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Georgia Driving Guide 2020

Driving in Georgia is not so different to driving in the USA, as long as you have an International Driving Permit and an understanding of the basic rules.

Lisa Brown

January 21, 2020

INTRODUCTION

Why will you not love Georgia? From the view of the Velvet green vineyards of Khaketi, and the angelic sight of the snow-capped mountains of the Caucasus to the classical Las Vegas-meets-the-Soviet Union architecture of Batumi on the Black Sea, Georgia is indeed a beautiful place to visit, stay and have a food time. It is a very ancient country that is strategically seated in the important crossroad where Europe meets Asia. If you are an adventurous type of traveler, you will find it to be one of the most exhilarating experiences in tourism that you have had.

The first thing that will catch your attention when you start mixing up is trying to ascertain whether Georgia is an Asian or European state, and the answer will largely depend on who you ask. Technically and geographically speaking, Georgia is located in Asia, but the Caucasus mountains formed at the eastern border of Europe. Aside from that, if you chat with a majority of Georgians, they will tell you that they are Europeans and feel like Europeans. If you are going to think about it, their culture is European. They dress like Europeans. Their political and ancient monarchical system of leadership was also more European than Asian, but their food and architecture is Asian.

When traveling to Georgia, it is more convenient if you will drive a car. It will give you an advantage to explore this country’s famous destinations with no restricted schedules as you can go to any other places in your most convenient time.

In driving, following the laws is important. The driving laws in Georgia maintain that every new driver must go for a driving test in Georgia, obtain a driving permit in Georgia, and pass the driving road test in Georgia before being issued a license. To assist you on having an adventurous, exciting and hassle free driving, here’s the guide you can follow.

GETTING AROUND GEORGIA SAFELY

Georgia has a network of good roads. Driving in Georgia is on the right and the national highway network connects the country from the North, South, East to the West. The main highway that crosses the mountains and leads into Russia follows the same pathway that was described by the ancient Roman author, Pliny the Elder in the first century BC.

It is good to note that the people of Georgia don’t speak English. The Georgian language has its alphabet. So as a visitor, driving around will be a little bit of a challenge. You might see some alphabets and think that they are codes or symbols, while they are actually words. Deciphering road signs and symbols while driving is almost impossible. So before engaging on a road trip, learn some words that you will need or better still, tap into technology, and download an app like google translate on your device.

You can also use your Google map to make navigation a lot easier for yourself. One of the reasons why you must learn a couple of frequently used words is because when it comes to refilling your gas tank, you must have to talk to the Nozzle attendants. Generally speaking, Georgians know that they are law-abiding in so many aspects of their lives except obeying traffic rules and regulations. So just know that when driving or being driven around in Georgia, you must strap on your seat belt and children under 12 years must sit in the back seat. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Georgia, if you are caught.

Renting a car will allow you to explore not just the big cities but also those all-important towns, villages and landmarks in Georgia

The official driving age In Georgia is 18 years. But at that age, you are not allowed to rent a car.This country accepts any license that is printed in Latin or Cyrillic alphabet within the first year of your arrival. It took me a long while to answer this question, “Can you drive with a foreign License in Georgia?” The answer is, “yes you can.” It gets a lot easier if it is written in Latin or Cyrillic, but apart from that, Georgia recognizes valid driver’s licenses that are issued and used by residents of other countries as far as it is still valid. To make it easier for yourself, get it translated by the embassy before using it. Having this will give you a chance to be hired as a driver in Georgia because this country has a lot of driving job to offer.

RECEIVING GEORGIAN DRIVER’S LICENSE BY ALIENS 

Driving without a license in Georgia is prohibited. Furthermore, on clearing the doubts on whether you can drive with an international driver’s license in Georgia or not, and whether you can drive with a foreign license, I will quote an extract from the police website, so I can convince you since it is not easy to find reliable answer online as to whether you must obtain a local driving license before you drive in Georgia.

“Article 49. Rules on Validity in Territory of Georgia and on Exchange of Driving License Issued by a Foreign Country to Citizens of Foreign Countries or Stateless Persons.

1. A citizen of a foreign country or a stateless person who’s being a holder of a driving license issued by a the foreign country shall have the right to:

      a) Participate as a driver in road traffic in the territory of Georgia before              the expiration of the validity of a driving license issued by a foreign                    country, but for no more than 1 year upon his/her last entry into
         Georgia.
      b) Exchange a driving license issued by a foreign country with the                          equivalent category and/or subcategory of the national driving license              of a unified sample that confirms a vehicle driving license, without                    passing driving tests, but not later than the expiration of the validity of              an exchanged driving license.

