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Georgia

If you’re travelling to Georgia, our travel advice and updates give you practical tips and useful information.

Get travel and medical insurance

Before travelling, the Department strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical repatriation/evacuation, repatriation of remains and legal costs. You should check any exclusions and, in particular, that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.

Overview

Security status

We advise you to take normal precautions in Georgia.

We advise against attempts to travel to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and we also advise against all but essential travel to the areas near the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABLs).

Latest travel alert

Following the conflict with Russia in 2008, the situation has stabilised but remains tense. It is illegal under Georgian law to enter Georgia from Russia via South Ossetia or Abkhazia as there is no official border control and you may face criminal prosecution. We recommend that you don’t travel to these areas and avoid all but essential travel to the areas bordering them as sporadic attacks continue. In addition, don’t attempt to cross the land border with Russia.

Caution should be exercised when entering Georgia as foreign nationals have been detained on arrival for possession of medicines that would not normally be problematic in other countries. You are advised to carry a doctor’s prescription if you intend to travel with prescription medicine and to declare the medications on your Custom Declaration Form.

Emergency Assistance

Because there is no resident Irish Embassy in Georgia, we are limited in the help as can offer you in an emergency situation. However, if you need assistance, please contact the Irish Embassy in Sofia.

You can contact the emergency services in Georgia by dialling 112.

Other EU embassies

You can also contact the Embassies or Consulates of other EU countries in Georgia for emergency consular assistance, advice and support.

Our tips for Safe Travels:

  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance which covers all your intended activities.
  • Add an alert for your destination within the Travelwise App.
  • Register your details with us so that we can contact you quickly if there’s an unforeseen crisis like a natural disaster or a family emergency.
  • Follow us on twitter @dfatravelwise for the latest travel updates.
  • Read our ‘Know Before You Go’ guide.

Safety and security

Unrest

The political situation in Georgia has stabilised since the 2008 conflict with Russia but it is still fragile. While the fighting seen in 2008 has calmed down substantially and life in Tbilisi has returned to normal, the conflict has resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis for the people of Georgia.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia

The separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain in the control of Russian forces and we advise against attempts to travel there. We also advise against all but essential travel to the areas near the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABLs) of these regions as sporadic attacks and incidents can still take place. There are reports of unexploded ordinance these areas and they should be avoided until they have been confirmed clear.

Border crossings

Don’t attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (ie Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) under any circumstances. The border crossing between the Russian Federation and unoccupied Georgia at Verkhny Lars reopened in 2010 for citizens of the CIS and Georgia. However, traffic is extremely regulated and neither Russian nor Georgian visas are available at the crossing. The crossing is not open to tourists.

It’s illegal to enter Georgia via Abkhazia or South Ossetia as there’s no official border control. If you do so you may face criminal prosecution, which carries a prison sentence of up to four years. If your passport contains entry/exit stamps from the separatist Abkhazian or South Ossetian authorities, the Georgian authorities may consider this as illegal entry into Georgia via an unrecognised border crossing.

Demonstrations

Protests are not uncommon in Georgia, particularly at times of heightened political tension. We therefore advise you to avoid areas where large crowds are gathered as situations can develop rapidly. We recommend that you remain aware of what is going on in your surroundings and keep checking local media reports.

Crime

Although Tbilisi itself is considered to be a relatively safe city, normal precautions should be taken when visiting the tourist areas and areas frequented by foreigners:

  • Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
  • Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
  • There have been reports of muggings near Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia in Tbilisi and we recommend that you don’t walk alone in this area.

Reporting crime

If you’re a victim of a crime while in Georgia, report it to the local police immediately. You can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Sofia if you need help.

Driving

If you’re planning to drive in Georgia, you should be extremely careful. Driving in Georgia can be quite erratic and unpredictable manoeuvres, sudden overtaking and speeding are common.  We recommend avoiding driving at night if at all possible. If you want to drive:

  • Bring your full Irish driver’s licence or international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
  • Be aware of Georgia’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, which in urban areas is 60km/hr and 80km/hr outside, unless otherwise indicated.
  • Children under seven years of age are required to sit in child-safety seats.
  • Many of the roads in Georgia are poorly lit and can be badly marked.
  • Heavy rain and flooding often affect roads and bridges making travel difficult or impossible (particularly in remote areas). When travelling outside of Tbilisi your vehicle should be suitably equipped to deal with a range of adverse situations.

Hiring a vehicle

If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.

Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).

Pedestrians

Pedestrians should exercise particular caution, even at marked pedestrian crossings, as cars often do not give way.

