Transport to Tusheti
Tusheti is undoubtedly the most remote place in Georgia
accessible on a low-quality road only with a 4WD vehicle and merely in summer
(approximately from May to October depending on snow conditions). BBC rates the
road among the most dangerous roads in the world (this statement shall not be
overestimated but it still is quite a demanding travel especially for those who
suffer from vertigo). If bumpy roads generally cause you motion sickness, you
should consider taking appropriate pills or other medication. There are several plans to improve the access to the region, starting from the new road through Pankisi Valley and Gometsari through cable car over the pass up to the rather fantastic narrow-gauge railway from Alvani to Omalo. So far, we are happy about the road we have.
Regular drivers on this road are peculiar men and the rule of no alcohol behind the wheel certainly does not apply here. On the other hand, only very few accidents happen here, which are usually caused by drunken inexperienced youngsters gambling with their lives. Do not be surprised then if your driver greets someone on the road or has a glass of wine or chacha with them.
Public transportYou can even try hitchhiking from Alvani. Some people do manage but it is a lengthy process as cars are usually fully occupied all the way from Alvani. Occasionally, you may meet trucks whose drivers will be glad to give you a lift, despite being very slow (still, a ride in the bed of a truck on local roads is an exceptional experience). In 2010, there was a plan to introduce a seasonal air line Telavi - Omalo. However, it was cancelled after its inauguration flight and its profitability is doubtful. Virtually most of the tourists cannot afford hiring a helicopter despite this being available (from Tbilisi to Omalo, the flight takes one hour). In winter, there are regular helicopter flights between Alvani and Omalo, and Telavi and Omalo, but these are reserved for the locals.
The way from Tbilisi to Omalo will take about one day when you use public transport and a 4WD vehicle. A direct drive from Omalo to Tbilisi is ideally to last about 5 to 6 hours.
From Tbilisi (Ortachala Station) you can take a marshrutka to Alvani, a large village inhabited by the Tushs (best in the morning for the price of GEL 10), or only to Telavi (GEL 8). A shared taxi to Telavi or Alvani costs GEL 10 per seat and leaves from the Isani underground station. From Telavi to Alvani, you can use a taxi or another marshrutka.
Here drivers are waiting to offer a ride to Omalo. There is a common fixed rate of about GEL 200 per car of 4 seats or GEL 300 per Delica for a ride Alvani - Omalo. The way from/to Pirikiti (Dartlo, Chesho, Girevi, etc.) or from/to Gometsari (Dochu, Jvarboseli, Verkhovani) will cost you GEL 250-300 per a jeep or GEL 350-400 per a Delica. Cars usually leave fully occupied (or you have to pay for all seats), i.e. about GEL 50/person. The price from Telavi to Omalo is usually GEL 240 per a four-seat jeep. You can rent a car in Tusheti for the price of GEL 100-150 per day depending on the distance (you will virtually always pay for the way back).
List of drivers in Tusheti:
Kote Arshaulidze: 557 70 22 99 (Omalo)
Levan Ichirauli: 598 16 29 29 (Omalo)
Mamuka Kindolauri: 577 37 84 14 / 593 53 17 96 (Omalo)
Murad Ichirauli: 557 12 77 22 (Omalo)
Kakha Tatrulaidze: 557 71 97 77 (Omalo)
Paata Arshaulidze: 558 79 72 22 (Omalo)
Dato Idoidze: 593 76 91 35/ 599 06 79 99 (Omalo, Delica)
Vazha Kardlidze: 599 77 55 43 (Omalo)
Panto Kardlidze: 558 94 12 00 (Omalo)
Dato Akimidze: 599 76 05 54 (Omalo)
Besik Elanidze: 599 11 89 93 (contact him on Viber) (Omalo)
Adamo Mozaidze: 591 70 38 32 (Girevi)
Gogi Azikuri: 592 803 202; 599 772 598
Aleksi Itiuridze: 592 002002 (Mirgvela)
Soso Bakuridze: 599 10 02 19 / 551 14 24 43 (Chigho)
Zezva Elizbaridze: 555 64 80 54 (Jvarboseli)
Irakli Mouravidze: 574 22 29 88 (Omalo)
Eldar Idoidze: 551 13 88 87
Simon Idoidze: 598 28 16 76
Baghatur Zviadauri: 599 310 366
Soso Akimidze: 598 38 84 45
Irakli Natsvalaidze: 599 20 54 51
Khvicha Chvritidze: 599 90 53 37
Your own car
Whether you decide to drive your own car or rent one, it should certainly have a higher ground clearance and a 4-wheel drive (although a good driver can get you to Omalo with a Zhiguli). There is no petrol station in Omalo so you need to fill up the tank or even add some extra cans (a standard petrol station is located at the exit from Telavi and a smaller petrol station may be found in Kvemo Alvani when coming from Alaverdi). When driving an SUV, you have to count with 20-30% of the tank, which gives you a chance to reach Omalo and make a few small trips (Shenako, Dartlo) or one long trip (to Girevi or Verkhovani). In some places (Tsovata) it is essential to consider responsibly the water level at the crossing point and the capacities of your vehicle. With a rented car, make sure, that your company allows you to go to Tusheti (even if taking 4x4 car) as many of them strictly prohibited to do so using GPS tracker firmly built into the car.