How To Visit Tbilisi On A Budget
It’s super easy to visit Tbilisi on a budget. With insanely cheap food and drinks, a great public transport system that costs mere pennies, and budget accommodation galore, Tbilisi, Georgia is a budget traveler’s dream.
Tbilisi, the capital of the small country of Georgia, is a most excellent city for those looking to travel on a budget.
Food and drinks are cheap (if you’re from a wealthy country, that is), public transport costs are negligible, the city is most definitely walkable, and there are cheap sleeping options to be found. In short, there are plenty of things to do in Tbilisi. Read on, O traveler, to learn how to spend three days in Tbilisi on a budget.
Index: 3 days in Tbilisi on a budget
Why it’s easy to visit Tbilisi on a budget
Sweet sights… fo’ free
Amongst the million and one things to do in Tbilisi, there are a plethora of sights and sites that you can enter for free.
To be fair, we’re not museum-going types, but in our humble opinions, why forego all of the rich cultures on the streets for something carefully crafted and very contrived inside?
(But, that’s an argument for another day.)
Below you can find a list of some of our favorite free things to do in Tbilisi, Georgia:
Tbilisi Old Town
Although several of the sights charge an entry free, roaming around Tbilisi’s old town is an absolute joy, and it doesn’t have to cost a dime. The old town is dotted with churches, charming old buildings, a synagogue, and a mosque, several parks, and a few hidden viewpoints away from the masses. It’s an absolute joy to explore the narrow sidestreets and cobblestoned lanes.
One can easily spend the better part of the day walking around and taking in the sights. However, in high-season, you’ll have to battle big tour groups and touts, and getting an unobstructed view of anything might be difficult.
Read more: Day trip to Mtskheta, a UNESCO-listed town
The Dezerter Bazaar
A little bit of market madness right outside Tbilisi Central railway station. Known as the Dezerter Bazaar, it’s a massive outdoor market occupying a metric fuckton (scientific, I know) of city blocks. It’s filled with people of all sorts, from farmers squatting at stands selling their chicken’s last week’s worth of eggs to people peddling the local liquor known as chacha.
There’s not so much in the way of fresh street eats, mostly just the standard pastries/carbobombs, but it’s well worth a few hours of getting lost amongst the maze of market lanes. You never know what you might find in the depths of the market, and we definitely didn’t see it all!
Pro tip: be sure to check out the Underground Clothing Kingdom (name totally made up by me, not actual name). There’s an entrance across the street from the train station. It looks like a metro station entrance stuffed to the brim with clothes.
It’s like someone took an entire Amazon warehouse’s worth of clothing and crammed everything into several underground bunkers. Unless you have a secret burning passion for generic clothing, it’s not necessarily the most thrilling shopping you’ll ever do, but we assure you–it’s the scale that’s mind-boggling.
Tbilisi from above: Mtatsminda park and the Funicular
Tbilisi is surrounded by mountains, which makes for stunning outlooks/great locations for power tripping all around the city. There’s a couple of main sights that you can walk up to for free.
One is Mtatsminda Park, which houses a marginally run-down theme park. Ignore the rusty creaks of the rides and the absolutely wretched music coming out of the tin can loudspeakers–the view of the city from there is incredible.
For those less athletically motivated, you can also ride the Funicular incline railcar up the mountain. Tickets are 7 GEL per person for a round trip, and the car runs from 9:00 to 4:00 in the morning. You can also pay less and get off at the halfway station and walk, but the car doesn’t stop at the halfway station after 19:00 hours.
This Georgian Orthodox cathedral is in the center of the city, and pretty hard to miss–we just kept walking towards the shiny golden roof (how’s that for pro navigation skillz?). The church is quite recent, having only been completed in 2004, and signifies the revival of Georgia’s spirituality after decades of oppression from the party people commonly known as the Soviets.
