Georgia is a beautiful country in the heart of the Caucasus, tucked between Europe and Asia at the crossroad of the two continents and because of this, you can find a lot of unique sights here. Planning a trip to Georgia means visiting the birthplace of wine, exploring a country with an amazing cuisine that’s a mix of European and Asian cuisines, some great skiing spots, and some of the most picturesque roads on Earth (more below)! In this article, we’ll share some useful things you should know before visiting Georgia and help you with planning a trip to this amazing country!
Let’s start with the most commonly asked question about planning a trip to Georgia:
Is Georgia a part of Europe or Asia?
It’s a bit difficult to answer this question. Geographically, Georgia belongs to Euro-Asia but this country isn’t called the Balcony of Europe for no reason…
Georgia shares the border with the Russian Republics Chechnya and Daghestan to the North, Azerbaijan and Armenia to the South and Turkey to the west. The country’s unique geographical location has made it the historic (and current) border between Europe and Asia. Georgia experienced a lot of Russian and Turkish influence throughout the years but also saw a lot of conquerors and Silk Road traders come and go while leaving a permanent mark on this country and making it what it is today; a unique mix of Mediterranean, Arabic, Eastern European, and Soviet influences.
And with so much diversity, it’s no wonder that there are a lot of exciting things to do in Georgia.
One of the first things to know before visiting Georgia is that it’s a country of hospitality. The locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll encounter and they will get out of their way to help you. Most people in Georgia are Orthodox Christian and people are very family-oriented with most people keeping contact with their 4th-degree relatives. However, you might encounter a language barrier in some parts of the country. That’s why it’s probably a good idea to…
Learn some Georgian or Russian before you go
In the big cities like Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi, you’ll find a lot of people who speak English. However, if you want to explore the countryside (the best part of planning a trip to Georgia), you won’t find many English speakers. If you need help, people will still try to help you but it’s very difficult to communicate when there’s a language barrier. The official language in Georgia is Georgian (a very unique language that doesn’t belong to any other language group) but a lot of people also still speak Russian. It’s probably a good idea to learn some basic phrases in either one of these two languages if you want to get off the beaten track.
Did you know that Georgia is widely considered to be the birthplace of wine? If the answer is no, don’t worry, this is one of the lesser-known wine facts. The oldest winemaking vessels can be found in the region of Kakheti in Georgia and date back to 6,000 years ago. So, if you’re planning a trip to Georgia, wine will be an inevitable part of it.
Georgia produces 500 different species of grapes and some of the world’s finest wines. Additionally, locals drink so much wine that you can even go wine tasting in a regular supermarket. Just walk around in some of the bigger supermarkets and you’ll inevitably be offered to taste some samples by one of the employees.
You can literally taste the country’s unique location in Georgian food. Their cuisine has a bit of Arabic, a bit of Asian, a bit of Russian, a bit of Turkish, and a bit of Mediterranean, but at the same time, it’s very distinct and different from anything you ever tasted before. And with so many delicious dishes and things to try, one of the first things you should know before visiting is that you’ll have a much better time if you learn a thing or two about Georgian cuisine before planning your trip.
Georgians eat a lot of bread and bread-based dishes. They also have hundreds of different types of cheese (to go along with numerous different wine) and a lot of delicious stews. Some of the most famous dishes include:
Khachapuri- cheese-filled bread or how locals refer to it, ‘Georgian pizza’;
Khinkali- a giant dumpling filled with soup and minced meat;
Shashnik- skewered and grilled cubes of meat (a local version of kebab);
Kharcho- a traditional rice beef soup;
Satsivi- turkey and chicken in walnut sauce;
Churchkhela- a sweet made of thickened grape juice and walnuts.
Tipping in Georgia
Tipping is something most people want to know when planning a trip to Georgia. In Georgia, tipping isn’t mandatory. In fact, most people already include a 10% service fee on the bill. Some restaurants even add 15% or 18%. Hence, tipping isn’t expected most of the time and you won’t insult anyone if you don’t tip.
This leads us to the next point…
Planning a budget for your trip to Georgia
Planning a trip to Georgia isn’t very expensive and planning your trip is always easier in budget-friendly destinations. You can get a hotel room for as low as $10 per night and you can find a lot of hostels for less than $10 per night. Food and wine are also very cheap and if we talk about value for money, Georgia probably beats most European countries!
The currency of Georgia is Lari ($1= 3 Lari) but a lot of tour guides also accept USD as a method of payment. Make sure to plan which places want to visit and which tours to take. This can help you save on the potential loss of currency exchange.
When to visit Georgia?
The best time to visit is spring (April/May) or Autumn (September/October) if you don’t mind the cold. The summers (June–September), can get very hot and the winters are super cold but if you want to go skiing, November-February is a great time to visit too.
How many days to stay in Georgia?
Try to spend at least 3 full days in Tbilisi. If you want to see some of the main attractions and tours around the country, plan for 2 weeks. If you want to see most of the things worth seeing and learn about Georgian culture, plan 4-6 weeks.
How to get to Georgia?
If you’re arriving by flight, head to either Tbilisi, Batumi, or Kutaisi. These are the biggest airports in the country. If you’re traveling by bus or train, you can take an overnight train from Yerevan or Baku.
Is Georgia safe?
