When I decided to rent a car in Georgia for the first time in 2019, many people were telling me not to do it. They were saying that Georgia was notorious for its aggressive drivers, roads were bad and there was no driving culture.
But as I wanted to get out of Tbilisi and go to places that couldn’t be reached by public transportation, I knew there was no other way. I needed to rent a car and give it a try on my own. So I did. I rented it.
Then I needed to rent another car and another one another time. Together with Mark, we rented more than 10 cars in 2019 while living in Tbilisi. Recently, we returned to Georgia to do some business and travel more around the country. And we are renting cars again.
But guess what? I still hear some people tell me the same exact thing – drivers are reckless and driving is bad. However, the most interesting part – these comments come from people who don’t have much driving experience or simply those who don’t feel comfortable driving here. This is why they try to convince me not to drive too.
But I am so glad I rented my first (and twenty-first) car in Georgia as it turned out to be easier than I thought and what others told me. Yes, the stereotype of Georgian drivers is pretty much correct but they are not more reckless than drivers in Turkey, Ukraine, or Montenegro for example. And believe it or not, but they are even not as aggressive as many drivers in New York, Miami or LA.
You know, normally when I read (or hear) opinions of others who say that Georgians are known for an aggressive driving style, I immediately want to ask back – aggressive driving compared to what? To a town like Ulvik in Norway or Provo in Utah?
Well, yeah. But if I have to compare its driving style to Vietnam or even Italy (I drove in both of these countries), I’ll tell you right away drivers in Georgia are very much relaxed. So it all depends.
I personally don’t want to call them aggressive. I call them different. But it is not difficult to adjust to their driving style and feel comfortable on the road.
So in this post, I want to share some basic things to know about renting a car in Georgia in order to make your experience painless and convenient. I rented cars from different providers and know which one is the best. Also, I share a few tips about driving in Georgia to help you understand what to expect and how quickly to adapt to that.
So let’s begin.
Is It a Good Idea to Rent a Car in Georgia?
When It Comes to Safety & Comfort
Renting a car in any country around the world comes with a bit of risk, but so does getting on a public bus or train. In Georgia, it is much riskier to get on a marshrutka which is second after train popular type of public transportation. You shouldn’t be discouraged from renting a car just because it is a foreign country.
In a few of my previous posts about the Tbilisi to Kazbegi transportation guide and Georgia Military Highway road trip, I have mentioned that the public transport system of Georgia is still developing. It’s actually quite outdated and poor. Trains run along one line and there are not many buses. Minibusses (or marshrutka taxis) go from one point to another as they wish, without clear rules and schedules.
As a matter of fact, I will never ever recommend anyone to travel in Georgia by marshrutka. Especially via the mountain roads. Marshrutka drivers don’t follow any rules, create tons of dangerous situations and often get into accidents. They don’t care about the basic comfort of passengers (make sharp turns, rapidly stop, most don’t have ACs), how can they think about safety?
I was riding in marshrutka in Georgia two times and both rides were so incredibly nerve-wracking. When driving a car around Georgia, I also witnessed many times how marshrutka drivers were speeding, crossing a solid line, and using a phone. Last week, one of my friends got into an accident while being in marshrutka on the way from Kazbegi to Tbilisi and she stated that it was solely the driver’s fault. Those accidents involving marshrutkas are very common.
So no, thank you, no marshrutka rides. In a country like Georgia, I feel much safer behind the wheel of a rented car when I can be in control of my own life.
When it comes to roads, they are just getting better with every new day. First of all, the government is investing money in roads all over the country. And second, by the Road & Belt Initiative, China is building its own highway that connects all major cities and towns that are situated on the Silk Road.
There are some areas where it is not recommended to self-drive (like Tusheti or Khevsureti region). To get there it would be much safer and easier to join an organized tour or hire a driver. Yet, before you get to those regions, there are still hundreds of other places where you can drive on your own, either in a small sedan car or 4WD.
