COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Georgia is a constitutional republic with a developing democracy and economy. October 2012 parliamentary elections resulted in Georgia’s first democratic transfer of power. Approximately 250,000 internally displaced persons from the conflicts in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions remain. Even though the unemployment rate recorded by the Georgian National Statistics Office reached 15.1% in 2011, most NGOs and international organizations believe the figure to be significantly higher and unemployment continues to be a serious problem. Tourist facilities outside of Tbilisi and Batumi are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Read the Department of State’s Factsheet on Georgia for more information on U.S.-Georgia relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit Georgia, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
U.S. Embassy Tbilisi
11 George Balanchine Street
Tel: (995 32) 227-70-00 or Consular Section: (995 32) 227-77-24
Duty officer for emergencies after hours: (995 32) (995 32) 227-70-00
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You will need a valid passport to enter Georgia. U.S. citizens visiting for 360 days or less do not need a visa. For further information concerning entry requirements for Georgia, travelers should contact the Embassy of Georgia at 2209 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20008 tel. (202) 387-2390, fax: (202) 387-0864. Please visit the Embassy of Georgia’s website for the most current visa information.
HIV/AIDS Restrictions:The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents in Georgia who plan to stay for 360 days or less.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the occupied regions of South Ossetia, in north-central Georgia, and Abkhazia, in northwest Georgia. These regions are not under the control of the central government following civil wars in the early 1990s, and the conflict with Russia in August 2008. Tensions remain high between the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the central government. Russian troops and border guards continue to occupy both regions. Due to the volatility of the political situation, reported high levels of crime, and inability of embassy personnel to travel freely to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, the U.S. Embassy strongly discourages travel to these areas. The restricted access of U.S. officials to Abkhazia and South Ossetia significantly limits the ability of the U.S. government to assist U.S. citizens in these regions, even in emergencies. All travelers to these regions should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The U.S. Embassy recommends that any travel to Abkhazia or South Ossetia be conducted in accordance with applicable Georgian laws (specifically that U.S. citizens enter the two regions from undisputed Georgia) and that U.S. citizens regularly monitor Emergency Messages on the U.S. Embassy website for the latest information on the security situation throughout Georgia. In the case of a crisis and/or natural disaster, U.S. citizens in Tbilisi may tune in to these FM radio stations for the updated U.S. Embassy emergency message information for U.S. citizens.
The situation near the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains unpredictable, and a number of attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred in and around these regions over the past several years. U. S. citizens are advised to exercise caution when traveling near the administrative boundary lines of the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as there is a possibility of encountering unexploded ordnances near the administrative boundary lines of both regions, particularly near the South Ossetia administrative boundary line. Abkhaz de facto "border officials" and their Russian counterparts may demand that travelers entering the region purchase "visas" from the so-called "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia," but the U.S. Government and the majority of the international community do not recognize any jurisdiction of de facto authorities in either Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Entering the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the proper documentation can lead to arrest, imprisonment, and/or fines by Russian or de facto officials.
Political demonstrations take place from time to time in Georgia, sometimes in front of the former Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. While these demonstrations are generally peaceful, some confrontations between the government and protesters have occurred in years past. U. S. citizens should be aware that even peaceful demonstrations can escalate into violence with little or no notice. Demonstration Notices are posted on the U.S. Embassy Tbilisi website. Because of the possibility of violence, we urge U.S. citizens to avoid all demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay up to date with media coverage of local events, review their personal security practices, and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
In the past, some members of religious minorities in Georgia have been targets of attacks. U.S. citizens should remain cautious when engaging in missionary activity in Georgia.
Stay up-to-date by:
TERRORISM: Georgia has experienced several improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and attempted attacks, both in Tbilisi and elsewhere in the country, since September 2010. Most of these attacks are believed to have originated in the occupied territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, though at least one attack had its origins outside of Georgia. Targets have included government facilities, public places, and diplomatic missions.
