Travelers have been heard to say about Georgia that it’s a perfect mix of everything. What you get here is a blend of warm, friendly, humble people. And if you love the countryside, well, it’s simply breathtaking. If you are one who loves the city lights and action, then Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, will never disappoint. You can’t really describe it properly; you have to experience it!
Georgia the doorway to Asia is the country that its own people call the “Balcony of Europe”. That makes sense, doesn’t it? From this vantage point, this gem between Asia and Europe has something to teach everybody – how to appreciate nature, and the influence of the people on your heart and soul. Some, when asked what their best country is that they have ever visited will say year after year, “Georgia”! This country will have an impact on your life as a traveler.
Have you been dreaming of visiting Georgia – has it been on your bucket list for a long time and finally your moment has come? Let us pass on to you some practical tips. Once you have these tips under your belt, all you really have to say is “Georgia, here we come!”
Spending Georgian currency
In Georgia, the Lari is the official currency; referred to as GEL. The Georgian national currency has been designed to emphasize the country’s cultural heritage. Exchange your foreign currency in a lot of the banks scattered all across Tbilisi. You will find a lot of currency exchange offices as well near the metro stations, hotels, the shopping malls, and the stores. Banks are open on weekdays from 9:00- 17:30 and from 09:00-14:00 on Saturdays. The exchange offices are usually open until quite late in the evening.
The most profitable way to come to Georgia is actually having US dollar, and even if you come from countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, etc. it is recommended that you first exchange your local currency in your home country into euros or dollars and then exchange the dollars into GEL in Georgia.
Remember too, that when you are in the countryside, you might not find ATMs and banking services. That means keeping cash with you because the taxis as well, they don’t ever accept cards.
Some general prices for accommodation in Georgia
- Hotel: starts at €15
- Hostel: starts at €6
- Guesthouse: starts at €12
- Airbnb: starts at €15 for private space and €10 for a shared house
- Camping: It’s usually free
Whatever you decide on, public transport is really reasonable in Georgia. Look out for taxis, buses, trains – they all work well and just add to your traveling pleasures.
The taxis are probably the cheapest ways of traveling around Georgia. You either phone them up or you hail one in the streets. Or you can download an app such as Taxify. But really, the easiest is for you just to wave your hand in the street. You will get a taxi from anywhere from 1.5 USD to 3 USD.
Negotiate the price with the taxi drivers. Just remember though that taxis that wait for customers at parking lots are going to charge more than taxis on the go in the streets. If you do decide to phone them up, you’ll wait around 10-15 minutes, but you may get a better fare price.
Taxis that you order from the airport into the city will cost from around 10-15 USD. It will depend on the type of car you choose, when they depart, and even on the mood of the driver. It’s a good idea to pick one that has just delivered a customer because they accept lower prices than people who are waiting for them at the entrance. Also, remember they don’t speak your language so try your best with any means of communication.
Uber hasn’t yet as arrived in Tbilisi but a good alternative is Bolt Taxis. You can count on them to get you a ride in mere minutes. When you speak English or Russian, the taxi drivers will charge you what they like, but it will be up to you to negotiate a price or take it as it comes on the chin. The taxi drivers know the streets well. These are quite a few taxi companies in Georgia, so look out for them:
- Maxim Taxi: Find out all their details here and phone numbers; whatever you need.
- Bolt – you can use the service by mobile application or a phone call and it’s available only in Tbilisi.
- Find out more about how the taxis operate as well as about airport shuttle in Georgia.
In short, the Taxi service in Georgia is widely available and quite affordable. Just be aware, like in most countries, the taxi drivers will try to get you to pay more. Within the city, a taxi ride should cost you no more than 5-10 GEL.
The local people in Georgia call these Marshrutkas; they are bright yellow with numbers on the front – this means a specific route they will take. They are so easy to hail down; just wave your hand in the street! It’s not expensive and will cost you under 0.40 USD. If you stay longer in Georgia, get their travel card, Metro money. It’s a universal way of paying for your municipal transport.
Most of the Tbilisi buses too have been yellow for many years, but in the last couple of years new, much more comfortable blue and green buses started appearing on central routes. Buses have quite diverse routs well covering every part of the city; they are also relatively cheap and will cost you around 0.25-0.50 USD. You can also pay with your Metromoney card or by using Tetri coins of 5, 10, 20 or 50 coins. For the longer distances, you are likely to pay between 5-40 GELs – it will depend on where you want to go.