When It Comes to Activities & Places to Visit
Georgia is not a large country. Imagine it as only half of the Georgia state. But it has so much to offer and experience in terms of natural beauty. Spectacular Caucasus villages and glaciers, deep blue lakes, pebbly and sandy beaches, rich green forests, and even rainforests. Add to that the historical factor, quirky wineries, and hospitality of Georgian people like nowhere else.
If you look on a map, you’ll see that there are only a few large cities in Georgia. While renting a car isn’t necessary anywhere in Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi (they are meant for walking and public transport is great), you’ll definitely want to have it to venture outside cities and see off the path spots in the countryside. And there is a ton to see.
With a rental car, you can go on incredible road trips and drive to beautiful churches and monasteries that are positioned on the higher ground. Hiring a car in Georgia is definitely giving you more freedom, flexibility and enables you to see much more.
Renting a Car in Georgia – Standard Car vs SUV
It all depends on where you want to go and how comfortable you’ll feel driving a specific car. Georgia is a mountainous country. Driving a small car with a small engine volume (1.0-1.4 liters) can significantly complicate trips only to some sights. This is particularly relevant if more than two people are traveling and there is luggage in a car.
As I mentioned above, there are now a lot of roads in great condition. In warm spring, summer, and early fall (from April to October) you can drive to most of the famous attractions in a small standard car. Some of the places where you can drive in a sedan car are:
- Mtskheta, Jvari, Georgian Military Road, Stepantsminda and Gergeti Trinity Church
- Kakheti and Alazani Valley (Telavi, Signagi and anywhere nearby)
- Gori and Uplistsikhe, Borjomi, Bakuriani, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia, Sairme
- Racha, Kutaisi and surrounding caves, Martvili canyons, and Okatse canyon
- Batumi, its surroundings (national parks Mtirala, Machakhela, waterfalls) and anywhere on the Black Sea coast
- Road to Mestia (Svaneti) through Zugdidi or through Kurzu, Mukhuri, and Jvari.
- From Stepantsminda to Juta in summer only when the weather is dry, it is safe to go by a small sedan car.
In winter, you can go to all these places in a sedan car too with the only exception – the mountains. Driving to Military Highway to Kazbegi or to Svaneti will require you to have 4WD.
In rain and ice, some sections of unpaved roads are washed away.
Also, you’d need to hire SUV to conquer not the most popular places on broken dirt roads with deep holes. And such places are:
- In the Kazbegi region to the Gveleti waterfalls or from Stepantsminda to Juta in bad weather or outside the summer season.
- From Ananuri to Telavi (Kakheti) directly through Tianeti.
- In Svaneti: from Mestia to Ushguli, Tetnuldi, to the Koruldi lakes.
- In South Georgia: from Akhaltsikhe directly to Batumi through the Goderdzi pass, from Tbilisi to Vardzia along the southern road (through Tsalka and Poku. You could technically drive there in a small car too but some sections of asphalt have large holes. Not everyone will be comfortable.)
- From Sairme to Abastumani through the Zekarsky Pass.
You are NOT allowed to drive a rented car outside Georgia and to these regions:
!!! Ushguli-Lentekhi – a mountain road without asphalt with many steep, dangerous slopes.
!!! Prohibited travel in the regions of Tusheti, Omalo, and Upper Khevsureti.
!!! Occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia Car Hire: Manual vs Automatic
This is really up to you and what you are more comfortable with. However, the good news is that Georgia is the cheapest country in Europe to rent an automatic car.
Most rental cars in Georgia are automatic, manual transmission will cost more. Anywhere else in Europe it is usually the other way around.
If you are traveling in Georgia in winter, it is more convenient to rent a car that has an option of both transmissions. Getting out of the snow with a manual transmission is much easier.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Car in Georgia?
The minimum driver’s age in Georgia is 23 years olds. The maximum is 70.
