Kutaisi

Travel Guide Europe Georgia Kutaisi

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Introduction

Kutaisi is a city in the Rioni Region of Georgia. Kutaisi is the traditional rival of Tbilisi for capital status. Since the days of the Golden Fleece, Kutaisi has been considered the capital of Western Georgia (then Ancient Colchis). It is Georgia's second largest city, but, to the irritation of the proud locals, it does not come even close to Tbilisi's present day size and wealth. Nevertheless, Kutaisi is more respectful of pedestrians than Tbilisi. Its sidewalks are generally even and flat with very few cars parked on them, whereas in Tbilisi pedestrians are often forced into the streets because of cars sitting on sidewalks. Kutaisi drivers generally stop in front of crosswalks to let pedestrians cross, whereas in Tbilisi pedestrians have to be in the middle of the street to get a car to slow down for them.

Since the Georgian Parliament moved to Kutaisi in 2012, there has been a lot of work on restoring streets, buildings, parks and monuments in the city, and it has become much safer. There seems to be a bit more variety in the materials, facades, and designs of the buildings along Kutaisi's streets. In both Kutaisi and Tbilisi a look up to the second floor can reveal balconies of elaborate ironwork. Kutaisi's large, central park is a great (and safe) place to sit and watch people. In addition, a visit to Kutaisi is near mandatory to see the magnificent Bagrati Cathedral and Gelati Monastery, which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites and have commanding views from the mountain slopes over the city and the roaring Rioni River.

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Sights and Activities

  • Bagrati Cathedral (UNESCO World heritage site), Bagrati Street (On foot, from Kutsaisi Park (Central Garden), cross the river on the Nino Street bridge. Over the bridge, turn right, cross the street, and look for the stairs that go up the hill. At the top of the hill follow Bagrati Street to the right). Ancient church originally built in the 11th century by King Bagrat III, a symbol of a unified Georgia. Foundations of an earlier building have been found. Blown up by marauding Islamic invaders in the 18th century, then carefully restored over the last 100 years; the interior is also almost completed. The difference between original and replacement is clearly obvious. The ongoing reconstruction aimed at returning Bagrati Cathedral back to its original state as a religious space has led ICOMOS to recommend that it should be left as a ruin and added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in danger. Free admission.

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Getting There

By Plane

King David the Builder International Airport (KUT IATA), Kopitnari, 14 km west of Kutaisi proper on the main S1 highway. The airport services domestic flights to Tbilisi and several international flights. The Hungary-based, low-cost carrier Wizz Air provides very cheap flights to/from Budapest, Hungary; Vilnius, Lithuania; Kiev, Ukraine; London Luton, England; Warsaw and Katowice, Poland. In September 2016, Wizz Air is scheduled to add flights from Berlin, Munich, Milan, Dortmund, Thessaloniki, and Sofia, making Kutaisi an even more attractive entry point to Georgia. Ukraine Airlines flies to Kiev and Kharkiv, and Ural Airlines flies to Moscow, Russia. There are also occasional flights to Baghdad, Iraq on Iraqi Airways.

Transportation to the airport

  • Georgian Bus provides shuttle bus service between the airport and Kutaisi city center, Tbilisi and Batumi, with bus schedules following flight arrivals. Shuttle buses to Tbilisi (20 lari, four hours) terminate at Freedom Square, while shuttle buses to Batumi (18 lari, three hours) terminate at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Shuttle buses to Kutaisi city center (5 lari) will stop at any address within the city. Tickets may be purchased online or upon arrival with cash or bank card at the Georgian Bus counter located near the exit, and when returning to the airport, may also be purchased directly from the driver. If you're riding the Georgian Bus service from Kutaisi, you must e-mail them with the name of the hotel from which you will be picked up from.
  • Marshrutkas from points east headed towards Batumi or Samtredia, or from points west towards Kutaisi or Tbilisi, will also drop passengers off at the airport, which is convenient for passengers who have missed the Georgian Bus service to the airport. From Tbilisi, a marshrutka from the Didube bus terminal to the airport is 20 lari. It is also possible to walk out of the airport onto the highway and hail a marshrutka if headed to a particular destination.
  • Trains: Kopitnari railway station is 2 km away. Walk east along the main road. Note that only local trains stop here but the station has a very friendly countryside climate with staff always positively surprised to see foreigners. Expect to be greeted with local stuff. Direct destinations: Kutaisi, Batumi, Zugdidi. Ticket price: 1 lari. The new station directly at the airport is expected to be built in 2018.

