Wondering what to pack for Georgia and the Caucasus? Trips to this part of the world often include time spent exploring the chich capital of Tbilisi, hikes in some of the country’s lush mountains, visits to sleepy monasteries, and nights spent transiting between cities. Your bags will be potentially shoved into the backs of marshrutkas, tossed under buses, and stowed under your train seat. Whether your plan is to spend time exploring Georgia or to venture on to Armenia and Azerbaijan, here’s my packing list for Georgia, including what to pack for women and men.
Roller Suitcase or Backpack?
Whether you choose to bring a backpack or a roller suitcase depends entirely upon your travel style, time in the country, and the pace of your itinerary. I chose to backpack, primarily because I was in the Caucasus for six weeks, changing cities once or twice a week. I visited Georgia twice, and both times I was happy to be able to unpack my bags for a week since we decided to base ourselves out of Tbilisi. However, on each visit, I was coming from a neighboring country, and I was happy to be able to keep all my belongings together in a backpack. If you are only going to be visiting one or two places in Georgia, or you plan to spend a significant amount of time there, you could get away with bringing a roller suitcase. The primary issue will be transportation since marshrutkas don’t have a ton of luggage room.
Things to consider before deciding whether to backpack or bring a roller suitcase:
- Do you have private or shared accommodations?
- How fast-paced is your itinerary?
- Will you be based out of one or two cities for a long period of time?
- When you travel, do you tend to overpack and not use all your items?
I think this part of the world is easier to backpack, but I have also lived out of a large roller suitcase in the Balkans and found it to be easy enough. Just consider your options ahead of time and don’t overpack!
These are the two backpacks I have used in the past:
For my trip to Georgia, I used my Bergans Skarstind 48 which is similar to this Bergans backpack. This backpack is easy to wear, and the fact that it is taller than it is wide makes the distribution of weight along my torso easy to handle. Plus, I can squish it into the back of marshrutkas fairly easily. For those unfamiliar with Bergans or who are Osprey diehards (which I used to be) then I would choose something similar to this Osprey Women’s pack. For men, I would choose something in the same size range (40-48 L).
During previous trips, I have backpacked with a standard daypack-type backpack that wasn’t designed for backpacking, and I would not recommend this option. The major difference between a regular backpack and one designed for backpacking is how the straps distribute the weight across your torse. Regular backpacks rely on carrying your pack weight on your shoulders, which is painful when transporting the 8-10 kg a typical backpack weighs. Note that a woman should not use a man’s pack, because our hip belts are designed for our specific hip-needs. If you do choose a man’s backpack, get one that has interchangeable hip belts and swap out for a woman’s hip belt.
If you are going to bring a roller bag, I suggest getting a soft shell one that can squish. My personal roller suitcase is the awesome Osprey Sojourn. I lived out of just this bag and a backpack for eight months, and I even took it on a multi-country bus trip last summer for six weeks through the Balkans. In places like the Caucasus and the Balkans, you’re at the mercy of local transportation for getting your bag from place A to place B, and the storage space in these vehicles might not be ideal. This bag has been crammed, pushed, squished, scratched, and jammed into the smallest and weirdest of cargo spaces and still looks and works great.
Daypacks and Day Bags
You will want to bring a smaller bag with you that can carry what you need to bring with you during the day. This bag should also be where you store anything you need easy access to while in transit (like passports, cell phone, camera, emergency snacks, etc.). For men, I typically see regular backpacks or messenger bags, while women will bring a regular backpack or a large purse. What your pick for your day bag matters, as it will go with you everywhere and be with you all the time. Things to consider when choosing a daypack are:
- what kind of safety features do I need and want?
- do I want to look more fashionable or more like a tourist?
- do I need to avoid looking like a tourist for safety reasons?
- do I need to avoid looking like I have money for safety reasons?
- how durable does my day bag need to be based on my itinerary (city/adventure/hiking/)?
- how large or small is the ideal daypack for this trip?
I find that for most trips, I use the same kind of daypack. I travel to many cities and do a lot of religious tourism, so I like to have a day bag that looks reasonably stylish while not looking expensive. I like the safety features of my current bag, the Pacsafe Citysafe. I don’t do much hiking or trekking, so I don’t need something that can handle bad weather. Here are the three main daypacks I use:
Option 1: Sleek and Collapsible
In Georgia, I used a large Longchamp. This bag rolls up completely, so I can store it away when necessary. However, it’s large enough to fit what I need to take out with me to explore a city for the day: wallet, camera, snacks, etc. It’s also durable! I’ve used mine almost every day for two years and it’s still going strong.
