Last December I was invited to visit Batumi. I know a lot about the world, but I had never heard of this city before. So only when I started looking on Google I found out that my trip to Batumi would mark country number 86 on my list of visited countries. I always wanted to visit Georgia and this trip finally made it possible.
It was a last minute trip at the beginning of December so I expected it would be super cold in Georgia, but it was not that bad at all. I stayed a little less than a week and learned a lot about the Georgia and Batumi tourism. There are so many cool things to know before you travel to Batumi and that is why I decided to come up with this blog post to let you know what to expect when you decide to visit Batumi in Georgia. Together with the Tourism Board I saw the coolest places in and around the city and most of all got in touch with the Georgian culture and got to meet lovely people.
Where is Georgia?
Americans obviously mistake the country Georgia with their own state in the south of the USA. But the country Georgia lies northeast of Turkey in and between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and borders Turkey, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Is Georgia in Europe or in Asia?
No one really seems to know an answer to the question if Georgia is part of Europe or Asia. Some say Europe reaches as far as the Caucasus Mountains range and in that case Georgia would be part of Europe. Regardless what international diplomacy decides, Georgians feel more European than Asian. Lately Georgia even joined forces with the European Union by signing a partnership agreement. Georgians are free to travel to all countries within the EU, but are not allowed to work. The first step to becoming official Europeans has been made.
Visa for Georgia
For all European passport holders it is free to go to Georgia and there are no visa restrictions. You get a stamp at the airport and are free to go. Even for Americans it is easy to enter Georgia and the great thing about it is that US citizens can stay up to 365 days in Georgia. Isn’t that only already a reason to travel to Georgia?
How to get to Batumi
Batumi Airport is the second biggest airport in Georgia and serves many international destinations like Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, Kiev, Tel Aviv. Seasonal there are now also direct flights with Wizz Air from London, Dortmund, Berlin and many more to be added soon.
From Tbilisi to Batumi
There is also an extensive train connection between the capital Tbilisi and Batumi with very modern and new trains. You can travel from Tbilisi to Batumi in 4 hours for around $8.
Things to know when you visit Batumi Georgia
1. Marijuana is legal
It is funny to start with this. I am sorry I am Dutch and one of the first things I learned when I visited Batumi was that Marijuana is legalized very recently. Not that I smoke by the way! It is just when I say I am Dutch people start talking about it! The fact that it is legalized as one of the first countries in the world shows that Georgia is a very liberal and open country.
2. Las Vegas of the Black Sea
One of the first things you will notice when you travel to Batumi is that there are casinos everywhere. Therefore the city is sometimes called the Las Vegas of the Black Sea. Obviously Batumi tourism generates a lot of income from nearby Turkey that is only about 20 kilometers away and where gambling is forbidden.
3. Traveling to Batumi is very safe
I did not even think about it at first, to me it feels like walking around in a Western city. Safety issues simply never crossed my mind and that is a good sign. I walked through the city in the middle of the night, roaming the deserted streets with too much alcohol in my blood and I was not bothered taking a taxi as I felt completely safe. Even traveling to the outskirts of the city or local markets I felt totally safe.
4. Shy but friendly locals
Georgians are not like Americans and will probably not approach you on the streets. You will have to take the initiative. Not everyone speaks fluent English and that holds a lot of people back from speaking to you, but in fact the locals are super friendly and lovely people. If they don’t know what to say they offer you something like a tea or a piece of fruit or ask for a photo, just to show you that they are happy to meet you but aren’t able to speak English.
4. Second biggest city in Georgia
After the capital Tbilisi and Kutaisi, Batumi was always the third biggest city in Georgia, but that changed rapidly over the last years. The major development this city is going through pushed it to the 2nd biggest city in Georgia.
5. Located on the Black Sea
Its location bordering the Black Sea gives Batumi an important position in the economy of Georgia but also makes this city a popular tourist destination in summer for people looking to enjoy the best beaches in Georgia.
6. Climate Batumi
Because of its location on the Black Sea Batumi has a moderate climate all year round. It doesn’t get freezing cold in winter neither scorching hot. Average temperature in winter is 5 degrees Celsius and summers will be around 25 degrees Celsius.
7. Own language
Georgia has its own language and I am sure you won’t understand a thing! English is widely spoken among youngsters but only in the city. Older people don’t speak English but do speak Russian. Whatever language you use if you smile Georgians will smile too.