CRIME: When traveling in Georgia, you should take the same precautions against becoming a victim of crime as you would in any large city. U.S. citizens in particular are perceived as being wealthy, and therefore may be targeted for economic and property-based crimes. Petty street crime, such as theft by pickpockets, has been reported throughout the country, particularly in crowded places such as tourist sites or on public transportation. Firearms are readily available in Georgia and assailants may be armed with firearms or other weapons. There are also disputes, sometimes in areas where U.S. citizens frequent, which include firearms and may endanger U.S. citizens.
Vary your times and routes, especially from places of residence to work locations. Maintain a low profile – do not carry large amounts of cash or otherwise draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Report any security-related incidents such as suspicious vehicles, individuals, or activities, to the Georgian authorities, and also inform the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible.
Travel in pairs or groups, and stay on main streets and routes. The U.S. Embassy recommends that if you are traveling throughout the country you do so during daylight hours only and provide a travel itinerary and contact telephone numbers to someone before you go.
See below for more details on road safety in Georgia. Personal vehicles and established (clearly marked) taxis and public transportation are generally safe for overland travel in Georgia. However, crowded and “off the beaten path” conditions of some public transportation increase passengers’ vulnerability to robbery.
U.S. citizens have reported occurrences of sexual assault in Georgia, including date or acquaintance rape. Women should avoid being alone in isolated areas with people whom they do not know well. In many of the reported cases, alcohol was involved. Avoid traveling alone in a private taxi or a “marshrutka” mini-bus, especially after dark. Victims of sexual assault should first get to a safe location and then call the local police and the U.S. Embassy. Women victimized overseas may be entitled to receive compensation for counseling and/or other services, including relocation back to the United States. For further information, visit the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women.
Crime levels in occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are known to be high, including targeted violence such as murder, and could easily endanger U.S. citizen travelers. For this reason, and others noted above, the Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are they illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi. We can:
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) operates a 24-hour emergency response center equivalent to “911”. The emergency-response center services all of Georgia via united emergency number “112,” and transmits received emergency calls to the fire and rescue service, police, and thenearest medical-emergency center. Please note that the dispatcher speaks Georgian and Russian, but will transfer a call to an English-speaking operator.
Please see our information on victims of crime for more information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Georgia, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Georgia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. For example, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children, using, or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Georgia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Arrest notifications in host country: While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. Embassy if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. Embassy as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
If you are arrested in Georgia, the local authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned that the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request that police or prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. A Consular Officer from the Embassy will visit you but will not be able to get you out of jail. You will need to consult an attorney. A list of English-speaking attorneys can be found on the embassy’s website. The Georgian authorities will provide you with an attorney and translator if you cannot afford one.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The lack of adequate lighting in some public places, particularly outside of Tbilisi and Batumi, heightens your vulnerability to crime.
Georgia’s customs authorities enforce regulations concerning the temporary import into or export from Georgia of items such as alcohol, tobacco, jewelry, religious materials, art or artifacts, antiquities, and business equipment. Only personal medicines with a doctor’s statement can be imported without the permission of the Georgian Drug Agency section of the Ministry of Health.
You may not import firearms into Georgia; however, you may bring hunting weapons into the country for a two-week period, based on a valid Georgian hunting license. While there is no limit to the amount of currency that you can import, if you try to take out more money than you declared at the time of entry, you are obligated to prove it was legally obtained. There are limits on the amount of Georgian currency that may be exported. For additional customs information, U. S. citizens should contact the Embassy of Georgia in Washington DC.
The U.S. Embassy strongly discourages the purchase of property in the occupied Abkhazia or South Ossetia regions of Georgia. Land for sale in those regions may rightfully belong to internally displaced persons forced to leave the breakaway regions in the early 1990s and may have been placed improperly on the market. In such cases, the Government of Georgia considers the sale of property in occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia illegal and the property could be reclaimed by original owners at a future date.
The Ministry of Culture ‘s Department of Expertise and Evaluation must license any valuables such as artwork, antiques, jewelry, or paintings. This license describes the object, assesses its value, and provides permission to export it from Georgia. Please contact the Embassy of Georgia in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on Customs Regulations.