By Train

There is a comfortable train to Tblisi. All trains from and to Tbilisi Station Square (which is next to the Station Square metro station) leave from and arrive at the modernized Kutaisi I station. There are three daily departures to Tbilisi, and the journey takes five-and-a-half hours. All Georgia Rail Timetable A ticket with a reserved seat costs 9 lari(as of April 2016); a passport is required to purchase the ticket and to board the train. From and to Tbilisi the train also stops in Mtskheta (the old capital of Georgia and Orthodox heart of the country), Gori (the birthplace of Stalin and home of the Stalin Museum) and Zestafoni. It is a relatively comfortable journey because passengers can stand and stretch and walk the length of the wagon) but slow due to long, intermediate stops, including one at Rioni, right outside Kutaisi. There are bathrooms on board (but bring tissue, just in case). There is no cafe or dining car, so bring water and snacks, too. Reportedly, an alternative train route (faster by a couple of hours but more expensive) is Tbilisi to Motsameta on the Poti train, then Motsameta to Kutaisi by marshrutka.

A local but "fast" train runs from Kutaisi I to Batumi (listed Makhinjauri in the timetable — the name of the station about 8 km north of Batumi), leaving at 9:00, arriving three hours later. The cost is 4 lari, payable on the train. Trains to Kharagauli leave every day (4-10 lari, 3½ hours). While private drivers and transport from Tbilisi are available (both Mtskheta and Gori are day trips from Tbilisi), the Tbilisi-Kutaisi train route offers a good backbone for a tour of Georgia (with a look at its snow-capped mountains even in May) with leisurely overnights in Mtskheta, Gori, Kutaisi, and even on to Batumi and the Black Sea.

By Bus

Mini-buses, that is, marshrutkas, and full 54-passenger buses depart regularly for Kutaisi from 'Didube Bus Station' located at the Didube metro stop in Tbilisi. Marshrutkas (hourly, 3½ hours, 10 lari); large buses (every 3 hours, 4 hours). While marshrutkas get to Kutaisi quicker than the train, they are not as comfortable. The driver may not leave Didube until the mini-bus is full, which could mean as many 20 people sitting with bags and backpacks in five rows of four seats. There is no guarantee of any stops along the way to smoke or go to the toilet. There is no standing, of course, and, really, very little room to wiggle, especially if there are people sitting on the aisle seats. The best seats in marshrutkas are the ones next to the driver; however, he may, if he chooses, ask you to move to the back of the bus and give your seat to someone else. In short, if you want to take a marshrutka, take it on a trip that is less than an hour, at least at first.

Minibuses to Borjomi leave every day, every hour (8 lari, 2 hr). Minibuses to Kharagauli leave every day, twice a day (10 lari, 3½ h).
Minibuses also run to Batumi, Zugdidi (2 hours) and Mestia.

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Getting Around

The interesting parts of the town are walkable. To visit the monasteries in the mountains nearby booking a day-tour may be a time-saving option.

By Public Transport

No.1 city bus is a useful circular route (both clockwise and anticlockwise direction) linking the main city square, Kutasi I (main train station), and Kutaisi II (bus station). 0.4 lari, pay the driver at exit, change given.

From Kutasi II (bus station), clockwise direction (to the left, cross the road from McDonalds) is the faster route to the city centre. Note each direction takes slightly different route on the centre of the city (east side of the river). The clockwise direction does not go in front of Kutasi I but goes south on Tsereteli St. along the river. The anticlockwise direction stops in front of Kutaisi I then goes uphill on Solomon Piveli Street and downhill on 26 Maisi (May) Street towards the main square.

