So you have to be careful, and if attacked, you should go immediately to the nearest medical centre.
Health: Sanitary Basic Tips
• Medicines: If you are suffering from a chronic illness or you are going to need medication during your vacation, you should take the necessary doses together with the medical prescriptions. Make sure as well that you have enough medication for the total period of your stay.
• Water: Although the local people say that the water is of exceptional quality and it comes from the Caucasian peaks, we do not know what their treatment really is. Especially outside the capital cities. So if you’re going to stay for a little while, you should drink bottled water.
• Meals: make sure to wash your hands. Many diseases are transmitted by germs entering our bodies through our hands.
• Sex: don’t forget to have safe sex. Although the rate of people infected with HIV in Georgia is within normal parameters, the risk is not zero.
• Snakes and scorpions: In Georgia, you should watch your step, especially when hiking or walking around the mountains. There are more than twenty different types of snakes, although only a few are venomous. The most dangerous is the Lebetine viper, known as giusa or gurza. During the winter, the snakes remain in their burrows, but you should be careful from April to October, especially when walking in rocky areas with nooks and crannies. They only attack when they feel threatened and it is not often that anything happens, but better to be safe than sorry. There are also scorpions, so if you are travelling with children, you should be extremely careful. In the event of an accident, you have to head immediately to the nearest health centre.
Travel Insurance: Should I Get One?
It is strongly recommended. There are several companies offering medical assistance, theft, or repatriation coverage in case of serious illness. Some of them are available at quite affordable rates. The best known are:
• Allianz Global Assistance
• Europ Assistance: Phone
Save some money!
It is important to pay the plane ticket with a visa card. They normally insure their clients abroad with certain coverage in case of accident, repatriation, or emergencies. If you already have a private health insurance policy, review it. Most likely, you already have some type of international coverage.
What Should I Pack?
- Indispensable: hiking boots, a flashlight, pocket knife, two credit cards, a towel, a hat, a camera, an auxiliary backpack for trips and flip flops.
- Dress code to enter monasteries: you must not enter the churches in shorts or skirts above the knees. In addition, women should cover their heads in order to visit sacred places in both countries, so it is a good idea to include a pashmina or something similar in your suitcase.
- First aid kit: in addition to the typical medicines and disinfectant material, you should pack a broad-spectrum antibiotic, just in case.
- Clothing: it will depend on the season you are planning to visit. However, you should keep in mind that temperatures vary drastically from one region to another. Within walking distance, there may be a cool Alpine from the mountain regions to the Mediterranean climate on the Black Sea coast, and from the semi-desert of some regions of the south to the humid of some areas of Samegrelo. So, make sure to pack clothes that will protect you in any situation. You should be extra ready as well if you are going to the mountains. You will be in one of the most savage mountain ranges on the planet.
LGTBI Travelers: Should I be Careful?
Although homosexuality and other sexual orientations are not crimes, unfortunately the Georgian society still has very old-fashioned views on this matter. The same thing applies to transgender people: the sex change is legal but it looks really bad to the local society.
In May 2013, the gay pride parade in Tbilisi ended really badly, with dozens injured by the attack of a massive counter-protest called by different groups and provoked by the Orthodox Church. What should be our recommendation for you? Try to be discreet to avoid any uncomfortable situations. Especially in countryside or mountain areas, such as Svaneti.
Language: Will I Have Problems Understanding the Locals?
Probably. Especially outside the capital. But that is part of the adventure. Georgian people speak Georgian perfectly and are quite good with Russian, but little English. Those people who speak a little English are young. But outside of Tbilisi, things get complicated.
Tip: if you are going to travel by yourself, it is always a good idea to have a contact number in the country (the hotel reception, a travel agency, a friend). Outside of Tbilisi, you will always find someone who wants to help you out, but there are quite few people who speak English.
Language and Alphabet
The official language is Georgian but the Megrelio and the Svan are also spoken in the west. All three belong to the family of southern Caucasian languages, also called Kartvelians. They are Pre-Indo-European languages and they are still an enigma for scientists.