2. To exchange a driving license issued by a foreign country, a citizen of a foreign country or a stateless person shall submit the following:

       a) An application
       b) A passport or a residence permit
       c) A driving license issued by a foreign country, that is to be exchanged           d) Confirmation of a driving license                                                                           e) A document confirming registration or temporary registration in                         Georgia, or a document confirming the place of residence, envisaged               by Paragraph 4 of Article 44 of the present Rule 1” (See at                          https://police.ge/files/pdf/rekom.ucx.stum_eng/1.Driving_License.Eng.pdf)

If you forget or make a last minute decision that you want to rent a car while you are in Georgia, it is possible to get an IDP through a premium fast track service, and it will be sent to you electronically in just a few hours.

ROAD CONDITIONS

As a visitor, it’s good to know that the roads in the urban areas are in good condition. The best driving roads in Georgia are in the Urban areas, but the roads in the remote areas are often bad. So before you rent a car or borrow one from your friend, ask about the terrain of the place that you want to go to know if the car is suitable for such a place.

If you are going to a place that you are not so conversant with, try not to drive at night. Some roads are not well lit and most times, livestock tends to cross the highways in the mountains and rest on the road. You may also notice pedestrian crossings, so honk your horn whenever it is necessary because there is no restriction to that. Heavy rains, flood, snow, and landslides can occur at areas that have highlands around them. This affects visibility so much that you may not see the traffic signs and symbols on the road. Also if you are traveling outside Tbilisi, make sure that your vehicle is well equipped.

Some areas in the Tusheti region and Khevsureti region cannot be accessed during winter. Their roads are usually closed from May until late October.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

Is it safe to travel in Georgia?

Georgia is a cool country with a lot of tourist attraction sites. Many people just think about the state of Georgia in the USA when they hear the name Georgia. Some may ask whether it is really safe to travel to Georgia. As a matter of fact, Georgia was ranked as the sixth safest country to visit in the world according to a research on safety that was carried out in 2016.

The percentage of armed robbers and house buglers in Georgia is not up to 0.05%. You can confidently leave your house open, and travel for a weekend and you will meet everything the way you left it. If you lose your wallet, the wallet will either be used to track you , or it will be taken to the nearest police station so you can have it back. You also don’t need to worry in case you lose your phone, because the finder will try to call you, and return the phone to you. You can also walk the streets at midnight and nothing will happen to you. Normal social vices that are seen and experienced in other places is at its barest minimum in Georgia.

The Georgian police is up and doing. There is minimum corruption in the police force, and they are ready to help both locals and foreigners with smiles on their face. Please do not try to bribe the Georgian police. If you are a foreigner and you violated any traffic law, calmly explain, and do no hold on to the fact that you are a foreigner. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Rather, beg them and tell them that you would have known better if you were a local. If you do so, they will just offer you a warning ticket and not a fine or violation ticket.

Even in the currency exchange booth, you will never find them put counterfeit notes to your money. The only way you can be cheated by those people is that they may exchange for you at lower exchange rates. But, if you check the internet before meeting them, you will not be easily cheated.

GEORGIA’S TRANSPORT SYSTEM

Oh, you are welcome to Georgia! I hope you are having a nice trip, now that you have landed. I don’t know if you have plans on how to get around, see the nice countryside, and visit some cool destinations in the country. Let’s assume that you have not done any of that. Now let me tell you about transportation in Georgia for you to know how to get around through different modes of transportation.

Bikes & Scooters

In no definite order, let’s talk about bikes and scooters. These low power and less pollutant emitting machines make zipping around town fun and easy. Even though they can only be used on dry days, they make navigating through traffic jams easy. It is fun and economical to ride around in these machines, but it can’t be used for all your itineraries. It is best to use to stroll from your hotel to the nearest mall, bar or relaxation spot. You must take note that there are no bike or scooter lanes in the nation’s capital, Tbilisi, coupled with the fact that the drivers here are not 90% traffic law-abiding. Thus, the occurrence of accident can be rampant and that alone makes this medium of transportation risky especially to tourists who are not used to the traffic system of Georgia.

In Batumi, there is an organized bike and scooter rental system in place. All you need to do is to buy the Batumvelo card in the tourist information center near the dancing fountains, and take a bike of your choice located in 23 bike terminals.

 

Marshrutka

This is the favorite of the locals. It plies through all the major and interior road, delivering people to their destination with ease. It has a fixed price to specific destinations. One of the reasons why people like it so much is because it is relatively faster than the buses and gets filled up faster. They are more accessible than the regular buses because they can even get to remote areas just like the domestic buses.

