About 4 months ago my husband and I decided to move from Saint-Petersburg, Russia to Batumi, Georgia. It was a sudden decision – we were in the middle of looking for an apartment to rent or buy in the city center. Tired of being interrogated about our dog, citizenship, and careers we heard about prices for real estate in Georgia. In May my husband went to the beach town of Batumi, and only after a couple of days he returned with a deed. We became home-owners.
So, why should you come visit us?
- NO VISAS
Citizens of the EU and 70 other countries (including the US and Russia) are granted a visa free stay for up to a year. No visa for a whole year. Wow! What happens after a year? You leave the country (for at least a day) and come back to Georgia, you new visa free year has started. The full list of countries can be found here.
Moreover, if you own property that is valued 35,000 USD or higher you can apply for a short-term residency permit which eventually (after 5 years of living in Georgia) can get you Georgian citizenship. Georgia has close connections with the EU, so that on its own is a good reason for some people to apply for a Georgian passport (visa free travel to EU with Georgian passport sure would make my life easier). Anyhow, here is all the information on types of residences and obtaining citizenship.
2. THE PRICES
Batumi is cheap, overwhelmingly so. A meal for two at a cafe – $12-15, a meal in a nice restaurant with drinks – around $40. A taxi from the suburbs to the city center – up to $2. Yes, two dollars. A good bottle of wine – around 5 bucks. A car that takes you to a convent in the mountains waits for you there and brings you back – less than $9.
Sounds insane, I know. As much as we have tried, we were not able to spend more than $150 a week while going to restaurants and buying occasional unnecessary trinkets. Renting an apartment is also not overwhelming, although the prices rise for the tourist season (May to October). You get a better deal if you rent for a year and directly from the owner. We used booking.com, but there are groups on Facebook (easier to use if you speak Russian) that offer good deals, or you can try one of these websites: http://www.geo-home.com/ https://place.ge/ http://www.geopg.ge/
3. THE WEATHER
I was born and raised in Saint Petersburg. Theoretically, I should know how to handle cold weather. But I do not. From November till late April I suffer. Bad weather affects my mood: I do not want to go out, exercise, talk to people, I just eat, sleep, and complain. Maybe it would have been a bit easier if it was just cold and windy but it is also dark.
Batumi does have its number of rainy days. The difference is the sun and the temperature. In between short summer showers you see blue skies and can get a tan. Even when I forget to bring an umbrella on a rainy day and get soaking wet, I do not get cold – the air is warm.
Even in the winter the temperature rarely falls lower than 10 degrees Celsius (50 F). And, most importantly, the daylight hours in winter are longer in Batumi than in Saint Petersburg by 3,5 hours. Why should that matter? If you are not a vampire, sunlight deprivation can cause sleep deprivation, make it harder to overcome a flu, and even lead to clinical depression. Here are some other disturbing health issues connected to the lack of sunlight.
4. THE NATURE
No, it is not the same as the weather. I would never buy a place in a warm country if it did not have access to clean sea water. What’s the point of all those sunny days if you can’t lie on the beach or take a running jump into warm salty waves? Living at a walking distance from the sea was my childhood dream.
When you are swimming in the Black Sea and look back at the shore you see snow covered mountain tops. Even in summer you can find ice on the roads if you drive far enough. The skiing resorts are closed during the hot season, however, trekking and mountain climbing are alive and well.
I am far from being adventurous when it comes to nature. I might try rafting or kayaking, but even if I opt for a lazier type of tourism it is basically impossible to avoid mountain views when visiting Georgia´s best known landmarks.
Oh, and of course the air is clean, the water is sweet (or salty, if you like mineral water), and the birds are chirpy. Best way to detox after living in a big city.
5. THE CULTURE
I did not know what to call this section. I have yet to visit a country that I would absolutely dislike. I have been to places that I liked for a quick vacation but where I wouldn’t want to live long-term, but I would not say I disliked my time there.
That being said there were only a couple of places where I felt like I do not need to break myself to adapt to the local culture, like I am not afraid to commit a cultural faux pas and become an outcast. Those countries were – Austria, Ireland, and now Georgia.
The food, the atmosphere, the people make one (or rather me) feel at ease. There is no rush, no tension, no surprise. Not to say that Georgia is boring, on the contrary – there are plenty of things for a curious mind to discover (from language to history), but none of it comes as an unpleasant shock.
Of course, it depends on your own cultural background, and your expectations, so I can only speak from my perspective, but at least so far, Batumi is one of the most pleasant towns I have been to.