Tbilisi, Georgia is quickly becoming a hotspot for expats, with an attractive tourist visa scheme, western amenities, and overall low prices drawing more and more westerners to the Georgian capital with each passing year. And while most will know that Georgia’s capital is, indeed, affordable, many would like to know what the actual cost of living in Tbilisi is.
With a developing digital nomad scene and a laid-back nature that is different than anywhere else in Europe, Tbilisi is an incredibly appealing option for those location-independent individuals on the hunt for an affordable, well-connected base.
After visiting Tbilisi a number of times throughout our travels in the Caucasus and finally deciding to make the Georgian capital a temporary base, we have a good idea about the cost of living in Tbilisi as an expat or digital nomad.
We’ve found that Tbilisi makes an excellent base for those who want to be in a European city without having to submit to the high prices of Western and Central Europe and that you can live very comfortably here on a much lower salary.
Cost of Rent & Utilities in Tbilisi
The main thing that potential expats want to know about the cost of living in Tbilisi is the price of rent and utilities. Well, if you don’t want to spend a substantial amount of money on a place to live, you’re in luck. Tbilisi has some of the lowest property costs in Europe and the cost of rent will seriously not break the bank, especially if you’re moving to Tbilisi on a western salary.
Like all cities, however, the price of an apartment in Tbilisi will vary depending on which neighbourhood you’re looking at and the type of place you want to rent. For instance, a newly renovated 1-bedroom flat located a five-minute walk from Liberty Square is going to cost significantly more than an older flat in an apartment block in Saburtalo.
You can also expect to pay a bit more than average if you only plan to rent for one or two months. Like everywhere else in the world, short-term lets in Tbilisi are more expensive than longer-term ones. Often, however, you can negotiate a very fair price for three or more months.
With those things considered, if you’re looking to rent a renovated apartment in a nicer neighbourhood (but outside of the Old Town or Liberty Square/Rustaveli area), then expect to pay about $400 USD per month. This is for something with brand new appliances, air conditioning, and all of the modern conveniences that you may be used to in Western Europe or North America.
If that is a bit out of your budget or you don’t mind living somewhere a little more “traditional” and not newly renovated, you can easily find an apartment for closer to $300-350 USD per month. Again, this is in a neighbourhood like Saburtalo or Marjanishvili — a little ways away from the popular tourist centres.
It is worth noting that most landlords do prefer to have their rent paid in cash in USD. That may seem dodgy to you, especially if you’re coming from a western country where everything is done by the book, however, this is the standard operating procedure in Georgia and there is nothing inherently suspect about it.
When looking for a flat, we recommend having a look at myhome.ge or place.ge to find more long-term lets or even having a browse at a few Facebook groups that have apartment listings (this one and this one are good options).
When it comes to utilities, often you will find that they are included in your rent, which is convenient because you will know exactly how much you have to pay each month. However, you may need to pay for these separately, as well. Things like broadband and gas/electric are a bit more affordable in Georgia than they are in areas of Western Europe or North America. Expect to pay no more than an extra $25-30 USD per month for utilities in Georgia.
All in all, if you are planning to live in a one-bedroom apartment with all of the modern conveniences, then plan to spend about $400-450 USD per month on rent and utilities. It is, however, definitely possible to spend less than this if you make some sacrifices.
Cost of Groceries & Restaurants in Tbilisi
While the most significant portion of your Tbilisi living cost is going to go to rent and utilities, likely the second-largest part is going to go to food. And much like in rent, the price of food — from restaurant meals to grocery prices — can vary widely.
If you stick to local products and local restaurants, your monthly food budget can be extremely minimal, however, as soon as you venture into buying imported and international products is where you will see prices begin to rise. In some cases, buying imported products at international supermarket chains will cost more than they would at home. However, if you purchase more locally-produced products (even in a Carrefour or Spar), you will find that your grocery bill gets significantly lower.
In general, we’ve found that supermarket food prices in Tbilisi to be about half of what they cost us when we lived in London. So the savings aren’t as drastic as they are in areas like rent, but it is still much cheaper to eat in Tbilisi than in a major western European capital. This is also accounting for the fact that we don’t tend to buy or cook meat at home.
We would also recommend buying your fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets or street stalls. These not only tend to have better-quality produce, but you also get the added benefit of directly supporting local businesses and farmers instead of a multinational corporation.
Restaurants, as well, can vary in price. If you go to a divey hole-in-the-wall eatery with a simple menu churning out local favourites and homemade wine, you’re going to get that at a very affordable price. If you go to a higher-end restaurant serving “modern Georgian” cuisine or international food, then it can be significantly more expensive.
However, you will find that prices for eating out in Georgia really don’t even compare to the cost of eating in northern or western Europe, and certainly not for eating out in the USA.
Like most everywhere else, you’ll find that it will be a lot kinder for your overall cost of living in Tbilisi if you cook at home most of the time and only eat out on occasion. If you want to get a gauge on how much you may spend, Michael and I tend to spend about $50 USD on groceries per week and another $20 USD or so on restaurant meals. This comes out to roughly $315 USD per month or $158 USD per person per month.
Obviously, if you eat out more or eat more meat, then you can expect to pay more per month. If you only buy local products and forgo any of the creature comforts of home (we’re not quite there yet), then you can spend less as well.
Cost of Transportation in Tbilisi
When we get into the cost of transportation in Tbilisi is where we will get to a portion of your living costs that will barely make a dent, provided you walk most places and take public transportation more often than not.
