Travel tips for Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia

Travel Guide

 Do you want to visit Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a country located between the continents of Europe and Asia, and enjoy discovering a wonderful travel experience as if you were a local resident? In this comprehensive guide, you'll find useful travel tips for Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and insight into Georgian culture and values ​​to help you make the most of your visit.

Tourists visit Georgia for one of three reasons: to hike in the Greater Caucasus Mountains, visit vineyards where archaeologists have discovered evidence of the world's oldest wine-making traditions, and enjoy delicious khinkali and khachapuri bread stuffed with cheese.

Tourists spend at least a few days in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Although many tourists flock to the city every year, it is still unknown to many people. Some may ask, is Tbilisi a European or Asian city? Do its residents speak English? Is it a safe city?

A big part of Tbilisi's appeal lies in discovering these things on your own, but there are a few things you should be aware of before you travel, so you don't get caught by surprise.

Travel tips for Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia

1- Explore the city on foot

For centuries, the city of Tbilisi has been influenced by cultural and civilizational factors from all over the world, as its location between the continents of Europe and Asia and its location on the ancient Silk Road contributed to the city becoming a melting pot of many different cultures and architectural styles. There are Persian-style baths, Zoroastrian temples, classical courtyards, old Orthodox churches, Soviet-era mosaics and brutalist buildings. And if you want to discover some of these details, you should walk around the city streets. You should visit the old German neighborhood Abanotubani, Marjanishvili neighborhood and Sololaki neighborhood, which is the oldest residential neighborhood of the city.

There are dozens of luxury homes built by merchants during the boom in trade in Tbilisi, most of which were taken over during the Soviet era and divided to house families. Currently, most of these buildings are in complete collapse. Some of the heritage houses have been restored. Each building has its own story. Dotted throughout Tbilisi are plaques commemorating the famous authors, poets and playwrights who lived in the city. And when visiting Tbilisi, you can take a bunch of great photographs, but be careful when taking pictures of private homes and common courtyards. The locals are friendly and welcoming, but be sure to respect their privacy.

2- Learn about the rules and etiquette of behavior in sulfur baths

When traveling to Tbilisi, a visit to the Abanotubani sulfur baths is indispensable, but do not forget that the rules of conduct there differ from those in Istanbul or Budapest.

The baths are located in the heart of the city, and the water comes from the natural water springs that run under the streets. There are dozens of bathrooms with vaulted ceilings, such as the luxurious Chreli-Abano's, Gulo's and the classic Bathhouse No 5. Some baths are public, while others offer private rooms that you can rent by the hour. All in all, you will enjoy a wonderful experience if you have enough knowledge about how to make use of these baths.

3- Don't even think about eating khinkali dumplings with a fork and knife

Khinkali dumplings are one of the most popular foods in the Republic of Georgia. The origins of these dumplings date back to the Mughal era and are similar to Chinese dumplings. These pies are usually stuffed with pork, seasoned beef, sautéed mushrooms, potatoes or cheese. Vegetarians will be pleased to know that most dishes in Georgia are meat-free. There is hardly a menu without khinkali pies. The minimum order is usually 5 pies at a price of 1 to 1.50 Georgian lari (30 to 45 cents). There are many restaurants in Tbilisi that still make pancakes by hand. But be careful not to use cutlery when eating pancakes. It is preferable to grab the pie from the top, bite off a small piece, then sip the juice and leave the piece of dough on the plate, but it is okay if you do not leave anything on the plate.

4- Do not throw bread in the garbage bin

While you are walking around Tbilisi and other cities in the Republic of Georgia, you will notice plastic bags hanging on the outside of the trash cans. Occasionally, you will see small pieces of bread scattered on the grass for the birds to eat. Georgian bread is cooked in a clay oven and is the Caucasian version of the tandoor. It is preferable to eat Georgian bread hot.

5- Don't forget to set your watch to Tbilisi time

Tourists will be surprised to learn that the city wakes up late, as the banks open at 9:30 in the morning. Perhaps the biggest problem for tourists is eating breakfast, because finding a place that serves a good breakfast before 11am can be a challenge. If you are staying in a hostel, it is better to have breakfast before going out if that option is available.

Most stores, malls and museums open at 10 am. And if you want to start your day early, you can take a stroll in the gardens and visit the markets in the morning. It should also be noted that museums and most major tourist sites are usually closed on Mondays. During the evening rush hour (from 6 to 8 pm), transportation is very crowded, so avoid traveling or going to shops during this period.

6- What do you know about street dogs in Tbilisi?

Perhaps the first thing that visitors to Tbilisi notice is the huge number of street dogs. There are thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of dogs living in harsh conditions in the city. Dogs with a colored badge on their ears are both neutered and immunized against rabies, as part of a project launched by the competent authorities in the city. These dogs eat the food offered to them by residents in all parts of the city. There are some dogs that take homes from public parks. And most of the dogs in the city are friendly towards humans, so you don't have to be afraid of them, dog poop is more dangerous than the dogs themselves! But the story is different with dogs found in mountainous and rural areas, as they are larger and more aggressive, and must be dealt with with extreme caution.

7- Make sure to observe the dress code in churches and monasteries

The Republic of Georgia is a predominantly Orthodox Christian country, dotted with beautiful churches and monasteries. When visiting religious shrines, you must follow the established dress code, which is often stricter in rural areas. Tourists must adhere to modesty, men wear long pants that cover the knees and shirts that cover the shoulders. Women must also dress modestly and cover their hair. Some churches require female visitors to wear a long skirt instead of tight pants.

Churches in Tbilisi have headscarves that can be used to cover the hair when entering churches. However, it is preferable for each tourist to keep his own supplies. On the streets of Tbilisi, tourists can wear their casual clothes.

8- Do not attempt to cross the main streets of Tbilisi

Busy streets, such as Rustaveli Avenue, do not have pedestrian crossing zones or traffic lights. Instead, you must use an underpass to get from one side of the street to the other. There are green signs showing the locations of these lanes. In these lanes, there are shops, bakeries, shoe workshops and repair shops. The longest tunnels in the city are the ones under Freedom Square, which have multiple entrances and exits and can be quite confusing.

9- Download an app to book taxis

You can walk around the city center of Tbilisi with its old quarters and beautiful buildings. But if you are planning to discover new adventures and need to take taxis, you can buy a SIM card from Magti which is the best of its kind and then download the taxi booking app. This option is the best because there are no set criteria for paying the fare, but you have to negotiate with drivers who don't speak your language. There is no Uber in the Republic of Georgia, but the local alternative is Bolt. Locals use the taxi booking app, and you can tip the driver at the end of the ride.

There is also the metro option, which costs 50 tetri (15 cents) and is a convenient and interesting experience. And the trains in Georgia go really fast, as do the escalators in the subway stations, so be sure to hold on to the handrails.

10- Don't be surprised if someone gives you their card on the bus

You must buy a reloadable MetroMoney card at any metro station in order to use the metro or buses in Tbilisi. When you get on the bus (always from the back door), you have to swipe your card at the ticket machine.

When the bus is crowded, you will often see people pass their cards to the person standing near the ticket machine to get to the machine. And when you can't find a place to sit on the bus, the people seated will offer you to carry your bag. These acts of trust are just a few examples of the special nature of Tbilisi society.

11- Learn some Georgian words and phrases

Georgians are very proud of their native language and will be very happy if you can speak to them in their language. And if you speak English, you will not have a problem in Tbilisi, as it is the second most common language among young people, and they speak it fluently even in small towns and rural areas, especially those who work in tourism. It is also recommended that you learn the Georgian alphabet so that you can read and understand many words.

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