6 Days in Georgia & Armenia with 500$….?!

Yes, it’s absolutely possible!

If you can save 500USD / 2000AED / 30K INR, then you can well be on your way to the beautiful Caucasian countries of Georgia and Armenia!

Here is how we did it…

1. Time of Travel

We chose to travel in February, which was an off season and so, the flight and tour rates were really low.

2. Flight: 230$

Fly Dubai: Dubai-Tbilisi-Dubai
No check-in luggage
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RoBis @ Dubai International Airport

Check out Skyscanner for competitive flight rates and routes.

3. Paperwork: 24$

  • Georgia offers free on-arrival visa for GCC residents.

If you are not a GCC resident, click here.

  • Armenia has started on-arrival visa for Indian nationals residing in GCC countries from February 2017 ( click here for further details )
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Armenian Tourist Visa
Cost of a Visitor visa (up to 21 days of stay): 6$
  • Travel Insurance is a must and will be verified at check-in itself.

This is the most affordable one we found: Orient Insurance (Easy Journey Travel Insurance) for 9 days: 15$/ person

4. Stay: 32$

This was the first time we decided to try out staying in a hostel instead of a hotel. Though it had its disadvantages, we really had fun!
4 nights, 5days: 27$/ per person
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Picture Courtesy: Patio Hostel (www.booking.com)
1 night, 1 day: 5$/ per person
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Picture Courtesy: Rafael Hostel (www.hostels.am)
  • Breakfast was included in both hostels.

5. Tours: 134$

  • Given the limited time and sub zero temperatures, we opted for Escorted Group Tours for Georgia.

Tour operator: Holidays in Georgia

Day 1: Mtskheta Gori Uflistsikhe

Day 2: Georgian Military Highway, Ananuri, Gudauri

Day 3: Kakheti Region, Bodbe, Sighnaghi

Day 6: Half day Private Walking Tour of Tbilisi
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@ Tbilisi, Georgia
Total: 62$/ per person
We had a great time with this team and the tours were real value for money!
  • We took a Private Tour to make the most of our time in Armenia.

Tour coordinator: Aram Kalantaryan

Day 4: Tbilisi – Goshavank – Haghartsin – Dilijan – Lake Sevan and Sevanavank – Yerevan
Day 5: Yerevan city tour- Garni Temple – Geghard Monastery – Train station in Yerevan
Total: 72$/ per person
We couldn’t have asked for more from Aram and our driver Armen, who made sure that we had two amazing days in their beloved country !!

6. Transportation: 35$

  • Georgian public transportation: 5$/ per person
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Public bus No.37, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Yerevan-Tbilisi overnight train: 30$/ per person

7. Food: 25$

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Enjoying Georgian cuisine

8. Tips and Souvenirs: 20$

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Souvenir shop, Tbilisi, Georgia

GRAND TOTAL: 500$/ per person

Hence proved! 😉
Hope our experience proves useful to you in your next adventure.
Drop us an email for any assistance or clarifications.
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Travel: Our First Love

Being away from our son, a 3-month old exclusively breast fed infant.. travelling extensively with great physical exertion only months after a Cesarean section.. and of course, facing an unforgiving society that is definitely going to point fingers..

It took us a long while to decide if we really should take a trip at this given point in our lives.

But then we realized its not everyday that an opportunity to do something you love, comes your way.

Most regrets in life arise out of our lack of courage to do something out of the ordinary.

And so we brushed aside our insecurities, packed our bags and stepped out that door.. to discover a new land, a new people, a new culture and along the way, a new part of ourselves!

P.S. A bear hug to our amazing parents and our lil Jo, for accepting our craziness.

(They probably didn’t have a choice! ??? )

Opportunity may not come knocking twice, so don’t wait for another day.

Pick up courage and live life as you want to! At the end of the day, your memories are all that you will have. ?

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A Photo Journey through Sri Lanka – Part 4

The last part of our incredible 2-day adventure in Sri Lanka!

 

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From the Royal Botanical Garden, we headed out to the tea plantations of Kandy.

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As the birthplace of Ceylon Tea, Kandy is also referred to as the hill capital and belongs to the Central Province of the Island.

Tea in this region is grown along the surrounding hills covering an elevation of 2,000-4,000ft. This is not the highest elevation for tea growing in the island and the tea produced in this region is thereby labeled as mid-grown tea.

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Renowned worldwide, Ceylon tea is one of Sri Lanka’s primary exports.

It all started when British-born James Taylor first began developing Ceylon tea at the country’s first tea estate, Loolecondera, in 1867. The estate’s tea plantations soon spawned a tea factory and Sri Lanka’s tea industry has been growing ever since.

