Traveling Luck for Georgia

Georgia is located in Southwestern Asia, bordering the Black Sea, between Turkey and Russia.

Georgia has borders with Armenia for 164km, Azerbaijan for 322km, Russia for 723km and Turkey for 252km.

Land in Georgia is largely mountainous with Great Caucasus Mountains in the north and Lesser Caucasus Mountains in the south; Kolkhet'is Dablobi (Kolkhida Lowland) opens to the Black Sea in the west; Mtkvari River Basin in the east; good soils in river valley flood plains, foothills of Kolkhida Lowland.

Georgian land covers an area of 69700 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than South Carolina

As for the Georgian climate; warm and pleasant; Mediterranean-like on Black Sea coast.

Georgian(s) speak Georgian 71% (official), Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azeri 6%, other 7%
note: Abkhaz is the official language in Abkhazia.

Georgian National Map

Georgian Map

Regions of Georgia

The region of present-day Georgia contained the ancient kingdoms of Colchis and Kartli-Iberia. The area came under Roman influence in the first centuries A.D. and Christianity became the state religion in the 330s. Domination by Persians, Arabs, and Turks was followed by a Georgian golden age (11th-13th centuries) that was cut short by the Mongol invasion of 1236. Subsequently, the Ottoman and Persian empires competed for influence in the region. Georgia was absorbed into the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Independent for three years (1918-1921) following the Russian revolution, it was forcibly incorporated into the USSR until the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. An attempt by the incumbent Georgian government to manipulate national legislative elections in November 2003 touched off widespread protests that led to the resignation of Eduard SHEVARDNADZE, president since 1995. New elections in early 2004 swept Mikheil SAAKASHVILI into power along with his National Movement Party. Progress on market reforms and democratization has been made in the years since independence, but this progress has been complicated by two civil conflicts in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These two territories remain outside the control of the central government and are ruled by de facto, unrecognized governments, supported by Russia. Russian-led peacekeeping operations continue in both regions. The Georgian Government put forward a new peace initiative for the peaceful resolution of the status of South Ossetia in 2005.


Georgia Country Profile

Georgia's main economic activities include the cultivation of agricultural products such as grapes, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts; mining of manganese and copper; and output of a small industrial sector producing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, metals, machinery, and chemicals. The country imports the bulk of its energy needs, including natural gas and oil products. It has sizeable but underdeveloped hydropower capacity. Despite the severe damage the economy has suffered due to civil strife, Georgia, with the help of the IMF and World Bank, has made substantial economic gains since 2000, achieving positive GDP growth and curtailing inflation. Georgia had suffered from a chronic failure to collect tax revenues; however, the new government is making progress and has reformed the tax code, improved tax administration, increased tax enforcement, and cracked down on corruption. In addition, the reinvigorated privatization process has met with success, supplementing government expenditures on infrastructure, defense, and poverty reduction. Despite customs and financial (tax) enforcement improvements, smuggling is a drain on the economy. Georgia also suffers from energy shortages due to aging and badly maintained infrastructure, as well as poor management. Due to concerted reform efforts, collection rates have improved considerably to roughly 60%, both in T'bilisi and throughout the regions. Continued reform in the management of state-owned power entities is essential to successful privatization and onward sustainability in this sector. The country is pinning its hopes for long-term growth on its role as a transit state for pipelines and trade. The construction on the Baku-T'bilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the Baku-T'bilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline have brought much-needed investment and job opportunities. Nevertheless, high energy prices in 2006 will compound the pressure on the country's inefficient energy sector. Restructuring the sector and finding energy supply alternatives to Russia remain major challenges.

Georgian natural resources include forests, hydropower, manganese deposits, iron ore, copper, minor coal and oil deposits; coastal climate and soils allow for important tea and citrus growth

strategically located east of the Black Sea; Georgia controls much of the Caucasus Mountains and the routes through them

Georgian religion is Orthodox Christian 83.9%, Muslim 9.9%, Armenian-Gregorian 3.9%, Catholic 0.8%, other 0.8%, none 0.7% (2002 census).

Natural hazards in Georgia include earthquakes.

Travel Advice on Georgia

Georgia

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary, Local Travel (links suspended) and Entry Requirements section.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to the breakaway regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Pankisi gorge beyond Akhmeta because of the heightened military and police tensions in these regions.

  • Due to a large-scale operation by Georgian law enforcement agencies against rebel “militia” in the Kodori Valley in July 2006, contributing to the deterioration of relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation.  We advise against all travel to the adjacent Svaneti region at this time.

  • Travellers to Georgia should be aware of the potentially high levels of crime, including kidnapping involving foreigners.