The Georgian has its own alphabet, one of the 14 existing in the world. It is written from left to right, like Latin. It is believed to date from pre-Christian times and it has evolved over the centuries to make up the modern alphabet, consisting of 33 letters and it is called mkhedruli. The oldest literary work preserved in Georgian is the ‘Passion of Saint Shushanik’, written in the fifth century.
Budget: Is Georgia Expensive?
ACCOMMODATION in a double room
RESTAURANTS (average price per person)
Up to 130 GEL (40 €)
Up to 18 GEL (6€)
Up to 260 GEL (80 €)
Up to 36 GEL (12 €)
Up to 520 GEL (160 €)
Up to 60 GEL (20€)
More than 520 GEL (+160 €)
More than 60 GEL (+ 20€)
Note: although transportation and restaurants are quite affordable for your pocket, accommodation in Georgia is expensive compared to the purchasing power of its citizens, especially in Tbilisi.
Generally, you can eat well at an affordable price in Georgia. There are more regional food restaurants, although some also add international dishes. In most tourist places, the menus are usually in Georgian and English. Tbilisi and Batumi offer the most varied cuisine with establishments of all kinds.
Type of restaurants
Average Price per person (no alcohol)
Up to 6 €
Up to 12 €
Up to 20 €
More than 20 €
Tipping: this is not obligatory, but tips are always welcome.
Compared to the local average salary of 800 GEL (€ 350), hotel rates can be a bit unfair, especially in the capital and in some parts of the Adjara province (Black Sea). However, during the last few years, there has been an explosion of new Bed & Breakfast establishments and guest houses that usually have a fairly acceptable price-performance ratio.
If you travel on a budget, they are the best option outside the capital. Another alternative to keep in mind if you are not carrying enough money is Couchsurfing, which is slowly catching on in Georgia. The Airbnb platform also works in Georgia.
If money is not an obstacle, Tbilisi and Batumi have options for all tastes and have a good infrastructure with hotels of all kinds: boutique, luxury, or holiday resorts. Some belong to large chains such as Marriott, Radisson, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn.
You can also find good quality accommodation in Mestia, Kazbegi, Borjomi, Telavi, Signagi, Kobuleti or Kutaisi. From these places, you can set up your operations centre without problems to organize excursions to the most amazing places in each region.
Type of hotels
Average Price per double room (high season)
Up to 40€ (hotels, hostels and B&B)
Up to 80 €
Up to 160 €
More than 160 €
Many people like the Georgian flag’s design. It is very medieval. The Georgian flag, also known as the Five Crosses, was adopted as an official emblem in March 2004 after the Rose Revolution. However, it dates back from a long time ago and it was the symbol of the ancient Kingdom of Georgia.
Georgia belongs to Transcaucasia. This region is spreading like a funnel between the Caucasus and Iran, and the Black Sea and the Caspian. With its 69,700 km² (26.911 sq mi), it is so similar to Ireland in size. But be careful, its mountains make travel distances double in length.
The country shares borders with Russia in the North, and Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan in the South. The waters of the Black Sea bathe its coasts on the West. It is located on the edge of two continents. Therefore, you do not really know where to locate it many times.
Although it belongs theoretically to the Middle East since it occupies the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, we will include it in Europe due to its cultural proximity and because its population feels that way. The mysterious Kurban Said wrote: “The country is more to the east in Europe” in his novel ‘Ali and Nino’.
Georgia has a very mountainous terrain. More than half of its territory exceeds 900 meters (2952 feet tall). The Great Caucasus spreads across the north as an impassable white wall bordering the Russian republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachai-Cherkessia.
The Georgian part of this huge block has three peaks exceeding 5000 meters (16404 feet) and making the very Alps speechless: the Shkhara (17037 feet), the Janga (16594 feet), and the Kazbek (16515 feet). In the south, the mountains of the Lesser Caucasus form the second most important mountain range in the country.
The Likhi range runs from North to South of the country. It divides the nation into the eastern and western parts. Each one of them has a different climate marked by the way of being of its people, its gastronomy, and even its own culture.