It was actually kind of fascinating to see such a young church: most churches you see in this day and age are centuries old, classical, and often crumbling. All of the art inside the church is relatively recent, the oldest dating back a couple of hundred years. It’s refreshing to see that spirituality is alive and well and the art of icon painting is not dead.
Note: Ladies, if you’re visiting, no bare shoulders or short shorts, and bring a scarf so that you can cover your head. They may let you in sans-head covering, but it’s quite disrespectful, and you’ll get lots of stink eyes and scowls.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, just like all of the other cathedrals in Tbilisi.
Read more: Easy day trips from Tbilisi
Cheap places to sleep in Tbilisi
Tbilisi’s hostel scene has exploded in the last few years, and there are plenty of places to choose from. A few of my personal favorites include:
MyHostel: My Hostel is right around the corner of Rustaveli Metro station, which is smack in the middle of the city. It’s a bit old and the bathrooms are cramped, but you can’t beat the price or the location – Book MyHostel here!
BroBro Hostel: Centrally located with friendly and helpful staff, this place is great for budget travelers. It has comfortable beds with privacy curtains, and it’s a very social affair – Book BroBro Hostel now.
Homestays: For a more intimate travel experience, you can also book a homestay in Tbilisi – Book a homestay in Tbilisi here.
Fabrika Tbilisi: Fabrika is the place to be in Tbilisi. With cool bars and cafes nearby, this is the meeting spot for young urbanites and travelers alike. As the name suggests, it’s in a former factory, and it’s probably the best hostel in Georgia – Check out Fabrika here!
Gallery Hostel Tbilisi: A stylish hostel catering to the upper-budget and mid-range segment of travelers. A little less lively than BroBro, but very comfy for a hostel. – Book Gallery Hostel here.
If you’re looking for a little more luxury, are plenty of other hotels and hostels to pick from in Tbilisi, Georgia. Check out the best deals for accommodation in Tbilisi.
Cheap eats and drinks in Tbilisi
Georgia is a great country for eating on a budget… so long as you’re not too health-conscious or on a gluten-free diet. Georgians love all things breaded and then breaded again, preferably with healthy doses of cheese or meat or potatoes or all of the above involved. They even have “Flour” sections on some menus in restaurants.
Forget your diet, screw thoughts of all gluten-free, low-carb food essence, and embrace the fact that you can chow down and actually be full for less than 1 GEL.
On average, we spent $10/25 GEL per person on food and drinks each day. That includes water, coffee, meals, and beers.
Cue the “say whaaaat?!” track.
We’d eat a pastry for breakfast, another for lunch–if necessary–and then something ideally-not-breaded-and-including-a-semblance-of-vegetables for dinner. Breakfast + lunch, including multiple coffees, is never more than a couple of GEL.
Dinner racks up the (trivial) costs, but that’s okay, stewed meat and dumplings filled with soup are always worth it. For more information on costs, check out our travel in Georgia budget report.
Some of our favorite cheap restaurants in Tbilisi include:
- Shemomechama: Here you can find deliciously cheap khinkali and other Georgian staples. Seating is very basic, the food makes up for it.
- Family Kitchen: Soviet-style cafeteria near Liberty Square (around the corner from the Courtyard Marriot). Dishes are laid out and you can point and mix. Cheap and good for all times of the day, and has decent vegetarian options.
- Samikitno: Has several locations in Tbilisi. Offers a wide variety of Georgian foodstuffs, and has its own beer. Their khachapuri is great, and prices are reasonable. Popular with Georgian families.
- Kiwi Vegan Cafe: One of the few, if not only, vegan places in Tbilisi is run by a small group of youngsters looking to raise social awareness around veganism and introduce it to Georgian society. Their food is tasty and affordable, and it’s easy to have a chat with the people working there (unless it’s super busy, of course).
- Coffee House: This super charming cafe, a stone throw away from Rustaveli metro station, exudes atmosphere. They offer a wide variety of coffee and tea, and delicious waffles and other delectables. And the best part, it’s super cheap. A dank waffle with bananas, chocolate and ice cream is only 3 GEL…be still my heart. It’s a bit difficult to find as the name is spelled in Georgian, but it’s on Leo Kiacheli street, next to Duna Restaurant.