8. Currency in Georgia
Georgia recently became an EU ‘member’, but they don’t use the Euro. The Georgian currency is the Lari. 1 Lari = 0,33 euro, so if you divide all prices by 3 you get euro prices. When you travel to Batumi there is no need to exchange money. There are ATMs everywhere around the cities or just walk into a casino.
9. Drive on the right side
In Georgia they drive on the right side of the road, but some cars have the wheel on the left side. Cars are imported from countries around and are all mixed up.
10. Religion is a thing
Georgians are still very religious and visiting the church with your family is normal. 80% of the people is Orthodox the other 20% is mainly Muslim. There are a couple cool churches in the center of the city and also see if you can visit the mosque when you are looking for things to do in Batumi.
11. No girls on Tinder
Good luck if you like to meet people through dating apps. Hardly any girl in Batumi uses Tinder or any similar app. Girls will find plenty guys online though. When I asked around how come I was told that it is normal to get married at an age of 22 and get kids.
12. Mom is god
Like in many cultures family is the number 1 thing that is important in life. According to Georgians, mom is God and family values are a very important thing in life. Family members always help each other out and someone always has a cousin that can solve a problem.
13. Meet the Tamada
Every meal has a toastmaster who is assigned to be the head of the table. This person called the Tamada will most likely stand up and open every meal with a toast. As a guest you don’t need to worry about being the Tamada, Georgians will surely take the lead and welcome you to their country with shots of Chacha.
14. Prepare for a Supra
An important part in Georgian culture is a Supra, a traditional Georgian feast. Everywhere you are invited they will serve you as much food as they can. Sometimes it feels a bit weird to see new servings coming when everyone is full. Supra means something like fill the tablecloth with dishes. You can ask them to stop serving food, but they won’t, it is their culture! :)
15. Georgian pizza is Khachapuri
This traditional Georgian dish is a cheese filled bread sometimes topped with an egg. It is served as a main course and extremely filling. My favorite Khachapuri is the simple one that looks like a pizza. There is a restaurant where you can make your own Khachapuri, it is in the city center and is called Grill Town. Fun for when you are asking yourself what to do in Batumi.
16. Drink Chacha
I am sure that during your trip to Batumi you will somehow stumble upon the term Chacha or even better you will taste it. This grape vodka is a clear kind of brandy that will be served before and after your meal. I can tell you it is strong!
17. Georgians like to drink
I would almost say alcohol is part of their culture. Everywhere you go you will be offered a drink or two. Chacha is the traditional drink but Georgia is the first country in the world that ever produced wine.
18. Wine culture
Internationally Georgian wine is not rated among the best in the world, but Georgia surely is a wine country. Georgians make there own wine and it is estimated that a family will produce about 200L wine per year. Airbnb’s for example often come with free wine! :)
Check out some amazingly affordable Airbnb lodging options in Batumi. Sign up for a new Airbnb account through this link and receive $40 off you first booking. If you already have an account simply sign up with a new email address. ;)
19. Georgian hangover cure
Will all that alcohol Georgians also found out what is the best remedy against a hangover: soup with Chacha! It almost made me throw up so it definitely did not work for me.
20. Cheap country to travel
If you travel to Batumi don’t expect to break the bank. Georgia is a cheap country to travel and I am sure it would be a good fit my to list of best countries to backpack the first time.
21. Prices in Batumi
For a local lunch, including a wine and a dessert expect to pay around 12-15 Lari. Taxis are incredibly cheap. For a 10-minute taxi ride you won’t pay more than 5 Lira. I took a taxi once and it was 3 Lira I gave him 10 Lira and he was over the moon. You can hire a driver for a day for around $25. He doubles as a guide and will show you the best places to see in Batumi.
22. Average income
An average income in Georgia lies somewhere between 700 and 900 Lira per month. That is a little more than $250 USD.
23. Tipping in Georgia
Service in restaurants in Batumi was overall good. Tipping is optional not standard. You can find the warm Georgian hospitality in every restaurant. Leaving a 10% tip feels more than fair!
24. Fast Wi-Fi everywhere
Almost everywhere I went in the city there is fast free Wi-Fi available. Restaurants, hotels and even ski lifts have an internet connection that is free to use.
25. Sim card for Georgia
If you travel to Batumi you can get a free sim card at the airport. It comes with a little bit calling time and some data. Topping up is easy and cheap and for a couple bucks you will receive a lot of GB data. For its neighbor I found out what was the best Turkey prepaid sim card, but unfortunately I had no time to figure that out for Georgia.
