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5 Tips you Should Know Before You Go to Georgia

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Each country has peculiarities that you can only know after being there for a while, which makes planning your trip a little tricky. Fortunately, we've created a list of five tips that you should know before you go to Georgia that will hopefully help you plan your trip.

Narikala Fortress, Old Tbilisi, Tbilisi, Georgia country
Narikala Fortress sits above Old Tbilisi. This part of Tbilisi is the popular part of the city for tourists. Photo by Visiting-Georgia

1: Traveling around Georgia takes longer than you would think

This point cannot be stressed enough! Georgia is a fairly small country, but it is a very mountainous country, which means what would normally be a short 1-2 hour drive becomes 3-4 hours. For example, despite Tbilisi and Telavi only being around 60 km/37 mi away from each other (straight-line distance), it takes around two hours to drive there, Tbilisi-Kutaisi takes around 3-4 hours, and Tbilisi-Zugdidi takes around 7 hours. What’s more, thanks to Georgia’s mountainous topography, many of its roads are in less-than-stellar condition. This further increases travel time. Give yourself adequate travel time. After all, the purpose of traveling is to experience someplace new.

road, country road, Kakheti, Georgia country
Most of Georgia's main roads are simple two-lane roads, such as this highway which connects Tbilisi to Telavi. Photo from Visiting-Georgia

Additionally, don’t be allured by the railway. The country’s only “fast train” is between Tbilisi and Batumi and still takes around five hours. The other trains move about as quickly as a car does thanks to the country's mountains.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to travel between your destinations. This is especially true during the winter, when snow and poor visibility can make travel conditions treacherous. The Roads Department of Georgia will frequently restrict traffic on Georgia’s mountainous roads in the winter, or may even completely close roads. This is especially common on the Tbilisi-Kazbegi road, the Zugdidi-Mestia road, and the roads connecting Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti. Check the government's website the day before and the day of your departure.

Do: give yourself adequate travel time

Don’t: expect to realistically go from Kutaisi to Mestia and back in two days and not have to spend more time in the car than in Mestia

Do: enjoy the journey between your destinations

Don’t: over-burden yourself with destinations and sights

2: Georgia is generally a safe country, so don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and explore

As a rule of thumb, Georgia is safe. Young children take public transit alone and old ladies walk the streets at night unescorted. So when you’re walking around Kutaisi, Tbilisi, or Rustavi, and you see an interesting street, alley, or courtyard, go ahead and give in to your curiosity!

Tbilisi street, Georgia country
Most cities and villages are filled with charming, quaint alleys and streets. Photo by Visiting-Georgia

Furthermore, if you have a little extra time on your hands and want to explore the country a little, don’t be afraid to take an unplanned day-trip. If someone tells you of a nearby ruin, village, or park that they think you should see, go for it! Georgians are spontaneous, in-the-moment people, so don’t be afraid to adopt this mindset when you’re in Georgia!

Do: explore someplace new

Don’t: ignore your instincts and common sense

Do: be spontaneous

Don’t: take an unexpected day-trip to Baku (not that there’s anything wrong with Baku)

3: Georgia's Marshrutka System Is Intimidating

The most common way to get around the country is in a marshrutka--or minibus cum shared taxi. Most cities and towns have a vagzali--a transit hub which is usually located near the main market or in the city center--where you can get on a marshrutka or find private taxis to other parts of Georgia. Unfortunately, there is no official organizational system. Don't bother looking for a website for a schedule or destination list from marshrutka companies. If there is a schedule posted, there isn't any guarantee that your driver will stick to it.

If you find a ticket office which has a marshrutka going to your destination, buy a ticket and just get on the marshrutka which you are direct to (and if you aren't directed to a marshrutka, usually the closest one going to your destination is the right one, the driver will check your ticket anyway). If there is no ticket office near the marshrukta which is going to your destination, check with the driver to make sure that there is enough space on the marshrutka for you along with where to pay.

Varketili, marshrutka, Tbilisi, Georgia country
Marshrutkas are the most common way to travel around Georgia. Photo from Visiting-Georgia

If you're wanting to schedule your trip in advance, just plan your travel time between 7am and 8pm and you'll be fine.

Do: know that posted schedules aren't always accurate

Don't: be in a hurry

Do: give yourself adequate time to find your marshrutka at the vagzali

Don't: be intimidated by traveling on marshrutkas

4: Knowing a little Georgian goes a long way

Aside from being a sign of respect, knowing basic words and phrases of the local language can be very beneficial when traveling. Georgians, especially older Georgians, are always amazed when foreigners can say a few words or phrases in their language, especially because most of the world still barely knows that Georgia is also a country.

In Tbilisi and Batumi, where tourists are common, knowing basic Georgian greetings won’t really surprise locals because they are accustomed to foreigners. Small towns and villages, however, are a different story. Many people in Georgia’s small villages don’t regularly come in contact with the outside world, nevertheless foreigners who show an interest in Georgia and Georgian(s), so saying a few words and phrases in Georgian to locals in the country’s villages might get you a free drink, homemade meal, or bottle of wine!

The phrases მე მიყვარს საქართველო me miq'vars sakartvelo, which means "I love Georgia" and საქართველოს გაუმარჯოს sakartvelos gaumarjos "Cheers to Georgia" are a good start.

Do: show respect to your hosts

Don’t: assume that saying გამარჯობათ gamarjobat "hello" will get you discounts or special treatment

Do: show an interest in cultural exchange

Don’t: take advantage of local hospitality

5: Georgian’s don’t really eat breakfast

Breakfast in Georgia is generally simple--bread served with cheese or honey, cucumbers, and tomatoes; hard boiled eggs, buckwheat, and plain yogurt. For morning beverages, Georgians generally drink coffee (Jacob’s instant coffee), tea, and possibly fruit juice (usually cherry juice). It’s uncommon for restaurants to be open during the morning, and most that are won’t serve breakfast. Additionally, cereal selection in Georgia’s grocery stores is limited.

pastries, coffee, Coffeesta, Tbilisi, Georgia country
Most Georgian restaurants and cafes don't serve breakfast. The largest coffee chain in Georgia, "Coffeesta" only serves pastries for breakfast. Photo by Visiting-Georgia

Do: make sure your hotel/hostel serves breakfast

Don’t: expect a continental breakfast complete with three different types of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and hazelnut creamer for your coffee

Do: eat freshly-baked shoti with Georgian honey in the morning, it's delicious

Don’t: go to a grocery store or hypermarket expecting to find your favorite cereal brand and non-fat GMO-free dulce de leche-flavored yogurt

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