Rental car contracts also state that a minimum of 3 years of experience is required. But many smaller companies overlook this or require at least 1 year of experience.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Car in Georgia?
In summer, something like Toyota Prius starts from $23 per day. Then this price can drop to $17 per day if rented for a week or longer. This is not a bad deal for the high season.
SUVs start at $45 per day and around $34 if rented for a week or longer.
In the low season, prices can drop down to $10 per day.
Documents You Need For a Car Rental
No matter in which city you decide to rent a car in Georgia, either in Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi, you’ll need a minimum number of documents. And they are:
– Driver’s license from your country of residence, with a surname and name written in English. Keep in mind that you do NOT need to have an international driver’s license. If you have one, that’s totally fine but no one in Georgia actually cares for it.
– The driver must be at least 21 years old (although some companies may require the age of 23 or 25 years old, so make sure to check that). However, if the company where you want to hire a car requires the driver to be 23 or 25 years old and you are younger, you can still rent a car but for an extra payment.
– You should hold your license for 2-3 years before renting a car in Georgia. American citizens, traveling to Georgia, who have recently renewed their license should not forget to take their previous license with them. Because the new license shows only the issue date but not the day when you got your first license.
Where to Hire a Car in Tbilisi & Georgia in General
There are two different ways how to hire a car in Georgia. First – to rent it from a local supplier and second – from a big international company.
Renting from an international company means you can rent a car in Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi (usually at the airport). When renting from a local supplier, besides big cities you have an option to rent anywhere else in the country (literally), including small towns and villages. Also, when booking through a local company, you can pick up a car at the airport, in one of the local offices around the city, or have a car delivered to your address.
Tbilisi as the capital and the largest city in Georgia offers the most number of cars in the country. However, you can easily rent it in Batumi and Kutaisi too.
I rented cars many times and did it through different aggregators. And in the end, I came to the conclusion that:
The best site to book your car at is LocalRent. It works best in this region, specifically in Georgia and Armenia. And here are the main reasons why I think they are the best pick:
First of all, LocalRent has the largest selection of cars and a convenient, thought-out reservation system. Second, more than 80% of their cars come without any deposit. Third, they have the lowest prices. And fourth, the service is always outstanding.
Since LocalRent aggregator works only with local companies, it has a lot of advantages such as:
- You always get an actual car model that you see in their system, not a class of a car.
- Usually, the price includes insurance and you don’t need to worry about any extra fees (that many international companies like to come up with). You also don’t need to leave a deposit which means if there is a fine or any damage, the rental car company will take care of that.
- You can hire a car anywhere in Georgia. Rent is available not only in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi but anywhere else. Or rent a car in Tbilisi and drop it off in Batumi or Telavi, or vice versa.
- There are 3 options for a pick-up/drop-off – airport, office in the city or delivery to your location.
- Free cancellation.
WHAT TO KNOW: Some local companies do not have an option to charge a card. In that case, you’d need to have cash ready.
SEE PRICES & AVAILABILITY AT LOCALRENT
Other Places to Rent a Car in Georgia
If you still don’t feel like renting from a local company and if you are used to international companies instead, then you have an option to rent a car in Tbilisi (Batumi, Kutaisi) airport.
And for that, the best way to do it is through aggregators such as DiscoverCars or QEEQ. What we usually do, we always search for deals on these two sources, compare prices and then book the cheapest one.
Almost always these companies let you cancel the reservation up to 28 hours before the pickup or even up to pick up time. You can monitor prices from time to time and if there is any better deal, just cancel the first rental and book a new car.
By the way, QEEQ offers an auto rebook option if the price goes down, which is awesome.
However, renting a car from a big name company has some drawbacks. International companies often have a higher cost of rent and deposit (maybe 40-80% higher than that of local ones).
Also, when booking through them, you book not a specific car but a car class. This means that if you have booked, for example, Opel Astra, in the end, you may receive Ford Focus. And in Georgia, chances are high that you’ll get the smallest and oldest car of this class. So be aware of that.
