Georgia

Summary

The situation in Georgia, including Tbilisi, remains calm but protests by Opposition Parties continue, though it is unclear for how much longer the protests will go on, and what form they will take. 

We continue to advise against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Unless you are carrying out essential business, such as humanitarian work, we advise against travel to areas near the Administrative Boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in particular Zugdidi and villages north of Gori. You should exercise extreme caution if you travel along the M27 (also known as the M1) road, particularly where it runs very close to South Ossetia, i.e. between the Stepantsminda/Gudauri turnoff and Gori, where there has been a kidnapping, and between Gori and Khashuri. There remains a risk of local volunteer militia or criminal activity along this road. We do not recommend that you use the M27 during the hours of darkness.

We also do not recommend that you travel north from the M27 between the points named above, or west of the Georgian Military highway as there is also a risk of criminal or voluntary militia in the Akhalgori area.
There have been some reports of mines and other explosions. There is some risk from unexploded ordnance in areas in which fighting took place or in military installations where Russian troops were present. You should avoid these areas until they are reported as having been cleared.

International flights are operating normal services into and out of Tbilisi International Airport.

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Local Travel 

Since 9 April 2009, Opposition Parties have been holding demonstrations in Tbilisi. These have taken the form of “cages” being used to block transport routes around the main square (Freedom Square) and the adjacent streets and Rustaveli Avenue. The cages on Freedom Square have now been removed but others remain around Parliament and on Rustaveli Avenue. While the demonstrations have, in the main, been peaceful, there have been isolated incidents of violence and an attempted mutiny at a military base just outside Tbilisi. So far the demonstrations have, with a few exceptions, been limited to the city of Tbilisi. It is unclear for how much longer these demonstrations will continue, what form they will take, or whether they will spread to other parts of Georgia. Opposition Parties and the Government have now agreed to meet to try to resolve this deadlock.

We advise against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and also the upper Kodori Valley) also known as upper Abkhazia). Unless you are carrying out essential business, such as humanitarian work, we advise against travel to areas near the Administrative Boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in particular Zugdidi (unless transiting on the way to Svaneti) and villages north of Gori. You should exercise extreme caution if you travel along the M27 (also known as the M1) road, particularly where it runs very close to South Ossetia, i.e. between the Stepantsminda/Gudauri turnoff and Gori, where there has been akidnapping, and between Gori and Khashuri. There remains a risk of local volunteer militia or criminal activity in these, and the Akhalgori areas. If you are entering any of the areas detailed above on essential business, you should liaise closely with the British Embassy, Tbilisi prior to travelling. We do not recommend that you use the M27 during the hours of darkness.

It is illegal to enter Georgia via South Ossetia or Abkhazia as there is no official border control. If you do so you may face criminal prosecution, which carries a prison sentence of up to fours years. If your passport contains entry/exit stamps from the separatist authorities the Georgian authorities may consider this as illegal entry into Georgia via an unrecognised border crossing.

You should also not attempt to enter or leave Georgia via the land borders with the Russian Federation (i.e. Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia) as this is not permitted under Russian Federation law. As stated above, however, we advise against all travel to the separatist regions.

Road Travel 

You can drive in Georgia using a licence issued by an EU country or by using an International Driving Licence.

Driving is on the right. The speed limit is 60 kph in towns and cities. Outside of towns it is 80 kph unless sign-posted.

In Georgia a blood alcohol level higher than zero is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

If possible avoid driving at night. Many roads are badly lit and are of poor quality. Driving conditions are stressful, and often confusing. The majority of cars are poorly maintained, and the standard of driving is erratic.

It is compulsory to wear seat belts in Georgia. Children under seven years of age are required to sit in child-safety seats.

Heavy rain and flooding often affect roads and bridges making travel difficult or impossible (particularly in remote areas). When travelling outside of Tbilisi your vehicle should be suitably equipped to deal with a range of adverse situations.

If using taxis in Tbilisi, and other cities, it is safer to use licensed taxis.

Rail Travel 

If you travel by train, do not leave your valuables or the compartment unattended. Ensure the compartment door is secured from the inside.

Air Travel 

Evidence suggests that some airlines from Georgia do not always comply with international safety standards in respect of maintenance. FCO staff have therefore been advised to avoid flying with non-scheduled or non-international airlines from Georgia if an acceptable alternative means of travel exists. Where possible, you should fly directly to your destination on a scheduled international flight. 

Travelling with children 
 
If you travel to or in Georgia with a child other than your own, you must be able to be able to demonstrate that you have the consent of the child’s parents or guardians.

Insurance

You are advised to obtain comprehensive medical as well as travel insurance to cover illness, injury and loss of money, baggage and tickets before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

Money
 
Although prices are often quoted in US dollars and Euros, according to Georgian law, all goods and services should be paid for in local currency (Georgian Lari). You are advised not to carry large amounts of cash.

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