  • You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Crime
Attacks on foreigners are not uncommon.  Incidents of residential break-ins, carjacking, car theft, petty theft and armed robbery as well as street crime can occur throughout Tbilisi and Georgia.  Precautions should be taken when visiting the tourist areas of Tbilisi and areas frequented by foreigners, such as Vake and Saburtalo.
You are advised to be vigilant and take sensible precautions when travelling or walking alone at night.  Should you go out, you may wish to consider carrying a torch and going in company.  While the electricity situation in Georgia has improved, power cuts can still occur.
The threat of kidnapping exists in Georgia.  In 2002, a British businessman was kidnapped, which ended in his safe release after four months in captivity.  We have heard that other foreign Embassy staff have received kidnap threats.  Common sense precautions may reduce the risk.  You should vary routes to and from work.  Keep doors locked while driving.  Keep in regular contact with partners and friends.  Consider calling in at agreed times when travelling outside of Tbilisi.
Political Situation
Georgia Country Profile
Local Travel
On 25 July 2006, following challenges against the Georgian authorities by the leadership of a local ethnic group in the upper Kodori valley, the Georgian Government launched a large-scale operation against local rebel “militia” there. This has contributed to a deterioration in relations between Georgia and the Russia Federation.  All transport links, postal services, trade and bank operations with the Russian Federation have been suspended indefinitely.  Until the situation is resolved we advise against all travel to Svaneti, especially Mestia district, at this time.
We advise against travel to the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the Pankisi gorge beyond Akhmeta.  There is a risk of military or police activity in these areas.  Caution should also be exercised in the Zugdidi and Tsalenjikha districts of the Samegrelo region which border Abkhazia.  You should not attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (i.e. Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) under any circumstances.  You should be aware that there is a real threat of being caught up in any spill over from the Chechen conflict.
Mountaineering/Hiking
If you encounter difficulties while mountaineering or hiking in Georgia, it may be difficult to organise the level of emergency/rescue assistance, which you would expect in more developed tourist destinations.
It can be difficult to get accurate information on mountain conditions.  If you are considering trekking or mountaineering we advise you to contact Georgian companies that provide specialist guides.
Road Safety
You can drive in Georgia using a licence issued by an EU country or by using an International Driving Licence.
Driving is on the right.  The speed limit is 60 kph in towns and cities.  Outside of towns it is 80 kph unless sign-posted.  You cannot turn right when the traffic signal is red.
In Georgia a blood alcohol level higher than zero is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
Care should be taken if driving at night.  Many roads are badly lit and are of poor quality.  Driving conditions are stressful, and often confusing.  The majority of cars are poorly maintained, and the standard of driving is erratic.
It is now compulsory to wear seat belts in Georgia.  We strongly recommend you wear your seat belts at all times.  Children under seven years of age are required to sit in child-safety seats.
If using taxis in Tbilisi, and other cities, it is safer to use the official red taxis.
Rail Safety
If you travel by train, do not leave your valuables or the compartment unattended.  Ensure the compartment door is secured from the inside.
Air Safety
Aircraft maintenance procedures on some flights are not always properly observed.  Where possible, fly directly to your destination on a scheduled international flight.  Among the International airlines serving Georgia are British Mediterranean Airways, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Air Ukraine International, and Lufthansa.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Drug penalties

Illegal drug use (no matter what you are using) carries stiff administrative and criminal penalties including fines and long prison terms.  The penalty for smuggling drugs carries a prison term of between 5 to 20 years and/or heavy fines.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is legal in Georgia, but is not thought widely acceptable in society.  This has not transposed into violence against homosexuals.

Photography in sensitive areas

Common sense should dictate that you refrain from photographing sensitive sites such as military bases and installations.  This is especially true in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, as well as near the remaining Russian bases in Georgia.  Always seek permission if in doubt.  You should also be aware of cultural sensitivities when photographing churches and other religious sites. If in doubt, ask prior permission.

Local Currency

According to Georgian law, all goods and services should be paid for in local currency (Georgian Lari). However, US dollars and the Euro are widely used and can easily be exchanged for the local currency.  You are advised not to carry large amounts of cash.  Credit cards are increasingly being used and ATMs can be found in major cities.  Traveller’s Cheques are not widely accepted.


ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

As a British National you may enter Georgia for up to 90 days without a visa.  You may extend your stay in Georgia beyond 90 days by applying for a temporary or permanent residence permit from the Civil Registration Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia.  Georgian law provides for the immediate deportation of anyone who overstays without a valid permit, together with a ban on re-entering Georgian territory for up to one year.

The 1992 agreement allowing visas issued for one Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be used to transit another CIS country is still valid for diplomatic passport holders, although not all CIS countries have signed this agreement.  However, ordinary passport holders should obtain visas for all countries to be visited.  If you are planning to visit two or more CIS countries, you should contact the relevant embassies in London for advice before travelling.  If you travel to or in Georgia with a child other than your own, you must be able to be able to demonstrate that you have the consent of the child’s parents or guardians.


HEALTH

Medical facilities in Tbilisi are available but expensive. You are strongly advised to obtain comprehensive medical as well as travel insurance to cover illness, injury and loss of money, baggage and tickets before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and you’re your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see: Travel Insurance. Outside of Tbilisi, medical facilities are limited.
There continue to be outbreaks of rabies in Georgia. Tap water should be avoided, due to contamination. Bottled water is widely available. Seek medical advice about precautionary measures before travelling.
For further information on health, check the Department of Health's website at: www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that there have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in wild swans in the Adjara region of Georgia, 300km from Tbilisi.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed information.
NATURAL DISASTERS
Flooding in 2005 has affected many parts of central-western and north-western Georgia. Some roads and bridges have been damaged as a result, making travel to the affected parts of Georgia difficult or impossible (particularly in remote areas). You should check with your travel agent before travelling to these areas.
On 26 April 2002, Tbilisi was hit by an earthquake. Overall damage was light, and electricity, water, gas and the telephone systems were unaffected, though a number of buildings were damaged.


GENERAL

We advise British nationals resident in or visiting Georgia to register your presence with the Embassy.  This allows us to keep in touch with you when you are in Georgia and to provide consular assistance in the event of an emergency.

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help

You should carry a copy of your passport at all times and keep the original in a safe place.