Kutaisi is the traditional rival of Tbilisi for capital status, and has since the days of the Golden Fleece been considered the capital of Western Georgia (then Ancient Colchis). It remains Georgia's second largest city, but to the irritation of the proud locals, does not come even close to Tbilisi's present day size and wealth. Since the Georgian government decided to move their parliament to Kutaisi, there has been a lot of work on restoring streets, buildings, parks and monuments and the city has become much safer.
But a visit here is nonetheless near mandatory to see the magnificent Bagrati Cathedral, and Gelati Monastery, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and have commanding views from the mountain slopes over the city and the Rioni river.
Otherwise, Kutaisi is a relatively pleasant city, although not as attractive for tourists as Tbilisi and cities on the nearby Black Sea coast.
Wizz Air flies to and from Budapest, Kiev, Warsaw,Vilnius, Donetsk, Kharkov and Katowice . There are flights from Moscow (Ural Airlines and S7), Minsk (Belavia) and Tbilisi as well. New flights from Lviv, Vilnius and Budapest will be added in 2014.
As of May 2014, if you wish to change money into Georgian Lari there is a desk before immigration control, run by government employees. After immigration there is a private bank counter with an exchange facility. Opening hours are unclear, though one of the two options seems to be working after arrival of international flights. There is now one ATM in the arrival hall.
Kutaisi international airport is 31 km west of Kutaisi city center.
By marshrutka: Walk to the bus stop at the main road in front of the airport building and flag down a marshrutka (Kutaisi is to the right of the airport). The driver may or may not accept euro coins or dollar bills of small denominations. If not, you may ask him to stop at a money exchange office in Kutaisi and he may or may not agree to do so. If not, wait for another marshrutka.
Marshrutka run every 20min between kutaisi bus station (behind mc donalds) to samtredia (via airport) and vice versa during the day (2 Lari). Now its possible to change eur or usd to gel inside the airport. If you arrive late, you can try to stop other marshrutkas from batumi, zugdidi etc.
A direct marshrutka of the Georgian bus company meets each flight (5 Lari) and will take you to your accommodation in Kutaisi (together with all other passengers, so it advisable to book closest to the airport). Agents meet each flight as you emerge from customs and direct you to their desk for ticket purchase. Credit cards are accepted. Alternatively book on-line at www.georgianbus.com
By taxi: Arrange the price beforehand. The taxi driver will probably ask for 25 lari, but you should insist on 20 lari only; do not care about his disgusted look as 20 lari is already a hugely inflated price anyway - if you want to support the local economy or help people in REAL need, you will have more than enough other opportunities in Georgia.
Getting from the airport to Tbilisi or Batumi
Get by taxi or marshrutka to Kutaisi (see above) or to Samtredia (to the left of the airport) and then continue by train or by marshrutka (see By bus and By train).
A bit more expensive option is to use direct marshrutkas of the Georgian Bus company to Tbilisi (20 lari, 10 euros, 12 US dollars) and to Batumi (18 lari, paying in euros and dollars is also possible). You can also pay with your credit card. The Georgian Bus ticket stand is in the airport hall. Check  for more information. You may also try to arrange with the Georgian Bus employees at the ticket stand or with the marshrutka driver to kick you off in Samtredia/Kutaisi, Gori or any other place on the route to Batumi/Tbilisi (for a lower price).
All trains from and to Tbilisi Central leave from and arrive at the new Kutaisi I station.
There is a daily express train (#18) from Tbilisi departing at 8:50AM and taking about six hours to reach Kutaisi I at 3:00PM. A ticket with reserved seat costs minimum 5 GEL (ca. 2.50 USD). Also stops in Mtskheta (old capital of Georgia), Gori (birth place of Stalin) and Zestafoni.Nice journey.
In the opposite direction, train #17 leaves 12:25 from Kutaisi and arrives 18:20 in Tbilisi. Cost in May 2014 was 8 GEL. No restaurant car is available on board this train, but - like other trains in ex-Soviet states - there are on-board sellers and the train makes lengthy stops at stations that do sell food. Incidentally, due to these stops these trains usually arrive exactly on time.
A local but fast train runs from Kutaisi I to Batumi (listed, confusingly as 'Makhinjauri' in the timetable), leaving at 9 AM, arriving 3 hours later. Cost GEL 4, payable on the train. Preferable to the bus.
Train from Tskaltubo are running from Kutaisi II station, which is located in the south-west of Kutaisi.