If you want to get to places fast, the Metro is what you should choose. Only one problem; there are just 22 metro stations around in the city, which means you might have to walk a bit when trying to get to where you want to be. It will cost you about 0.25 USD to 0.50 GEL for a journey, per person, and here you will use your Metro money card.
Travel Cards (Metromoney)
If your intention is to stay for a few days, you get travel cards called Metromoney for around 1 USD. Your first trip will cost 0.40 USD, but after that, trips are then discounted to 0.30 USD. You will love the comfort of this way of traveling. Every time you travel, you just top it up. This card can also be used for the buses as well as the Narikala ropeway.
You can also drive around Georgia in Car rentals if that’s what you prefer. Georgian car rentals are very nice and will cost you over 50 USD a day. A much better choice would be to rent a car with a driver, that way you won’t need to take your driver’s license with you, besides it’s pretty hectic driving around Tbilisi, the roads are always very busy and you won’t find parking easily.
Keeping available online
As a tourist traveling to Georgia, it makes sense that you will want to get connected immediately, right?
In Georgia, there are three operators: Magti, Beeline, and Geocell; all with excellent coverage and all with service centers on the central street in Tbilisi; that’s Rustaveli Avenue. If you flew in, each of these online providers has shops right at the airport. You get reliable, fast, and free Wi-Fi at Tbilisi Airport.
If you visit any of the 3 service centers you can buy your SIM card, but you will find mobile operators in all the districts of Tbilisi and the other major cities in Georgia. Beeline is probably where you will get the cheapest prices. For instance, if you pay about 10 UDS per month, you will get unlimited minutes to stay online and send SMSs and quite a bit of internet data as well.
You will find Georgia’s high-quality mobile communication perfect for connecting to family and friends. When you arrive in the country, you will activate roaming. If you want to use the mobile services at reasonable prices, you will find all the 3 operators support 4G and Magti, actually, offers a network of 4.5G.
The nature of the weather in Georgia
Literally, it makes no difference where you go; the beauty of Georgia actually might leave you speechless. So don’t forget your camera! In fact, one of the highest Peak in Europe is right here – Mount Kazbegi – rising to a height of 5,052 meters, and part of the Caucasian Mountains. You need to think about a trip to these mountain peaks; it is a once in a life time experience. So what do you need to prepare for the weather in this country?
Even though it’s quite a small country, the climate is quite diverse; it’s those beautiful mountains and the Black Sea that play a role in diversity. Basically, it’s colder in the east and warmer in the west. But to answer your question about when is the best time to visit, it’s actually May, June, or September. Particularly, you will love the lowlands around Tbilisi, the capital, during these times. Then you avoid the summer heat as well as the humidity; and also the freezing cold of winter. You will love the harvest time in autumn, that’s for sure, around the vineyards of Kakheti – what an adventure! Don’t miss it! Pack waterproof gear that dries quickly as the weather can change just like that.
On the other hand, July and August are the peak holiday months for Georgia. If you want the holiday season to be part of your itinerary, you will find the mountain coolness very appealing. But anyway, let’s break the weather down for you here:
July and August: offer guaranteed snow-free hiking.
September-October: the snow could already be starting to fall in the mountains, but pleasant temperatures are to be found in the lowlands (the velvet swimming season in western areas).
November to April: considered as the low season, when you can expect freezing temperatures in December, January, and February, even going into March. But it’s the winter sports season and lots of ski-lodge activities and public festivities can be enjoyed.
April is also wintery, but by May it is getting rainy with mild temperatures. See the magnificent wildflowers spreading across the landscapes.
June: mountain walking trails are once again available in June, a good time for a visit to Georgia because it’s before the summer rush. It still boasts warm temperatures though.
As a bonus, here are some handy little phrases to learn before you go to Georgia
- What’s your name? Ra gkvia?
- Good morning: Dila Mshvidobisa
- Hello: Gamarjoba
- You are welcome: Arapris
- Excuse me: Ukatsravad
- Please: Tu Sheidzleba
- I don’t understand: Ver Gavige
- Goodbye: Nakhvamdis
- Where is the bathroom? Sapirpaerosho sadaa?
- Water: Tskali
- How much is this: Ra girs?
Georgian people have a trove of stories to tell about their fertile corner of the Caucasus. And Tbilisi history, lying under the ancient care and gaze of the Narikala fortress, is always present, evoking memories of bygone cultures and centuries. “The Balcony of Georgia” welcomes you.