How do Russians live in Georgia today: the pros and cons of moving from Russia
Until recently, Georgia was a tourist Mecca for Russians, they came here for the beauty and authenticity of ancient cities with their cozy streets, stunning views of snow-capped mountains and for a beach holiday in Batumi or Kobuleti. Today Georgia is a chance for many to start a new life away from the economic and political turmoil going on in Russia.
Russians come to Georgia for many reasons, but the main thing is that the Russian language is still in use here, there are many Russian-speaking schools, the mentality of Georgians is very close to the Russians, after all we are connected by many years of living in one Soviet country.
Despite the tolerant rules, Tbilisi is still not “packed” with immigrants. That’s because Georgia is still a rather poor country.
But despite the seeming closeness, there are many differences between our countries. Georgia’s economy is still developing, unemployment is high, and many ordinary people live below the poverty line.
But the Georgian government is optimistic about the future and says boldly that 2022 will be a breakthrough year and, apparently, not without the help of Russian immigrants.
The standard of living in Georgia and Russia in 2022
Living standard is not an abstract concept, we can judge it by looking at the basic criteria for assessing the economic situation, of which there are many in the world.
Let’s take the following indicators as an example:
- The quality of health care.
- The cost of living.
Let’s compare the main criteria that are calculated by Numbeo, a portal that specializes in ratings of life in different countries around the world.
|GDP per capita||30 431 dollars||$16,590|
|Inflation rate in 2021||9,17%||13,7%|
|Health care index||58,44%||53,83%|
|Cost of living index||33,17%||28,05%|
As we can see, by many parameters Russia is ahead of its Transcaucasian neighbor, at least it was so before the beginning of the “military special operation” in Ukraine.
For the successful development of the economy, it needs, first of all, investments. Georgia is far ahead of us in this respect. Since 2014 the country has been carrying out large-scale reforms to attract external capital, it is very easy to open a business even for a foreigner, for example, to set up a sole proprietorship you only need to spend one day! For comparison, in Russia the whole process would take at least ten.
Since the tourism business has been booming in the country in recent years, Georgia aims to receive not only Russian-speaking travelers, but also people from Europe and Asia. For comparison, in 2015 Georgia was visited by 4.5 million tourists, and in 2019 already slightly more than 7 million. Statistics 2021-2022 are much lower, but here, of course, we can see the impact of the pandemic.
Unemployment is quite high in Georgia, so it is unlikely that you can move there for a job with a local company. The average gross salary (i.e. before all tax deductions) in Georgia is $458, while in Russia it is $788.
Also in Russia there is a lower tax, only 13%, in Georgia 20%. But here it is worth bearing in mind that all social and pension contributions Russian companies pay for each employee separately, these are so-called hidden taxes, for example, in European countries they are deducted directly from wages.
According to the website Numbeo, in 2022, the cost of living in Georgia, on average, was 18% more expensive than in Russia, and rents rose by 7.5%.
Georgia is commonly considered an inexpensive country, but with today’s exchange rate a lot has changed. Even in the old days, many food products were imported to Georgia from Russia and Ukraine. Local production is not very developed, products from Georgian farmers are sold mainly in markets.
As for prices, bread costs about 0.83 lari (29 rubles), a kilo of chicken 9 lari (309 rubles), a kilo of potatoes 0.7 lari (24 rubles), a kilo of cheese 6.8 lari (234 rubles).
The GEL exchange rate, at the time of writing, is 34,39 rubles, for comparison, in December 2021 – 24,14 rubles.
Compared with Russia Georgia has a relatively low crime rate. According to the Numbeo index, for example, in 2020 there were 2.2 victims in Georgia, while in Russia there were 8.21 victims per 100,000 population.
The Georgian police are quite friendly, their task is really to keep order in the cities. This government agency was completely reformed under President Saakashvili and today it is the least corrupt government organization in the country.
Is it worth to move when retired
A lot of pensioners move to Georgia: the sea, the mountains, the warm climate, inexpensive housing, what else do you need to retire. For many older people it is important to have no language barrier, because their peers speak Russian very well.
