What’s it really like to live in Batumi for a semester? Staying long-term in a city is much different from just vacationing there. You’ll need to navigate more of the practical, everyday services of the city and budget to include more miscellaneous and long-term expenses. Thus, this guide covers everything from haircuts to pharmacies and from gyms to computer repair. Its advice comes from SRAS staff on the ground in Batumi as well as graduates of SRAS Programs abroad.
A Practical Introduction to Batumi
Batumi is a popular seaside resort and major port in Georgia, nestled between the Black Sea coast and steep rise of the majestic Caucasus Mountains. Georgia has a long history intertwined with Russia’s, Turkey’s, and Iran’s and while Georgia’s unique language and culture are today sources of Georgian pride, many influences can be readily seen from this long history.
For students concentrating on Russian as a Second Language, Batumi offers a great opportunity to connect with a large Russian-speaking immigrant community and many Russian-speaking tourists. Most adults over about forty-five in Georgia can also speak Russian fluently, as can many younger Georgians. In Batumi you will stay with a host family and thus be more surrounded and immersed in the local culture.
When packing, keep in mind that Batumi is a subtropical coastal city that gets lots of sun and rain. Sunscreen, insect repellent, a good hat, and an umbrella are essential to pack. Summer months, when SRAS programs are held in Batumi, have average temperatures between about 60 and 80. Your cultural program will also take you into the mountains, where temperatures are considerably cooler. Bring light clothes (including a jacket) and a swim suit.
You are encouraged to bring clothing appropriate to the region’s conservative culture (tank tops or other skin revealing clothes should be avoided), gifts for friends and/or host families are encouraged, a water bottle with a filter, and any prescription medication you are taking in amounts to last the duration of your time abroad. Check our packing guide for more information on preparing for your trip.
Batumi is friendly and fascinating. It’s surrounded by beautiful nature to explore. While its recent history has been turbulent, its people remain open, proud of their heritage, and ready to build a better future.
Budgeting Basics for Batumi
Students in Batumi report spending about $40-80 a week average over the course of their stay. This covers groceries and moderate eating out, city transport, school supplies, modest weekend entertainment, and other general living expenses. Note that this guide assumes 2.6 lari is about $1.00. Prices current as of September, 2023. In Batumi you will stay with a host family and provided with two meals per day.
Card Fees. Call your banks and credit cards! Let them know the dates you’ll be abroad, otherwise, they tend to shut them off when they appear abroad – assuming they’ve been stolen. Note that most US banks will charge fees for every transaction you make abroad. $5 and/or 3% for every ATM withdrawal, for instance, is common. Make sure you understand these fees and factor them into your budget. See our Guide to Managing Cash Abroad for more information.
Use Local Currency with Card Transactions: You will often find while abroad that, when you use your card to pay for something, you will be offered the option of pricing in dollars or local currency. Pricing in dollars may seem like a convenience, but it is always priced higher than what you will pay if you just chose local currency and let your own bank make the conversion.
Recommended Banks/ATMs: ATMs are everywhere in Batumi and generally trustworthy. Bank of Georgia will have the best ATM fees and rates. Some other major banks to look for are TBC Bank, Liberty Bank, and Basis Bank.
Flexibility: You should always plan some flexibility into your budget. There will always be expenses that you didn’t plan for – a new umbrella, a better coat, a short trip that a new friend invites you on that is too good to say no to, you get the point.
- Complete Guide to Managing Cash Abroad for more information.
Food and Shopping in Batumi
Average weekly total food spending: ~$30-40 per week
Groceries: In Batumi you will stay with a host family and provided with two meals per day. While the need for groceries is thus minimal when living with a host family, Batumi has a wide range of supermarkets and rynoks. Numerous SPAR convenience stores can be found around Batumi. These carry snacks, microwaveable foods, and hygiene products for reasonable prices. Some even sell fresh fruit and vegetables.
The Batumi Mall, which is located right across from the school, hosts a large grocery store called Goodwill that carries food, water, sunscreen, home products, alcohol, and all other essentials. Carrefour and Agrohub are two of the most popular supermarket chains. Oftentimes these markets will serve prepared meals as well, making for a quick and inexpensive lunch. Talk to your host about using the refrigerator.
The Batumi Bazaar is also home to many local products and is a great places to practice your Russian and find authentic homemade Georgian products. People selling fresh fruits and vegetables can be found all over Batumi.
Eating out: You should definitely try as much Georgian food as possible while abroad. Adjara also has its own culinary traditions to explore. If you opt for a mid-range sit-down restaurant, your bill may range from approximately $6 to $15. Some of the more upscale dining establishments in and around Batumi will typically cost around $25 for a satisfying meal.
