In recent times, Georgia has been becoming a trendy tourist destination. Stunning mountain ranges, high waterfalls and popular beaches in one country? Only there! Of course, you can’t miss delicious traditional Georgian cuisine, too. And what if we say, you will be able to experience all these things with less than $200 in your pocket? Check out our post about budget traveling around Georgia and start to pack your bags for your ultimate Trans-Caucasia trip!
How To Get To Georgia
If you decide to arrive in Georgia by plane, you will probably land at one of three following airports in the country – in Tbilisi, Batumi or Kutaisi. It depends on an airline you choose. The airport in the capital city, Tbilisi, operates more expensive, traditional carries. They have many connections with big cities around Europe and Middle East. There are some exceptions when you can find tickets in reasonable prices from Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. The airport in Batumi near Turkish border operates mostly seasonal and charter routes.
On the other hand, if you travel on a really tight budget and want to fly for just a couple of dollars, you’d better pick low-cost airlines that are served at Kutaisi airport, in the west part of Georgia. One of the cheapest airlines in Europe – WizzAir can take you to Kutaisi from Paris, London, Barcelona, Vienna, Rome, Milan, Prague, some cities in Germany and Poland and also from many more European countries. Ticket prices start from $20 RT, but it’s hard to find such low fares, so you will likely end up paying slightly more.
FROM AIRPORT TO THE CITY
As we always promote budget traveling, in our article we’ll focus on the Kutaisi airport. To get to Kutaisi from the airport the cheapest option is to take a marshrutka (minibus). They connect Kutaisi Bus Station with the town Semtredia and in the middle of the route it has a stop at the main road in front of the terminal. Buses depart every 20 minutes during the day and the fare is 2 GEL.
If you land in Kutaisi in the very early morning or late in the night, it’s a lot better to use the service of Georgian Bus, which will drop you directly at your hotel. This bus is related with every flight, so you don’t need to worry about the schedule. You can buy a ticket at the counter at the airport for 5 GEL or book it online beforehand. Georgian Bus is worth to consider, especially on your way back to the airport when catching a morning flight from Kutaisi. It’s much smarter option than walking around the streets and looking for public transport in the middle of the night. The driver will pick you up from your hotel to the airport a few hours before your departure time, so you will quickly arrive there and still have enough time for border procedures.
From Baku, Azerbaijan
Georgia is well connected by railway with nearby countries. The most popular route between Azerbaijan and Georgia is an overnight train Baku-Tbilisi. It goes every day and takes 14 hours.
You can choose between 3 types of carriages: 1st class is a 2-berth cabin, 2nd class is a 4-berth cabin and 3rd class called “platzkart” is an open carriage with 54 beds and it looks like hostel dorm onboard the train. Of course, the last option is the cheapest one and despite being the least comfortable, it’s the most adventurous. This type of carriage is picked mostly by locals and you can meet lots of interesting people there and get to know their culture and habits. However, you should speak at least basics of Russian to communicate with them, because English is rarely understood in this part of the world. There’s no dining service onboard in all trains in this region, so prepare all your food and drinks before the ride and bring them with you.
When you make an online booking for train between Baku and Tbilisi the conditions depend on what direction you choose. When you pick the train departing from Baku and arriving in Tbilisi you can book your berth up to 10 days in advance on the official website of Azeri railways. However, keep in mind this is just an online booking and you will need to collect the proper ticket at the station before your departure. A ticket in platzkart costs 23.32 AZN (approx. $14).
On the other hand, if you plan to start your journey from Tbilisi and then get to Baku, the only way you can get a ticket is buying it at the station in Tbilisi. No online booking for international connections starting from Georgia is possible. Fortunately, apart from periods around public holidays, tickets for this route (in both directions) don’t run out so quickly, so usually you can buy them at the counter a day before the departure date or even the same day. To buy or collect tickets, passports of all passengers are necessary. When buying the ticket at the station, only cash is accepted, but there’s an ATM available. The price of 3rd class berth is 41 GEL (approx. $16).