Despite everything you might hear, planning a trip to Georgia is absolutely safe. Yes, there was a brief war conflict in 2008 and today, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are autonomous regions and if you’re traveling to these parts of Georgia, you should follow the political situation but even there, things have been relatively peaceful after the war. I know most governments still advise against traveling to these regions but this is one of the most beautiful parts of Georgia.
How to get around Georgia
The big cities have relatively well-organized public transport. However, traveling in smaller towns or more remote parts of Georgia can be a bit challenging. A train can take you to any of Georgia’s nine regions but if you want to get explore the countryside, the best way to do so is traveling by marshrutka bus. The challenge is that not all marshrutkas follow a schedule and have regular stops and to make things even harder not a lot of people speak English in the smaller towns.
And speaking of important things to know before visiting Georgia, do not take night trains in the summer. In the winter, it’s an amazing experience but during summers, these trains are like saunas. It’s impossible to open the windows and most of the trains don’t have an AC. The trains are clearly well-prepared for the cold winters but rather inadequate for the (almost) equally hot summers.
All these transportation methods are okay, but personally, I think that…
Renting a car is the best way to explore Georgia
As budget-friendly as planning a trip to Georgia might be, renting a car can be expensive. The price depends on several factors but it’s relatively expensive compared to local standards. However, you can always use comparison sites like AutoEurope (you can use this link to save up to 30% on all car rentals in Georgia) that shows you all offers for renting cars in Georgia and makes sure you get the best deal. Additionally, gas is very cheap in Georgia (less than $1 per liter).
If you choose to do rent a car in Georgia, you should get familiar with Maps.me. This brings us to the next point…
Using Maps.me in Georgia
If you’re planning to rent a car for your trip to Georgia, this app will come in handy. The app works offline and is very accurate (at least in Georgia). It’s great not only for people exploring Georgia with their own vehicle but also for trekking.
Winters are cold but amazing
Georgia is surrounded by mountains from all sides which makes winters very cold. But it’s the cold winters that make Georgia one of the best skiing destinations in Europe (or Asia, whatever you please). One of the best ski resorts in the country is Gudauri but there are a lot of other great places for ski enthusiasts. We all know how expensive skiing is but in Georgia, on average, it costs only between 20 and 50 Lari which is relatively cheap compared to most other ski destinations in Europe. But skiing isn’t the only reason to…
Visit the mountains
From Kazbegi’s lush green meadows and Svaneti’s glacier-riddled valleys to the remote corners of the High Caucasus, Georgia’s mountains are an absolute feast to the eyes and the soul. If you’re an avid trekker or just looking for a one day trip, you’ll absolutely love these pockets of wilderness.
Natural Sulphur Baths
Georgia has amazing wine, food, nature, and attractions, but did you know that it’s also a great medical tourism destination? Georgia has a lot of natural sulfur baths famous for its healing properties. During the Soviet era, Georgia was the most popular spot for a winter vacation and even though after the fall of the Soviet Union, tourism took a major hit, Georgia’s natural sulfur baths are becoming increasingly popular as more people learn about them.
Tap water in Georgia is completely safe
One of the things to know before visiting a new destination is the availability of drinking water but Georgia is blessed with a lot of natural water resources. You can drink tap water anywhere across the country. This means that you don’t have to keep buying plastic bottles throughout the trip or worry about where to find water when exploring the mountains!
Tbilisi is becoming a hotspot for alternative tourism
Tbilisi is one of the most polluted cities in Europe but that doesn’t stop visitors from flocking in even during winters. The capital is home to a lot of quirky bars that are beloved by hipsters visiting the city. Most tourists head to the overpriced bars on Chardini or Erekle Street but don’t make this mistake. Try to mingle with the locals and ask for advice on where to go. In Tbilisi, the best bars are the ones people don’t talk about probably because they don’t want tourists to ruin the vibe of their favorite place!
In addition to this, Tbilisi doesn’t feel like the typical capital. Downtown Tbilisi gives the vibe of a small medieval town but don’t let this fool you; the best things in Tbilisi are hidden beneath the surface. The capital is a city with a lot of authentic bars and vibrant nightlife.
But if you plan to go out partying in one of Tbilisi’s night clubs…
Go easy on the cha-cha
No, not the dance. Chacha is the name of the most popular local spirit. Chacha is basically a pomace brandy with a very high alcohol percentage and it probably would have been a national drink if it wasn’t for wine. A lot of locals drink it during winters to stay warm.
Bring a gift if you go to someone’s home
If you’re fortunate enough to get invited at someone’s home, never go empty-handed. Georgians are great hosts and they will never tell you anything even if you don’t bring a gift, but going to someone’s house ‘empty-handed’ is considered disrespectful towards the host. A bottle of wine or any other alcoholic beverage is always a great choice and chocolate is a nice alternative too.
A few more things to know before visiting Georgia
For the cheapest flights to Tbilisi, check out Qatar Airways’ special deals.
To save on accommodation, use our Booking.com discount voucher.
If you want to rent a car in Georgia, use this link to save up to 30%.
For some interesting tours in Georgia, get the best deals from local guides on GetYourGuide.
Finally, don’t forget about travel insurance. Personally, I always choose World Nomads. They might be more expensive than most other insurance companies but they cover literally anything that can happen to you on the road!
Did you ever visit Georgia? Did you like this list of things to know before visiting Georgia? Do you need more help with planning a trip to Georgia? Let us know in the comments!
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