Option 2: Safety and Technology-Friendly (What I Currently Use)
I recently added the Pacsafe Citysafe laptop backpack as my primary travel day bag. I can fit my laptop, DSLR camera, spare lens, and a few other personals belongings in it. It’s cute enough that I don’t feel like a traveling monster but large enough that I can have my essentials with me. Plus, it has a ton of built-in safety features, like interlocking zippers and hidden pockets. The company behind it, Pacsafe, focuses on creating travel products that have smart anti-theft technology built into them. I don’t use the features every day, but I love being able to lock the zippers and hide my passport when things get dicey, like when forced to stand in a crowded marshrutka in Bosteri, Kyrgyzstan. I’ve bought Pacsafe products in the past, but I bought this bag after watching my friend Allison use hers in Georgia and the Caucasus, where it came in really handy.
(Pacsafe also makes smaller bags that still have a ton of safety features to keep your belongings safe on the road. I especially like the Slim Crossbody if you want to find a small purse for your trip).
Option 3: Large and Functional
Another option I’ve used in the past is a traditional backpack with a laptop slot. For this, I have this SwissGear Travel Laptop Backpack. It’s a great travel daypack because the laptop slot and the middle pocket is large enough to fit my camera and work as a camera bag. I have backpacked out of this bag, and while I was able to do it successfully (through Spain, Hungary, Romania, Jordan, Israel, Moldova, and Ukraine) I am much happier now with a true backpacking pack and using this as a day bag when I need something on the larger side.
Keeping Your Bags Organized
The key to successful packing, whether backpacking or traveling with a roller bag, is to make sure your bag is organized. This is how I divide up my things inside my bags:
- Large Packing Cubes (1-2): Clothing
- Medium Packing Cube (1): Underwear / Socks / PJs / and Swimsuit(s) (depending on the season)
- Small Cosmetic Bags (5): I have a random collection of bags bought at various H&Ms across Europe, but they are all similar to this one. I use them like this:
- Wet Toiletries: I keep my toothbrush and toothpaste in a ziplock inside. Other toiletry bottles also in zip locks inside. I don’t want cross-contamination from one wet thing to another. I try to unpack these whenever I’m going to be somewhere for more than a night so they air out.
- Dry Toiletries: razor (with the cap on!), hair brush, tweezers, etc
- Medicine Kit: prescriptions, OTC meds, vitamins
- Gadgets: cords, chargers, and converters,
- Makeup and Jewelry
- 1 laundry bag (comes with the packing cubes) for tossing in dirty clothes until the next wash. This keeps my clean clothes fresher for longer.
- Coin Purse (whenever I’m in Europe, I’m always shocked how fast the coins add up in my pack)
- Canvas Tote Bag for groceries or for days when you need something lightweight
- 1-2 empty gallon ziplock bags and 3-5 empty small ziplock bags for random organizational emergencies. These seem to happen on every trip, and I’m always grateful to have them with me.
What to Wear in Georgia for Women
Here’s what women should pack for Georgia. You’ll want clothing that layers easily since the high season can go from cool nights to hot days with humid rainstorms in between. If you’re planning on doing hiking or trekking, you will want to bring items appropriate for your activities. In Tbilisi, the women dress pretty chic and casual, while in the countryside you will see more traditional items of clothing like headscarves. You should wear what you feel comfortable in, with breathable fabrics that hang-dry well. This list assumes you will be on the road for more than a week, and that you will hand-wash your clothes or take them to be laundered.
- 3-4 shirts or blouses (Make sure that you have modest clothes to wear for visits to churches or monasteries. This means no cleavage showing and shoulders are covered. In some of the monasteries, you will want to make sure that you are covered at least past your knees).
- 1 tank top
- 1 tee shirt
- 2-3 dresses (If you don’t wear dresses or skirts, then pack additional shirts and jeans or shorts to wear instead).
- 2-3 pairs of leggings (optional, but great for layers or visiting churches while wearing a dress or skirt for going into the churches and monasteries)
- 1 pair of jeans
- 1 skirt (optional)
- 1 sweater, cardigan, or kimono for light layering (I found that even in early summer, I wanted to have layers available).
- 1 jacket (I brought my jean jacket, but something that can handle light rain would also be a good idea since it rained frequently during our two weeks).