In any case, you should compare prices and see what works best for you.
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Renting a Car in Kutaisi – What to Know
Car rental in Kutaisi is not the most popular service in the city, as car rental centers are concentrated mainly in Tbilisi. I know that Kutaisi airport has a good connection with many cities in Europe, so a lot of travelers will fly there.
If you want to rent a car in Kutaisi, you should know that you’ll pay more but that difference is not significant. On average, cars in Kutaisi are $10-$15 more expensive (per day) than the ones in Tbilisi. With this price, you get the same quality of the car as in the capital.
But make sure to think about the car in advance. During the high summer season, it may be difficult to book it on the spot since there are not many cars available.
Car rental in Kutaisi is possible only if you have an international license, are at least 21 years old, and have a minimum of 3 years of driving experience. Local companies, as many of those in Tbilisi, accept payment only in cash and work during business hours only. If you need to rent a car outside business hours, you’ll need to pay extra (between $40-$50) for that service.
Renting a Car in Batumi – Tips
This beautiful and cozy city during the summer season gets too busy. The number of tourists (local and foreign) is too high but the number of rental companies is smaller than in Tbilisi. Therefore, it may be more challenging to book a good car cheaply there, especially if you are checking the availability one or two days before the trip.
In regards to prices, they don’t differ much from prices in Tbilisi no matter what the season is. Although during any other time outside summer, you can find the right option at a price even cheaper than in Tbilisi.
Renting a car in Batumi for 1-2 days with short notice during the summer will be much more expensive since the minimum rental period for most distributors is 3 days and the price per day, in that case, is cheaper.
Things to Do Before Picking Up Your Rented Car
If you have already rented a car and soon will be on the way to the office to pick it up, make sure you do the following:
1) In order not to have any questions during the drop-off, I advise you to make your own photos (optional videos) as a precaution. Even if an agent marks everything on the contract in front of you, still feel free to walk around the car slowly and check for any dents or scratches on your own.
Don’t miss the wheels. Sometimes there may be bumps and small bulges on the tires. They occur due to off-road driving and can burst open causing a loss of control and potentially accident.
2) If you are renting the most budget car (which also will be the oldest), make sure everything works. The seat belt, headlights, high beams, etc. should be in order.
3) Check if you got all the documents. You should have a registration card (that looks like ID), contract and insurance papers.
Car Rental Insurance in Georgia
Speaking about insurance.
When renting a car from an international company (through DiscoverCars or Qeeq), you always have Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance but you always leave a deposit (sometimes up to $1000) that works as a deductible before the insurance coverage. Another option is to purchase full coverage at the time of pick-up in the rental office and pay for it up to $25 per day. In this case, you don’t leave any deposit at all.
An alternative to that is the full excess coverage from an aggregator that you can purchase at the time of the booking. This coverage reimburses your deposit in case you lose it. But understand this insurance is not for your vehicle but for your deposit. In case of an accident, you’ll need to submit a damage report from a rental company to receive your reimbursement.
A LocalRent aggregator offers a much better deal. Most of their cars have a special type of insurance – SuperCDW (which covers all the damages above deductibles) and either requires a small deposit or doesn’t require any deposit at all. Cars with this insurance cost more than without it (obviously) but the final price is still much lower than when you book a car and purchase full coverage from an international company.
You can simply put a checkmark against SuperCDW insurance in the search box (in filters) and it will show you all the cars with this coverage.
This is one of the reasons why we personally prefer to rent a car through the LocalRent aggregator.
Do you need any additional insurance in Georgia on top of the one mentioned above? Well, that is really up to you. How confident you feel behind the wheel and how much of a piece of mind you want to have.
If you are from the US, check with your credit card company if it provides rental car deposit coverage. Some do and provide complimentary excess coverages. In case of damages, you will still lose the deposit and will need to get the proper documentation from the rental company, but you will get your deposit back in case of proper documentation.
