Georgia is a country that is still considered fairly off the beaten path for most western travellers. However, its profile as an incredible tourist destination is slowly starting to increase and with more and more budget flights connecting Georgia to western Europe. And though Georgia’s presence on the international tourism scene is becoming more prominent, there is still not a lot that is known about the country in the west. For instance, when I first told friends and family back home of my plans to travel to this small nation in the Caucasus, their first question was always “Is Georgia safe?”
I am always surprised about how the more unknown a country is, the more the general population questions it’s safety. However, my answer to all of those people concerned if it is safe to travel to Georgia is yes, it is. While it can be hard to find conclusive data backing up claims that Georgia is a safe country, the general evidence is that, in terms to crime and violence, Georgia is an incredibly safe country to visit.
In fact, after spending numerous months in this Caucasian nation, Michael and I both know that it’s going to be an adjustment to head back to western Europe. In Georgia, petty theft isn’t very common and scams (to the extent in most other places we’ve visited) are honestly virtually non-existent. It is incredibly easy to feel very calm and at ease while visiting Georgia, however, we do know that we’re going to have to put our guards up as soon as we’re back in any other major European cities.
So is Georgia safe for tourists? If you’re still not convinced, I’ve written my top Georgia safety tips to make sure you’re perfectly prepared for your trip to this fantastic nation in the Caucasus!
Is Georgia Safe? Safety Tips for Visiting Georgia
As I’ve said previously, Georgia is safe for tourists. It is actually far safer for visitors than in major European cities like Paris, London, or Rome. Asking “is Tbilisi safe?” Well, according to some sources, Tbilisi has some of the lowest crime rates in the world. In fact, according to this data from Numbeo, Tbilisi is 170 points safer than Michael’s hometown of Melbourne, Australia and whopping 218 points safer than my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
So, in terms of crime rates, Georgia is safer than a lot of European cities. But how does it stack up in other aspects? After spending many months travelling and living in Georgia, we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge about the safety of the country and are here to help you stay safe and happy while visiting Georgia.
Road Safety in Georgia
If you’re concerned about your safety in Georgia, the biggest area where you are going to be at risk is on the roads. To put it plainly, drivers in Georgia are quite aggressive and can be careless, meaning that car accidents are very common.
Road quality in Georgia can also vary drastically depending on where you are. While there are a lot of works in improving the major motorways, there are still some significant gaps and you will likely encounter a number of unpaved and pothole-ridden roads while in Georgia.
Drivers tend to go very fast, as well and will pass other cars even when there seems there is no room to pass. The idea of sticking to your own lane seems to be a bit fluid on Georgian roads, too. In all honesty, Georgia has some of the worst drivers I have encountered in most of my travels. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in the country unless you are an extremely confident defensive driver.
Crossing streets in cities can be precarious, as well, as sometimes cars stop and sometimes they won’t. Generally, drivers will stop if a pedestrian is in a zebra crossing, however, sometimes it is necessary to make eye contact. It’s also worth noting that Georgian drivers don’t tend to stop until the last minute, so it can feel like a car might hit you. They normally stop. If this all sounds terrifying, it does take some getting used to, but you will be surprised at how quickly you will adjust.
Taking a Taxi in Georgia
Going along with road safety in Georgia, there are a few things to know about taking a taxi in the country, as well. Taxis are a really affordable and convenient way to get around in Georgia and you will likely end up taking a number of them during your visit. However, unlike most other countries, do not expect Georgian taxis to have meters. Instead of a metered ride, you generally agree upon a fixed price before getting into the cab.
If this seems daunting for you, or your language skills aren’t up to snuff for negotiating, then there are numerous taxi apps available that are reliable and take away the need to hail a taxi off the street. In Tbilisi and everywhere it is available, we recommend the Bolt app first and foremost as we believe it is the most reliable, however, apps like Yandex taxi and Maxim taxi also work well. They all function just like Uber, however, you can pay in cash or link your credit card to the app.
If you’re visiting a town that doesn’t have any of these taxi apps, then expect to pay a base fare of around 2 or 3 GEL + about 1 GEL for every kilometre that you travel. So if you want to go to an attraction that is 10 kilometres outside of town, it really shouldn’t cost you more than 15 GEL.
Personally, I haven’t found taxi scams to be as common in Georgia as they are in other areas of Europe, however, they do still exist. I would recommend that you use taxi apps whenever possible and, if you can’t, see if you can have a local call a cab for you or negotiate a fair price. I have also heard of the “airport taxis” grossly overcharging tourists going into Tbilisi but again, this can be avoided simply by using a taxi app.
Taking a Marshrutka in Georgia
If you’re planning on getting around Georgia by public transport, then you will not be able to avoid the humble marshrutka, or minibus. But are marshrutkas in Georgia safe? Well, yes, barring the general road conditions and safety, taking a marshrutka in Georgia is just as safe as any other form of transport in the country.
Marshrutkas can be difficult to navigate at first, however, if you don’t know the protocol. At the bus station, the marshrutkas to your particular destination will usually congregate in a particular area. People are always keen to point you in the right direction, however, some taxi drivers may try to tell you that there isn’t a bus and you have to take a taxi instead. In our experience, if you act confident that you know there is a bus, they will point you in the right direction with no further hassle.
