By Nicholo Jallores
This article is part of a series of Georgia travelogues entitled #MeetMeInTbilisi, written by the same author, and has been edited ever so slightly (but with great thought and loving dork-iness) to fit a single-feature format.
Georgia is a small, landlocked country in Eurasia, nestled snuggly in the fertile lands between Eastern Europe and West Asia. The government is a unitary, semi-presidential republic. The official language is Kartuli. The currency is called lari. The capital is Tbilisi.
Mmmmkay. Now that we’ve gotten the boring, obligatory Wiki type of description out of our way, let me tell you honestly what Georgia is:
It’s everything a traveller could ever dream of: rugged but safe; charming and yet progressive; quiet, but abuzz with life. It’s heritage is a gorgeous tapestry of Asian exoticism, Middle Eastern vigour, and European charm. The food is great, the people are kind, the weather is paradisial. And on top of it all, a trip to Georgia is likely to be the most budget-friendly holiday you’ve ever had.
Please excuse me if I sound like a brochure, or like I work for the Georgian tourism authority. It’s just that my holiday in Georgia was such a magical and transformative experience, I can’t help but speak of it exclusively in superlatives. Sure I ran into a few kinks here and there but those were made irrelevant by all the wonders that Georgia had to offer.
Why visit Georgia, you ask? Hah! Why not?
Let’s prefix this narrative with the 3 reasons why you shouldn’t visit Georgia:
1.) You don’t have money, and
2.) You’ve used up all your leave allowances
3.) You just physically can’t. Other than those two, you have no excuse to not see this amazing country.
Here are the reasons why I think you and every Filipino should visit Georgia.
1.) THE LANDSCAPE IS BEAUTIFUL AND DIVERSE
Tbilisi alone is worth the trouble, but it gets even better as you visit the neighboring towns. One day you’re in the desert-like plains near the Azerbaijan border; the next day you’re up on a verdant hill looking at a thousand-year old church. Today you’ll be visiting an ancient monastery carved on the side of a rock cliff; tomorrow you’ll be skiing in snow slopes that rival the Swiss Alps. There is just so much to see and do in this small country in a short amount of time!
2.) IT’S CHEAP
This is likely to be one of the most budget-friendly holidays you will ever have. You essentially get a full-fledged European experience, at near the cost of what you would spend in Thailand or India, and certainly nowhere near the living standards in Dubai, or even Manila! Sulit!
3.) IT’S (ALMOST) VISA-FREE
Getting in is easy. Filipinos who are based in the Philippines just need to apply for an e-Visa online, while those who are based in the GCC get visa upon arrival. Basically, you get the look and feel of Europe sans the cost and hassles of getting a Shengen visa. Of course, visa policies change all the time, so it’s better to consult the official Georgian government portals.
4.) GEORGIAN FOOD IS AMAZING
Freshly baked breads, steaming dumplings, robust barbecues and roasts, rich stews, spicy soups – Georgian food is as close to gastronomic heaven as French or Italian cuisine, but receives nowhere near as much global attention. I am by default a hearty eater, but my appetite in Georgia was just shocking, and so will yours if you go with an open mind and mouth.
5.) GEORGIANS ARE GRACIOUS AND HOSPITABLE
I know every country likes to say that their people are hospitable, but in Georgia, there is truth to the advertisement. The Georgians I’ve met are as kind as their reputation suggests. Naturally, I did run into some random douches, but there are douches in every corner of the planet. On the whole, I find that Georgians are gracious, helpful, and genuinely caring.
6.) TBILISI IS SAFE FOR TOURISTS
At least safe enough that you can pull out your smartphone and take photos all day without having to worry that some goon will mug you for it. The crime rate in Tbilisi is relatively low, there’s police everywhere, and there is a hotline emergency number that you can call: 112. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get mugged in Tbilisi, but at least it’s not Manila. You all know exactly what I mean.
7.) A LOT OF TIMES, YOU’LL FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE GEORGIA ALL TO YOURSELF
The population density is low, and they only use around 5 to 10 percent of their land area. There aren’t a lot of people around, especially in winter, so there’s more space for you. I had the privilege of exploring Georgia off-season, and very often I found myself alone in the ancient sites – which was great! It felt like a secret world. For travellers looking to get away from it all, this is a marvelous thing.
I stayed in Georgia for almost two weeks – plenty of to wander aimlessly around Tbilisi as well as see the famous landmarks in the neighboring provinces. However, I am quite aware that not a lot of people have the luxury of having as much time for a holiday. The good news is that even if you only really had 2 or 3 days to spare, you could still have a pretty spectacular experience in Georgia, as Tbilisi alone is worth the trouble. It’s small, but it’s bursting with interesting sights and wonders.
Here’s my list of the Top Things to see in Tbilisi!