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The local tea picking ladies were only too happy to demonstrate the art of picking tea leaves and of course, posing for pics!

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The estate has a tea factory and museum, which is well worth a visit.
The tour is very informative, and shows the entire tea producing process from drying of leaves to sorting. They have historical British machines, which add to the charm.

Check out their website for more details: Ceylon Tea Museum 

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Leaves used to make Gold Tea and White Tea.

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Tea tasting procedure, at the end of the museum tour, was fun. The difference in teas was well explained and we tasted 8 different varieties of tea.

A few interesting facts about Tea Tasting:

  • Tea is always tasted standing up
  • The tea sample is infused in boiling water
  • The infusion is inspected, taking into account the color, aroma, clarity and body
  • The tea taster takes the infusion into his mouth with loud sucking sound which mixes infusion with oxygen, letting it travel over his tongue and palate to assess freshness, sharpness, bouquet, and fullness.

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There are several varieties available for purchase.

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After having enough tea for the day, we hit the road again.

A splendid view as we climbed up the mountain towards Nuwara Eliya.

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Nuwara Eliya (City of Lights) is a resort city in the Central Mountain Range of Sri Lanka. Blessed a with salubrious climate, breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery; it’s hard to imagine that Nuwara Eliya is only 180 Km from the hot and humid Colombo.

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Next stop: Ramboda Waterfalls

Ramboda Falls is 109 m (358 ft) high and 11th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka.

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The general water output was lesser than usual due to the summer season.

There were downward steps leading to the falls from the nearby hotel, where we had stopped for lunch. The steps were steep and irregular,with a single metalpipe running along its length for support.

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After lunch we visited the National Railway Museum at Kadugannawa.

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Old railway engines, compartments, and other equipment used were on display.

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Back on our way to Negombo, where we stayed the night and took the early morning flight out of Colombo the next day.

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The mountain in the background resembled the shape of Adam’s peak, which we were unable to visit given the short duration of our trip.

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A shout out to our tour guide cum driver, Mr. Lokku Sanjeeva, who was such a pleasant and resourceful guy!

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Enjoying the greenery along the way.

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And its a wrap!
Thank you Sri Lanka… you were truly refreshing!
Ayubowan!

 

This post is the last part of a four part photo series on our trip to Sri Lanka. Click here to see more our journey.

 

Disclaimer: All photos are our own and intended for the use of the blog alone.

A Photo Journey through Sri Lanka – Part 3

Day 2 in SRI LANKA!

 

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Day 2: The view from our hotel Grand Kandy Villa.

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The Grand Kandy Villa is a large villa having spacious rooms, very clean and well maintained. Breakfast was great and manager was very hospitable.
Would definitely recommend!

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Met this lovely traditionally attired lady on our way to Botanical Garden 🙂

Chatting with friendly locals is a wonderful way to get the real feel of a country’s culture and atmosphere.

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First stop of the day – Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya

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Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya is about 5.5 km to the west from the city of Kandy in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
It attracts 2 million visitors annually.

The garden includes more than 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees.
The total area of the botanical garden is 147 acres, at 460 meters above sea level, and with a 200-day annual rainfall.

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At the Gardens, we were given a map and 2 hours to roam around and soak in the beauty of nature, at our own pace.

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Behind me flows the Mahaweli River, the longest in Sri Lanka.

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Everywhere the camera pointed was another great shot!

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One with nature! 🙂

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Never a shortage for suspension bridges in this land!🙂

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Thousands (literally) of BATS just hanging around!

I don’t want to be caught anywhere near here at night…!

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That, my friends, is a single tree! The branches form this amazing wooden labyrinth.

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Srilankan TUK-TUKs 🙂
Interestingly, it’s called a tuk tuk in Thailand too.

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The Botanical garden was so beautiful that two hours passed in a jiffy!

More pictures of our last day in Sri Lanka coming soon!

All photos are our own and intended for the use of this blog alone.

A Photo Journey through Sri Lanka – Part 2

SRI LANKA – The Journey Continues…

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On the way to Kandy… the roadside views were amazing!

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There were several such street side artwork for sale along the way, and each of them looked absolutely stunning!

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Our next stop of Day 1: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Also callled Sri Dalada Maligawa, it is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy.
The temple complex is huge and the setting serene. It is situated 1630 m (5,350 ft) above sea level with the Kandy Lake in front and the Udawatta forest behind it.

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Getting a flower offering for the Temple.

There are several vendors along the gates of the Temple, that offer flower arrangements in various sizes and colors.

