Car Rental in Georgia
When we decided to road trip through Georgia and Armenia I expected the car rental experience to be a little different. We’ve driven in a number of countries and have had good luck using the major international rental agencies – Hertz, Europcar, Avis, Sixt, etc. This trip, we had plans to go to some out of the way places on roads that called for high clearance and at least AWD. The major agencies aren’t set up to provide these vehicles and in fact often put restrictions on their rentals, voiding the contract if you go on these roads.
Luckily, there are good local options but things don’t work exactly the same. There are a number of in-country agencies accessible online and in Georgia we ended up using Cars4Rent. One of the biggest differences is unlike typical rentals you don’t reserve a class of car – you look through their fleet and choose a particular vehicle. For the most part the cars are older than we were used to seeing, with some being 10 years old or more. There’s also a wide variety of cars classified as for city/highway driving, easy off-road, or anything goes. They provide a picture and description of each car, and given the range of types and vintages. There’s something for almost any budget.
You choose and reserve your car online and most don’t require a deposit – you’ll be charged the full cost when you pick up the car. You can also do most of the contract paperwork online in advance by uploading copies of your license and passport.
The cost also includes all required insurance but you can purchase additional road hazard coverage. It’s also possible to take the car across the border into Armenia but this requires some additional notarized paperwork and it’s not possible to drop the car in another country – you have to drive it back into Georgia yourself.
Overall the process was straightforward and simple and everything worked exactly as advertised. The communication was excellent and someone was waiting for us when we landed in Tbilisi to hand over the car, take our payment and get the final signatures. WhatsApp was their preferred way to communicate and it worked well.
I ended up choosing a 2018 Subaru Forester which had about 35k miles on it and which almost certainly began life in the US. It had an MPH-calibrated speedometer and was equipped with Sirius-XM, which doesn’t offer service anywhere near Georgia. Two days in the dash lit up with about half a dozen warning lights – check engine, brakes, traction control, etc. Something had clearly gone wrong with the Subaru EyeSight system which is their cruise control/driver assist package. Although the car still ran fine we contacted Cars4Rent and they decided to send us a different car. By this time we were 4 hours from Tbilisi and it was late afternoon so the earliest they could get a similar car to us would be early the next afternoon. This turned out to work with our schedule and the replacement showed up exactly on time the next day.
Overall driving in Georgia is straightforward. The roads are generally fair but there are lots of badly potholed paved roads and many dirt ones. There are also plenty of road hazards, the most common being cows. They’re everywhere, and not just in the country. For some reason they congregate on and along the highways and are particularly fond of bridges. They also like to hang out in tunnels when the weather’s warm which can be pretty dangerous because the tunnels are often unlit and it takes a while for your eyes to adjust on a sunny day. Thankfully we didn’t see any cows on the multi-lane fast highways between the larger cities. Some local drivers can be fast and aggressive but generally the speed limits are low with lots of speed cameras, and the biggest issue is getting around slow trucks and other vehicles on the two lane roads. Naturally, as you head deeper into the mountains the quality of the roads deteriorates and you’ll be very glad you have a more capable car.
I was extremely satisfied with Cars4Rent – everything just worked – but I don’t know about any other operators.
Car Rental in Armenia
We booked our car in Armenia with TravelCar, a regional agency. The process was essentially the same as in Georgia where you can choose from a fleet of somewhat older vehicles and pick the one that suits your needs and budget. Shortly after we booked they informed us they had become the representative for Enterprise in Armenia and Georgia so the process may well change to something more like Enterprise elsewhere in the world.
We arranged to have them pick up our car at the guest house where we stayed at the end of our trip and that all worked well. They also used WhatsApp for communication.
We picked a Renault Duster since we wanted ground clearance and AWD, and it was waiting for us when we arrived in Yerevan. It had 160k kilometers on it and was one of the most underpowered cars I’ve ever driven, but it was reliable and got us around the country with no problems.
Armenia generally has pretty good roads although some have nasty potholes and the unpaved ones can be extremely rough tracks. We did not see nearly as many cows on the road. Overall the drivers are sane and traffic flows as one would expect. Like many mountainous places, getting around slow vehicles on the winding two lane roads is one of the biggest challenges.