Today, it is impossible to say unequivocally whether moving into retirement is a good idea. The currency market is shaky, pensions, which Russian pensioners already have small, now abroad may simply depreciate. Plus the ban on international payment systems and the inability to transfer money abroad.
And if people of working age can open their own businesses or get a job, retirees are hostages of this situation. In a country with a high unemployment rate, they can hardly count on getting a job.
As for medicine in Georgia, it is paid for all foreigners. But in the case of obtaining a residence permit, a Russian can become a participant in the “Universal Health Care” program. In this case, medical care for women over 60 years and men over 65 years will be free.
Is it worth it to move with children?
The attitude to children in Georgia, as well as throughout the Caucasus, is very good. Many Russian citizens note that their little ones are treated here as small gods. Despite the fact that in Tbilisi there are far fewer entertainment and educational activities for children, plus a poor selection of baby products, many parents note that for them it is more important that their children grow up in a favorable and friendly environment.
If you have a Georgian residence permit, you can send your child to a regular public school or kindergarten. However, it’s difficult to enroll there, often already at the moment of opening of online registration, there are no places.
In Georgia there are several private international schools, there is teaching in English and in Russian. The tuition costs from 300 GEL per month, which is about 10,000 rubles at the current rate.
Health care for children is free, but again, subject to residency permit, children also participate in the Universal Health Care program. As for the quality of services, there is no general consensus, as in any other country, some parents berate doctors, while others say they are quite satisfied with the service.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Georgia
In terms of moving to Georgia for permanent residence, of course, there are pros and cons, some of which are quite critical for people who are in the process of deciding to move permanently.
We would highlight the following positives:
- entry into the country without a visa for Russians and the ability to stay for one year;
- There is no language barrier, most people speak or at least understand Russian;
- low crime rate;
- delicious food, inexpensive fruits and vegetables;
- a large number of international schools, the opportunity for a child to continue to learn the Russian language;
- the proximity of the mountains and the sea.
Of the disadvantages we can note the following:
- high unemployment rate;
- low salaries;
- in public schools the education is conducted only in the Georgian language;
- In Georgia there is no central heating, most apartments are heated by gas, and some do not have batteries at all, only radiators help. Be prepared for cold weather in fall and winter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Judging by the reviews, the attitude to the Russians is now normal. Georgians in general are quite friendly and non-confrontational.
Yes, any foreigner can open an IE or LLC even without a residence permit. You need to submit a package of documents to the House of Justice. Experienced compatriots advise to find an interpreter to help with the paperwork, since everything is done in Georgian.
Many are already noticing a rise in the prices of housing and some products. And this is not only in Georgia, in Turkey, for example, newcomers face the same problem. But you can still do it before a big price increase, before Georgia becomes a new Silicon Valley, given how many IT people are going there now.
Georgia is one of the most affordable countries for moving today. Visa-free regime, opportunity to live legally for a year, simplified procedure for starting a business – all this attracts our compatriots here.
But emigration is rarely easy, there is a difficult process of adaptation, familiarity with the new way of life, acceptance and rejection of local morals.
[Personal experience] Moving to Georgia: the essentials in a nutshell
Georgia is now one of the most popular destinations for a quick relocation. We talked to a developer who moved there: he will tell us why he chose Tbilisi, how he lives here and what he plans to do next.
How I organized my move
I decided to leave on February 26, when I understood that the situation will only get hotter from now on. I had no time to think much, so I chose from those countries that were easy to move to where I had already been. It was Armenia and Georgia: a warm climate, low prices, and a Russian-speaking population. I had already been to Armenia and Georgia. In Armenia you can live for 180 days without any bureaucracy, and in Georgia – for a whole year. I do not have children or pets, do not need regular hospital visits, so the set of requirements for the country of relocation is small.
It was easier and cheaper to get to Armenia – there are direct flights to Yerevan and Gyumri. To Georgia it is more difficult: there are no direct flights, you either have to fly through other countries, or get a permit to enter through the border. And for permission you need a good reason like an invitation to work. There are services that can arrange an invitation, but what about the guarantees – I do not know.
