Georgia Republic, Asia - Stein Travel
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Georgia Republic

The Georgia Republic is fast becoming a popular tourist hub. Offering vast mountain ranges with superb walking, skiing and snowboarding opportunities, a magnificent sub-tropical coastline with a temperate climate, immense architectural and archaeological sights and a modern capital displaying contemporary Georgian culture, there is plenty for the visitor to see and do.

Located on the strip of land between the Black and Caspian seas known as the Caucasus, Georgia has been continuously inhabited since the Stone Age. The busiest trade route of the ancient world, the Silk Road, ran through Georgia, bringing many different cultures through its borders and enriching its economy. Because of its transcontinental location the country has been invaded and occupied throughout the centuries by various forces such as the Persians, Romans, Arab Caliphs and Mongols. This is best seen in the country's impressive archaeological ruins, some dating back to the 5th century BC and in its impressive fortresses and churches.

Gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country is embracing its tourist potential. Known for their sincere hospitality, Georgians do their best to make visitors feel welcome. Often guests are invited to dine at residents' homes to partake in the supratradition, where local cuisine can be sampled, an amazing blend of Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Persian and European flavours. Such occasions are marked by toasts of wine, reflecting the 3,000 year-old Georgian viticultural heritage.

The capital Tbilisi, named after the warm springs found in the area, has a distinct Mediterranean atmosphere. Visitors can wander the winding narrow streets and indulge in the café culture, visit some of the finest museums and art galleries in the region, as well as the theatre and Turkish baths. At the other end of this small country, the warm Black Sea invites travellers to source out its more isolated beaches and visit the many local markets, spilling over with fresh produce from the orange, banana and lemon groves found in the area.

Information & Facts

Business

Suitable business attire for men is a suit, while dresses or suits are appropriate for women. Business cards are frequently exchanged. Georgians pride themselves on being good hosts, so meetings could easily be followed by a luncheon or dinner. Expect that many drinks will be bought and many toasts will be partaken in. If invited into a private home, a small gift of chocolates, flowers or alcohol is a good gesture. Business hours are usually 10am to 6pm.

Climate

Georgia has a warm, temperate climate. The Likhi mountain range divides the country into western and eastern halves, shielding the eastern part of the country from the influence of the Black Sea, creating a continental climate. The average temperature here in summer is 60-75°F (20-24°C) and 36-39°F (2-4°C) in winter. The western part of the country experiences a humid sub-tropical climate and in summer the average temperature is 72°F (22°C) and 41°F (5°C) in winter.

Communications

The international dialling code for Georgia is +995. The outgoing code is 8-10 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 8~1044 for the UK). Area codes exist, such as 32 for Tbilisi. Mobile phone coverage is good in the capital and along coastal regions, but signal strength is not as good in other areas. Landlines are widely available and Internet access is available in the city and at major hotels.

Customs

Georgians are friendly, hospitable and gregarious people. Visitors should not be surprised if offered drinks by complete strangers while dining at a restaurant or sitting at a bar. If visiting a church, suitable clothing should be worn. Shorts are inappropriate and women should cover their heads.

Duty Free

Travellers are allowed 250 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco, 1 litre of spirits or 2 litres of wine, and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use without incurring a customs duty. If importing more than 20kg of goods, a tax of 1 Lari per kilo will apply.

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts, 50 Hz. The European round two-pin plugs are standard.

Health

Preventative health measures should be taken for malaria; there is no risk in Tbilisi, but visitors to the southeastern areas should take chloroquine before travel. Avoid drinking untreated tap water; bottled water is widely available. Medical care in Georgia is limited, especially outside Tbilisi. Many doctors and hospitals will expect payment in cash, regardless of whether you have travel health insurance.

Language

Georgian is the official language but Russian and English are also spoken. In Abkhazia, a region in west Georgia, the Abkhazian language also has the status of an official language.

Money

The official currency is the Lari (GEL), which is divided into 100 tetri. Cash is the preferred method of payment in Georgia but major credit cards are accepted in established restaurants, hotels and shops in Tbilisi. Euros, Roubles or US Dollars can be exchanged at any of the widespread bureaux de change, but other currencies should be changed at the bank. Travellers cheques in Euros or US Dollars are recommended and ATM machines can be found in the major cities. Banking hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm.

Passport Visa

NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Safety

For safety in Georgia, travel to to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the upper Kodori Valley is not advised at present. These regions have sporadic clashes with the national government. Another area of concern is Pankisi Gorge where national armed forces have occasionally conducted operations against suspected international terrorists, Chechen fighters and criminals who have taken refuge in the area. Robbery in Georgia has increased, so travellers should not carry large amounts of cash on them or flaunt their wealth. Walking alone in quiet areas at night is also not safe.

Time

Local time is GMT +4.

Tipping

For restaurants, cafés or taxis, the bill is usually rounded up to the nearest 10 Lari, making tipping unnecessary.

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