This page is intended to give a brief overview of the important aspects of being in the country of Georgia. In order, there is an overview of Grocery Stores, Pharmacies/Chemists, Banks, Pay Boxes, Public Safety, Taxis, and the Language Barrier.
Food regulations in Georgia are relatively relaxed compared to most Western European countries and are still in the process of being implemented. Most hole-in-the-wall neighborhood grocery stores have safe food, however, dairy products, especially cheese, and meat should best be treated with caution. Buying perishable food items, particularly dairy and meat, from street markets/bazaars is eat-it-at-your-own-risk because there are no food safety regulations in place for food sold at these locations.
There are three main Georgian grocery store chains in Georgia: ნიკორა Nikora, Goodwill, and ორი ნაბიჯი Ori Nabiji. ნიკორა Nikora and ორი ნაბიჯი Ori Nabiji (Two Steps in English) are the two largest Georgian supermarket chains. Nikora can be found throughout the country and most of the large cities and towns. Ori Nabiji is in Tbilisi, Rustavi, Marneuli, and Sagarejo. Goodwill is predominately in Tbilisi with a branch near Gori and two locations in Batumi.
There are two main international grocery store chains in Georgia: Spar and Carrefour. Spar is a Netherlands-based supermarket chain and, like Nikora, has numerous locations throughout Georgia. Carrefour is a France-based supermarket and hypermarket chain, similar to the American Walmart or British Tesco companies. Carrefour has one hypermarket in Batumi and two in Tbilisi along with numerous smaller markets in Tbilisi.
Nikora, Ori Nabiji, and Spar are typically small neighborhood grocery stores. In Tbilisi, all three stores are generally easily found in most neighborhoods. Spar tends to be along main thoroughfares, Ori Nabiji tends to be along side-streets, and Nikora is a mixture of both.
The Georgian term for a pharmacy/chemist is “apothecary” or “apotheca” when written in English. The Georgian word for a pharmacy/chemist is აფთიაქი aptiaki. The primary pharmacy chains (in order of prevalence) are ავერსი Aversi, პსპ PSP, ჯპს GPC, ფარმადეპო PharmaDepot,and ფარმსახლი Pharm House. Aversi also runs numerous private clinics in Tbilisi, Gori, Telavi, Rustavi, and Marneuli.
All medications are behind-the-counter, even including ibuprofen, antacids, laxatives, etc... This is not to say that a prescription is required for simple medications, instead, it is necessary to tell the pharmacist what you want. Additionally, it is not possible to buy a box/bottle of medication (i.e. there is no getting a bottle of 100 ibuprofen as in the US), rather, pills are purchased individually, with the pharmacist usually providing no more than a day’s worth without a prescription. Getting a prescription filled generally requires telling the pharmacist how many tablets are needed, even when showing him/her the prescription.
As with most pharmacies/chemists, Georgian pharmacies/chemists also sell toiletries such as mouthwashes/rinses, tooth brushes, and skin and hair care products, as well as diapers and baby foods.
There are numerous bank chains in Georgia, but the three main banks are TBC, Bank of Georgia/Express Bank, and Liberty Bank. These three banks are found in all cities and main towns in the country. Basis Bank, Credo Bank, TeraBank, and VTB are also prevalent in Georgia.
Purchasing Georgian phone service along with paying for utility bills is done at a Pay Box. These resemble a thin ATM and are on sidewalks throughout all cities and towns in Georgia. There are three main types you will run across, differing by who operates them: Pay Box, TBC Bank, and Bank of Georgia. The main menu allows you to choose mobile phone, utility, telecommunications, and many other options. Pay Boxes operate in Georgian, English, and Russian.
A Georgian SIM card can be purchased from many gift stores and hole-in-the-wall businesses, or by going to any of the three mobile phone carriers (Beeline, Geocell, or Magti). Beeline offers the cheapest service, while Magti and Geocell offer better coverage.
Georgia is frequently rated one of the safest countries in the world. As such, it is safe to walk around most parts of Tbilisi and other Georgian towns/cities. Additionally, it is equally safe for women to walk around by themselves both in daylight and at nighttime. It isn’t uncommon to see young school children taking the Tbilisi Metro by themselves. This isn’t to say that crime doesn’t exist, just that it’s not as prevalent as in most Western countries (especially as in the US).
As with anyplace, crime tends to occur in heavily trafficked places. In Tbilisi, this is generally the corridor following Rustaveli Avenue, especially around the Rustaveli Metro Station and the area around the Galleria Tbilisi, and in Batumi, along Batumi Boulevard. Pickpockets and beggars are very common in this location and have been known to be somewhat aggressive, especially the juvenile ones, who aren’t afraid to grab and tug on passersby and passengers on the metro. Simple common sense is generally enough to prevent yourself from becoming a target (don’t place wallets/phones in back pockets and keep purses/bags closed).
Georgia is still a fairly socially conservative country. Although it is common to see young girls dressed in a style more in-keeping with Western countries, adult women still rarely expose themselves above the knee. Shorts are also not a common sight for adult men and women. Additionally, LGBT rights are an extremely new idea to Georgians and overall public opinion can best be epitomized as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In other words, so long as you aren’t verbally LGBT you will be fine (short of cross-dressing, the way you look is generally accepted; again, they very much operate on a literal “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis). There have been some instances of LGBT crimes in Georgia, but there is legal protection against discrimination in all forms, including LGBT persons, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.
For any emergency, dial the emergency number 112. You will be transferred to an English or Russian speaking operator if necessary.
Taxis operate essentially no differently than anywhere else. There are drivers with a “Taxi” sign on or in their car, and taxis that can be hailed via apps. All taxis are generally safe, but using a phone app is a more practical option since it prevents taxi drivers from overcharging, which is a prevalent problem especially if you don’t know Georgian or Russian. A taxi from Tbilisi International Airport to the city center should not cost more than 30 GEL, and taxi trips within the city center shouldn’t cost much more than 15 GEL. The most common taxi apps in Georgia are Bolt (formerly Taxify) and Yandex.Taxi. For a bit more detail, head over to the taxi page!
All international airports have signs in Georgian and English, as does the Tbilisi Metro. Most street signs for businesses, such as pharmacies/chemists and banks also have signs in English. Most people in Georgia speak either Russian and/or English as a second language. As a general rule, people older than 30 tend to speak Georgian and Russian, and people under 30 tend to speak Georgian and English. Most tour operators and employees at major chains will speak a second language, with English becoming increasingly popular. Outside of Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi, knowledge of English is generally limited. If you want to learn more about the history of the language, visit the language page!