Hitching through Svaneti is an ordeal! Start early. Give yourself a lot of time because even with a ride the road conditions make the drive a long and bumpy one. There are two ways to get into Svaneti - the western approach beginning in Zugdidi and the eastern approach most likely beginning in Kutaisi. The western approach into the higher elevations of Svaneti is the more traveled by cars. It is supposedly the better cared-for road (even though you wouldn't believe it when you ride on it).
The two most visited cities in Svaneti are Mestia and Ushguli. Because more traffic climbs up from the west, Mestia will be reached first. Then another climb even higher into the mountains will take you to Ushguli, the highest permanent village in Europe.
The Western Approach
This road travels through Zugdidi, Jvari, Khaishi, Dizi, and a slew of small villages before you get to the administrative capital of Upper Svaneti region - Mestia.
Zugdidi is a large town by Georgian standards. When heading to Mestia you will need to walk north out of town, past the mashrudtka station that is west of the city square and near the medieval-looking tower. After walking the gauntlet of taxi and mashrudtka drivers you need to keep walking for another kilometer or so through a residential area. The road will dead-end and you will turn left and walk on and over an overpass until you see the road sign for Mestia (136 km) pointing you to the right (north again). This is the road that travels all the way through Svaneti and back down to Kutaisi. Once you start walking north on this road, any place to begin hitching is as good as the next.
The traffic that travels this road makes it a little difficult to catch a ride. Many of the cars are stuffed with people because going between cities and villages in Svaneti is a whole day's outing. As with most places in Georgia, a little knowledge of Russian or Georgian is helpful, but not necessary. If breaking the ride up into segments is necessary, the larger towns on the road are Jvari, Khaishi and Mestia.
The road between Zugdidi and Khaishi is mostly paved with numerous rough sections. The road north of Khaishi is much more rough with some sections still being constructed. Even with the road in such poor conditions, all kinds of vehicles still make the trip. Cars, SUVs, vans, lumber trucks and marshrudtkas all slowly crawl along. The traffic gets naturally thinner as you climb higher into the mountains.
The Eastern Approach
This approach travels through the cities of Tskaltubo, Lentekhi, ....
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