Author Topic: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?  (Read 4107 times)

WerKater

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Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« on: January 31, 2016, 01:29:45 AM »
My girlfriend and I are thinking about going on vacation to Georgia this year. It is supposed to be very beautiful and very cheap, too.
Our plan would be to rent a car and drive around the country. We did the same thing in Iceland two years ago and that was really cool.

I am wondering whether anyone has experience, maybe has been to the country (or is from there)?

Especially:
- the state of the roads (and the driving...)
- will we be OK if we don't speak Georgian?
- do you have first hand experience about prices?
- is it safe (ignoring Abkhazia and South Ossetia where we will certainly not go)?


There are companies that will organize such a trip for you (mainly they seem to take care of accommodation including meals, the car rental and they help you with recommendations about things to do). Such companies are, for example, Kaukasus-Reisen and Georgia Insight.
Their prices are around 1500 per person for a two-week trip. That does seem quite high to me considering how cheap the country is supposed to be: According to Lonely Planet: 30-40 per night for accommodation including dinner and breakfast, except in Tbilissi and Batoumi which are somewhat more expensive.

Also: We do not want to be ripped off.  I am not completely at ease with these companies. I can't find anything bad about them on the internet, but neither can I find much of anything. They have websites which look professional enough and they are occasionally mentioned in passing on some independent travel blogs, but that's it. I haven't found a clear evaluation.
- Does anyone maybe have experience with these (or similar) companies?

Thanks!

Albert

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2016, 06:02:43 AM »
Georgia is a very beautiful place, one of my best trips (summer of 2012). People are friendly and traveling around independently is generally not difficult. Here are some answers to your questions and few tips:

- State of the roads outside immediate Tbilisi area was horrible. In some places in the mountains you couldn't tell if the surface has ever been paved or not (average speed ca 20 km/h). I've heard some new highways have been built recently so at least getting to the coast should be ok. We however used only public transport which is very cheap.
- I think you'll be ok with English in Tbilisi, outside could be a bit of a "hand waving". Hard for me to judge because I speak Russian which is understood by pretty much everyone over 40. Slight complication is with public transport (except metro) - all signs are in Georgian only and since they have their own script you'll have to always ask to make sure you are taking the right one.
- my impression about safety was as safe as in Western Europe if not more.
- prices in 2012 at least were very low. Street food in Tbilisi about 2 euros. A room with a local family in the mountains including dinner and breakfast about 25 euros per person. Hotel in Tbilisi ca 50 euros (for two).

I'd say 1,500 euros per person (+ airfare, I assume) is way too expensive unless it includes luxury accommodations everywhere you go and this is what you want. I don't have it written down, but I estimate we spent about 500 euros for two in 8 days (+airfare).

If you have some other questions just ask. I'm not an expert, but could well be that no one else on this board has been there.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2016, 06:04:26 AM by Albert »

Albert

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2016, 07:09:03 AM »
Just now noticed that you are from Germany. I bet I could travel around your country for two weeks in good comfort without spending 3,000 euros (for 2). Georgia is easier than that. :)

SwordGuy

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2016, 08:36:09 AM »
Georgia has a great enameled jewelry tradition going back over a thousand years.   Check it out if you like history or jewelry.

PhysicianOnFIRE

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2016, 01:24:18 PM »
Atlanta can be wonderful this time of year ;)

For those of us in the US of A, it is probably cheap to be in Georgia (the country), but not so cheap to get there.  Looks like you would have a shorter distance to travel.  I say go for it!

Polaria

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2016, 02:42:13 PM »
The blog of Florian Pinel will give you many infos: http://foodperestroika.com/category/travel/georgia/

JoJo

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2016, 06:08:08 PM »
I love Georgia!  Spent about 10 days there and another 5 tripping down to Armenia which is very easy to do from Tbilisi in late 2014.

I was on a tour for part of the time in Georgia.  We entered from Azerbaijan, stopped at Signagi, Langodeki reserve, Gremi, Davit Geraji in the eastern part.  Then we headed up to Ananuri & Kazbegi before ending in Tbilisi.  I hopped off the tour there and based my self in Tbilisi for a few days.  From here you can easily visit Gori (by bus) and the cave city nearby.  If you have a car you really could get to all of these places fairly easy, just watch out for the sheeps on the road.

  It seems the cheapest hotels were about $75 in Tbilisi so if you like hostels you can stay much cheaper. I stayed at the great Envoy hostel in Tbilisi. I was there in late November in which there were few tourist around.  In the more high seasons they run full day tours around the country.

It's possible to go down to Yerevan, Armenia by train on alternating days or mini bus or shared taxi.  There, I just based myself at the Envoy hostel there too.  Although they didn't have enough to run their tours as it was low season, I used there directions along with the lonely planet to do day trips out of the city each day to visit monestaries, ruins, the holy city, etc.  Costs per day were about $40 here including hostels, meals, and sightseeing.

