Georgia is the ultimate European travel destination.
This Caucasian country is home to, definitely, the most striking mountains in Europe, composed of massive glaciers, fairy meadows, and 5,000-meter snowed capped peaks; and great, vibrant capital, very Eastern European on the one hand but, on the other, with its unique Caucasian and Georgian identity and filled with the most unimaginable chaos.
Barely discovered by the average traveler, Georgia is a country with a very strong national character, visible in many aspects, from having their own Christian branch to a unique architectural style, a very elaborate cuisine considered the best in the former Soviet Union and a deeply rooted wine culture.
I lived and traveled in Georgia for more than 7 months, and it is truly one of those countries which, every time I write about its beautiful things, I can’t avoid falling into nostalgia.
Georgia is a great country and this guide contains everything you need to know for traveling to Georgia, from how to get a visa to cultural facts, trekking advice and plenty of travel tips, making it the most detailed Georgia travel blog.
Going to Azerbaijan? Read: How to travel to Azerbaijan – Everything you need to know
Travel to Georgia in 2019 – Everything you must know
In this Georgia travel blog you will find:
Visa for Georgia
Best time to visit Georgia
Travel Insurance for Georgia
How to get in
Books for traveling to Georgia
Tours in Georgia
Is Georgia safe?
The people and the culture
Get off the beaten track
Soviet heritage in Georgia
Trekking in Georgia
Wine in Georgia
Transportation in Georgia
Visa for traveling to Georgia
Free one-year visa – Georgia has one of the greatest visa regimes in the world, as you can get a 1-year FREE visa upon arrival in the country.
You can live in Georgia for the rest of your life – The best part is that this 1 year gets automatically renewed once you leave and re-enter the country, even if you cross the Armenian border and come back after one minute. This means that you can stay in Georgia forever.
Which nationalities? Here you can see the list of the countries (94) which are eligible for the 1-year travel visa, which includes all Western Nationalities, Latin America, and all high GDP Asian nationalities.
By the way, apparently, EU citizens can enter the country without a passport, with just their national ID but, just in case, I recommend you bring both.
Best time to visit Georgia
First of all, you should know that Tbilisi can be visited all year long as, in winter, it never gets too cold plus you won’t find tourists. Summer is particularly hot in Tbilisi but it is the best season to enjoy the rest of the country.
- Visit Georgia in winter – Georgia has a few ski resorts, Gudauri being the most popular one, around 3 hours away from Tbilisi. Obviously, their ski resorts are not as great as the ones in Europe, but they are all right and for people living in Dubai and other warm areas, Georgia might be the best nearby ski destination.
- Visit Georgia in spring – Beautiful landscapes and many sunny days but it might be too early to go trekking in the high Caucasus.
- Visit Georgia in summer – The best time for trekking in the high Caucasus and visiting the coastal area.
- Visit Georgia in autumn – Mid-September is the harvest season, so for wine lovers, this is the best time to visit Kakheti region.
I personally think that September would be the ideal month to travel to Georgia because the trekking season is not over yet, it is harvest season, the weather in Tbilisi is great and the big crowds have already gone.
Insurance for traveling to Georgia
Well, Georgia is a trekking destination and, as such, you may want to look for travel insurance that covers adventure destinations and activities.
For this, I strongly recommend World Nomads:
- It covers the most adventure activities
- Their most basic plan already includes trekking up to 4,500m
- It is the only company that provides cover with an unlimited budget, including rescue
If you want to know more options, read: how to find the right travel insurance
How to get to Georgia
How to travel to Georgia by air
- Via Tbilisi – Tbilisi has many connections with Europe, some Asian destinations and Dubai and other Middle Eastern cities.
- Via Kutaisi – Kutaisi has the low-cost airport, with many Wizzair flights coming from several European cities.
How to travel to Georgia by land
- Russia – Officially, only one border with Russia is open, which is the one in Kazbegi. Then, you have the South Ossetian border, which can’t be used for entering/exiting Georgia, and the border with Abkhazia, which can be used for exiting but not entering. For more information, read my travel guide to Abkhazia.
- Azerbaijan – There are two official borders, one closer to Tbilisi, which can be crossed by train, and the other one in the Kakheti region. Both are friendly and very easy to cross. Read my Azerbaijan itinerary for more information.
- Armenia – There are three borders to choose from, depending on where you want to go.
- Turkey – The are two very friendly borders, the easiest being the coastal one, which takes you straight to Batumi.
Best Georgia travel guides
Georgia travel guide by Bradt – The only guide that exclusively focuses on Georgia is written by Bradt and it is super insightful, plus it shows you many off the beaten track places within the country.
Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan travel guide by Lonely Planet – If you are traveling to all the Caucasian countries, there is the LP guide to the region.
Tours for Georgia travel
Want to travel in Georgia on a tour?
Great. I recommend you book them via GetYourGuide, as you can find many tours with reviews and book them directly online. So far, these are their most popular tours:
Full-day wine-tasting tour – Georgia has been producing wine for 8,000 years and, on this tour, you can taste a variety of wines and see their traditional way of doing it. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Kakheti wine region private tour – The wine region in Georgia is filled with lovely, traditional villages and monasteries. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Tour to Kazbegi – Kazbegi is the most visited mountain town in Georgia. Absolutely stunning. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Walking tour Tbilisi – A tour around the beautiful capital. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
Is it safe to travel to Georgia?
There is not much to say here other than Georgia is very safe to visit, as it enjoys some of the lowest crime rates ever.
In fact, I used to work in different cafés around Tbilisi everyday and I was very surprised that the Georgians would always leave their laptops and belongings on the table and go outside for a couple of minutes, something I would never do in Spain or in pretty much any European city.
Traveling to Georgia is safe, really, including for solo women.
Are you traveling to Central Asia? Here you can find all my guides to the Stan countries
The people, the culture and the country
The country – Georgia is a country located in the Caucasus region that used to be part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. It is located at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, which made it particularly appealing and convenient to occupy for several empires, from the Mongols to the Ottomans, the Persians and, of course, the Russians, both the Russian Empire and the USSR.
Georgia is a country with many layers of history, absolutely fascinating, yet, and, surprisingly, they have been able to maintain their strong culture and character, very different from anywhere else you may have been to.
Is it part of Europe? – From a geographical point of view, the country is literally, right in between Asia and Europe, in Eurasia, so some people may argue when it comes to allocating it.
To be honest, I don’t really care where it sits because I personally think that its culture is more important than its geographic location and, in my opinion, Georgia has many similarities to Eastern Europe, more than even Turkey, which is geographically closer; and it barely shares any similarity with its Central Asian cousins and it is extremely different from any country in the Middle East.
Moreover, as a Spaniard, I will even tell you that they have many similarities with South Europeans, especially Greeks and Spaniards, not only in the way we look like but also, in the way we eat, drink and sit around the table. Actually, some studies confirm that Georgians have common ancestry with Basque people, a separate nation within Spain.
So yes, I think that Georgia is part of Europe.
Georgia and Russia – Heads-up. Georgians don’t like Russians, for many reasons, but mainly due to the Georgian-Russian war in 2008. I don’t really want to enter into politics but, basically, Georgia went to war with South Ossetia, a region that wanted to separate from Georgia and had the support of Russia, which ended up into a military invasion of Georgia with Russian tanks.
It is, of course, much more complicated than that, but this is what most Georgians will tell you and, if you meet some Georgians, you are likely to hear them complaining about Russians all the time.
This topic is kind of controversial because Georgia largely depends on Russian tourism, and they can actually travel to Georgia visa-free, but Georgians need to go through a very tedious process to enter Russia.
My country is 20% occupied by Russia
If you stay in the country for long enough, you are going to hear this sentence quite often, directly from Georgians or even written on blackboards from the most progressive bars. This 20% refers to South Ossetia and the Republic of Abkhazia.
Georgia is where traditional and European values collapse – Tbilisi is one of those capitals which, on the one hand, is home to a very traditional and super religious, conservative society which still lives in the last century and, on the other hand, a large young population, very open-minded in all senses and with very strong European values.
From not hiding their homosexuality to fighting for gender equality, the young crowd is really demanding change.
They would like to be at the level of any EU country, to be part of it even, but, unfortunately, they are conflict with the large, utterly conservative branch, who are supported by the powerful Church and, as a result, many of their demonstrations end up with violence.
Really, when I was living there in 2018, I witnessed quite a few extremely violent episodes.
The language – Georgians speak Georgian, a language whose origins are a bit uncertain plus it is similar to nothing you ever listened to. They also have their own alphabet, pretty beautiful in my opinion.
How to communicate with the locals – In Tbilisi, most young people speak good English but outside of Tbilisi not that much. Unlike in most former Soviet countries, in Georgia, they stopped teaching Russian at school right after their independence, which means that people who were born after 1991 don’t speak Russian at all, and some of the older generation who do don’t really like to speak it for the above-mentioned reasons.
Religion – 85% of Georgians belong to a Christian branch named Georgian Orthodox, one of the world’s most ancient Churches, founded in the 1st Century and the main reason why Georgians have been able to preserve their national identity despite all the invasions.
Georgia is the most religious Christian country I have ever been to, a country where you are going to see a lot of young people crossing themselves every time they pass a Church.
By the way, visiting the endless Georgian Orthodox churches and monasteries is one of the highlights, as they tend to be built in epic locations, plus they have their own architectural style.
Furthermore, 10% are Muslims, mainly living in Adjara, a region bordering Turkey, as that area used to be part of the Ottoman Empire.
The unrecognized republics within Georgia
In this Georgia travel guide, I think it is a good idea to mention some independent, yet, non-recognized, countries you may not have heard of.
Basically, an unrecognized republic is a country that has got its independence, but, nobody in the international community recognizes it, which means that the UN doesn’t acknowledge its existence.
There are many ghost countries around the world and in Georgia, you find two: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Those countries declared themselves independent from Georgia, which led to a bloody war and, since nobody recognized them, they weren’t able to be part of the international banking system and their borders were closed, so today, they are economically backed up by Russia, in exchange for recognition, influence and military presence.
However, entering these enclaves feels like being in a totally different country, as they have a border, require separate visas, have a distinct culture and Georgia has absolutely zero power and influence over them.
Abkhazia – You can easily visit it from Georgia and all you need is an e-visa which takes one week to process. For more information, read: How to travel to Abkhazia.
South Ossetia – Not accessible from Georgia: you can only enter from Russia and you may need to have a double entry Russian visa.
Get off the beaten track when you go backpacking in Georgia
Georgia is an emerging tourist destination but I think that, in a couple of years, it will enter the mass tourism destination stage.
In fact, some parts of Georgia, like Kazbegi or Mestia are already quite commercialized, which means that taxi rip-offs are common and the locals don’t care about anything but the money you have in your pocket.
It is a pity because Georgians are known for their humble hospitality and it seems that this commercialization came too quickly.
Nevertheless, don’t be disappointed because most of the country has been barely visited by tourists and there are many pure regions, pretty raw, where the locals will bless you with their hospitality. These are the best off the beaten track places to go backpacking in Georgia:
- The mountains of Adjara (bordering Turkey)
- Some villages of Kakheti
Soviet Heritage in Georgia
Like I said before, the Georgia-Russia relationship is kind of controversial because, on one side, they want to erase any Russian influence from their culture but, on the other side, here you find a shit load of Soviet Heritage, much more than in its neighbor Azerbaijan, a Soviet Country that decided to eliminate most Soviet buildings, yet, they have good relations with mother Russia.
Some Soviet relics you may find:
- Soviet Modernism – Soviet Modernism was an artistic movement that flourished during the last decades of the USSR and mainly consisted of buildings with particularly weird shapes. Well, in Tbilisi you find traces of this movement everywhere.
- Concrete Soviet buildings – Outside of the Old City, most of the buildings are from the Communist era, especially in the suburbs, where everything remains untouched.
- Abandoned factories – There are loads of abandoned Soviet factories all over the country, my favorite being the one in Zestaponi.
- Mining towns – Chiatura used to be one of the most important centers for the mining industry in the Soviet Union (Stalin himself used to live here) and the town hasn’t changed much since then.
Trekking in Georgia
Georgia is the ultimate trekking destination, home to some of the highest mountains in Europe, with its highest peak being Shkhara, located at 5,193 meters.
