Georgia has announced that it is lifting restrictions for international travelers who arrive by air from any country, once they can prove they have received a two-dose course of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There are separate entry rules for non-vaccinated visitors from European Union member states, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Georgia. Travelers from these destinations must travel by air directly from the countries and have a negative PCR test conducted within 72 hours prior to travel to Georgia.

They must take another test on the third day of their stay at their own expense, and complete a form that outlines their contact details and travel history over the previous 14 days. Those who have traveled to the UK and Northern Ireland within the previous 14 days will be placed in mandatory quarantine for 12 days.

Before Georgia locked down due to coronavirus, tourism numbers peaked at a high of over nine million during 2019. Anna Deviata, the founder of Tbilisi Hack Free Tours, told Lonely Planet that tourists were drawn to Georgia by a winning offering of “great natural food, beautiful mountains, ancient cities with rich culture and history, a huge variety of wines and the whole wine-making and wine drinking tradition itself, friendly prices and of course incredibly hospitable people”.

Sunset view of Old Tbilisi from the hill © MiGol / Shutterstock

The move to open the country’s borders was welcomed by local tour companies, who saw bookings plummet from a high, literally overnight. Grigoli Paghava, the owner of Budget Georgia, says that “we had exponential success at the start of March 2020. We've never had so many bookings at this time of year before, but from 17 March everything was changed. New booking requests stopped within two days. This was very quick, 100 to 0”.

Travelers looking to escape the rest of the world could find ample opportunity for respite from the worldwide pandemic in Georgia’s already isolated mountains. Paghava says positively that “social distancing is better in the remote areas and mountains, though the risk is still everywhere”.

The Georgian mountains have emerged as a top hiking destination in summer, but remote communities in expanding tourism hubs such as Svaneti and Tusheti remain cut off from the world for much of the year, given their extreme altitude and fierce snowstorms.

Svanetian Towers in Ushguli, Upper Svanetia, Georgia
Svanetian Towers in Ushguli in autumn © bortnikau / Getty Images

This article was first published on 26 May 2020 and updated on 4 February 2021 by Andrea Smith.

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This article was first published May 26, 2020 and updated Feb 5, 2021.

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