Travel to Georgia

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Travel to Georgia

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Where is Georgia?

Georgia is in the Caucasus region on the east coast of the Black Sea, wedged between Russia to the north and Turkey, Armenia & Azerbaijan to the south. It is about 2,590km east of Munich, 3,450km east of London & 8,890km east of New York!

Getting to Georgia is best via airports in Europe, but also possible via Turkey, the middle east & Russia. We don’t recommend the Russia option unless you already reside there!

A few things to consider/remember/ponder/get over before travelling there include:

  • Fly into the right airport! (more on that below!);.
  • Mountain driving in Georgia is 'an experience & unless you are super-adventurous, forget about renting a car.
  • Despite having a train network, taking the train in Georgia is generally not an efficient travel option - ever!
  • The safest & quickest option for getting around Georgia is with a professional personal driver pre-organised by yourself, a tour operator, or your hotel.
  • For high adventure try and take a local marshrutka (minibus) to get to a destination - you may only do it once but it is fun. Not recommended with a lot of ski gear though because in a packed minibus, where are those expensive skis going?

All the tours on Powderhounds include transfers from the airport so are a great way to get to know the country without the stress of wondering how you are getting from A to B.

Flights to Georgia

The major gateway airports into Georgia are the capital Tbilisi (TBS) & the second largest city of Kutaisi (KUT). The airports are at opposite sides of the country, nearly 4hr drive apart (270km). A third option at Batumi (BUS) in the southwest of the country has limited scheduled flights from mainly eastern Europe & middle-eastern origins. Batumi can be useful to access the very snowy Lesser Caucasus including the new ski resort at Goderdzi.

Your final destination in Georgia will dictate your choice of airport. For Gudauri & Kazbegi, Tbilisi is your entry; for Bakhmaro & Adjara or Tetnuldi, Hatsvali, Mestia & the Svaneti, Kutaisi is the most convenient. Tbilisi is far & away the easier of the airports to fly to, with regular flights from most major European origins.

Kutaisi is somewhat more problematic. Flights are 2 to 3 times a week from a handful of major & several secondary European airports including Milan Malpensa, London - Luton, Berlin, Memmingen - Munich West, Basel & several others. Flights from each origin are generally every 2 or 3 days. Working the flights into a short duration itinerary is difficult, but certainly not impossible. Luckily, most tour operators understand the vagaries of the flight schedules into the country & will work around them.

Travel around Georgia

Once in Georgia, getting around the country is not as easy as one would hope either. Buses, marshrutkas (minibuses), taxis, rental cars & even trains can be utilised in the country. Unless you are a sadist, trying to catch an overcrowded marshrutka whilst laden with ski gear & trying to decipher signs in the local language is a task best left to travel professionals.

The regional trains in Georgia have a limited network, run infrequently & are slow. Not the greatest mode of travel around Georgia, which is unfortunate as we do love a good environmentally friendly train journey to the snow! Metro trains in Tbilisi can be useful if checking out the city.

Rental cars are available at the major Georgian airports, however driving into the mountains, even just to Mestia, is not for the faint-hearted. Beyond the major towns, winter road maintenance is minimal (by many nation's standards). The road to Tetnuldi ski resort from Mestia is infamous for being both tortuous & treacherous all at once. Best let the locals drive you instead.

For the moment, the easiest mode of travel for mere mortals is with an organised tour or via a pre-arranged private transfer direct to a ski resort or hotel. It’s no surprise that all of the listed tours for Georgia on Powderhounds have transfers included!

Getting to Gudauri & Kazbegi

The Gudauri ski resort is around 120km north of the capital Tbilisi & the heliski & ski-touring zone around Dariali, in the Kazbegi, a further 42km (1hr +) drive to the north near the Russian border. For the country’s largest ski area, Gudauri is surprising difficult for the uninitiated to get too. The closest major international airport is Tbilisi (TBS), 140km or 2½hr drive to the ski resort, but a better option is possibly Kutaisi (KUT), further to the west. There are direct & regular bus transfers to Gudauri from Kutaisi airport, however the drawback is less frequent flight arrivals from fewer origins than Tbilisi.

