Did you know?
- Tbilisi is situated on a wealth of hot springs and the city’s traditional bathing houses have been the social centre of the city for centuries, and the name Tbilisi comes from the Georgian word for warmth, ‘Tbili’.
- The Caucasus Mountains that divide Europe and Asia, are home to Mount Elbrus - the highest peak in Europe, which borders Russia & Georgia
- Tbilisi is one of the world’s oldest settlements, evidence points to human habitation as far back as 4,000 BC, and has been ruled by the Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Ottomans and Russians.
- Georgians actually refer to their country as 'Sakartvelo' and not the English term, Georgia.
- The Georgian alphabet dates back to the 5th century and contains 33 letters, and the language includes no capitals, no pronouns (he, she) or articles (a, an, the etc), and is one of only 14 unique scripts that exist in the world.
- Georgia is considered to be the birthplace of wine, the practice dates back some 8,000 years and the traditional Georgian method has been added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
- Polyphonic music is choral folk music sung by 2 or more people, and the traditions pre-date the introduction of Christianity in Georgia (early 4th century AD).
- Georgia is a very safe country, having been rated the 7th safest country to visit in the world in 2017 (excluding certain areas along the Russian border).
- The highest permanent settlements in Europe can be found in Georgia.
- Joseph Stalin was born in Gori, Georgia, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire. There is now a museum dedicated to Stalin in Gori that glorifies his life (yes, glorifies!).
Visas and Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Georgia do not need a visa at this time.
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Turkey is responsible for Georgia:
Ugur Mumcu Caddesi No: 88, 7th Floor,
Ph. +90 312 459 9500
Fax. +90 312 446 4827
The official currency of Georgia is the Georgian Lari. Notes are in denominations of ლ100, 50, 20, 10 and 5.
The recommended currency to take to Georgia is the US Dollar or Euro, as their local currencies are not available outside of the region. Ensure you request smaller clean notes as many places will not exchange large denominations or notes that are torn and dirty. Once there, you can exchange your US Dollar or Euro for the Georgian Lari. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have US Dollars or Euros with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Tbili is approximately €1-€2.
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €4-5.
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €8-10.
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €1 - €2.
The cuisine in Georgia has a somewhat Middle Eastern flavour, thanks to its position in between Europe and Asia and having been part of the Silk Road! Eastern Georgia is shaped by Turkish flavours, whereas Western Georgia has mostly Iranian influences.
The food & wine culture is best observed through the tradition of supra, a traditional feast featuring a wide assortment of dishes and copious amounts of wine lasting several hours, which also includes folk songs and dancing. The feast is likely to include: Khachapuri, a cheese and butter filled bread pie, sometimes called Georgian pizza; Khinkali, meat dumplings that are eaten with your fingers so the juice inside can be slurped out before eating the rest – but don’t eat the top bit that you were holding!; Satsivi, chicken or turkey in a walnut sauce with garlic and spices; Chakhokbili, poultry stewed in a tomato sauce with herbs and spices; Tolma, vegetables stuffed with meat and cooked in a broth; Mtsvadi, kebabs made from either pork or veal fillet, basturma (marinated meat), or mutton stuffed into eggplants then cooked on a barbeque; Kebab, made from ground meat, similar to koftas, but coated with breadcrumbs and stewed in a broth; and Tapaka, chicken fried on a wide tapa pan.
Pkhaleuli are vegetarian dishes featuring a wide variety of spiced plants and vegetables with a walnut pates base. Other vegetarian dishes include: Mkhali, vegetable ‘salad’ of boiled/baked vegetables that are crushed and mixed with nuts and fresh herbs; Lobio, string beans with a variety of seasonings including onions, oil and wine vinegar; Mchadi, corn fritters served with cheese; Ajabsandali, a type of vegetable ratatouille; and Shetchmandy, a soup made with flour, nuts, grains
Sweet dishes include: churchkhela, strings of nuts (usually walnuts) repeatedly dipped in a grape or pomegranate mixture and naturally dried; Pelamushi, jelly made from grape juice and corn meal; Kada, a baked biscuit made from several layers of sweet dough; and Ponchiki, similar to doughnut holes.
Wine also plays an important part in Georgian culture, as the oldest evidence of winemaking was discovered here and dates back at least 8,000 years. When enjoying Georgian hospitality, expect to be offered a glass of wine, as wine (and food) play a very important part in their culture. Other kinds of local alcohol include Chacha, a clear fruit-based homebrew that is similar to grappa, and Kazbegi beer. Local soft drinks include Lagidze, or ‘the Lagidze Waters’ that are made from natural fruits with no chemicals, artificial sugars or additives, the most popular flavours include tarragon and cream & chocolate.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
The climate in Georgia is generally mild and rainy on the Black Sea coast and western plains including Kutaisi; the central and eastern inland areas including Tbilisi are more continental and arid; while the Caucasus Mountains (the Greater Caucasus in the north and Lesser Caucasus in the south) have an alpine climate.
