I’ll answer your first question right away: Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia. I’ll also answer your second question: I’m talking about Georgia, the country. If you thought this was about the state, do keep reading, please.
Georgia is a small country in the Caucasus Mountains, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, and known for being part of the former Soviet Union. Georgia is quickly becoming a popular travel destination because of its affordability, beautiful nature, and unique capital city.
I can confirm these opinions because this was such a memorable trip for me, and I know it will be for you, too!
Things to Know About Tbilisi
Georgian is the official language of Georgia, and Azerbaijani is the second language spoken, so at times it can be difficult to find a European language speaker, especially with older Georgians. Going into a hotel, cafe or travel agency is your best bet to find an English speaker if needed.
Additionally, Georgian has its own unique alphabet, which I didn’t know about prior, so that was a huge surprise for me. I recommend writing a few useful travel words/phrases down on your phone to help you get around.
Currency of Georgia
Georgia’s currency is the Lari (GEL). One Lari is currently equivalent to about $0.34 USD. However, we suggest you use the XE Currency App to keep up with fast-changing currency exchange rates.
Transportation in Tbilisi
Tbilisi has a good public transportation system with buses and a metro. The buses are either regular buses or smaller, yellow vans. Pay the driver USD 0.17 once you arrive at your stop. They will also drop you off at non-stops.
If you take the metro, you need to buy a reloadable metro card for 2 GEL ($0.70 USD) that scans before you ride. Each ride will cost about .50 GEL ($0.17 USD). Information at metro stops is written in English.
Georgia also has a good national public transportation network with buses and trains if you want to visit another city.
Georgia has a lot of stray dogs, so be careful, as some can be aggressive. While I was there, I was bitten by a stray and had to get treated, so be extra cautious. #FunTimes
Georgia is definitely a safe country for solo and female travelers to visit. As always, be respectful, friendly, and aware of your surroundings.
How to Get to Tbilisi
The Tbilisi International Airport is a surprisingly big airport with many international flight options. There are no direct flights to Tbilisi from the United States. You will have a stopover at a large hub (like Amsterdam) before moving on to Georgia.
Before booking a multi-leg flight to Tbilisi from the U.S., do a quick search on Google Flights or Skyscanner to find an affordable flight to any city in Europe. Then see how much it would be to get to Georgia from that city on a budget airline. Don’t forget Istanbul.
Once you land, there are three ways to get to the city center:
- The fastest and cheapest way is by a 40-minute train ride for about .50 GEL ($0.17 USD).
- You can also take bus #37 for about .50 GEL ($0.17 USD)
- Or take a taxi for 30-50 GEL ($10-17 USD). More airport information can be found here.
There are also international flights from countries around Europe into Batumi and Kutaisi, Georgia. From those cities, you can fly or take a train or bus to Tbilisi.
What to Do in Tbilisi
My first move in a new city is to book a spot with a free walking tour to get my bearings and learn more about the city firsthand from its residents. Tbilisi is small and walkable, so this is the perfect way to explore.
Some sites that you might see on a walking tour include The Bridge of Peace, Rike Park, Metekhi St. Virgin Church, Rezo Gabriadze Marionette Theater (pictured above), Waterfall Leghvtakhevi, and Tsminda Sameba Cathedral.
Overlooking the city is Narikala Fortress. Constructed in the 4th century, this is a fantastic place to see the city from above. You can explore the ruins and visit St. Nicholas Church while you’re there.
You can either hike up to the Narikala Fortress or take the aerial tramway (great photo opp for the ‘gram). This cable car takes you across the Mtkvari River and above the old city to the fortress. The ride costs 1 GEL ($0.34 USD) but you have to have a metro card, if not you’ll have to buy one on-site to complement the ticket.
Tbilisi has a very unique old town with diverse architecture. There are a lot of churches and cobblestone streets with plenty of things to do. This is a great place to find traditional foods like Khinkali and drinks including delicious Georgian wine after a long day of exploring.
A highlight of the Old Town is the sulfur baths. These have been a staple of Georgian culture dating back to the city’s inception in the 5th century. Many believe the city was founded because of the healing powers the waters around the city possess. Sulfuric water is thought to help with insomnia, digestion, arthritis and other medical issues.
There are many bathhouses in the Old Town for you to experience, ranging in price from 38-102 GEL ( or $13-35 USD) per room, per hour for an average place. There are more expensive options if it’s in your budget. You can also save a few dollars by bringing your own slippers, drinks, towels, etc.
Tbilisi has plenty of affordable options, whether you are staying a few nights or a few weeks. Hotel rooms start at about 38 GEL ($13 USD) a night, so you will most likely find something to suit your budget.
There are plenty of Airbnb options for every budget, too. There are good apartments for under 44 GEL ($15 USD) per night, and more luxurious ones in the 88 GEL ($30 USD) range. Click here to save $55 on your first Airbnb stay.
The most affordable accommodations are hostels, which in the city can cost as low as 6-7 GEL ($2 USD) per night for a bed in a mixed dormitory. Some hostels do offer female-only rooms or private rooms.
Be aware that hostel ratings are usually not accurate, as they are often skewed to make the hostel look better than it is. For instance, the hostel I stayed at, Midnight in Tbilisi, had an 8 point rating and was by far my worst accommodation experience ever – and this is coming from a seasoned hostel lodger!
So, take the time to thoroughly read the reviews and choose your accommodation wisely. The good news is there are a ton of hostels to choose from.
Tbilisi was a really unique city to visit, completely different from anywhere else I’ve been! It’s affordable, colorful, the food is good and the city has quite the charm to it. I went in February and it was still a little cold, so I definitely advise you to visit in the spring or summer. I ate and drank well, met some awesome people, and got to explore a place not seen by many!
More information about Tbilisi can be found on their tourism website.