It’s March, and that means people are starting to make their summer travel plans (at least those people that only travel in short chunks). For those of you considering Georgia (and I’d encourage everyone to give it a try), there’s more than just one airport that will get you into the country. Most people are familiar with the one in Tbilisi (the capital city), and some are familiar with the one in Batumi (a ‘resort’ town). However, there’s often a cheaper option for us budget travelers: Kutaisi.
So first, I have to say that the airport may be called David the Builder Kutaisi International Airport, but that’s just the closest ‘city’ name. It’s actually a half hour by car outside of ქუთაისი (Kutaisi). So if you’re thinking about showing up and walking into the city, that’s not likely to happen. I love walking, but when it gets to over an hour with my backpack, that’s a bit much.
However, it is more centrally located than თბილისი (Tbilisi). The capital is in the South East of the country while Kutaisi is (more or less) in the middle. So if you’re going to see the countryside (especially the Svaneti region), this is going to be a better location.
Despite this, it’s actually pretty easy to find transportation from here to anywhere you’re going. There will typically be buses and taxis waiting after every flight’s arrival so you can just walk out and find something.
Taxis are pretty standard wherever you are so I don’t need to go into too much detail there. I will make a quick side note though to say that (if you have data) there’s an app called Yandex that works in Tbilisi and Batumi (and only those cities). So if you end up in one of those places and don’t want to get charged double (or more!), it might be worth a download.
Buses are the cheaper way to go, and are fantastic if you don’t mind being a little crowded. You might get lucky (if you’re going to a larger city), and get a full size bus. However, most buses in Georgia (often called marshutka which is the Russian word) are the size of large vans, and they’ll cram as many people in as there are seats available.
Should you end up in one of the more crowded vehicles, you can truly say you’re getting the local experience. Georgians will cram as many people into a vehicle as possible. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out with friends, and we crammed 5-6 passengers into a normal sized taxi. Don’t worry too much though; the whole seat-sharing thing only happens when you’re with friends. Among strangers, you’ll at least get your own seat.
If you don’t want to worry about finding cash for the bus as soon as you land, you can hit up the Georgian Bus website and buy a ticket before arriving. Now that I’m looking at it, it appears there’s an English section. I think that’s new since I don’t remember that when I was buying a ticket. Just remember to save the image of your ticket to show the driver when boarding.
Common destination names
If for any reason you do need to read some Georgian though, I’ll include a little table of translations for you. This also works if you want to ensure you’re getting on the correct bus as some of them don’t have their destination written in Latin characters.
|ქუთაისი აეროპორთ||Kutaisi Airport|
|ქუთაისი (ქალაქი)||Kutaisi (City)|
Those are the 5 options on the bus website. If you need more, just let me know in the comments. I can read Georgian though I typically don’t know the meaning of what I’m reading. But I know what it sounds like! Winning!
I hope this was helpful, and that I’ve encouraged you to add Kutaisi to your flight searches. You might save a lot of money. If you do, I’d love to hear your story…. Or feel free to share random stories about Georgia. It’s an awesome place.