Georgia - Tbilisi

Georgia: A day in Tbilisi

After my successful summits and trek in Nepal earlier this year, it was time for a different adventure. A friend of mine visited and recommended Georgia. I quickly fell in love with the photos from her trip and decided I should go here too. I really wanted to go backpacking again. My last backpacking trip was in Ladakh and Kashmir in India. Everything came into place for Georgia at the right time. I boarded the flight to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi.

Boarding Fly Dubai

Tbilisi or Tiflis is the capital of Georgia. This was my first trip venturing outside the usual Middle-East and Asia proper. Georgia is located at the centre of the East and West. This is where Europe meets Asia. To its North, lies the Russian Federation, to the South Turkey and Armenia, Azerbaijan to the East and the Black Sea to the West. A lot of wars and battles were fought here and the country has seen so much history.

Map of Georgia

The Georgian culture is a fusion of the Asian and European. You can find a bit of Eastern Europe, Persia, Arabia and the Mediterranean. I was excited and wanted to see what Georgia had in store for an Indian. I broke the trip down into small bits and referred to the Lonely Planet for reference.

Traveling solo with a budget of just around 800$, was incredibly possible in Georgia. The Lonely Planet chapter on Georgia has a wealth of information which i referred to. The rest of my journey was all spontaneous decisions

Also read: A list of cheap places to go backpacking.

Getting there

Tbilisi Airport

Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi International Airport

I arrived at the Shota Rustaveli Tbilisi International Airport from Dubai at around 4am on a Fly Dubai flight. I paid approximately $238 for a return flight from Dubai. What a steal! The immigration was a breeze through. A visa on your passport from the USA, UK or GCC gives you free entry into the country. It’s free! So you don’t pay a penny. You should visit the Georgia Visa Portal and see if you are eligible for a Visa On Arrival (VoA) or if you need apply for one online before flying in and its $20 if it’s an online visa.

Local SIM Card

I wanted to pickup up a cellphone SIM card so I lingered around the Airport arrivals for a bit after checking out. There are three cellular operators in Georgia that offer Prepaid SIM card services to tourists: Magti, Geocell and Beeline. There was a bit of a crowd at all the stands so I chose to buy the one with lesser people waiting. Magti and Geocell have better coverage overall in Georgia. You will get a free SIM card and then you can top it up with 20 GEL ($8.32), which will give you 4GB of data and 10 free minutes. But ask the agent there for the best offers they have depending on your need and the duration of your stay.

Also read  Georgia: A Marshrutka ride to Mtskheta

Inside Tbilisi Airport

WiFi is pretty much available all throughout Georgia at hotels, hostels, cafes and at most public places even on the metro.

Language

The locals in Georgia speak Georgian, a language that is loosely close to Aramaic, which is extinct now. In some parts of the country the people speak Russian since it was a part of the former Soviet Union. But most people at various commercial establishments speak a bit of English too. Since the Georgian language is totally unique and does not share any similarities with any languages in the world, its best to use a translation app or download the Google Translate app for android or iPhone to make conversations with the locals on-the-go. That’s what I did. But again, it’s not really that hard to communicate with the locals.

Stay

Tbilisi has a lot of options for all kinds of travelers. From hostels to swanky new hotels, to guesthouses and apartments. I used Airbnb, Hostelworld and booking.com to narrow down places to stay according to my budget.


Booking.com

Marjanishvili

The next morning, after waking up for breakfast. I packed my day pack with my camera and some essentials and walked to Marjanishvili Square. The hotel I was staying at was just around the corner and a short walk from the Square. This is where the local metro station is located. Marjanishvili is an upcoming urban locale. The busy square is usually bustling with commuters, tourists, locals and street vendors all day and the buildings are nicely lit up in the nights. The street vendors here sell fruits, vegetables, souvenirs, sweets, books, accessories and so on. There are lots of restaurants with a lot of different cuisines all around the square.

