Rustavi (რუსთავი) is a post-Soviet upcoming city of 100,000 people. With a new town square, a theatre in the process of being renovated, things are happening in this former industrial town. Only 25 minutes from Tbilisi, packed full of Soviet architecture, surrounded by abandoned factories, derelict Soviet-era parks, and dusty hills, it's something different.
There are loads of marshutkas going to Rustavi. As of 1 February 2012, a marshrutka ride between Tbilisi and Rustavi costs 1.30-1.50 GEL. From Tbilisi, marshrutkas load at the Station Square (Sadguris moedani) metro station and also at the Politeknikuri metro station. They will all have a sign reading რუსთავი (Rustavi) in their windshield.
At Station Square, the Rustavi-bound marshrutkas can be found parked behind the cluster of stores directly in front of the metro entrance/exit.
From Politeknikuri, the Rustavi-bound marshrutkas will be loading just outside the northeast exit of the metro. They will be waiting in the thin parking lot adjacent to the university.
On their way to Rustavi, these marshrutkas will invariably take the main riverside thoroughfare (President Heydar Aliyev Embankment/Gorgasalis St). If you see one coming, just wave at it. It will stop if there's room.
The marshrutkas will run down the main street in Rustavi (Megobroba Street) upon entering town. You will know when you are in Rustavi when you see hundreds of 9-story, Soviet-style apartment buildings absolutely everywhere. Just yell out "Gaacheret" for the driver to let you off. Anywhere is a good place to stop, really.
Marshrutkas from Tbilisi to Rustavi begin their routes early in the morning and run until midnight (at least at the Politeknikuri and Station Square sites).
Rustavi is easily done by foot. In addition, Rustavi has many marshrutka routes covering the length and breadth of the city. A marshrutka ride has the flat rate of 50 tetri. The #1 and #14 marshrutkas run the main road connecting Old Rustavi and New Rustavi. Make sure there is a sign in the windsheild saying "pirdapir" (პირდაპირ), lest you take the super scenic routes.
The town square is quite nice, there's a river, and plenty of crumbling apartment buildings to wander past. They're lit up at night, which looks quite nice. Nothing like a paint job. There's a beautiful theatre as well.
For a Western traveler, the most striking thing about Rustavi is its purely Soviet aesthetic. That said, many Westerners find that the best thing to do is to simply walk around. Rustavi is largely untouched by tourism, so the observer can see Georgian city life in a very pure form.
Go to the cinema, the theatre, check out a cafe, drink some beer.Media:Example.ogg
Rustavi has two bazaars in town. There is the old bazaar, located incidentally in Old Rustavi, and there is the new bazaar, located in New Rustavi.
To get to the old bazaar, simply take any #14 marshrutka heading towards Old Rustavi (southeast/away from Tbilisi).
The new bazaar is bigger, newer, and cleaner. It can be reached on foot or by marshrutka. By foot, start with Hotel Rustavi (Rustavis Sastumro). From the intersection with Hotel Rustavi, walk with the hotel to your back, walking north. You will reach the bazaar in 10 minutes.
You can also take a marshrutka to the new bazaar. If you are starting east of Hotel Rustavi, flag down the #1 marshrutka that does NOT have the პირდაპირ (pirdapir) sign in its windshield. If you are starting out west of Hotel Rustavi, flag down the #19 marshrutka that does NOT have the პირდაპირ (pirdapir) sign in its windshield.
Rustavi has its fair share of Georgian restaurants tucked inconspicuously all over town. The standard fare of khinkali, khachapuri, lobio, is all available. The prices are generally the same across the board.
For American fare, try "Hollywood" at the city plaza (meria) in Old Rustavi.
Georgian wine and chacha can be found at almost every restaurant and convenience store around town.
გუდა ბუდა (Guda Buda) great place to grab a coffee or beer and wireless internet. It is located in New Rustavi at 2 Megobroba St.
A particularly nice establishment to find Georgian spirits is at ღვინოს სახლი (ghvinos saxli or wine house). It is owned by an English-speaking Georgian man whose staff is very helpful in picking out a great bottle of Georgian wine or chacha. And the price is right. It is found in New Rustavi on Megobroba Street (the main road) just west of the ELIT ELECTRONICS store and just east of a yellow and red-painted apartment building. It is housed in a round yellow building on the south side of the street.
The main hotel in town is the auspicious Hotel Rustavi. It is located in New Rustavi about halfway to Old Rustavi on Megobroba Street (the main drag). It is easy to spot, as its triangular architecture is the only break in the monotonous apartment blocks all around it.
Otherwise, Rustavi is close enough to Tbilisi that you might find more scenic and comfortable digs there.
Getting back to Tbilisi is easy. There are Tbilisi-bound marshrutkas passing down the main street constantly.
To catch one of these marshrutkas, simply stand anywhere along Megobroba Street (Rustavi's main road) and flag one down. Any marshrutka going to Tbilisi will say თბილისი (Tbilisi) on the top on its windshield sign. The best places to catch marshrutkas is from a bus stop, because the marshrutka will slow down significantly, giving you a chance to read the windshield sign.
HOWEVER, all of these constantly-passing Tbilisi-bound marshrutkas are going to different places in Tbilisi. To know where each Tbilisi-bound marshrutka is going specifically, the details will be listed underneath the word თბილისი (Tbilisi).
The marshrutka going to Politeknikuri (metro) will have a blue and white windshield sign. Underneath the word თბილისი (Tbilisi), it will say აჭარა (Achara).
The marshrutka going to Station Square (metro) will have a Tbilisi metro icon at the bottom with the word სადგურის (Sadguris) next to it.
Other marshrutkas going to Tbilisi will are going to ისანი (Isani), where there is a metro, and there is the rare marshrutka headed to Liberty Square--it will say ვაკე and თავისუპლების on the sign.
Marshrutkas running from Rustavi to Tbilisi begin quite early in the morning, and taper off around 10-11pm.