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The moat that separates the Temple from its outer compound

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An ornately embellished passageway in the outer sanctuary.

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The temple enshrines relics of what is believed to be the actual teeth of the Buddha.

After Buddha was cremated, his four canine teeth were taken from the ashes. These teeth are regarded as the holiest relics of Buddhism and distributed among various kingdoms, one of them being Kalinga in Eastern India.
When the kingdom came under attack, the tooth relic was taken out of India and into Srilanka for its safety.

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A sculpture of Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha.
It is believed that the princess carried Gautama Buddha’s tooth relic hidden in her hair to Sri Lanka.

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Climbing the wooden stairs, we came to the main room, the Vedahitina Maligawa (Tooth Relic Shrine).

There was a huge crowd of locals as well as tourists offering flowers and prayers here.

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Inside this inner chamber is the golden casket which contains the Sacred Tooth Relic.
It is said to be encased in seven baskets inside a bullet-proof chamber. Impressive security! 😉

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Huge gold and ivory statues of Buddha adorned the halls on one side of the temple complex.

After offering our prayers and monetary contributions, we headed out of the temple compound and towards a hall nearby.

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Next up, the famous Kandyan dance performance.

It is quite a popular tourist attraction and the hall was packed.

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Considered Sri Lanka’s greatest cultural export, Kandyan dance was almost lost during the period of British rule due to the cultural domination imposed by the ruling empire.

Good thing it’s been revived because it is one truly captivating show that would be a shame if it were lost.

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Kandyan dance is said to have spawned from an exorcism ritual that Indian shamans brought to the island at the request of the king who was suffering from a mysterious illness many years ago.

As the legend goes, the king was experiencing a recurring dream that was causing him much anguish, which he believed to be black magic working against him. After the dance was performed for him, his mystery illness disappeared—and from then forward, the dance flourished.

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Dancers adorned with rattling anklets, elaborate beads, jingling bangles, funky headgear and colourful flowing costumes performed stunning high jumps and summersaults while drummers flanked them, pounding out heart-thumping tribal rhythms.

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Though Kandyan dance has traditionally been reserved for men, today women commonly perform it and have adapted their own style of costume.

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After the stage performance came to an end, the show continued outside the hall, with daredevil acts of fire play.

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That brought us to the end of a long but absolutely memorable first day in Sri Lanka!

 

Stay tuned for more pictures of Day 2.

All photos are our own and intended for the use of this blog only.

A Photo Journey through Sri Lanka – Part 1

 

Ayubowan! Welcome to Sri Lanka! 🙂

 

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We traveled to Colombo from Dubai, with Sri Lankan Airlines, the flag carrier of Sri Lanka. The flight was comfortable and staff were pleasant.

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” Everything starts with a sunrise, but it’s what we do before it sets that matters.” – K. McGraw

Greeted by a beautiful sunrise as we started our two day exploration of this beautiful country.

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Taking in the serenity of untouched nature along the way… one of the first things that really struck us as we started our road journey was, despite the fact that Sri Lanka looked very much like parts of Kerala, India, it was much tidier than our motherland… spick n span…no garbage on the roadsides at all…!

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Coconut roti is a unique and famous flat bread in Sri Lanka.

These roti’s are made with freshly grated coconut, white flour, water and salt. It is similar to thick tortillas, and is best eaten with a spicy paste called lunu miris.
It is eaten almost every day for breakfast in central parts of Sri Lanka.

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Next stop… home grown juicy pineapples..!
The locals are extremely kind and hospitable.

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Hanging bridges for pedestrians are frequently used to cross rivers in Sri Lanka.

Walking over such a bridge is kinda scary. The usual swinging movement of the entire construction gets further amplified by our every step, especially when you reach around the middle.
A first one for us! 🙂

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From the bridge, we can see this amazing hill top that surprisingly resembles the reclining Buddha!

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Moments….!

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Next we drove to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

It is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village.

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The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka.
It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

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The orphanage feeds, nurses and houses young elephants found abandoned by their mothers.
Elephants sometimes fall into pits and ravines in their quest for water during drought period. Other orphans have been displaced from their wild habitat by development projects or have been found abandoned, diseased or wounded.

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The Elephant bottle feeding is a great tourist attraction and takes place at specified timings, usually 9am.

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Calves born in Pinnawala are not all bottle fed, but a few are bottle fed only as tourist attraction.

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The orphanage is open to the public daily, and all admission fees are used to look after the elephants.
Visitors to the park can view the care and daily routine of the elephants, such as bottle feeding of elephant calves, feeding of all other elephants, and bathing in the Ma Oya (River).

