Georgia – [jawr-juh] • A place where people love Kinkhali, Khachapuri and Wine; A country where you find every other man named George.
My wife and I have just returned from a 5 day/4 nights vacation in Georgia. It was a memorable experience. We both felt like staying few more days when we were leaving the hotel in Tbilisi.
It was not just about the place but the time we got to spend away from home. And a trip like this was long overdue for both of us. Georgia was the 6th country we visited together.Georgia is the 6th country we visited together. I am not surprised that 8 Mn tourists visit Georgia every year because it is truly a beautiful country.
It was not a pre-planned trip which was done well in advance, but something I decided just a couple of weeks ahead. If I have to do it again, I will probably do it differently. Even though I did not know the places to visit, I went ahead and booked our flight tickets. Sometimes I find myself doing things like that – Impulsive.
For people staying in Dubai or in GCC, Georgia is one of the best short vacation destination. It is not only nearer, but also most inexpensive European country that one can travel with their significant other.
Even thought I liked the country and what it had to offer, I had a mixed feeling about Georgians in general. Except for our tour guide, I found most Georgians to lack courtesy or friendliness. I may be wrong, but this is what I felt.
Immigration officers were very cold and most times hostile. So far in the countries I visited, nowhere have I come across such rude and unfriendly officers like in Georgia. I understand that it is not their job to smile to people, but the way they behaved leaves a lot to be desired.
Especially because tourism is one of their key economic sectors and tourists who come, spend their money which benefits their economy. Not only at the immigration, I found people in most places for some reason were serious in their demeanor.
Anyways, Immigration was a breeze, no problems whatsoever.
Visa: Since I have a UAE resident visa, I could visit Georgia freely without any visa. I think it is the same for everyone in GCC. To check whether or not you require a visa you may check from VISAHQ. Your passport, however, must have more than 6 months of validity.
Hotel: We stayed at the Gallery palace, and I quite liked the hotel. It is a new hotel, very close to the Freedom Square, Old Town of Tbilisi and to a lot of restaurants. Not the cheapest but if I had booked earlier I could have got a better deal. If you are looking for a comfortable stay with all amenities, I would definitely recommend this hotel and you can check its rates at Booking. There are a few drawbacks which I will talk about later.
Money Exchange: Georgian Lari (GEL) is the official currency and it is the only currency accepted in the city. Euros and USD are not accepted outside the airport, so it is better to exchange USD/EUR at the airport itself. Rates at the airport were better than what I saw outside in the city. Change your currency at the airport itself. I changed it for 2.405 GEL/1$. You can find an exchange counter right outside the arrivals gate to your left. Check thoroughly at the counter itself once you get GEL to ensure got the correct amount.
Communications: I recommend to go for Geocell sim card. I got the sim card with 2 GB of Data and some local minutes which I could not finish in 5 days for 12 GEL. Its internet connectivity was quite good even while traveling. You can purchase the sim card in airport itself.
Local Transport: Getting around locally in Tbilisi is quite easy. Tbilisi has a good metro line, but I didn’t get a chance to try. I believe if you are more than two people, taxi is the best way to travel. I don’t particularly enjoy haggling with taxi drivers, not that I am not good at it, but it is just something I don’t like doing.
Uber is not available in Georgia but there is an alternative which you will thank me for. Taxify is a Uber-like app through which you can book your taxi exactly the same way you do with Uber. All you need to have is a working credit card, a local mobile number and you are good to go. Fares are very, very reasonable. And the best thing is its minimum charge which is 1-1.5 GEL which is nothing compared to 12 Dhms in Dubai.
4-Day itinerary for Georgia
My idea was to hire a car and drive around to the places we wanted to see. However, I had to give up that idea as some places need an experienced driver on the wheel. So, I booked a taxi cum tour guide who gave us a 4-day itinerary covering most important places one must absolutely visit.
In hindsight, I think my decision of hiring a tour guide was worth it. I was short of time for planning, and I had to give up that idea of a self-driven car. If I visit Georgia for the second time maybe I will rent my own car.
So in the 4 days, we covered the following locations:
1st Day: City tour in Tbilisi: Visiting the Mother of Georgia, Aerial cable car, Bridge of Peace, Old Tbilisi mini waterfall, Metekhi Church and of course the famous old restaurant Samikitno (This is the famous I love Tbilisi selfie spot).
2nd Day: Off to Kazbegi: Zhinvali Dam over Aragvi River, Ananuri Fortress, French Monument in Gaudari and the beautiful mountainous landscape, Gergeti Church
3rd Day: Kakheti Region passing through Gremi Church, Khareba Winery, Bodbe Monastery, and Sighnagi
4th Day: Jvari Monastery, Uplistsikhe Caves passing through the town of Gori(where Stalin was born) and Mtskheta city
We rested on day 5 until afternoon and then headed to the airport for our departure back to Dubai.
Every day we used to start at 10 in the morning from Tbilisi and return by 5 in the evening. For dinner, we used to go out and try different restaurants mainly Indian.