Travel from the Tbilisi airport to Gudauri is best arranged prior to arrival via your tour operator, hotel or via an online service such as the link below. Anyone travelling ‘under their own steam’ & on the cheap can still organise a local taxi to make the journey, but make you agree on price before doing so. Public transport options from the airport to Gudauri are near non-existent. A train & buses connect the airport to the Tbilisi city centre from where it is possible to take a minibus (known locally as a marshrutka) to Gudauri. The marshrutka leave from a hectic bus station in Didube, which is near the subway train station of the same name. Signs on the buses tend to be in Georgian, so you will have to ask! Enjoy!

Search & book a seamless, but expensive, private transfer direct from the Tbilisi airport to Gudauri here.

For a direct, cheap but comfortable bus from Kutaisi airport to Gudauri search & buy tickets via the Georgian Bus website.

Getting to Mestia & the Svaneti

The Svaneti in the north-east of Georgia is home to heliskiing, ski touring and the Tetnuldi & Hatsvali ski resorts. A remote region, the Svaneti (Svanetia) is amongst the highest peaks of the Caucasus mountains in northern Georgia. The town of Mestia is the main centre for the region and the usual base to ski this vast area. Organised tours & heliskiing all include airport transfers from the airports or major cities, so getting to Mestia will be easy for some! For others not on a guided & hosted tour, whilst Tetnuldi ski resort is only 15km drive (1hr) by road east of the historic town of Mestia, journeys to there are not the easiest in the world. The nearest major city & airport are at Kutaisi, 250km by road south of the ski area. The road journey to Mestia from Kutaisi is a tortuous 6hr. The Kutaisi Airport (KUT) has a limited number of flights daily from several major & secondary airports throughout Europe. Alternatively, flying into Tbilisi (TBS) is an option, but the journey to Mestia is several hours longer. Batumi (BUS) airport in the south west of Georgia is an option too.

For the Kutaisi airport the quickest way to Mestia (& Tetnuldi) is via a private transfer. Mainstream public transport services direct to Tetnuldi from the airport do not exist (that we are aware of any!), so a bus or taxi into the city, then a minibus (marshrutki) from the main Kutaisi bus station is required. This is a cheap alternative (25-30GEL) to a private transfer but comes with the relative discomfort of a lengthy transfer in a cramped bus plus a big question mark over where one puts your skis!

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Once in Mestia, the final part of the journey is along an ice & snow-covered road with a reputation bordering on the notoriously bad! Local accommodation providers can organise a taxi or shuttle up to the mountain, but it is recommended to only use 4x4 or truck/bus transport during winter. Rental cars should similarly only be driven up by experienced drivers with vehicles equipped for winter driving. The term best used to describe how to drive in the Georgian mountains is with ‘caution’.

Getting to Cat Skiing in Bakhmaro & Adjara

Cat Skiing in Bakhmaro & Adjara is in the Lesser Caucasus mountains of south-west Georgia, close to the eastern shore of the Black Sea. The region has some of the highest snowfalls in Europe. Bakhmaro is at 2,050m elevation only 90km by road south of the Kutaisi (KUT) airport, which in turn is about 24km from Georgia's second largest city, Kutaisi. Adjara is further into the mountains at 2,400m altitude.

There are two gateway airports for cat skiing in Bakhmaro & Adjara. From Kutaisi International Airport (KUT) (a.k.a. the grandiose named 'David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport') Bakhmaro is a 2hr drive & 1½hr snowcat journey away in winter.

Tbilisi Airport (TBS) is over 200km further to the east but is serviced by more flights from a wider range of origins, although transfers included in cat ski tours at Bakhmaro/Adjara are only for guests landing at Kutaisi. Of course, you can ask the tour operators about a transfer from Tbilisi, but it will cost extra.

A Final Word

Some of the descriptions above may be a tad confronting and indeed may serve to put one off travelling to Georgia. DONT BE PUT OFF. Eyes wide open. Life is adventure & Georgia still has some ...... lots in fact. Get on a tour, go, enjoy. You will only be a year older if you don’t! Peep peep, toot toot.