Definitely go out for a night of Georgina music & dancing.  The male georgian singing is wonderful.  The funnest night of my trip was spent at Restorant "Kalanda", left bank of river Mtkvari, near Didube Autopark - we were the only tourists in the place an it was a blast dancing with all the locals.

Albert

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2016, 10:44:51 PM »
I used taxi for day trips in Tbilisi area. It was only a bit more expensive than taking a minibus and a lot faster. For good prices you need to go to the market area (a place where most long distance mini buses leave from) and haggle a bit.

WerKater

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2016, 08:46:14 AM »
Thanks everyone for the help, especially Albert and JoJo for the first-hand experience. Polaria, I will absolutely check out the blog.
I am almost certain we well go, just not sure yet how, where exactly and for how long.

I'll get back here when we are closer to a decision.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 08:53:07 AM by WerKater »

JoJo

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2016, 01:55:01 PM »
I kept a blog too.  Here's the link to the first of several entries for Georgia & Armenia

http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/marqual/2/1384552217/tpod.html

WerKater

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2016, 01:17:55 PM »
I have to admit that I have completely neglected to ever reply to you guys here.

But we have made up our mind and in fact, we are leaving for Georgia tomorrow :-)

We will certainly spend the first few days in Tbilissi, and the last few ones in Batumi. And we are looking at visiting Signaghi and/or Telawi (in the east), Stepanzminda (in the north) in the time between. We will probably use minibusses (and maybe taxis, depending on price) to get from A to B. We are aware that travel might not be as simple and straightforward as back home. So, if it turns out that something will not work as we assumed, or we don't actually have enough time for everything (or if we like one place too much and don't want to leave), we will just improvise.

JoJo

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2016, 10:26:42 AM »
Please report back when you return.  Have a good time!

rockstache

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2016, 11:55:38 AM »
I can't wait to hear about this trip. I would love to visit Georgia.

WerKater

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Re: Who has been to Georgia (the country)?
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2016, 02:56:39 AM »
We are back! Here's a quick, dirty and somewhat random summary -- more details to follow. But I will need a few days to order my thoughts.

The country
Georgia is really cool country where countryside and sights are concerned. What really knocked my boots off was how ancient many things are. You must see David Gareja, an ancient monastery from the 6th century. There are caves with some really well preserved wall paintings (frescoes). Standing in there, looking at the paintings and thinking that these might be 1500 years old was totally surreal.

Short list of places we visited:
- Tbilisi (the capital and biggest city). Very lively, cool sights, very easy to navigate with public transport, easy to reach via plane from (e.g.) Istanbul.
- Signaghi. Beautiful small town in the wine region Kacheti
- Telavi. Not so beautiful town in Kacheti. But with very cool sights around.
- Kazbegi/Stepantsminda. Mountain town in the Caucasus. Incredible views. The town itself was pretty boring (and expensive for Georgia). Just go hiking every day!
- Batumi. At the black sea. The place where Georgians go for summer vacation. Very beautiful and lively. We had actually hoped to get a few slow days with much relaxing. Didn't work, because it was simply too load all the time (basically nonstop music right next to our hotel). If you like to party until deep into the night, this is the right place for you.

The people
The mentality is extremely different from what I am used from back home. This has both good and bad sides:
- On the one hand, almost everyone is really helpful. We wandered around slightly cluelessly a few times when looking for the minibus ("Marshrutka", see below) we wanted to take. Basically everyone we asked tried to help us even though we knew only about 10 words of Georgian and 20 words of Russian. (Just try: "Gamarjoba! Marshrutka Kazbegi?" and "Didi Madloba" -- verbs and grammar are overrated.) One random bus driver even walked us 100m until the station was in view!

- On the other hand, the German in me started to wonder at some point. They must have dozens of tourists coming through here (and Georgians from out of town). Why don't they just put up some freaking signs? My theory is that they value social contact over efficiency. Also, putting up a sign would mean that someone needs to buy a sign (or buy materials and make one). And in a country with very high unemployment and low wages, the latter is a bigger deal than a bunch of people wasting 5min of their time a few times a day.

Being helped all the time by random strangers was really cool. But for an introvert like me it also gets old after some time. It did make the whole thing a bit exhausting.

Eye openers
The country is piss-poor. Sorry for the language, but I can't say it any other way. In Georgia, almost everyone is a Mustachian. Out of neccessity. If you think Mustachians drive clunkers, come to Georgia.
Construction sites often feature many workers and very little heavy machinery.


Practical things
- We always felt very safe (except in traffic, saving details for later).
- Food is incredibly cheap (and good). A nice dinner for two including drinks can be had for ~30 Lari (12) in some places.
- Taxis cost about 0.70-0.80 Lari per km, if you haggle. Negotiate the price beforehand, taximeters are unknown.
- For long distance, Marshrutky are even cheaper. Typically about 7 Lari/100km. And they don't drive as crazy.
- You need earplugs. It is often loud everywhere. Barking wild dogs, music, people talking very late into the night.