Last Updated February, 2021
In a few of my previous posts about life in Georgia and Tbilisi to Kazbegi drive, I have already written several times that the public transport system of Georgia is still developing. Trains run along one line (Batumi – Kutaisi – Tbilisi) and there are not many buses. Minibusses (or marshrutka taxis) go from one point to another as they wish, without clear rules and schedules.
Renting a car in Georgia is your best bet if you want to get to know this amazing country and go off the beaten path. And with a car, traveling around Georgia is easy and helps you see much more.
This post on car hire is long. And before I go into details, I’d love at first to mention one important thing.
Car rental in Georgia is safe, convenient and easy. It is rather expensive but there are no other reasons why to doubt either to rent a vehicle or not.
Some people will say that driving in Georgia is dangerous and you shouldn’t be renting a car there. I completely disagree. While a lot of drivers drive as they are out of their minds, you don’t encounter a lot of that on the roads outside big cities.
Also, the most famous places in Georgia have very good roads leading to them. If there is no road, you can always rent an SUV. To very distant places, it is better to hire a local taxi or go with a guide on a private tour.
If you need a car for only 1-2 days, it may be better to rent a car with a driver or choose an individual tour.
Yet, with your own vehicle, you have more freedom and it saves you time.
So let’s go through all the important questions about renting a car in Georgia.
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Do I Need To Rent a Car in Georgia (Country)?
Georgia is not a large country. Imagine it is only half of the Georgia state. But it has so much to offer and experience in terms of natural beauty as far as gorgeous mountains, deep blue lakes, rich green forests, and amazing wineries. Add to that the historical factor and world-wide known 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. If you are planning to stay in Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi, then you won’t need a car there at all. These cities are compact and great for walking. Public transport is well developed there as well.
But if you want to explore this country for what it worths while having a driver’s license, I would strongly recommend renting a car. And this is why:
Trains are limited. I mean there are great modern and comfortable trains between major points like Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi. But in order to get to many smaller towns and villages, you will have to use marshrutka taxis.
For some routes, you may find buses that run on schedule. For other destinations though, there will be only smaller privately operated buses (marshrutkas) which you have to track down at bus stops (probably with help from a local fella) or flag down on the road just as leaving the city.
Once you get on such mini-bus, your comfort level will depend on your personality, since those guys like to drive fast and often don’t follow any rules on the road. They drive above the speed limit, make dangerous overtakes and slam the brakes, not thinking about the passengers.
As local people say, Georgian drivers are pros, that’s why they drive like that. But we have never felt comfortable on those trips.
So if you only care about getting to your destination as fast as possible, without seeing what’s there in between, you probably don’t need to rent a car. But if you generally get concerned about safety while being on the road, then you might be a nervous wreck. And renting a car would be the way to go.
Also, many Georgian highlights are often not easily reachable by foot.
Beautiful churches and monasteries tend to position themselves on the higher ground with the gorgeous view. That means you have to hire a local cab to have him drive you up there, wait and then take you back. This all is quite a hassle and if you want to cover many places, it can also get expensive. A rental car is definitely giving you more freedom and room to breathe.
Should I Rent a Car With a Driver or On My Own?
Some travelers say that hiring a car with a driver in Georgia is a much better alternative to renting it on your own. The cost of such a hire is almost the same as rent and gas alone. So you could be renting it every day. Also, with a driver, you can relax and leave planning behind.
Yes, to some extent. The only problem here is the driving style in Georgia. Being your own drive means you are the only one who controls the situation and determines the driving style and speed.
Unfortunately, a lot of drivers in Georgia are somewhat carefree when it comes to driving. Even when they have passengers on the back seat. Besides speeding, they can smoke without asking your permission, talk too much, listen to music and ask too many questions. While music and chitchats are not a problem for many people, smoking and speeding are.
Just think about it. While having a driver sounds like traveling in style, in reality renting your own car may be more comfortable. And, it gives more freedom.
Documents You Need For a Car Rental
No matter where you decide to rent a car in Georgia, either in Tbilisi, Kutaisi or Batumi, you’ll need a minimum number of documents.
In most companies, the requirements are the same:
– 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 the contract before booking). 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.
Different rental companies may have different requirements. Some ask to have at least 2 years of driving experience while others ask for 3 years. Check these details in the rental agreement.
– Credit or debit card (obviously), although local private rentals ask for cash only.