Taxis

If using taxis in Tbilisi, and other cities, it’s safer to use licensed taxis. Not all taxis are metered. If you find yourself in an unmetered taxi, you should agree the price for the journey before starting. If you’re staying in a hotel, we recommend that you book your taxi through the hotel reception.

Air safety

Where possible, fly directly to Tbilisi on a scheduled international flight. Among the International airlines serving Georgia are Austrian Airlines, BMI British Midlands, Czech Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines.

Mountaineering

It can be difficult to get accurate information on mountain conditions in Georgia and if you encounter difficulties while mountaineering or hiking, it may be difficult to organise the level of emergency/rescue assistance that you would expect in more developed tourist destinations.

If you’re considering trekking or mountaineering we advise you to contact Georgian companies that provide specialist guides. Please ensure that you inform someone of your contact details, itinerary and expected return time.

Local laws and customs

Remember, the local laws apply to you as a visitor and it is your responsibility to follow them. Be sensitive to local customs, traditions and practices as your behaviour may be seen as improper, hostile or even illegal

Illegal drugs

Illegal drug use (no matter what the drug) carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms.

Photography

Avoid photographing sensitive sites such as military bases and installations and always be aware of cultural sensitivities when visiting and photographing religious sites.  If in doubt, always ask permission before taking a photograph.

Health

Vaccinations

Check with your doctor a minimum of eight weeks in advance of travelling to see if you need any vaccinations for Georgia.

Rabies

Rabies is common in Georgia so make sure you have the relevant vaccinations.

Medical facilities

Medical facilities in Tbilisi are available but expensive. Outside Tbilisi, medical facilities are limited. Make sure you have all the medication you need to cover your trip and to cover potential delays.

Travel Insurance

We can’t pay for emergency medical repatriation, repatriation of remains, or for expenses as a result of a personal emergency while you are abroad. If you buy an appropriate travel insurance policy, these costs will be covered, provided you haven’t broken the terms and conditions.

Buying comprehensive travel insurance can save you and your family a lot of money if something goes wrong. It will also ensure that you get the medical attention you need, when you need it. Hospital bills can quickly run into thousands of euro, and a medical evacuation back to Ireland can cost thousands more.

Not all policies are the same, and the cheapest one might be cheap for a reason. Make sure your policy covers all the activities you plan to do on your trip. Insurance Ireland recommend that you purchase a policy that provides a minimum medical cover of €1 million.

Emergency expenses

Your policy should cover:

  • All medical care abroad, including evacuation by air ambulance, or other emergency procedures, and any other costs associated with an unexpected longer stay.
  • Your entire trip, from departure to return. Consider an annual multi-trip policy if you’re making more than one trip in the year.   
  • 24-hour emergency service and assistance.
  • Personal liability cover (in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property).
  • Lost and stolen possessions.
  • Cancellation and curtailment.
  • Any extra activities you intend to do that are excluded from standard policies (e.g. water sport activities such as jet skiing or other extreme sports).

Exclusions: You should know most insurance policies will not cover drink or drug-related incidents.

Additional information

Entry requirements (visa/passport)

Georgian visa rules have changed with effect from 1 September 2014. Irish and EU nationals do not need a visa to enter Georgia. You can visit for up to 90 days within a period of 180 days. Visit the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more details on entry requirements and how the new rules might affect you.

If you want to stay longer than 90 days, you should apply for a temporary or permanent residency permit from the Civil Registration Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. Overstaying a residency permit can result in immediate deportation and a ban on re-entering Georgian territory for up to one year.

Travelling with children

If you travel to Georgia with a child other than your own, you must have evidence of the consent of the child’s parents or guardians.

Air quality

If you have respiratory issues, make sure you bring any necessary inhalers with you on your trip, as the air in Tbilisi can be difficult at times.

Water

We recommend that you avoid drinking tap water.

Money

According to Georgian law, all goods and services should be paid for in local currency (Georgian Lari) although prices are often quoted in US dollars. Lari can’t be bought outside the country but US dollars and Euro can easily be exchanged for the local currency.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Credit cards are increasingly being used in Georgia and ATMs can be found in major cities. Traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted.

Earthquakes

Georgia is in an area of seismic activity so if you’re travelling to or living in Georgia, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.

The last earthquake in Tbilisi, with a magnitude between 4.3 and 6.0 on the Richter scale, was in 2002 when six people died and there was some serious infrastructural damage.

In 2009, an earthquake measuring 6.2 struck 156km north-west of Tbilisi.