Some General Information and Tips for Travelling in Georgia
Comprehensive guidebooks for Georgia are still fairly scarce, therefore I wanted to create a useful guide for families plan to travel with babies and kids through this exciting country. I have therefore collected here general information and tips for anyone exploring Georgia independently (even those without children) but also with some tips for those with little ones. Georgia is encouraging tourists and has reduced visa requirements, those from Europe will not need a visa but you should check before booking.
Choosing where to Stay in Georgia and Tbilisi with Kids
Georgia, compared to most other European countries, is still in its infant stage concerning tourism, and therefore finding accommodation, especially in the rural and remote areas can be surprisingly difficult. This is doubly so if you want a place to stay that has been beautifully designed and offering a higher standard of accommodation than a traditional cheap bed and breakfast house. There are plenty of options, mostly at a low price if you do not mind staying at a traditional homestay or farmstead B&B, these tend to offer fairly basic accommodation, clean but normally with somewhat old and traditional décor, along with a friendly but perhaps somewhat random level of service.
Places providing Western levels of luxury – even at the three star level – are almost as expensive as the equivalent ones in regional European cities. You can find a presence from the classic large hotel chains in Tiblisi, Batumi and perhaps Kutaisi, but outside these centres, there is really only a choice of traditional inns and B&B’s. A few designer and boutique hotels are emerging in the smaller tourist centres like Borjomi and Stepantsminda, so it is worth searching for these if your budget stretches, mots now have a presence on the hotel booking sites. Likewise Airbnb type accommodation is emerging but the market is not yet mature so research carefully.
Additional Tips on Booking a Hotel
One useful point for those with a family along is that I found family rooms or extra beds are generally on offer at most hotels, hostels and homestays, plus the prices almost always include breakfast. We found staff to always be very welcoming, warm and helpful but not everyone speaks English, Russian might prove more useful, or the help of a good translation app.
In case you are planning to visit remote areas like the resorts in the Caucasus Mountains, Svaneti and some other rural areas it might be advisable to check access. Apart from the main roads, reaching your accommodation might be across bumpy, narrow tracks, at times even rather steep. Also parking might be further away from your hotel/hostel and be harder to get to than you are used to. I would definitely recommend hiring a 4×4 if you are travelling independently and want to explore off the beaten path places. Parking in towns and Tbilisi is generally free and we never had trouble but do not expect your hotel to always have a private car park, unless you stay in one of the large hotel complexes that belong to international chains.
Where we Stayed During our Trips to Georgia
I searched out for us a mix of boutique hotels, and hostels, plus a traditional B&B as follows:
Tbilsi: Fabrika Hostel and Communal Hotel:
A converted factory with a cool vibe and some excellent, reasonably priced rooms for families.
Borjomi: Golden Tulip Hotel
A luxury retreat right in the heart of this royal resort, a building with an incredible history and matching rich décor.
Kutaisi: Grand Piano Bed and Breakfast,
A charming family bed and breakfast, with a central location and traditional rooms.
Stepantsminda (Kazbegi) Rooms Hotel,
Sister to Fabrika Hostel a larger hotel with a modern vibe and incredible views from the terrace towards majestic Mt Kazbek.
Some General Tips and Information for Travellers with Babies
I have also collected some general information and practical tips that should help you on your travels through Georigia and Tiblisi with babies, younger children and even older kids below:
Baby food is surprisingly easy to find pretty much everywhere. Basically any pharmacy or drugstore sell a varied range of brands and tastes, even organic baby food is easy to get, thanks to a large number of German brands selling their ranges in Georgia. We found pharmacies in all the small towns, often several.
Baby Formula Milk:
Again baby milk formula is readily available at most pharmacies in the country. However I would always advise you to consider bringing your own if your baby only drinks a certain brand at home, you might not be able to buy the same baby formula in Georgia – it would be a shame if you have a cranky baby due to the fact it has a different taste from their normal experience. Of course it is good to try and have a baby that is flexible but all parents know that is not always easy to achieve. Be aware that even the same brand might taste different due to differing production and they could refuse to drink it. I would advise to always use bottled water or cooled boiled water to prepare your baby formula, although adults and older children can readily drink tap water in Georgia, in fact most of it comes direct from the mountain springs, but it is always advisable to refrain from using it for the youngest children and babies to avoid upset tummies.
