Tbilisi to Kazbegi Trip: A Complete Transport Guide & Travel Tips
Tbilisi to Kazbegi route is one of the most popular in Georgia. And no wonder why. It provides the best opportunity to get into the Caucasus Mountains and see their greatness and majesty on a short trip from Tbilisi.
But besides the mountains, everyone who travels to Kazbegi can get acquainted with the history and see one of the most scenic drives which, by the way, is an attraction on its own.
Travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is possible by different means of transportation. But not each of them will leave the best impression and will be best for you. While one can work great for one group of people, it will be disappointing for someone else.
So to help you distinguish what each type of transportation offers, how much it costs, and what pros and cons it has, I created this guide. It is based on my own experiences and frequent travels to Kazbegi.
Take a look and enjoy your trip!
What to Know Before Going From Tbilisi to Stepantsminda in Kazbegi
Stepantsminda village in Kazbegi is an urban-type settlement, the administrative center of the Kazbegi region. The distance from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is only 153 km (depending on which part of the city you are leaving from, it can be slightly more or less) but it will take you good 3 hours to get there or even more. The final time will depend on the weather and traffic.
Many people go on this trip just in one day, leaving Tbilisi early and returning back late at night. While it is definitely very possible, better do not rush. Kazbegi region hides some pretty villages and hiking trails as well as beautiful guesthouses and hotels for relaxation. There will be definitely a lot to do during many days.
The Georgian Military Road that connects Tbilisi and Stepantsminda is an attraction on its own. It is very scenic and in great condition (the entire stretch is asphalt).
For the best experience, you’d want to hire a car and go at your own pace, making dozens of stops along the way. In that way, you can even turn it into adventure and have a one-long day road trip. If you plan to do so, you can copy our self-drive itinerary that includes all the best stops along the Georgia Military Highway.
If you are visiting Kazbegi for the first time, I’d highly recommend you stay overnight in Stepantsminda, Juta, Sno or nearby villages for at least 1 night. All of these places deserve separate trips and shouldn’t be visited in a hurry for a few hours.
With a few villages and a ski town Gudauri, there are places where to get food and use a bathroom. If traveling by car, the first gas station after leaving Tbilisi will be in Gudauri, the next one in Stepantsminda.
Best Time to Travel Between Tbilisi and Kazbegi
Despite the fact that Stepantsminda village is accessible year-round, the Georgia Military Highway can be closed due to bad weather conditions. Not the entire road will be closed but the high mountains pass Cross Pass (or Jvari Pass as some call it) outside Gudauri.
Most often it will be closed in winter due to snowfalls and avalanches. In summer it may be closed due to mudflows and landslides, however, this is more the exception than the rule.
Another thing that can happen – congestion due to heavy rains or bad accidents which are more common in late fall, winter, and early spring. In spring and fall, when there are also rains, the road becomes slippery. But since many drivers there drive like they are on Formula1 race track, they get into accidents blocking two lanes of a narrow mountain road.
If Cross Pass is closed due to any reasons, there is an option to hop on a 7.5 km long cable car in Gudauri and ride to the village of Kobi. From there take a taxi (delica car) or hitchhike to Stepantsminda or wherever you need.
If you are visiting Georgia in winter and want to make sure that the pass is open, you can call +995 322 418 502 (the patrol police of Georgia) to find out. Some of the officers speak English. Or call your guesthouse in Kazbegi to ask them directly about the pass. They’ll be able to tell too.
When traveling in the high tourist season from late spring to early fall, check the weather forecast but do not trust it completely. The weather in the Caucasus mountains is always unpredictable and changes fast. It may show that it will be raining for the entire length of your trip when in reality it will be sunny and bright. And vice versa.
Before our first trip to Kazbegi in spring, we were checking the weather forecast every day to make sure we could visit when the weather was nice. But the forecast was showing 100% of rain and storms every single day. We still decided to go and were surprised that every day was sunny with occasional clouds that hid the Kazbek mountain.
How to Travel From Tbilisi to Kazbegi & How Much It Costs
There are several options for how to travel from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda in Kazbegi. Some of them are more convenient since they let you see more in comfort while others are cheaper and help save money.
I would love to talk about each type of transportation based on my own experience. I traveled from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and Kazbegi to Tbilisi by all means of transport and can tell that each has its own pros and cons.
So let’s talk about all of the travel options and see which one works best for you.
