We advise that you exercise caution if travelling to Georgia. Following the conflict with Russia in 2008, the situation has stabilised but remains tense. It is advised that you do not travel, however, to the separatist areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and avoid all but essential travel to the areas bordering South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sporadic attacks continue. In addition, no Irish citizen should attempt to cross the land border with Russia.
Protest demonstrations in Tbilisi can take place periodically. Caution is urged if you are in Tbilisi at the time of a protest.
It is recommended that you register with the Irish Embassy in Sofia at the link above if you are travelling to Georgia. Should you require assistance, please contact the Embassy for advice on +359 2 985 3425.
The Department of Foreign Affairs strongly recommends that you obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before travelling to Georgia. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.
Irish Citizens should note that the Irish Government does not provide funds for emergency medical repatriation or for repatriation of remains.
Irish passport holders do not require a visa to enter Georgia. Irish passport holders can remain in Georgia for up to 360 days. If you wish to stay longer than 360 days, you should apply for a temporary or permanent residency permit from the Civil Registration Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia. Overstaying a residency permit can result in immediate deportation and a ban on re-entering Georgian territory for up to one year.
If you travel into Georgia with a child other than your own, you must have evidence of the consent of the child’s parents or guardians.
Safety and Security
Protests are not uncommon in Georgia, particularly at times of heightened political tension. We therefore advise citizens to avoid areas where large crowds are gathered as situations may develop rapidly. We recommend that you remain aware of what is going on in your surroundings and keep checking local media reports.
There were incidents last year involving small explosions in parts of Tbilisi. While these have not been repeated in recent months, we recommend that you remain alert.
The serious fighting witnessed in August 2008 has calmed down substantially and life in Tbilisi has returned to normal. The conflict has resulted, however, in a serious humanitarian crisis for the people of Georgia. The separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain in the control of Russian forces and we advise against attempts to travel there. We advise against all but essential travel to the areas near the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABLs) of these regions as sporadic attacks and incidents can still occur. There are reports of unexploded ordinance in areas where fighting took place in August 2008. These areas should be avoided until they have been confirmed clear.
You should not attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (i.e. Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) under any circumstances. The border crossing between the Russian Federation and unoccupied Georgia at Verkhny Lars reopened in March 2010 for citizens of the CIS and Georgia. However, traffic is extremely regulated and neither Russian nor Georgian visas are available at the crossing. The crossing is not open to tourists.
It is illegal to enter Georgia via Abkhazia or South Ossetia as there is no official border control. If you do so you may face criminal prosecution, which carries a prison sentence of up to four years. If your passport contains entry/exit stamps from the separatist Abkhazian or South Ossetian authorities, the Georgian authorities may consider this as illegal entry into Georgia via an unrecognised border crossing.
Although Tbilisi itself is considered to be a relatively safe city, normal precautions should be taken when visiting the tourist areas and areas frequented by foreigners. Do not carry large amounts of cash or wear eye-catching jewellery. Do not draw attention to yourself. There have been reports of muggings near Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia in Tbilisi and it is recommended that you do not walk alone in this area.
Take extra precautions after dark as areas can be poorly lit. We advise visitors to take licensed taxis and to refrain from walking alone.
Keep in regular contact with friends and family while in Georgia and, if possible, register with the Irish Embassy in Bulgaria before travelling (www.embassyofireland.bg)
Local Laws and Customs
You should refrain from photographing sensitive sites such as military bases and installations. You should also be aware of cultural sensitivities when visiting and photographing religious sites. Always seek permission if in doubt.
You should carry a copy of your passport at all times.
Natural Disasters and Climate
Georgia is situated in an area of seismic activity. The last earthquake in Tbilisi, with a magnitude between 4.3 and 6.0 on the Richter scale was in April 2002 when six people died and there was some serious infrastructural damage. In September 2009, an earthquake measuring 6.2 struck 156kms north-west of Tbilisi.
Additional Country Info
Medical facilities in Tbilisi are available but expensive. You are strongly advised to obtain comprehensive medical as well as travel insurance to cover illness, injury and loss of money, baggage and tickets before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and ensure your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Insurance covering medical evacuation is recommended. Outside Tbilisi, medical facilities are limited. You should ensure that you have all medication that you require to cover your trip and to cover for potential delays. People with respiratory issues should take care to bring necessary inhalers as the air in Tbilisi can be difficult at times.
If you encounter difficulties while mountaineering or hiking in Georgia, it may be difficult to organise the level of emergency/rescue assistance that you would expect in more developed tourist destinations. It can be difficult to get accurate information on mountain conditions. If you are considering trekking or mountaineering we advise you to contact Georgian companies that provide specialist guides. Please ensure that you inform someone of your contact details, itinerary and expected return time.
Seek medical advice about precautionary measures before travelling. You should ensure that you have all necessary vaccinations. Rabies is common in Georgia. We recommend that you avoid drinking tap water.
You can drive in Georgia using a licence issued by an EU country or by using an International Driving Licence. Driving is on the right. In Georgia, a blood alcohol level higher than zero is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. It is compulsory to wear seat belts in Georgia. Children under seven years of age are required to sit in child-safety seats. The speed limit in urban areas is 60km/hr and 80km/hr outside, unless otherwise indicated.
Driving in Georgia can be quite erratic with unpredictable
manoeuvres, sudden overtaking and speeding not uncommon.
Pedestrians should exercise particular cautions even at marked
pedestrian crossings as cars often do not give way. Many of
the roads in Georgia are poorly lit and can be badly marked.
We recommend avoiding driving at night if at all possible.
Heavy rain and flooding often affect roads and bridges making travel difficult or impossible (particularly in remote areas). When travelling outside of Tbilisi your vehicle should be suitably equipped to deal with a range of adverse situations.
If using taxis in Tbilisi, and other cities, it is safer to use licensed taxis. Not all taxis are metered. If you find yourself in an unmetered taxi, you should agree the price for the journey before starting. If staying in a hotel it is recommended that you book your taxi through the hotel reception.
Where possible, fly directly to Tbilisi on a scheduled international flight. Among the International airlines serving Georgia are Austrian Airlines, BMI British Midlands, Czech Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines.
According to Georgian law, all goods and services should be paid for in local currency (Georgian Lari). (Prices are often quoted in US dollars.) Lari are not available for purchase outside the country. However, US dollars and Euro can easily be exchanged for the local currency. You are advised not to carry large amounts of cash. Credit cards are increasingly being used and ATMs can be found in major cities. Traveller’s Cheques are not widely accepted.
DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR MISSIONS
The Irish Embassy in Sofia is accredited to Georgia. We advise all Irish visitors and residents, particularly those visiting remote areas, to register with the Consular Section of the Embassy in Sofia. For contact details, please click here.