Georgia is still an undiscovered and underrated country of the Caucasus Region with developing tourism infrastructure. Some customs and traditions are quite peculiar, and if Georgia is on your travel list, then you may want to know useful things before you visit Georgia.
In this post, we will explore most of the things you need to know before traveling to Georgia.
IS GEORGIA IN EUROPE OR ASIA?
Well, it’s debatable if Georgia is in Europe or Asia because the country is on the frontier between the continents. Though, the border between Asia and Europe is a historical and cultural construct, defined only by convention.
Georgia is situated in the Caucasus region, between Europe and Asia. However, socially and culturally Georgia is closer to Europe than to Asia. Even in terms of appearance, generally, Georgians look like Eastern Europeans.
GEORGIA COUNTRY OVERVIEW
Georgia "Sakartvelo is the native name", is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, the
word 'Sakartvelo' would translate into English as 'the place where the Kartvels – Georgians – are living'. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and
to the southeast by Azerbaijan.
The capital city is Tbilisi, the largest city and other major cities are Batumi, Kutaisi, Borjomi & Sighnaghi. Georgia covers a territory of 69,700 square kilometers (26,911 sq mi), and the population of Georgia is about 3.989 million based on the year 2020 World meter elaboration of the latest United Nations data. Georgia is a unitary parliamentary republic, with the government elected through a representative democracy.
The Georgians officially adopted Christianity in the early 4th century. Georgia reached its Golden Age during the reign of King David the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great in the 12th and early 13th centuries.
By the 1980s, an independence movement was established and grew, leading to Georgia's secession from the Soviet Union in April 1991.
It contains two independent regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which gained very limited international recognition after the 2008 Russia-Georgian War. Most of the world's countries consider the regions to be Georgian territory under Russian occupation.
Historically it has been a fundamental region for trade and war. This made Georgia extremely interesting and full of activities to do and places to see.
Languages: Georgian or Kartuli is the official language of Georgia. The old generation speaks and understands the Russian language. The English language is spoken by most of the young generation in remote areas it’s difficult to find someone who understands the English language.
Currency: Georgian Lari also known as GEL.
Conversion is about 1 USD = 3.186 on 10 Apr 2020
Driving Side: Right Side Driving
(Original international driving license required for rent a car)
SIM Card / Phone Service Providers: Geocell company has maximum signal coverage in Georgia with high-speed internet. You can find other companies like Beeline and Magti.
COUNTRY OF MOUNTAINS, CHURCHES, AND MONASTERIES
Georgia is a very mountainous country. You can feel it in every part of Georgia. It’s marked by the Caucasus mountains and it has several peaks above 5000 meters, the most famous mountain is Kazbegi Mountain (also known as Kazbek) the highest with 5033 meters of altitude. However, the highest being mountain is mount Shkhara with 5193 meters.
Georgia’s mountains are an absolute feast for the eyes and a veritable hiker’s paradise. But, for those who aren’t avid hikers, these pockets of wilderness can certainly be enjoyed in a more leisurely way with the constantly improving roads making it easier than ever to access the more remote corners of the mountains.
Georgia is a religious country following Orthodox Christianity. The religion was introduced here in the 4th century, thus, the country has hundreds if not thousands of churches and monasteries of a different era and architectural style. In remote areas, those churches are mostly located on the hills, so you’ll get to hike a bit if you visit them.
Moreover, you can book a tour with us online at Onairtrip.com or our Tbilisi based office or contact us on our contact numbers
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD, DELICIOUS FOOD
Surprisingly Inexpensive Georgian food – in restaurants, at fast food places, or local grocery stores. You can enjoy a wide array of cafes and restaurants each day without breaking the bank.
Georgian meals are a feast set for a king filled with bread, cheese, soup, vegetables, dumplings, and more cheese. Everything is so wonderfully delicious that you will be eating until you are fit to burst.
Must try Georgian cuisine includes cheese-filled Khachapuri, Khinkali (Georgian dumplings), and Eggplants with Walnuts.
Servings are very generous, calorie-loaded (and filling) in Georgia so beware at a restaurant – or you may find yourself with a lot of food leftover – and you’ll be rolling home.
At restaurants, a 10-15% service charge is often added to the bill, especially in a more touristy restaurant or in the big cities. Don’t feel obliged to tip on top of that.
Churchkhela is a traditional Georgian cuisine candle-shaped candy. The main ingredients are grape must, nuts, and flour. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and chocolate and sometimes raisins are threaded onto a string, dipped in thickened grape juice or fruit juices, and dried in the shape of a sausage.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS A BUT CHALLENGING
The major cities of Georgia have relatively well structured public transportation. However, if you’d like to travel across the country on your own, it might be a challenge without knowing a local Georgian language or Russian language.
While the bus stations in Georgia are a chaotic and slightly overwhelming variety (particularly those scattered around Tbilisi) also its very difficult to find someone who speaks English at any bus station of Georgia, once you’ve figured out how it all works, the transport itself is rather well organized.
For popular routes, most services have a fixed schedule for departures which are often posted at the bus terminal, while other services leave when full.
Another option for long-distance travel in Georgia is the train, with the most popular routes being the slow overnight service from Tbilisi to Zugdidi for Mestia and Batumi.
There is a railway that goes to the main cities and towns of Georgia’s nine regions, but you’ll need to get into a local bus or a minibus to travel to the remote areas.
International trains also run to Armenia “Yerevan” and Azerbaijan “Baku”.
YOU STILL NEED TO TAKE THE USUAL SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
Overall, Georgia is an incredibly safe country to travel to. Tbilisi is listed among the world’s safest cities. But the country is not without its social issues and incidents do occasionally occur and often they are a simple case of bad luck.