Traveling From Tbilisi to Kazbegi by Car – the Safest & Most Convenient Option
PRICES START FROM: $22 Per Day (€18.5)
Many people will be surprised to see that traveling by car from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is the safest option. And undeniably it is the most convenient one. But it is really so if one condition is met – if you are a good confident driver.
You see, unlike the US and Western Europe where public buses are safer than driving your own car, in Georgia (and other Caucasus countries) it is the opposite. With the only exception of public buses in Tbilisi and Batumi that now are obliged to drive with no more than 30km/hour speed.
In Georgia, transportation of passengers in marshrutkas and buses as well as technical conditions of the vehicle are poorly regulated by state and country. Drivers drive as they wish and they have no ethics on the road. That includes a route from Tbilisi to Kazbegi too.
If you have driving experience in different places and weather conditions, you should take advantage of going on a road trip in Georgia, including this one to Kazbegi. The road is not difficult at all.
I heard other people say that a drive to Kazbegi is not for fainthearted. But that’s really not the case.
I mean, if during your entire life the only place where you drove was a small quiet town somewhere in the US or Europe, then yes, driving from Tbilisi to Kazbegi (or anywhere else in Georgia) can be quite stressful and exhausting.
But if you have various driving experiences, driving a car will not be of any problem. Just follow extra safety precautions and watch out for aggressive drivers (slow down when needed) and you will be totally fine.
The best place to rent a car in Georgia is the MyRentaCar company. They offer the most competitive prices and the biggest selection of vehicles. For more information about how to find the best deal and what to know about driving in Georgia, see my Georgia car hire guide.
Pros and Cons of Driving From Tbilisi to Kazbegi on Your Own
In my experience (and experiences of many friends) having a car on a trip to Kazbegi is the best option among all on the list. And that is for many reasons:
1) It is much safer.
2) You are on your own schedule. You won’t have to worry about not leaving on time (often marshrutkas leave only when they get full) or not being able to stop wherever you want on the way to Kazbegi.
You can also leave and return whenever you want and stay in a place you like for as long as you want.
3) You can pack all your stuff in the car. Instead of carrying it on your back or in your hands, you can just leave it in a car and take whatever is necessary. Also, keep in mind that marshrutkas don’t have enough room for the luggage, so you may end up having part of it on your lap for the entire trip.
4) You can go off the road and see more at your own pace.
Among the disadvantages of driving from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is the price. Besides the rental expense, you also need to pay for gas.
Another thing that can be a disadvantage to some people is that driving can be tiring. If you are not used to a driving style similar to Georgian, you may feel exhausted pretty fast which will not leave any energy for hiking (if you plan any).
NOTE: You can drive from Tbilisi to Stepantsminda in the warm season by any car, no need to rent a jeep. We also easily drove Toyota Prius to Shevardeni village in Truso Gorge and Juta valley while many people told us we needed a Jeep.
In winter, when ice and snow come, it is advisable to hire a jeep.
Going From Tbilisi to Kazbegi by Bus (Marshrutka) – the Cheapest but Least Comfortable Option
PRICES START FROM: $3 (€2.5)
The cheapest and the most popular way to get to Stepantsminda from Tbilisi is by marshrutka “Tbilisi – Kazbegi”. There used to be also a Tbilisi to Kazbegi bus but it was taken off the route some time ago. So for now, there is only a marshrutka.
But with all the cheapness, it is also the least comfortable way to go on this trip.
When traveling by marshrutka, you don’t get to see all the beauty of the Georgia Military Highway or stop for pictures. You get only one short bathroom stop in this area near the cafe and stands with snacks.
As for me, the ride is unpleasant and stressful. The driver tries to cover the distance with the speed of light, so he is always overtaking other cars and speeds up. And since most of the road is serpentine, it is easy enough to become carsick.
Schedule & Prices For Marshrutka to Kazbegi
The departure point for marshrutkas in Tbilisi is the Okriba bus station near the Didube metro station.
The bus station looks more like a bazaar with lots of chaos but it’s surprisingly easy to find a marshrutka you need. All of them have signs of the destination using the Latin alphabet. Usually, marshrutkas towards Kazbegi have signs with the name “Stepantsminda” on them.
Get ready that on your way to marshrutka, you will be approached by obtrusive drivers who will be offering a taxi ride, a tour or getting on a marshrutka in all other possible directions.
In summer, Tbilisi to Kazbegi marshrutkas run every hour, starting at 08:00 with the last one being at 18:00. Sometimes, if there are more people, the last marshrutka will depart at 19:00.
