Get Lost in: Tbilisi

 

Tbilisi, with it’s winding cobbled streets, ornate churches, and clusters of riverside buildings, exudes a unique mix of old world charm that can seldom be found elsewhere. Stir in it’s connection with Stalin, and the Soviet influence on the architecture (Read: Bars on windows), and you have a romantic’s dream.

In centuries past, both the Iranians and the Russians have lay claim to this historic city. As a result, Tbilisi today is home to over a 100 different ethnic groups. Tbilisi reflects this diversity in both it’s culture and in it’s relief. Dissecting the city is the Mt’k’vari River, on it’s left is flat land the extends onwards to another river, on it’s right the city is carved into the foothills of the Trialeti Range.

 

In this Post

  • Tbilisi 101
  • How to Get To Tbilisi
  • Accommodation
  • Getting Around
  • Must-Sees
  • Food
  • Shopping
  • Safety

Tbilisi 101

Language
Georgian and Russian, although English, albeit in varying degrees, is widely understood

Currency
Georgian Lari (GEL)
1 USD = 2.13 GEL              1 Euro = 2.40 GEL

Note: In most countries, it’s usually cheaper to convert your money in town rather than at the airport. This is not the case in Georgia, make sure you convert your money at the airport. SIM Cards are free, so if connectivity is important to you, pick one up at the airport and load a few Lari on to it.

Georgia is extremely cheap. Flying in from Qatar, the entire trip costed me approximately $700, that’s including airfare, accommodation and food for five days, as well shopping, transportation and miscellaneous expenses.

Good for:
History enthusiasts, Nature enthusiasts

How to Get There:

Arrival in Tbilisi is through the Tbilisi International Airport.

Visas are not required for nationals and residents of the following countries:

 Andorra  Brunei  Kuwait  Oman   Switzerland
 Antigua and Barbuda  Canada  Kyrgyzstan  Panama  Tajikistan
 Argentina  Chile  Lebanon  Qatar  Thailand
 Armenia  Colombia  Liechtenstein  Russia  Turkey
 Australia  Costa Rica  Malaysia  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines  Turkmenistan
 Azerbaijan  Dominican Republic  Mauritius  San Marino  United Arab Emirates
 Bahamas  Ecuador  Mexico  Saudi Arabia  Ukraine
 Bahrain  El Salvador  Moldova  Serbia United Kingdom
 Barbados  Honduras  Monaco  Seychelles  United States
 Belarus  Iceland  Montenegro  Singapore  Uruguay
 Belize  Iran  New Zealand  South Africa  Uzbekistan
 Bosnia and Herzegovina  Israel  Norway  South Korea   Vatican City

 

Recommended Accommodation

Staying in or near Freedom Square is highly recommended simply because it’ll make getting around 91ed0f5a_originaltown that much easier. Almost every major site in Tbilisi can be reached on foot from Freedom Square.

While in Tbilisi I used AirBnb to stay in this beautiful apartment. The host was extremely helpful, arranged airport pickups and soothed any of last minute concerns.

 

Getting Around

 While most of Tbilisi can be explored on foot, there is also a fairly cheap cab system as well as an extensive metro network. You can purchase a metro card at the station for 5 Lari.

Absolute Must-Sees

 

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The Bridge of Peace is pretty centrally located, and you’ll likely see it as you drive in from the airport. It’s definitely worth a nighttime visit and offers beautiful views of Tbilisi.

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The Botanical Garden and Narikala Fortress (pictured below) can be done in one day as they’re located in the same area. Walk around the botanical garden, buy a few handmade hats, take pictures by the waterfall, and then hike up to Narikala. You can get to the Botanical Garden by taking a cable car located near the Eastern bank of the Bridge of Peace.

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It’s a short yet steep hike to Narikala, but the panoramic view of the city that awaits you, makes it completely worth the effort.

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Located by the Dry Bridge, the Flee Market is the perfect place to pick up local jewellery, soviet memorabilia and more at throwaway prices.

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You can get to the Holy Trinity Cathedral by taxi for around 5 GEL.

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I recommend visiting Mtatsminda Park and the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the same day because you’ll need taxis for both. Mtatsminda is gorgeous and has a stunning restaurant. A word of warning about the Ferris wheel, it’s probably the slowest you’ll ever sit on, the view is worth it though.

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A word of caution about the Abanatubani Sulphur Baths, they get their fare share of peeping toms, so keep an eye on the ceiling vents.

 

Food

Local food is decadent and smothered with gooey cheese. No trip to Georgia is complete without Khachapuri and Khinkali.khachapuri4

Oh and for the alcohol aficionados amongst you, there is wine EVERYWHERE, and in some places, it’s cheaper than water. Vegans and Vegetarians beware, there is very little in Georgia that is served without meat and dairy. Thanks to Eminthecaucasus for pointing out that “vegetarian and vegan food are actually pretty easy to find…it’s just not called that, it’s called “fasting food”. Religious Georgians are expected to fast and keep an animal-product free diet for about 1/3 of the year. The Georgian word for it is “samarkhvo”. Most restaurants mark which dishes are acceptable for fasting, and sometimes there is a separate menu.”

Another thing you must try in while in Georgia is the fruit leather, you’ll see it lining the streets being sold in colorful bundles.

georgia4

Halal Food

As a Muslim traveler, finding food on such trips can often be challenging. Note that a lot of restaurants claim to serve Halal food but also serve pork, one self-proclaimed Halal shawarma place even claimed to serve ‘Halal’ Chicken and Pork shawarma. Here are two restaurants in Tbilisi that exclusively serve Halal food.

  • Kafe Leila (‪Erekle 2 St., 18, Tbilisi, Georgia)
  • Taj Mahal Restaurant (‪Leselidze, 42, Tbilisi 54000, Georgia)

Both are within walking distance of Freedom Square.

Shopping

Tbilisi while great for small local trinkets, doesn’t rank high on the shopping scale. While the local jewelry is very pretty, I would advise against buying the fake Pashmina scarves that are sold everywhere, as they’re both overpriced and not real Pashmina wool. IMG_3990.JPG

Safety

Tbilisi is fairly safe, with low homicide and violent crime rates. A word of caution about street hawkers. Under no circumstances should you engage with them, these interactions can quickly turn sour.

Have you been to Tbilisi? How did you like it? Do you have any tips to share?

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Get Lost's Guide to Tbilisi

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23 thoughts on “Get Lost in: Tbilisi

  1. eminthecaucasus says:

    Great round-up of the basics! I’ll send it to some friends who are planning a trip here.

    One tiny tip: vegetarian and vegan food are actually pretty easy to find…it’s just not called that, it’s called “fasting food”. Religious Georgians are expected to fast and keep an animal-product free diet for about 1/3 of the year. The Georgian word for it is “samarkhvo”. Most restaurants mark which dishes are acceptable for fasting, and sometimes there is a separate menu.

    Liked by 2 people

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