Transportation is surprisingly cheap in Tbilisi, both when using public transportation and taxis. Tbilisi has upgraded old buses and minibuses to newer models with European standards. Also, in 2018, they passed laws regulating taxis, so all licensed taxis are now clearly labeled, painted white, and required to meet basic standards of comfort and safety.
In this article, we will review all of the options for transportation in Tbilisi, along with some useful tips for getting around the city!
Public Transport In Tbilisi
Public transportation in Tbilisi consists of three main options: metro, buses, and minibuses called “Marshrutkas” (although at specific points in the city, one can also ride the funicular and several cable cars).
The efficiency of public transportation in Tbilisi has increased significantly in the last few years. Old, fuel-inefficient yellow minibuses have been replaced by new, larger green and blue buses and minibuses, with lines running along most streets, making them both more comfortable and convenient. Due to the newly renovated bus lanes in Tbilisi, taking the bus is sometimes even faster than using a private car. Also, public transport in Georgia is comparably cheap on a worldwide standard, which we will cover in further detail below.
Georgia is still in the process of fully modernizing its transport system. Some aspects are a bit of a mess, but overall things still work. Inner-city bus routes are relatively well-organized and consistent, and most bus stops even feature LED displays, showing which buses are on the way along with their estimated arrival times.
Taxi prices are so low that most people on an expat budget would have no reason to use any other type of transport for getting around in any of the main urban areas. Convenience makes taking taxis the norm for expats. Ordering using an app is pretty much the only way you would want to get a taxi, unless you speak Georgian, because hailing a cab and bartering is frustrating, and foreigners would rarely get the local price.
A couple of notes on taxis. Standard and economy taxis do not always have working seatbelts in the back seats. Maybe about 20% of them will one or more seatbelts not functioning. They are also more likely to drive like maniacs. Choose the premium taxi option in the app for a more reliable experience, the cost is only marginally higher.
Taxi Apps: Bolt vs Yandex
Bolt & Yandex are the two main apps. You’ll find service available in all the main cities (Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi). However, there is currently little to no service in rural areas and towns.
Yandex is marginally cheaper. Bolt normally has newer vehicles and is a little better overall (in that, Bolt drivers tend to use the GPS, while Yandex drivers like to ignore the GPS and just ask you, in Russian, where you want to go). So if saving time and energy is your preference, go with Bolt. If you speak Russian (or Georgian) and want to save a few dollars a month, Yandex is fine.
The Tbilisi metro is often the fastest means of transportation, especially during rush hour – providing it connects where you need to get to and from, of course. Tbilisi is the only city in Georgia with a metro system. The metro is an attraction in itself, with some stations featuring old soviet art. Using the Metromoney card (2 GEL for the smartcard + however much you want to load in credits), it costs 0.5 GEL per ride, for any distance.
The entry system also allows you to swipe a Georgian bank card (same price, 0.5 GEL per ride). Once you pay for a trip, you can swipe again onto any other bus or metro within 90 minutes and you will not be charged again. International contactless bank cards sometimes work for the metro, but they often don’t work on the bus system. So, don’t use one if you’re planning to transfer from metro to bus during your trip.
The red metro line connects the far north of the city through Station Square (the Central Rail Station), Marjanishvili, Rustaveli, Freedom square, and Avlabari, and extends halfway to the Airport. The green line connects Station Square to the Saburtalo district. Transferring between lines is done without needing to leave the station or re-swipe your card. The metro’s regular running hours are 06:00 to 24:00 daily.
As mentioned, Tbilisi just finished upgrading both their fleet of buses and their bus lane infrastructure in the city center, creating a comfortable and efficient experience for riders. Upon boarding, you can swipe your Metromoney card (or Georgian Bank Card). That first swipe (0.5GEL) entitles you to 90 minutes of travel on city buses and the metro without additional charge. Both green and blue buses have air conditioning, wheelchair accessibility, and charging stations on board.
More info about their routes can be found on the official website, and Google maps also shows scheduled stops and does a fair job of estimating arrival times.
Independent minibuses (marshrutkas) also connect riders to additional routes. There are two types of marshrutkas in Tbilisi: yellow ones, which are relatively old, and the more modernized blue ones, which have been adopted in the last two years. These will stop and pick up passengers anywhere along their route- provided you ask them to stop. However, the process may be a little confusing for foreigners and is generally unnecessary anyway for traversing the inner-city routes that most expats would frequent.
Rides cost from 0.60 to 0.80 GEL per ride. However, you can’t pay using cash in the blue minibuses (unlike the yellow ones), so you need to have a Metromoney card or a Georgian bank card.
Cable Car / Funicular
Tbilisi has two active aerial trams and one funicular, which all connect riders to popular tourist locations. The main aerial tram in Tbilisi runs over the river from Rike park to Narikala fortress/the mother of Georgia statue, offering incredible views of the Old City. It operates from 10am to 11pm and costs 2.5 GEL one way. The Metromoney card is required to ride, and can be purchased at the ticket box. The second aerial tram is located in Vake, on Chavchavadze, and rides over Vake Park up to Turtle Lake, where there are cafes and a variety of entertainment options.
Finally, the funicular runs from lower Mtatsminda, past the Pantheon and Mama Daviti church, up to the theme park & restaurants on the hill-top. Using the funicular requires a separate payment card, which must be purchased at the base station. Fortunately, this card can also be used to load funds for riding the amusement park attractions at the park above. Many events and festivals take place at the top park.
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