Georgia - Consular Information Sheet
November 17, 2000
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.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required.
U.S. citizens may receive a visa upon arrival at Tbilisi Airport,
the Port of Poti, and the Red Bridge ("Tsiteli Khidi")
crossing on Georgia's border with Azerbaijan. Americans intending
to enter Georgia at other points-of-entry must obtain a visa beforehand
at a Georgian embassy or consulate abroad. Armenian and Azerbaijani
visas are no longer valid for transit through Georgia. Travelers
to Georgia must fill out a customs declaration upon arrival that
is to be presented to customs officials when departing the country.
Failure to declare currency and items of value can result in fines
or other penalties. For further information, contact the
Embassy of Georgia at 1615 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W., Suite
300, Washington, D.C. 20009, tel: (202) 387-2390, fax: (202) 393-4537;
SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy advises American
citizens to avoid travel to the separatist-controlled region of
Abkhazia. There are reports of continued fighting and terrorist
activity in Abkhazia (and around Zugdidi), including attacks and
kidnappings of international observers. These incidents have included
bombings and the mining of roads which pose a serious threat to
vehicular traffic. While Abkhaz "border officials" may
demand that travelers entering the region purchase "visas"
from the so-called "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia,"
the U.S. Government does not recognize the separatists' declaration
of an Abkhazia independent from Georgia. As a result of the restricted
access of U.S. officials to Abkhazia, the ability of the U.S.
Government to assist American citizens there is extremely limited,
even in emergencies. American citizens in areas of Western Georgia
near the Abkhaz border are advised to be aware of their surroundings
at all times and to avoid straying off main roads and traveling
American citizens are also advised to avoid travel to other areas
of continuing security concern: specifically, the Pankisi Gorge
north of Akhmeta and the northern mountainous areas of Georgia
bordering Chechnya, Dagestan and Svaneti. There have been instances
of kidnappings for ransom purposes in these regions.
As a result of a threat posed by banditry and other criminal
activities, American citizens should carefully evaluate the implications
for their security before considering travel to South Ossetia
and along the Georgian Military Highway north of the Gudauri ski
CRIME: While petty thefts and pickpocketing were previously
the most common crimes, recently foreigners in Georgia have also
been victimized by muggings, home break-ins and other violent
crimes. Most muggings have occurred on side streets near Tbilisi's
city center. In all instances, the mugging victims have first
been knocked unconscious by blows to the head.
Petty theft is particularly a problem on the Tbilisi metro system
and in mini-vans used for public transit. While the security of
overland travel in Georgia has improved, vehicular and rail traffic
remains vulnerable to robbery. Americans visiting or residing
in Tbilisi should take the same precautions they would in any
major city where crime can be a problem. American citizens in
Tbilisi are advised to remain aware of their surroundings at all
times, day or night; and to stay off dark or unlit streets even
when traveling in a group; to avoid carrying large sums of cash;
and to be particularly cautious of being singled out for victimization
at establishments frequented by foreigners.
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. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. Additional information
on the region can be found in the brochure Tips
for Travelers to Russia. Both publications are available from
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
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 pre-existing health problems may be at risk due
to inadequate medical facilities. Georgian doctors and hospitals
often expect immediate cash payment before rendering medical services.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United Sates. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the department of state's bureau
of consular affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the bureau of consular affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations
and other health precautions may be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
As in the United States, vehicular traffic in Georgia moves along
the right side of roadways. Speed limits range from 80 to 100
km/hr. on highways, and from 60 to 90 km/hr. on urban thoroughfares.
Motorists are not permitted to make right turns on red at traffic
lights. While legislation mandating seat belt use has yet to be
enacted, drivers and passengers are nevertheless strongly advised
to buckle-up on Georgian Roads. Children under seven (7) years
of age are required to be restrained in child-safety seats. Under
Georgian law, a driver may be considered to be driving under the
influence of alcohol with any blood alcohol concentration exceeding
Inter-City travel in Georgia by bus and public minivan is readily
available, and expanding and improved train service links the
capital to most large cities and towns. It is also possible to
hire private taxis for inter-city travel at a reasonable cost.
The state road police, who come under the authority of the Ministry
of Internal Affairs, are responsible for maintaining road safety
in Georgia. As many local drivers do not operate their vehicles
in accordance with established road rules, motorists should exercise
extreme caution when driving, and pedestrians should be careful
when crossing streets.
Roads in Georgia are generally in poor condition and often lack
shoulder markings and centerlines. In addition, traffic signals
may not work as a result of power outages and burned-out bulbs.
Undivided two-lane roads connect most major cities, and motorists
attempting to pass other vehicles may encounter oncoming high-speed
traffic. Driving at night can be especially dangerous. Travel
on mountain roads is treacherous in both rain and snow, and heavy
snowfalls may make some roads impassable. During the first ten
months of the year 2000, 375 traffic related fatalities and 1,670
traffic-related injuries were reported to the state road police.
These figures indicate that the fatality and injury rate on Georgian
roads is several times the U.S. rate.
For additional information about
road safety, including links to foreign government sites,
see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial
air service by local carriers at present, or economic authority
to operate such service, 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
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. 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 DOD at 618-229-4801.
Power outages have occasionally disabled Tbilisi Airport's guidance
beacon for short periods of time, forcing aircraft to land using
visual flight rules.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
the laws of Georgia, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested,
or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in
illegal drugs are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail
sentences and fines.
CURRENCY INFORMATION: While the Georgian Lari is the only
legal tender, dollars can be freely exchanged for Laris at market
rates. Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of upscale hotels
and restaurants, and travelers' checks are difficult to cash.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information
on international adoption of children and international parental
child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens living
in or visiting Georgia 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, tel:
(995)(32)98-99-67 or (995)(32)98-99-68, fax: (995)(32)93-37-59.