Where to Hire a Car in Georgia – Local Rentals Vs International Companies
Georgia has three cities where you can hire a car. You can rent a car in Kutaisi, Batumi, and Tbilisi. In the capital, you can rent from one of the local companies in the city or from international rentals in Tbilisi airport.
Tbilisi as the capital and the largest city in Georgia offers the most number of options in the country. Most likely this is where you will be flying to.
If you’re planning to explore the city for a few days before heading out to the wild, don’t rent a car. You do not need it in the city.
A cab from the airport will cost you a lot cheaper and will be less stressful. Once you are ready to hit the road, it is easy and quick to pick up your rental car. And there are a few types of rentals that we will look at.
For car hire in Tbilisi, you have two options that we are going to discuss below. Technically three but we recommend only two and I explain why.
Car Rental in Tbilisi Airport or City Center From an International Company
One of those options is to hire a car from one of the international companies. They are reputable and have their representative offices in many countries. Among them are Alamo, Dollar, Avis, Thrifty, Hertz, Enterprize, Sixt, and Europcar. You might have rented at least from one of them since they are widely known everywhere.
In Tbilisi, some of these companies have offices only in the airport (main hall) but others have them also around the city center (like Avis).
However, renting a car from any of these big names has some drawbacks. A lot of them have the high cost of rent and deposit (maybe 40-80% higher than that of local ones) and booking 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.
If you decide to go with an international company, the best way to do it is through aggregators such as Skyscanner or QEEQ. What we usually do, we always search for deals on three 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. Even if we book anything, we still try to monitor prices from time to time and if there is any better deal, we just cancel this one and book a new car.
By the way, QEEQ offers an auto rebook option if the price goes down, which is awesome.
The Process Of Car Rental With International Company
The process here is pretty much the same as everywhere else. The rental cars come with the Collision Damage Waiver and you have to pay the deposit from $300 up to $1500 for regular cars and up to $3000 for luxury cars.
When you book a car online, there is an option to purchase your access insurance. What it means, that in case of damage or theft, the rental company will still take money for the damage out of your deposit. You will get it back only if you file a claim and provide all the necessary paperwork.
Also, you will be offered either full or liability insurance at the rental desk (as they always do). This is going to be the most expensive option for insurance. However. with its purchase, you can completely relax.
Hiring a Car From Local Rental Companies
The second option (was the best for us) is to rent a car through a small local company. You can do it not only in Tbilisi but in Batumi and Kutaisi too. But let me give you an example based on Tbilisi.
Small regional companies rent out their cars either through walk-in, phone call or online bookings. But for online bookings, they don’t work with large aggregators such as Skyscanner, only with smaller aggregators. There are a few of them but for us personally myrentacar.com was the most trustworthy. After doing thorough research, we decided to go with this aggregator and were happy with their service. One time we also rented with them on vacation in Cyprus and another time in Montenegro and it worked great as well.
It turned out that with Myrentacar, prices are often lower (on average, they start from $15 a day), in many cases no deposit is needed and you don’t rent a class of cars, such as Mini or Full-Size or SUV but an actual car that you are going to have.
Also, most of the companies that are represented on this aggregator have offices around the downtown area. Which in turn, makes it much easier for a traveler without a need to return to the airport. Sometimes they may not have any office at all, so the owner will deliver a car to you (for extra payment like $5-$10) or have you meet at some location like the mall’s parking lot or somewhere else in the old town. Don’t let this fact scare you off. The service is absolutely legit.
Just select Tbilisi (Batumi or Kutaisi) and look for the car you want to rent.
The Process Of Car Rental With Local Companies
The process of booking is easy. You choose the city, dates, and filters if you need to. You’ll notice that you can actually book a car not only in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, and Batumi but also in 8 other places. For all of them, there is a delivery fee which increases the price tremendously. There is a delivery fee to Kutaisi. So try to stick to 2 major cities.
First, you look for a car that fits your budget or preferences. Then you can see the actual model, photos of the car, mileage and so on.
When booking a car through this aggregator, remember that there are a lot fewer brand new cars. From a large international car supplier, you have more chances of getting a new car. But through this aggregator, most likely the car will be older, although this is not a problem. All cars are usually well maintained.
WHAT TO KNOW: With this aggregator, you pay by credit card only a small fee online as a payment for their service (which is already included in the price you see). The rest is paid in cash when picking up the car.
NOTE: When you proceed to the Myrentacar website, it defaults to Russian for some reason, so click EN in the top right corner to switch to English.