- 1 pajama top
- 1 pajama bottoms (or use one of the leggings)
- 1 swimsuit (Optional depending on weather and plans. The sulfur baths in Tbilisi are nude, but you will want a bathing suit for swimming at Turtle Lake or going to the Black Sea in Batumi).
Shoes & Sandals
- Comfortable Closed-Toed Walking Shoes (I use boots like these or like these. Pack hiking shoes if you’re planning on hiking. Otherwise, any closed-toed shoes will work).
- Comfortable day shoes (I have had a pair of these Tevas for the last two years, and I’ve worn them so much they have a hole in the right sole. For cold weather months, I opt for the second pair of boots. Both the sandals and the boots are perfect for travel because the rubber souls make them extra durable and comfortable at the same time).
- Extra Easy Slip-on Sandal or Flip-Flops (I use these Croc Jellies because they work for hostel showers but are also wearable outside. I’m currently on pairs #2 and 3. I own them in blue and pink). Remember that you’ll need to take off your shoes before entering the mosque in Tbilisi, but you do not need to remove your shoes for visiting Orthodox churches.
Underwear & Socks
- 7-8 pairs of underwear (I like to have enough for one week before having to do laundry, but you can bring more or less depending on yon our needs).
- 1-2 bras (If you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, you might want one of these to be a sports bra).
- 1-2 pairs of socks (summer) or 5-7 pairs of socks (winter). Bring more if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking.
Jewelry & Accessories
- 1-2 items of each kind of jewelry you prefer. For me, that’s a few pairs of earrings, one bracelet, my two rings, and a necklace.
- A Scarf for Visiting Churches and Mosques in Georgia, since visitors sometimes need to wear a scarf to enter a monastery or church. While not enforced at every church, you will want to have a handy scarf in your bag as not every church has visitor scarves available. You will also need a scarf for visiting the mosque in Tbilisi.
- Sunglasses (regular or prescription if required). Georgia is sunny and bright during the high season!
- Hairpins, Bobby Pins, or Barretts (1-3 styles depending on your hair needs)
- Headbands or Hair Wraps (1-4 depending on your needs)
- Watch (optional)
This obviously depends on your plans. If your purpose of visiting Georgia in winter is to ski or do winter activities, then you will need to pack accordingly. However, if your goal is to explore Tbilisi and do a few light day trips, you’ll want to wear good city winter clothes:
- Winter Coat
- Upgrade your socks to thick, warm socks
- Winter Scarf
- If you’re going to be hiking, make sure to bring winter thermal layers.
What to Wear in Georgia for Men
Here’s what men should bring with them. You’ll want clothing that layers easily since the high season can go from cool nights to hot days with humid rainstorms in between. If you’re planning on doing hiking or trekking, you will want to bring items appropriate for your activities. You should wear what you feel comfortable in, with breathable fabrics that hang-dry well. This list assumes you will be on the road for more than a week, and that you will hand-wash your clothes or take them to be laundered.
- 4-5 everyday shirts
- 1 collared shirt
- 3 undershirts
- 1-2 pairs of shorts (summer only and avoid overly touristy looking khaki shorts or cargo shorts).
- 2 pairs of jeans
- 1 pair of wrinkle-free dress pants (if you want to do anything nice out in the city)
- 1 light jacket that can handle rain
- 1 tee shirt and shorts for sleeping
- 1 pair of swim trunks (optional depending on weather and plans)
- Comfortable Closed-Toed Walking Shoes (Sneakers, hiking shoes, or boots, depending on your preference.
- Comfortable day sandals. If you are the kind of guy who doesn’t wear sandals, bring a second pair of walking shoes.
- Extra Easy Slip-on Sandal or Flip-Flops (especially important for anyone staying in hostels). Remember that you’ll need to take off your shoes before entering the mosque in Tbilisi.
Underwear & Socks
- 4-5 pairs of underwear
- 3-4 pairs of socks (summer) or 5-7 pairs of socks (winter)
Jewelry & Accessories
- Sunglasses (regular or prescription if required)
- Watch (optional)
- Any personal jewelry
This obviously depends on your plans. If your purpose of visiting Georgia in winter is to ski or do winter sports, then you need to pack for your specific activities. However, if your goal is to explore Tbilisi and do a few light day trips, you’ll want to wear good city winter clothes:
- Winter Coat
- Upgrade your socks to thick, warm socks
- Winter Scarf
- If you’re going to be hiking, make sure to bring winter thermal layers.