One of the biggest assets is its freshwater reserves. It is estimated that around 25,000 rivers, between large and small ones, flow through Georgian lands and flood the fields with life. Out of all of them, the most important is the Mtkavari, not only in Georgia but in the entire Caucasus. The river was born in Turkey.
Mtkavari crosses Georgia and it dies in the Caspian Sea. The Alazani, the Aragvi, the Chorokhi, and the Rioni are also really important. Although the exact number is not known, it is estimated that there are about 860 lakes in Georgia. Some of the best-known are the Paravani, the Ritsa, Amtkeli, and Childiri.
You should be ready for everything. In Georgia, there are a variety of climates ranging from the alpine in the Greater Caucasus area, the semi-desert on the border with Azerbaijan, the mild continental inland, to the subtropical on the Black Sea coasts.
However, it is often said that the country is divided into two climatic zones: the eastern part, which has a mild continental climate (not too cold winters and not excessively hot summers), and the western part, which is subtropical with mild temperatures throughout the year but with lots of humidity and rain.
Nature and diversity define the country well. In Georgia, you can find high mountain landscapes, coastal areas, subtropical areas, semi-desert regions, deciduous forests, swamplands, and steppes. In addition, 38% of its territory is forest and there are still remaining virgin areas. The authorities are aware of the importance of their conservation. Therefore, they have created a network of 31 protected areas.
Georgia is the second country in Europe with the highest amount of endemic animal species after Russia. It has about 110 different types of mammals, ranging from the brown bear, the wolf, the lynx, the Caucasian goat or the chamois, to some cetaceans like the harbor porpoise and the bottlenose dolphin. Among the reptiles, the Caucasian salamander and the turtle of the Mediterranean are included.
If you are mountain-climbing or hiking, you should be careful about the Lebetine vipers. You can find them in the eastern half of the country and the Caucasian ones. They are quite venomous. As for ornithology, there are about 360 species of birds of which three are endemic: the Caucasian grouse, the Caucasian snowcock, and the English known as Caucasian chiffchaff.
Take a Look
- National currency: Georgian lari (GEL)
- Exchange rate: 1€ = 3,09 GEL
- Coins and bills: 1 GEL is divided into 100 tetri. There are coins of 10, 20 y 50 tetri, and 1 and 2 GEL. There are de 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 GEL
- Country code: +995
- Emergencies: 112
- Police: 112
- Firefighters: 112
- Languages: Georgian (official). Young people speak some English in the cities. People of a certain age speak Russian perfectly.
Be careful! Time is not fast or slow in Georgia. Therefore, there are three hours more difference in winter regarding the Greenwich Meridian and there are only two hours in summer.
Do I Need an Adapter for My Cellphone and Other Devices?
You do not need any adapter since the plugs are 220V and 50 Hz.
Will I Have Problems When Withdrawing or Changing Money?
Not at all. Georgia is a pretty European country. The downtown of Tbilisi is full of banks with ATMs accepting credit and debit cards. There are also exchange offices where you can exchange your money and there is also a management process in many hotels.
Of course, you should calculate the commission that the intermediary takes so they don’t become too expensive. Traveller’s checks are accepted in some places, although they are becoming obsolete. The provincial towns also have their banks and ATMs, although to a lesser extent.
If you are going deep into Georgia, you should bring enough cash in case hotels are not accepting credit cards or if you have gone to a tiny town. Some of the most professional banks in the country are the Bank of Georgia and Bank Republik.
You should buy a prepaid Georgian SIM card as soon as you arrive. You are going to save a lot of money on calls and they hardly cost a couple of euros – with some balance included. They will ask for your passport to register for you. In the Tbilisi airport, you are going to have 24 hours open points-of-sale for the follow-up processing:
Guide for Making Calls from a Georgian SIM card
- If you want to call from your new Georgian telephone to a landline, you must dial 0 first followed by the city code and the telephone number. For example: calling to a fixed number of Tbilisi 0+ (32) + XXX XXXX
- For connections between two Georgian mobiles, you must dial 5 first and then the contact person’s telephone number. For example: 5 + XXX XXX XX. Many times, people give you their phone number with the 5 already incorporated.