Local marshrutkas ply the city but are difficult to find the route for avarage tourists.

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Eat

Kutaisi has quite a number of decent restaurants. They are mainly located in the city center but a bit spread out so just walk around to find what you're looking for.

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Sleep

  • Medico & Suliko Guest House, Tbilisi Street 3rd Lane #6 (#6 on the alley running between #83 Tbilisi St. and #72 26 May St.(26 Maisi St.) ) From the main city square (fountain), Tbilisi street runs towards southeast. Walk uphill until 81 Tbilisi St. and turn left, you see a house with green metal gate at No. 6 of the alley.), ☎ +995 431 243007. Run by a retired couple, a large room of their house serves as a dorm, two smaller private rooms are available. Theoretically one may stay to sleep only, alas one is very likely to be treated to the excellent fare the lady of the house serves up as well as the homemade wine the husband produces, i.e., if they like you, you are likely to be treated to one of those infamous Georgian welcomes, heavy on your liver. They will give you as much chacha, Georgian wine and Georgian food as you can handle. The food is all hand-made and freshly prepared. It is amazing, the hospitality is unparalleled and only the modesty of the facilities leaves anything to be desired. The beds are clean and the house is good by local standards, and the new bathroom was completed by summer 2011 in this friendly homestay. Free WiFi Internet is available, and there is a computer available for use.To get there from the main bus station (Kutaisi II Railway Station), take a #1 city bus traveling to the right (from McD walk right the same side of street to find the bus stop). The bus pass the Kutaisi I station and go uphill to 26 Maisi Street. Get off at #72 (there is a cross on sidewalk) and you walk into the alley, which is Tbilisi St. 3rd Lane. From Kutaisi I station, take #1 bus or walk out to the right uphill on Solomon Pirveli St. for th 6-7 min up the hill to Tbilisi St. Taxis from the bus station is 5 lari, but they tend to take you to similarly named guesthouse to get commission. Give them the street address rather than ask for "Suliko's." Dorm: 15 GEL. Double Room: 20 GEL. Dinner: 10 GEL. Breakfast: 5 GEL.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés, locally called "internet clubs", are common and cheap in Tbilisi and Batumi but scarce in Kutaisi. Some places offer free WLAN to their customers. At least in Tbilisi, all hostels have free fast WLAN.

There is free Wi-Fi network all over the Tbilisi. Other places might have some hotels, restaurants etc. with (free) wifi.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

International calling code for Georgia is 995. The emergency number is 112.

Many Georgians have now have access to a mobile phone and as such public payphones are becomming obsolete in the bigger cities, although there are many places offering phone services, usually attached to an internet cafe of 'Xerox' shop.

Georgia uses GSM (900 MHz and 1800 MHz) for mobile phones and has three mobile operators. Magti, Bee Line and GeoCell. The best coverage is offered by GeoCell which covers most of the country and a fair bit of the mountains. SIM cards can be purchased from all the networks and topped up with scratch cards purchesed from shops or various touch screen 'kiosks' in the bigger cities. It usually works out a lof cheaper compared to roaming with your own cell phone, especially regarding internet costs.

Post

Georgian Post offers a range of services, but don't count on it being very reliable or quick. On top of that they are relatively expensive. It is advisable to post letters in central post offices rather than using the post boxes in the street. Opening hours are usually from 10:00am to 6:00pm from Monday to Friday, some larger ones at Saturday and most are closed on Sunday.

"Georgian International Express Mail Service" is a member of the World Network of "Express Mail Services". It sends letters and parcels to 200 countries and delivers inbound items received by EMS network to all Georgian regions. EMS has branches in Kutaisi, Batumi, Poti, Gori, Marneuli. All items are insured by insurance company "IC Group". Nevertheless, you might use international courier companies lik TNT, UPS, DHL or FedEx, as they are reliable, fast and comptitively priced as well.

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This is version 9. Last edited at 10:06 on Sep 21, 18 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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