What makes Georgia a unique country to travel to?
Georgia is a constitutional republic with a developing democracy and economy. October 2012 parliamentary elections resulted in Georgia’s first democratic transfer of power. Approximately 250,000 internally displaced persons from the conflicts in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions remain. Tourist facilities outside of Tbilisi and Batumi are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available.
When traveling in Georgia, you should take the same precautions against becoming a victim of crime as you would in any large city. U.S. citizens in particular are perceived as being wealthy, and therefore may be targeted for economic and property-based crimes. Petty street crime, such as theft by pickpockets, has been reported throughout the country, particularly in crowded places such as tourist sites or on public transportation. Firearms are readily available in Georgia and assailants may be armed with firearms or other weapons. There are also disputes, sometimes in areas where U.S. citizens frequent, which include firearms and may endanger U.S. citizens.
Vary your times and routes, especially from places of residence to work locations. Maintain a low profile – do not carry large amounts of cash or otherwise draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Report any security-related incidents such as suspicious vehicles, individuals, or activities, to the Georgian authorities, and also inform the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible.
Travel in pairs or groups, and stay on main streets and routes. The U.S. Embassy recommends that if you are traveling throughout the country you do so during daylight hours only and provide a travel itinerary and contact telephone numbers to someone before you go.
See below for more details on road safety in Georgia. Personal vehicles and established (clearly marked) taxis and public transportation are generally safe for overland travel in Georgia. However, crowded and “off the beaten path” conditions of some public transportation increase passengers’ vulnerability to robbery.
U.S. citizens have reported occurrences of sexual assault in Georgia, including date or acquaintance rape. Women should avoid being alone in isolated areas with people whom they do not know well. In many of the reported cases, alcohol was involved. Avoid traveling alone in a private taxi or a “marshrutka” mini-bus, especially after dark. Victims of sexual assault should first get to a safe location and then call the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Women victimized overseas may be entitled to receive compensation for counseling and/or other services, including relocation back to the United States.
While you are traveling in Georgia, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Georgia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children, using, or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Georgia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
If you are arrested in Georgia, the local authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned that the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request that police or prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. A Consular Officer from the Embassy will visit you but will not be able to get you out of jail. You will need to consult an attorney. A list of English-speaking attorneys can be found on the embassy’s website. The Georgian authorities will provide you with an attorney and translator if you cannot afford one.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Western-standard medical care in Georgia is limited, but Georgian healthcare continues to improve. There is a shortage of medical supplies and capabilities outside of Tbilisi and Batumi. Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. We strongly recommend that travelers who intend to visit Georgia for at least two weeks get the Hepatitis A vaccine and the pre-exposure rabies vaccine series. Travelers are also encouraged to bring medicine to treat diarrhea, which regularly afflicts newcomers. Georgian doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment before rendering medical services.
Travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Georgia.
There are eight known poisonous snake species in Georgia. The season when you are most likely to encounter snakes is between March and October. Anti-venom is available for some species in a small number of facilities. Treat all snakes as poisonous.
Safety and Security
he Department of State strongly warns U.S. citizens against travel to the occupied regions of South Ossetia, in north-central Georgia, and Abkhazia, in northwest Georgia. These regions are not under the control of the central government following civil wars in the early 1990s, and the conflict with Russia in August 2008. Tensions remain high between the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the Georgian central government. Russian troops and border guards continue to occupy both regions. A number of attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred in and around the area over the past several years. Unexploded ordinance poses a danger near the Administrative Boundary Lines of both territories, particularly near South Ossetia. Entering the occupied regions without the proper documentation can lead to arrest, imprisonment, and/or fines by Russian, Georgian, or de facto officials. If travel to the occupied territories cannot be avoided the U.S. Embassy recommends travelers follow applicable Georgian laws. Georgian law specifies that U.S. citizens may enter the two regions from the southern Georgian side, and not from the northern Russian border.
Any economic activity for which a relevant license, registration, or permission has not been obtained from the Georgian government;
Import and/or export of military products, or products that have double designation;
International air, maritime and railway travel, as well as international transportation of cargoby automobile;
Use of national resources;
Organization of cash transfer; or
Financing or any type of support of activities listed in Paragraphs (a) – (e)...
Medical services in the occupied territories are extremely limited. Hospitals do not accept credit cards or medical insurance, have little to no infectious disease control, and lack medicine. There are no commercial airports in either region making air ambulance evacuations for medical emergencies impossible. U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted fromtravel to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, even in the case of emergencies involving U.S. citizens.For these reasons the U.S. Government strongly advises U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to these regions.
All travelers to Georgia should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizensshould regularly monitor Emergency Messages on the U.S. Embassy’s website for the latest information on the security situation throughout Georgia. In the case of a crisis and/or natural disaster, U.S. citizens in Tbilisi may tune in to FM radio stations for any updated U.S. Embassy emergency message for U.S. citizens.
Political demonstrations take place from time to time in Georgia, sometimes in front of the former Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. While these demonstrations are generally peaceful, some confrontations between the government and protesters have occurred in years past. U. S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful demonstrations can escalate into violence with little or no notice. Security Messages for U.S. Citizens pertaining to Demonstration are posted on the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi website. Because of the possibility of violence, we urge U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay up to date with media coverage of local events, review their personal security practices, and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Georgia, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. As in the United States, vehicular traffic in Georgia moves along the right side of roadways. Speed limits range from 80 to 100 km/hr on highways, and from 30 to 60 km/hr on urban thoroughfares. Motorists are not permitted to make right turns at red traffic lights. Front-seat passengers are required by law to fasten their seat belts in moving vehicles. Georgian law requires that children under four (4) years of age be restrained in child-safety seats, however these are not widely available or used. Children under twelve (12) years of age may not legally ride in the front seat, but this law is not widely observed. A driver with any blood-alcohol concentration exceeding 0.00% is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
You should exercise extreme caution when driving in Georgia, as many local drivers do not operate their vehicles in accordance with established traffic laws. Traffic signals and rules of the road are often completely ignored. Motorists drive erratically, often recklessly, at excessive speeds, and many times under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Motorists frequently encounter oncoming high-speed traffic attempting to pass other vehicles at blind turns or over hilltops. Pedestrians enjoy no right-of-way and need to be extremely careful when crossing streets. The Georgian Patrol Police, who come under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for maintaining traffic safety in Georgia, but enforcement of traffic regulations is haphazard. There is no requirement that vehicles are certified safe to drive, and some vehicles may not have working headlights or tail lights.
Undivided two-lane roads connect most major cities in Georgia. Outside of major highways, roads are generally in poor condition, unpaved, and often lack shoulder markings, center lines, and lighting. In addition, traffic signals may not work due to poor maintenance. Driving at night can be especially dangerous. Travel on mountain roads is treacherous in both rain and snow, and during winter, heavy snowfalls may make some roads impassable.