- Call rates are considerably cheaper than in most European and North American countries. As for the Internet: a package of 4 GB of data costs no more than10 GEL (3 €).
- If you are going to call your country, you should do it through the Georgian SIM. It will be cheaper for you, and since it is prepaid, you will avoid surprises of unexpected payments when you get back home.
• Georgian Post. Address: 2 Railway Square (Tbilisi). Phone: (+995) 32 224 09 09. For more information: www.georgianpost.ge
• DHL. Address: 105 Tsereteli Avenue (Tbilisi). Phone: (+995) 32 269 60 60. For more information: www.dhl.com.ge/en
Will I Have Internet Connection Problems?
Except for in some remote mountain areas, you will not have any connection problems. Internet is widely used, especially amongst the younger population. In the cities, the bars usually have free Wi-Fi and almost all the accommodation offer this to their clients as well.
Is Georgia Safe?
Georgia has made great progress in citizen security over the last decade and nowadays it is at a level similar to that of many European countries. Robberies with violence are rare but you have to pay attention to pickpockets, especially in the metro or in crowded areas. You should carry enough money in your wallet, but take only what is necessary.
The Svaneti region was considered a dangerous place until a few years ago, where tourists were regularly robbed. However, now the atmosphere is similar to the rest of Georgia and it has become a fairly tourist-friendly area.
However, you should be cautious, especially if you are a woman and you are travelling alone. You should not visit Abkhazia, at least for the time being. Violent robberies have been made on travellers – especially in the border district of Gali – and if something happens to you, there is no diplomatic representation to help you out. If you were thinking of moving to South Ossetia, forget it. The border is closed to foreigners.
Survival Tips for Single Travellers
Overall, Georgia is a safe destination. There are very hospitable people and the thefts or sexual assaults are quite rare there. However, it is not an easy country. Or at least not up to the standards of living that most Europeans are used to.
Travelling on public transport is rather chaotic: the marshrutkas leave only when they are full. Sometimes, they change schedules without warning and you should get used to the dry tone of some drivers. In addition, people almost do not speak English outside of the capital.
But don’t worry. Magic happens and problems are always solved. If you are going to explore the country on your own, you should take a look at these recommendations: if you are in the mountains, be careful of the shepherd dogs. They are very territorial. Stay out of their territory (property, flock of sheep) and just avoid them whenever you can.
You should be careful of the snakes and scorpions in some areas. Always carry a flashlight. Outside the cities, lighting is sorely lacking. You have to buy a prepaid Georgian SIM card. For less than € 10 you will have 4 GB of data and enough minutes of calls. Always put on your belt and drive extremely careful. The driving style of the locals is quite aggressive.
Whenever you have time, take official taxis with a taximeter. It is normal people try to scam you for a few dollars. If you are traveling in marshrutka around the country, you should always try to be 30 minutes early to secure your seat. If you travel by train, pay attention to your luggage.
- Banks: Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Bars: every day until 2:00 p.m.
- Coffee shops: from 10:00 a.m. a 10:00 p.m.
- Restaurants: from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., although many popular restaurants stay open until late in the evening.
- Stores: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
In Georgia, people smoke a lot, especially among men. The price of tobacco is quite cheap and consumption in bars and restaurants is allowed. You can buy it in supermarkets and food kiosks, which are usually open until midnight.
Can I Drink Tap Water?
For us, if we can choose to drink bottled water, we will. With that said, we drank tap water on many occasions and nothing has ever happened to us. If you have a sensitive stomach and you do not want to get an upset stomach on your vacation, you should drink bottled water. Borjomi is a type of very famous sparkling water in all the countries of the former USSR for its medicinal properties.
In Georgia, you have the following options to travel:
They are minibusses with capacity for about 15 people. They are usually Ford Transit vans operating both for intra-urban displacement and for connections between towns and cities.