Georgia is a tolerant society, unlike some of its neighbours in the region, but outside the main towns the population is still somewhat traditional. Breastfeeding is possible if you are discreet and careful, find a quiet hidden corner and you are unlikely to be disturbed, take a shawl and cover yourself and baby and you should be fine, just avoid too much of a public display.
Drinks for Babies and Children:
Fresh and bottled juices are generally available in Georgia, it still grows a large number of varied fruits throughout the country. There are fruit stalls along the roads and in villages, offering local produce and sometimes even the “national” drink of kompott (sweetened fruit juice). Kompott maybe too sugary for some young children, but watered down with either still or sparkling water it makes an excellent, refreshing alternative to lemonade. The national pride is their bottled water – ask for Borjomi water if you want it sparkling.
Food for Older Children:
Europe and the middle east, especially Iran and Turkey have influenced Georgian food over the last centuries. While none of the dishes we had would be considered exotic, they might still taste unusual to tiny taste buds but there is plant that the little one can eat even if the diet is not so varied. We found that most restaurants offered the same dishes all over again, albeit with some small variations and after three weeks we could not wait to have something different to the local fare. Many restaurants, especially in the larger tourist centres will offer a small number of special dishes for kids like spaghetti or pizza.
Dishes like Kinkali dumplings and the cheese pie Khachapuri … might sound foreign and exotic but we quickly fell in love with much of the local cuisine. I would recommend to little ones at least to try and taste the dishes and you might be surprised how adventurous they can be. Few of the dishes are spicy and many will remind the children of other things that they normally eat.
Some Additional Advice on Gerogian Food:
In general people order a few dishes from the menu to share around the table. We were quite surprised to find that vegetables are seldom found on the menu, if so they tend to be grilled on skewers or dished up as salads. Jerome’s favourite was the tomato and cucumber salad, which we found on pretty much every menu. I should also mention that food contains a lot of fresh herbs, like tarragon, mint etc. He also loved Georgian bread (puri), which can be found fresh daily all over the villages and towns, it is folded in interesting shapes the most common one looks like a cows horns! Also travellers with nut allergies should pay special attention and let the restaurant staff know before ordering anything as nuts are a popular ingredient in Georgian food.
Nappies and Other Baby Essentials:
Most baby essential like nappies can be bought at pharmacies and supermarket throughout Georgia. It is still advisable to pack enough for the first few days in the country.
Public toilets are less common in Georgia and they do not always pass Western standards, so keep some tissue paper in your bag or pocket as it might come in handy. A trip to or a pause at a good café or restaurant is perhaps the best option during wanders around town for the small price of a coffee or drink. Also do keep a few small coins for the public toilets aside in your wallet just in case.
Baby Changing Facilities:
Do not expect to find any baby changing rooms at any of the sights or places you visit in Georgia. Bring your own travel-changing mat alongside your baby changing bag and other necessities, be prepared to find an out of sight place to change baby.
Should you Take a Pushchair or Baby Carrier?
Parents with a pushchair might struggle along the bumpy and potholed pavements and roads in Georgia, even in the larger cities like Tbilisi. Steep hills add to the difficulties you night have when using a pram or pushchair for your baby or young child. I would highly advise taking a baby sling or backpack for carrying your kids around the cities, and a backpack carrier is essential in the country areas.
When is the Best Time to Visit Georgia
Winters in Georgia are cold and snowfall is widely spread through out the country. Especially in the higher reaches of the High and Low Caucasus during the winter months it may prove difficult to reach certain places. On the other hand, the resorts like Bakuriani and Gudauri are starting to gain a reputation for winter sports, including skiing and snowboarding by constantly expanding and improving their lifts and pistes.
During the Summer months the heat can be unbearable day and night in the lower areas and big city. Tiblisi can hit over 40 degrees Celcius in the summer months. For travellers and families that have difficulties to cope with the heat, the mountains offer a refreshing climate, warm but not so hot, during the day, cooler by night. If you are there in the summer make sure you take plenty of water with you to avoid dehydration and let children drink regularly. Sun protection will be essential wherever you go!
Spring and Autumn
For some families the best time to visit Georgia is late Spring and early Autumn when temperatures are comfortable and provide the perfect climate for discovering and touring this beautiful country. However, the heat lovers may enjoy the summer months more, cooling off in the many lakes, rivers and streams.
Enjoy Your Trip!
I hope my tips and advice will help you plan your independent family holiday to Georgia and you will enjoy exploring this interesting and diverse country just as much as we did. Need some inspiration on where to go, discover our itinerary and some advice on where and what to explore here.
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