As is the case with most major cities in the world, Tbilisi offers a wide variety of ways of getting from A to B:
The cheapest and one of the fastest ways of getting around the city is with the Metro, which was built back in the 1960’s. The Metro network is relatively simple to navigate compared to most cities due to the fact that there are only two lines. These are the blue line, which runs approximately north to south, plus the green, Saburtalo, line which runs west from where they intersect at Station Square. Signage is written both in Georgian and English, so it is easy enough to figure out which direction the trains are running in.
Tickets are a bargain at a mere GEL 0.50 per trip. In order to use them, however, you first need to get yourself a Metromoney card. These cost GEL 2.00 for the cards, which you can then charge with as much credit as you’re likely to need. These cards are available from cashiers who sit inside cash booths inside the entrance halls to all of the Metro stations. If you are only staying in Tbilisi for a short time, it is possible to return your Metromoney card to the cashier at the end of your trip and to get a refund for the price of your card.
The trains run regularly. I have yet to wait for more than five minutes for the next one to arrive.
The downside to travelling via Metro in Tbilisi is that, with only two lines to cover a large city of well over a million people, there are large areas of the city without a station within easy walking distance. In addition, the stations are located further apart than in most cities, which means that, even if a line passes virtually underneath your destination, you may still need to walk a fair distance.
Buses and Minibuses
The city is better served by a network of yellow buses and minibuses (also known as mashrutky). I must admit that I am no expert on getting around Tbilisi by bus or minibus. I tried once and, after waiting for 45 minutes (during which time I saw four buses heading in the opposite direction), my patience had worn thin and so I gave up and took a taxi instead! With hindsight, my mistake may have been to attempt to take a bus on one of the more minor streets in Tbilisi which is only served by one route. Had I tried getting a bus on one of Tbilisi’s more major roads which are served by several buses, then I may have had more luck.
For those with more patience than myself, full information on the bus network, timetables, routes, etc., can be found in English on the official Tbilisi Transport Company website.
One of the reasons why I was so quick to give up on buses was that I had already discovered how cheap and convenient the taxis are in Tbilisi.
My first couple of experiences with taxis in Tbilisi were not great. The taxis don’t have meters and so you should try and negotiate the fair prior to getting inside. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of the individual taxi driver as to what the ride is going to cost you. My first short taxi ride cost me GEL 3.00, while the next one cost me GEL 10.00 – even though the distances were almost identical.
There is no Uber service in Tbilisi (yet), but there are a couple of services which operate in a similar fashion. One is Taxify, while the other is Yandex Taxi. From the first time that I used Taxify, I haven’t looked back. The Taxify app allows you to link a credit or debit card to your account and, once it is set up, you never have to worry about rummaging around to find the right change. Yandex Taxi is currently cash only, but it is likely that this will change in the near future.
While Taxify’s cashless system is highly convenient, their prices do seem to be quite a bit higher than those of Yandex and Yandex seems to have more drivers currently. A big difference between the two is that Taxify has a minimum charge of GEL 4.00, whereas there is no minimum on Yandex and short journeys usually cost less than this amount.
The usual wait time for either service that I have experienced is around 2-4 minutes only (a lot better than the fruitless 45 minutes I spent waiting for a bus!). The longest journey I took, from the city centre to Tbilisi Sea came to GEL 10.00. I have read that these rates are slightly higher than it’s possible to get regular taxis off the street for if your negotiating skills are good. But I would rather pay an extra GEL 1.00 to avoid all of the hassle.
So, in summary, if your journey starts and ends within ten minutes of a metro station, then this is the most economical way of getting around. Otherwise, unless you are on a very tight budget, then I strongly recommend setting up an account with Yandex Taxi or Taxify.