Georgia in detail

Directory

Accessible Travel

Georgia is a tough destination for travellers with access needs for the most part, with only hotels built in the last few years required to be fully accessible, few accommodations in public buildings, and narrow and poorly maintained pavements in most cities. Things are slowly improving, however, with the government committing in 2015 to making both Tbilisi and Mtskheta more accessible for wheelchair users. There are now several hotels and hostels in Tbilisi, such as Fabrika Hostel & Suites, actively promoting themselves to mobility impaired guests. Currently about 30% of Tbilisi’s buses are wheelchair-accessible, with the fleet being gradually upgraded. In August 2019 Batumi opened an adapted beach with floating wheelchairs.

Accessible Tourism Center Parsa (http://www.atcp.ge) Based in Tbilisi, this company is championing accessible tourism in the country and can organise accessible tours, transfers and hotel accommodation. Its website lists accessible hotels and tourist sites around the country, although there is no detailed information and ‘accessible’ is not defined.

Disabled Holidays (disabledholidays.com) Based in the UK, this reputable specialist accessible travel agent runs tours to Tbilisi.

Bargaining

Bargaining is common at markets and street stalls, but much less so in shops, where for the most part prices are set. Guesthouses are usually happy to haggle with guests about prices – don't be scared of trying, especially if there are several of you. Always haggle with taxi drivers.

Dangers & Annoyances

Georgia is a generally safe country where people take pride in ensuring foreigners are treated well.

• Penalties for drug possession are draconian in Georgia, so don’t carry or consume illegal drugs here; possession and consumption of cannabis were legalised in 2018.

• Travel to South Ossetia from Georgia wasn’t possible at research time. It’s possible to travel to Abkhazia, though many governments warn against this.

• When trekking always go with a partner, inform others of your plans and carry a first-aid kit. Avoid sheepdogs, which are bred to protect livestock from wolves and can be very dangerous to approach.

Embassies & Consulates

Tbilisi has dozens of foreign embassies, including those listed here. Australia, Ireland and New Zealand do not have a diplomatic presence in Tbilisi. Australia covers Georgia from its embassy in Ankara, Turkey; Ireland from its embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria, and New Zealand from its embassy in Warsaw, Poland.

Armenian Embassy

Azerbaijan Embassy

British Embassy

Canadian Consulate

Dutch Embassy

French Embassy

German Embassy

Iranian Consulate

Kazakhstan Embassy

Russian Interests Section of Swiss Embassy

US Embassy

Emergency & Important Numbers

Georgia's country code995
International access code00
Ambulance112
Police112
Fire112

Etiquette

Georgians are generally very traditional people and they will be deeply appreciative if you acknowledge their various traditions, particularly around eating and drinking.

  • Toasting At a supra (traditional feast), the tamada (toastmaster) will at some point give long speeches to mark the occasion. Don't drink from your glass until they have finished. Georgians only toast their enemies with beer, so try to avoid doing this.
  • Dining It's polite to try every dish at any meal, taking small helpings of each, as you'll inevitably be served extra.
  • Greetings Georgians of both sexes tend to kiss each other on the right cheek as a greeting, but you should shake hands when meeting someone for the first few times and wait for them to take the next step.
  • Clothing Dress modestly when entering a Georgian church or monastery. This means long trousers or a long skirt, covered shoulders and a headscarf for women.

Internet Access

Georgia is excellently connected with high internet speeds and LTE service throughout much of the country. Even in the mountains, you're likely to have passable service, although this can vary from provider to provider. Magti tends to offer the best coverage countrywide. All hotels and most guesthouses and restaurants offer free wi-fi.

LGBT Travellers

Despite great strides in visibility in recent years, homophobia is rife in Georgia. LGBT travellers should exercise caution when meeting other LGBT people and should be discreet when travelling with partners. In most cases, same-sex partners sharing a room or a bed is unlikely to be a problem, as in Georgia it's not considered particularly unusual for people of the same sex to share a bed anyway. Tbilisi is the only city with a well-developed gay scene and a smattering of gay bars and parties. Sex acts between people of the same sex are legal, but they're still a long way from being accepted by wider Georgian society.

Maps

  • By far the best maps of Georgia, including hiking maps and regional maps, are published by Geoland and sold at its Tbilisi office and by Prospero's Books, and at Mountain Freaks in Stepantsminda.
  • Tourist information offices hand out useful regional and country maps.

Money

ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops, though less frequently outside Tbilisi.

ATMs

ATMs, generally accepting MasterCard, Visa, Cirrus and Maestro cards, are plentiful in cities and towns throughout Georgia.

Changing Money

There are plenty of banks and small money-exchange offices in most towns and cities where you can exchange US dollars, euros and sometimes pounds sterling and the currencies of Georgia's neighbouring countries, though the latter is usually at poor rates.

Credit Cards

You can make purchases with credit cards at most hotels, restaurants and shops, though less frequently outside Tbilisi.

Currency

Georgia’s currency is the lari (GEL). One lari is divided into 100 tetri.

