A car trip to Georgia
A car paradise in the Caucasus
No, you are not mistaken. Travelling to Georgia by car is like a journey into the fairy tale. Stunning beauties of nature, mysterious mountains and the purest rivers flowing in deep canyons, true hospitality and diversity in local gastronomy — that’s what Georgia offers you. This article provides you with useful tips on how to arrange your trip, what to take and pay attention to.
Crossing the borders
Let’s start with how to get to Georgia. There are actually three ways to get there — by sea (on a cruise ship across the Black sea through the port of Batumi), by air (by plane to Tbilisi) and by road (by car through Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia). A key point is that you can’t get to Georgia from Abkhazia or South Ossetia since borders with these republics are closed.
According to the local law, if you have already visited the above mentioned republics and have correspondent stamps in your international passport, it is considered a crime. If you want to get to Georgia from Russia, you can go there through the automobile border-crossing point in Zemo Larsi (Kazbegi). Even those who travel by foot should take a seat in someone’s car to cross the border.
Before going to Georgia, examine the situation at the border. Sometimes Zemo Larsi border-crossing point is closed due to avalanching and mudslide. If the situation is quite stable, the border-crossing point is open 24 hours a day.
If you have your own car, at the border you will be asked to show your international passport, registration certificate and international driving permit (you can apply for it online on our website).
To visit Georgia, you don’t need a visa. All tourists have correspondent stamps in their international passports allowing them to stay in Georgia for 90 days starting from the date of their first entry into the country. Moreover, if you are a foreigner, you will get two bottles of magnificent Georgian wine as a present!
Choose routes beforehand
After you have successfully passed the passport control, you either go further by your own car or rent it. Anyway you won’t be disappointed since roads in Georgia are in good condition (even those that pass through mountain spiral roads). Traffic officers are always ready to consult and help the drivers.
After you have left Zemo Larsi, you will see one of the most beautiful roads in the world — Georgian Military Road that goes through Daryal Pass.
When choosing a route, keep in mind that 2-3 days will never be enough for a trip to Georgia. It is better to have a couple of weeks in stock. During this time, you can see main tourist attractions. The atmosphere in the country is quite friendly. According to statistics, more than 6 million tourists visited Georgia in 2016, while the population of this country is less than 4 million people.
The main tourist places include Kazbegi, Gudauri, Ananuri, Mtskheta, Tbilisi, Signagi, Batumi, Mestia.
The national currency is lari (approximately 30 roubles). You can exchange your roubles anywhere in Georgia. If you want, you can take dollars. Local ATMs accept different credit cards (e.g. Tinkoff, etc.).
Georgian petrol is more expensive than Russian one. You are not allowed to carry petrol cans. Therefore, it is better to fill up the tank in Vladikavkaz. Car rental is quite expensive. That is why the best solution is to drive your own car.
Accommodation is fairly cheap (except for Tbilisi, Batumi and Signagi). Thus, if you are sick and tired camping out or sleeping in a car, you can rent a guest house or stay at a hotel. You will have to pay at least 30 laris for a night at a hotel.
Food in Georgia is quite cheap. Moreover, it is rich in calories and extremely tasty. Traditional Georgian cuisine includes khachapuri, khinkali, kharcho, chakhokhbili, satsivi (walnut sauce), churchkhela and Imereti cheese. In Georgia, it is not accepted to order an individual dish. Locals prefer to visit restaurants and cafes and order dishes for everyone.
How to stay safe in Georgia
Georgia has undertaken police reforms and nowadays it is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world. Natives love and respect tourists. Pickpocketing happens once in a blue moon and non-residents are usually to blame for it.
You can be quite sure that nothing’s going to happen to you while walking through the night cities of Batumi and Tbilisi, or while skiing on the slopes somewhere in Bakuriani and Gudauri. However, if you decide to camp out, it may attract wild animals. We recommend you to stay on a camp site.
Don’t be afraid of buying food by the roadside. It is absolutely fresh. Locals like cooking dishes right in front of the tourists.
No need to worry about linguistic barriers. Almost all Georgian citizens speak at least three languages: Georgian, English and Russian.
What to buy
Surely you can can buy fridge magnets, cups with pictures of tourist attractions, T-shirts and flags with national symbols. However, there are purely authentic Georgian souvenirs and presents. First of all, we are talking about Georgian wine (more than 500 sorts). Unfortunately, Russia allows to import from Georgia not more than 3 litres of wine per man. You can also buy Georgian tea and spices:
- Khmeli suneli (a spice mixture including dry ground herbs: basil, dill, saffron, coriander, marjoram and red pepper).
- Utskho suneli (a spice that tastes like nut. It is cooked on the base of blue melilot and considered a more expanded variant of khmeli suneli).
- Svan salt (commonly used spice that consists of table salt with different herbs, utskho suneli, garlic and pepper).
- Mingrelian pepper (hot ground pepper with greens).
We recommend you to buy suluguni. That’s a real delicacy. Moreover, it has a long shelf life.
You can also buy some jam (nut jam, mandarin jam, cornel jam, fig jam, etc.) and honey. Georgian honey is especially tasty and pure.
Adjika, tkemali, satsebeli — these Georgian sauces make a lovely gift for the mistress.
If you are looking for a present for a girl or young lady, we recommend you to buy minankari. These are the golden and silver rings, bracelets, pendants decorated with colourful scrapings, precious and semiprecious stones.
Thus, driving across Georgia is pleasant and easy if you want to enjoy this Caucasian country, its remarkable history, modern traditions and nature. However, don’t forget your International Driving Permit! It will help you to drive with confidence. Have a safe trip!