A few things you should know about trekking in Georgia:
- Most of the high mountains are located in the north of the country, at the heart of the Greater Caucasus.
- If you are planning to trek in high altitudes, summer is the ideal season but the end of spring and beginning of autumn should be good as well.
- The Greater Caucasus is no joke, as it offers some really challenging treks and the weather is highly unpredictable. If you don’t have much experience, don’t go alone, or try doing one of the busy, popular treks.
- Except in some parts of Svaneti and Tusheti, you won’t find any guesthouses along the way, so you must bring proper mountain equipment.
- From epic glaciers to mind-blowing snow-capped peaks, the mountains of Georgia are a real wonder, so enjoy.
Despite spending 7 months in the country, I just did a couple of treks in Svaneti and Kazbegi (the guides are on their way), so if you really want to know about trekking in Georgia, I recommend you check this website: Caucasus Trekking – It contains very detailed guides to pretty much any trek in Georgia.
Wine in Georgia (and chacha)
Wine is part of Georgian’s identity and, therefore, the highlight of traveling to Georgia and it truly deserves a single section in this Georgia travel guide.
Archaeological evidence shows that they have been producing wine for nearly 8,000 years, making them one of the oldest countries in the world, if not the oldest, to ever produce wine.
Traditionally, they used to make wine in something called qvevri, which are some clay vessels which are placed on the floor of a room called marani. This used to be the traditional way and, like most traditions in Georgia, many wineries still use it.
In rural areas and smaller towns, it seems that everybody produces their own wine at home and, if you are staying in a traditional guest house, it is not uncommon that your host will probably offer you some for breakfast, no kidding.
It also happened to us that random people stopped us in the middle of the street to just greet us and give a few litters of wine, for free.
The fact is that Georgian wine is everywhere, and you are going to find good wine and bad wine but the most important is that for just a few €, you can find some good stuff.
If you want to really witness the wine culture in Georgia, you must visit Georgia in September, during the harvest season, when all Kakheti is filled with Soviet trucks extra loaded with grapes and all the small wineries are in their production stages.
By the way, Georgia produces a large variety of grapes but the most common ones would be Saperavi for red wine and Rkatsiteli for white wine.
What about chacha? When Georgians don’t drink wine, they drink chacha, a really strong liquor usually made from grape which can easily contain up to 60-70% of alcohol. You will be surprised to know that some guest houses also offer you chacha for breakfast.
We also got offered chacha by many taxi drivers, bus drivers and just random people we bumped into.
The food is another of the highlights of visiting Georgia.
In fact, Georgian cuisine is the cuisine of reference in the Soviet Union, to the extent that the best local restaurants in Russia are Georgian restaurants.
Their food, however, tends to be heavy but they offer a large variety of dishes and, unlike all the developing countries I have been to, in Tbilisi you already find quite a few restaurants serving high local cuisine.
Cheese, walnuts and meat, loads of meat, are usually the core of any of their meals but they also have many vegetarian options, especially eggplant dishes.
Some of the dishes you are likely to taste are:
Churchkhela – Churchkhela is not really a dish but a traditional candle-shaped candy, and I am putting it on the top of the list because you find it everywhere. Basically, it consists of walnuts and almonds dipped into a super thick, and extremely hot, grape juice, which they need to hang for a couple of hours to dry out. Don’t buy it in touristic areas, as they charge 4 or 5 times the actual price. The local price is 2-3GEL per unit.
Khinkali – The local dumplings, typically stuffed with meat. You may also find them stuffed with cheese and other ingredients but those are aimed at tourists. By the way, the local way to eat them is biting one a tiny bit to suck all the meat broth and then eating it as if it was an apple.
Khachapuri Adjaluri – Khachapuri is, basically baked bread with melted cheese, but they have many variations and adjaluri is boat-shaped khachapuri with loads of melted cheese, butter and an egg floating over on top of it.
Badridzhani Nigvsit – Grilled eggplants with walnut paste. Perhaps, my favorite.
Satsivi – Chicken in walnut sauce. This dish tends to be expensive and not available on most menus but I strongly recommend you order it, at least once.
Lobio – Bean stew, usually served with cornbread and pickles.