The bus’ final destination will be displayed in a sign in the bus’ dashboard, usually in the Latin alphabet if you’re travelling to a more popular area. We have encountered buses with signs only in Georgian or Cyrillic so it can be helpful to learn what your destination looks like in those alphabets. Generally speaking, you pay your fare directly to the driver and seats are first-come, first-served. Marshrutkas tend not to operate on a fixed schedule, rather only leave when full or mostly full.
And that’s it! While marshrutkas certainly are not the most comfortable mode of transport, they are perfectly safe, affordable, a very convenient to utilise.
Tours in Georgia
Many people opt to take day tours to attractions surrounding major cities in Georgia. While some over planners or cautious travellers might look into booking these in advance, you will almost always pay WAY more than you need to and, more often than not, you can find someone who is willing to take you where you want to go only a day before. Usually, you can organise a tour through your guesthouse or even from a company on the street. Tourists do this all the time (we’ve done it countless times) and have great experiences and it’s perfectly safe.
You will end up paying your driver in cash at the end of your tour. It is highly unlikely that you will get a receipt, as is common for many things in Georgia.
Female Travel Safety in Georgia
Is Georgia safe for female travellers? Honestly, it’s one of the countries I’ve, personally, felt most comfortable travelling in as a woman. There are plenty of other female travellers around and it is easy to meet people, so it is a good place to go. However, I will say that my experiences change depending on if I’m walking down the street with Michael or on my own.
I’ve never felt unsafe or uncomfortable in Georgia, however, if I don’t have my (male) partner with me, I’ve noticed a lot of catcalls and men tend to be a lot more forward than in other areas of the world. Has it made me feel unsafe? No, not really, however, it never is pleasant to have to fend off unwelcome advances. That is, however, something that women, unfortunately, have to deal with all over the world and it isn’t a problem unique to Georgia.
I will say, however, that Georgia, and Tbilisi specifically, is one of the few places in Europe where I would feel comfortable walking by myself at night. Obviously, I would trust my gut and not go wandering through darkly lit parks in the middle of the night, however, it does feel very safe. You will also see solo women (both locals and foreigners) at all times of the day.
I also feel far more comfortable in Georgia than I’ve felt in some western and central European countries and it is certainly safer for me than where I used to live in London. I would also say that Georgia is a safe destination for solo female travellers so long as you follow your usual safety precautions.
Political Safety in Georgia
In June of 2019, Georgia made international headlines due to some protests over Russian involvement in Georgian politics. Georgia’s relationship with Russia is, to put it mildly, incredibly complicated and the average Georgian sentiment toward the Russian government (not toward Russian people themselves) is fairly negative. This also stems from the conflicts in the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
While the situation is certainly deeply complicated and I am not qualified to get into the details of the recent demonstrations in the Georgian capital, I can speak that the city does remain safe. We were actually living only about five minutes from where the demonstrations were taking place and life was functioning as usual.
In fact, Putin’s response to the Georgian protests by grounding all Georgia-bound flight routes significantly impacted the tourism industry in this developing economy. As of August 2019, the protests have all but died out and Georgia remains incredibly safe to visit, meaning that there is really no better time to visit the country.
Tap Water in Georgia
Is it safe to drink the tap water in Georgia? I was wondering this before we arrived here, as well, and found that the water in Georgia is definitely safe to drink. In fact, we never went anywhere in Georgia where we didn’t drink the tap water and never got sick from a water-related illness in Georgia. So do the planet (and your budget!) a favour, bring a water bottle and drink from the tap instead of plastic bottles.
Homemade Wine + Spirits in Georgia
You will find that virtually every home in Georgia makes their own wine and you will also see many people at market stall or just on the roadside selling their homemade wine out of plastic bottles. It is one of the most quintessential parts of Georgian life, but many people wonder if homemade wine is safe to drink.
Again, the answer is yes. There is a deep winemaking tradition in Georgia and families know what they’re doing. We drank a lot of homemade wine in Georgia and never once got sick, and the same goes for everyone we know, as well. Homemade spirits like cha cha (which is Georgian grappa) is also perfectly safe to drink (in moderation — that stuff is STRONG!).
Dogs in Georgia
And one last aspect that needs to be covered when discussing the safety for tourists in Georgia is the dogs. You will find that there are A LOT of stray dogs in Georgia, however, the dogs you will find on the streets tend to be some of the most friendly pups you will ever encounter. In the bigger cities, strays are most often vaccinated and fixed before being re-released (you will see a tag on their ear if this is the case), and they tend to be well taken care of by locals. Your only real threat with the street dogs in Georgia is that you may fall in love with them!
Shepherd’s dogs are a different story, however, and you do need to exercise some caution about these if you plan on doing any hiking. These dogs are bred to protect their flocks of sheep and to fend off wolves, so they are particularly fearsome. If you encounter a flock of sheep, it is likely that there will be a dog close by so it is recommended to give it a wide berth and not walk directly through it. If you do encounter a dog, try your best to remain calm and shout out, chances are the shepherd is close by and can call him off.
So is it safe to travel to Georgia? Is Tbilisi safe? The answer is “yes” and while there are certainly things that you need to be wary of when visiting Georgia, it is an altogether very safe destination to travel to.
Are you wondering if Georgia is safe? Are you planning on visiting Georgia? Let us know in the comments!