Living in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, can be both a pleasant and overwhelming experience. This tiny nation tucked between Asia and Europe is currently getting attention among digital nomads because of the relaxed visa requirements, cost of living, quirky and ancient architecture, and geographical location.
However, when planning on moving here, Google might not be very helpful as there is not much information on what it actually is like to be living in Tbilisi as a digital nomad or an ex-pat, so I asked fellow foreigners in various ex-pat groups what they wished they knew before coming here so that it will ease your move and lower some expectations.
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More posts you might want to read:
→ Georgia travel tips – know before you go
→ 45+ beautiful places in Georgia – from cities to mountains, from lakes to unusual nature wonders
→ 37+ Georgian meals to try – everything that you need to try
Top 9 Reasons to consider living in Tbilisi
I can list dozens of reasons why living in Tbilisi should be on your list, but these are the basic and the most important ones to consider moving to Tbilisi.
An opportunity to stay for a year
A law adopted in 2015 grants citizens of 94 countries to stay in Georgia for one full year without a visa! We all know how uncomfortable visa procedures and requirements are, and if there was a country that would allow me to stay there for more than 90 days, trust me, I would be on the first plane there. So this is a massive benefit for digital nomads; take advantage of it.
Even during the pandemic when Georgia closed borders for almost a year, the government launched a Work Remotely from Georgia program that enabled everyone to enter the country if they proved their monthly salary was 2,000 USD.
Tbilisi perfectly displays the contrast of European and Asian cultures shown in architecture, lifestyle, and traditions where ancient and modern utterly blend. It offers a way of life similar to other European cities but still represents its old culture and traditions tied deep in its history.
More posts you might want to read:
→ 33+ cool and free things to do in Tbilisi – comes with a free printable list
→ Where to stay in Tbilisi – complete neighborhood guide
→ Tbilisi restaurants – where to try authentic and modern Georgian cuisine
→ Museums in Tbilisi – check out some must-visit museums once here
→ 35+ Secret Insta spots – best photo spots to take gorgeous photos
→ Street art in Tbilisi – hunt down the best murals with a map
→ Tbilisi Then and Now – my project showcasing how Tbilisi changed over the centuries
→ Best co-working spaces in Tbilisi – choose where to work from
→ Tbilisi Parking – ultimate guide on parking in Tbilisi
→ all the other posts for Tbilisi
Inexpensive cost of living
Georgia as a whole county is still a budget-friendly destination. That’s why it’s one of the best cities for digital nomads. Here you get a lot of bang for the buck. Compared to other cities in Georgia, living in Tbilisi could be a bit more expensive, but generally, it’s pretty cheap.
Renting an entire flat in Tbilisi will cost anywhere from 250 to 800 USD, depending on the neighborhood, apartment size, and luxury. Prices get a bit lower for the apartments in the outskirts.
Tip: Get $50 off on the first booking of your new home at Anyplace
Note: often, the rent price is quoted in USD even if you find an apartment on Georgian websites, and you are required to pay in USD. However, some owners do charge GEL.
Groceries are also relatively cheap compared to other European countries, although the Georgian Lari’s devaluation has slightly increased food, alcohol, cigarettes, and petrol prices. Similar to apartments, prices for groceries also depend on the neighborhood and the supermarket.
The cheapest would be shopping for local produce in bazaars like Dezerter or Navtlughi for fresh fruits and vegetables. Otherwise, shop at 2 Nabiji, Nikora, and Carrefour. Goodwill and Smart are some of the most expensive ones among other supermarkets or grocery shops.
However, if you want to find specialty products imported from elsewhere, Carrefour, Gastronome, EuroProduct, Goodwill, and Smart might have those.
Dining out can be both expensive and cheap, again depending on which restaurant you go to. Generally, restaurants serving Georgian cuisine are more affordable, and the prices go high for those that offer specialty cuisine like Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai, to name a few.