SEARCH MYRENTACAR CARS
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 and you are 21 years old (and have a minimum of 3 years driving experience). Local companies, as many of those in Tbilisi, accept payment only in cash and work during business hours only.
Honestly, from our experience, renting a car in Kutaisi makes sense only if you plan to visit nearby Prometheus Cave, Okatse and Martvili canyons, go to Svaneti, Racha and possibly Borjomi. For a road trip to Kazbegi or Kakheti, it is better to rent a car in Tbilisi.
Renting a Car in Batumi – Tips
In Batumi, as in Tbilisi, prices for car hire don’t differ much no matter what the season is. However, in winter there are not many cars available, so you may want to book your vehicle in advance.
Renting a car in Batumi for 1-2 days during the summer can be a challenge and the price will be much higher. The minimum rental period for most distributors is 3 days and the price per day, in that case, is cheaper.
Also, the better the car, the more expensive it is going to be. But what’s interesting, off-road vehicles are not much more expensive than smaller cars. You may want to book them in advance too.
When I check prices of local companies through Myrentacar, based on summer travel, I see that on average car rental in Batumi costs around $35 per day. SUVs start from $55. Most of these cars are automatic. You can check more details here.
International companies offer manual mini cars from $38 per day based on a 1-day rental.
If renting for a week, the price per day drops to $28. See it for yourself.
Local Company Vs International Company – Advantages & Disadvantages of Both
In our experience, there are many more advantages with local companies (meaning you book through Myrentacar or similar aggregator) that you will not have with large international brands.
First, the deposits are normally much lower, and as I mentioned above, there are some cars that come without deposits at all. Many times, if you need to leave a deposit, it might be something between $50 and $300.
Second, many cars are fully insured and owners don’t ask you to purchase additional coverage. This just makes things a lot easier. In cases where you have the option of getting full coverage, again, the price is much lower than what you will pay at the counter at the airport.
Another thing, privately-owned companies almost always deliver cars to you, whether you need it at your apartment, hotel or another city. Yes, this service comes for an extra payment but with International brands, that’s not an option at all.
Often, if you need a car in the downtown area and the company operates from downtown, then delivery is usually free. Delivery to the airport or any other place outside the center is available for a fee of $5-10. And if the company is close to the airport, then probably airport delivery will be free and everything else is for a small fee. Oh, that also applies to drop-offs.
Also, smaller companies in Georgia might be a better option for a “one-way” rental.
If you depart from a different part of the country and don’t want to return just to the pick-up location, there are options that allow you to do that. Most often for a fee of course but it is going to be a lot less expensive than from the big brothers of international large suppliers.
In fact, in some cases that even works internationally. Let’s say you want to start your journey in Georgia but return the car in Armenia. Well, there are companies that will allow you to do that too. And you can search for it on Myrentacar website as well.
Renting a Car in Georgia Without Paying a Deposit
What we really like about renting from local companies is that some of them don’t ask for a deposit. If they do and the amount is $200-$300, you can be sure that’s the maximum you pay if there is any damage to the car and you don’t have any insurance.
Myrentacar has cars without deposit but for now, there are a few of them. At the beginning of 2020 there were only 6 such cars in Tbilisi and Kutaisi, and 5 in Batumi.
If this is a type of vehicle you are looking to rent while in Georgia, then hurry up and try to make a booking with a lot of time in advance. Through myrentacar aggregator, you have an option in search to opt for cars without any deposit.
Other Sources Where to Hire a Car in Georgia
Another option how and where to rent a car in Batumi, Kutaisi or Tbilisi would be through a small distributor or owner of a few vehicles. That’s somewhat different than rent from a local company. These smaller distributors are usually offering their services through a hotel or guesthouse where you are staying or even near major tourist attractions.
Private owners who rent out their own cars usually are not official, do not have a license for this side business. Prices for their cars can be lower than in international rentals or local companies. But lower price is the only benefit you get. Initial savings threaten to turn into additional costs.
Very often their rentals are outdated. During the holiday season, it is almost impossible to find a good car in a technically sound condition. You’ll definitely pay less but you’ll also need to choose from what remains. It can be right-hand drive cars, with a converted steering wheel from right to left, cars that are imported to Georgia from Japan.
For the most part, a private car owner doesn’t want to provide a contract but tries to base the deal on a friendly handshake. He takes a deposit for a car that may be falling apart.
Be extremely careful with this type of Georgian rentals and private owners who do that. Sometimes it is better to pay a bit more but have peace of mind.