Marjanishvili Square in Tbilisi

Marjanishvili Square

Transportation

The Metro in Tbilisi I found was the cheapest mode of transport within the city. There are a lot of city buses too but it’s a bit confusing. For the metro, all one needs to do is to buy a Metro-money card from the nearest metro station for 2 GEL ($0.83) and load it with money from the counter itself or vending machines that one can be found everywhere in the country. A one-way journey to any station costs 0.5 GEL ($0.21). The trains keep coming every 3-5 minutes throughout the day at every station. It’s a no-nonsense convenient mode of transport for locals and tourists alike.

Metro in Tbilisi

Tbilisi Metro

Rustaveli

I got down to the underground station from Marjanishvili and boarded the metro to the next station, Rustaveli. Named after the Georgian poet extraordinaire, Shota Rustaveli. This is the cultural and main town centre of present day Tbilisi. The streets were filled with travelers, tourists and locals. They have some really good-looking buildings here too, built in classical European Neo-Gothic Moorish architecture.

Statue of Shota Rustaveli in Tbilisi

Statue of Shota Rustaveli

Walking Tour

You can find street musicians playing tunes on the way and have a coffee or a beer at one of the many roadside cafes. Since I wanted to explore the area, I thought of taking a self-guided walking tour from the Rustaveli Metro Station all the way to the Old City. A short walk of 3.5 km along the old buildings of Rustaveli up to the Narikala Fortress. I got into a cafe on the street, had a nice little lunch and enjoyed the pleasant weather outside for a bit. After the meal, I continued on the streets clicking pictures as I walked past some of the monuments and sights on the way.

A Street musician playing outside the Metro in Rustaveli

Outside Rustaveli Metro Station

A statue of the poet, Shota Rustaveli can be found at the park just beside the Metro station. There is a small souvenir market run by the locals just a little ahead of the metro station. You have a lot of little things to buy at the mini souvenir market and it’s better to spend some time and see what you would like to take home with you as a souvenir.

A Souvenir market in Rustaveli

Souvenir market in Rustaveli

The Rustaveli Theatre and the Georgian Parliament buildings are next on the route, and then the Museum of Georgia. The avenue ends at a turning where the famous gold ornate landmark of St. George slaying a dragon is located. This is called the Freedom Square or Liberty Square. As along the city walls from here, you get into a small alley where you’ll find the famous crooked clock tower of Tbilisi. There’s a quaint little cafe here with beautiful interiors called Cafe Leila. I stopped here to sip on some virgin mojitos to quench my thirst and to take a short rest from all the walking.

Also read  RoadToEverest Log #13

The Bridge of Peace

It got dark and the sun had set by then. I walked to the Mtkvari River, where an impressive, iconic structure called The Bridge of Peace stands. You can cross over to Rike Park from here and capture the glowing lights of the city from the bridge and enjoy a 360˚ view of Tbilisi.

The Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi

The Bridge of Peace

I continued to the park, where I witnessed a beautiful musical fountain show. The Georgian Presidential Palace sits on a hill above the park. I wanted to get back on the walking trail but stayed at the park to relax.

View of Rustaveli

The Georgian Presidential Palace above Rike Park in Rustaveli and near the Bridge of Peace

 

Water Fountains in Tbilisi

Dancing Fountains in Tbilisi

Water fountains at Rike Park

Tbilisi Ropeway

At the end of the park is a Ropeway station which will give you a ride to the famous Narikala Fortress. You Pay 1 GEL ($0.42) through the metro card at the counter for the two-way fare up and down. As you ascend up to the fortress you get breathtaking views of Tbilisi from the air and its night lights. Once you reach up, you are at the entrance of the Narikala Fortress and the entire city is laid out in front of you.

View of Tbilisi in the night

View of Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress

After enjoying the cool breeze at the top, I headed back down to the streets below and continued to walk back towards Marjanishvili. It was a long walk and I felt too tired to continue after a while. Half way through I decided to catch a taxi back to the hotel through an app called Taxify which works similar to Uber. It wasn’t expensive at all. The ride only cost me 4 GEL ($1.66). Back at Marjanishvili, I settled for a quick dinner at a local cafe near the square.