Toiletries & Skincare
- Travel-sized shampoo and conditioner. Some people swear by solid shampoo, but I just refill the same travel size bottles.
- Small hairbrush
- Travel-sized hair dryer with European plugs (I’ve blown multiple hair dryers trying to use voltage converters. I’ve given up and only travel with a hairdryer with European plugs while in Europe). Georgia uses the same plugs as Europe, so you don’t need anything special for just the Caucasus.
- Full Sized Travel Towel. Most bloggers I know hate their microfibre travel towels, but I opted for a big, beautiful microfibre towel that’s perfect for the beach or a hostel. Seriously, no one loves their travel towel as much as I do.
- Dry Shampoo for the days when you really, really don’t want to shower.
- Hair products specific to your hair type
- Tissues, Toilet Paper, or Kleenex
- Travel Sized Hand Sanitizer
- Moisturizer and Night Cream (travel is brutal on your skin)
- Makeup removing towelettes
- Eye Care (contacts, glasses, prescription sunglasses if needed)
- Shaving Cream (optional)
- Nair or Veet (for when I get lazy)
- Nail File
- Nail Clippers
- Tweezers (2 pairs. One for my makeup kit and one for my toiletries kit).
- Laundry Detergent Powder (I like to have enough for 3-4 loads of laundry. If I’m traveling longer than this, I can always get more on the road).
- Something to deal with that special time of the month. If you have to deal with a period on the road, pack whatever you need depending on your preferences.
Over the counter medication from pharmacies is pretty easy to find and inexpensive, so you don’t need a huge, all-disasters-covered style medicine kit. I contracted ringworm in the Caucasus, and I was able to easily get what I needed from the pharmacy. A basic kit will include:
- Your personal prescriptions, medications, contraception needs, and regular vitamins.
- Anything you take weekly (for me this would be things like antacids).
- Your OTC Painkiller of choice.
- Bandaids (After accidentally stabbing my thumb with my own razor in the Lisbon airport and having to pretend like I wasn’t bleeding to death while eating a steak, I vow to never leave home without band-aids).
- Travel-sized Vaseline (Vaseline should be in every single person’s luggage for every single trip. Period).
- If you’re flying transatlantic or anticipate jetlag or sleep issues, I love having melatonin with me on every trip.
Anything else that comes up, you can easily get at a pharmacy in Georgia. Just have Google Translate available for times when you run into a pharmacist who doesn’t speak English. Explaining my ringworm in Russian to an Armenian pharmacist was a trip, but without Google Translate, I would probably still be explaining it to her.
Technology and Accessories
As a full-time travel blogger who also has a podcast, my tech needs are out of control. Here’s the technology that I traveled with to Georgia.
- Laptop (I use a MacBook Air)
- Laptop Charger
- Laptop Cover (I have a navy blue one similar to this)
- Smart Phone (This was my first trip with my new Samsung8, which I loved. Getting a sim card in Georgia is painless provided you have an unlocked cell phone).
- Phone Cover (An OtterBox is basically like carrying your phone around in a pillow)
- Phone Charger (I used this phone charging cable)
- Backup Charging Bank
- DSLR (I use my Nikon D810)
- Spare Camera Battery (I use this spare Nikon Battery that goes with my camera)
- Camera Battery Charger (This is the one that goes with my Nikon)
- SD Cards (I recommend having a primary and a backup at a minimum).
- Dropbox Account for Backing Up Photos
- Two Universal Outlet Adapters with USB Ports. Georgia uses the same outlets as Europe.
- Kindle Paperwhite for reading without having to haul around books
- Kindle Cover (Mine is like this one, but there are lots of options).
- DJI Osmo Cell Phone Gimbal for shooting video. (Not for everyone, obviously, but if you want to make videos on your trip, this gimbal changed my life).
- Your Passport & either quick access to a soft copy or a couple of hard copies. Make sure to take it with you to buy a sim card.
- Passport Holder
- Your Driver’s License (If you plan on renting a car in Georgia, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Georgian drivers are some of the craziest I’ve ever seen).
- Your Travel Insurance Policy Information: I never leave home without travel insurance. You just never know what kind of trouble you’ll run into on the road. I’ve had several broken phones, a nearly stolen wallet, car rental accidents, etc. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. I always get the higher level so that I have coverage for more of my technology in case anything gets lost or stolen. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any urban exploration in Tbilisi or climbing or hiking in the countryside. Have your travel insurance available in a soft copy, and forward your policy info to your primary emergency contact.