Gobi – Gobi is a special starter dish containing several vegetarian snacks such as phkali, which are spinach balls with walnut paste.
Kupati – The local grilled sausage.
Money in Georgia – Georgia travel budget
In Georgia, they use the Georgian Lari (GEL) and, approximately, 1€ = 3GEL
They call the small currency Tetris.
Credit cards and ATMs – In Tbilisi, you can pay by credit card pretty much anywhere and ATMs abound, all of them accepting international credit cards. You will need cash for taxis and the traditional shops. Outside of Tbilisi, do bring cash.
Exchanging money – Exchanging money is easy and € and USD are accepted everywhere.
How much does it cost to travel in Georgia?
The good news is that Georgia is really, really cheap.
How much does food cost in Georgia?
- A meal in budget, local eateries – Around 7-10GEL
- A meal in higher quality restaurants – Around 15-25GEL
- A meal in top-end restaurants – From 50-60GEL
- Cappuccino – 4-5GEL
- Local beer – 2-3GEL
- A glass of local wine – 2-4GEL
- A glass of good quality wine – 8-11GEL
How much does transportation cost in Georgia?
- Taxis within Tbilisi – 3-5GEL
- Bus/metro ride – 0.50GEL
- Marshrutka to Mtskheta – 1GEL
- Marshrutka to Kazbegi – 10GEL
- Train to Batumi – 50GEL
How much does accommodation cost in Georgia?
- Budget Hostels – From 15GEL
- Double room in a budget guest house – From 40-50GEL
- Double room in a mid-range hotel – From 80GEL
Backpacking Budget for Georgia: 25-30€ a day
Transportation – How to go backpacking Georgia
How to move around Tbilisi:
- Taxi – If you want to get the cheapest rates (and avoid bargaining), download Yandex or Taxify. Most rides cost around 3-5GEL.
- Metro – There are two metro lines. A single metro ride costs 0.50GEL, but you need to first buy a metro card for 2GEL.
- Bus – It works with the same metro card and Google Maps tells you the bus number of your route.
- Yellow mini-vans – You will also see some yellow mini-vans roaming around Tbilisi. They are private and one single ticket costs 0.80GEL. However, they are more difficult to use because the signs are in the Georgian alphabet.
Marshrutka – Marshrutkas are the tiny mini-vans used to move around the country. They go pretty much anywhere, are the cheapest way to move around and leave once they are full. However, the drivers are literally crazy, seriously, some of the craziest I have ever met, and note that I have been traveling in places known for their crazy driving like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Train – There is a train line that goes all the way to Zugdidi, Batumi and also to Armenia and Azerbaijan. You can book your train tickets at the train station itself but I used to buy them online through this website. Do book them in advance, especially in summer because they run out pretty quickly.
Renting a car – When my parents came to visit us in Georgia, we traveled around the country by car for a week. It is very convenient and, if you drive carefully, you should be all right. We used a local company named parent.ge, which is significantly cheaper than most international branches. The owner of this company was our landlord, Dato. He is a cool guy.
Accommodation in Georgia
In Georgia, you find a wide range of accommodation throughout the country:
Hostels – In Tbilisi, you can find a shit load of hostels.
Guest Houses – Budget, lovely guesthouses also abound all over Georgia.
Hotels – From 5-star hotels in Tbilisi to the mountain lodges in Kazbegi, the hotel options are endless.
Homestays – In Svaneti and Tusheti, homestays are the way to go.
Airbnb – Airbnb is very popular in Tbilisi. Remember that, if you create an account through my link, you will get up to 35€ of FREE credit on your next booking.
Internet and mobile
Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi is great throughout the country. In the mountains, the signal is bad, of course, but you can still connect to pretty much anywhere, even in Tusheti.
SIM Card – Magticom is the mobile company I was using and I remember that for just a few €, you can get loads of GB every month. The best is that you can top-up your phone online. Check their website for the latest deals.
More information for traveling to Georgia
Here you can find all my articles and guides to Georgia
Traveling to Azerbaijan? Great, here you can also find all my articles and guides to Azerbaijan
Many travelers who travel to Georgia also visit Iran, so I recommend you check my guide to travel to Iran.
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