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Still Current at: 7 February 2008
Updated: 1 February 2008

Flag of Georgia
Georgia
 
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and Political Situation section (planned demonstration beginning Friday 15 February 2008).  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We advise against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and also the upper Kodori Valley (also known as upper Abkhazia). You should also exercise particular caution if you travel to Svaneti, Pankisi valley, Zugdidi and Tsalenjika districts.  See the Local Travel section of this advice for more details.

  • You should avoid all land borders with the Russian Federation.  See the Local Travel section of this advice for more details.

  • In the run up to the Parliamentay Elections the Opposition are planning demonstrations beginning Friday 15 February 2008. You should exercise caution and avoid any demonstrations and large crowds. See the Political Situation section of this advice for more details.

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

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals have required consular assistance in Georgia in 2006 was for victims of crime, occasionally involving violence.  See the Crime section of this advice for more details.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and the Travel Insurance for more details.

SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
 
For further information read "Security and General Tips" and "Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas".
 
Political Situation

 
Georgia Country Profile
 
Largely peaceful demonstrations, against the government are ongoing. In the run up to the Parliamentary Elections (for which a date has yet to be set) the Opposition have declared that they will hold demonstrations commencing Friday 15 February 2008. Whilst these demonstrations are most likely to be in Tbilisi, they may also occur in other major Georgian cities. These demonstrations have the potential to be large and disruptive to movement, particularly around Tbilisi. Previous demonstrations have being held outside Parliament on the main thoroughfare and in Rike Square. You should exercise caution and avoid any demonstrations and large crowds.

Crime
 
Crime targeting foreigners is not uncommon.  There are incidents of residential break-ins, carjacking, car theft, petty theft and armed robbery as well as street crime throughout Georgia, and in Tbilisi you should take precautions when visiting the tourist areas and areas frequented by foreigners, such as Vake and Saburtalo.
 
You are advised to be vigilant when travelling or walking at any time.  Take extra precautions after dark.  We recommend you do not walk alone, and where possible, travel by licensed taxi. Whilst the electricity situation in Georgia has improved, power cuts can still occur, so you should consider carrying a torch.
 
The threat of kidnapping exists in Georgia, but common sense precautions may reduce the risk.  You should vary routes to and from work.  Keep doors locked while driving.  Keep in regular contact with partners and friends.  Consider calling in at agreed times when travelling outside of Tbilisi.
 
For more general advice see Victims of Crime Abroad.
 
LOCAL TRAVEL
 
We advise against travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and also the upper Kordori Valley (also known as upper Abkhazia). There is a risk of violence in these areas because of the continuing military and political tensions in these regions.

It is illegal to enter Georgia via 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 Abkhazian authorities the Georgian authorities may consider this as illegal entry into Georgia via an unrecognised border crossing.

You should be aware that on 6 August 2007 a missile landed in the area of Tsitelubani, approximately one mile north of the M27, and 37 miles northwest of Tbilisi.
 
You should 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.  Since 2006 relations have deteriorated between Georgia and the Russian Federation. Russia has suspended most transport links, postal services, trade and bank operations with Georgia.
 
You should exercise particular caution if you choose to travel in Svaneti, the Pankisi valley north of Akhmeta, or in the Zugdidi and Tsalenjika districts.  If travelling to, or through, these areas you should increase vigilance, review personal security and take appropriate security measures.  You should travel with a local guide or recognised tour operator and inform an responsible person of your travel plans.
 
Mountaineering/Hiking
 
If you encounter difficulties while mountaineering or hiking in Georgia, it may be difficult to organise the level of emergency/rescue assistance which you would expect in more developed tourist destinations.
 
It can be difficult to get accurate information on mountain conditions.  If you are considering trekking or mountaineering we advise you to contact Georgian companies that provide specialist guides.
 
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.

For more general information see: Driving Abroad
 
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
 
Aircraft maintenance procedures on some flights are not always properly observed.  Where possible, fly directly to your destination on a scheduled international flight.  Among the international airlines serving Georgia are bmi, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Air Ukraine International, and Luftshana.

LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Drug penalties

Illegal drug use (no matter what you are using) carries stiff administrative and criminal penalties including fines and long prison terms.  The penalty for smuggling drugs carries a prison term of between 5 to 20 years and/or heavy fines.

Identification

You should carry a copy of your passport at all times and keep the original in a safe place.

Homosexuality

Homosexuality is legal in Georgia, but is not thought widely acceptable in society.  This has not transposed into violence against homosexuals.

Photography in sensitive areas

Common sense should dictate that you refrain from photographing sensitive sites such as military bases and power installations. Always seek permission if in doubt.  You should also be aware of cultural sensitivities when photographing churches and other religious sites.  If in doubt, ask prior permission.

For more general advice for different types of travellers see: Travel Checklists

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Visas
 
As a British National you may enter Georgia for up to 90 days without a visa.  You may extend your stay in Georgia beyond 90 days by applying for a temporary or permanent residence permit from the Civil Registration Agency of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia.  Georgian law provides for the immediate deportation of anyone who overstays without a valid permit, together with a ban on re-entering Georgian territory for up to one year.

Transiting Georgia or other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries

The 1992 agreement allowing visas issued for one Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country to be used to transit another CIS country is still valid for diplomatic passport holders, although not all CIS countries have signed this agreement.  However, ordinary passport holders should obtain visas for all countries to be visited.  If you are planning to visit two or more CIS countries, you should contact the relevant embassies in London for advice before travelling.
 
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.

HEALTH

Medical facilities in Tbilisi are available but can be expensive.  Outside of Tbilisi, medical facilities are limited.
 
There continues to be outbreaks of rabies in Georgia.  Tap water should be avoided.  Bottled water is widely available.
 
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. NHS Direct (0845 46 47) can provide you with advice on the vaccination requirements for Georgia.

For further information on endemic diseases, like malaria, health outbreaks and vaccination requirements for Georgia you should check the websites of the National Travel Health Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel.

For more general health information see Travel Health

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that there have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in wild swans in the Adjara region of Georgia, 300km from Tbilisi.  No human infections or deaths have been reported.

The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
 
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed information.
 
NATURAL DISASTERS
 
Georgia is situated in an area of seismic activity.  The last earthquake in Tbilisi was in April 2002.

GENERAL

Insurance

You are strongly 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.  Please see Travel Insurance

If things do go wrong when you are overseas see What We Can Do To Help

Registering with the British Embassy

We advise British nationals resident in or visiting Georgia to register your presence with the Embassy.  This allows us to keep in touch with you when you are in Georgia and to provide consular assistance in the event of an emergency.

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.
 
Credit cards are increasingly being used and ATMs can be found in major cities.  Travellers’ Cheques are not widely accepted.

CONTACT DETAILS

Address:
 
British Embassy
GMT Plaza
4 Freedom Square
Tbilisi, 0105


Telephone:
 
+ 995 32 274747 (Main Embassy Switchboard)
+ 995 32 274775 (Visa/Consular Enquiries)

Facsimile:
 
+ 995 32 274792 (Main Embassy)
+ 995 32 274779 (Visa/Consular Section)

Office Hours:
 
GMT:
Mon-Fri: 0500-0900 1000-1300

Local Time:
Mon-Fri: 0900-1300 1400-1700

Daylight saving: Georgia does not change its clocks.

Website:
  www.britishembassy.gov.uk/georgia


See Also:
  UK Overseas Mission: Georgia
 

GLOBAL TERRORISM WARNING

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate attacks (that could take place at anytime, anywhere).

When overseas, you should always maintain at least the same level of vigilance as you would in the UK and take sensible precautions. If you see or hear anything suspicious, you should inform the appropriate authorities or security forces.

See Risk of Terrorism.

Avian & Pandemic Flu
Find more information and advice on Avian & Pandemic Flu.

Know Before You Go
The FCO strongly recommends that all travellers abroad take out comprehensive insurance.

NB: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not assume any responsibility, including legal responsibility, in respect of any omission or statement contained in FCO Travel Advice. To see our full disclaimer visit the How We Advise page.

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