Travel Tips for Georgia
When to Go: Depends on the region you want to go to... My understanding is that the Lesser and Greater Caucuses start running around April. But then the Lesser dry up in summer without rain, and the Greater can be too high due to glacial melt until September timeframe when they drop back in. Both can run in the winter off of rain...
Entry into Georgia: Passport is of course required... but no Visa for folks coming from the US.
Getting to Georgia: Most people fly into Tbilisi, though that is 5 hours from the coast. There is some boating north of it, we did not go there though, we just drove towards to the Black Sea. Another option is Batumi, which is an international airport, though I bet you have a transfer somewhere locally to use it.
Driving in Georgia: Be prepared for things to take longer than elsewhere in Europe or the US. Shuttles of 10 miles can take an hour on rough dirt road. Even the highways or not any more than 2 lane mountain roads where speed is limited to 60 km/hr but rarely actually achieved. And regarding the rough shuttle roads, some are very rough, like Egor wouldn't take his own car and hired a driver for a few of them.
Gauges: The website listed in the River Beta section has some gauges... but for the most part the gauges are well downstream of the sections to kayak and gauge flows are not representative. So, you need to plan around the weather.
- Info in English is not readily available. There is a Russian website allrivers.info but the info on it is not plentiful though it will point you in the right direction for runs. Note, that the ratings are sandbagged... Egor mentioned that he and the others that maintain that site are starting to plan to write a guidebook but that is likely a few years off (as of 2017)
- Also, when you land, apparently there is a "kayak guidebook" that is available. I didn't see it in the airport in Tbilisi, but they did have copies in the visitor shop in Mestia, and they gave it to us for free. It only lists easy runs, but it is better than nothing.
Water: Use caution. Outside of the cities, there were lots of springs that we would drink from. In the cities, you have to be a little more careful. In the cities, the water tended to taste bad due to chemical processing, but we didnt run into any problems.
- You do not need an international driving license... but, rules are changing more and more in Europe, if you get pulled over an international drivers permit ($15 from AAA) are requested. Some rental car agencies are also stating it is a requirement... though to date I have not heard anyone actually be asked for it at the counter. So... better safe that sorry right?
- I didn't see any tolls.
- One final note on driving… be aware your car will likely be a stick (almost all are) and will take Diesel fuel (almost all do). So know how to drive a stick and make sure to put the correct fuel in the car.
- GPS/Phone: Data plans were super cheap, so I got one at the Tbilisi airport. I didn't do any driving, but I checked and google maps did work. I also used Galileo which allowed me to save the .kml files from my planning (that I have on the website's map section) so we were able to see all the way points and camping spots etc. That map app wouldn't route though so we had to use both apps.
Vaccinations: No extra needed.
Money: Plenty of ATMs that take US ATM cards. Just make sure to tell your bank before you go, in some countries 4 digit pins (no more) are required... However, just note that most places don't actually take credit cards. But basically every little town has an ATM so you can get cash out. Goergia uses the Lari, which is 2.39 Lari to the US $ (2017).
Prices: Super cheap. Gas was only like 1.8 Lari per liter... so like 1/3rd the price of in Italy. Food was usually only $1.5 or so. So nice.
Food: Honestly... this was perhaps the best part of the trip. My favorites where Khachapuri (a bread and cheese dish... this was so good when you got the big round bowl type which had an egg on top of the cheese, so good) and Khinkali (a dumpling type of dish with meat and juice inside the dumpling shell). There was also great wine (dry or sweet reds and dry whites). We also ate plenty of delicious meat stew dishes and soups. The salads that we ate daily were tomato and cuccumber. I love both, so I loved these salads. Finally, Chacha is a brandy alcohol that is pretty much like the Italian Grapa. Super strong, but also tasty.
Boats: Bring your own... there is nowhere that I know of near these areas to rent. There is a very small group of boaters in Georgia, though we were able to sell ours to Russians before departure. But Egor arranged all of that.
Accommodations: We camped several nights. There were a lot of places up the small river valley's that were tucked out of the way from locals. We also stayed at hostels that Egor arranged, most of the towns had some. They appear on google earth too so you can search there.
Weather: The weather can be all over the place. We had warm days and cold rainy days. Even the warm days though... dry suit was good. Bring extra layers in case it is especially cold. The water is VERY cold most of the time, so be prepared for it. We actually used pogies one or two days. Only like 1 or days did I think "gee, kinda wish I had a dry top" so that day I just wore shorts under the drysuit instead of full layers.
Random Thing to do: When you are in Tbilisi, you have to get a Turkish Bath. Was so nice. We did a lot of other stuff, read the write-ups for the rest of the tourist stuff we did... but the baths were by far my favorite.
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