Advice for Irish Supporters travelling to Tbilisi for Ireland-Georgia European Championship Qualifier Game
We hope you enjoy your trip to Tbilisi. Early and thorough preparation for your trip will help to prevent problems later on, so please spare a little time to read this leaflet carefully and keep it for reference.
Tbilisi is generally not an expensive city. However, some costs for visitors (mainly accommodation) are comparable to those in Ireland.
While the crime rate in Tbilisi is not high for a city of its size, and crimes against tourists are generally not common, you should take normal precautions for your personal safety, and to ensure that your possessions, especially money, credit cards and documents, are secure. Particular care should be taken after dark, and only the official red taxis should be used.
Travel to areas outside of Tbilisi be undertaken with caution, and preferably moving only during daylight hours. Areas to be avoided at all times include the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, mountainous areas bordering Chechnya, the province of Svaneti and the Pankisi Gorge.
There is no culture of football hooliganism or racism in Georgia, so Irish supporters who behave themselves should not have any problems. However, they should be careful to respect local norms of behaviour and refrain from activity which might cause offence to their Georgian hosts. Irish supporters should also bear in mind the prevalence of firearms in Georgia.
BEFORE YOU GO
Passport and Visas
- Make sure that your passport is valid for three months after the intended date of your return to Ireland.
- You will need to apply to the Georgian Embassy in London (4, Russell Gardens, W14 8EZ) for a visa. The telephone number is (0044-20-7603-7799). Your travel agent may be able to assist with the visa application. Alternatively, it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival at Tbilisi International Airport in exchange for $40, a completed application form (available in the airport) and one passport photograph. You should be aware, however, that this procedure may involve being delayed at the airport for some time.
- If you are planning to transit through Moscow on your way to Georgia you will need to obtain a transit visa for Russia. This cannot be obtained on arrival, but must be obtained in advance. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland is located at 184-186 Orwell Road, Dublin 6. The Consular Section of the Embassy works from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday to Friday. The telephone number is (01) 4923492. You will not be allowed to transit through Russia without a valid visa.
- Make at least two photocopies of your passport and visa. Leave one set with a friend or relative in Ireland and bring the other with you to Georgia, carrying it on you at all times, while keeping the original in a safe place (e.g. in a safe deposit box in your hotel).
- If you intend to stay for more than three (working) days, you must register with the Ministry of Internal Affairs within three (working) days of arrival. If you do not do so, you may be fined or imprisoned. Your hotel will be able to advise about how to register.
- If you try to leave the country after your visa has expired, you will have to extend your visa before you are allowed to leave the country. There will also be a fine to be paid, of three times the cost of the visa. If you lose your passport, you will need to report it to a police station, receive written confirmation of having done so, and the assistance of the Irish Embassy (details below) will be required to issue you with a new passport (US$63.00).
- If you plan to bring large amounts of money with you (over $1,000, as a rough guide) when leaving the country, be sure on arrival to fill up a Customs Declaration, go through the red channel and get it stamped by the customs officers - if you try to leave the country with such amounts of money without a declaration to prove that you brought it in, or with a declaration that is not stamped, the money may be confiscated. If you buy any antiques or objects of art while in the country you should make sure to get, from the seller, a certificate for production to customs officers saying that the export of the items is permitted by the Ministry of Culture.
Insurance (Travel and Health)
- Take out travel insurance against the loss or theft of your belongings.
- Take out a comprehensive worldwide medical insurance policy to cover possible medical expenses.
- If you are already insured for medical expenses, you should consult with your medical insurance company to ensure that you are covered for all risks when in Georgia, as well as on the way to and from there.
Booking Your Trip
- Make your travel arrangements through a bonded travel agency only. Ask for written evidence that your travel agent is fully licensed when making travel arrangements. If the travel agent refuses this, you can take your business elsewhere.
The only official source of tickets for Irish supporters is the FAI, who will sell tickets from 11.00am to 12.30pm on the day of the game at the Marriott Hotel, 13 Rustaveli Avenue, Tbilisi. The exact price remains to be finalised, but is expected to be in the range $20-$25. Payment will be accepted in US dollars only.
Beware of ticket 'touts' or 'scalpers'. Tickets purchased from them may not be genuine, or may not be for the Irish section of the stadium.
Access to the vicinity of the stadium is likely to be limited to those in possession of match tickets. You may be asked to identify yourself, so bring a copy of your passport with you. You will not be allowed to bring alcoholic drink, or anything which may be used as a weapon (bottles, flagpoles etc.) into the stadium.
The senior match will take place in the Lokomotiv stadium, located in the Vake district in the south-west of the city, on Saturday 29 March 2003, at 19.00. The under-21 match will take place on Friday 28 March, in the Boris Paichadze stadium (the city's main stadium), at 16.00.
Because of the unreliable electricity supply in Tbilisi, it is possible, though unlikely, that there may be a general power failure during the game. If this happens, you should remain in your seat until told to move, avoid rushing the exits and follow the instructions of police and stewards.
DURING YOUR STAY
Tbilisi International Airport is situated approximately 11 miles east of the city centre. There is a bus service, but no rail connection from the airport to the city centre. Taxis from the airport to central Tbilisi usually cost about $15.
The Metro (underground railway) is not likely to be an attractive option for most Irish supporters. You should note that the unreliable electricity supply in Tbilisi makes many people reluctant to travel by Metro. Announcements in the stations are in Georgian only, and all signs are in Georgian or Cyrillic script. If you are going to travel by Metro, you should make a careful study of a map, and write down the name (in Roman and Georgian script) of your destination and of any station at which you should change.
Only the red official taxis in Tbilisi should be used if possible. Many locals use unofficial taxi service where they flag down a car and negotiate a price for the journey. As some foreigners who used such unofficial services have been attacked and robbed, their use is not recommended.
Money and Credit Cards
Plan your budget carefully. The Georgian currency is called the ALari@ which is divided into 100 tetri. At the beginning of March 2003, the exchange rate was approximately 2.35 lari = 1 Euro.
It is not possible to obtain lari outside of Georgia, or to exchange them for another currency following your return to Ireland.
You should bring a mixture of Euro and US dollar notes. Although the lari is the only legal unit of currency in Georgia, you will find that goods and services are sometimes priced in dollars (though paid for in lari), and exchange booths to change dollars to lari are very numerous. The number of places which will exchange Euro is somewhat less. Travellers' cheques are not widely used in Georgia, and it is safer not to rely on them.
Not all Automatic Telling Machines (ATM) accept foreign credit cards and the hours of opening are variable. English language machines can be difficult to find.
Credit cards are not universally accepted and you should try always to carry a sufficient amount of cash. When using your credit card, you may be asked to produce your passport for identification. There have been cases of credit card fraud.
English is not widely spoken in Georgia. Air, rail and road transport signs are often bilingual, but can sometimes be only in Georgian, which has its own unique alphabet. Newer bilingual signs are in Georgian and Roman script, but some older ones are in Georgian and Cyrillic. Some familiarity with the Georgian and/or Cyrillic alphabets before leaving Ireland would be helpful. The purchase of a travellers' phrase-book is recommended, as is a guidebook on travelling in Georgia generally.
Irish mobile phones which have international roaming facility will function normally in Tbilisi, but may not do so in other areas of Georgia.
The international access code when dialing from Georgia is 8-(wait for dial tone)-10. To call Ireland from Georgia it is therefore necessary to dial 8-10-353-(area code)-(number). To make an international call from an Irish mobile in Georgia it is possible either to use the A+@ symbol, as in A+353...@ or 8-10 as described above.
It is generally not possible to make international calls from public pay phones on the street. Such calls can be made from hotels, post offices, and railway stations.
The free emergency phone number for the Police in Georgia is 02, for the Fire Brigade 01 and for the Ambulance 03.
Weather in Tbilisi at the end of March is changeable, with pleasant, mild weather of 8-12 degrees or snow equally possible. The stands in the stadium are uncovered, and you should be prepared for rain and cold.
Georgia is 4 hours ahead of Ireland.
Useful websites include the following:
Lonely Planet guides: www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/europe/georgia
Georgian Times newspaper: www.geotimes.ge
Emergency Contact Numbers
A temporary office will be set up in Tbilisi by the Irish Embassy in Moscow to deal with any emergencies over the match weekend. The telephone number of this office will be +995-99-214020 (dialling from a Tbilisi land line it will be 8-99-214020. In the event of difficulty in contacting the office on this number, contact may be made through the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, on 01-4780822 (24 hours).
Contact details for the Irish Embassy in Moscow are as follows:
Tel : +7-095-9375911
Fax : +7-095-9752066
Consular Services Section
Department of Foreign Affairs
69-71 St. Stephen's Green,
(Tel: + 353 1 4780822)
(Fax:+ 353 1 4082798)