Shops on a main street in the centre of Tbilisi, Georgia
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A traveller's guide to money in Georgia

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

Georgian currency: Lari

Symbol: ₾

Currency code: GEL

Like many countries around the world, costs have increased in Georgia over the last few years. Luckily for travellers, Georgia is still an affordable place to visit compared to many Western countries.

Long-term rental prices increased, but vacation rentals and hotels have stayed about the same. Food and drink prices have seen a rise, however, you’ll still find Georgia a very economical country to visit.

With this handy guide, we’ll clue you in on important points about spending money in Georgia, and how to make the most of your money while visiting Georgia’s awe-inspiring natural settings and beautiful cities.

ATMs and currency exchange

Plan on having cash available, either through ATM withdrawal, or via currency exchange. ATMs appear on every block throughout major cities, and in small cities and towns. Before visiting remote villages, make sure you get enough cash to last, as it will be hard to find ATMs. Most ATMs charge between $1-5 USD usage fee per transaction.

Currency exchange can be done at major banks, but you’ll get better rates at currency exchange kiosks, which are everywhere on city streets. Ask a local where to get the best rate in the area.

Note: You’ll see freestanding orange stands that look like ATMs all over Georgia – you wouldn’t be the first tourist to think they’re ATMs – but they’re not! These are Bank of Georgia payment boxes used for making utilities and other payments.

If you purchase a public transport card you can use this kiosk to top off the card, but don’t try to use it to access your money! Look for ATM’s with bank logos...

Making payments

The legal method of payment is the local currency, the Georgian lari, also referred to as the GEL (short for Georgian Lari, pronounced jell). Although some vendors and guesthouse owners will ask for payment in USD, it’s up to you if you want to fulfill this request. You won’t often get a great exchange rate, though.

The GEL comes in notes and coins, with notes denominated in 5 Lari, 10 Lari, 20 Lari, 50 Lari, 100 Lari and 200 Lari. With 100 tetri/1 Lari, coins are 5, 10, 20, 50 tetri, plus there are 1 Lari and 2 Lari coins.  The value of the lari to the USD is roughly: 1 USD = 2.63 lari.

Cash is still king in Georgia, but credit/debit card acceptance and use is increasing around the country. Especially in the larger cities, contactless payments are becoming popular, with even the municipal buses going coin-less, and pre-paid taxi apps and delivery apps all the rage.

Tipping in Georgia

Tipping is not a common practice in Georgia, but those who want to tip usually round up the total to the next coin or note. Bills in restaurants include an 18% tax and a 10% service fee, but the service fee is not a tip that goes to the server. So, pay the server a tip in cash if you choose to do so.

Most Georgians involved in the tourist industry will appreciate a tip, and some might even expect it, especially if they spend several hours with you. Tipping is always dependent on your budget and the quality of service, but between 10-15% for tour guides would be appropriate if you feel like leaving something.

Taxis don’t generally expect or accept tips, but occasionally a driver might “not have change” and hope that you’ll leave the expected change with them.

If you stay in an upscale hotel, consider giving a porter 1-2 GEL per bag, and 5 lari per day for a room attendant. But tipping in guesthouses and B&B’s is not expected.

Bargaining in Georgia

In supermarkets, shops, and restaurants, the prices are fixed so there’s no point in trying to bargain. That said, if you’re making a large purchase, you can inquire about a discount and that might happen…

Otherwise, bargaining is mostly done in flea markets, bazaars, and with street vendors. Start by offering 40-50% of the asking price and haggle for something in between that and the original price – here’s where your Russian language skills might come in handy!

Scams in Georgia

Keep an eye on your belongings wherever you are when travelling, including in Georgia. Backpacks have gone missing and wallets disappear on rare occasions if left unattended, but this is not a common occurrence.

Georgia isn’t really a hot bed for money scams, but there are a few situations to look out for, wherever you are in the country. 

Bar Scam - Since Georgians often drink, you’ll inevitably be asked to join a drinking party, and that’s usually fine, if it’s in a group, and you’re not alone. Just look out for the potential “bar scam.” That is, when a couple of attractive women find you at night and entice you to go drinking at their favourite bar and run up a huge bill that you’ll be coerced to pay. 