Also read  RoadToEverest Log #2

Tbilisi

Tbilisi is a beautiful city. Lots of fascinating things to see and do, lots of history to learn. The people are ever friendly. A clash of cultures and where the East truly meets the West. After the day well spent in the city, I returned back to the hotel and started planning and preparing for the rest of my trip in Georgia.

You may also like: Georgia: The Country of Life

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92 Comments

  1. Pingback: 3 days in Tbilisi, Georgia on a budget - Lost With Purpose

  2. There is a lot of practical information that you have packed into this post. SIM cards are such a confusion in different countries. The info on the same can help make a choice well. Add to that the internal transport and free tour options. Just checking on the currency part…is any particular currency preferred over INR?
    Ami recently posted…Wandering through Ross Island in AndamansMy Profile

  3. That sim card tip is great. It’s always one of the most annoying parts of traveling internationally for me. Figuring out how to stay connected so I can keep up with my blog work while I’m on the go. Thanks for that!

  4. Georgia! I’m such a fan of this country. I spent so much time in Rustaveli where I met hikers to plan our treks in the country. The transport is definitely one of my favorites as it’s very cheap! Now I’m missing the Georgian food 🙂 Cheers.

  5. Seems like Georgia is becoming quite a popular place among tourists lately! Tbilisi looks lovely! I wonder how difficult is to get around the country/ capital city if I do not speak a local language? What is your experience with a language barrier here please?

    • Yes Nika! I was lucky to catch the action before its too late. Now is the time to go. The metro is pretty useful and the best mode of transport in the capital. The local language is really not an issue. I used the Google translate app in Russian and Georgian to converse with people. Most people have a faint idea of english. But according to me its not really difficult. A mix of hand gestures also helped.

  6. It’s interesting how they have a language unrelated to any still living! I wonder how many people in the world can easily navigate the country because of this?

    • Yea! Its related to ancient Aramaic which is not even used now. Navigation is really not an issue here. You might find a few hiccups and its manageable. There are a lot of apps these days to help you pick up words and translate them. The people also have a faint idea of english.

  7. Georgia if one of the under rated places in the world but your post will correct that fact. Do tell us something about the food there? Which are the good months to travel there??

  8. We absolutely loved Georgia!

    As you’ve said, such a rich history, but also amazing food.

    For a long time they were trying to make English the 2nd language, so many people, especially young people, speak and read it.

    Even in the cinema, films might be in Georgian, Russian, or English!

    • This is really true Chris. The youngsters speak good english. It’s just the older generation that find it a bit difficult due to the fact that they were under Soviet occupation for a long time. Georgia has been westernizing a lot since their independence and is trying to make their way into the Euro Union as well.

  9. Thanks for letting us know about Georgia and Tibilisi. Georgia gets a lot of bad press, but it looks like a lovely place. The Tbilisi Ropeway looks fun and the nighttime skyline is beautiful. We would love to see it for ourselves. Great Photos.

  10. A really comprehensive guide to an often underrated country – I’ve tried their wines (Georgian wine making in seriously up and coming) and they’re delicious!

  11. I have friends from Georgia but I don’t know it is a very cheap European country to visit. Glad you have discovered this place and had a great time there. I plan to visit Russia in 2018 and will definitely drop by Tbilisi as they are so close!

  12. I have almost visited Tbilisi a few years ago, but faith made it so that my card got declined every time I tried to buy the plane ticket and until I found another one the price went up. I have heard a lot about how beautiful Georgia is and how much of a history has behind it. I would love to stroll around Tbilisi and then go up the hill at night, to watch that beautiful panorama over the city.
    Joanna recently posted…Lunch at the Oceana Restaurant, at the Hilton MaltaMy Profile

  13. I’ve never been to Georgia, no idea it looked like this! I absolutely like the classical architecture in Rustaveli the country is so underrated, you’ve done a good job by sharing this information!

  14. I’ve always heard of Georgia but didn’t know what to expect or what to see there. Thanks for this guide! I think Georgia is one of the countries that I as a Filipino can go to visa-free. I would still have to check. But Georgia being a point where East meets West would be interesting indeed!