Partying in Tbilisi on a budget
Tbilisi has a lively party scene, especially in the warmer months, when terraces are full and young revelers go at it until the wee hours of the morning. There’s something for everyone in Tbilisi, from the cool hipster bars around Fabrika to swanky nightclubs, to cheap and somewhat grungy dive bars. It’s always good to ask at your hostel or hotel what’s hot at the moment, but below you can find some of our favorite cheap watering holes.
- Dive bar: Halfway between Rustaveli and Liberty Square metro stations, in a somewhat dodgy looking side street, is Dive Bar. It’s popular with locals, expats, and travelers alike, and it’s very easy to strike up a conversation here and make some new friends. It hosts a popular Couchsurfing meetup every Thursday. beers start at 4 GEL.
- Canudos Ethnic Bar: Cool little bar frequented by a lively local crowd. If the weather is nice you can sit outside and make some new friends. A few minutes away from Rustaveli metro station. Beers start at 3 GEL.
- Kantora: Kantora is located a few streets from Liberty Square metro station. It’s popular with biking enthusiasts, and their English speaking staff is very friendly. They do a good burrito and beers start at 4.5 GEL.
- Fabrika: Popular with the hip young crowd of Tbilisi, most travelers pass through Fabrika’s doors at least once on their visit. Some people say it’s difficult to meet others here as a solo traveler, but most Georgians will gladly welcome you to their group if you strike up a conversation. Beers start at 5 GEL.
Clubbing is also big in Tbilisi, so if you want to dance the night away, make sure to ask some local friends for the best places in town.
Transport in Tbilisi on a shoestring
The metro station entrances in Tbilisi are hard to miss, never fear.
We stuck to using the metro system while traveling in Tbilisi. To use the metro, you need to purchase a metro card for 2 GEL. You can use one card for multiple people, so no need to buy several. You can also return your metro card once you’re done using it, and receive the 2 GEL back. Such a sensible system.
When buying your card, you load money on it to use for travel. One ride on the metro is around 0.5 GEL regardless of distance, so plan accordingly. We loaded about 3 GEL per person and were totally chilling for the whole visit.
The platforms themselves are delightfully intuitive. All of the signs are in both English and Georgian, and each station name has an arrow next to it, indicating which side of the platform you need to be on. You can find more info plus a map of the metro here.
There are also plenty of buses and marshrutky going all over Tbilisi and its surroundings. Most innercity buses only have signs in Georgian, but routes can be found using Google Maps. Marshrutky going outside of Tbilisi usually have the name of their final destination mentioned in English, too.
Safety in Tbilisi
Until relatively recently, Tbilisi, and Georgia, in general, had a bad reputation among travelers, mostly due to corruption. Luckily the government has really cleaned house in recent years, and Georgia is very safe to travel in. Few travelers report coming into contact with corrupt police or other officials.
The biggest danger in Tbilisi is drunk drivers. Keep an eye out on swerving cars late at night (or at any time of day, really).
Getting connected in Tbilisi
Getting connected in Tbilisi is easy and fast. Most restaurants, cafe’s and places to sleep have wifi, and speeds are reasonable. It’s also easy to get a sim card in Tbilisi. You can either get a sim card at one of the flagship carrier stores, but many small shops will sell sim cards too. A sim card should be about 3 – 5 GEL, and it takes about 10 minutes to set up. These are the three largest mobile operators in Georgia:
All have offices around Tbilisi, so it’s easy to find one to get a sim card. Mobile data is relatively cheap. A 3GB data pack will cost roughly 10 GEL. Coverage is also similar. Topping up is straightforward. You can download your respective carriers app and top-up using a debit or credit card, or top up using one of the many payment terminals around Tbilisi.
More on travel in Georgia
Below you can find other useful articles for when you’re traveling to Georgia: