Guest post by: Anya Sapharova

A few tips for solo female travelers coming to Georgia

Throughout its vibrant history Georgia has earned a reputation of a ‘Country of Contrasts and Contradictions” where ‘yes’ means ‘no’ and ‘red’ means ‘white’.

Being situated in the Caucasian region hospitable Georgians are known for their determination, patriarchy, and deep affection for Christianity. They even claim that faith helped them to withstand their numerous enemies’ onslaughts. A tangled chain of political and geographical factors shaped Georgia as a country where the fittest and strongest rules over the lands.

Hunting, military craft, and martial arts occupied a significant part of the lives of ancient Georgians and the role of a woman was not diminished, but, to say it correctly, it was put on the second place. It is known that people here cherish ancestor’s traditions and maintain their country in the conservative manner though globalization has laid its footprint on the Georgian way of life.

Nowadays you can hardly imagine that Georgia once used to be strictly patriarchal country where women had to listen carefully to each word their husband said and daughters had to do the work about the house forgetting about their studies and leisure time. The man was the ruler and the conqueror. The woman had to learn how to be a good wife, mother, housekeeper, cook, tailor, and farmer but at the same time express no dissatisfaction. A woman was man’s both right and left hands and she had to unquestioningly follow his orders. It was unusual to see a woman as an undertaker unless she was a widow.

You may say, why so unfair? Why not to raise the voice and begin a new life abroad? Why not to run away from the family pressure and see the new world where gender equality is gaining momentum? Well, it is Georgia and once you were born here you have to be live your days with the family members whether you like it or not.

Certainly, today’s picture is much brighter and less flagrant though the situation may have remained unchanged in many villages, especially in mountainous regions. As woman lone traveling has touched the borders of Georgia it is absolutely necessary to keep in mind the places where female hikers can easily travel without getting skeptical looks from the locals.

Tbilisi – the capital of Georgia is, without any doubt, the safest place to spend time. Whenever people hear that you are a foreigner their face expressions become gentler, they want to please you and show how proud they are to be Georgians. It concerns people of all ages and both genders.

It may sound strange but men will immediately invite ladies to a family dinner or to the restaurant where you will have a chance to taste the best wine in the country. This is genuinely Georgian attitude and many foreigners are culturally shocked when they are so kindly treated by the people they have just met. However many women who had traveled to Georgia for the first time say that Georgian men cannot keep their calm when they see ladies dressed in a revealing outfit. Elderly women may get insulted by the mini-skirts or deep décolleté and may even speak to you in Georgian not to pass any church.

By these words I don’t intend to mark Georgia as a country that cannot tolerate foreign cultures, I just highlight solitary occasions that may be repeated again.

The attitude towards women-travelers is nearly the same as in Tbilisi in cities like Kutaisi, Tealvi, Gori, Borjomi – people like you, but they might not really understand why you have no family or why do you live alone. Elderly may ask tactless questions but not because they want to trap you, on the contrary, they pity you that you wander from one city to another and cannot allocate in one place. This kind of attitude is not really typical for Georgians.

The Black Sea zone is a real paradise for representatives of any religion, cultural background, and mentality. You are free to wear whatever you want (mainly during the tourist season in summer) and the crazier your life story is the more they love you. Though ladies should stay vigilant and not to believe all the sweet words Georgian men tell them. Holiday romances are becoming widespread in the Black Sea Region and if the man does not call you back but has promised to tattoo his arm with your name on it, well, make conclusions yourself and think twice before calling him first.

There was one response about Samegrelo. One local informed me that it was strange if a woman rode a bicycle. This action would be credited as unfeminine and queer. For example, in Chkhorotsqu people are used to see a religious woman who prefers skirts to jeans. It doesn’t mean you are not allowed to wear whatever you like but still it is better to know how to behave yourself in the town you had never been before.

Mountainous regions like Svaneti have an exceptional attitude towards female lone-travelers and it is better to settle in the hotels close to the center, do not go away far from the only civilization available at the place you’ve stayed. Svans are known as the most blood-boiled population in Georgia. You can often hear that men kidnap the woman they like without even asking her so beware – those are not just fairy tales about high mountains in Georgia – it is, unfortunately, Svanetian reality.

As it was already mentioned above, Georgians respect Christianity and grant foreigners with greater portion of affection if they are Orthodox. Muslims or representatives of other religions will find their place in Georgia as well, they will not be discriminated but it would be better not to talk much about the God and creationism. You will never out-argue a Georgian. There is another bias towards people from the Middle East – they are considered to be very rich and ladies have to be cautious with the prices. At least, it’d be better to get in touch with reliable locals so that not to be deceived.

Travelling in Georgia sounds exciting but at the same time female lone travelers may face challenges based on cultural differences.

The main thing is not to get frustrated or insulted, just remember that you are a guest and the hosts may just have other idea about life.