The Kutaisi Airport

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.

Location

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.

Getting around

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 აეროპორთKutaisi Airport
თბილისიTbilisi
ბათუმიBatumi
გუდაურიGudauri
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!

Final thoughts

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.

Financial Friday 2

Welcome to the second installment of Financial Friday. Where I tell you how much I shouldn’t have spent traveling…or at least that’s what it felt like this week…

Travel

Nothing happened here until Tuesday when I went back to the airport super early. The return bus trip to Keflavik was $24.35.

The flight from Keflavik to Frankfurt via WOW Air was $109.28 after the baggage fee for my carry-on.

On Wednesday, I hopped a flight from Frankfurt to Athens via Ryanair which should have cost me $33.96. Except I was a dumb ass, and forgot to check in until it was past the 2 hour window. Yeah…that little blunder cost me an additional $62.18. Bringing the total cost of the flight to $96.14.

Since the Athens airport is quite a ways from the city center, I caught the train into town: $12.44.

Accommodation

Bus hostel was still $30.44 per night for 4 nights this week.

The Meininger hostel in Frankfurt set me back $74.68 for one night…but at least I was close to the airport…. I guess. Still, ouch.

And Athens Backpacker hostel ran me $129.61 for 7 nights which comes out to $18.52 per night. This is, by far, the best price for accommodation yet!

Food

I managed to get away with 1 more grocery run in Reykjavik: $13.30. Between what I got then and on the previous grocery runs, I was able to feed myself for the remainder of my time in Iceland. I even had 2 bananas left over that I put in the ‘free food’ box.

I was pretty stuffed trying to finish off my food in Iceland so I only got one meal in Frankfurt: a personal sized pizza, a cheese pretzel, and some water…that turned out to be sparkling water. I should have known better, and read the label more closely. Anyway, that was $6.72.

When I got to the Athens airport, I got a salami sandwich with some water: $9.92.

When in town, I stopped by a couple gyro places. The first was with chicken: $3.65. The second was with pork: $3.78. And both those prices include the $0.50 bottle of water.

I liked the chicken gyro so much, I had them for two more meals on Thursday: $7.30. They’re so good…and so cheap!

Other

There’s the obligatory travel insurance: $3.07 per day.

I broke down and bought a USB-C cable at the mall in Reykjavik: $23.80. Those are the cables that my GoPro uses.

I also had the GoPro cable I left at home mailed to the hostel in Athens: $26.17. Forgetting that cable was not a cheap mistake.

On Saturday night, a few friends I met at the hostel in Reykjavik wanted to go out dancing. We ended up hitting the Paloma bar/club downtown: $9.99. It was a good time, and a lot of dancing.

On Thursday, I ran down to the laundromat and did my first load of laundry since I’ve been on the road: $8.82. About a week and a half before I had to do my first cloths cleaning…not bad.

Summary

Week 2
Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Total
Travel 0 0 0 0 133.53 108.58 0 242.11
Lodging 30.44 30.44 30.44 30.44 74.67 18.52 18.52 233.47
Food 0 13.3 0 0 6.72 17.35 7.3 44.67
Other 26.87 13.06 3.07 30.24 3.07 3.07 11.89 91.27
Total 57.31 56.8 33.51 60.68 217.99 147.52 37.71 611.52

So another week way over budget. Granted, about $100 of it was my own fault between the airport check-in and the GoPro cable. At least now I’m in a ‘cheap’ country though. I think I should be able to keep my expenses under $50 a day. And maybe…just maybe…I can make up for the expensive beginning.

Sleep? What’s That?

OK, there’s no way I’m going to be able to concentrate until I mention that I lost my GoPro cable!  Which means I have until its battery runs out, then it’s worthless. Oh, and no pics for the blog as the cable was my method of transfer to the computer…. This isn’t nearly as bad as having all my stuff stolen, but it’s still pretty upsetting. Now that that’s out of the way….

I made it to Iceland…and didn’t get much sleep. It started with me catching an Uber to an early morning Greyhound to Chicago. Because it was so early, my night-owl self couldn’t sleep while I had some semblance of a bed (and by that I mean a bunch of comforters over a carpeted floor). I think I got 2 hours of sleep on the bus, but that was it for that day..or two..is anyone really counting?

Then, another Uber to the airport, and I was finally getting somewhere. This is also when I discovered budget airlines (or at least WOW) don’t start checking bags until a few hours before a flight. Fortunately for me, I only had a carry-on, and was able to go right through security after online check-in.

Travel hack: when traveling with a budget airline that will charge you for anything more than a small, personal item, you’re left with the choice of a checked bag or a carry-on as you’ll be charged for either. The advantage of a checked bag is that you can fit a lot more into it, and not have to worry about carting something through your whole trip. The down side is not being able to get past bag check-in (the very first step) until a few hours before the plane boards.

The advantage of a carry-on is that you can get through security as early as you like (well, really only as early as they’ll let you do an online check-in). Then with all that extra time, you can hit up a plush lounge. You did remember to get access to lounges before you left right? I know I didn’t, and I’m regretting not putting in for an AmEx card. That would have been awesome!

Anyway, the flight got delayed, but that’s no big deal. We did get to briefly see the Northern Lights on the way over though…for like 5 minutes. I’ll probably get a better view at some point while I’m here.

And before you ask, I only got 2…maybe 3 hours of sleep on the flight. So I left early Monday morning, and now it’s Tuesday evening, and I’m running on 5 hours of sleep tops. How I’m not passed out in my bunk right now, I may never know….

But the plane was purple! And there were jokes written all over the walls, and stewardess call-buttons…. I have to give it to WOW, they sure know how to class up an airplane.

When we arrived Reykjavik as a balmy -1 C (30 F), and snowing. Things did not improve on the bus from Keflavik to Reykjavik, or after arrival. In fact, I caught a shitload of snow, and wind in the face while I tracked across the city a few times trying to wait until the hostel’s check-in time arrived. I’m just glad I decided to keep some layers for the cold, because I was nice and toasty…well, except for my face…. In my face? I don’t think I’m doing this joke right….

Well, I’m certainly learning a lot on this trip. Maybe…just maybe you guys can manage to avoid them now that they’re out on the internet.

Next blog: no pictures! But I’ll probably have a few tales of me running around Reykjavik screwing even more things up. I can hardly wait.