Travel Tips for Exploring Tbilisi

Travel Tips for Exploring Tbilisi

With so much to offer, Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi attracts millions of visitors from all over the world annually. Despite suffering destruction and being rebuilt many times through the centuries, the city’s unique historic and cultural charm has endured to this day.
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Those lucky or wise enough to be visiting this majestic city will revel in a rare historic, cultural, and culinary adventure. To enrich that unforgettable experience of the Georgian capital, we’ve put together a few priceless travel tips.

What do I need to know before going to Tbilisi?

  • Local Currency & Cash: Georgia’s national currency is the Georgian Lari (GEL), which is used for all transactions. Major credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere, and ATMs are abundant. That being said, it’s still a good idea to carry a little cash, especially when at Tbilisi’s enchanting flea markets.

  • Local SIM Card: Getting a local SIM card is a smart move. Doing so gives you easy and affordable internet access and cheap local calls. With various providers offering different packages, rates are competitive.

  • Taxis and Public Transport: Taxis are available at all hours and are reasonably priced. Importantly, when hailing a cab on the street, make sure to agree on the destination and fare before the journey starts. More commonly these days, travelers and locals alike download and use popular taxi apps, namely Bolt and Yandex. For an authentic and more eco-friendly Tbilisi experience, the metro system and bus services cover the city comprehensively.

Must-experience highlights in Tbilisi

  • Take a Sulfur Bath: Abanotubani (literally “bath neighborhood”) is one of the oldest districts in Tbilisi. Located on the banks of the Mtkvari River, the area is renowned for a variety of bathing options. Indeed, visiting the Tbilisi Sulfur Baths should be among every visitor’s top priorities, especially when seeking to warm up in the cooler months of the year.

  • Meet the Mother of Georgia (Kartlis Deda): The Mother of Georgia statue stands guard over the city, and you can see her from everywhere. She symbolizes Georgia as a whole and the endearing character of her people. The towering figure has a cup of wine in one hand for guests and friends, and a sword in the other to fend off enemies. To get up close and personal with the Mother of Georgia, you can walk up to Narikala Fortress (more on that landmark below) and keep going until you see her (she’s impossible to miss!). Alternatively, a cable car from Rike Park allows for a gentler ascent.

  • Narikala Fortress: Just a few hundred meters away and on the same hill as the Mother of Georgia, lies the stunning Narikala Fortress. Like Tbilisi as a whole, its history is one of destruction and rebirth. From here, staggering views of the whole city and even the Caucasus Mountains can be thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Flea Markets: Tbilisi’s flea markets are full of all sorts of treasures. You never even knew you needed. Here, a half hour can quickly turn into a half day as you explore Soviet memorabilia, traditional crafts, and antiques, all eagerly awaiting a new home. For a plethora of hidden gems and entertaining traders head to the Dry Bridge Market. Here, the local vendors will sell you stories as well as their goodies!

  • Gorge on Georgian Cuisine: A Georgian supra (feast) is an unforgettable experience for all the senses. Mainstays on the table are khachapuri (cheese-filled bread) and khinkali (dumplings), but the list of Georgian culinary wonders is long and mouthwatering. 

  • Georgian Wine Degustation: With Georgia being the “cradle of wine,” tasting its exquisite reds, whites, and ambers is more or less mandatory when visiting Tbilisi, which has countless excellent wine bars for that very purpose.

  • Explore the Old Town on Foot: Losing yourself on a walk around the mesmerizing Old Town is another must. Along its narrow and winding streets, you’ll discover hidden courtyards, colorful balconies, and diverse architecture with an eclectic mix of Eastern and Western influences.

Practical tips

  • Check the Weather: Tbilisi routinely experiences high temperatures in summer, while winter is relatively mild give or take an exceptional week or two of snow. Spring and fall are pleasantly warm. Nevertheless, consult the weather forecast before packing your bag!

  • Know the Etiquette Georgians are extremely warm and hospitable people, but knowing a little about the local etiquette will really impress them and enrich your experience of Tbilisi.Taking some time to learn about the local etiquette will not only impress your Georgian hosts, but greatly enrich your experience in Tbilisi and the rest of the country.

  1. When meeting someone, Georgians usually shake hands. Close friends and family members often hug and kiss each other on the cheek. Georgians tend to be more formal in greetings and farewells compared to Western cultures. Common verbal greetings include "Gamarjoba" (Hello) and "Nakhvamdis" (Goodbye).

  2. At the dinner table, Georgians love to make long, heartfelt toasts, usually led by a "tamada" or toastmaster. It is considered impolite to sip your drink until the tamada has made the first toast. When toasting, maintain eye contact with the other people at the table. Toast to friendship, peace, the hosts, and the country of Georgia.

  3. Most Georgians are Orthodox Christian and the church plays an important role in society. Be respectful of religious traditions and conservative values. Always ask before taking pictures inside churches.

  4. Learning a little bit of the Georgian language, like basic greetings and "gmadlobt" (thank you), shows you are making an effort to embrace the local culture. But most of all, be genuine in your interactions as Georgians greatly value authentic human connection and building heartfelt relationships. Embracing this hospitable spirit will open doors and create unforgettable experiences during your time in Tbilisi and Georgia.

Whether it’s your first visit or your tenth, Tbilisi is a gift that just keeps on giving!

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