Georgia is a small country in the Northern Caucuses region. It is quite a unique country and offers a lot in terms of exploration. It has some of the highest mountains in the area with lush vegetation and wide variety of landscapes including world class wine producing regions.
Fun Fact: the local name of Georgia is Sakartvelo and Georgia is the international name used around the world.
Georgia is genuinely unique in the sense that Georgia people and language isn’t linked to any of the neighbours that surround it. The culture in Georgia is also unique and has been established since antiquity.
Fun Fact: Georgia is the oldest Wine producer in the world with first signs of wine production dating back to 6000 BC.
Complicated Geography and Borders
This region is littered with small countries which are semi-independent. By this I mean they have declared independence but no one recognises it internationally. Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) between Azerbaijan and Armenia is one example and South Ossetia and Abkhazia between Russia and Georgia are some more examples. This coupled with intense wars between neighbours makes the border crossings very complicated. For example Azerbaijan and Armenia are arch rivals and technically still at war and there is no way to cross borders between these two countries other than involving a third country like Georgia.
Georgia is relatively peaceful despite is flaky relationship with its biggest neighbour; Russia. Visiting Ossetia and Abkhazia isn’t such a great idea, I was told because of the security concerns as it is dangerous. I am not sure how accurate that is but I didn’t take the risk.
I spent 6 days in Gerogia with 2 days in Kutaisi, one day travelling to Chiatura, Gori and Uplistsikhe and then other 3 days in Tbilisi. There’s a lot more to be explored here but I was limited on time and even with this much it felt like I had seen most of the highlights of the country.
Value for Money
Georgia is generally quite cheap. Value for money is high. Food and accommodation both are quite cheap. Transportation is also quite reasonably priced.
Public transport between cities is a bit difficult. You can use marshutkas (shared vans) to go from one spot to other but direct links aren’t great. Going to Tbilisi isn’t difficult from almost most spots. I hired a car with the driver for the day to take me from Kutaisi to Tbiilisi via Chiatura and Uplistsikhe and he charged me roughly £100 including fuel. The car was arranged by my Airbnb host in Kutaisi.
Be careful and make sure you agree on the price before making the hire because the guy at the end of journey wanted me to pay extra, I had to call the host to clarify it but it was not a pleasant episode.
There is also a train network in Georgia which is not the fastest or reliable so I decided not to bother with it. You can check details on their website here.
Most of Georgia is quite safe but you have to be cautious of security near the two breakaway states; Abkhazia and Ossetia as I mentioned before. I was told there’s presence of rebels and Russian army in these regions and it could cause you trouble. Most drivers simply won’t agree to take you there. Crime rate in Georgia is quite low and I didn’t feel any issue throughout my stay.
Georgian food is a class of its own. It is perhaps the most popular cuisine from all the former Soviet republics. The variety of food is crazy and there’s food to match everyone’s taste.
My two ultimate favourites are Khinkali and Khachapuri and both offer a huge variety in offering.
Khinkali are steamed or friend dumplings which are filled with either meat or cheese or potatoes and broth, they are absolutely delicious. Khachapuri is over baked thick bread which is either stuffed with different items or it comes in the shape of a boat filled with melting cheese and eggs. (I am drooling honestly).
Borscht is the cold beetroot soup which is quite delicious as well and while it isn’t strictly Georgian cuisine, it is widely available.
Badrijani is another must try; it is made up of friend aubergine slices stuffed with crushed walnut sauce and pomegranates, foodgasmic!
Georgia is blessed with great weather and fruits here are absolutely delicious especially Fresh watermelons and melons as well as cherries. I found locals set up small stalls on main roads to sell these items. A single watermelon weighed in around 5-6 kg and lasted me almost 3-4 days and I am a hog for fruit.
Georgia is the oldest wine producer in the world with some great wines to its name. Wineries are aplenty and arranging visits is quite easy. Another must try here.
Albania uses Lari (GEL) as its currency. Cards are accepted in bigger cities mostly and you need cash generally. ATM’s are generally available in bigger cities and you will need to carry cash with you for less developed areas especially rural areas.
Tap water is drinkable which I found a bit questionable because I was told it depends on the area. The mineral waters in different parts of Georgia have different mineral profile like Borjomi but I wasn’t sure how safe it was to drink from the tap but I did sample the mineral water as much as I could, there’s no lack of variety either and Georgia was famous in Soviet Republics for the healing properties of its waters. There is a town called and you can ask restaurants and cafes to refill your bottles. In the mountains water is especially delicious.
There are no checks generally and I only kept my passport in the accommodation.
Phone and Internet
I got a local sim card for this trip from Beeline. Internet and phone connection is generally alright and WIFI is also easily accessible in urban areas, service is patchy the further away from the cities you get. In the mountains connection was sometimes patchy but nothing too serious for too long. For up to date information check the details of all service providers here.
I have a mixed experience of People in Georgia. Some people were very sweet and incredibly warm but some just quite aggressive especially the taxi drivers. Like most former Soviet Republics there is a case of straight-face with older generation but younger generation is much more open. It was mostly pleasant nonetheless.
The official language is Georgian with Russian as the second language. Georgian is a unique language with its own alphabet. English is not very common especially outside Tbilisi. Older generations especially don’t speak English and even in a place like Kutaisi it was a bit of a struggle. I highly recommend downloading Georgian language pack on Google Translate.
How Racist is Georgia?
Georgians aren’t the warmest people but I don’t think it has much to do with racism. I didn’t feel any discrimination or hostility because of my ethnicity or colour of my skin. People stared a bit in rural areas but that was more out of curiosity and smiled back when I smiled. In Tbilisi even that stopped.
Is Georgia safe for LGBT Travellers?
Georgia is a very conservative orthodox Christian country. (The name Georgia comes from the love of St George and their flag is a party of St George’s crosses practically). Despite LGBT relationships being decriminalised and discrimination actually illegal, it is a bit of struggle for local LGBT people. This reflects in Grindr and other LGBT apps with very few people actually displaying their faces because of the fear of persecution. I felt it was more of a homophobic country than its neighbours Armenia and even Azerbaijan. I didn’t much succeed in terms of contacting any locals during my visit except for one guy who was very kind and showed me around in Tbilisi as well as a Russian tourist who was also travelling solo.