Banknotes come in denominations of five, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 lari; coins run from one tetri to two lari.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$11.98 GEL
CanadaC$12.20 GEL
Euro zone€13.26 GEL
Japan¥1002.73 GEL
NZNZ$11.88 GEL
UKUK£13.51 GEL
USAUS$12.91 GEL

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Tipping

Tipping has caught on all over Georgia with the arrival of huge numbers of international travellers. Most people working in service industries will expect a small gratuity.

  • Restaurants In Tbilisi, a standard 10%, which is often added to the bill. Don't mistake the 18% VAT on some bills for a service charge.
  • Bars and cafes At your discretion.
  • Taxis No need to tip a taxi driver for a short journey.

Opening Hours

Typical opening hours:

Banks 9.30am–5.30pm Monday to Friday

Bars noon–2am

Cafes 10am–10pm

Shops Food 9am–9pm, other shops 10am–7pm Monday to Saturday

Restaurants 10am–11pm

Post

Georgia's postal system (www.gpost.ge) isn't particularly reliable, but is fine for sending postcards. Use international delivery services if you need to send a parcel or important documents.

The main post office is located in Tbilsi.

Public Holidays

New Year 1 and 2 January

Orthodox Christmas Day 7 January

Epiphany 19 January

Mother’s Day 3 March

Women’s Day 8 March

Orthodox Easter Sunday April or May

National Unity Day 9 April

Victory Day 9 May

St Andria's Day 12 May

Independence Day 26 May

Mariamoba (Assumption) 28 August

Svetitskhovloba (Day of Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Mtskheta) 14 October

Giorgoba (St George’s Day) 23 November

Smoking

  • Smoking Georgia introduced comprehensive anti-smoking legislation in 2018, which outlawed lighting up in public buildings, hotels, cafes, bars and restaurants. That said, it seems that every other Georgian adult chain smokes, and you'll still find cigarette smoke a fact of life, with it impossible to sit outside without being enveloped in a shroud of the stuff.

Taxes & Refunds

Taxes are sometimes included in quoted prices and sometimes not. Many hotels and restaurants add 18% VAT to the quoted price of a bill. Tax-free shopping was introduced for foreigners in Georgia in 2018, but to claim the VAT back on exiting the country you'll need to have bought your items in stores registered for the program.

Telephone

Telephone offices no longer exist in Georgia, with everyone using mobile phones. Even the use of landlines is relatively limited in Georgia. Landline numbers appear as seven digits in Tbilisi, six digits elsewhere; starting with 2. Mobile phone numbers appear as nine digits, starting with 5.

How to Dial Georgian Numbers

Calling ToFrom LandlineFrom MobileFrom Other Countries
landline0 + area code + number0 + area code + numberIAC* + 995 + area code + number
mobile0 + numbernumberIAC* + 995 + number

* IAC: International access code

Mobile Phones

Any unlocked mobile phone can be used with a local SIM card in Georgia for cheap calls and data.

More Information

  • You can easily obtain a Georgian SIM card for 5 GEL, sometimes free, from the main networks. Take your passport when you go to get a SIM. The networks have 24-hour booths at Tbilisi and Kutaisi airports where you can get one on arrival.
  • Call rates are low and there are bargain packages for international calls.
  • Internet packages are cheap: around 8 GEL to 12 GEL for 5GB, for example.
  • An easy way to top up your credit is with cash in orange 'Express Pay' machines or yellow-and-blue 'Pay Box' machines, widespread on the streets of all towns. Easy-to-follow instructions are available in English.

Network Coverage

The three main networks – Magti (www.magticom.ge), Geocell (http://geocell.ge) and Beeline (www.beeline.ge) – have shops in all sizeable towns. Magti is the overall best choice for coverage around the country.

Time

Georgia is four hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT plus four hours). Daylight saving time is not observed.

Toilets

Toilets are generally the Western-style seated types, though some older public toilets are squat toilets. In general there's plenty of restrooms available.

Tourist Information

  • Georgia has a good network of tourism information centres in main destinations.
  • The country’s official tourism website is http://georgia.travel.

Travel with Children

Georgia is not an obvious destination for travellers with children, but it's also a perfectly good one. Nappies are easy to find and baby-changing facilities are quite common. Kids will love the cable cars in Batumi and Tbilisi, the funfair at Mtatsminda Park, the quirky attractions along Batumi Boulevard, and they may enjoy seeing a puppet show at the Gabriadze Theatre.

Volunteering

  • The government program Teach and Learn with Georgia enlists native English, French, German and Italian speakers to teach their languages to Georgian schoolchildren. Volunteers receive monthly salaries of 600 GEL (after tax) and can live with host families for 200 GEL monthly. Flights to and from Georgia are provided free. Commitment is one academic year.
  • European Voluntary Service (www.europeanvoluntaryservice.org) has a number of varied volunteer projects in Georgia.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Georgia uses the metric system.

Work

  • It's legal to come to Georgia and carry out work having entered the country without a visa, for example as a tour guide, a journalist or as a businessperson.
  • Many people get cash-in-hand jobs with no visa, though this is illegal.
  • Anyone wanting to earn money in Georgia, provide services to Georgian companies as an individual or start their own business in Georgia needs to obtain a long-term visa.
  • Fluency in English gives you a good chance of finding employment with NGOs, international organisations, some local companies or as a teacher. Ads for language teachers appear in the paper Sitqva da Sakme (www.saqme.ge).