The aforementioned warmth and hospitality that many visitors experience in Georgia stems from the prevailing idea that guests are a ‘gift from God’ and while the overwhelming majority of locals are genuinely kind and truly want you to have a fantastic time in their country.
Just like anywhere in the world, incidents of being scammed, robbed, or worse do happen. Take the usual precautions, don’t put yourself in unnecessarily risky situations and trust your intuition before blindly trusting a stranger purely because of this mentality that they have to do right by you. They don’t!
Taxi drivers are one of the examples, most of the tourists complain about them about overcharging and rude behavior. Tbilisi Airport to city center one-way drive cost around 35 to 50 GEL but some of the taxi drivers may demand much more if you didn’t ask about the price before you get into the taxi.
Yandex and Bolt Taxi Apps are available in Georgia for Tbilisi Airport Transfer (Work same like Uber but Uber is not available here) it may cost you 20 GEL or You can book an airport transfer with us starting 35 GEL (depending on car type and the number of people).
NEED TO USE CASH CURRENCY
Tbilisi is a metropolitan city where ATMs are prevalent and credit cards are widely accepted but still there are many places you need cash only. You can easily change US Dollars, Euros almost any currency.
This is especially useful while traveling across the country, most of the guesthouses and restaurants in smaller towns won’t accept any cards.
Small towns tend to have at least one ATM, but if you’re setting off into the remote areas or attempting a multi-day tour or hike, be sure to have enough cash with you to cover all your costs while you’re away, plus a bit extra just in case.
IT'S EASY AND CHEAP TO REACH FROM EUROPE AND GCC COUNTRIES
A growing network of flights to Georgia means it’s never been easier (or cheaper) to travel here. Fly Dubai, Air Asia, Qatar Airways, and Wizzair (for Europe) are in particular, are forging the way with regular, affordable services to Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi.
If you’re searching on Skyscanner.com or Flights.google.com, by selecting ‘Georgia’ rather than a specific city, you’ll quickly be shown options for the cheapest connections and by booking one-way tickets you’ll be able to save a chunk of time by not backtracking across the country.
RENTING A CAR CAN BE EXPENSIVE
Georgia is very budget-friendly compared to other European countries, but one thing that is a bit expensive is renting a car. The price depends on the number of days, car type, and pick-up location. Some of the companies also offer a driver option if you don’t want to drive on your own. Check insurance before you rent a car, need to have 100% insurance as most car rental companies don’t have insurance of the cars.
Moreover, self-driving is not a kind of enjoyment here as taxi drivers (most of them) and young drivers (some of them) are driving like a madman in Georgia. From overtaking at speed on blind corners and in the rain to driving the winding mountain roads with tires rubbed smooth from the rough roads, it’s like a nightmare.
DON’T FORGET TO DRINK GEORGIAN SPRING WATER
Borjomi is a brand of naturally carbonated mineral water from springs in the Borjomi City of central Georgia. The artesian springs in the valley are fed by water that filters from glaciers covering the peaks of the Bakuriani mountains at altitudes of up to 2,300 m (7,500 ft). The water rises to the surface without pumping and is transported by pipes to two bottling plants in the town of Borjomi.
The Borjomi springs were discovered by the Imperial Russian military in the 1820s and by the 1890s, Borjomi was bottled. Borjomi is exported to over 40 countries. In 2012 the company was valued by Forbes magazine at $500m.
Must try this Georgian Local Spring-water once, available in any supermarket in Georgia.
OLDEST HOME OF WINE | GEORGIAN LOCAL VODKA “CHA-CHA”
When you arrive in Tbilisi, border agents don't just stamp your passport; they hand you a bottle of wine. It's a fitting welcome to Georgia. Whether it’s red, white, or amber, Georgia sure knows how to do wine. Home to the oldest wine region in the world and with a reputation for excellent producer of alcohol.
For those looking to try the full smorgasbord of Georgian grapes straight from the wineries, a day trip or weekend trip to Sighnaghi City in Khaketi Region must be on Georgian itinerary.
Looking for something a little stronger? Chacha is a Georgian pomace brandy, a clear and strong (ranging between 40% alcohol for commercially produced to 65% for homebrew), which is sometimes called "Wine vodka", "grape vodka", or "Georgian vodka/grappa".
It is made of grape pomace (grape residue left after making wine). The term chacha is used in Georgia to refer to the grape distillate. It may be also produced from unripe or wild grapes. Other common fruits or herbs used are figs, tangerines, oranges, mulberries, or tarragon. Traditionally only a home-brewed drink of Georgians, it is today commonly produced by professional distillers and most wineries who include it in their product range.
INTERNET IS WELL ESTABLISHED
Wi-Fi coverage is pretty much everywhere unless you travel to a very remote area, where even cell phone networks barely work. All of the cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as accommodation venues, have free Wi-Fi. All you’ll need to do is to ask for a password.
FRIENDLY DOGS ARE EVERYWHERE
In the cities, there is an excellent initiative where stray dogs are collected, vaccinated, de-sexed, and released back onto the streets. It’s also fairly common to see overflowing bowls of dog food scattered along the pavements for the strays to come and go as they please. They’re healthy, clean, and friendly, even more so if you throw them the odd treat or offer up a loving scratch behind the ears.
Georgia is a very friendly and hospitable country. This is even seen with visa regulations, more than 90 countries citizens don’t require a visa to visit Georgia. And some can also stay in the country for a year, compared to other countries that allow travelers to stay a 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 to Georgia.