There are more night and day trains running from Tbilisi Central via the Rioni station (a few kilometres to the south of Kutaisi) and via the Samtredia station (which is relatively close to the Kutaisi airport) to the west of Georgia (Batumi-Makhinjauri, Zugdidi, Poti, and Ozurgeti). Check the timetable . Getting a bus/mashrutka to Rioni may be tough. A taxi could take you there for 9-10 Lari. Rioni station has very minimal amenities on offer and it's not wise to reach there too much in advance.
Mini-buses (marshrutkas) and full 54-passenger buses depart regularly for Kutaisi from Didube Bus Station located at the Didube metro stop in Tbilisi. Marshrutkas typically depart once an hour; large buses every three hours. Typical fare is 10 lari. Travel by marshrutkas takes roughly 3.5 hours; larger buses take slightly longer due to more frequent stops. Marshrutkas leave from Batumi about every hour, cost 15 lari (can almost always talk them down to 10), and take about 2-2.5 hours. They will drop you off in front of the McDonalds, where you can take the number 1 bus to the city centre. They can also drop you at Kutaisi airport, but make sure to shout when you see the airport approaching, as they don't always remember.
Bus #1 is a circular service in both directions. The anti-clockwise version serves Kutaisi I railway station but note that the clockwise version does not, and a short walk and ascent of steps is required from the nearest stop at the junction of David Agmasenebeli Avenue and Tesereteli Street. Fare is 0.20 Lari
City bus #1 is useful circular route (both direction) linking Kutaisi I, and II stations and the city center. From Kutaisi II (bus terminal), take clockwise (heading left) direction to the city centre and anticlockwise (heading right) to the Kutaisi I. Note clockwise direction doesn't go in front of Kutaisi I station.
Other than that, getting around in Kutaisi is tough especially if you are not converant in Georgian language. One could negotiate with a city taxi driver and roam around Bagrati, Gelati monastery, Motsameta monastery, Sataplia and Prometheus, all for 60-70 LARI, including return to Kutaisi city by early evening. If local transporters know another language than Georgian it is Russian. With basic knowledge of Russian you will get by. Useful for all former Soviet countries.
Bagrati Cathedral. edit It is about a 30 minutes walk from the main square. Try to visit on the hour, when celebrates Mass. Interesting atmosphere.
Gelati Monastery. Busses are leaving from behind the theatre at 8 and 11 AM; at 2, 4 and 6 PM. Cost 1 Lari. Duration of the ride 20 to 25 minutes. Returning to Kutaisi should not be a problem as there are many marshrutkas on the main road coming from surrounding villages that pick up passengers. Just wave and they will stop and pick you up. If not, try hitch-hiking, always stop someone. edit
Torpedo Kutaisi, Ramaz Shengelia Stadium. See the local football team in a match at the Ramaz Shengelia Stadium. A ticket costs 2 GEL.edit
Statue of David. edit -Amazing view during the night when the statue overlooking a stairwell is lit up. Again a definate must see (wihtin mins walk from Kutuasi University)
Main square. edit by the civic centre( in the Cetral Park area of the city) sees an amazing water fountain depicting the story of the multi colour coat as per bible stories.
Prometheus Caves. edit in the city outskirts, an amazing array of caves and caverns -very much a must see to all visiting the city.
Gora Park. edit After a cart journey one is brought to the top of the hill. There is some stunning views overlooking the city and hosts a great permanent fair. However the spinning wheel ride is not one for the faint hearted, their is a number of other rides there all for small amounts of money - cart wheel and others alongside a caged bear at the side of the fair. May be the first time to ever see one. The ferris wheel in another side of the park provides breathtaking views of the city.
White Bridge. edit There is an old tale of this bridge that a cheeky kid had stolen hats off two men and jumped into the river. There is a statue on the bridge depicting this story - a great picture point too. It is also close/ overlooks the old palace in Kutaisi which is also a fantastic sight to see.
The streets of Kutaisi have been modernised somewhat and have many local items as well as many internationally reciognised items. There is a Mall where one could attend to their shooping needs, there is also market stalls and small shops willing to haggle with tourists.
Kutaisi has a growing nightlife whereby many new venues are opening, Kings located by the civic centre is an excellent and lively location with live bands and performances that will allow one to blend in and have fun with the locals.
You can get Georgian food delivered to you, which is rare in Georgia, if you call 248494. http://pubdelivery.ge/
It would definitely help to know some Georgian. Prices are reasonable; we got enough food for 10 people for 50 lari, including delivery charge.
