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The Georgian Republic is fast becoming a popular tourist hub. Visitors can look forward to vast mountain ranges with superb walking, skiing and snowboarding opportunities, a magnificent coastline, immense architectural and archaeological wealth, and a modern capital that shows off contemporary Georgian culture.
The country lies between the Black and Caspian seas, and has had inhabitants since the Stone Age. History lovers should note that the ancient world's busiest trade route, the Silk Road, ran through Georgia, enriching the region both culturally and economically.
Against that, the country's transcontinental location exposed it to invasion throughout the centuries, with Persians, Romans, Arab Caliphs and Mongols occupying it at various times. This turbulent history is best seen in Georgia's impressive archaeological ruins, some dating back to the 5th century BC. Its impressive churches and fortresses are worth seeing too.
Having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia has only recently embraced its potential as a tourist destination. Known for their sincere hospitality, locals do their best to make visitors feel welcome. Often guests are invited to dine at residents' homes to partake in the tradition. Essentially, it's a sampling of the local cuisine, which blends of Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Persian and European flavours. Such occasions are marked by toasts of wine, reflecting Georgia's 3,000 year-old viticultural heritage.
The capital, Tbilisi, was named after the area's warm springs, and has a distinct Mediterranean atmosphere. Travellers can wander the winding narrow streets and indulge in the café culture, and visit some of the finest museums and art galleries in the region. They can also enjoy the theatre and Turkish baths. Located at the other end of this small country, the warm Black Sea invites travellers to discover its more isolated beaches and visit the many local markets, which spill over with fresh produce from the area's lemon, orange and banana groves.
Georgia has a warm, temperate climate. The Likhi mountain range divides the country into western and eastern halves, shielding the eastern part of the country from the influence of the Black Sea and creating a continental climate. The average temperature in the east ranges between 60°F to 75°F (20°C - 24°C) in summer and between 36°F to 39°F (2°C - 4°C) in winter.
Western Georgia experiences a sub-tropical, maritime climate, and summer temperatures average around 72°F (22°C), dropping to 41°F (5°C) in winter. The west can get humid and experiences rainfall throughout the year, though autumn and winter receive the heaviest precipitation. In the east, rainfall peaks in spring and winter is the driest season. The mountainous areas receive a lot of rain, though the amount of rainfall generally decreases with distance from the coast.
Whether travellers are visiting the coast or the mountains, the best time to see Georgia is during summer. The weather is at its sunniest and most pleasant in May, June and September. However, as the country's climate varies somewhat from region to region, it's worth checking out exactly what to expect for particular destinations.
The official currency is the Lari (GEL), which is divided into 100 tetri. Cash is the preferred method of payment in Georgia but major credit cards are accepted in established restaurants, hotels and shops in Tbilisi. Euros, Roubles or US Dollars can be exchanged at any of the widespread bureaux de change, but other currencies should generally be changed at the bank. ATM machines can be found in the major cities. Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm.
Georgian is the official language, but Russian and English are also spoken widely. In Abkhazia, a region in west Georgia, the Abkhazian language also has the status of an official language.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50 Hz. The "Type C" Europlug with two round pins is standard.
US nationals: US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to a year.
UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the intended period of stay in Georgia. For passports endorsed British Citizen or British Overseas Territories Citizen no visa is required for a stay of up to a year. Those with passports with any other endorsement should confirm entry requirements before travel.
CA nationals: Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to a year.
AU nationals: Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to a year.
ZA nationals: South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to a year.
IR nationals: Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to 1 year.
NZ nationals: New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Georgia. No visa is required for a stay of up to a year.
Travellers to Georgia require valid passports and may require proof of sufficient funds for their stay, proof of health insurance, and an onward ticket and documentation for the next leg of their journey. It is highly recommended that their passports have at least six months' validity remaining after their intended date of departure. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel to Georgia is usually incident-free from a health point of view so long as visitors go prepared. Preventative health measures should be taken for malaria when travelling to Georgia; there is no risk in Tbilisi, but visitors to the southeastern areas should take malaria medication.
There are no required vaccinations for Georgia but travellers should ask their doctors to recommend some or all of the following vaccinations, depending on what they are planning to do in the country: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria, and rabies. Visitors should avoid drinking untreated tap water; bottled water is widely available. Medical care in Georgia is limited, especially outside Tbilisi. Many doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether visitors have travel health insurance.
If travellers need prescription medications, it is best to take them along, as well as a copy of a doctor's letter explaining the medical condition in question, and what has been prescribed. That way, visitors can avoid having difficulties with customs.
Tipping is generally expected in at cafes and restaurants, as well as for taxis. The tip is usually between 10 and 15 percent, but visitors should take note that a service charge is sometimes added to bills.
Holidays in Georgia are generally trouble-free, with the most common forms of crime against foreigners involving petty acts of theft and pickpocketing. That said, visitors can minimise risk even further by using hotel safes to store valuables, and by dividing cards, money and travel documents between various bags. They should also avoid flaunting their wealth and walking alone in quiet areas at night, and should remain vigilant when using public transport.
Travellers should not visit the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as they clash sporadically with the national government. Another area of concern is Pankisi Gorge, where national armed forces have occasionally conducted operations against suspected international terrorists, Chechen fighters, and criminals who have taken refuge in the area.
Georgians are generally friendly, hospitable, and gregarious people. They're known to offer complete strangers drinks at bars or restaurants, and routinely invite foreigners into private homes for dinner.
Tourists should wear suitable clothing if visiting churches. (Shorts are inappropriate and women should cover their heads.) Homosexuality is legal in Georgia, though not widely accepted.
Suitable business attire for men is a suit, while dresses or suits are appropriate for women. Business cards are frequently exchanged. Georgians pride themselves on being good hosts, so meetings are often followed by a meal or drinks. If invited into a private home, a small gift of chocolates, flowers, or alcohol is appreciated. Business hours are usually 10am to 6pm, with a short break taken over lunch.
The international dialling code for Georgia is +995. The outgoing code is 8-10 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 8 1044 for the UK). Area codes exist, such as 32 for Tbilisi. Mobile phone coverage is good in the capital and in coastal regions, but signal strength is not as good in rural areas. Landlines are widely available and internet access is available in cities and at major hotels.
Travellers are allowed 400 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco, 4 litre of any alcohol, and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use without incurring a customs duty.
Georgian National Tourism Association, Tbilisi: +995 32 243 6999 https://gnta.ge/
Embassy of Georgia, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 387 2390.
Embassy of Georgia, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7348 1942.
Embassy of Georgia, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 421 0460.
Embassy of Georgia, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6162 0126.
Georgian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 346 1831
Embassy of Georgia, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 905 9191
United States Embassy, Tbilisi: +995 32 227 7000.
British Embassy, Tbilisi: +995 32 227 4747.
Canadian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey (also responsible for Georgia): +90 312 409 2700.
Australian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey (also responsible for Georgia): +90 312 459 9500.
South African Embassy, Kiev, Ukraine (also responsible for Georgia): +380 44 289 8870.
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