GEORGIA

Georgia Flag
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: A mountainous republic situated in the heart of the Caucasus range, Georgia has borders with Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Living conditions are improving, but do not meet Western standards. Tourist facilities outside of Tbilisi, the capital, are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: A passport and a visa are required. Visitors must acquire a visa from a Georgian embassy abroad or upon arrival at the airport before being admitted into the country. Travelers arriving with a valid visa from Armenia or Azerbaijan are not required to have a Georgian visa unless they plan to stay more than three days. Travelers must also fill out customs declarations upon arrival and present them to customs officials when departing the country. Failure to declare currency and other items can result in fines or other penalties. For further information, travelers should contact the Embassy of Georgia at 1615 New Hampshire Ave., Suite 300, Washington D.C. 20009; tel. (202)347-3415, fax (202)393-6060.

AIR TRAVEL SAFETY: Power outages at Tbilisi's airport have occasionally disabled the airport's guidance beacon for short periods of time. Aircraft may have to land using visual flight rules. Because of concerns about the airline's maintenance practices and other safety issues, the U.S. Embassy has instructed its employees not to use Orbi Airlines for official travel.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present between the U.S. and Georgia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Georgia's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Georgia's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

ROAD CONDITIONS/TRAFFIC SAFETY: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions which differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Georgia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Roads generally are in poor condition and lack shoulder markings and center lines. Motorists should be cautious driving throughout Georgia. Most inter-city roads are two lanes, and motorists attempting to pass other vehicles may encounter oncoming traffic at high speeds. Driving at night can be especially dangerous, and there have been reports of motorists being robbed and carjacked. Travel on mountain roads is treacherous in rain and snow, and heavy snowfalls can cause some roads to become impassable.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Travel in separatist-controlled Abkhazia remains dangerous, and Americans are urged to avoid travel to the region. There has been an increase in terrorist activity in Abkhazia with recent outbreaks of fighting, including attacks on international observers. Land mines pose a threat to all travelers in Abkhazia. Travelers to Abkhazia may also encounter so-called Abkhaz border officials who may require travelers to purchase a "visa" from the so-called "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia." The U.S. Government does not recognize an independent Abkhazia separate from the Republic of Georgia. Restricted access to Abkhazia severely restricts the American Embassy's ability to assist U.S. citizens even in emergencies. The U.S. Embassy advises American citizens traveling in areas near Western Georgia and the Abkhaz border, including Zugdidi and the Enguri River Valley, to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to avoid straying off the main roads or traveling after dark.

TERRORIST ACTIVITIES: Terrorist activities occurred in 1998 around Gali and Zugdidi. These incidents included the mining of roads, the attacking and kidnapping of international observers, and bombing incidents.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care in Georgia is limited. There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. The Medicare/Medicaid program does not provide for payment of medical services outside the United States. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Travelers have found that, in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for medical evacuation, has proven to be useful.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page and autofax service at (202) 647-3000.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at tel. 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax: 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or by visiting the CDC Internet home page at http://www.cdc.gov.

Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crime against foreigners is a problem, especially in major cities. Petty thefts and pickpocketing are the most common crimes. Travelers on the Tbilisi metro system are especially susceptible to thefts. The security of overland travel in Georgia is improving, but train and vehicular traffic remain vulnerable to robbery. Travelers should take the same precautions in Tbilisi that they would take in any large city. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The Department of State's pamphlet "A Safe Trip Abroad" provides useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad. Additional information on the region can be found in the brochure "Tips for Travelers to Russia and the Newly Independent States." Both publications are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS: Georgia is a cash only economy. The local currency, the lari, is the only legal tender in Georgia. Travelers checks are unknown in Georgia, and credit cards, while gaining acceptance at upscale hotels and restaurants, are otherwise rarely accepted.

DRUG PENALTIES: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans are strongly encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, where they may obtain updated information on travel and security within Georgia. The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi is located at 25 Atoneli Street; telephone 995/3298-99-67 or 995/3298-99-68; fax 995/3293-3759.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated January 22, 1997, to reflect updated information on the Country Description, Entry Requirements, Aviation Safety Oversight, Areas of Instability and Terrorist Activities.

Need a Complete List of Georgia Holidays
Observed and Celebrated?

Buy an
International Date Planner
for a complete international holiday list for all public holidays throughout the year.