Q I’m going to Georgia next month and I’m having trouble finding a bureau de change to change sterling to Georgian lari.
A I’m not surprised you can’t find a UK bureau de change that keeps Georgian lari. Deloitte’s international tax team says: “there are no foreign exchange controls and no restrictions on the import or export of capital,” unlike some other former Soviet republics. But Georgia is small, with only four million people, and has no air links with the UK. So there is no significant demand for lari in Britain.
Instead take sterling or US dollars in cash, and change money there – starting at the main international airport at Tbilisi, where there are three competing bureaux de change.
American dollars have the edge. They are recognised everywhere and every adult Georgian knows the value of their currency in dollars (about $1 = 2.20 lari at present). A good supply of single $1 bills is also very useful for tips, etc. But if you are sticking to the capital, Tbilisi, and the main tourist areas, then sterling is also acceptable, with £1 = 3.20 the current rate.
Take clean notes, in denominations of £20 or lower; you won’t need too much cash, because Georgia is a low-cost destination: a bus or train right across the country from Tbilisi to the Black Sea coast at Batumi costs the equivalent of £7 for a six-hour trip.