  15. This is an interesting read, Not see too many articles about Georgia. The fact that Georgia is a blend of Asian and European cuture makes it all the more fascinating. Your stunning pictures capture the vibrant colours of Tbilisi very well.

  16. This is only the second article about Georgia that I’ve read since I was a child. First was in a book, “Circling the Globe”. Having read this article, I have to get up from bed, pick up a pen and add this to my bucketlist. Thanks for this!

  17. I believe we filipinos doesn’t need go have visa to enter Georgia and it’s cheaper to travel there compared to other countries in Europe. The place and the country is interesting. Specially the Euroasia culture!

  18. If I’m not mistaken, we Filipino’s doesn’t need visa to enter Georgia. And it’s cheaper to travel there compared to other countries in Europe. I hope to visit it soon. I will surely love the Euroasia culture:)

  19. I’ve never been to this region before because it scared me a little. Not sure why?!
    It sounds like an amazing place, thanks for the valuable tips!

    • Lewi, I don’t think there’s anything to scared of in Georgia. The people are so friendly here and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about security wise. Pocket friendly and solo female friendly too.

  20. I have never been here. After reading your post I feel its a beautiful place and very easy to get around and enjoy. On a side note, I really envy you for getting free entry or VISA on arrival at so many countries 🙂

  21. I think it was the early part of this year when I learned about Georgia, not the American state. My friend said that she is aiming to go there alongside Azerbaijan. When you mention that the Georgian language is a bit like Aramaic, I’m now entertaining ideas to learn it haha…

    Anyway, looking at your photos alone convinced me that Georgia is the next destination to watch out for. Hopefully I’d get myself there soon.

    • Hey Marge, the language was a bit funny. You just can’t relate anything to it. I speak 6 different languages but couldn’t connect any words together. Google Translate helped me a lot. Now is the time to go visit Georgia, before the horde of tourists get there.

    • Hi Carmy! Yea, it’s always a good option to go for a SIM card. Will be useful in any kind of emergency. I think these days most places have it at their airports. At least I’ve seen it in all the countries I’ve been to so far.

  22. Georgia is one of those countries that so often gets overlooked but it really is something very special. Will definitely be making a point of hitting Tbilisi when I next head back to Europe. A really enjoyable and thoroughly informative post.

    • Yes Gareth. I did until now. But I could that loads of tourists and travelers alike are making their way there. I hope it remains the same after though. It’s such a backpacker friendly destination.

  23. These Caucas region countries are really usefull for short trip from the Gulf. Me and my wife did a similar one to Armenia a few years back and we really liked the place.

    Since my wife is Indian as well, I was wondering how’s the visa situation for you guys? Armenia was not much of a hassle, but it had to be arranged in advance.

    • Yea. In fact I was planning on adding Azerbaijan and Armenia if I had more days. I met an American who travelled all three back to back.

      Great to know your wife is an Indian! 🙂 Indians have to apply for a e-visa on the Georgian visa portal. Its $20 when I checked. Whereas I am Indian but I do have a GCC Resident Visa currently and so I didn’t need a visa. Armenia and Azerbaijan needs to be arranged in advance though.

  24. Lovely post. Georgia has never been on my visit list but lately I’ve seen quite a few travellers visiting it and have all praise for it. Your post works as a great guide to the country and its capital, thank you for that. While you mentioned wifi is available in most places, was wondering if it’s free and this is it worth buying a data card? Cheers

    • Thank you Ticker Eats the World. You should make a visit to Georgia soon. It’s so pocketfriendly! WiFi is available at all restaurants, cafes, bars, hostels, even on the subway! I bought a data/ voice card just to use the internet on the go while i’m not near any wifi. So it comes in handy.

  25. Great to know that you were in Ladakh. I spent some 16 days in Ladakh September, this year, covering Ladakh festival and Naropa festival. I once read about Georgia and fell in love with this underrated country. After reading your blog, I realize it is convenient to go to Georgia!

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