McDonald's, 121 Beshkenadze Avenue (also spelled as Chavchavadze Avenue) (4 km southwest of the old city centre, near the Grand Mall.). Prices around 10 GEL for the big mac menue; all is posted in Georgian script, but they have a menue in English on a separate card. Marshrutka 200 and 34 pass by. Just in case you are fed up with traditional local food. edit
Café/restaurant Baraqa, Tamar Mepe Street (located in Kutaisi city centre, near the central square.). Prices around 10 GEL for local food; ask for the menue in English. edit
El Depo, 9 Tabidze Str. (5 minutes walking from the White Bridge). Typicall Georgian cuisine. The best Khinkali in Georgia, very tasty lobio (haricot) and really good beer. Affordable prices.edit
Pizza Bar RICH, Rustaveli Ave 27 (5 minutes from the City center and Shota Rustaveli Bridge). Very nice place with great music, friendly service and delicious Salads,Pasta and Pizza,also with a big variation of Georgian wines.edit
Palaty restaurant, 1 Pushkin str. II lan. Very nice place with live music every evening. Prices are a bit higher than in other places but it's worth visiting. They have a very nice atmosphere and friendly service. Typical Georgian cuisine but they also have other meals like pizza.edit
Zedazeni restaurant, Pushkini str.16. Typical Georgian cuisine.Good prices, nice service and tasty food.edit
Caucasian restaurant, Rustaveli Avenue. Bad deal: a simple meal costs 15 GEL and e.g. a salad of merely tomatoes and cucumber costs 5 GEL; local men smoke in the restaurant; friendly service though edit
Hostel Bavaria, Tbilisi Street 108 (1 km from the old city center), ☎ mobile: +995 55 76 00 76 (email@example.com). The hostel is quiet and has a friendly atmosphere. The host can provide travel information. Guests can use the fully equipped kitchen.15 (dorm) to 40 GEL (per room) per night. This price includes breakfast.. edit
Hostel Ell, Gaponova Street 38 (nearby city center), ☎ mobile: +995 592 92 12 12 (firstname.lastname@example.org). This hostel is located in 20 minutes walk from Bagrati church. The bright rooms are simply decorated in a traditional style. Shared bathrooms are located in the corridor. Guests can prepare meals in the fully equipped communal kitchen and dining area to enjoy. A 7-minute walk from the hostel's restaurant, which serves both the Georgian and European cuisine. Gelati Monastery is located 9 km away Ell. The train station Kutaisi is 2 km away and the international airport of Kutaisi - 25 km.25 to 50 GEL per night. edit
Rusiko's Guesthouse, 5 Khaukchishvili Street (next to White Bridge (Tetri Khidi) in the Old Centre), ☎ +995 551 47 11 00; +995 597 90 54 76. The lovely hostess Rusiko makes everyone feel very welcome. Feels like a real Georgian home. Free wi-fi is available as well as tea, coffee, fruit. Very clean and comfortable with a perfect location - 3 minutes from the central fountain, opera, theatres, central bazaar, bus stops.20 GEL per night. edit
Hostel Kutaisi, 14 Solomon I Street (next to main square in the historical part of the city), ☎ +995 431 25 38 73 / mobile: +995 551 47 11 00 (email@example.com). In the hostel Kutaisi you will be served by experienced people (english spoken). Amenities include free wi-fi, internet, linen, towels, shampoo, coffee, tea, cable TV, maps, different guide books, advice about Kutaisi and Georgia in general.20 to 30 GEL per night. edit
Hostel Lviv, Rodzechevi str. N4 a, ☎ 0431-243962 / mobile: 595-172977 or 597-821644. 15 GEL (dorm). edit
Suliko's Homestay, (10-15 minutes walk south of the middle of town. Go to number 81 Tbilisi Street (one of the main streets in town). Then, go up the alley that intersects with Tbilisi Street at that address. It will be the third house on the right (number 6, green fence).), ☎ +995 431 24 30 07. Their popularity brought other similarly named guesthouses, and taxi drivers tend to take you to these new places for the comission. Give them address to avoid the trouble. You will be treated with as much chacha, Georgian wine and food as you can handle. The food is all hand-made and freshly prepared. It is amazing, the hospitality is unparalleled and only the modesty of the facilities leaves anything to be desired. The beds are clean and the house is good by local standards, and the new bathroom was completed in the summer of 2011 in this friendly homestay. Free WiFi Internet is available, and there is a computer available for use. It's easy to get here from any location.between 20 and 30 GEL per night. edit
