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Getting Around Tbilisi

by Cam Waller

Dec 25, 2014

Tbilisi, Georgia © Connect1 | Dreamstime


An ancient country and former Soviet state that regained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Republic of Georgia has a history dating back at least to the 12th century BC. Tbilisi, the capital, offers a great off-the-beaten path travel opportunity with plenty of transportation options for visitors.


There are three modes of public transportation to use in Tbilisi — the metro, buses and marshutkas.


There are two metro lines in Tbilisi. The Saburtalo line runs east-west — from the west residential area to just east of the city center — while the Akhmeteli-Varketili line runs north-southeast, from the northern suburbs, through the city center and to the east. Both go through Station Square, where you can transfer from one to the other. Stop names are usually posted in Georgian, Russian and Latin letters. For tourists, the Akhmeteli-Varketili line is convenient since it runs through the most popular parts of the city and stops near many destinations. One ride costs 50 tetri (about 25 cents), and rechargeable cards are available for 2 lari (about $1).


Buses in Tbilisi run certain routes and only stop at bus stops. Bus information is usually only available in Georgian, but there are some information boards in English. Rides cost 50 tetri and the same cards available for the metro can be used on the bus. Upon boarding and paying you receive a receipt that should be kept to validate your trip, as officials randomly board to ensure everyone has paid.


Marshutkas — like the Russian versions — are minibuses that run certain routes and stop anywhere along the said route. You board by flagging them down and get off by calling out to the driver when you’re ready to stop. They cover a lot more of the city than buses do and are usually more convenient than trying to find a bus stop. Information is usually only in Georgian and prices average 80 tetri (42 cents). On yellow marshutkas, fares can be paid using a metro card.


One can also get around Tbilisi via taxi. Most taxi drivers work independently and may try to overcharge you if you don’t speak Georgian or Russian. Fares within the city center should usually be about 5 lari ($2.65) or less with reasonable fares farther out in the city ranging to about 15 lari ($7.95). Fares to and from the airport average around 30 lari ($15.89). Taxis are especially useful at night when other modes of transportation are unavailable.


If you or someone you know speaks Georgian or Russian, marshutkas and taxis offer you the widest range of access throughout Tbilisi, otherwise using the metro and taxis will be most convenient. Walking is also a great way to explore the city center, especially with a map and travel guide in your own language.



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