From Yerevan, Armenia
There is an overnight train between Tbilisi and Yerevan every second day. The ride takes 9-10 hours. All conditions like types of carriages and getting the tickets are very similar as mentioned in a paragraph above. As the tickets are not available online when departing from Georgia, you can buy it only at the counter at the station. A ticket for a bunk in the 3rd class costs 35 GEL (approx. $14). For journeys starting from Yerevan, you can easily get the tickets online for 8 060 AMD (approx. $17) for the 3rd class bunk. The sale is conducted by the official website of Armeni railways.
However, every summer the route and schedule is changed. During summer holidays overnight trains depart every day and the route Yerevan-Tbilisi is extended to Batumi – the city by the coast of the Black Sea in the west of Georgia. The whole route including Batumi takes almost 16 hours. The departure time is different than the schedule out-of-season, but besides that everything remains the same.
Instead of trains, you can take marshrutkas to Azerbaijan and Armenia. However, it can be a good alternative to railways as marshrutkas are slightly cheaper and reach their destinations faster than slow trains. On the other hand, they are less comfortable and goes only during the day, so you will waste your day sitting in the bus. The choice is up to you – we recommend trains.
It’s much better to travel by bus from Georgia to Turkey. A popular among tourists city of Batumi is located close to Turkish border. From Batumi you can catch marshrutkas to Georgian border town Sarpi and then take a transport to Turkey.
Because of the tragic past and current bad diplomatic relationships between Georgia and Russia, traveling between these countries is very limited. There’s only one opened border crossing close to Verkhny Lars. Unfortunately, public transport doesn’t exist there, so taking a taxi is the only possibility.
How To Get Around Georgia
Big cities in Georgia are well connected by trains. Unlike international routes, tickets for domestic connections can be booked online on the official website of Georgian railways. There are new and comfortable trains as well as older vehicles in Georgia. The good thing is that local rides are pretty fast and very cheap – tickets costs usually just a couple of laris. For example, a ticket for an electric train between Batumi and Kutaisi costs only 3 GEL!
The alternative to trains are marshrutkas. They take you to almost all places in Georgia, even far away in the mountains. If you plan to visit smaller towns and villages, marshrutkas are the best option for you.
What To See In Georgia
Georgia is often considered as a destination for hiker, trekkers or simply mountain-lovers. It’s true, because you’ll see plenty of impressive ranges and high peaks there. However, we found there are many hidden, underrated and totally overlooked attractions by tourists throughout the country. That’s why we decided to show you some less visited but still very valuable sites that Georgia offers you. It’s really worth to get off the beaten track when exploring Caucasian wonders.
THE CENTER OF TBILISI
This place is a right choice for those who want to have a pleasant walk in a calm surrounding. In the heart of Tbilisi you have many nice spots around: historical buildings in old-style architecture, Sioni Cathedral situated on a small hill, modern Bridge of Peace over tiny Kura river, Presidential Palace and green Rike Park. There is everything what a typical representative streets should contain. A bit further you can also visit well-known St. Trinity Cathedral.
If you look for the best you can see Tbilisi from above, Mount Mtatsminda will be a good pick. This is a huge mountain and from its top you can capture the whole capital in one photo. Apart from the view point, there is an old amusement park with a rollercoaster and Ferris Wheel. Lazybones can rest sleeping in hammocks as the area is peaceful and woody. It’s possible to get there by bus, but taking a modern funicular would be much more fun. The return fare is 2 GEL and the ticket is a plastic card, which you can later take as a souvenir.
BEACHES IN BATUMI
Although there are only stone beaches in Batumi, so you won’t find any sand there, it’s worth to spend at least one day relaxing and swimming in the Black Sea. You can rent a beach chair there and even buy a plastic shoes, which are useful to walk on the stony and sharp ground. Look out the waves as they may look inconspicuously, but can turn out to be dangerous. We saw a kid, who was nearly sinking not far from the shore and his dad had problems to rescue him. What’s worse, there was no life-guards around to help. Fortunately, this situation ended happily, but it really made us think.