Leila's Hostel, 3 Jibladze Street (3 blocks from city center), ☎ +995 431 25 10 25 / mobile: +995 597 03 07 30 (firstname.lastname@example.org). checkin: 24 hours; checkout: 10 A.M. In the Kutaisi Hostel Centre, the owner Leila is a soviet business woman eager to make money, likes to clean all the time and seems to be upset all the time and complaining about other guests to you (but you're amazing, that is, until you leave!). Amenities include free wi-fi, internet, linen, coffee, tea, airport pick up, central bus station pick up. But don't shower more than you should or plug in your devices more than you need. The owner will angrily remind you of that. Hostel locks at 10 P.M!15 to 30 GEL per night. edit
Gia homestay, 41 chanchibadze (very close to Bagrati Temple), ☎ +995 557 669 380 (email@example.com). In the Gia Homestay you will feel like at home. The house is situated on the hill and has beautiful view on the mountains and Kutaisi. You could order breakfast, the food is very good and freshly made. In 10 minutes of walking you could reach Mirzaani brewery, which serves very good food, beer and wines.Price per person is between 20 and 30 GEL per night. edit
Family Hostel, 25 Tamar Mepe (in the city centre), ☎ +995 571 026 329 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Family accomodation. Contradictory to its name, it's more like a guesthouse than a hostel.25 GEL per night. edit
Hostel Mana, 33 T. Tabidze (about a half km outside the center), ☎ +995 598 74 77 44 (email@example.com). Guesthouse in a very close location to the city center. The owner doesn't speak English but it wasn't a problem for us. He speaks Russian and Georgian. He will come pick you up from city center when you arrive if you would like. Very comfortable and affordable.15 GEL per night. edit
Sun Hostel, 2 Bagrati St. (near Bagrati cathedral), ☎ +995 595 237 236 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Hostel is located in the city center, just below the beautiful Bagrati Cathedral. Very friendly hosts. Great view of the river and the city. 15 GEL per night (May 15). edit
Hostel Kutaisi by Kote, Gorki Street 18 (Gorkis Kucha 18), ☎ +995593548507 (email@example.com), . Hostel Kutaisi by Kote, located close to Bagrati Cathedral, is a perfect place for those who are looking for a good standard accommodation at affordable price. There are 14 rooms with shared bathroom facilities. Guests have access to a fully equipped kitchen and laundry facilities. Free Wi-Fi is available at the property. Hostel also organizes tours around Georgia and for those who want to explore the country on their own they offer a car rental.20GEL (per person). edit
Hostel Sweet Home, 12 Jibladze Street, ☎ +955591227922. Sweet Home Hostel is located in Kutaisi, 500 metres from the central park. Free WiFi access is available. All rooms have air conditioning. Guests can use a shared bathroom. At Sweet Home Hostel you will find a garden, a terrace and a shared kitchen. Other facilities offered at the property include meeting facilities and a games room. Kutaisi Train Station is within a 10-minute walk. 29 to 30 GEL. edit
Hotel Oazis, (behind the large round theatre in the city centre). Small hotel in the center. Clean, cozy rooms with narrow beds; wifi, A/C, heating. One of the few budget options in central Kutaisi.edit
Kutaisi is a fairly safe city where one can wonder the streets day and night, only thing one would highlight is the driving and crossings. You have to be forceful here as drivers don't want to stop at all. Even if there is a green light for pedestrians, you might be hit by a car or marshrutka.
Some basic knowledge of Russian would be very helpful if you want to travel individually. In case English is your only option ask young educated people. For one reason or another girls and young women are better in communicating in English than men.
Most Georgians think it is strange to travel alone.
Tbilisi There are 3 trains per day from 'Kutaisi #1 Station' to Tbilisi, cost is 8 GEL, which is by far the cheapest option. The ride takes around 6 hours, so it is longer than the Marshutkas, but it is much more comfortable and relaxing. The train stops many times on the way, for long periods of time normally, and you can buy water, snacks etc, from people at each of the stops. There is no onboard food service, so make sure you take something with you. When you get on it will be one carriage long, when you get off probably around 20 carriages will have appeared. The scenery is amazing and the way the landscape drastically changes is mind-blowing.
Getting to Kutaisi international airport from Kutaisi
Marshrutkas from Chavchavadze bus station (behind McDonalds) in the direction of Samtredia pass the international airport on a regular basis. They drop you off on the highway in front of the airport. Cost is less than 2 Lari. Keep in mind that the last marshrutka leaves Chavchavadze station at 18:30.
The Georgian bus company has a minibus service to the airport which includes a pick-up from your place of stay. It costs 5 Lari. The service is reliable. Phone 555 397 387 or book online on their website.
Taxis from Kutaisi to the airport will cost 15 to 20 Lari.