Life in Tbilisi: Grandma Chacha, Desertirka and the rule “Ask Better”
Antonina Asanova, who moved from St. Petersburg to Tbilisi, writes: I have lived in Petersburg for ten years, but in recent years I have become tired of the harsh climate and hard work. My husband and I decided to become downshifters and moved to Tbilisi.
It’s very easy to move to Georgia: you need only a passport. Russians, like the EU residents, can live in Georgia without a visa for a year. With this status, you can officially get a job. When the year ends, it’s enough to go on an excursion to neighboring Armenia or Azerbaijan – after that you can safely live next year. After 6 years you can qualify for citizenship.
Despite the liberal rules, Tbilisi has not yet been hammered by migrants. This is because Georgia is a very poor country. The average income of the family here is only 1000 lari (25 000 R or 353 euros) per month, according to the Ministry of Statistics. Every tenth Georgian is unemployed.
On the street often play backgammon.
We work remotely on Russian companies. In addition, we are thinking of starting our own business, for this too there will be enough passports. Individual entrepreneurs are registered per day and 20 lari (500 R).
500 R is a certificate for registration of IP.
Public services.
All state services are provided in the House of Justice. This is a Georgian analogue of the MFC. In it you can register the purchase of an apartment, register your citizenship and even marry.
State procedures in Georgia are simpler than in Russia. References are given for days, not months. If you need to get a document faster, you pay not to intermediaries, but to the state, at a special rate.
House of Justice in Tbilisi.
Sites of government departments are formally translated into English. In all government departments you can call and ask questions in Russian.
While we do not have the incentive to learn the language. Most of the Georgians of the Soviet generation know Russian. With young people you can sometimes speak English. But the alphabet still had to learn to read signs with street names and navigate in the minibuses.
The rule of “better ask”
If you need to buy shoes or repair a phone in Russia, we usually google the right company. In Georgia it does not work that way: the Internet is poorly developed in the country, there are few websites. At best, popular cafes have a Facebook page, which is somehow updated.
The only way to find or learn something is to “google” with friends. Those will ask their friends, and as a result you will get the information you need. And after they inform the coveted phone, you should always call and recheck the address, time of work and price.
With housing for rent in Georgia, everything is bad. The houses are old and worn, with cracks from earthquakes on the walls. Inside – “Grandma’s” apartments with photo wallpapers and dilapidated furniture.
“Grandma’s” three-room apartment for 500 lari a month.
You can rent a two-piece or three-piece trash with a decent repair for 500 lari (12 500 R) per month. If you try, you can find an apartment with a veranda or access to a green Italian courtyard. Housing with modern renovation will cost already 650-700 GEL (about 17 500 R).
12 500 P per month is renting an apartment.
In Georgia, for the services of realtors, the apartment owner pays. Leave a deposit and advance payment for the last month is optional. We rented an apartment on an honest word, just shook hands with the owner and began to live. In Georgia, this is normal practice.
The street where we rent an apartment.
Tbilisi does not have a central heating system, it was dismantled after the civil war in the dashing nineties. Today, citizens are warming themselves as they can: electricity and gas.
We have a gas heater. He warms the corridor and the nearest room, but after it is turned off, the heat disappears in an hour. In some houses a gas boiler is installed, which warms up all the rooms well.
The biggest expense is gas. In winter, payments for gas reach 140 GEL (3500 R) per month, in summer – less than 10 GEL (250 R). To this must be added another 25 lari (625 R) for light, water and garbage disposal. Each apartment in Tbilisi is assigned a single payment number. You can enter it in a street terminal and see how much it costs for light, gas and water.
3500 R per month are housing services.
There are no managing companies and jockeys in Georgia. If a pipe runs through the house, the occupants will have to immediately look for private plumbing.
In Tbilisi, it’s hard to be a pedestrian. All the sidewalks are driven by cars, there are few transitions, and drivers are reluctant to slow down before them.