While the Georgian lari is the only legal tender, dollars can be exchanged freely for lari at market rates. ATMs are widespread within Tbilisi. Credit cards are accepted in upscale hotels and restaurants, but travelers’ checks are difficult to cash. U. S. citizens in Georgia have reported incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft. You should closely monitor your credit card statements.
Military Draft: U.S.-Georgian dual-national males between the ages of 18 and 27 may be subject to military conscription under Georgian law. For more information, you may wish to review the information available by the Ministry of Defense.
Accessibility: Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different in Georgia from what you find in the United States. While the Georgian administrative code mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities and stipulates fines for noncompliance, very few public or private facilities or buildings are accessible. Public and private transportation offer no accommodation for persons with disabilities. There are few sidewalks outside of Tbilisi or Batumi.
LGBT RIGHTS: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are protected by anti-discrimination laws in Georgia, and there are no legal impediments to the organization of LGBT events. However, traditional cultural attitudes result in LGBT individuals often facing de-facto discrimination and harassment by state and private actors. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Western-standard medical care in Georgia is limited, but Georgian healthcare continues to improve. There is a shortage of medical supplies and capabilities outside of Tbilisi and Batumi. Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. We strongly recommend that travelers who intend to visit Georgia for at least two weeks get the Hepatitis A vaccine and the pre-exposure rabies vaccine series. Travelers are also encouraged to bring medicine to treat diarrhea, which regularly afflicts newcomers. Georgian doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment before rendering medical services.
Travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
You can find detailed information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Georgia. For further information, please refer to CDC guidance.
There are eight known poisonous snake species in Georgia. The season when you are most likely to encounter snakes is between March and October. Anti-venom is available for some species in a small number of facilities. Treat all snakes as poisonous.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will cover you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctor and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t cover you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that everyone visiting Georgia consider purchasing medical evacuation insurance, if it is not already covered by your regular health insurance. This is especially important for those with Medicare, as Medicare does not cover medical care overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Georgia, you will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. As in the United States, vehicular traffic in Georgia moves along the right side of roadways. Speed limits range from 80 to 100 km/hr on highways, and from 30 to 60 km/hr on urban thoroughfares. Motorists are not permitted to make right turns at red traffic lights. Front-seat passengers are required by law to fasten their seat belts in moving vehicles. Georgian law requires that children under four (4) years of age be restrained in child-safety seats, however these are not widely available or used. Children under twelve (12) years of age may not legally ride in the front seat, but this law is not widely observed. A driver with any blood-alcohol concentration exceeding 0.00% is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.
You should exercise extreme caution when driving in Georgia, as many local drivers do not operate their vehicles in accordance with established traffic laws. Traffic signals and rules of the road are often completely ignored. Motorists drive erratically, often recklessly, at excessive speeds, and many times under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Motorists frequently encounter oncoming high-speed traffic attempting to pass other vehicles at blind turns or over hilltops. Pedestrians enjoy no right-of-way and need to be extremely careful when crossing streets. The Georgian Patrol Police, who come under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for maintaining traffic safety in Georgia, but enforcement of traffic regulations is haphazard. There is no requirement that vehicles are certified safe to drive, and some vehicles may not have working headlights or tail lights.
Undivided two-lane roads connect most major cities in Georgia. Outside of major highways, roads are generally in poor condition, unpaved, and often lack shoulder markings, center lines, and lighting. In addition, traffic signals may not work due to poor maintenance. Driving at night can be especially dangerous. Travel on mountain roads is treacherous in both rain and snow, and during winter, heavy snowfalls may make some roads impassable.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Georgia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Georgia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
Regional airlines among the countries of the Caucasus may experience prolonged delays and sudden cancellations of flights. In addition to frequent delays, flights are sometimes overbooked. Basic safety features such as seat belts are sometimes missing. Air travel to Georgia on international carriers via Europe is typically more reliable. Ticketed passengers on flights departing from Georgia should reconfirm reservations with the airline 24 hours prior to departure.
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This document replaces the Country Specific Information for Georgia dated September 10, 2012 to update all sections.