Georgia is just coming out of a very long and painful sleep but there are still places in the country are not safe for foreigners such as Abkhazia, Svaneti is bad in areas as well the obvious areas near Dagestan and Chechnya. Please use common sense when travelling to the northern areas of Georgia as I ve been told things can get out of hand in a heart beat so remember there is a fine line between being adventurous and stupid.
Most of the transport in Georgia is done in one way or another by this minivans called marshrutkas and they have their good and bad points. Their good points are that they are much faster than normal buses as well as they dont stop nearly as often along the route. The bad points being that they are crammed and speed excessively running the risk of getting into an accident. Another bad point is that most of them are labelled in Georgian and they dont have shocks making for some bumpy roads. Overall, it is part of the adventure!
I have this tip on my Tbilisi page as well. Just be aware that the LP is way, way, way off for this destination. Your best bet for travel in Georgia, is checking with VT, especially with people who live there or have just returned.
If you want more info on this, check my Warning or Danger tip for Tbilisi....and good luck!
some of the georgian roads are fine and some are in a terrible condition.
be prepared for a bit of everything when travelling the country.
if you travel by bicycle like me, then make sure you have good tyres.
I dont exactly know if this is a danger or adrenalin. Georgians drive fast and dont keep the rules so much. On the other hand i havent seen any car accidents. I guess because they dont keep the rules, they are ready for anything and they react very fast. Anyways, it is unforgettable experience.
Marshrutkas do not have a timetable, they only leave when full. Far from being a danger, this may mean that the departure time you’ve been told by the driver may be postponed with one or even 2 hours, should passengers fail to arrive.
On the other hand, it may be useful you arrive at least a half an hour before the “scheduled” departure and secure a seat.
My advice – do not plan strict schedules and always make a reasonable allowance.
To those of you considering a trip to the Republic of Georgia, I whole-heartedly encourage you to go. It is a wonderful country with a rich history and (mostly) friendly people. What I have to say here are just a few phrases concerning basic travel safety while in Georgia. Tblisi is a very wonderful city with numerous sites to see, great restaurants, tourist-friendly hotels, and wonderful people. However, be prepared to see a country that is going through some economic hardships. Chances are you will be asked for money in the streets once in a while, especially if you look remotely like a tourist. The best resource is a native Georgian friend who can help you see Georgia as it is meant to be seen!
A little research prior to going would not hurt in order to get an idea of the way of life there, but, in all, just like anywhere else in the world, be careful. Be a smart traveler by being aware of your personal items. Don't flash cash, chances are someone will see you with it. Be careful travelling at night time, especially if you are out gallavanting and may enjoy a few too many cocktails. You can easily become a target.
Make sure you have your Visa in order well before you go. It will save you time and money during your trip. The embassy can take a long time to process your passport.
One of the best places to exchange money is at the Marriott hotel on Rustaveli. It is inside, trustable, and will even give you a reciept. Plus, there's air conditioning!
Certain areas are quite dangerous, notably Abkhazia (the area around Sukhumi in the north-west of Georgia) which has effectively broken away. I was warned off visiting Svaneti and South Ossetia too, and many people told me of the dangers of travelling alone along the Georgian Military Highway to Kazbegi...but because the people from Tbilisi seem so distrustful of anywhere outside their own city, it is hard to tell if the region is really as dangerous as they say...in this case Kazbegi seemed trouble-free.
A number of foreigners have been kidnapped in Georgia by various groups and mafia organizations (one area to steer well clear of is the Pankisi Gorge...rumoured to be a hide-out for Chechen rebels, and is completely beyond the control of the government)...while I was there, a Lebanese business man was freed after nearly three months of being a hostage.
One problem is the traffic police...they do not get paid regularly, so they have to top-up their almost non-existant salary by stopping cars for 'traffic offences'. Male drivers can't do much about this other than pay and treat it as a sort of raod tax, but female drivers are not stopped as often. My host's sister-in-law had the interesting technique of speeding through roadblocks while laughing and waving at the police as they motioned to her to stop!
Border guards are also corrupt, although their attempts at getting money or presents is usually quite half-hearted, and they often admit openly that the money is going towards vodka and cigarettes...hide your cash, and wave a credit card or travellers' cheque at them, and you should have no problems.
Overeating and overdrinking!!! Georgian food is excellent, and people are very generous, so if you are invited to eat with someone, be prepared to get very full! And no meal is worth eating if it doesn't come with wine or cognac. Georgia has a tradition of toasting, and anything can be used for an excuse for a toast. There is a certain etiquette to toasting, and it is lead by the toastmaster (tamada in georgian) who proposes the toasts...guests are supposed to be quiet while he is speaking, but if he doesn't hold the guests interest, then he will barely be heard over all the talking. A second man (never a woman) will also say a few words about the same subject...and the person who is being toasted is expected to stand up and thank the toastmasters before downing his glass. A foreign guest provides a perfect subject for a toast, and you will be expected to down huge quantities of wine/cognac, which is quite difficult if you are not used to it, especially when the home-made drinks are usually extremely potent! You are not supposed to drink anything unless a toast has been proposed, so you can't really taste the wine...but make sure you use the break between toasts to fill up on food to soak up all the alcohol, or you'll soon end up like these people!
I've talked to one acquatance who has been there in 2000 during a couple of times. Some pics on this page is his with his permission. When I asked about the situation he answered that 'not bad.. but worse than in Russian province' .. boy, I'd say it's very bad then! :( Thus, he also said that it's beginning to improve little by little. But it's not a tourist destination anymore, people are afraid. That's what the war does.. that's what people do forgeting that war is about other people. Those who think of war never take part in it, they send others to there.. I really hope that situation stabilises and someday people living there and the city will be able to stand up firmly on feet! Picture 2000.
Of all the road trips I've made all over the world, the most dangerous one is the transfer by car from the capital city of Tbilisi and Kutaisi. No laws, no rules apply - the Georgian drivers seem to have no sense for dangerous situations at all.
OK. This can be a little confusing. The Emergency Phone Numbers in Georgia are:
Fire Department: 011
Alternatively you can ring 022 and speak with the Police to arrange any needed support. The Police are huge in number in this country and they always look like they are looking for something to do. Save this tip and print it off to take with you.
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