The price of the ticket is 10GEL ($3.5) and you pay it directly to the driver before departure or upon arrival (depending on a driver). The travel time is usually around 3 hours but it depends on the road conditions and weather.
On the way back from Kazbegi to Tbilisi the timetable is the next: 7.00, 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 11.00, 12.00, 13.30, 14.00, 15.30, 17.00, 18.00.
If you are planning to return back to Tbilisi in the evening then I recommend coming early to take a seat. And better not to wait until the last hour of departure. Somehow, on the way back, transport may leave earlier if it gets full, or not go at all.
NOTE: Drivers of marshrutkas or minibusses maintain their vehicles at their own expense, so it means they do only cheap and last-minute repairs. It may happen that marshrutka breaks down on the road or can’t start the ignition and travel time will increase.
Also, absolutely all marshrutka drivers go above speed limits on the road, make sharp turns, sudden stops, and hit the breaks quickly. If you are afraid of high speed, have motion sickness, suffer from anxieties or panic attacks, do not travel in marshrutka. It will be a strongly negative experience.
Pros and Cons of Traveling by Marshrutka Van to Kazbegi
Getting to Kazbegi by marshrutka minibus is the cheapest way of transportation. Obviously. But that’s not the only expense you are going to have if you want to see more than just the village of Stepantsminda. And as to me, there are more cons than pros to this way of transportation.
First of all, taking the Georgia Military Road to Kazbegi is not really about Stepantsminda village or Mount Kazbek only. There are so many things to do and see along the way, including some short pretty cool hikes. But with marshrutka, unfortunately, you never get to experience them.
Usually, when a majority of travelers choose to go from Tbilisi to Kazbegi, they do the most touristy things that everyone else does. It’s usually a visit to the most famous Rooms Hotel, a hike or a taxi drive to Gergeti Trinity Church, and sometimes a local tour to Gveleti waterfall, Juta, or Truso Valley. That’s it. But there is so much more than that.
Once you get to Stepantsminda, you really need to spend more money to be able to see more. Local taxi drivers offer to drive you to Gergeti Trinity Church (which takes like 10 min by car) for more than $20 (one way). Trips to other attractions will cost even more.
Second, marshrutka drivers are pretty aggressive. For many people, being a passenger will be quite a stress. On such a road as the one from Tbilisi to Kazbegi, it may take all joy away to be in marshrutka if you easily get motion sickness or are not used to driving outside the western world countries.
Going on Kazbegi Tour From Tbilisi – Interesting & Hustle Free Option
PRICES START FROM: $25 (€21)
Joining a tour from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is great for people who have only limited time in Georgia, want to cover more, and do not want to hike. On an organized tour, you’ll be able to visit all major tourist sights along the Georgia Military road, visit Sno village, and Gergety Trinity Church. Also, it will include lunch.
Going on a tour is hustle-free and doesn’t cost much.
NOTE: I want to advise one thing to everyone who is thinking to book a Kazbegi tour from Tbilisi. Do not book a tour with random people who pretend they are travel guides.
You may find tips from your hosts of a flat or hotel who will advise you to go with a specific “tour guide” (who can be his friend or just someone he knows). DO NOT BUY into any of that unless he/she introduces a company or is a licensed guide and knows his job well enough.
I don’t mean to offend anyone, sorry. But it became pretty popular for people who are drivers to start offering “tours”. They can’t offer anything except for their vehicle and a few funny but silly stories.
Yes, they’ll make stops near the most touristy sights and even share some facts (which may not be even true) but they are not guides. There is no way for them to offer you a good tour. Plus, they’ll charge more of what you’d pay for a tour with a professional guide, having some meals or snacks included.
Top Hand-Picked Day Tours From Tbilisi to Kazbegi
If you want to get the best of a tour, go on a private tour. The price for a group tour starts from $25 per person and usually lasts between 10-14 hours. The tour has a maximum of 15 travelers.
– Full-Day Group Tour Through Kazbegi Region – a 14 hours long classic tour that includes stops along the Military Road.
– Hiking Day Trip From Tbilisi to Gveleti & Juta – discover Kazbegi region beyond the Military Road.
– History & Culture Tour to Mtskheta & Kazbegi – see beautiful Caucasus landscapes with cultural sights of Mtskheta.
– Full-Day Jeep Tour to Kazbegi & Truso Valley – combine classic Kazbegi sightseeing with a rugged adventure.