What to do around Batumi
26. Ski in the mountains around Batumi
With the highest peak in Europe, Mt Elbrus, only 200 kilometers away and Batumi being surrounded by mountains skiing is a popular thing to do in Batumi. When you land you can see the beach, the city and the mountains in one shot. Skiing is becoming a popular reason to travel to Batumi.
27. New ski resort in Goderdzi
Only recently they opened a new ski resort, 100 kilometers away from Batumi. Goderdzi ski resort is completely new and has some beautiful mountain lodges, empty slopes and loads of snow. A lift ticket including ski equipment rental cost about $15 per day.
Things to do in Batumi
28. Take a ride with the cable car
Definitely make sure you hop on the cable car when you visit Batumi. The ride will take you over the city and you can almost peak into peoples homes. From the top station you have incredible views over the city and its spectacular skyline. A round trip cost 10 Lari.
29. Visit Sameba
One of the coolest landmarks in Batumi is the Holy Trinity Church on top of the hill. It is a little bit of a drive uphill but the views are amazing and so is the church itself. Great spot to see the sunset!
30. Find a restaurant with Live Music
Georgians know how to sing and in some upscale restaurants you will find a singer performing. Totally worth it believe me! I can recommend going to Deliria. Not only a super homey atmosphere and good food also a great live singing performance.
31. Go to the local market
Roaming around the local market is one of the coolest things to do in Batumi. This is a real authentic experience where locals come to buy their goods. This has nothing to do with souvenir shops or anything like in Thailand. This is a local market for fruits, meat, clothes, spices, cheese and many more things. The name is Batumis Bazari.
32. Visit the Gonio Fortress
Soak up some history at this castle just 4 kilometers from the Turkey border and only 10 minutes outside the city center of Batumi. The ruins here date back to before Christ.
33. Go to the beach
In summer Batumi is a bustling city because of its beaches. Kvariati is a good spot to go and considered one of the best beaches in Georgia. A trendy spot is Gonio where bars and clubs can be found at the beach.
34. Ride the Ferris wheel
On the seaside next to the amazing skyline you will find a Ferris wheel. Definitely worth going for a ride as it hardly cost anything. One of the cooler things to do in Batumi at night as everything will lit up.
35. Have a drink in Clouds skybar
On the top floor of the Radisson Blu hotel you have the most amazing view over the city. Drinks up here are obviously more expensive but still moderate compared to Western prices.
36. See a traditional dance performance
I was really impressed witnessing a Georgian Folk Dance performance. Fast, skilled and performances that tell a story. Great show!
37. Nightlife Batumi
With a dozen casinos in the city there is always a place to go out. For the best nightclub head to Iveria Beach, Sector 21. Go to Boom Boom Beach if you are looking for a trendy bar when you visit Batumi.
38. Botanical Gardens
One of the best places to see in Batumi is the botanical garden. Away from the city in a quiet spot on the ocean. The views from the incredibly peaceful botanical gardens are incredible. Here you will also find kiwi trees and mandarin trees.
39. Storll thought the City center
Batumi sightseeing starts with strolling through the city center and admiring all its churches and squares.
40. Be active
The city is developing rapidly and one of the amazing constructions is the 7-kilometer long boulevard along the beach. If you want to be active when you visit Batumi stroll along this boulevard or go for a run. This is the ultimate place to unwind when you travel to Batumi.
41. Sunset point at Liberté
At the end of the long boulevard there is a big sign saying Liberté. A great place to see the sun go down in the ocean. Surely this is one of the more romantic things to do in Batumi.
42. Rent a bike
A great way to do your Batumi sightseeing is on a bike. There are public bikes for rent across the city. All you have to do is download the app, register and for a small fee you can unlock your bike for the day.
43. Fish market
Even if you don’t like the smell of fish markets this place is cool to have a quick look. I am just always curious what they catch.
All the fish here comes from the Black Sea. The local restaurants around are obviously a feast and Balagani fish restaurant is where I had one of the best meals in Batumi.
Totally forgot about the many waterfalls around Batumi. The Makhuntseti waterfall is the biggest and a popular tourist attraction in Batumi.
Where to stay in Batumi
Mid Range: Sky Tower Hotel
Budget: Hostel Everyday
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