Because of the travel difficulties I ended up first taking tickets to Yerevan, lived there for a couple of weeks, and then drove to Tbilisi by a minibus. There are no restrictions on the border between Armenia and Georgia, everything is done in 20 minutes. IT-specialists are now taken to a separate room to record information about their place of work, position, address of their stop and the amount of cash they have. I do not know why they do this. Nobody has come to my hotel in a month to check it.
Why did I choose Georgia and not Armenia?
I wanted to minimize the risks of Nagorno-Karabakh. Its stability is in question over the past year, and I do not want to be in Armenia when the situation aggravates.
Georgia is more tourist-oriented. I liked this country when I came here on vacation. Last year I even seriously considered it as a place for a long-term stay. It has a nice climate, low prices and just a comfortable life.
If you’ve never been to Georgia, check out travel blogger videos or “Heads & Tails. The unusual architecture of the old neighborhoods, the hospitality of the locals, beautiful mountains, delicious national cuisine and local wine are the hallmarks of this country.
Prices in Yerevan have skyrocketed. The cost of housing in Armenia had become exorbitant, and we had to act quickly before prices rose in Georgia as well.
How long did it take to prepare and adapt?
Initially I bought tickets for a few days in advance. But on the Sunday after it all started, I almost got into a bad situation just because I was walking along Novy Arbat. So I decided to leave early and took the tickets for the next overnight flight.
You could say that it took three hours to prepare – exactly how much time passed between buying tickets and going to the airport. Now I realize that the risks had not materialized, and there was no need for such haste. But at that time I did not want to play roulette.
When I moved to Tbilisi, prices there had not yet had a chance to skyrocket, so I managed to find an acceptable option on Booking. I was looking for a booking for at least a month, and found an option with a discount – 600 euros for 5 weeks compared to the average 1,000. The seller wrote after booking that this price was put up by mistake, and asked to cancel the reservation and run the transaction past Booking so as not to lose 25% commission. We agreed that in order to preserve the guarantee of Booking, I would compensate him for the commission – this is still more profitable, plus it allowed me not to offend the host who I still live with.
There was also a problem – at that time it was impossible to pay with a Russian card. Reservations required advance payment within a day, so I had to ask friends from Europe to do it for me.
In general you can find accommodation in Tbilisi on local sites like myhome.ge. Prices there can be lower, but landlords are more set up for long-term rentals of several months. Plus, they can refuse to rent on the basis of nationality.
What’s Life in Georgia Now: What’s Happening with Life, Transportation, and Money
My impressions of Georgia are exactly the same as they were last time – as pleasant as possible. I even want to learn the local language, but I’m not sure that this investment will pay off yet.
I really like the local cuisine and the large number of cafes. Since 2020 there has been local food delivery from Wolt and Glovo, which is convenient.
This year I noticed a large number of electric scooters on the street. This solves two of Tbilisi’s problems at once: the elevation differences that make you tired while walking, and the traffic jams on the narrow streets. I can’t say that there are too many traffic jams, but some one-way streets are congested practically around the clock.
On the downside, there are crowds of stray dogs. They are much nicer than in Russia, but no one cleans up after them, so when you walk, you need to watch your step.
Keep in mind that no Russian cards work in Georgia, not even MIR. I came with cash dollars and had no problems. Those who came without cash use transfers via the Golden Crown or cryptocurrencies.
If you want, you can open a card at a local bank, which will allow you to receive transfers from other countries and pay for local services. It may be that transfers from Russia are now allowed as well, I don’t have time to follow the news.
In early March, Bank of Georgia demanded that Russians sign a statement condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine and recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Georgian territories. One of my comrades even left for Turkey because of this. After a month, the idea was abandoned.
The best jobs with relocation are in the getmatch bot on Telegram! You don’t have to apply for jobs, you can use the bot as a tool to monitor the market: to what extent your vacancy matches the market. This is where a developer found out, for example, that his St. Petersburg salary was 60% (. ) less than he could earn.