One thing that you must have in mind is that they are not so comfortable to ride in. The seats are packed closely thereby reducing the legroom to nothing.

 

The City Bus

These yellow buses are affordable and easy to catch up with. However, you get a dose of what you paid for. These yellow buses are not air-conditioned and they are not so comfortable to get a ride in. Mostly because it is always crowded. When the seats get filled up, people stand and hold the bar that is attached to the roof of the bus. Good this is, they provide transport services to every main area of the country. To be sure of their schedule and routes, check the Tbilisi transport company web page.

As a visitor, it is good that you know that you should have the exact amount that can pay for the transport fare. To make it easier for yourself, buy a prepaid transit card from the metro station through an honor system when you are about to board. It is customary for passengers to give up their seats to women, elderly, and anyone that looks like someone who is not strong enough to withstand the bully of the yellow bus to people clinging to the bar.

Recently, there has been a new release of more comfortable buses that are blue colored. They are air-conditioned and delivers more comfort-enhancing features with reliable shocks for those unpaved rural roads.

 

Subway

The railway service runs both on the underground and on the surface within limited routes. The trains can be crowded sometimes. Many of them are old, and majority of them are not air-conditioned but they are more conducive compared to Marshrukta and bus. The same prepaid cards that you bought for buses is the same that you can use on the trains.

Important note: The main lines of the Trans-Caucasian railway connect from Baku (Azerbaijan) and from Yerevan (Armenia) on the Georgian territory. The line that stretches in the direction of Russia through the territory of Georgia along the black sea coastline is currently blocked due to the conflict in Abkhazia.

 

Taxi

They are everywhere in Georgia. They are the favorite of foreigners. However, you need to be careful because they can cheat you anytime once they noticed that you are not a local. They do it by increasing the fare to a ridiculous amount because they know that visitors will not know the exact charge for specific locations.

Better Things To Do Before Entering a Taxi

  • Ask the hotel to order their favorite taxi drivers to come and pick you up from the hotel. It will be cheaper and enjoyable because the taxi driver will want to impress the referees.
  • If you must hail a taxi from the street, explain in detail where you want to go. It is important to agree on a specific price with the driver before you enter.
  • Make sure that you have smaller bills that can pay for your ride because the bad ones will be unable to cheat you by overcharging the taxi fare. They will want to hold your balance by saying that they do not have a chance to give your change, thereby making you say keep the change against your wish.
  • Naturally, they love foreigners, but the greatest issue is the language barrier. The older drivers speak Russian language while the younger ones can speak English fluently. In this country, majority of the taxi drivers speak Georgian language. Therefore, some of them may use body and gestures to communicate with you. 
  • Be very sure that the taxi driver is knowledgeable about the local routes in the city. If you meet a driver who’s new to driving a taxi, the possibility that he moved from the rural areas to the urban in search of greener pasture is so high. It will end up being a case of the blind leading another blind man.

TIPS FOR RENTING AND DRIVING YOURSELF IN A RENTED CAR IN GEORGIA

There are a lot of decent and solidly built roads in Georgia. The Fuel is cheap, and their car rental services is one of the best in the game. You will not get hidden charges since most of the sightseeing happens in hilly parts of the country. Additionally, you will have a lot of SUVs to choose from.

If you are going on a road trip with your family, loved ones, or friends, then going with a rented car will be a very good idea for you. Aside from being able to see the country’s wonderful view of landscape, you can also stop intermittently to look around and take pictures. Driving in Georgia is not exactly the same as driving in UK and Germany. The experience varies because many traffic rules either do not apply or do not exist at all. So, the resultant effect of being careless on the road is that you will have to negotiate with the other drivers and arrive at terms on how to get the car repaired.

Additional Driving Tips:

  • Determine the kind of trip that you want to make. This will help you to make the right choice which type of vehicle to use. You can opt-in for a 4×4 SUV, a van, or a Sedan. Choosing the wrong type of car can make you pay more for repairs. Compare the prices that you get with other ones before you settle with one.
  • Make sure that the company that you want to choose has a good insurance policy that operates. This is important because there are a lot of traffic accidents in Georgia. They may not be so fatal always, but having a good insurance policy will make the whole process less stressful.
  • Insurance companies know all the trouble that foreigners face while driving in Georgia. As usual, they’ll write some policy statements that will protect them from some hazards. Hence, this policy statement may not be favorable to you, the customer. Given this fact, you must make sure that you read the paperwork thoroughly. When you are done reading, give your wife or your friend to read, and then point out any part that  will incriminate you to get it sorted out before you proceed.
  • Make sure that you inspect the car properly before you make your final payment. If you are in Georgia during the winter season, then consider renting an SUV. It may be expensive, but it will help you to get around anywhere at anytime. Sometimes the longer the duration, the lesser the price that you will have to pay.
  • Be alert when you are driving in the night. Heavy trucks don’t usually keep to their lane. There are a lot of breaking of traffic rules in the night, so be alert to avoid hurting yourself.
  • While driving around Georgia, you will see small filling stations at every 5 km interval and mega filling stations at 10-15 km intervals. These filling stations serve as a great spot to grab some food and drinks, and even use the toilet if there is need for that.
  • Check the weather forecast in your destination especially if you are traveling in winter.  