Usually, a meal for two in an average cafe with a soft drink and 2-3 courses will cost around 12-20 USD. If you’d like to dine in a fancy restaurant and order a bottle of wine, the prices will be somewhere between 30-50 USD. However, it can go higher or lower too.
Public transport will be the lowest cost when living in Tbilisi. The city has a somewhat good transportation system which includes metro, buses, and minibusses called marshrutkas.
A 90-minute bus and metro ticket cost only 50 Georgian Tetri (~0.15 USD), while the marshrutka costs 80 Tetri (~0.24 USD). Taxies are also very cheap, compared to other cities. Download the Bolt app to avoid extra costs and scams from the drivers.
Locals believe that the guest is a gift from God; therefore, they are a pretty friendly and hospitable nation. Sometimes they can even harass you with too much hospitality. Georgians are also very proud of this and their history.
If you befriend a Georgian, expect various stories about the country, helping you out when in need, inviting you to family dinners or friendly gatherings, wherever they go. They will try to make you fall in love with the country.
Good Internet connectivity
When living in Tbilisi as a digital nomad, internet connectivity is essential, if not vital. Almost every cafe and restaurant have free Wifi; even Tbilisi International Airport has one, which works pretty okay.
The speed depends on the provider and packages the rental owner has, but it’s fast enough to watch movies and stream something in general.
Wide range of delicious food
Georgian cuisine is heavy on dough, meat, cheese, and walnuts. You’ll find influences of its neighboring countries. Each region has its traditional meal, making the cuisine very diverse and authentic.
However, vegetarians can find plenty of plant and vegetable-based meals too. And several cafes cater to vegans and vegetarians in Tbilisi.
Motherland of wine
Who doesn’t love wine? And one more reason to consider living in Tbilisi is that the country is the birthplace of wine. It’s a proven fact that Georgians are the oldest wine-making nation whose history spans at least 8,000 years.
There’s a traditional method of making the beverage that’s very different from others and calls for massive clay jars called qvevri. The qvevri is buried underground, where the whole fermentation process happens naturally and turns white wine into an amber color. The method has even been enlisted as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
If you want to know more about the local wine, I have written a few articles for the Culture Trip that you might want to check out: everything you need to know about Georgian Wine and the best Georgian wines.
The cost of wine in Tbilisi and elsewhere depends on the company and grape variety. The cheapest one costs around 5-6 GEL, and the most expensive wine can be 100-150 GEL. I highly recommend going to 8,000 Vintages wine shops and bars; they have the widest selection of wines produced all over the country, including big and small wineries, as well as family-owned enterprises.
The diverse landscape of Georgia
The distinct climate and landscape of the country allow you to experience everything. Spend hot summer days at the beach of the Black Sea, hike its national parks or mountains to see gorgeous lakes, visit unusual natural phenomenons, admire medieval defense towers, or walk-in semi-desert, for instance. There are indeed plenty of beautiful places in Georgia begging to be explored.
Prominent geographical location
Sandwiched between Asia and Europe, Georgia is an ideal location close to pretty much every continent. You can easily explore Armenia and Azerbaijan as the border to these countries are within one hour drive from Tbilisi. Also, you can travel to Turkey, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries and enjoy the benefit of cheap flights of WizzAir from Kutaisi Airport to at least 20 European cities.
21 things digital nomads and expats wished they knew before living in Tbilisi
Lower your expectations
When it comes to digital nomad cities, don’t expect Tbilisi to be your next Chiang Mai, Ubud, Medellin, or any other well-known digital nomad hub cities. Tbilisi is just getting noticed among the digital nomad community, and many things need to be done.
However, the community increases each day, and several Facebook groups come in handy when you need advice or meet like-minded people. Join Georgian Wanderers and Tbilisi Digital Nomad groups. For females only, there’s also a group called Women in Tbilisi. Of course, there are other groups, but I am part of these three, and the communities there are absolutely helpful and friendly.
Not everyone speaks English
Even though it’s widely required on job applications to speak English, some locals still don’t speak the language even if they work in customer service or governmental entities. The older generation speaks more Russian than English, while it’s the opposite with youngsters. As a result, some foreigners did experience issues with governmental/service providers not knowing Georgian.
Plenty of coworking spaces
Coworking spaces appeared in Tbilisi only a couple of years ago, and the city already has a good selection based on location and services offered. The prices differ but generally are pretty similar. All of them offer a day pass to try it out before committing to a monthly package.
Breakfast is not a thing
We all know that breakfast is the main meal of the day, but unfortunately, Georgian cuisine lacks breakfast items. There is no typical and authentic Georgian breakfast. Locals eat bread and butter, jam, cheese, french toast, or fried/boiled eggs for breakfast. However, several cafes do serve European-style breakfast, but most of them do it Georgian way and open up quite late when it’s more of a brunch-time rather than breakfast.
Don’t judge a building by its cover
When wandering in the streets of Tbilisi, you’ll notice many ugly or run-down buildings that are in desperate need of renovation. However, they might be hiding gorgeous hand-painted hallways or adorable and modern flats.
Buying/renting a property can be tricky
Every country has shady agents and fake listings, and Georgia is no exception, unfortunately. Therefore, buying real estate can be tricky, especially when the websites are outdated and realtors are not helpful. Some of the great local sites to check out properties are Myhome, SS.ge, Property Finder, and Place.ge.
Expat Homes cater to foreigners and ex-pats who are thinking of living in Tbilisi or elsewhere in the world. Also, it’s always a good idea to check the neighborhood and street both during the day and night. Places that seem quiet in the afternoon could turn to be quite noisy at night.
Summers get quite hot
The climate in Georgia varies by region and landscape, obviously. It’s milder and rainy in the west, while the east and the country’s center see more continental and arid climates.
Heavy snows are typical for mountainous areas. Summers in the cities like Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi can get very hot, with temperatures rising to 40C, so if hot summers are not your thing, opt-in for towns and villages in lower highlands.
Note: while tap water is absolutely safe to drink, it could dry out your skin and hair year around.
Starting a business is a simple process
The World Bank lists Georgia as the sixth most business-friendly country in its Doing Business Ranking list. The government has simplified administrative processes like licensing, tax registration, or an e-payment system. Therefore, any foreigner can open a business here while on a standard tourist visa or even remotely.
Justice House is one building where you have everything under one roof, including applying for residency, opening a business, or registering your newly bought property within minutes if you know what documents are required. This makes things a lot easier, and you don’t need to run around to various governmental institutions.
However, it should be noted that some of the rules or required documents are not clearly stated on public portals or are not available in English. Some rules/laws are also “subject to interpretation” and might give space to corruption and knowing people who can help. In some cases, you’ll also need translator services and notary-approved documents. Which kind of leads to my next point.
A local contact person comes in handy
When it comes to starting a business, buying a property, or negotiating some prices, having a local contact person can come in quite handy to advise on various things and even help out occasionally. However, if you don’t have one, check out CDX Trust and Expat Hub, both catering to ex-pats and digital nomads/freelancers on various services, including tax residency, law, business registration, etc.
You might be eligible for paying a local tax
Foreigners who stay in the country for six months (183 days) automatically become tax residents within any 12 month time. It doesn’t matter what type of visa you are on and is defined by physically being within the country’s territory.
Opening a bank account requires just a few minutes
Unlike many countries, Georgia has very relaxed rules where opening a bank account involves many documents or several days of waiting. You only need to physically go to the bank office and have a passport to open a bank account.
You don’t need to have a local address. Bank of Georgia and TBC Bank are the two most prominent banks in the country. I am a customer of TBC and love their straightforward online/mobile banking.
Money transfers can have low fees
Receiving money on your bank account from various streams of income can lead to hefty transaction fees both for you and the company that’s sending you the money.
Wise, formerly known as Transferwise, is an excellent solution for receiving money in different currencies from different parts of the world. You have your virtual bank account and address where the company can send you the money. They offer pretty good conversion rates when it comes to withdrawing cash in local currency.
And they also have an option to withdraw in the same currency you received it in, but honestly, I haven’t tried that, as I was afraid my bank would take a lot for the transaction.
So I always opted-in for USD/EU/GBP to Georgian Lari conversion with a very similar rate to the exchange booths rate, sometimes even better. They also have their own Mastercard Debit Card only available for certain countries.
Note: You can withdraw USD from ATMs all over the country, despite a bank. There are a few ATMs that enables you to withdraw EUR too. TBC Bank has several; look for a sticker on ATM saying so.
You can get a residence permit in 30 calendar days
Having a Georgian residency allows you to enter and stay in Georgia for the validity of the document. Getting the permit is also an easy process that can be done in person in Justice House or online. The papers should be in Georgian, but an application filled in English can be approved.
Paying bills is easy too
You can pay utility or other bills without going to the banks, service provider, or post office. There are pay boxes where you choose the service and slide the cash. Easy peasy! One pay box even enables you to buy train tickets directly!
Healthcare is cheap
Costs for healthcare services are cheaper compared to other countries. A lot of foreigners come here for various medical and dental services. While you can pay the full price, having travel insurance lowers the costs. There are different Georgian insurance companies, like TBC Insurance, GPH Holding, Arti, and Imedi.
However, if you’d like to have an international one, I would suggest Safetywing’s Global Health Insurance with excellent coverage of all sorts of things, even COVID-19.
Everything is negotiable
Negotiating prices for pretty much everything is possible, especially buying groceries in bazaars, renting/buying an apartment, taxi rides, intercity shared taxis, etc. If you are good at bargaining, you can always try to lower prices here.
Shipping goods to Tbilisi from elsewhere is possible
You don’t have to say no to your favorite products when living in Tbilisi if they are not available here. Several logistic companies ship from the USA, UK, Germany, and China. USA2Georgia, PostalOn, and KiwiPost are a few of them.
You get a virtual address in those countries, for instance, and a room number where Amazon or any other website can ship to. Then those companies send your items to Tbilisi. The shipment cost is calculated by kg and starts at an average of 6-7 USD.
I prefer using PostalOn as they also deliver free of charge to your doorstep. However, the only disadvantage is that they don’t call you in advance and you have to be at home when they arrive. Otherwise, they will take it back to the central office for you to pick up.
Customer service is very low
This kind of goes against the fact that Georgia is a hospitable country, but sadly, the customer service is terrible or behind any standard in most times and places all across the country. However, you might meet a Georgian who will move the mountains for you.
Air pollution is relatively high
When considering living in Tbilisi, you should note that the air pollution from vehicles is relatively high here. So if you have allergies, this could, sadly, become a problem. Also, note that smoking a cigarette in open public spaces is allowed.
Power and water outages can be common
If you come from a country where water or power outages are non-existence, then living in Tbilisi and Georgia might get a bit uncomfortable. Tbilisi was never meant to have such a significant population, and power and water outages often happen for various reasons. Sometimes it can be turned off for the entire day.
Buying electronics is cheaper
Buying all sorts of electronics such as computers, plugs, cameras, coffee machines, fridges, washing machines, etc., can be pretty cheap here. For instance, you can go to a physical store like MetroMart, Elit Electronics, Beko, Alta, or Zoomer. Most of those shops have online stores, but sometimes the information is outdated. If shopping online for electronics, I prefer vendoo or be.ge.
Depending on the electronics, you’d also want to check them out on Amazon or elsewhere because sometimes buying in the USA, paying the shipment to Georgia, and the VAT ends up being cheaper than buying locally.
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Georgia travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
✈ Book affordable flights on Skyscanner, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination.
✔ Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Georgia, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate.
♥ Find budget-friendly deals on all sorts of accommodation types on Booking.com.
❣ Pre-book a private car transfer from Tbilisi Airport to your hotel.
➤ Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, that also covers COVID.
☀ Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here.
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