In Tbilisi do as locals do!
If you are a tourist in Georgia, here are some tips to help you avoid culture, particularly street shock in Tbilisi.
Crossing the streets
Green light for pedestrian do not always mean you can easily cross the street in Georgia, especially when it coincidences with green light for cars turning from the crossroads from right or left. Always remember that drivers are right or at least “more right” than pedestrians here. This is local culture of surviving in the streets. If there is no traffic light in а street you shouldn’t wait modestly until some kind driver will give you a way but don’t rush to cross the street naively assuming every car should stop while you are trying to cross the street.
Photo by Grzegorz Kozakiewicz
Driving in Tbilisi
100 km/hour? It’s too slow! Georgian drivers are always in a hurry and there is no reason that can convince them to drive slower. Despite the extreme and frightening impression at first, after some time one can notice that, as everyone is driving like this, they are adapted to that speed and basically no car incidents are happening. Hearing the noise of car beeps in Tbilisi is a usual stuff, people like to communicate with their car sounds and there goes nothing personal in between, but as the drivers are always in a hurry and are impatient…what else can they do ?
Photo by Ani Melikyan
Gypsies and beggars in the streets
This is very painful issue to talk about, but the only advice we can give is just turn your emotions off and ignore them. There are tons of infants, dirty, not well dressed, laying on the cold ground during autumn and winter and begging for money. Some of them are passively begging, but some of them are really aggressive. If they notice non-Georgian speakers and non-Georgian like people passing by, they will literally hang from your foot or hands, pull from your clothes to get some money. Best thing to do is to be careful for your bags, cameras and just quickly pass. Of course, it would be better if you can notice them beforehand, stop speaking your language and just quickly pass by, so as disguising yourself as an indifferent local.
The same thing is with older beggars, who are not gypsies, but are “working” quite impressive especially in touristic areas, asking “money for bread”, these are old ladies dressed in black or old men dressed in very dirty and worn clothing.
Checking bills in cafes
If waiters notice that you don’t read Georgian you’d better carefully check the bill you are getting after tasty Georgian dinner. Though, it is typed in computer, printed on a nice paper you might notice 2 or 3 more items which you haven’t ordered. Just count the items you’ve order, if anything is wrong, ask the staff to clarify and everything will be OK.
Bargaining with taxis
Georgian taxi drivers love tourists, as they usually pay double prices. Locals are used to bargaining. Remember that BEFORE sitting into a taxi you should negotiate the price for your route and remember that initially drivers are saying double prices to foreigners. Even if you think that the driver won’t change the price still try, if he doesn’t agree on reasonable price, just let him go, as there is always another taxi driver observing your communication from aside, ready to come and “save” you with his kindness. If you don’t know the exact price, feel free to ask anyone on the streets (not drivers!) to help you. Alternatively, when you are ordering taxi from a taxi service always check it with operator, they are telling you the exact price and there is no need of additional communication with the driver.