Georgia

Table of Contents

General

Places

Stepantsminda (Kazbegi)

A man and a woman dressed in hiking attire stand in front of the Gergeti Trinity Church in Kazbegi / Stepantsminda, Georgia.
We spent one night in Kazbegi (now known as Stepantsminda) so that we could hike up to the Gergeti Trinity Church. The experience did not disappoint!

Tbilisi

  • Head up to the Narikala Fortress on foot or by cable car, then pay your respects to the nearby Mother of Tbilisi statue. This iconic and lustrous figure welcomes friends with wine, and wards off enemies with a sword.
  • Ogle at the Georgian National Museum‘s superb collection of gold jewelry. The museum also has sections devoted to folk costumes, weaponry, Georgia’s Bronze and Iron Ages, and the Soviet Occupation. We easily whiled away a few hours here.
  • Take in postcard views of Tbilisi from a quiet spot overlooking the sulphur baths. It’s just below the Tabor Monastery of the Transfiguration.
  • Soak up some culture by attending a performance at the Georgian National Opera and Ballet Theater.
  • Admire the frilly wooden balconies and distinctive architecture in Tbilisi’s Old Town.

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In the Abanotubani district, just up the street from the sulphuric baths, is this eye-catching display for a wine bar.
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A visitor snaps a photo of golden jewelry on display in the Georgian National Museum.

Accommodation

Airbnb and Booking.com were our go-tos for finding accommodation in Georgia. We were pleased with the quality of our apartments and rooms, and we were pleasantly surprised by the internet reliability, too. Here are several properties we’d happily stay at again:

  • Kutaisi – Kutaisi was our first stop in Georgia, and we spent four nights at the Guest House Friendly (affiliate link). We didn’t share any common languages with our host, Natalya, but we used our phones to communicate about her recent trip to the mountains. Along the way we also learned that Natalya is originally from Russia, and has lived in Georgia for a few years. Our room had an en-suite bathroom, and there was a dining area and shared kitchen. Everything was clean, and we appreciated Natalya’s potted plants and the cheerful way in which she decorated the property’s interior. We were able to walk to the Bagrati Cathedral in just a few minutes, and a few tiny supermarkets were located nearby. Downtown Kutaisi was only about 15 minutes away on foot. Part of the walk was hilly, so get your calves ready!

  • Stepantsminda / Kazbegi – Hiking up to the famous Gergeti Trinity Church was the experience we wanted to have the most while in Georgia. Our research showed that it’d probably be easiest if we stayed in Kazbegi for at least one night, as opposed to making a hurried day-trip there. Taking a marshrutka from Tbilisi, we arrived in Kazbegi at about noon. We checked into our room at Soso Burduli’s Guesthouse (affiliate link), quickly changed into hiking clothes, and then began the climb before too many clouds rolled in. Our host was friendly, and our room was clean, had good Wifi, comfortable beds, and piping-hot radiators. (We were surprised how chilly it got in the mountains at night — even in early September.) The property also had a pleasant balcony, which offered magnificent views of the church and Mount Kazbek. I sat on that terrace for about an hour at sundown and then did the same at sunrise the next morning. I just couldn’t get enough of those vistas!

  • Tbilisi – We spent about one month in Tbilisi, in total. Since our apartments sometimes had bookings that prevented us from extending, we got a chance to try out a few properties:
    • Cozy Apartments in Old Tbilisi (affiliate link) – Nata has several apartments for rent in this building in Old Tbilisi. We stayed in two of the one-bedroom apartments, each of which had a balcony. (One balcony overlooked the somewhat-green back yard, while the other balcony faced the city. Rooftops across the street obstructed the view a bit, but it was pleasant enjoying meals outside and watching the happenings below.) Both apartments were sparkling clean and brand new, with a great attention to detail. The kitchen was fully stocked, and we had a washing machine and clothing lines for washing and drying clothes. To get to the attractions, we had to walk downhill, then cross a pedestrian-only bridge. We were able to reach the Sulphur Baths in about 15-20 minutes.
    • Cozy Apartment with Balcony – We spent about two weeks in this newly-renovated Airbnb apartment. It’s located in a residential part of Tbilisi, so it gives you a more realistic glimpse of what life is like in the city. You can reach the Delisi metro stop on foot in less than 10 minutes. Zarabi, the apartment owner, is easygoing and friendly, and the apartment was well-stocked with everything you need for a longer stay (good Wifi, washing machine, drying rack for clothes, oven/stove, microwave, large refrigerator). The apartment overlooks a rugged ridge-line where locals walk their dogs, as well as a cemetery, and several apartment buildings. Having just a bit of green space to look at from our balcony was refreshing.