Batumi also try to be a modern city that invest a lot in tourism to lure visitors from around the world. That’s why you can expect to see plenty of creative structures and innovative projets there.
STONE BRIDGES OF AJARIA
Ajaria is an autonomous region of Georgia in the west of the country. Batumi is its capital city. The pearls of this land are hidden in the Ajarian woods. If you go out Batumi, you can see beautiful stone bridges inside the large forests. There are a couple of them in the area, but the most popular and the most accessible is the one in Makhuntseti village. Makhuntseti bridge is 28.7 meters long and it’s made only with the stone. It’s designed in a specific way that it doesn’t need any pillars or ropes. What’s even more impressive, it was built almost 1000 years ago! But you must be focus when you are walking through this bridge – it’s not equipped with any safety facilities and it’s pretty narrow (only 2.5 meters wide). It becomes very dangerous when lots of tourists arrive there and it gets crowded.
Very close to the mentioned above stone bridge (basically it’s on the other side of the road) you’ll find a lovely Makhuntseti Waterfall. It falls wonderfully from a high level hitting big rocks and then it continues running forming a little stream. The whole place is surrounded by greenery. In addition, the water under Makhuntseti is shallow, so you can walk at the bottom. You’ll be so close to the falling water that it’s like having the shower in the waterfall!
Makhuntseti is located 30 km away from Batumi. To get to the stone bridge and waterfall you must catch a marshrutka (minibus) from Batumi Bus Terminal at Chavchavadze Street. Marshrutkas, which have a stop in Makhuntseti, go in the direction to Keda or Khulo. They have sings in English. There are many vehicles at the station, so it’s easier to ask someone when you can find the right bus. Marshrutkas don’t have exact schedule, but they depart more or less every 30 minutes. It takes 45 minutes to reach Makhuntseti and the ride costs 2 GEL OW.
It’s a medieval Georgian orthodox located in the second largest city in the country – Kutaisi. This interesting cathedral stands on a big hill, from which you can take a good pictures view the panoramic view of the city. Although Kutaisi is not a typical touristic destination, lots of visitors pass through this city because of cheap flights operated at nearby airport, so it’s not a bad idea to spend a while there just to see Bagrati.
Sleeping, Eating, Safety & Other Tips
Lodging in Georgia is incredibly cheap. In the whole country you shouldn’t pay more than $4-6 for a night in a dormitory. Private apartments usually go for at least $8, apart from Tbilisi where prices are slightly higher – minimum $10 for a double room. So, you see Georgia is easily available even for travelers with a tiny budget.
Georgia is known for its cuisine. When visiting this country you must try a couple of their best dishes:
It’s a Georgian version of dumplings with meat and soup inside. Khinkali may be served with many different fillings, but they always look the same – small, thin, twisted dumplings.
Traditional Georgian bread dish filled with cheese and soft-boiled egg. There are a few kinds of Khachapuri and the Adjarian one seems to be the most common.
Generally, Georgia is a safe country, both daylight and at night. People are rather friendly there. You should be focus only when taking a taxi as drivers often try to rip-off foreigners. Bargain hard and clearly fix the price beforehand.
✓ Prepare for passing smoking in this country. Georgian like smoking literally everywhere: in restaurants, in buses, in trains or at stations. Non-smokers may have difficult time when exploring Georgia.
✓ Don’t plan too much time for one place in Georgia. Attractions are not so time-consuming, so it’s better to quickly visit more of them than spending too much time for each one.
✓ If you are not keen on low temperatures, you’d better go to Georgia from May/June to September/October. Winter is not so comfortable for wandering around streets when it’s cold outside.
How Much Does It Cost? (per person)
Trains Baku-Tbilisi-Yerevan-Batumi-Kutaisi: $45
Flight Kutaisi-Katowice: $35
Airport shuttle: 5 GEL (approx. $2)
Accommodation (6 nights): $50 / 2 people = $25
Local transport: $10
Other small fees: $5
TOTAL for 6 days in Georgia: $192
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