Safety and security
The political situation in Georgia has stabilised since the 2008 conflict with Russia but it is still fragile. While the fighting seen in 2008 has calmed down substantially and life in Tbilisi has returned to normal, the conflict has resulted in a serious humanitarian crisis for the people of Georgia.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia
The separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain in the control of Russian forces and we advise against attempts to travel there. We also 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 take place. There are reports of unexploded ordinance these areas and they should be avoided until they have been confirmed clear.
Don’t attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (ie Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) under any circumstances. The border crossing between the Russian Federation and unoccupied Georgia at Verkhny Lars reopened in 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’s illegal to enter Georgia via Abkhazia or South Ossetia as there’s 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.
Protests are not uncommon in Georgia, particularly at times of heightened political tension. We therefore advise you to avoid areas where large crowds are gathered as situations can develop rapidly. We recommend that you remain aware of what is going on in your surroundings and keep checking local media reports.
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:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
- There have been reports of muggings near Narikala Fortress and Mother Georgia in Tbilisi and we recommend that you don’t walk alone in this area.
If you’re a victim of a crime while in Georgia, report it to the local police immediately. You can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Sofia if you need help.
If you’re planning to drive in Georgia, you should be extremely careful. Driving in Georgia can be quite erratic and unpredictable manoeuvres, sudden overtaking and speeding are common. We recommend avoiding driving at night if at all possible. If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driver’s licence or international driving permit and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance.
- Be aware of Georgia’s traffic laws, such as speed limits, which in urban areas is 60km/hr and 80km/hr outside, unless otherwise indicated.
- Children under seven years of age are required to sit in child-safety seats.
- Many of the roads in Georgia are poorly lit and can be badly marked.
- 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.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Pedestrians should exercise particular caution, even at marked pedestrian crossings, as cars often do not give way.
If using taxis in Tbilisi, and other cities, it’s 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 you’re staying in a hotel, we recommend 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.
It can be difficult to get accurate information on mountain conditions in Georgia and if you encounter difficulties while mountaineering or hiking, it may be difficult to organise the level of emergency/rescue assistance that you would expect in more developed tourist destinations.
If you’re 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.
Tue, 10 May 2016 14:39:26 BST