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

PARKING IN GEORGIA

Parking is pretty simple in Georgia, anywhere that you find a vacant space is good for you to park. Even in a dark area, your car will not be stolen. Moreover, all the cars on the road are insured. However, you must be sure that your parking does not obstruct traffic in any way. If you are discovered to violate the parking rules, you will be meant to pay a fine, and worst is, your car can be towed.

Free parking space

Free parking is allowed unless there is a signage that denotes that you must pay if you park. Free parking spaces in the city of Tbilisi includes near the Bridge of Peace (opposite Rike Park) and the Gabriadze Theater. In Batumi, you can leave your car in any yard outside the city center since walking around the tourist center does not take more than 15 minutes. It is also good to ask the hotel front desk about parking because some of them that are located outside the city center have their own free parking spaces in the city center exclusively for their guests.

Paid parking

Paid parking areas are usually designated to some areas in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Kutaisi. They are usually recognized by the “P” letter and the logo of the parking company.

The rate may vary but they are within the range of:

  • Day — 4 lari ($1.6)
  • Week — 10 lari ($4)
  • 6 months — 25 lari ($10.5)
  • Year — 50 lari ($21).

From this, you will notice that the minimum parking duration is 1 day, so you can’t pay on an hourly basis. The payment can be made in the bank through an e-channel on your smartphone or laptop and at the parking terminal. Then after paying, keep the receipt under the windshield so that when the parking inspector comes, it will be easily noticed. It is also important to note that drivers can get fined for leaving their children in a parked vehicle, and the fine starts from $16.50

You will get towed in Georgia if any following conditions occur:

  • You park in a handicapped zone without an appropriate permit.
  • You park at a sign that prohibits parking.
  • You leave your car at a paid parking space 12 hours after your paid parking subscription expires.
  • You park your vehicle and it obstructs the traffic.

If your car were happened to be towed, do not panic. Cars hardly get stolen in this country, therefore what you will do is call the local parking company. If they can’t help you, which is a very rare occurrence, then you can call the police and they will tell you where to find your car.

After this, proceed to the location of the tow yard. Collect the penalty that is designated to your offense, go to bank and pay the fine, and give your payment slip to the person in-charge of the tow yard. Finally, get your car back, go home, and don’t repeat it next time.

DRIVING LAWS IN GEORGIA

Using a Mobile Phone: Using a mobile phone while driving is highly prohibited in Georgia. They practice a zero-tolerance approach to using mobile phones while on wheels. You can make use of a hands-free device to answer your call, or use the GPS, but in no account should you text or make a call while driving. Your license will be taken from you if you are caught by the authorities. Be careful with this because the texting and driving law in Georgia is very strong.

Car Seat Laws: Don’t you even shift the gear stick to drive without strapping on your seat belt, same goes to the other passengers. The Georgian police may be easy on foreigners, but they don’t play with safety on the roads. Children below the age of 12 are not allowed to stay in the front seat. Infants must be in a car safety seat, and well strapped on with the seat belts as well.

Drinking and Driving Laws in Georgia: Georgians are hospitable. Since they make very good wines, they offer it to foreigners as a gesture of welcoming them. However, it is prohibited with zero tolerance to driving under the influence of alcohol. The police reserve the right to ask you to submit your breathalyzer if they think that you are under the influence.

Distracted Driving: Eating and drinking even nonalcoholic drinks even while driving is also prohibited as it can cause the driver to have divided attention while driving.

Zebra Crossing: Despite the spontaneous way that pedestrians cross the road, zebra crossings are recognized very well in the cities. The locals have a way of taking inattentive drivers unawares. So, slow down at Zebra crossings and make sure that no pedestrian has stepped into it while you are still on the approach.

Your driving privileges may be affected in Georgia if you use any of the following substances:

• Illegal drugs
• Alcohol
• Overdose of legal drugs like Codeine and Tramadol

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

WINTER DRIVING TIPS

Winter is a critical time in Georgia. Winter in Georgia is characterized by frequent traffic congestion you will hear things like black ice, sliding, sliding, etc.