Fast-food in Georgia tends to be healthier than in the United States due to stringent regulations on artificial ingredients and food handling. When indulging in street food, you can expect to spend between $2 and $9. Exploring some of the familiar American fast-food chains—such as McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and KFC can also be interesting as they feature localized menus (with many more options catering to vegetarians, for example) than their American equivalents.
Student Reviews of Shopping and Eating Out in Batumi
- Local Food in Batumi
- Batumi: A Cafe for Every Occasion
- Batumi Coffee and Desserts
- Shopping in Batumi: A Complete Guide
Transport in Batumi
Average transport spending: ~$10-20 per month
Batumi is a highly walkable city and the school is centrally located, with a bus stop just across the street. Batumi’s busses and taxis are cheap and reliable.
Maps: Getting around the city is easy with apps like Yandex Go and Google Maps. However, keep in mind that sometimes roadwork, old neighborhoods, or unexpected events can impact your planned routes, so stay flexible! Tip: Internet can glitch while you are out, to stay safe, screenshot your route as soon as you have it up.
Public transportation: Most students find that walking will get them to most places they need in Batumi, and many never use public transport. If you do use it, each public transport ride will cost around 0.30 Lari (~$0.10). You pay with a Batumi Card, which you can purchase for two Lari at Metro Service Plus at 55 Vakhtang Gorgasali Street (not far from the Holy Mother Virgin Nativity Cathedral). The two Lari is then credited to the card to use for rides). You can add money to the card there as well – or at Bank of Georgia terminals around town. You can also pay without the Batumi Card from Apple Pay / Google Pay on your phone or with a credit/debit card if you have tap capability. However, then each ride will cost 0.80 Lari.
Taxis: Use Bolt or Yandex Taxi smartphone apps. Both use a complex algorithm to calculate the cost of each ride when you order it (weekends are more expensive, for instance). A ride from the airport to the center will likely run 10-15 Lari ($4-5), and taxis around the center are almost never more than 10 lari (~$4). Do not hail cabs from the street. The apps are much more secure. Connect your credit card to the account for maximum security (no bargaining or cash involved!).
Electric scooters: Multiple brands of electric scooters each charge about 0.30 lari a minute (about 10 cents).
Argo Cable Car: This is a gondola system that will take you from Batumi Port to a cultural complex on Anuria Mountain, with an excellent view of the city and surrounding landscape. A roundtrip ticket runs 30 Lari (12$).
Marshrutki: These are vans that function as shared taxis and are commonly seen in Tbilisi and Batumi. They don’t always automatically halt at stops; you’ll need to flag them down at bus stops and let the driver know when you need to get off by telling him your destination or by saying “aq gaacheret” (“stop” in Georgian). Some also run regular routes to various regions (usually leaving from a major market or the bus station) and even to nearby countries. The price of the ride will depend on its length.
Communications in Batumi
Average total spending for communication: $8-15 per month
See our Packing List for more information about bringing electronics abroad.
Mobile service and data: In general, Georgian phone plans are more affordable compared to their American counterparts. A sufficient plan with unlimited data, unlimited texting and 60 minutes of calling won’t cost more than $15 dollars a month. While not required, smartphones are recommended, as they will allow you to use online maps and taxi service apps. If you plan to use a smartphone, ensure it is “unlocked” by your carrier as it may not work with the local sim card otherwise. Students may also opt to use a “button phone” which is suitable for calling and texting. Inexpensive models can be found for no more than 20-30 dollars. Most cell plans in Georgia have a simple monthly fee and no long-term contract.
Internet: Both your homestay and NovaMova language school will have WiFi.
Hotspots: So will a lot of cafes, restaurants, and city-provided hotspots (like many of the universities). Often, you’ll need a Georgian mobile number to register on any public networks.
Phone and Computer Repair: Batumi has many computer and phone repair stores, with many found in bazaars and street markets. While most are probably of decent quality, be wary, as most are individually operated and there is no consistency between locations. Use discretion and look at reviews online before going out.
Post: You’ll find a post office conveniently located a few blocks away from the school at 35 Takaishvili Street. Here, you can buy stamps and send postcards, letters, and packages. Sending a postcard to America will cost approximately 4 Lari (equivalent to $1.53), while package shipping costs will vary based on weight. Shipping heavy packages can be very expensive and slow in terms of delivery.
Health and Medicine in Batumi
Budgets for health and medicine can vary based on student lifestyle and needs. Any SRAS student concerned about this category is encouraged to discuss it with their SRAS representative.
