What to Know Before Traveling to Georgia
Georgia is slowly becoming a more and more popular destination for travelers from across the world. With natural wonders, rich and unique culture, and amazing cuisine it’s easy to see why. But given that it isn’t on everyone’s radar, there are a lot of things that people don’t know about this country. And a lot of those things might come in handy for first-time visitors in order to get the most out of their trip. That’s why in this article, we’ll go over all the things you have to know, activities you must do, and places you can’t miss when traveling to Georgia.
The first thing to keep in mind when arriving in Georgia is that if you want to get a taxi, instead of stopping one by the airport or in the street, use taxi apps to get better prices and avoid getting scammed.
The most affordable way to get from one city to another is by Marshrutkas, which leave every day at every hour from 8 AM to PM and their routes will most likely take you to wherever you want to go. And prices vary depending on the destination but the price is usually around 15-20 GEL. For transportation inside big cities buses and metros are the way to go. You can also take trains which also go out every day to different cities and you can get the schedule on the official website of the Georgian Railway, or tkt.ge.
Hitchhiking is also a commonly used form of transportation between cities even among people who live here. Georgians are very friendly people who love introducing their country to visitors so if you’re ever stuck on the road don’t shy away from stopping passing cars.
Buy a local sim card
To use the said taxi apps or google maps, you’re going to need a local sim card. The good thing is that they’re very easy to get. All you have to do is visit a brand of you’re preferred operator and ask for a sim card which, for example, at Magti, costs only 10 GEL. The registration for a sim card takes no more than 10 minutes and all you have to provide is your passport. You can also purchase affordable mobile internet plans later like a week of unlimited internet for 9 GEL and others depending on what you need. You can consult the workers about this topic and pick the one that's right for you. After this you’ll have constant access to the internet aka all the info you might need.
Best time to visit Georgia
Depending on what you’re looking for in your trip, you have to make sure you’re visiting at the right time. Georgia’s climate is relatively mild with hot summers and cold winters, but nothing extreme. But always make sure to bring clothes for both colder or hotter days.
One thing to keep in mind is that most tourists arrive in July-August and it’s best to avoid these months if you want to stay in bigger cities like Tbilisi, Batumi, and so on. With the increased demand prices go up and it’s nearly impossible to find good accommodation or easy transport. Instead, it's best to visit Georgia during late spring or early fall. But on the other side, If you’re planning to explore Georgian mountains and go camping then these months are perfect for that with less rain and good weather.
Fall is a great time to visit for those interested in the cultural aspect of Georgia as one of its main parts is the wine. From September to late October, you can experience Rtveli - wine harvest, which is a big event, especially in Kakheti. You can organize a trip to go grape-picking and even make the wine yourself. You can also get to know an ancient method of fermenting grapes which was devised 8000 years ago and includes using underground clay vessels to get the job done.
During fall you can still go to the seaside or go exploring the mountainous side of Georgia as the temperature is still on the higher side. But the end of spring is the best time to go exploring the mountains of Georgia. It’s a shame to miss the chance to visit the highest peaks of the Caucasus range that offer great conditions for hiking and camping. You can go on little tours to explore Svaneti, Khevsureti, Tusheti, and other parts of Georgia from June to September depending on the upcoming weather, where you’ll be surrounded by some of the most breathtaking views of nature you’ll ever see. You can find self-guided walking tours like these on our website too and decide which one works for you.
You can also go in the winter of course if you’re going there to ski or to snowboard. Georgia offers many snowy slopes for professionals and for beginners. The most popular destinations for this are Bakuriani and Gudauri with multiple resorts right by the mountains. But if you have some experience in skiing, we recommend checking out Svaneti. Mountains Hatsvali and Tetnuldi, part of the Caucasus mountain range, offer some of the best untouched tracks as well as prepped trails. The best part of skiing here is the beautiful views of the snowy Ushba twin peaks right in front of you.
Learning about Georgian Culture
The biggest part of Georgian culture has always been and is made up of religion. Even today almost 80% of the local population is Orthodox Christian. Hence why churches are the most famous attractions for visitors. And if you do visit make sure to keep in mind the mandatory dress code to show respect for locals.
You can check out churches in major cities like Tbilisi to see the architecture and the beautiful design inside but the better option is to go outside of cities to visit churches high up in the mountains which make the atmosphere even more surreal.
One of the most famous destinations, and rightfully so, is Gergeti Trinity Church near Stepantsminda at an elevation of 2170 m. It was built in the 14th century and offers an iconic view of mount Kazbek. You can reach this church after a steep hike on a 1.5 km trail that leads up the rocky mountain. If you’re up for a challenge then you can try the 3 hr hiking trail that leads to the Gergeti glacier and the trail that leads to Mount Kazbek but the latter is a challenging summit that isn’t recommended to do alone or without a professional mountain guide.
You can see all these spots with our self-guided walking tours that you can choose from depending on how much time you have. You can either go for a shorter option, which is a 3-day Kazbegi walking tour that includes seeing the mesmerizing Gergeti Trinity Church, mount Kazbegi along with Juta Valley, and other must-see spots in the region. There’s also an option for those with more time who want to explore Kazbegi on foot for 6 days and see the abovementioned spots along with the Gergeti glacier. This region is full of destinations that’ll help you embrace the Georgian nature and culture which is why we recommend checking it out.
Another big part of Georgian culture is food. Cheese, bread, wine, nuts, and ground meats are what Georgian cuisine is all about. These dishes are already very popular but that’s for a good reason as not trying Khinkali or Khachapuri is a big mistake. Other than those two staples try as much Georgian food as you can. There are a lot of vegetarian options too like salads and all different types of Khachapuri from different regions.
You also have to try Georgian alcohol. There are countless different types of wine which all taste very different from typical European wines. But the wine is already very famous. What does get overlooked is the Georgian chacha which is a very strong pomace brandy with 50-85% alcohol. You’ll always remember the taste of chacha, doubt it’s gonna be a good memory thought but it’s worth trying once.
And when it comes to the people here they are very hospitable and open to travelers. Older people rarely speak English but almost all of the youth do so if you don’t know Georgian try to ask younger people for directions or help if you need it.
One of the things that Georgia is famous for aside from the cuisine and wine is the beautiful nature you’ll find almost anywhere. Georgia is a relatively small country but that is contradicted by how incredibly diverse the landscapes and the climate are. From green meadows to the glaciers of Svaneti and peaks of Kazbegi, Georgia is veritably a paradise for people who enjoy being in nature.
National parks, rocky mountains, and alpine lakes are scattered across the country but some of the tourist favorites are Lagodekhi, Kazbegi, Vashlovani, Svaneti, and Borjomi. These places not only allow your eyes to feast on the magnificent views but it’s also a great way to get to know the cultural diversity and the local traditions of different towns in Georgia. Getting to all these places is fairly easy as marshrutkas cover all of them. During your stay in remote parts of this country, we recommend staying at guest houses. This way the money flows directly into the community and you also have the perk of getting to know local people.