Driving in Georgia – a Few Things to Consider
Some people like to criticize Georgian roads and the terrible driving style of the Georgians. Others (like me) understand that in any new country they need to adapt to the style of local driving. It usually takes 1-2, a maximum of 3 days.
And to help you adapt quicker, I want to highlight a few peculiarities that you need to know about driving in Georgia:
A lot of Beeping
When driving anywhere in Georgia, you’ll encounter a lot of beeping during any time of the day.
For Georgians, using a car horn is a way to talk, not to try to accuse you of something. It is part of a culture to honk no matter what’s the deal. But when beeping, Georgian drivers don’t get angry. Again, it’s just the way to communicate something.
It can be very annoying and distracting but if you know what each beep means, I hope you’ll be able to look at it from a different perspective. Also, you can do the same “talk” to Georgians when driving a car:
- A short beep is always a greeting or warning.
- Double beep means: “Hey, pay attention!” Before any maneuver, drivers will warn you in this way. For example, if someone is overtaking you or getting ahead, they’ll beep to let you know they are doing it. Not to show you their superiority, but to warn they are near. In the mountains on a serpentine road, when visibility is bad and someone is taking over in the opposite lane, they’ll beep to let others know.
- Long beep – yeah, here he disagrees with you. At this time of disagreement, the driver may also swear and be super emotional. But he will not jump out of the car to sort things out. Georgians are very emotional for sure but not out of their mind.
At the beginning of my driving experience in Georgia, I was getting so pissed when hearing others beep at me. But then I just relaxed figuring it’s actually pretty convenient. It makes me more aware of my surroundings on the road.
Headlight flashing is also very common on Georgian roads. When another driver blinks from a distance (usually when approaching an intersection), he/she lets you know to take the first step.
When someone flashes headlights behind you, they usually ask you to let them pass.
If a Georgian suddenly stops in front of you and turns on the emergency light, most likely he/she lets pedestrians pass (who cross the street wherever they want!).
And if on a country road an incoming car blinks at you, they usually notify you about a cop ahead (or accident).
NOTE: A Georgian driver can stop anywhere and anytime in the middle of the road. If he met a relative or friend – he’ll stop to talk on the road, a few times we even saw it on the roundabout!
Also, some people for some reason like to drive very close to other cars. If you encounter that type of driver on the road next to you, if possible let him pass.
Parking in Georgia
Parking in Georgia is easy and for the most part free. There are some paid parking lots in the center of Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi and you can often see a valet parking attendant in tourist spots. Paid parking is usually between 2-3 GEL, not more.
We personally never use paid parking since there is always ample street parking available too.
It may seem that parking in Tbilisi or Batumi is hard since there are always so many cars around. But in reality, there is never a problem finding a spot next to your accommodation. With the only exception of Old Town.
In Tbilisi Old Town it is better to rent an apartment with a parking space included in the price (and it should say so on the description that they provide free parking). With narrow streets (particularly in summer), it may be difficult to find a place.
In all other cities and towns, feel free to park wherever you see the space (unless there is a parking restriction sign). No one will run out and start cursing that you parked in someone else’s yard. Also, do not worry, it won’t be towed or moved.
Traffic Rules, Laws & Fines in Georgia
Traffic rules in Georgia are pretty simple:
– Speed. On the highway, speed is usually 110 km/h, in the city or town 50-60 km/h, outside the city or town 90 km/h. There are signs on Georgia roads (asphalt roads) pretty much anywhere, so you won’t have difficulty knowing what speed is on a particular stretch of the road.
Cameras are installed in cities and along the highway. There is a fine of the equivalent of €15 for exceeding the speed limit over 15 km and €45 for 40 km.
– The penalty for driving without a belt is €21.
– Throwing garbage out of the window will cost €76.
– Talking on the phone while driving is illegal and the fine is €8.