The marshrutkas are the most popular means of transportation and one of the most economical, too. They tend to be quite fast but not very comfortable. You can pay the fare directly to the driver. They usually leave when they are full. Sometimes before and others, after the set time. Therefore, you should arrive at the departure point half an hour early.
They are comfortable and cheap. The problem is that they do not usually have a meter outside Tbilisi and you have to negotiate the price first. Since you are a tourist, they will probably start at a much higher price and they will try to charge you a couple of extra euros more. The flag down in the capital is 3 GEL. They should not charge you more than 5 GEL for a journey within the center of the capital. The same thing goes for the rest of cities. There are popular taxi-hailing apps you can use and these are Taxify and Yandex.
This is be something like the premium road transport service in the country. Shared taxis are high-end minivans, smaller and much more comfortable, with fewer passengers. They are also faster and safer. Overall, the tickets cost a little more, but the difference is not excessive.
The train works quite well but it is slow. However, for long trips, riding the train is more comfortable than the marshrutka since you can stretch your feet. The main lines are those connecting the capital with Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Poti, or Batumi. There is also rail transport between Tbilisi and Yerevan and Tbilisi and Baku.
There are night trains with compartment beds to the city of Zugdidi, Batumi, Ozurgeti, and Kutaisi. The tickets are bought at the station but it is important to do that a couple of days in advance, especially for overnight trains. You should take your passport as you will need it later. Train schedules change relatively often. To check the updated schedules, visit www.railway.ge. This webpage is also in English.
There are franchises of Europcar, Sixt, and Avis in the country. There are also many other low-cost car rental companies with which you will save a lot of money, almost half. You will need to show your passport (they will ask you for this upon paying the deposit), your international driver’s license, and of course the deposit money.
If you are thinking about visiting some mountain areas on your own, places such as Tusheti, Khevsureti, Kazbegi or Svaneti, you will need an SUV and good driving skills. Some roads are in very bad condition and others are without tarmac. The speed limits in the city are 60 km/h (37 mi/h), and in the rest of roads, 60 km/h (49 mi/h) (unless it says otherwise). Be careful: Georgians drive however they want, so watch out!
In addition to the Tbilisi International Airport, there are airports in Batumi, Kutaisi, and Mestia. For internal trips from Tbilisi to Batumi, and to Mestia (from the Natakhtari airport), there are relatively cheap flights. There is a good distance to these locations and if you do not have much time, you should consider flying.
This is not recommended, but if you have been waiting around somewhere without connections, it is an option to do so. As you are a tourist, it probably will not be long until someone is sorry for you and picks you up. However, take precautions and always travel with a partner, especially if you are a woman. Men won’t usually have any problems, but you can never tell. Mind you, always put on your seatbelt. People drive in however way they want in Georgia!
Georgia is the country of the Caucasus. Its landscapes are full of wild rivers, huge mountains, ski resorts, glaciers, gorges, and canyons. It is something unforgivable if you come here and you do not explore its wild side. That would be like going to Nepal and not seeing the Himalayas, or visiting Switzerland and turning your back on the Alps.
Georgia is a very famous destination among high mountain lovers. Perhaps the most popular climb is Mount Kazbek (16502 feet). It is not restricted to professionals, but it does require some experience, especially if you are not going with a guide. It is also necessary to bring good equipment and to be in good physical shape.
The ascent and descent can take you up to four days and it requires altitude acclimatization. There is another challenge reserved for the most experienced climbers and that is to make it to the top of the Shkara (17037 feet), the highest mountain in the country.
But if you’re looking for extra adrenaline, the Ushba has a reputation of being the most beautiful and difficult mountain in the Caucasian mountain range. There is a reason they call it the Queen of the Caucasus. The whole history of Russian mountaineering is strongly connected to this mountain. It has two peaks: the north one (15387 feet) and the south one (15452 feet). Like the Shkara, it is located in the Svaneti region.
But most of us are looking for something light. Our recommendation? The area of Svaneti, Khevsureti, Tusheti, and Kazbegi offers many alternatives for trekking or cycling, and the landscapes and villages there are outstanding.