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This elephant orphanage conducts captive breeding of some elephants in its care.
The natural environment and healthy care and feeding at Pinnawala made the elephant breeding program a success

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Pinnawala is said to have the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.

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You realize how little you are when you stand next to these massive majestic animals!

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Once the bottle feeding is over, visitors and locals flock to the riverside to see the elephants bathing.

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It’s quite a sight when they all but stampede down to the river!

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Elephants are really lil kids at heart! 😉

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While driving to our next destination, we got the chance to attend a traditional Sri Lankan wedding!

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Our next stop was a traditional Sri Lankan weaving centre. We were given a detailed demonstration with details.

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AYUBOWAN!  Thats namaste in srilanka!

At the weaving centre, the staff insisted that I try out their Sari! It is a three piece attire: the top part called the blouse, the bottom skirt worn like a wraparound and the pleated long piece that is tucked into the skirt and pinned over the shoulder.

The center also has a good collection of traditional as well as touristy clothes for sale.

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Next to the weaving centre is the wood carving and traditional wood art center.

We were given another detailed demonstration on different varieties of wood used for different types of carving and the various dyes made of natural ingredients.

There is quite an extensive display of masks for sale at the store attached to the centre.

The traditional masks are carved from light Balsa like Kaduru wood. The wood is smoke dried for a week in preparation. The hand carved and hand painted masks in traditional dance dramas are both vibrant and colorful.

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Masks are created for three different types of dancing rituals:
Kolam‘, which tell mocking stories of traditional Sri Lankan colonial life;
Sanni‘, or devil dancing masks, used in a type of exorcism ceremony to heal people of persisting illnesses believed to be inflicted by demons;
and ‘Raksha‘ masks, which are used in festivals and processions.

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Wooden elephants of all sizes were on display.

We got ourselves a few as souvenirs.

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more pics from Sri Lanka…

All photos are our own and intended for the use of this blog only.

GEORGIA – Country of Life!

We had an amazing 4-day trip to Georgia ( the country in Europe and not the state in USA ? ) in February 2017, and we can’t wait to share all the details with you!

But first up, here are some fast facts about this beautiful land:

  • Location: Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the south by Turkey and Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital and largest city is Tbilisi.
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Georgia – Location and Flag

Picture Courtesy: www.bbc.com

  • Electricity: 220V, 50Hz (European plug)
  • Primary Airports: Tbilisi (TBS), Batumi (BUS)
  • Water: Georgian Mineral water is highly rated and widely exported. Tap water is generally considered safe for drinking. Bottled water is quite affordable.
  • Internet: WiFi is available at most guesthouses and cafes. Also central Tbilisi has a free WiFi network, TbilisiLovesYou.
  • Local SIM: Readily available and cheap, purchasing a local sim is highly recommended. Magti and Geocell are major cellular operators with packages to suit your need. By presenting our passports at the Airport Arrivals Hall, we were able to get a free Geocell sim with ‘pay as you go’ option.
  • Language: Georgian language is unique and has its own alphabet. Most locals also speak Russian. English is only prevalent in touristy areas of Tbilisi and some of the mountain ski regions. Georgians are said to be quite hospitable, but unfortunately, the ones we encountered were not very patient or helpful. ? So better, keep your Google Translator handy.
  • Safety: We met a lot of solo travellers, all-women groups as well as families with little kids. No-one had any issues with safety and security during their time in the country. The same goes for us. However, use caution if you’re visiting areas near the Russian-occupied areas of Georgia.
  • Accommodation: Finding a place to stay is easy and you can expect comfortable accommodation at every price level. We used Booking.com, for finding an affordable hostel on Rustaveli Avenue. You can also use AirBnB or Agoda for budget stay options.
  • Transportation: Georgian driving is not the safest, wear a seatbelt. There are trains between a few of the cities, otherwise there are minibuses (marshrutka) connecting all major cities in Georgia, as well as connecting Georgian cities to its neighbors, and is quite affordable. For more transport information, click here.
  • Possible Issues: Georgia is one of the safest countries in Europe (except the two occupied areas). Corruption is now low and it’s safe to walk around.  Altitude sickness is a possible issue: Be warned and be cautious if you are visiting the mountains.

So now that you know this country a little better, here is a sneak peak into our Georgian Adventures!

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All opinions and photos are our own, unless otherwise stated.

A Pact for Life!

Ours was purely an “arranged” marriage.

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RoBis, May 2013

For this who are not from the subcontinent, it means our parents hooked us up, for life…! ?

