Country: Georgia
Currency: Lari (GEL)
Peak Season: July-August
Shoulder Season: December-February
Median Temperature: 13.30 C / 55.94 F
Main Languages: Georgian, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, train, minibus, taxi
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $60.00/day
Tourist Passes: Tbilisi City Pass
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Tbilisi has seen its share of fortunate (and some unfruitful) occupations from the fiercest regimes in the past millennium and a half. The quaint Georgian capital is brimming with too many stories to unravel about its erratic past; noteworthy is its severed ties with communist Russia which, interestingly, left the country better-off than it was before. And while not as popular as most European cities, Tbilisi’s idyllic lands are a sigh of relief from heavily urbanized Eastern Europe. The city is being eyed on by many international businesses now that the days of war have ceded. There is little to no hint of racial tension in the city due to its cultural and religious diversity—testimony of this is a mosque and synagogue harmoniously situated next to each other.

The city has embodied the Russian affinity for the arts and culture. The city is teeming with museums, galleries and performance theatres. The Russian occupation significantly improved the city’s pace with the modern landscape, evident in the overhauling of the city’s transport system, even reaching distant parts of the countryside. Of course, fringes are a matter of hit and miss with tourists’ tastes—starting from the border between Yerevan and Tbilisi. As you’ll explore the countryside further, you’ll be elated to know how the hardworking locals here are some of the best hosts in the world.

Tbilisi is one of the cheapest European destinations—you can get a hotel room and meal in the relatively upscale district of Vake-Saburtalo for a mere fraction of what other Eastern European cities charge. As for the countryside, you can venture out broke and still find yourself content with delightful views of mountains and forests whilst yielding before the cattle crossing the roads. Want nostalgic? Then visit Tbilisi.

Packing List

  • Warm clothes and good walking shoes; nights can become unbearably cold because of the mountainous terrain; temperatures will plummet immediately, so pack extra clothes if travelling in the afternoon.
  • Local currency and duffel bags for shopping—most boutiques dishonor foreign currency and some do not have swiping machines; local currency is usually the only accepted mode of payment in the fringes
  • Essential medication and toiletries—mosquito repellants, and ant-diarrhea tablets; pharmacies and groceries are dependable in carrying only Eastern European brands and a few international brands
  • A decent camera, plenty of film and batteries; certain parts of the countryside may occasionally suffer from power outages, so bring a flashlight and spare batteries for your phone should that happen
  • Portable media and electronics to keep you company—a good novel is always a traveler’s best companion; TV broadcasts, (and even local newspapers) are in Russian/Georgian format

Things to Do

  • Relieving yourself of stress in your choice of a sulphuric sauna bath—most hotels and gyms have sauna facilities; of notable mention is Abanotubani—the bath district—which is known for its nude patrons
  • Recounting the country’s pivotal moment at Freedom Square—the venue for the peaceful Rose Revolution; the statue of Stalin at the center is now replaced by a statue of St. George in slaying stance
  • Visiting Holy Trinity Cathedral, famed for being the third-tallest of its kind in the world; the patently Orthodox cathedral is heavily influenced by Georgian architecture with Byzantine accents in its mosaics
  • Catching a presentation at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre—the country’s and region’s oldest; it has a relatively spacious seating capacity of 800, holding performances usually once or twice each month
  • Enjoying a beeline of attractions and historic buildings along Rustaveli Avenue, which spans for about a mile; here lay its eponymous theater, a circuit of museums, and also the young Parliament of Georgia

DON'T

  • Flaunt your wealth—the country of Georgia—Tbilisi not being an exception—has been having problems lately with the growing poverty; safety being on the line as well, dress casually and avoid shady places
  • Be ignorant of Georgian customs and traditions—majority of the locals are old-fashioned and religious; remember to reciprocate their hospitality by at least offering simple gifts to children and shaking hands
  • Come unprepared—knowing that most tourist facilities outside of the city remain undeveloped, one should always take precaution of the dangers and pack basic necessities if going to the countryside
  • Pass on the food and alcohol—Georgians are gregariously inclined to daily wine-drinking (but to a certain extent and sometimes on occasion); if you are received as a house guest, never refuse wine
  • Stay too near clean-shaven, stocky men who wear buttoned shirts/track pants/shades—they’re likely to be a Mafioso; remember to ask the locals on whom to avoid and what streets to stay away from