There is a pretty good public transport system in Tbilisi, with a metro system that covers a good portion of the city centre and can make it easy enough to get around. You need to get a metro card to ride it, which will cost you 2 GEL ($0.70 USD) for a one-off price. Each subsequent ride will cost 0.50 GEL ($0.18 USD) within a 1-hour period, meaning that it will still only cost 50 tetri for however many rides you may take within a 1-hour period.
Buses are similarly inexpensive, though they can be a bit more difficult to navigate. Luckily, Google Maps has most routes available and it makes it fairly straightforward to use and get the hang of. You can use your metro card on the city buses, as well.
Central Tbilisi is also quite walkable and you can reach most of what you want within the Old Town and central areas on foot.
Many people also get around Tbilisi by taxi, although this is by far the most expensive option or transportation. However, though it is significantly more costly to take a taxi rather than the metro, they are still incredibly affordable compared to anywhere in western or central Europe.
A taxi anywhere around the centre of Tbilisi will cost around 5 GEL ($1.75 USD), give or take a lari or two depending on the distance travelled and the traffic.
We recommend using a taxi app rather than hailing one off of the street. While there is no Uber in Georgia, there are apps that act much in the same way. We recommend using Bolt, Yandex taxi, or Maxim to get a taxi in Tbilisi. This will save you from having to negotiate a fare (taxis in Tbilisi don’t have meters) and it will connect you with a reliable driver.
All in all, you really don’t need to factor that much into your transportation costs into Tbilisi. If you’re anything like us, you will walk most places and take the metro when you don’t. We do take taxis on occasion, but it really only happens about once per week or less. All in all, you might be safe in assuming that you will likely spend less than $10 USD per month on transportation within Tbilisi.
Cost of Activities & Entertainment in Tbilisi
Again, factoring in activities into your total Tbilisi living cost is entirely relative to your respective hobbies and lifestyle. However, I will try to give you a general idea for your budgeting purposes.
If you like to stay fit, you will be happy to know that a gym membership doesn’t come with the exploitative fee that many in do in the west (you also don’t need to be roped into a contract!). For instance, with an unlimited membership to a small gym costing about $25 for a month, with more limiting options costing less. Of course, there are also very fancy gyms or international chains that will cost more, but you don’t need to pay the big bucks to stay fit Tbilisi.
It’s worth mentioning here that Tbilisi isn’t really the most friendly city to go running in. The sidewalks are narrow and busy and often you will find cars on them, so it would probably prove difficult to keep up a steady pace. The parks in the city are also not planned with runners in mind.
It is also possible to find yoga studios and other fitness classes (most often taught in English) in Tbilisi, as well, at competitive prices to other cities in Europe.
Tbilisi is also well-located to many great trips and destinations to visit elsewhere in Georgia, and there are many towns and regions that you could easily head to as a weekend trip. Mountain villages like Kazbegi, the gorgeous hill town of Sighnaghi, and even the spa city of Borjomi are all within easy distance of the capital and you can visit for less than $50 USD for the whole weekend.
If you’re interested in going out and meeting others, there are some active expat communities as well, and meet-ups don’t cost a thing! Connecting with other like-minded people can also make living in Tbilisi as an expat a lot easier.
While the informal meet-ups won’t cost anything, likely they will often take place in a bar where you will pay for your drinks. However, much like groceries, you will find that it’s a lot cheaper to drink local rather than imported. Even a craft beer in Tbilisi will only cost you about 5 GEL ($1.75 USD) and the same goes for a glass of basic local wine. The more fancy or imported you go, the more you can expect to pay, as is the case with any city in the world.
Like I said earlier, it really depends on your own personal habits about how much activities and entertainment will factor into your average cost of living in Georgia. If you are seriously extroverted and go out on the town every weekend and have expensive hobbies that require you to spend money, then you are going to pay more. If you are a couch potato who would rather watch a movie at home than go out to a bar with a bunch of other people, then your entertainment costs will be minimal.
I would expect to spend somewhere between $25 to $50 per month on activities and entertainment costs in Tbilisi as long as you don’t expect to be partying regularly.
Average Monthly Cost of Living in Tbilisi
With all the above Tbilisi living costs considered, these are the averages that you should expect to pay if you’re considering a move to Georgia’s capital. It is worth noting that this is assuming you only need a one-bedroom apartment and you plan to stay for a bit longer than 3 months.
Rent/Utilities: $300-450 USD/month, depending on where you choose to live
Food: $150-200 USD/month, depending on your habits
Transportation: $10 USD/month
Activities & Entertainment: $25-50 USD/month
All in all, it is entirely possible to have your average cost of living in Tbilisi to be less than $400 per month while still living quite large as long as you’re sharing accommodation costs. It is also very possible to get this price down if you make some sacrifices somewhere or have different monetary priorities.
This also doesn’t factor in the cost of long term travel or medical insurance. If you’re an expat abroad, I recommend looking into SafetyWing as your travel medical insurance provider. They offer some of the most affordable policies on the market with prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks of coverage.
So is Tbilisi expensive? Definitely not! The average cost of living in Tbilisi is quite low compared to many other European capitals making it very attractive to live in Tbilisi as an expat or digital nomad.
Are you curious about the average cost of living in Tbilisi, Georgia? Are you planning on making the move to Georgia’s capital? Let us know in the comments!