- Credit & ATM Cards (make sure to call your banks to let them know you’re traveling if they require it). Have either quick access to a soft copy or a couple of hard copies. Never travel with only one card or access to one account. I have two checking accounts and four credit card accounts. This way when things happen on the road (and they do), I don’t get stuck. You never know when your credit card company is going to flag your ATM withdrawal in a foreign country as suspicious and block your cards.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’re going to be doing any urban exploration, hiking, or sports.
- The Lonely Planet Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan which is available as a paper copy or in a Kindle edition. (While you all know I’m a Rick Steves stan, he doesn’t have a guide to the Caucasus).
- Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus Thomas Golz is famous for his memoirs about life in the post-Soviet. Read this if you want to understand what life was like in Georgia right after the fall of the USSR.
- Bread and Ashes: A Walk Through the Mountains of Georgia is a book for anyone who’s plan is to get out of Tbilisi and explore village and rural life in Georgia. The author explored rural communities to see what beliefs from the old ways had survived Communist and modern times. What he found was some of the traditional Georgia alive and kicking below the surface.
- Where the West Ends: Stories from the Middle East, the Balkans, the Black Sea, and the Caucasus by Michael J. Totten includes some is a great introduction for any westerners who want to see how the Caucauses fit into the larger picture of the lands of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
Apps for Visiting Georgia
- Yandex for getting around Tbilisi.
- Google Translate
- Google Maps (Download the maps for the cities you’ll be visiting so they’re available offline).
- Skype (Great for calling to get your bank cards unblocked. Not that I have any experience with that…).
- Facebook Messenger (This is my main form of communication these days).
- Instagram (If you go on a trip and you don’t Instagram it, did you even go? Just kidding, Instagram is a necessary evil).
- Adobe Lightroom for Desktop & Lightroom Mobile for your Smart Phone for photo editing. Lightroom Mobile is free, but Lightroom for desktop is paid.
- Snapseed for the photo editing features that Lightroom doesn’t have when on mobile, especially if you don’t get Lightroom desktop.
- iTunes, Podcast Addict, or other Podcatcher (Check out these travel podcasts I use for inspiration and learning about upcoming travel destinations)
- Dropbox Mobile for backing up cell phone photos before you leave. This is important in case your cell phone gets lost, broken, or stolen.
- The mobile apps for any airlines you’re using. I flew into Baku and out of Tbilisi on separate airlines.
- TripIt for organizing flights, hotel accommodations, and tickets.
What to Pack for Staying in Hostels
Planning to stay in a hostel in Georgia? Make sure to have these clutch items with you:
- Flip-flops or shower shoes. I mentioned this above, but it’s extra important if you’re in hostels where you’ll want to have your feet covered in the shower.
- Full Sized Travel Towel. This is the best travel towel in the world, and you’ll need it if you are staying in hostels where you have to bring your own towel.
- A lock for your stuff.
- Sleep Mask and Earplugs if you’re a light sleeper.
What to Pack for Studying Abroad, Working Abroad, and Homestays
If you are going to be staying with someone or interacting with anyone in Georgia who could be considered as “hosting you,” it’s polite to bring a small present from home to give to as a gift to your hosts. Popular items for this type of gift would be something you can only get in your home country, for example, something with your home country’s flag on it or something made there. This doesn’t need to be extravagant, just a small token will suffice.
More about Traveling Georgia
- How to Get a Georgia Sim Card
- How to Get from Sheki to Tbilisi and Vice Versa
- The Dry Bridge Market: The Funky Tbilisi Flea Market with History on Display
More about Traveling the Caucasus
Many people who travel Georgia combine it with a trip to Azerbaijan and Armenia:
Azerbaijan Travel Resources
- 75 Epic Reasons You Need to Travel Azerbaijan
- Azerbaijan Packing List
- 21 Things to Know Before You Rent a Car in Baku, Azerbaijan
- How to Get an Azerbaijan Sim Card
- 21 Things to Do in Ganja, Azerbaijan
- How to Get from Ganja to Sheki and Vice Versa
- How to Get from Sheki to Tbilisi and Vice Versa
Armenia Travel Resources
- What to Pack for Armenia
- How to Get an Armenian Sim Card
- Geghard Monastery: A Day Trip that turned into a Spiritual Odyssey
- 33 of the Most Beautiful Mosques in the World and the Pictures to Prove It
Have you been to Georgia or are you planning an upcoming trip? Leave your best tips for a Georgia packing list and any questions about what to pack for Georgia below!
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