They might even say they’re lost and ask you to help them to their hotel (nothing like a damsel in distress...) and when you get there, invite you to drink. It doesn’t hurt to be cautious, because they’re usually in cahoots with the restaurant or bar owner.

Another version of this scam could involve being approached by a friendly guy on the street (if you’re a man) and invited to a “dance” club.  Then you’d be presented with a large bill for drinks and “services” that you didn’t order or for which you pay in cash, thinking you’re covered. Physical intimidation is often used to entice you to pay up.

Taxi fee scam – As is common in most touristy places, tourists in Georgia have been asked to pay higher than normal fees for a taxi ride, or taken on a circuitous route to up the bill. Be sure to ask a local for the usual rate and confirm before getting in the taxi. Or use a taxi app and confirm the price with the driver before the ride.

Child pickpockets can be troublesome, (usually in touristic parts of Tbilisi and Batumi). Many tourists report that they’re hesitant to yell at them or attempt to bat them away, because… they’re children, after all. 

Just be aware that they can be aggressive and will hang onto your legs and arms, distracting you while others snatch your purse or wallet.

If you’re approached by a group of (usually) foreign children, keep your valuables in front of your chest and try to push away from them as quickly as possible – otherwise, they won’t hesitate to run off with your possessions.

Saving money in Georgia

Georgia is so economical, you might not think you can save even more money – but you can! Here are a few tips to help stretch your vacation money even further:

  • Plan your trip to Georgia in one of the shoulder seasons, autumn or spring, to avoid the winter vacation crunch and summer high season. Summer on the Black Sea sees a glut of local and regional tourists, plus tourists from across the world, but summertime is super hot in Georgia. If you can, try visiting in May-June or September-October when the water is still warm, prices have come down, and you’ll avoid the crowds and the heat.

  • Book early for best prices - New Year’s and Christmas celebrations are a big deal in Georgia and the region, so many Orthodox Christians visit from other countries during this time; you might find hotels booked and prices increased so don’t wait ‘til the last minute!

  • Rent a self-catering apartment, of which there are many (at great rates!) in Georgia. You can save some money by cooking some meals at home, taking advantage of the inexpensive, yet delicious local produce. Meal staples, such as cooking oil, pasta, rice and so forth, are quite inexpensive by European or Western standards.

  • Georgia doesn’t have a big street-food scene but you can eat for pennies if you make a meal of the local bread, also called shoti or puri, that is sold in tiny walk-up kiosks, fresh out of the oven. Or try lobiani puri, spiced bean-stuffed bread, (from the same shops) for a more nutritional snack. Shawarma stalls are scattered throughout city centres, for a quick, inexpensive sandwich.

  • Take advantage of free city walking tours, where you’ll not only meet other tourists, but you’re bound to have a friendly tour guide who will share interesting local perspectives on the area that you wouldn’t get otherwise. Be sure to go with a reputable guide. Although the tour is free, it’s usually expected that you offer a small tip (25 GEL – just under $10.00 USD) if you enjoyed the experience.

Typical prices in Georgia

  • Self-catering apartment or nice 3-star hotel – from $23 USD (60 GEL) and goes up to $160 USD (440 GEL) for a 4-5 star apartment or hotel 

  • Taxi Ride within a City -  5-10 GEL ($1.90-3.80 USD)

  • 1 bottle of domestic beer (0.5litre) – 3.57 GEL ($1.35 USD)

  • 1 bottle mineral water – 1.50 GEL (.57 USD)

  • 1 loaf fresh Georgian puri bread – 1.20-2 GEL (.45-.75 USD)

  • 1 cappuccino (in a mid-range cafe) – 7.5-11 GEL ($2.85-4.18USD)

  • 1 single-use Metro ticket in Tbilisi – 1 GEL (.37 USD)

  • 3-course meal for 2 in a Georgian mid-range restaurant – 75-125 GEL ($28.50-47.50

  • Private car with driver – from 100 USD per day

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 21 February 2024

Colourful buildings and churches in Tbilisi, Georgia


Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Georgia offers a diverse and stunning natural landscape, intriguing history and good food and wine.