Vacation in Tbilisi, Georgia...what do I need to know?

My husband and I booked a room and flights to Tbilisi, Georgia in May. This is my first time traveling internationally and his first travel since his service in the Navy. What do we need to know? Any helpful suggestions?

We also have an eight hour layover in Istanbul, so suggestions there would be greatly appreciated as well.

If you’re from the US, keep your eyes on the visa situation for Americans traveling in Turkey. It used to be very easy to get a visa for cash on arrival; then the US and Turkey got into a spat and briefly stopped issuing tourist visas at all; at the moment it’s possible to get tourist visas once again, but you may have to apply in advance (online information about this is somewhat conflicting, and it may change quickly anyhow).

Thank you. We did look into this and found out we can apply online, but no more than three months in advance. We will continue to monitor the situation.

I lived in Tbilisi in 2002-03. The old city is really wonderful but you’ll also want to get out to Mtskheta (close to Tbilisi) and Geleti Monastery near Kutaisi too. It’s been so long that all my practical information will be outdated but a friend who lives there says I would not recognize the place. Try to get a couple days in Istanbul - one of the world’s great cities.

Never trust a taxi driver, have it in writing and at least two reliable witnesses. I never rode in a Tbilisi taxi without a major ripoff effort by the driver, in which he has a decided advantage. I sat in my favorite outdoor cafe (the one up the long wide stairway by the old church) and watched fistfights in the street, between drivers and passengers they were trying to cheat. They quote you a fare in Lira, and then tell you at your destination (which they may or may actually take you to) that no, no, they meant dollars. Five bucks, not five lira.

You’ve been warned.

Everyone else in Georgia is very nice, and very very proud of their country, which they will never stop telling you about. Eat Khanchanaburi every day, it should look like this, which I think is Batumi style

When the liquor comes out, sip slowly and pace yourself. And never try to outdrink a Georgian.

Should I bulk up on my streetfighting skills or is there a preferred method of public transportation? My husband has mentiond renting a car, but I don’t know how feasible that really is.

(Khachapuri is the main reason we are going to Georgia.)

FWIW I never negotiated a taxi fare the entire time I lived there. I would just pay a fair price. At the time it was 2-3 Lari (not Lira) within town and up to 5 Lari for example to go all the way out Chavchavadze from Freedom Sq.