– The legal limit for alcohol in the blood is 0.3 ppm. Fine for drunk driving is €300 plus a suspended license.
– Driving with a child in a car. A child is allowed to ride on the front seat from 12 years old. Children under 3 years old can ride in the back seat on the lap of a passenger over 16 years old or in a car seat/booster. The fine for incorrect transportation of children is €10.
Fuel Prices, Fuel Policy & Gas Stations – What to Know
For some reason, in Georgia managers of the rental companies recommend filling the tank with fuel at reputable gas stations. And among reputable they imply Lukoil, Rompetrol, Socar, Gulf or any big gas station of the international standard. They say that small gas stations mix gas with adding ferrocenes or liquefied gas.
Is it true or not? I don’t know. That was definitely true in the 90s in most countries of the former USSR. But I am not sure about today.
We personally fill up a tank everywhere if the gas station looks nice. If there are only one or two pump stations with peeling paint or moss overgrown on it, we pass. In other cases, the difference is only in the price. I like Gulf gas stations as they also have more or less decent toilets.
When renting your car, ask the person who transfers the vehicle to you which gas stations and gasoline you should choose. Sometimes it should be only premium 95 and other times gasoline type doesn’t matter.
In most places, you can pay by card but it is worth asking before filling up. On a few occasions, we encountered the situation when a credit card machine wasn’t working and we had to run around trying to find a bank to withdraw cash.
In all gas stations around Georgia you don’t fill up a car yourself, it is done by the station worker. Some might wash your windows hoping to receive a tip. But tips are not mandatory.
Average fuel prices in Georgia for 2021:
- Gasoline AI 95 – 2.91 lari (€0.7)
- Gasoline AI 92 – 2.71 lari (€0.65)
- Diesel – 2.8 lari (€0.67)
- Gas – 1.5 lari (€0.36)
NOTE: In most cases, when hiring a car, the fuel policy is empty-to-empty. I recommend you calculate fuel consumption accordingly as no one will refund the money upon return for the gas left in the tank.
Should You Rent a Car With a Driver or On Your Own?
Some travelers say that hiring a car with a driver is a much better alternative to renting it on your own. The cost of such a hire is only slightly more than rent and gas alone.
Yet, to an extent. Being your own driver means you are the only one who controls the situation and determines the driving style and speed. Also, when you are driving, you can detour from the main route or pause for a few days in a new place.
Hiring a car with a driver is an optimal choice for day trips. But definitely not for long road trips or travel to the opposite side of the country (unless it is a transfer).
However, if you are not comfortable driving, there is always an option to join a group tour or hire a car with a driver. When renting a car with a driver just keep in mind that drivers and are not guides.
So think about it. While having a driver sounds like traveling in style, in reality renting your own car in Georgia may be more comfortable. And, it gives more freedom.
Final Word – So Should You Rent a Car in Georgia Or Not?
Of course, everything depends on what type of driver you are and how comfortable you feel behind the wheel. If you haven’t traveled much and Georgia is the first country outside the Western World, then you probably shouldn’t rent a car right away. Ride in a taxi or in a rented car with a driver, get a feel of driving culture and your surroundings, and then rent a car to go not far from Tbilisi.
On the other hand, if you have various experiences driving in different countries and weather conditions or if you come from a place where driving is hard, you won’t have any problem adjusting to driving in Georgia. And that means – definitely, you should rent a car to explore this beautiful country on your own terms.
While traveling around Georgia is possible by marshrutka, taxi, and in some cases train, it is not always comfortable and easy. If you want to explore smaller towns and villages and drive around the mountains, you need a car.
Also, if you love the sense of adventure and freedom, you do want to rent a car as well. Having a vehicle will provide a perfect opportunity to discover as much as you want to at your own pace and avoid crowds.
More Tips For Visiting Georgia
This is it for now. Do you have any questions about the Georgia rental car process or possibly about driving in Georgia? Don’t be afraid to ask me anything in the comments below!