When driving on snow during the winter season, the Georgian Department of Transportation (DOT) advises the following for a safe driving:

  • Pay close attention to the DOT crew who is at work on clearing the snow and ice. Do not overtake them at times like this. Instead, keep a distance of about 100 feet behind them.
  • Slow down to a very minimal speed in a low range gear while driving. If your car is equipped with some features that can make driving on slippery roads easier, switch them on.
  • Treat broken street lights as four-way stops. This is very essential as other drivers may not be that sensitive to apply an extra caution when there is such a situation.
  • Beware of Black ice. Black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on the roads. The ice itself is not black, but because it is very transparent and allows the black color of the road pavement to be seen through it, it is then called black ice. The danger that it poses is that drivers cannot see it. Once the car steps on it, the car skids uncontrollably out of its course. Black ice can form under bridges or the parts of the road that is shaded by trees or other structures. If you noticed that you are already sliding, do not match the brakes, keep your steering straight, and release the accelerator pedal. If you don’t have enough space in your front, then match the brake pedal as gently as possible.
  • Watch out for fallen trees. They can appear suddenly on the way, so apply maximum caution and alertness while driving.

IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY

Even if you don’t intend to drive in Georgia, one of the most important things that you must know when you visit a new place is their emergency numbers and service. You should know how to contact the emergency services when any of the following situation occurs:

  • Someone violates your rights.
  • You witness a violation of someone else’s rights and/or any other type of law-breaking.
  • You have urgent health problems.
  • You appear in a dangerous situation (Car crash, fire, flood, earthquake).

The Country of Georgia has only 1 unified emergency number which is 112. Calling this number will help you summon the ambulance, firefighting crew, police, and extreme situation management crew. Since Georgia has experienced some disasters in the past, they have developed a very robust emergency education and system for its citizens and visitors. There is even a web page where children can learn how to recognize an extreme situation and the first reactions that they should execute in the face of such situations.

You are free to call the emergency number 24 hours of the day and 7 days of the week.  When you call 112, keep the following in your mind:

  • Speak clearly and as calm as possible to the operator so that you can be heard in the shortest possible time.
  • Tell the exact location or address of the place to the operator. If you are a tourist, and you are not so conversant with the address of the place, then look for the closest landmark that will make it very easy to locate your destination.
  • Don’t make the story long. Go straight to the point and describe what happened, so that the operator will know the first place to channel your complaint.
  • Say your name and your surname to the operator.
  • Wait until the operator finishes talking before you hang up.

Both the calls and the emergency services are absolutely free of charge.
If you are traveling in a rented car and there is an emergency and your life or the life of your passengers are not threatened, then call the rental company before calling 112. Otherwise, please call 112 first.

If in case you are traveling on a private car and suddenly the car breaks down and cannot move again, call 112 because it has a department that is called the Wrecker Service. Their job is to tow vehicles, and it works better if you are in Tbilisi. This is the actual service that you have to pay for. The service charge is 30 Georgian Lari, standard towing of a vehicle costs 3 Georgian Lari for a distance of 1 Kilometer, and if it is a crane evacuator that you need, then the charge is 4 Georgian Lari for 1 km. So when you have an emergency while driving in Georgia, just dial 112.

Get Your International Driver's Permit in 2 hours

An IDP is a legal requirement to drive or rent a car in several foreign countries. It is also a United Nations regulated travel document for your safety and ease of travel.

explore the beautiful country of georgia

Road trips and destinations are very exciting in Georgia, but you just need a 4×4 SUV for you to truly enjoy your ride. Some places that you can visit outside the capital to behold natural and beautiful sites includes:

  • Borjomi, to see the beautiful river flowing from the mountains.
  • Kazbegi, to hike to the Trinity Church on Mt. Kazbegi.
  • Gaudauri, to experience the winter ski resort and also have a clear view of the neighboring highlands.
  • Bakuriani Ski Resort, to enjoy a ride in the cable cars on your way to the resort and see the awesome view of lush green vegetation.
  • Gori, to see the Museum that is dedicated to Joseph Stalin.
  • Signangi, to drink some of the freshest wines on the planet and also sit down and look at the Mt. Caucasus. This place is also called the city of love.

All these destinations have good access roads. But believe me, you will want to go off-road to come closer to some incredible sights and also take good photo shots. Truly Georgia is an experience to have firsthand.

Don’t believe everything you see in the movies. Georgian drivers might have a few bad habits, but aggression is definitely not one of them, so drive with a smile on your face and enjoy the open road.