Pros and Cons of Going on Kazbegi Tour
Going on a tour is a wonderful idea if you do not feel comfortable enough to drive in Georgia or want to save money and at the same time to see a lot on one day trip. Also, if you don’t have much time to stay longer in Kazbegi.
What is great about the tour is that you get to make stops along the Georgia Military Road, take photos of famous landmarks and see stunning landscapes before you get into Stepantsminda. Also, since there is usually a professional guide, you get to learn a lot about history, not just look at the mountains. Some food and snacks are included too.
With a tour, you don’t waste time on getting to a bus station and can squeeze in more activities in your day. Tours suit better those who have a week or less time in Georgia and still want to see the Caucasus Mountains in all their beauty.
Cons of one day tours to Kazbegi are no freedom to do what you want and a very limited amount of activities. On a tour, you definitely get to see more than you’d do with a marshrutka. However, usually, it’s the standard program where every tourist visits the same places. In summer, they are too busy and don’t feel authentic anymore.
Another note, if you secure a middle seat, you probably won’t see much outside the window.
Getting From Tbilisi to Kazbegi by Taxi – the Most Expensive but Convenient Option
PRICES START FROM: $50 (€42)
Taking a taxi from Tbilisi to Kazbegi is an excellent option for people who are traveling with the company and don’t want to hire a car. For some travelers, it is a preferred way to travel since you can share the cost and be on your own schedule.
We hired private cars with drivers on a few occasions and all our trips were very enjoyable. This is the best company where to find a taxi to Kazbegi or anywhere else in Georgia.
They will find an English-speaking driver, pick you up at the desired location, make as many stops as needed, and drop you off whenever you want in your final destination.
Tbilisi to Kazbegi taxi fare starts from $50 for a one-way trip. And if a driver doesn’t have any new order, then the return transfer on the same day is free. You can order a transfer to almost anywhere in Kazbegi at a fixed price besides places located off-road.
With the private transfer through GoTrip, you can tailor your own itinerary by adding stops for photos or lunch. The driver will wait near the sights, and in the evening he will return back to Tbilisi. If you want to come back with him, you are welcome to without paying any extras. Otherwise, if staying overnight in Kazbegi, you’ll need to pay for another transfer for a returning trip.
Stops and waiting times are included in the price. But do not expect him/her to be a guide. Chances are high that your driver will tell you some stories, but he is not a professional guide.
Pros and Cons of Taking a Private Taxi From Tbilisi to Kazbegi
Among the advantages of hiring a taxi to Kazbegi is:
1) It’s cheaper than renting a car without a driver and paying for gasoline. Getting a taxi or private transfer from Tbilisi to Kazbegi means you’ll travel in comfort and visit all the same places as tourists visit on a private tour. The only difference, it will be just you (and people who travel with you).
2) The car will arrive at the hotel (house) at the specified time.
3) There is an option to hire a driver who has good reviews and who speaks English.
4) The driver can stop for photos where you ask, wait, and even takes pictures, if necessary.
5) Option to add multiple points to your route. For example, turn to Sno or Gergety Trinity Church before getting off in Stepantsminda.
Among the disadvantages of the Tbilisi to Kazbegi taxi ride is the fact that the driver is not a guide and not everyone will be comfortable with a stranger in a car for too many hours.
Another thing, if planning to travel around Kazbegi, spend a night and return back on the following day, this is where it can get more expensive. Prices for taxis in Kazbegi are rather high.
How Much Time Do You Need for a Kazbegi Trip?
It all depends on what type of adventure you are looking for and either you want to spend some time right in the heart of the Caucasus Mountains or not. We personally went for 2 nights and 3 full days (because we like to take it slowly). But if don’t have that much time, stay at least for 1 night.
This time will be enough to visit all the main sights, go on at least one hike, have a meal or/and swim with a view, and explore the northern part, closer to the border with Russia. Yes, that area has a few gems too.
Even if you are not a fan of hiking, I still believe spending one day on travel from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and back is just too little time. Because of the drive, which takes 3 hours (or more) one way, you end up sitting in a car more than actually walking around and being in nature.
Book at least one night in Stepantsminda. There are so many beautiful options where to stay.
More Inspiration For Georgia Travel
– Mestia & Upper Svaneti – best things to do & see
– Best Wineries to Visit in Georgia – for wine lovers
– 11 Main Thing to Know About Georgia – before you start your travels
– Black Sea Coast of Georgia Travel Guide – best coastal towns, cities & resorts