Situated right in the middle of Europe and Asia, Georgia is the country that perfectly juxtaposes the culture, ambiance, and architecture of both continents. Famous for lush nature, medieval architecture, ancient defense towers, highest settlements in Europe, deepest caves in the world, and the birthplace of wine, Georgia is much more than those. You just need to visit and experience it all. Here’s some handy tips before you set off.
When to visit
Georgia is the all-year destination country. For such a small state, the climate here is quite diverse; thus, every season here has its charm. Winters are snowy everywhere, except the capital Tbilisi; spring is sunny and mild with a few rainy weeks in April; summers tend to be hot, especially in Tbilisi and autumn is similar to spring but a bit colder.
Georgia is a very friendly and hospitable country. This is even seen with visa regulations as citizens of more than 90 countries don’t require a visa. And some can also stay in the country for a year, compared to other countries that allow travelers to stay maximum of 90 days. The website of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia provides all the necessary information for those who plan a visit here.
Georgia has its language
One of the things that distinguishes Georgia from others is that it has its unique alphabet and language spoken only by four million people, who reside in the country. Most of the foreigners say the language is hard to learn, which might be true to some extent, but it isn’t. The sound, script, and pronunciation of the language often scare a foreigner, but some easy words are not that hard to pronounce. Moreover, you can check out our guide to Georgian idioms and sayings that will help you understand the country.
Georgia has its currency
Georgian currency is called Lari. The name comes from an old Georgian word denoting a hoard, property. Coins here are called tetri, or white in English. It was an old Georgian monetary term used in ancient Colchis. There are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 tetri coins and 1 and 2 Lari coins. While banknotes are the following: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Lari. The currency code for Lari is GEL, while the symbol is ₾.
Exchanging money here is easy. Every bank or small exchange office will be happy to trade your currency into Lari. You can bring USD, Euro, Turkish Lira, British Pounds, and Russian Rubles. However, do note that both banks and exchange kiosks exchange one and two Euro coins at a meager exchange rate. If you happen to have some, just hold on to those and use at the airport or back home.
Most of the places both in Tbilisi and other major cities of the country accept payments by debit and credit card. However, do carry some cash to be on the safe side. Don’t expect small convenient shops on the back streets of Tbilisi to have a terminal machine. This is an even more foreign concept in rural parts of the country.
Transportation in Tbilisi
Transportation here is somewhat challenging. Major cities like Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi have a relatively well developed public transportation. In Tbilisi, there’s a subway, buses, and mini-buses locals call Marshrutka. Every means of transport is very affordable compared to European cities. The lowest fare for a 90-minute ticket is 50 tetri ($0.20) for a subway and a bus. Mini-buses are bit expensive and cost 80 tetri.
There’s a card called Metro Money, which you will need to access a subway. It’s also convenient for buses and mini-buses. To purchase the card, you need to go to any subway stop and pay two Lari and top it off with whatever amount you wish to have on it. The card enables you to travel for free during the first 90 minutes with subway and buses, while it reduces the price by 15 tetri when used in a mini-bus for the second time during a day.
Taxis are also a quite affordable means of transport here. It’s so affordable that every second car you see on the streets of Tbilisi has a taxi sign. You can use an app, call a taxi company, or catch it on the roads. However, if you wave for a taxi in the street, you need to negotiate the price in advance, otherwise they will try to rip you off.
Getting around the country
Georgia has a relatively good connection to the regions from the capital. There’s a railway that goes from Tbilisi to Batumi, Zugdidi, Borjomi and other famous tourist destinations. Additionally, mini-buses are going to pretty much every village of Georgia every day. To the western part of the city, you need to go to Didube Bus station, while vehicles to Kakheti go from Samgori (Navtlughi) bus station. At first glance, the bus stations will seem very chaotic and unorganized, which is right to some extent, but they do their best to keep it organized.
There are three mobile operator companies in Georgia: Geocell, Magti, and Beeline. All of them have 4G internet connection, and their packages are quite affordable. The coverage is good in major cities of the country and gets a bit frustrating in the countryside. If you are looking for the best performance and coverage, you need to get a SIM card at Magti. Geocell has an excellent price for internet packages, but the performances are average, while Beeline is the cheapest but has quite poor coverage.
However, if you don’t want to spend money on this, most of the cafes, bars, and restaurants in Tbilisi and major cities have free wi-fi. Some are open, and some are password protected, so you need to ask a waiter. There’s also a city wi-fi available in central parts of Tbilisi, called Tbilisi Loves You, but the performance of it is inferior, so don’t rely on it.