In the old town there is nowhere to park.
In the bus or metro, the travel costs 0.5 lari (12.5 R). The ticket is valid for 90 minutes, during which time you can make several transfers.
Taxis by Russian standards are worth a penny. A trip of 10 km costs 5 lari (125 R). In Tbilisi, there are “Yandex Taxi” and a similar “Taksifay”.
12 R is a ticket for a bus or subway.
Only one Russian bank, VTB, operates in Georgia. It gives 9-10% per annum on the contribution to the lari, but local residents try to keep money in dollars. Mortgage loans are issued at 10-11%, but they are not available to foreigners. We can only rely on installments from the builder.
Cards are not accepted everywhere, so we always carry a lot of cash.
Our cost of living in Tbilisi is about 35,000 R for two per month, including rental of housing, communal and food.
35 000 R per month we spend in Tbilisi for two.
Georgia is a country of delicious and cheap food.
Markets and street trade flourish in Tbilisi. They trade everywhere: in underground passages, on streets and sidewalks. Old men often put boxes with vegetables on the street, but hide themselves from the sun or rain in the front door. Cucumbers and tomatoes cost 2-4 lari (50-100 R) per kilogram. Instead of bread, hot lavash is baked in Georgia for 0.6 lari (15 R).
The cheapest place to buy food is the central market “Desertirka”. Inside, dirty and fussy, the smells of meat, fish and smoked cheeses are mixed in the air.
At the Desertirka market in Tbilisi.
We prefer to buy food in the only large supermarket in the center – “Carrefour”. Some of the products are brought from Russia, even milk from the Moscow region can be found on the shelves.
Farm products are delivered to the house by familiarity. We buy a neighbor’s homemade jam, sauces and chachu – grape moonshine. Georgian fast food is khachapuri with cheese, beans or meat for 1-3 lari (25-75 R). Shaverma for 5-10 GEL (125-250 R) seems a luxury, for this money you can dine at a cafe.
The most expensive khachapuri, for 5 lari.
Brand clothing in Georgia costs as much as in Russia, but there are fewer buyers in stores. At the Georgian subsistence minimum of 170 GEL (4250 R) you can buy only a couple of inexpensive dresses in “Zarya”. With global brands there is tight, Ikei is not even in the plans.
4250 � the subsistence level in Georgia.
There is a feeling that the local dress in small shops and second-hand. The dress in them can be bought for 5 lari (125 R).
Georgia is a small country. The whole country from the Black Sea to the border with Azerbaijan by car can be crossed for a day. From south to north – even faster. Residents move between cities on broken minibuses. The normal price of an hourly trip is 3 lari (75 R). In some areas of the country there is no public transport, you need to get by car.
Javakhetia, three hours drive from Tbilisi Lake Paravani, three hours drive from Tbilisi.
Traveling abroad can afford a few, although from 2017 to enter Europe, Georgians do not need a visa. Our friends fly a low-cost “Wizz-Air” from Kutaisi. If you buy a ticket in advance, then you can fly to Berlin or Budapest for 110 lari (2750 R).
2750 R costs an air ticket to Budapest.
To fly to Russia is more expensive. The ticket “Victory” to Moscow costs 4000-5000 R.
It’s very easy to get used to Georgia. In a month you feel like at home. The country is simple, much intuitive. Most Georgians know Russian.
Georgia is really very friendly people. In St. Petersburg with a casual acquaintance in the bar, at best we make friends on Facebook. A random acquaintance in Tbilisi will immediately call you on a visit or take you out for a barbecue.
Tbilisi is a spiritual city. In the courtyard the clothes are dried, the boys play football in the arch, and under the window the grimy children tear the mulberry berries. In St. Petersburg, we all this is not enough.
Photos – Vladimir Osokin, Antonina Asanova.
A little expensive for a country with low per capita incomes. 500 euros for two at an extremely low prices for all this frankly expensive.