Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, has come a long way since the Rose Revolution in 2003. Overthrowing the post-Soviet government, the country started to look up to its western neighbors. Ancient architecture, a modern cultural scene, and Georgian hospitality are what make this country unique.
Tbilisi’s old town is full of narrow cobblestone lanes, reflecting its complicated history of Persian and Russian rule. The impact of these invasions is still visible present today, with the city featuring ornate art nouveau buildings alongside soviet modernist structures.
The country is becoming a popular destination for budget and adventure travelers. You can enjoy mountains, lush nature, ski resorts, underdeveloped towns and remote villages with the highest altitude settlement in Europe.
Georgia has always been a cheap destination for travelers, but the decline of the Georgian Lari against stronger currencies means that it is becoming even cheaper. At the time of writing (Feb 2017), 1 USD=2.64 GEL and 1 Euro= 2.83 GEL.
The advantages of Tbilisi for digital nomads are the affordable cost of living, moderate weather (it almost never snows in the capital, and melts within a day when it does), hot summer and a beautiful old town. The borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan are very close to Tbilisi and, since WizzAir began offering Georgian flights, it has become extremely cheap to visit Europe from Kutaisi, the former capital and second largest city in Georgia.
My favorite thing to do in Tbilisi is watch over the city from Narikala fortress at sundown.
Cost of Living
Living in Tbilisi is relatively cheap in general, but you can save even more by staying outside of the city center and living like a local. The recent devaluation of the Lari slightly raised the price of groceries, petrol, and alcohol. Yet, compared with other European or overseas cities, it is still a budget destination.
Renting an entire apartment can cost from $200, depending on the district. Prices are often quoted in US dollars and tenants are asked to pay in dollars. However, you can still find owners who ask for Lari too.
According to Airbnb, Tbilisi is the cheapest city for renting an entire apartment. And some of them are even quite cute. Prices start from $28 per night.
The cost of food will depend on the venue and how often you eat out. However, there are relatively cheap places to eat traditional and Asian cuisine. On average a person needs around 20-25 Lari ($7-9) per meal, which might include a couple of dishes and a drink.
Transportation here includes minibuses, called Marshutka, which cost 80 Tetri (29 ¢) per ride, while bus and metro rides cost 50 Tetri (18 ¢). However, if you have a MetroMoney card, you can travel by bus and metro for free for 90 minutes after buying the ticket. Paying with the card on Marshutka reduces your subsequent trips each day to 65 Tetri (24 ¢) during the day.
Best Places to Work From
Tbilisi does not have many coworking spaces as the concept is new here. For more European style coworking spaces, check out Impact Hub and Vere Loft. Both offer monthly memberships in different price ranges and diverse infrastructure. They are open 24/7. For more budget option, Generator 9.8 offers FREE working space. However, the time is limited to 10am to 7pm Monday to Saturday. In the evening, Generator 9.8 becomes an overcrowded bar full of young locals.
Moreover, the city has its own free WiFi, called Tbilisi Loves You. It is available in most districts and areas. The connection is not always super-fast, but it lets you catch up with friends on Facebook and Instagram, reply to emails or search for a spot on the go.
Must-see Landmarks in Tbilisi
One of the must-see sights in Tbilisi is its Old Town. Featuring Narikala fortress, sulfur baths and cobblestone narrow lanes leading to traditional brick houses with carved wooden balconies, the old town is a marvelous experience.
Narikala, located on the hill overlooking the city is an ancient symbol of Tbilisi. Constructed in the 4th century, it was once known as Invidious Fort. Locals believe that the name comes from a Persian word for the citadel, but another theory notes that in Mongolian it meant “little fortress”.
Directly below Narikala hill lies Abanotubani, a district with public bathhouses of natural sulfurous water.
This is the area where, according to legend, King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s falcon fell. This was when he discovered hot springs and founded a new capital. Tbilisi is the combination of two words, and means “warm waters”.
From here, you can stroll towards Shareni, Mambis Rigi or Rkinis Rigi streets. These pedestrian-only areas are full of cafés, bars and clubs.
Another absolute must-visit is Tbilisi’s new landmark, the Tower Clock. Every hour an angel rings the bell with a hammer, but if you’re there at noon or 7 pm, you’ll see a small puppet theater show “The Circle of Life”. Tower Clock also has a unique exterior that features hundreds of handmade tiles.
Handpicked meals from Georgian cuisine
Generally, feasts are an important custom here. Each region has its own individual meals and culinary traditions. Therefore, the cuisine here is very diverse and authentic. You should know that Georgian meals are heavy in dough, meat, and walnuts. The cuisine suits both meat lovers and vegetarians.
It goes without saying that eating a meal in the region it was originally developed is better. But don’t worry! Some places in Tbilisi still offer these authentic meals.
The number one meal favored by locals and foreigners is Khinkali, a type of meat dumpling. Khinkali have to be eaten in the right way; it has a broth inside, so you should avoid spilling this on your plate while eating. This needs a bit of practice, but you’ll get there. Vegetarians can enjoy mushroom or potato Khinkali.
Foreigners visiting Georgia are keen on vegetables in walnut sauce, and especially eggplant. For locals, walnuts play a vital role in the cuisine and can be found in almost anything, even desserts.
Spinach, bell pepper, cabbage and eggplant seasoned with walnut sauce are an essential part of Georgian cuisine and feasts. It’s found on literally every dinner table. Usually, they are prepared and served separately, but some restaurants serve them as a mixture.
Another all-time favorite is Khachapuri, a pizza-like meal full of mozzarella-like cheese. The variety changes from region to region, with one of the most distinguished from the Adjara region. Often called a “cheese boat” by visitors, the meal is unique in its shape and preparation method. After baking in a brick oven, a raw egg is cracked on top, together with a knob of butter. Like Khinkali, this meal also has its own eating method. The insides should be mixed together and bread should be dipped in the cheese.
Lastly, you should definitely try the candle-shaped Georgian snack/dessert, Churchkhela. Made of grape juice and nuts, it is a very common dessert served during Christmas in Georgia.
Important Resources you Might Need
If you plan on staying in Tbilisi for a while, you might want to get a SIM card to get a great mobile connection or call befriended locals. Magti GSM provides a great internet connection, while Geocell has better call and SMS packages.
Prospero’s Books & Caliban’s Coffeehouse and Biblus Gallery offer a wide selection of English books.
To see what events, exhibitions, and festivals are happening in the capital, check out Tbilisi Life.
Depending on the season, Tbilisi hosts a flea market in various locations. Here you can find used clothes, handmade accessories, paintings and much more. Another event to consider visiting is a Startup Market, which helps start-up businesses to attract visitors and customers.
Tbilisi is a great up and coming destination for Digital Nomads. Have you visited or are you planning to? Please share in the comments below!
Baia is a freelance writer, travel junkie, food lover and amateur photographer. She quit her editorial job at the newspaper with a passion for doing what she loves most – traveling and writing on her personal blog Red Fedora Diary. Learn more about her adventures by following her on Facebook and Instagram