Transportation

Taxis – Wherever you are in the world, hailing a taxi is often a stressful endeavor. In Georgia, our rides were mostly positive, but we did have at least one unpleasant experience. We’d just arrived in the country, and were at the information desk inside the Kutaisi Airport when a taxi driver approached us. An airport employee kindly translated the details of the taxi journey on our behalf. We thought the fare sounded reasonable, so we accepted and hopped into the driver’s car. However, when we arrived at our guesthouse and it was time to do the financial transaction, the driver tried to double the agreed-upon fare.

Fortunately, fellow travelers soon made us aware of taxi-hailing apps you can use in Georgia, including Bolt, Maxim, and Yandex. Before we were able to download any of the apps ourselves, a helpful local resident even telephoned Maxim on our behalf to order a taxi. This gesture proved extremely helpful, especially when we needed to find a taxi from Kutaisi to Tbilisi at the last minute!

Bolt was often our go-to for getting around Tbilisi. The other times that we hailed cabs on the street, our drivers played by the rules and stuck to the fare we’d all agreed upon.

In short, bad apple taxi drivers exist everywhere in the world. As you would anywhere, be sure to negotiate a price before you start your journey.


Tbilisi Buses and Metro – We used Tbilisi’s local buses and metro network to get around the city. As of 2019, a bus ticket cost .50 GEL, and a metro ticket cost .50 GEL.

To get started with the metro system, we had to buy a rechargeable plastic card for 2 GEL. The two of us were able to share the same card and then top it up with fares as necessary, using the orange terminals. It was possible to view the instructions in English.

On the buses it’s possible to pay by cash or by using the rechargeable plastic card.

See the Tbilisi Transport Company website for routes and timetables.

Passengers enter and exit a metro car in Tbilisi, Georgia.
A metro stop in Tbilisi.

Marshrutkas – From Azerbaijan to Moldova, we’ve ridden in a handful of these minibuses, which follow a specific route. Georgia’s marshrutkas are much the same — if the minibus isn’t packed and the driver isn’t training for a Formula One race, a marshrutka ride can be okay. However, if there are no seat belts, and your driver is overtaking other vehicles at breakneck speeds on two-lane roads, the ride can be terrifying. Let’s just say that trains and larger buses were usually our go-to for longer-distance journeys.


Train – Train connections within Georgia are rather limited. Nevertheless, we took the train from Tbilisi to Gori, and Tbilisi to Baku, and found those experiences to be much more comfortable than riding in a marshrutka.

While it’s theoretically possible to purchase train tickets for domestic routes online, we had a hard time negotiating the website. Instead, we went directly to railway stations to purchase our tickets. The attendant at the ticket window and the conductors always asked to see our passports, so be sure to bring yours along.

Also, it’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance — especially if your route is a longer-distance one. We learned this lesson the hard way when we were in Kutaisi. We’d planned to take the train from Kutaisi to Tbilisi. However, when we arrived at the Kutaisi Railway Station about an hour before the planned departure time, we were informed than only one ticket remained. As a result, we had to take a taxi to Tbilisi.

See the Georgian Railway website for timetables.

Georgian Railway train in Georgia


Additional Georgia Resources


Four woolen donkeys, and three Georgian dumpling toys are displayed at an outdoor market in the town of Sighnaghi.
Handcrafted wool items, in the form of cuddly donkeys and khinkali (Georgia’s ubiquitous dumpling), on display at a market in Sighnaghi.