Tbilisi, (თბილისი) capital city of Georgia is known for its old city, cafes, bars, theaters, museums, galleries and a great European destination for travel on a modest budget. The city with its 1.5 million inhabitants is set at the bank of Kura river is voted as one of the safest city in the world.
Tbilisi being a small city in terms of area can be seen in two days if you are pressed for time however 3 to 4 days would be ideal before moving on to other regions of Georgia.
Getting Into Tbilisi, Georgia
Tbilisi is well connected to major European and Asian cities by air, land and sea. Cheap flights by regular and low cost airlines from European carriers makes it ideal and popular choice to visit Tbilisi without spending a lot.
Transfer from International airport to city is cheap and cost less than $10 by taxi. Here is the link to our vlog that explains transfer options in detail.
Those coming from Turkey can take sleeper train from Ankara to Kars or Erzurum which are air-conditioned with private 1/2 bed compartment equipped with mini fridge and other amenities. There is a restaurant car attached too. After getting off at Kars take another bus to Georgian border at Sarps for land crossing.
From Yerevan, Armenia there is a overnight train timetable can be checked here.
There is a ferry service (Chornomorsk) from Ukraine mostly used by truckers in which you can come to Batumi with your car. Tickets can be purchased from UKferry
Local Transport In Tbilisi
The city has excellent, modern and reliable network of buses, taxi, metro and minibus locally knowns as marshrutka. Tbilisi Transport Company offers an integrated travel card known as metromoney which can be used on metro, bus and ropeway. It cost less than a dollar (GEL 2) which can be refunded if you return card with original receipt with in a month.
Bus and metro arrival information are available in realtime at the bus stop or metro station. There is an official transport app on Google play store which helps on plan travel more efficiently.
Metro rides are priced at flat rate of GEL 0.5 (USD 0.20) and valid for 90 minutes of travel. The route map, signs and announcements are in Georgian and English. The network itself is small and can be deciphered easily.
Bus: Tbilisi has extensive network of buses which are of Blue (mostly modern and air-conditioned) and Yellow color. Fare on both are GEL 0.50 and exact change must be put in the fare box located at the middle of bus. The transport authorities routinely carry out checks to fine offenders traveling without ticket so it would be a good idea to keep the ticket until the end of the ride. In addition, there is extensive network of minibuses but all route information and signs are in Georgian language.
Taxi: There are metered taxi everywhere but drivers seldom use them. It is better to negotiate price before getting into one. The better alternate is to download popular cab hailing apps namely Yandex Taxi or Taxify. Both have similar features, option to pay cash or by card and offer English language interface.
Funicular: There is a funicular ride available between Vake Park and Turtle Lake (fare GEL 1.0, USD 0.40) which has old rickety cabins. The other ride is between Rike Park and Mtatsminda costing GEL 3.0 one way.
International credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Banks and money changers are ubiquitous although charges and rate of exchange vary greatly. It is best to compare price at few places regardless of what they advertise on exchange rate board.
Both USD and Euro can be exchanged at a competitive exchange rate. Banks offer slightly unfavorable exchange but you are insulated from cheating or unpleasant surprise offered by some currency kiosk of questionable business practices which operates in touristic areas.
Mobile SIM and Internet
International roaming in Georgia is very expensive so it it better to buy a local sim card available free at airport or for a small fee. One needs to show passport and register number. The entire process takes about five minutes.
There are three major phone companies namely Geocell, Magti and Beeline. They offer competitive package with bundled phone call minutes and internet for less than $10 which is valid for a month. Geocell and Magti have nation-wide network with similar prices.
It is always better to register for cab hailing apps with local number. At the time of writing this post the average cost were- Cellular Data US$ 5.0 for 5GB, Local Calls US$0.05 per minute, International Calls US$ 0.2 per minute (For Europe/CIS)
The country code for Georgia is 995 and international access code is 00 when dialing from Georgia. A typical mobile number will be +995 (5xx xxx xxx) nine digit phone number starting with 5. The emergency services have a common number 112.
Cheap Stay In Georgia
Both Airbnb and booking.com provides wide range of home stay, room in a house or apartment. The average price of one bedroom apartment is US$35 while hostel beds are available for as little as US$5 per night. Old town around sulfur bath or Shota Rustaveli are the preferred location for tourist as most attractions, cafes and restaurants are nearby. Those who prefer a quiet area may choose apartment in trendy Vake area which has many upscale cafes and bars.
In addition to above there are plenty of star rated hotels managed by Marriott, Radisson and other international chains offering rooms above US$ 150 per night. They all have casino for those who love a little game of luck.
Top Rated Tourist Places In Tbilisi
Top attractions are concentrated in old town. It is best to start trip early morning sulfur bath district in old town’s Abanotubani area. The area around sulfur bath is easily recognizable by small brick domes at ground level. There are several public bath where one can enjoy hot bath. The pungent smelly water from natural hot spring has high sulfur content which is said to have healing, medicinal properties. Famous personalities like Pushkin and Dumas has bathed here. There are numerous cafe in nearby Maidan Square easily recognizable by sign “I Love Tbilisi”. Do fuel up here before walking around long winding streets going up to Botanical Garden.
After crossing waterfall and following signs leading to botanical garden through long, winding, narrow streets one will eventually reach Botanikuri street. A five minute walk in westward direction will lead to entrance of Botanical gardens. The garden is open to public between 9 am to 8 pm, entrance fee is Lari 2. Do not expect much in terms of collection of plants but it is a nice park to spend an hour. There is a zip line operated by some company.
Narikala Fortress is a pleasant 15 minutes walk from the botanical garden. The fortress offers spectacular city view. It consists of two parts located on steep elevation between sulfur bath and botanical gardens. There is a renovated church (St. Nicholas) and a cafe at the foothills of the fortress.
Mother of Georgia (Kartlis Deda) is an iconic symbol of located near the botanical garden. The imposing 20 meter high statue with sword in hand for enemies and a cup of wine for friends is a delight for Instagram addicts. In my opinion the status looks better from a distance. For those with a interest in photography has posted some really interesting pictures taken near base of the statue on a clear day. It is better to ride cable car to reach here unless you do not mind a moderate hike.
- Sulfur Bath and Old city – Mother Georgia
- Botanical Garden – I love Tbilisi (Lunch)
- Gorgosali – Rike Park –
- Narikela Fortress
- Bridge of Peace – Freedom Square
- Hero Square – Dry Bridge – Holy Trinity Church
- Vake Park – Turtle Lake
- Mtatsminda Park
- David Street
- Rezo Gabriadze Theater