The best time to visit Georgia is usually Spring and Autumn, so mid-May to mid-June and mid-September to mid-October. Tbilisi and the interior areas do receive rain year-round, and the highest rainfall generally occurs from May through to August, which can make it quite humid during summer. Most of the rainfall in Georgia occurs in the coastal areas, they average around 1,900mm per year!
Want to get out and explore on your own?
Taxis are one of the cheapest means of transportation in Georgia, and they are plentiful in Tbilisi, however the traffic in the city is overloaded and chaotic! They are also unregulated, so agree to the pricing beforehand, and carry exact change. The fastest way to get around is the Metro, but as there are only 22 stations, it may require a bit of walking to your destination. There are also busses and minibuses, called Marshrutka. They each have their own routes, but with no set stops and the schedules are never accurate! Marshrutka will also traverse the countryside, delivering people to outlying villages. For cross-country travel, the Georgian Railway covers much of the country and also has links into neighbouring Azerbaijan and Armenia.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Georgia…
The lurji supra, a traditional indigo blue and white Georgian tablecloth decorated with animals, has been an integral part of the culture for centuries. Forgotten during the Soviet period, they are now making a comeback, and can often be found decorating the table at a supra (if it can even be seen under the plates, bowls and wine glasses that cover the table!). Modern tablecloths can also be found in red or green, and there are also coasters in the same patterns if a tablecloth is too bulky/heavy.
Brandy made from local wine, and also the local chacha, or ‘vine vodka’ (similar to grappa and moonshine), made from the traditional Rkatsiteli grapes in small household stills.
Churchkhela also makes a great souvenir, as it has a long shelf life and it comes in a variety of flavours! Tip – the best churchkhela can be found in the Kakheti region, as this is the home of wine in Georgia!
Spices, including blue fenugreek (utskho suneli) which grows wild in the mountains and is commonly used in many Georgian dishes, and dried marigold (tagetes patula) which is often used as a substitute for saffron as it is considerably cheaper. Spice blends used in traditional Georgian dishes
Metalwork, including tableware, is often ornately decorated by stamping, filigree and enamel. Enamel, particularly the cloisonné enamel style known as Minankari, has been handmade since it was introduced in the 8th century from neighbouring Byzantium. Kantsi, a traditional drinking horn commonly used at a supra, is often decorated with ornate metalwork.
Jewellery and decorations made from black amber, or gagat, are incredibly popular and can be found in markets.
Ceramics and pottery with traditional designs and colours, including small qvevri (vessels used to hold wine),
A great way to support the local community is to try to buy your souvenirs in smaller shops rather than larger ones.
- While friends will kiss each other on the cheek when they meet, public displays of affection are not approved
- It is not considered proper for adults to openly mention going to the bathroom
- Smoking in front of older people is disrespectful, and women rarely smoke in public
- Always travel with others, especially after dark. Travelling in groups of three of four is strongly advised. Keep to well-lit, public places such as shopping malls and restaurants. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Keep identification on you at all times – a photocopy of your passport page is sufficient.
- Don't take photos indiscriminately. Many people object to having their pictures taken, so ask permission first. Military installations, airports and bridges should never be photographed.
- Don’t carry around nonessentials and valuables. Use your hotel safe and don't flash expensive jewellery, watches and cameras.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Georgia celebrates many traditional festivals, including one for the capital of Tbilsi. Known as ‘Tbilisoba’, each year towards the end of harvest, the city centre is taken over by locals selling everything from cheese, wine and fruits, to clothing and accessories, while local performers depict stories of the country rich history. Georgians love their wine, even throwing a ‘New Wine Festival’ where local vineyards uncork their selections for everyone to taste while enjoying ‘mtsvadi’ – Georgian shashlik.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- New Year’s Day (January 2nd)
- Orthodox Christmas Day (January 7th)
- Orthodox Ephiphany (January 19th)
- Mother’s Day (March 3rd)
- International Women’s Day (March 8th)
- Independence Restoration Day (April 9th)
- Orthodox Good Friday
- Orthodox Holy Saturday
- Orthodox Easter Sunday and Monday
- Victory Day (May 9th)
- St Andrew’s Day (May 12th)
- Independence Day (May 26th)
- Day of the Assumption of Mary (August 28th)
- Svetitskhovloba (October 14th)
- St George’s Day (November 23rd)
Located in an interesting junction of valleys, ravines and canyons, between three mountains on the banks of the Mtkvari River, the city is overlooked by the Kartlis Deda monument (Mother Georgia) and the ruins of Narikala Fortress. Kartlis Deda, symbol of Georgia, holds a sword in one hand and a cup of wine in the other – warmly welcoming guests but ready to fend off enemies. The impressive ruins of nearby 4th century Narikala Fortress dominate the Old Town skyline. The city itself has also been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, but the Old Town still retains much of its charm with narrow alleyways and crooked houses built around courtyards. The mishmash of architecture from traditional Georgian houses, to Soviet blocks, contemporary skyscrapers, to Baroque & Rococo-style theatres and Zoroastrian Temples, makes for a very eclectic & bohemian city.