Water: Batumi’s water is safe and the city filtration system is modern. Georgians take pride in their clean water. There are various water fountains spread out across the city that are okay to drink from. Regardless, bottled water is cheap, usually costing 1 Lari ($0.35). Water filters can be purchased at most larger grocery stores and many pharmacies. Note that restaurants will always charge for water and will generally bring you the most expensive bottle if simply ask for water. Make sure check the menu and ask for the bottled brand you want to avoid this.
Gyms and Fitness: In Batumi, gym memberships vary in price, typically costing 60-100 Lari per month. There are a few options for gyms and, if you prefer free, outdoor workouts, you can find free ellipticals, bars, and other weighted machines along the boardwalk. These places are great opportunities for meeting locals and practicing Russian.
Check out our Guide to Batumi Gyms and Fitness here.
Just outside the city, you can visit the Goderdzi Mountain Resort for skiing and snowboarding.
Pharmacies: Bring a supply of needed medications with you. Never assume that your prescription medication will be available. For over the counter medications, look for the international symbol of a green cross. If looking for something specific, try looking it up on Wikipedia in English and then clicking on Russian or Georgian in the language menu on the left panel. While many American medications are unavailable in Georgia, there may be an alternative available. Some common pharmacies are Aversi, PSP and Pharmadepot. Most pharmacy staff speak Russian, English or both. In addition to having a variety of medication, pharmacies also carry body care products.
Eye care: Try Roniko for eyeglasses, contacts, solution, etc. They have a few locations in the center. There are a few other optical shops scattered mostly in the city center.
Medical Services: General care is available in English at American Medical Center (about a block away from the school).
Personal Grooming and Hygiene
Washing + Drying: Your homestay will help you with cleaning your clothes. While almost all apartments in Batumi have washing machines, they are often tiny and not as powerful as the American equivalents. Clothes dryers are not widespread in Georgia. The use of a clothesline (often on the balcony) is the most common way to dry clothes, especially if you are living in an apartment.
Dry Cleaners: There are several dry cleaners in Batumi, though you shouldn’t need to use them. For locating these services, you should use Yandex or Google Maps.
Haircuts: There are many places offering haircuts at relatively reasonable prices ($10 for men; $25-30 for women). Use Yandex or Google maps to find places near you. You might also want to look up how to talk about haircuts in Russian or Georgian before heading out!
Hygiene: Deodorant and toothpaste – in brands you are likely to recognize – run about $3 per package. Shampoo, conditioner will be $6-10. Feminine hygiene products are around $4 per box.
Culture and Entertainment
Entertainment and incidentals are the most variable expenses you’ll face. For some great local listings in Batumi (in Russian, Georgian, or English) on what’s going on, refer to TKT.ge.
Museums: Batumi’s most famous museums are the Batumi Archaeological Museum and the Adjara Museum of Art. Museum admission fees can range from $1 to $20, often with discounts available for students. See student reviews of museums and landmarks in and around Batumi our sister site.
Performances: A ticket to a movie will run about $5-12. Rock concerts can run from $8-infinity. Theater tickets can run about $3-200. Check out TKT.ge for tickets.
Nightlife: Bars in the center will charge around 5-10 Lari per beer, and maybe 10-20 Lari for a cocktail. Many of the trendy clubs will charge a cover – often anywhere from 30-60 Lari.
Charitable Giving and Volunteering
Volunteering: Some SRAS students have, in their free time, volunteered with church groups and charities on the ground. You can find a list of charities and NGOs on this site.
Travel from Batumi
You can find several student-reviewed independent trips on this site. See more of the country and wider region and meet more of the people while you have the chance to do it quite inexpensively.
There are marshrutki (scheduled vans) that can get you to nearly all points in Georgia depart from Batumi Central Bus Station. The cost depends on distance, but very reasonable, from $3-5 for a nearby city (i.e. 1 hour) and up to $35 for something as far as Tbilisi (5 hours) or Kazbegi. No need to make advance reservations, just show up. Usually there are departures around 9am and then 1pm.
Trains also an option and quite affordable, but limited availability. Tickets can and should be purchased at tkt.ge in advance using a credit card.
There is also a service called gotrip.ge which is basically a taxi that can take you longer distances. They have really clean cars as well as reliable and friendly drivers. Prices are reasonable and you can select what language the driver speaks and name your location. This is a good service and, especially if you are traveling with 1-3 other friends, can be a very affordable option.
Let SRAS know EVERY TIME YOU LEAVE BATUMI! This is for safety, but also because there may be registration or visa issues involved in your trip that we may need to advise you on.
Find Out More About…
- Georgian Holidays
- Georgian Cuisine
- Georgian Language
- Georgian Geopolitics, Economy, etc
- Georgian History
- Georgian Pop Culture
- Museums in Georgia
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