Every traveler (including me) knows the problem – how can I spend an amazing holiday while staying on my budget? Where can I find great accommodation and how will I still be able to spend money on souvenirs and great meals?
It is safe to say that Georgia combines all those aspects. You get value for money, whether it is simple or luxurious and basics, such as travel and meals are extremely cheap for western standards.
So if you’re planning your next vacation already, you can keep the tips in mind that made my trips the cheapest (and best!).
1. Choose a local homestay
The best way to get a natural and unique experience of Georgian culture while saving money is to book a room or apartment at a local family’s home. Georgians are very welcoming and hospitable and will love to chat with you. Many houses even offer to cook for you for a very small fee and you can get to know locals while enjoying homemade dishes. If you prefer to stay private, it’s also not a problem. There are many separate apartments being offered and even in local homes your room will always have the privacy you need. A room at the sea, for example in Kobuleti starts at the price of $5.00 per night, a flat in Batumi suitable for a whole family around $45.00. Keep in mind that you will pay less and also find less crowded beaches when booking a room in a village near Batumi. In case you want to stay in Tbilisi you normally pay around 20$ for a flat and 10$ for a room in a guest house. You can easily book online on well-known pages like booking.com but there are also Georgian sites such as infobatumi.ge which might feature more variety and lower prices.
2. Travel like a Georgian
Travel is incredibly cheap in Georgia when you know how to do it. Ditch the train or omnibus for a Marshrutka (which is a mini bus) or Taxi and save some money! A Marshrutka going from Tbilisi to Batumi, which is 375km (232mi) normally costs 20 Lari ($9.00) per person. Normally Taxis and Marshrutkas drop you off at central stations but for 5 GEL ($2.10) most drivers will drive you directly to your hotel. It’s important to negotiate with Taxi drivers, as they will sometimes charge tourists more, but keep these average prices in Lari in mind to be sure. All drivers I’ve met were very friendly and did their best, so don’t worry about being tricked. In case you’re taking a bus in the city, prepare to pay less than 0.50 USD.
3. Eat local and fresh products
Georgian restaurants and fast food shops mostly have very good prices, for 1 GEL ($0.40) you can eat a hotdog or freshly baked Khachapuri, a big Adjaruli Khachapuri or meat dish will cost around $3.00 to $4.00, so you can order anything you like without second thoughts. Bear in mind that Georgians often order many different dishes they share, so salads will most likely come in smaller portions and sides for meat dishes have to be ordered separately. But as Georgian food is mostly very nourishing, you won’t need to worry about staying hungry when you’re on a budget. If you want to cook at home, you should stick to fresh Georgian products, as imported goods such as chocolate, oil or foreign cheeses are mostly very expensive for local standards. Fresh fruit and vegetables are mostly unbelievably cheap and you will be able to cook great dishes with them, as the natural and unprocessed quality enhances the taste.
Now that you’ve got a good overview on the prices, let’s calculate the costs of an example trip to Georgia. Let’s imagine you arrive at Tbilisi airport and stay in Tbilisi for two days, after which you will travel to Batumi for five days. Two nights in Tbilisi will be around $20.00, meals for two days around $30. Let’s add $9.00 for the bus ride and $5.00 for snacks and meals on the way and you’re at the sea, having spent only $64.00.
As you’ve chosen a very nice room with access to a kitchen in a homestay in Kobuleti, four nights will cost you $40.00. At a local shop you can get everything you need for breakfast for the next days for $5.00. Let’s say you’ll also spend $5.00 on buses or taxis to Batumi, snacks and some souvenirs. Dinner on four days will cost you around 50 USD. You will see that after some relaxing days at the beach you will only have spent $164.00. After having saved a lot of money, don’t be shy to spoil yourself a little and go shopping in Batumi or have a great party at a beachside club in Kobuleti.
Only $10.00 will get you and your new suntan back to your guest house in Tbilisi and, including dinner in Tbilisi that day, your total expenses will be around $250.00. However, after a good night’s sleep you might want to think about staying just a little longer.