The Racha region is also recently becoming fashionable and it offers some little-known mountain routes with average difficulty. If you are more of a water kind of person, the Pshavis Aragvi, Mtkavari or Rioni rivers offer good options for rafting starting in April. Although in a country with about 25,000 rivers and more than 800 lakes, each area has its sanctuaries for rafting or hydrospeeding.
A good way to discover the country is by riding a bicycle. In some mountain areas where tourism has developed a little more, such as Svaneti and Kazbegi, there are a few bike rental companies. You also have the option to bring your own bike from Spain or rent it from the capital for a couple of days. It is the best way to discover the Caucasian villages at your own pace and see first hand the Georgian hospitality. Mind you, you should move away from the roads with traffic. People drive very aggressively in Georgia.
It is pretty easy to go horseriding in Tusheti. Its people are always linked to horses and there are companies offering guided tours for several days in these mountains. By the way, the mountains in this area serve as a border for Chechnya and they are one of the most remote areas of Georgia. If horseback riding is not for you and you feel more comfortable sitting in the passenger seat of a car, there are many travel agencies offering tours in the high mountain areas on a vehicle.
Another way to discover the country is by paragliding. There are a few companies offering tandem flights with an instructor. The most popular takeoff areas are Gudairi and Kazbegi station, although there are even a few more out there.
And what about winter? In winter Georgia is dressed in white. The most popular ski resorts are Gudairi, Bakuriani, and Mestia. But there is a couple more. If you are an experienced skier and you would like to have the ride of your life, we recommend heli-skiing. Getting on a helicopter and going down a Caucasian mountain full of virgin snow is such an experience you will never forget in your life. The thing is that the price is prohibitively expensive.
If you would like to discover the wildest side of Georgia, you should look at the following specialised adventure agencies. They offer tours, equipment rental, and loads of advice.
- Jomardi Adventure Club – Address: 7 Grigol Robakidze Street (Tbilisi). Phone: +995 551 79 01 09 / +995 551 749 727 / +995 (0) 570 100 244. E-mail: email@example.com They specialise in rafting, but they also organize horse riding, routes through the mountains, and mountain bike tours. They offer affordable prices, services for all types of physical levels, and a team of experts who speak English. For more information: www.adventure.ge
- Heliksir – Address: 28 Pekini Street (Tbilisi). Phone: +995 32 2243 503 / +995 595 350 900. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org They specialise in heliskiing in the mountains of Georgia. They offer 3-day heliskiing packages for the Caucasus (€ 4,000) and products for families as well as customised tours. For more information: https://heliski.travel/
- Fly Caucasus – Address: 13-9 Lado Satiani Street. Phone: +995 591 98 34 54. E-mail: email@example.com They specialise in paragliding flights in the Caucasus. They have their flight areas in Gudairi, Ananuri, and Tbilisi. For more information: www.flycaucasus.com
Vocabulary to Make You Understand the Georgians
Day by day
Good morning: dila mshvidobis
Good night: game Shvidobis
Thank you very much: didi madlova
Please: ari getaua
You’re welcome: arapris
How are you? Rogor jar?
I am fine, thanks: Kargad var
Very good: dzalian Kargi
Yes: diaj / jó
I don’t understand: ar mesmis
I am sorry: bodishi
I love you: mikvarjar
What is your name? ra gqvia
Bus station: avtobusebis sadguri
Bus stop: avtobusevis gachereba
Train station: matarevlis sadguri
When is the next…? ra girs?
How much is it?: Ramdeni girs?
I lost my luggage: bargi davkarge
Are you lost?
Where is the…? sad aris?
Post office: posta
City Hall: meria
Go Shopping in Georgia
How much is it?: Ramdeni girs?
Where it the bathroom? Sadaris sapirparesho?
I am sick: avad var
Is there any available rooms? Otaji gaaqvt
Barbacue: mtsvadi / shaslik
The menu, please: meniu, tu sheidzleva.
The check, please: angarishi tu sheidzleba.
One hundred: asi
Days of the week: