These FAQs cover all the essential questions expats ask in facebook groups all the time. Get the answers ahead of time so you know what to expect.
If you are looking for our guide & FAQs on how and why to move your taxes to Georgia (Hint: 1% Tax rates, really) read the full guide here.
Georgia Expat Guide eBook – Free Download
For a more comprehensive introduction to expat life in Georgia, our free ebook covers all the most important topics.
Our 100 page guide includes:
- Visas & residency
- Business, banking & tax
- Everyday life: from social life to transport, internet, restaurants and much more.
Download your free copy of our ebook:
A basic summary of some of the key FAQs is below.
Before You Take Off
Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi?
One could easily write an essay on this, but I’ll try to keep it short and simple.
Firstly, most cities (and, indeed, even the countryside) in Georgia have a lot to offer. Which option is the “best” depends a lot on who you are. But to give you a very basic (but obviously biased and subjective) idea of the 3 main cities:
- Tbilisi: The capital and the largest city. Most expats live here. Tbilisi is arguably also the only city where you’ll find most “western-style” amenities without issues. It’s definitely the most convenient place to move to. The Old Town and Vake have charm, while other suburbs are a little more urban. Traffic and air pollution are also major issues here. Regardless of this, it’s still a great place to live if you like city life.
- Kutaisi: While one would assume the capital would have the best air connections, in many cases, the opposite is true in Georgia. If you like low-cost airlines like RyanAir, WizzAir, and others, most of these only fly to Kutaisi (Note: During COVID a lot of the budget flights were cancelled and have taken some time to restart).
Other than that, it’s a small-ish city of around 150,000 people. You’ll certainly find the cost of living to be far less than that of Tbilisi or Batumi, the city will have a more authentic feel to it, but you may miss some of the comforts you’re used to and will definitely find it more difficult to get by without knowing any Georgian or Russian.
- Batumi: Batumi is a holiday resort, and that pretty much sums up the place. It has a long shoreline and it’s very busy with lots of nightlife and other tourist-oriented activities during the summer. But in the winter, it’s more or less dead. Not the kind of dead that places like Ayia Napa in Cyprus or Sunny Beach in Bulgaria are, as it’s still home to around 150,000 people, but you won’t have a whole lot to do in the winter.
Fun fact: Batumi is, apparently, also the rainiest city in both Georgia and the entire Caucasus region, with nearly 2,500mm (98 inches) in annual rainfall!
What’s the weather like in Georgia?
Pleasant, in general.
While Georgia has many different climates (12 unique climates zones, in fact) due to being quite mountainous, most regions (that aren’t at too high of an elevation) have long, hot summers and mild winters.
In Tbilisi, it isn’t unusual to see daily temperatures as high as 35 degrees Celsius during the summer months (June to September), and during the winter the temperature rarely falls below freezing.
Spring and autumn are also quite nice and pleasant, and the average annual rainfall in Tbilisi is just 500mm (19in), making it a fairly dry place (compared to Batumi, which gets nearly 5 times as much rain!)
You can read more about it in our article: Georgia’s Weather.
Will I be able to find a job?
Unless you speak Georgian, or at the very least good Russian, it won’t be easy. For more advice on how and where to find a job, see our article on the topic here.
However, even if you do find a local job, the salary is very likely not going to be enough to sustain “Western” living standards. The average salary in Georgia in 2020 was just 1,191 GEL (or around $380 / €335), and while the cost of living here is relatively cheap, it will still be a struggle. If you can get one of the rare expat wage level local jobs, then you can expect at least 3 times that standard wage. As an expat with rent to pay, living off less than 2,000 GEL a month would not be so enjoyable, even on a very slim budget.
Most of the locals that you see living a higher class life here either have a second income, work remotely for a foreign company, or live with their families (which is incredibly common here, even well into someone’s 30s) and therefore save on rent and other costs.
What kind of lifestyle will I find?
Georgia is a laid-back, relaxed, easy-going, somewhat disorganized and chaotic, technologically innovative, family-oriented melting pot of Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Union.
It’s perhaps the most divided place that I’ve seen, in that you’ll find incredible bureaucracy and chaos right next to top-notch technological solutions. You’ll find half the people living in huts that barely stay in one piece, and the other half in brand new high-rises (but seemingly nothing in-between). You get my point.
All in all, as Georgia is such a melting pot of different cultures, odds are that you’ll be able to create the kind of lifestyle that you’re after, based on where you live, who you hang out with, and the places you frequent. The no-rules attitude (well, “all rules flaunted” attitude) means that lifestyle is… flexible.
However, don’t expect to find a sunny, cheaper version of a Western European or American city, or you’ll be disappointed. Take Georgia for what it is and accept that some things may be unusual or a little dated. It’s still a developing country after all, which is part of why it’s such a great time to be here!
How to find short or medium-term accommodation in Tbilisi?
The usual options – Airbnb, booking.com, etc.
Many people book an Airbnb for a few weeks to a month and then negotiate a continued deal privately with the landlord. Most landlords will be happy to give you a decent discount if you’re planning to stay for a couple of months until you familiarize yourself with the city and find more permanent accommodation.
The prices of short-term accommodation are also very reasonable, even during the tourist season. It’s not unusual to find nice, new apartments in a decent area for as little as $20-30 a night.
See the section below titled, a place to live, for more info on long-term accommodation.
How can I get my personal items shipped to Georgia?
If you’re someone who’s got more than a few suitcases worth of stuff, this is likely going to be the first major disappointment that you’ll encounter.
Simply put (and no, I’m not making this up), the Georgian government charges import tariffs (30% composed of up to 12% import duty and 18% VAT) on every shipment that’s valued above 300 GEL (roughly $100), even if it’s your used personal items. Crazy, right?
It gets crazier. Let’s assume that you’re happy to pay the exorbitant fee, then what?
Then, you’ll have to compose a detailed inventory list, listing every single item that you’re shipping, along with its value. How do you determine the value of a pair of old socks? No-one knows. Seriously. Even if you speak to your embassy, the Georgian Revenue Service, etc., and no one seems to have a concise answer.
The import duty will depend on the type of good you are importing, and which country you are importing it from. If you are using ExpatHub’s relocation service, we can help coordinate your shipment and the relevant tax payment.
Read our article on getting belongings shipped if you want to DIY the process.
After You Land
How do I get a SIM card with some data?
Regardless of whether you land in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, or Batumi, you’ll find kiosks selling SIM cards in the airport right after you walk out from the baggage claim. Some places even offer SIM cards for free, believe it or not.
The three main mobile operators are Geocell (Silknet), Magti, and Beeline, and while most people seem to use the first two, all three are equally good in major urban areas.
Prices are dirt cheap. While all operators have several packages, you can expect to pay no more than $5 for unlimited local calls and about a gigabyte of data. Personally, I pay 35 GEL (around $11) a month and get unlimited calls and texts and 7GB of data. Beeline is cheaper, but has the worst coverage outside of major urban centers.
For a comparison between the main providers read our SIM card comparison article.
How do I get from the airport to my accommodation?
Whatever you do, do not take a random taxi from in front of the airport. You will get ripped off. The Internet is full of stories of people being charged 120 GEL or more for the trip. Every foreigner who arrives is hounded by unofficial taxi drivers. At around $40+ for half an hour’s ride, it may not at first seem unreasonable (when compared to prices in Western countries), but as the normal price here is usually around 30 to 50 GEL, it’s several times what you should be paying. And to top it off, a lot of these taxis are worn-out vehicles too.
In 2019 the airport implemented a more official taxi service, Fly Taxi, which can be booked from an official rep inside arrivals (they have a uniform) or on their website, and it’s ~40 to 50 GEL, depending on where in the city you are headed.
The other option is to use one of the Uber-like ride-sharing apps, Bolt or Yandex (I prefer the former, but the latter is a little cheaper). Grab yourself a SIM card (or connect to the free airport WiFi), install the app, and off you go. Both apps also let you pay in cash if you want to skip punching in your card details.
Most of their cars are decent, with the “standard” size mostly consisting of Priuses, and the “premium” class of Toyota Camrys.
We’ve reviewed all the options in our article here: From TBS to Tbilisi.
Where/how can I learn Georgian?
Generally speaking, you have three options:
- Learn on your own: This is what my wife is doing, and while she’s making good progress, it’s tough. And when I say tough, I mean really tough. Not only are English-based study materials scarce, but due to the unique pronunciation of the language, you’ll need to supplement written materials with a lot of recordings and videos to get the full grasp. And even then, you’d ideally need a native to tell you whether what you think is the right pronunciation actually sounds right. It’s doable, though. Georgian isn’t currently on Duolingo or any of the other popular language-learning apps, but there are some basic apps to get you started, such as Ling.
- Get a private teacher: All it takes is a quick post on Facebook and you’ll have dozens of people sending you PMs offering their teaching services on a 1:1 basis at affordable rates. The problem? Most of those people are not proper language teachers, and many only have a very basic command of English. So you’ll likely end up spending a lot of time learning inefficiently. However, if your goal isn’t to become fluent, but rather to learn a few hundred basic words and to get by at the grocery store, then this may be a good option for you.
- Go to a language school: There are plenty of language schools in Tbilisi, offering different kinds of courses at a variety of rates and intensities. Personally, I’ve heard lots of good things about the American Language Center. It might not be the cheapest option, but at $10 an hour for personal classes (and much less for group ones), I’d say it’s pretty reasonable.
A Place To Live – Areas, Estate Agents, Buy or Rent
Which area of Tbilisi is the best for expats?
This is one of the questions that seems to trigger a huge divide in opinion every time it’s asked (which is about every day), so I’ll say again that anything you read here is strictly my personal opinion, and others may or may not agree with it. With that out of the way, here’s my non-comprehensive, subjective, and biased understanding of the main areas expats tend to live:
- Saburtalo is where many foreigners tend to base themselves. It’s a huge “sleeper district” that is a melting pot of soviet-style blockhouses (Khrushchyovkas) and newly built high-rises. While Saburtalo offers good value for money, as it’s on the cheaper end of the spectrum and has good transport links (there’s a metro line that runs along the center of Saburtalo), people who live there tend to report fewer options in terms of entertainment, going out, etc. You’ll also struggle if you prefer driving or taking the taxi to using the metro, as living here means lengthy drives to the center of Tbilisi, especially during rush hours.
- Vake used to be the district for Tbilisi’s “elite”, so to speak, and it has largely retained the reputation of being a more “upscale” neighborhood. Situated basically between the Old Town and Saburtalo, the location is quite decent. However, there’s no metro, so you’re stuck with driving. Traffic is usually OK, except during peak hours, when it can get very clogged. You’ll find a nice combination of old and new buildings in Vake, and a lot of modern, nicely done flats. Prices are noticeably higher than in some other neighbourhoods, though. Oh, and Upper Vake is, apparently, among the locations with the cleanest air in Tbilisi, as it sits on top of a hill. Otherwise, Vake is pretty flat, which makes things a bit easier for pedestrians compared to the super-hilly Old Town. Entertainment options are plentiful, with a lot of the city’s nicest (non-tourist-oriented) bars and restaurants. We live in Vake and are happy with everything it has to offer so far.
- Rustaveli & the Old Town are definitely at the top of the list when it comes to the overall quantity of amenities and options, but as these are highly tourist-oriented areas, they are not necessarily top in overall quality. While the Old Town looks beautiful, you’ll find that for most of the year it’s rather crowded with visitors, and unless you look like you might be from the region, you’ll be constantly mistaken for a tourist by the various restaurateurs, tour providers, beggars, and others. The Old Town is also rather hilly, making getting around on foot difficult at times. You also won’t find many newer buildings in this area, making issues with utilities a little more common than what you’d experience in Vake or Saburtalo.
- Marjanishvili is an up-and-coming neighbourhood across the river. It features the popular entertainment complex, Fabrika, which is frequented mostly by young, “hipster-esque” crowds. While historically, Marjanishvili was not an area that attracted large amounts of foreigners, the presence and popularity of Fabrika and the newly renovated Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue (with its numerous coffee shops, bars, and restaurants- especially those oriened toward middle-eastern tourists) have attracted a growing amount of attention. Real estate prices and rents here come at a fraction of what you’d find in Vake or the Old Town. Transportation connections are also decent, with the city center not too far away and the Marjanishvili metro station located centrally.
Additionally, check our article on this topic: Living in Tbilisi – A Complete Neighborhood Guide.
Can a foreigner buy property (real estate) in Georgia?
Yes. There are no limitations on foreigners purchasing residential property, the purchase process is extremely quick and simple, and there are no stamp duties to pay. The only exception is agricultural land, the purchase of which is restricted for foreigners. And, because of zoning laws, a lot of land in villages and small towns is still considered agricultural. Even some outer parts of Tbilisi are still zoned as agricultural, and the process of rezoning can be a massive headache.
For more information on considerations for buying Real Estate, please read our Real Estate FAQs.
How much rent should I pay in Tbilisi?
This really depends on what your standards are and where you’re looking. It’s certainly possible to get a small studio apartment for less than $250 a month in Saburtalo or further out of central Tbilisi. It’s also possible to pay upwards of $2,000 a month for a modern 2 bedroom apartment with a great view in a high-end building in a prestigious area, such as Vake.
Your best bet to get started would be to check out sites like MyHome.ge and SS.ge (both have English versions) and take a first-hand look. Just be aware that there are a lot of fake listings on those sites, so if you see something incredible for $400 a month, you might not want to base your budget expectations on such a listing.
In general, I’d recommend against asking the opinion of a bunch of random people on Facebook or elsewhere, as different people have vastly different ideas of what constitutes a good living standard, what’s an “acceptable” budget (be ready to be flamed if you’re willing to pay above the average!), and so forth.
Where can I find a trustworthy / English speaking estate agent?
Ask this question on any of the expat-oriented Facebook groups and you’ll get bombarded with estate agents of all kinds – some better, others worse. Some will approach you directly, others will have their friends “recommend” them. There will be a lot of “PM me” messages as they progress in shady shenanigans.
With this in mind, there’s virtually no reason to go with any one estate agent, as all you’re doing is limiting your options, as well as potentially opening yourself up for exploitation.
Also, bear in mind that if you come from the UK or the US, you’ll find the role of an estate agent here vastly different than what you might be used to back home.
Georgia employs the Eastern European standard, whereby an estate agent is not much more than a glorified data entry person with (often quite basic) photography skills. No agent has exclusivity over any one property (so you’ll often find dozens of agents “representing” the same property, at different prices), many of their leads come from the aforementioned sites, and in most cases, the agent tends to offer very little to no added value, as even the viewings are conducted with the property owner present and the agent may not speak great English.
Oh, and if an agent asks you for money, run! In Georgia, the norm is for the landlord/owner to pay any and all agent fees.
Often lazy (they may not even answer the phone before midday), and often re-posting listings that are not really theirs (so that they can then bully the seller into paying them a commission once they find a buyer), many agents will simply waste your time. Here it is not uncommon for agents to post fake listings of properties that look too good to be true (and are!), which they use simply to get your number, so they can then bombard you with the real listings they have – not even taking into account what you actually asked for.
Because of the sheer amount of scams and time wasting agents, ExpatHub offers buy-side services where we will represent your interests, rather than leaving you to deal with all the usual problems of agents who only care about getting a commission from the seller.
Settling In – Banks, Water, Internet and more
How can I open a Georgian bank account?
Assuming you intend to open a personal (not business) bank account, you’re in for a treat, as Georgia remains one of the easiest countries for a non-citizen (or even a non-resident) to open an account – although they are slowly tightening up restrictions.
All you need to do is show up at one of the banks (Bank of Georgia and TBC are the two main institutions) with your passport in hand, and in about 20-30 minutes, you’ll walk out with a fully functioning multi-currency account (GEL, USD, EUR). Go back in a couple of days and pick up your debit card. That’s it! No proof of address or reference letter needed. You will often be asked to report financial details about your sources of wealth and may be asked to provide supporting documentation on some occasions. If you are from the USA you have to provide information as required by the FATCA agreement.
A word of warning, though: be prepared to provide many more documents and start answering questions if or when you start receiving large amounts (by Georgian standards) into your account, especially from abroad. Banks in Georgia are increasingly tight on KYC and anti-money laundering, and therefore, they tend to get quite nosey (and rightly so) the moment they spot anything irregular.
If you want to move a large amount of money, for the purpose of something like buying property, it’s best to get some professional advice first.
If you need to open an account for your business, read this article.
Do I even need a Georgian bank account?
While you’ll find that plenty of expats spend years in Georgia without having a local account, opting to use their existing one and withdraw cash, or use an online bank like Revolut, transferwise, N26, etc., I’d say your life becomes a whole lot easier when you do have a local account.
Take bills, for example. Would you really want to go to an ATM every month to withdraw cash, only to then proceed to the “bill payment terminal” to re-insert the same banknotes you just took out? Or would you rather spend 5 seconds doing it from home via Internet Banking? (Actually, you don’t even need to do that… just set up a recurring payment and forget about it!)
Peoples’ preferences differ, and for some reason, some people seem to genuinely prefer the former option; however, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it’s not worth your time.
Does Georgia have good internet?
Internet infrastructure in Georgia has come a long way in the past 10 years, and generally speaking, it’s now fairly well-developed. You can easily get from 20Mbps to 100Mbps of fiber internet connection, but it may pose a problem if you need more than that. It depends largely on where you’re living. While it’s not difficult to get quality connections in most cities in Georgia, it’s still a good idea to double-check if you’re going to be settling in a remote region like a mountain or rural village.
As it stands today, the home internet provider industry in Georgia is heavily monopolized by 2 major competitors: Silknet-Geocell and Magticom. They are also not too different from each other, as their offered packages are almost identical. Both companies also offer TV and mobile packages that can be combined with home internet as well. See our additional article for a detailed comparison of these two companies.
How do I pay my bills?
As I mentioned previously when talking about Georgian bank accounts, the easiest option by far is to use Internet Banking. All it takes is a couple of clicks and you’re done. Once you add utility accounts to your online banking portal, you can even get notifications inside the app for bills that are due.
If you don’t have a local bank account or just prefer not to use it, you can do what a large portion of the local population does and use the conveniently located bill payment machines or “pay boxes”.
These are the typically blue (TBC) or orange (BoG) touch screen terminals that you’ll see everywhere throughout the city. They’re on street corners, next to shops, inside shops… literally everywhere. There must be over 1,000 of these machines in Tbilisi alone, so it’s impossible to miss them.
They’re quite easy to use. Choose your language, tap on what you want to pay, insert the cash or your local card, and you’re sorted. (International cards are normally an issue, but you can still try.)
What are the best grocery stores and supermarkets in Tbilisi?
As with all questions of this type, “best” is highly subjective, and what some might consider great is the exact opposite for others.
Many people do most of their shopping outside of big supermarkets. It’s very easy to get your fruit and veg from the local vendor, your meat from the butcher, and your khachapuri from the hole-in-the-wall bakery. You’ll support the local economy, get fresh quality products, and won’t pay through your teeth either.
As far as Western-style supermarkets are concerned, you’ve got a few options:
- Carrefour stores can be found all around, they’re pretty sizeable, and you’ll find both local and imported products.
- AgroHub is another supermarket chain similar to Carrefour, but arguably a little bit nicer and better-organized, although a tad more expensive.
- Europroduct, Smart, Spar, and Nikora are chains of mostly smaller shops that you’ll find scattered everywhere throughout the city. If you’re from the UK, you could compare these to your Sainsbury’s Local or Tesco Express, though Europroduct has quite a few additional foreign imports from Europe.
- Goodwill a slightly more expensive version of Carrefour (because the product selection and quality is similar, just with higher prices). It’s fine, but you might as well go to Carrefour in most cases.
I lost my water. When is it coming back & what should I do?
The first step is to check the Supply Interruptions section of the GWP Website and see if your address is listed there. While the site has an English version, this section is in Georgian so you’ll need to use Google Translate. If your address is listed, then you should also see the estimated time you’ll have your water back.
If that’s not the case, then the problem is likely with your house or apartment. Give it half an hour in case someone’s cut the water supply to get temporary work done, then call your landlord if you rent, or speak to the building manager if it’s your own place.
Oh, and make sure you’ve paid your bills! Many electricity, internet, and water cuts here are due to unpaid bills, as the utility companies are very trigger-happy and tend to cut off the service in as little as a week or two (or within a couple of days in the case of the internet), without sending you any reminders.
You should always have large containers of tap water for toilet flushing stored in your home. Water and electric cuts occur about once a month (for 6 hours or more at a time depending on the work being done) but cuts can also happen spontaneously, so it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected.
How does the postal system work?
If you’re from a Western country, then prepare to experience something entirely different from what you’re used to.
The first thing you’ll notice is that most apartment buildings in Georgia lack mailboxes. So how does mail get delivered, you ask? Well, it’s complicated.
First of all, sending domestic mail is extremely rare in Georgia. In many cases, service providers don’t even send out utility bills. Instead, you’d either check them online or through the little automated bill payment machines scattered around the city. If a utility bill does get sent, it’s usually given to your doorman (if your building has one) or just slipped under your apartment block’s door. If you are lucky, they may leave a sticker on the door which indicates that the mail will be available for collection at the relevant post office.
So, while it’s technically possible to also send and receive letters and parcels using regular mail, this is an affair that usually requires showing up at the post office and waiting in the queue.
For this reason- and the overall consensus that the public postal system is fairly unreliable- most Georgians tend to use private services like USA2Georgia, Kiwipost, Camex, etc., for foreign parcels. For local deliveries, there are many local courier services (for example, you can do point-to-point courier using the Glovo app – which is one of the most popular food delivery apps).
With these services, the delivery driver will call you when they arrive. If you are lucky, they will even come into the apartment building and deliver right to your door.
Does Amazon deliver to Georgia?
Yes and no.
While it will be tough to find Amazon listings that offer delivery to Georgia, most people tend to use services like USA2Georgia (USA only) Kiwi Post (UK / USA), Camex (USA / Germany / China). In short, they give you a local address in the relevant country that you can order your Amazon packages to, and then forward anything received to a “locker” in Tbilisi where you can pick it up. It costs something like $8 USD per kilo and takes around a week per parcel. It’s pretty nice and convenient, at least for lighter things.
Considering the above and the inefficiencies of the public postal system, it’s not hard to understand why this has become the go-to route for Amazon shopping. Plus, if ordering using USA2Georgia’s service, their offices are located in Delaware, so you won’t pay additional US sales tax on your orders.
Remember that if your consignment total exceeds 300 GEL (around $100) per day, you’ll be charged VAT (18%) and an import duty of 0 to 12% depending on the type of good. Note that this applies per day, so it doesn’t matter whether you have 1 package of $104 or 4 packages of $26 each… if you’re over $100, you’ll pay the tax.
Also bear in mind that packages posted on weekends may be lumped together, so if you’re already close to the limit, try to order mid-week or leave a day’s gap between two orders to avoid a potentially nasty surprise.
Once a consignment is trapped at customs, you have to register with the Revenue Service here and get on the tax system to pay the import tax.
What are some good taxi apps/companies?
There are two main taxi apps in Tbilisi – Bolt (formerly Taxify) and YandexTaxi.
Personally, I tend to use Bolt and haven’t had any major issues with them, apart from the sometimes annoying time estimation algorithm that they have (it’s not unusual to be quoted 5 minutes and to then wait around 15-20 minutes, especially during rush hours).
Yandex is marginally cheaper, but with taxi prices already being as cheap as they are (I rarely pay more than 10 GEL for any trip in the city, and I tend to use the “Premium” option), I’d rather pay a few cents more for a little better quality. Being in a premium vehicle (a car in good condition with working rear seatbelts) is especially important when you consider that road safety here is not the best.
Are there any international schools in Tbilisi?
If you have kids and will be spending significant time in Georgia, finding a good international school is essential. There are several private schools in Georgia that are not under the Georgian education system, and instead follow American, British, Finnish, and Russian curriculums. They ensure that the children of expats can continue their education while meeting international standards, so that they will be prepared to enter world-leading international universities, or switch to schools in other countries without issues.
The most popular choices for English-speaking expats are the QSI International School or the British International School of Tbilisi, but there are also other options, which you can learn more about in our article “The Education System in Georgia And Options For Private Schools”.
What are some good cafes for remote work in Tbilisi?
There are plenty of cafes all over the city, and most offer fast internet, as the whole inner city has fiber-optic (20mb/20mb or more – up to 100MB currently).
One coffee chain that’s notably reliable here is called Entree. You’ll find these cafes all over the city, their coffee & pastries are decent, and most of their locations have good wifi & decent seating options. They are also one of the few places that serves breakfast before 9am.
Are there co-working spaces in Tbilisi?
I’d recommend you to check out our article about coworking spaces in Tbilisi to get a better overview, as the coworking places vary WIDELY.
On one end of the spectrum you have places like Terminal in Vake, which looks fantastic, offers great amenities, and is perfectly situated (if you live in Vake), but charges something like 450 GEL per month just for co-working, not including coffee and tea, which you’ll have to buy from their cafeteria.
On the opposite end, you have places like SpaceZ in Saburtalo that charges less than a third of that (120 GEL a month).
HELP – I received an SMS in Georgian, but written in Latin letters, so Google Translate doesn’t recognize it.
It’s common practice for some businesses here to send text messages that are in Georgian, but typed in Latin letters. That’s also done by the Revenue Service, as well as some mobile operators.
For foreigners, it’s extremely annoying, as Google Translate doesn’t recognize it as Georgian, and fails to translate it.
Luckily, there’s a (somewhat annoying) solution:
Head over to https://ge.translit.cc/, paste in your text, and hit the button that says “–> Georgian”. Boom! You now have Georgian text that you can put into Google Translate.
Money & Taxes
Do I need to apply for a Residence Permit?
If you’re a citizen of one of the 95 countries and territories that can travel to Georgia visa-free, then you can spend up to 1 full year in Georgia, including working in Georgia without needing any additional permits. Yes, you read that right. Georgia is, to my knowledge, the only country in the world with an immigration policy this relaxed.
That said, many people still like to get a residence permit, either to safeguard themselves against possible future changes in entry policy, to gain an additional safety net when traveling (technically, it’s the border guard’s decision whether to let you enter the country or not, unless you have a residence permit), or to prove their residency for tax reasons to other jurisdictions.
It’s also important to know, if you spend 183 days or more in Georgia in any rolling 12 month period, you will automatically become a tax resident. This can be a bit of a shock to people who arrived on a tourist visa.
The best outcome is normally to sort out your tax liabilities and options before you even arrive, so that you can minimize your taxes rather than getting a nasty surprise later. You can read about the 6 month tax residency law and your options here.
What are the requirements for a Residence Permit?
The majority of people tend to apply for the permit on the basis of having a workplace in Georgia, and for this, you need to, well, have a workplace. However, it’s no longer as simple as registering a company, hiring yourself, and marching straight into the Public Hall to pick up your residency papers. You’ll need to demonstrate the legitimacy of your workplace and this means that you’ll need to remain employed (or at least have a contract showing that you will be employed) for a certain time (6 months minimum, but 12 months or more is better) and, if it’s your own business, you’ll need to show a turnover of at least 50k GEL, within any 12 month period, before your application can begin. (i.e., If your turnover exceeds 50k in your first month of business, you can apply immediately following that. You don’t have to wait 12 months.)
In order to fast-track the permit, one can always revert to the residency-through-investment channel, which requires you to purchase immovable property in Georgia, valued at 300,000 GEL or more (roughly $100,000). This amount buys you a decent apartment in an OK area that can then be used as a rental property. Once you’ve bought the property, you’ll automatically qualify for the residence permit, along with certain immediate family members.
Other avenues are also available, such as permits for students or family reunification.
Check our article on Residency Permits for more info.
Georgian Tax Residency – you may already be a tax resident.
Firstly, you should speak to a qualified tax adviser and have them assist you and validate your tax situation. This is one area where you want to avoid any mistakes, as they can turn out to be very costly.
Tax residency in Georgia is automatic after 183 days in any rolling 12 month period, so if you’ve already been here that long, you are already a tax resident and required to file by March 31st of the year following when you became a tax resident. Even if you are here on a tourist visa, you are a tax resident after 183 days.
The best way to minimize your tax bill is to take advantage of the Georgian tax system ASAP, rather than waiting until you have to file, and then discovering that you could have paid less if you had registered earlier. The difference can be many thousands of dollars.
The best time to sort out your taxes is before you arrive in Georgia, or immediately after arriving.
If you have questions about your tax situation and the best way to minimize liability, get a free consultation with one of our expert English speaking Tax advisers.
If you are not already a tax resident and want to become one ASAP (possibly without even stepping foot in Georgia) in order to avoid taxation elsewhere, you might consider the “High Net Worth Individual” (HNWI) tax residency program. This HNWI tax residency doesn’t come with any physical residency requirements, but does require you to show assets in excess of 3,000,000 GEL ($1,000,000) and/or income of over 200,000 GEL ($66,600) per year, for the last 3 years. Read more about HNWI tax residency here.
Starting a Business
How can I register a company in Georgia?
Find information on opening an LLC (Limited Liability Company) here.
What are the banking options for my Georgian company?
Your options depend on what sort of business you have.
While Georgian banks used to be extremely liberal when it came to opening accounts (this is still largely the case so for personal accounts), this has changed and it’s increasingly difficult to open a corporate account with any of the local banks, unless you can demonstrate actual ties to Georgia beyond just the fact that you reside here.
Basically, what all of the banks are looking for is physical infrastructure (an office, employees, etc.) in Georgia, as well as evidence of income or marketing activities taking place in Georgia. If you can show this, then you shouldn’t have an issue opening an account with any of the larger banks – Bank of Georgia & TBC being the top two preferred options.
But if you’re expecting a lot of foreign income, especially in USD, and aren’t able to demonstrate a whole lot of “substance”, you’ll almost certainly struggle with opening an account.
You do, of course, still have the alternatives of Revolut, Transferwise, and other online banks, many of which make it extremely easy to open an account.
Read more about business banking in Georgia here.
Where do I find a good English-speaking tax lawyer to help me?
One of the main reasons we started ExpatHub was because we were dissatisfied with the level of service and accuracy we’d experienced when trying to find local tax advice.
We’ve made it our mission to provide tax advice and accountancy services that meet international expectations. We only hire people who speak excellent English and work to our high standards of fact-checking and precision.
If you get a consultation with us, we will not only answer your questions, but also show you the evidence directly from the tax code and government legislation, that proves what we are saying is accurate.
Our initial consultation is free, so there is zero risk to you if you’d like to try us out. Meet with a few other accountants and you’ll discover that we really know our stuff, and that we also offer fair, transparent pricing.
How do I get from Tbilisi to ….
Bus is the most common option. There are two main providers, GeorgianBus and Omnibus, and both have several departures daily. The ticket costs around 20 GEL one-way, and to make things nice for those arriving in the middle of the night (which is when most flights to and from Georgia tend to be), the buses are actually aligned with flight times. The ride takes around 4 hours.
Train is a somewhat cheaper option (9 GEL) and is also a bit more comfortable, but it also takes a bit longer – around 5 hours – and it doesn’t take you straight to Kutaisi airport. There’s also just one train per day. You can reserve your ticket on tkt.ge, available in both website and app form (on Android and iOS).
Rental car is always an option for return trips, but if you haven’t driven in Georgia before, you may want to allow some time to get used to the somewhat creative approach to traffic that’s common here before getting behind the wheel.
Minibus, or a “Marshrutka” as they’re called, costs about the same as the train (10 GEL) and gets you to Kutaisi in roughly 3.5 to 4 hours. Just show up at the bus station, look around for a vehicle with a “Kutaisi” sign, and approach the driver. While not the most comfortable of rides, the minibuses depart often and are both cost-effective & quick.
Taxi remains an option if you’re after speed and convenience, and also don’t mind paying a little extra. One might expect a 3.5-hour drive to cost an arm and a leg, but in reality, at roughly 130 GEL or $45, it’s not that bad at all, especially when splitting the total cost among multiple people.
Train is almost definitely your best option. The trains are modern and comfortable double-deckers with 2 or 3 travel classes depending on the departure. With 2-3 departures per day, a ~6 hour travel time, and a ticket price of 25-61 GEL (depending on travel class) it’s a great option. You can reserve your ticket on tkt.ge, available in both website and app form (on Android and iOS).
Bus is also a viable option, but there are not as many providers available as you’ll find for the Kutaisi route. Probably the best variant is “Metro Georgia“, which has a fare of 30 GEL and takes almost 7 hours.
Flying is another option. But while the flight itself is only 40 minutes and quite inexpensive (starting from around $55) you also need to take into account the time you’ll spend getting to and from the airport, having to arrive early, and dealing with luggage. With all of this combined, the time difference between a flight and taking the train won’t appear that significant.
You always have other options, such as taking a marshrutka or driving, the latter of which might be good if you’re planning to do some sightseeing on the way (and there’s certainly a lot to see!)
While there are some creative ways of getting from Tbilisi to Baku, such as a 10-hour bus ride or trying your luck at the border with a rented car, most people opt for either a flight or an overnight train, both of which have their pros and cons.
The overnight train (which we recently took and I’ll soon write a whole article about) is… fun! We opted for this option, not because of the price (although you can’t go wrong with $30 for a First Class ticket) and more because of the convenient times (it leaves Tbilisi at 8pm and gets to Baku at 9am, and vice versa on the way back) and because of the novelty factor. And we weren’t disappointed!
The trains are nice and relatively modern (at least in 1st class). You get your own sleeper cabin that sleeps 2 (4 in second class, and more in 3rd) and it has everything that you need for a comfortable 12-13-hour ride. Except for food. Bring your own food! And coffee. (Hot water is provided, though.)
The only slight inconvenience is that you have to physically show up at the train station to buy the ticket. There are no online tickets, as they need to physically check your passport, and you’ll have to repeat the process on the Baku side (although for that direction, you can “reserve” your ticket and pay for it online, you just need to pick it up in person).
The Tbilisi-Baku flight is a far less adventurous but arguably more convenient option. There are 3 flights a day – 2 by Buta Airways, and 1 by Azerbaijan Airlines- and the tickets are cheap (around $50-60 one way). The one thing that isn’t great is the flight times, as either your departure or arrival will almost certainly be either late at night or early in the morning.
If you have questions that are not answered here, why not email us email@example.com