Scrooge Backpacker’s Guide To Visiting Georgia

OK, I admin I used “scrooge” in title to catch attention 🙂 The guide doesn’t assume you are one although I’ll share pretty budget tips along the way. Also, let’s get the other thing clear – we are talking about Republic of Georgia and not the US state called Georgia. Oh well, just see it on the map here. This is in Caucasus just next to Turkey and Iran. Confusion cleared, let’s see how could you go there and what you can do on budget. I’ll talk mostly about Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) and Batumi – the capital of autonomous republic Adjaria inside Georgia.

Getting To Georgia On The Cheap

Although Tbilisi isn’t a popular airport there are a couple of cheap options to get there. The best one is through Istanbul in Turkey, which itself is reachable through the whole world. Of course going through Istanbul doesn’t make sense if you are living in Russia or Armenia for example. But for the rest of us flying from Istanbul is good and affordable. Return trip Istanbul – Tbilis with Fly Pegasus costs about €200 and if you’d rather fly to Batumi the cost is about €150.

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You can also reach Georgia overland. Trains between Georgia and Armenia or Georgia and Azerbaijan are very popular although not very useful of you are not already in one of these countries. However you can get a bus or train from Istanbul all the way to Erzurum and then continue to Hopa which is very close to Batumi. Minibuses connect both cities every day.

Food shop in Georgia

Food!

Staying in Tbilisi – a Bunch of Good options

We have been in Georgia two times and both times we stayed in Tbilisi for a couple of days. The most affordable option are hostels or bed and breakfast houses. My advice is to book in advance so you can reserve a good place. I use HostelWorld every time we set for a trip. The best hostel in Tbilisi is called SkadaVeli – they have a huge double bed private room for just €20 per person or you can choose to stay in dorm rooms for less than half of this price. I can recommend also Andrew’s Rooms but it was not available this year so I am not sure if they still operate.

Feel free also to check the properties at AirBNB especially if you prefer to stay in someone’s house.

Most hostels in Georgia offer breakfast included in the price. And that’s not just the typical continental breakfast – instead you are most likely to receive cool Georgian bread with something homemade. Better don’t miss it!

City Transportation

Both Tbilisi and Batumi (and I guess most Georgian towns) have public transportation which is rather cheap – between 40 and 50 tetri which makes something like €0.20 – €0.25. In Tbilisi your best option is to use the metro – just 50 tetri, very fast, and lets you cool a bit from the always hot weather (except in winter of course). Tbilisi metro is also quite a memorability itself: it’s deep and steep and riding the escalator takes about 90 seconds in most stations. The first experience is a bit scary.

If you are flying beware of taxi drivers at the airport. There is bus albeit it’s not easy to find the bus-stop. There is also a train connecting the airport with the central railway station but it’s not on frequent schedule. One was at 4 AM and the next was in 9:30 AM. The bus start going at 6:30 AM.

So if you arrive in the night you may have to get the taxi anyway. Be sure to bargain – the price can start at 40 lari ($25) to the city center  and go down to 20 lari very easy. If you speak Russian they’ll start with lower price rather than if you speak English.

Try The Trains!

Speaking about trains, you should try them to travel inside Georgia. The train to Batumi doesn’t cost much – between 20 and 50 lari depending on the class and it’s probably the cheapest option for this route (not sure about minibuses). Trains are very nice, especially the sleepers. Russian style cabins, not always in perfect condition but very comfortable anyway.

Feel free to take shorter distance train if you wish. But if you have some spare cash it’s a great idea to take the train to Yerevan in Armenia which will cost you between 30 lari (3rd class) and 70 lari (1st class sleeper).  More detailed info on these trains is available on this page.

What About Food?

Food will be your last worry in Georgia. Even eating at a restaurant is not going to break your budget. Of course, if you want to keep costs lower you can eat from the many “fast khachapuri chains” (I just invented the name).  One khachapuri will fill your stomach for several hours and the cost is just between 4 and 8 lari. Adjarian khachapuri is especially good – no surprise they eat it in the entire country, not just in Adjaria.

But what if your budget is really really tight? Buy a Georgian bread for 70 – 80 tetri, a piece of cheese for 1 – 2 lari and enjoy! It’s sometimes even better than eating outside. Georgian fruits and vegetables are very real too.

And What To See?

View from Tbilisi lift

View from the city lift

I’ll leave this to you. If you want to check a small attraction on really low budget, get the city lift that will take you to the Mother Georgia statue. The cost is just 1 lari each direction, and you can descent using the stairs if you don’t want to spend more cash.

Don’t miss to visit Georgia if you have the chance. It’s a mix of Europe and Asia and is hard to compare to any other place we’ve been to.