We had no clue of the other’s existence until two weeks before the wedding!

Weird, you may say.

And we will not disagree with you. When two perfect strangers say “I do..until death do us part“, it can either end up as a complete disaster… or it can be the start of an exciting new journey.

Luckily (divine intervention, we believe ?), we fell into that latter category.

We were two entirely different individuals.. one was born and raised in India, while the other in the Middle East.. one spent more time at the movies than school, while the other never bunked a class in her entire life.. one was fluent in their native tongue and even ran a blog in that language, while the other needed a whole ten minutes to read a sentence completely.. one was tall and dark, while the other was short and fair.. one could go for days without sleep, while the other would turn into a banshee if her sleep was disturbed.. one liked spice, while the other preferred sweet.. one was optimistic and carefree, while the other was rather a pessimist and always over thinking… ah well, the list goes on. ?

But something truly life changing happened one week after our wedding…

Still rather unacquainted with each other and running out of conversation topics for the fifth time that day, we decided to give the telly a chance in easing out the ‘just-met-you-last-week-and-now-we-are-man-and-wife’ uneasiness.

A quiz competition was being aired and the quiz master had just completed the last question.

“What is the capital of Ethiopia?”

“Addis Ababa”, we both cried out in unison!

That was THE moment…!

The moment we realized we were not entirely different.. the moment we looked into each others eyes, amazed to see the same hunger for exploring and experiencing the world around us.. the moment that turned us from perfect strangers to the best of friends.. the moment that changed us from you and me into US! ?

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Well, we never ran out of topics after that day.. the conversations mostly beginning with, “so, where to next?”?

After our very first trip together, we realized that we shared exactly the same tastes when it came to travel and we made an amazing team together.

So we made a pact.

A pact to follow one of Dalai Lama’s Instructions for Life.

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Our Pact for Life!

4 years down the lane, we are just as passionate, if not more, about travel and keeping our pact. We have been able to visit 16 beautiful countries so far, with at least one in a year.

But now, we have a real challenge to keeping our pact. We are no longer just two silly homo sapiens roaming unknown lands.. we are now a charming little family of three! ?????

We might no longer be able to grab our passports and jump on the next flight whenever we want to.. we may not be able to sleep in dorms and backpack across mountains.. our travel budget might go up quite a notch..

It’s an entirely uncharted territory for us.

But this much we are sure of..

We absolutely adore our son, and we can’t wait to show him this amazing planet we call Home! ?

 

Happy travels folks! ?

How we ended up in Georgia!

It was December 2016.

A good 10 months had passed since our last adventure to Sri Lanka.

Although it was an absolutely wonderful time in our lives with the birth of our son, our travel-addicted feet were getting rather itchy.

On one such day, we happened to see this picture on a social media platform.

Gudauri_Georgia_Panorama_P.LipartelianiGudauri, Georgia by Paata Liparteliani ავტორი: პაატა ლიპარტელიანი

(Picture courtesy: Paata LipartelianiIt)

One look at this photo and we were totally and irrevocably hooked! We just had to see this mesmerising place that cooled the very depths of our souls in just  a few seconds!

Snow has always been a major weakness for both of us.

We hail from the southern most state of Kerala in India, that receives more annual rainfall than the the rest of the country combined. And we had settled down in Dubai, UAE, where the sun shines bright, often too bright, for most part of the year.

So yes, we have had our fill of rain and sunshine. But that soft fluffy white thingy called Snow, we could never get enough of it.

So that’s how it all started.. a stranger from an unknown land shared a photo on social media, and it reignited a fire within the souls of two individuals.. one sitting in his office in Dubai and the other feeding her baby in India.

After two months of intense researching and planning, we made it! And believe us, Georgia really was everything we had expected and more!

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RoBis @ Gudauri, Georgia

Sometimes it takes just a picture, a quote, a book, a friends facebook post or some random movie song, to awaken in us that deep desire to visit a faraway enchanting land. But more often than not, we end up suppressing those desires with umpteen number of reasons.

Maybe those reasons are not reasons at all, maybe they are just excuses holding you back from taking that first step out of your comfort zone.

If you are reading this, take a deep breath, look in the mirror and tell yourself this:’

Today is the oldest you‘ve ever been, and the youngest youll ever be.”

 

Don’t let excuses stop you from spending a few days or even hours in that place that you have always wanted to visit. Life is too short for regrets! 🙂

 

 

Do check out our post on ‘How To Travel The World For Free‘ for tips on planning a budget trip.

 

Stay tuned for the upcoming post on how to visit ‘Georgia On A Budget