Plan your trip to Georgia: A quick easy to use guide
Our Trip to Georgia was the first in the Euro-Asian region. Not knowing what to expect, we jumped into the plan, and was glad to be presently surprised. Georgia is filled with breathtaking scenery and the most hospitable people I have seen.
Entry Visa Requirements
Georgia has an on-arrival, free visa policy for most countries. The following map illustrates the visa policy of Georgia:
As shown above, Georgia gives visa on arrival for over 94 countries. Residents of GCC countries get on an arrival visa, regardless of which passport they hold. It is just important to ensure that the Passport and Resident Visa of your Gulf Country is valid for more than 6 months.
While travelling with a Pakistani passport, facing a few extra questions are now normal to us :). We were asked details of our hotel bookings (airbnb will pass), polio drops certificate (if you have been to Pakistan in the past 45 days) and details of who will come to pick you from the airport, among other things. An easy way to get through this is relax, have everything printed out (including your bookings) and go with the flow and a smile.
Travelling around Georgia
The infrastructure in Georgia is fantastic. Whether we were in Tbilisi, on highways or in a small city, we found a world class road system. It can be difficult to get to some tourist destinations where there is no proper road, such as the Geregti Trinity Church.
Petrol pumps and groceries were widely available and easily accessible.
We rented our own 4 wheel drive (Nissan Pathfinder), which gave us a lot of independence and freedom. A 4-Wheel drive is a must if you do not want to miss the best spots in Kazbegi. We found a great deal from Cars 4 Rent, Georgia ( http://cars4rent.ge/ ). If you are not used to winters, seat heaters are a must for your 4 wheel drive.
Google maps navigation will get you anywhere in Georgia with easy to follow routes. Since the 4G Internet connection is so widespread and cheap, Google maps was easy to work with.
Driving there can be tough if you are a new driver, because the rules and regulations are not defined very well and it is easy to miss signals. In words of our rent-a-car friend “everyone is a Schumacher in Tbilisi”. Once you are outside the capital, driving is much easier and calmer.
Taxis in Georgia are extremely cheap. Make sure you always pay by the meter and don’t fall for traps in which a cabbie can say his meter is not working.
We did not use trains in Georgia however they are known to be hard to book due to lack of English speaking staff. Please share your experience in the comments below if you have traveled Georgia by train recently.
Visit the most interactive tourist Map to Georgia will help you arrange your travel plans and setup your itenary.
We booked decent Airbnb rooms which were very clean and the facilities were good enough if you are just going there to crash at night. We booked our stays in Tbilisi, Kazbegi and a nice resort in Gudauri.
Best Time to visit Georgia
The best part about visiting Georgia is that is does not have any off-peak season. You have to decide when to go according to what you want to see and do while you are there.
If you visit Georgia in April, like us, you will get the best of both worlds. The north is cold and snowy, making places like Gudauri and Kazbegi beautiful to visit, with plenty of activities, like skiing and hiking. While it is definitely cold, it was not unbearable for us. On the other hand, the western region was also cold, but it wasn’t snowing, making all the cities accessible and easy to explore.
December – February is not advised as the weather is extremely cold, with many areas going below freezing temperatures.
Many people prefer to go when the weather is sunny, but not too hot, from May to June, or mid – September to October. The months in between are known to get quite hot, but are perfect if you want to focus on visiting the mountains, specifically if you plan to conquer Mount Kazbek!
What clothes to pack in your trip to Georgia
Any clothes that pass out as decent will be perfect. It is advised to pack according to the expected temperatures. Make sure you pack well if you are visiting in winter, taking a few extra jackets and thermals, so that you don’t have to face any trouble while you are there!
People at times may look slightly alert when they see someone in hijab, however it is not something that a smile and a wave wont take care of! Since tourism is fairly new in Georgia, the people there are not used to seeing foreigners.
People in Georgia
Georgians are some of the most hospitable people around. Even though we could not understand a word they said, they would be happy to help us out in any way they could. Sign language becomes your best skill to communicate.
Unlike many countries, we were not worried about any tourist traps or overpriced goods. One of the locals we made friends with in Tbilisi told us that there are cameras everywhere! So if you leave a phone somewhere on the road and come back the next day, it will still be lying in the same spot.
You will find owners of small kiosks often calling out to you to try their goods, be it clothes or fruits or even honey. They are happy to have customers and bargaining with them is a norm.
Important Places to Visit in Georgia
The Capital is surrounded by picturesque mountains and has an Aerial Tramway, which is an experience you should not miss. The Bridge of Peace, Narikala Fortress, Metakhi Cathedral and old town Tbilisi aren’t far away and you can visit these sites in a single day.
Uplistsikhe cave town: A UNESCO world heritage site is a must visit. It is an abandoned rock-hewn cave town which was discovered in 1000 BC.
Gori Fortress: History and sightseeing is combined in this lovely tourist destination. It was formed in the 13th Century and even though most of it has been damaged, the ninth wall has still been preserved.
This 13th century castle gives you a medieval feel, and you can expect warriors to storm out of the gate any second. It is 2 hours away from Tbilisi and comes on the highway towards Gadauri/Kazbegi region. It is currently on the tentative list for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Site program.
Experiencing snow in Gadauri, brought out the child in us. For just 5 Laris (approx $2) you can ride on a cable car, which will take you up a beautiful mountain to an endless land of snow. The view from the cable car is simply breathtaking.
It is also worth stopping by the Russia-Georgian peace monument, which comes on the way.
You simply must Visit the Gergeti Trinity church which comes on way to Mount Kazbek. No trip to Georgia can be complete without visiting this church.
You can add trips to Gvaleti waterfall, Trusso Valley and Gergeti Glaciar if you have the time.
Tbilisi mall offers all major international brands for shopaholics. The mall is well kept and not very far from the city.
At almost every tourist destination, you will find small shopping stalls selling food and basic necessities.
The Georgian Food Guide, Halal Food in Georgia
Food in Georgia was not hard to get by. There are plenty of Halal options in Tbilisi (mostly Turkish food), but outside Tbilisi Halal Restaurants are hard to find. Once we were out of Tbilisi, we loved the Georgian Khachapuri which is basically cheese stuffed, deep fried bread, which is sometimes mixed with potatoes. Basically heaven in every bite!
People mostly speak Georgian or Russian. It can be tough to communicate at times, because many people do not know English and those who do are not very fluent. However, this is not something to worry about as Georgian hospitality makes you feel comfortable wherever you go and often people are willing to help you out as much as they can, even if they can only gesticulate.
People primarily use Georgian Lari but in most places US Dollar and Euro is also accepted. The conversion rate at this point of time is:
$1 = 2.4 Lari and 1 Lari = 1.5 AED
An average a trip to Georgia will cost you at-least $40 – $60 per day depending on your travel plans. There are quite a few luxury hotels at almost every tourist destination to enhance your experience.
Essentials to carry
- Extra winter clothing
- Two pin plug charger. They have ONLY two pin plugs for EVERYTHING.
- Multi-plugs that fit into the two pin sockets. If you think you can get away with buying a multiplug once you are there, then you are wrong. Multiplugs are quite tough to find in Georgia
Free wifi is available in almost every corner of Tbilisi which is called ‘Tbilisi Loves You’. However, it doesn’t connect to well at times.
Wifi connections in houses are fantastic and you will easily get good quality internet.