It’s super easy to visit Tbilisi on a budget. From insanely cheap food and drinks, a great public transport system that costs mere pennies, and budget accommodation galore, Tbilisi, Georgia is a budget traveler’s dream.
Tbilisi, the capital of the small country of Georgia, is a most excellent city for those looking to travel on a tight budget. Food and drinks are cheap, public transport costs are negligible, the city is most definitely walkable, and there are super cheap sleeping options to be found. Are you convinced yet?
Why it’s easy to visit Tbilisi on a budget
Sweet sights (fo’ free)
To be fair, we’re not museum-going types, but in our humble opinions, why forego all of the rich culture on the streets for something carefully crafted and very contrived inside?
(But, that’s an argument for another day.)
Some of our favorite sights included…
The Dezerter Bazaar
A little bit of market madness right outside Tbilisi Central railway station. Known as the Dezerter Bazaar, it’s a massive outdoor market occupying a metric fuckton (scientific, I know) of city blocks. It’s filled with people of all sorts, from farmers squatting at stands selling their chicken’s last week’s worth of eggs to people peddling the local liquor known as chacha.
There’s not so much in the way of fresh street eats, mostly just the standard pastries/carbobombs, but it’s well worth a few hours of getting lost amongst the maze of market lanes. You never know what you might find in the depths of the market, and we definitely didn’t see it all!
Pro tip: be sure to check out the Underground Clothing Kingdom (name totally made up by me, not actual name). There’s an entrance across the street from the train station. It looks like a metro station entrance stuffed to the brim with clothes.
It’s like someone took an entire Amazon warehouse’s worth of clothing and crammed everything into several underground bunkers. Unless you have a secret burning passion for generic clothing, it’s not necessarily the most thrilling shopping you’ll ever do, but we assure you–it’s the scale that’s mind-boggling.
Tbilisi from above: Mtatsminda park and the Funicular
Tbilisi is surrounded by mountains, which all make for stunning outlooks/great locations for power tripping all around the city. There’s a couple of main sights that you can walk up to for free. One is Mtatsminda park, which houses a marginally run down theme park. Ignore the rusty creaks of the rides and the absolutely wretched music coming out of the tin can loudspeakers–the view of the city from there is the tits.
For those less athletically motivated (coughSebastiaancough), you can also ride the Funicular incline railcar up the mountain. Tickets are 5 GEL per person for a round trip, and the car runs from 9:00 to 4:00 in the morning. You can also pay less and get off at the halfway station and walk, but the car doesn’t stop at the halfway station after 19:00.
This Georgian Orthodox cathedral is in the center of the city, and pretty hard to miss–we just kept walking towards the shiny golden roof (how’s that for pro navigation skillz?). The church is quite recent, having only been completed in 2004, and signifies the revival of Georgia’s spirituality after decades of oppression from the party people commonly known as the Soviets.
It was actually kind of fascinating to see such a young church: most churches you see in this day and age are centuries old, classical, and often crumbling. All of the art inside is relatively recent, the oldest dating back a couple hundred years. It’s almost refreshing to see that spirituality is alive and well in places, and to see the art of icon painting is not dead.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, just like all of the other cathedrals in Tbilisi.
Note: Ladies, if you’re visiting, no bare shoulders or short shorts, and bring a scarf so that you can cover your head. They may let you in sans-head covering, but it’s quite disrespectful, and you’ll get lots of stink eyes and scowls.
Prefer a more organized visit? Check out some of the best tours for Tbilisi and Georgia!
Looking for more inspiration? Bewildered Slavica has some great ideas about things to do in Tbilisi in 48 hours.
When flying into Tbilisi from Amsterdam/Kiev, we had two options for arrival time: midnight or 3 in the morning. In our humble opinions, whoever planned the airport’s flight schedule
is a sadist and should be fired should be alerted to the fact that one does not simply fly in at 3 in the morning and live.
Alas, it was out of our control, so midnight it was! Because we were getting in at such a wretched time, we decided to go ahead and book a hostel online, so that we wouldn’t have to wander around sleep-deprived and seeking out hostels at 2 in the morning. We’re glad we did!
We stayed at BHM Hostel for 3 days, and it was the perfect start to our voyage. At €7 a night for a whole private room, it was one of the cheapest options by far, yet it’s smack in the middle of the city center. There’s plenty of foodstuffs around, and good bars just down the street.
What really made the difference, though, was the man running the hostel, Bahman. An Iranian “ex”-backpacker, he was a walking talking human guidebook, filled to the brim with useful information. I think he has every public transport schedule between here and Iran memorized, and he’s filled with stories and life advice.
Transport on a shoestring
We stuck to using the metro system while in Tbilisi. Figuring out where different buses stopped/departed from was far too much effort for our lazy souls, and our hostel was quite close to a metro station. So, metro it was!
To use the metro, you need to purchase a metro card for 2 GEL. You can use one card for multiple people, so no need to buy several. You can also return your metro card once you’re done using it, and receive the 2 GEL back. Such a sensible system.
When buying your card, you load some money on it to use for travel. One ride on the metro is around 0.5 GEL regardless of distance, so plan accordingly. We loaded about 3 GEL per person and were totally chilling for the whole visit.
The platforms themselves are delightfully intuitive. All of the signs are in both English and Georgian, and each station name has an arrow next to it, indicating which side of the platform you need to be on. My inner usability nerd was so titillated.
Cheap eats and drinks
Georgia is a great country for eating on a budget… so long as you’re not too health conscious or on a gluten-free diet. Georgians love all things breaded and then breaded again, preferably with healthy doses of cheese or meat or potatoes or all of the above involved. They even have “Flour” sections on some menus in restaurants.
Forget your diet, screw thoughts of all gluten-free, low-carb crap, and embrace the fact that you can chow down and actually be full for less than 1 GEL.
On average, we spent $10/25 GEL per person on food and drinks each day. That includes water, coffee, meals and beers.
Cue the “say whaaaat?!” track.
We’d eat a pastry for breakfast, another for lunch–if necessary–and then something ideally-not-breaded-and-including-a-semblance-of-vegetables for dinner. Breakfast + lunch, including multiple coffees, is never more than a couple of GEL. Dinner racks up the (trivial) costs, but that’s okay, stewed meat and dumplings filled with soup are always worth it.
The only downsides:
- You may contract scurvy at some point from eating only bread and cheese for days on end.
- Our intestines did not appreciate the amount of bread we consumed. Even Sebastiaan, a citizen of the Land of Sandwiches, is suffering from the bread count. Surely significant.
I’ll leave you on this happy gastronomical and gastroenterical note. Stay tuned for more tales of moving experiences and unmoving bowels!
Best budget accommodation in Tbilisi, Georgia
- BHM Hostel for ultra-budget travelers
- Lobster Hostel for those looking for a bit more space
- Gallery Hostel Tbilisi for mid-range travelers (it’s okay to want be comfortable!)
So there you have it, our guide on visiting Tbilisi on a budget. Let us know in the comments if you want to add anything!
Traveling to Georgia? Don’t miss our budget report for backpacking in Georgia!
Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book a stay after clicking on one of the links, we get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Never fear, we’d only recommend places we’d actually stay at. What kind of people do you think we are?