23.09.2014 - 25.09.2014 20 °C
Bus station: As with so many bus stations on this journey, Tbilisi's felt chaotic and stressful when we first arrived. And quite a long taxi ride into town. In fact the metro station is right next to the bus station, so if you already have a map and know where you are going, the metro is the way to go. We caught it back to the bus station for our departure.
For travel to Vladikavkaz, get a mashrutka to Kazbegi (should be 10GEL but ours cost 15GEL 'because he was stopping a lot for us to take photos' (we'd rather have paid 10 and got there quicker). But the driver was very helpful in finding us onward transport over the Russian border to Vladikavkaz.
Metro: You need to buy a metro card (2GEL) and add money to it for use on the metro. One journey costs 0.50. Very deep metro system, and very old. Wooden escalators and dimly lit stations. Not much in the way of historic marble or tiling here - very Soviet. But also very practical and easy for the bus station Didube.
Getting round: Walk. Tbilisi is very attractive place to walk around. It's quite hilly at the back of the old town, and some of the streets are really run down, but it's a great city to stay on your feet and really pace the streets.
Language: You may get by with Russian, but forget reading things here unless you have learnt the Georgian alphabet, which is incomprehensible (though I'm told very easy and logical if you learn it at school!)
Tea: Don't miss Althaus tea room for fantastic range of teas. Some supplied by the excellent local grower who has a shop in town too, selling Georgian and Chinese teas.
Coffee: Tbilisi has lots of expats and a favourite hang out for them must surely be Prosperos book shop and Caliban coffee house. Our first good western style coffee since we left Istanbul.
Hotel: Highly recommend the Hotel Oriental at about E40 a night. Excellent service, good rooms, good breakfast.
Theft: Beware the audacious kids who wander the street and walked up to our (outside) table at dinner, and picked up a parcel we had and began walking off with it, before we grabbed it back off them and they were ushered away by waiters.