It’s absolutely safe to walk anywhere around Svaneti. Locals are tourist-friendly and eager to help. If you are planning a hike that takes you near the Russian border, you need to receive permission from the local Border Police. They are very friendly and will provide passes in exchange for your passport scans and itinerary.
Locals speak Georgian and Svan (of course), people older than 35 normally speak decent Russian, younger people are likely to know a little English. Occasionally you will meet people that can communicate in German. Basic English is understood by most hosts at guest-houses.
Georgian lari is accepted in shops, restaurants and guest houses. Very few take credit cards. There are 3 ATMs in Mestia (not always loaded though) and 3 banks with currency exchange (American dollars, Euros, Russian Roubles).
In Mestia there are plenty of mini-markets with all the basic things, from food to personal hygiene. Working hours vary, but normally shops open at 10 am and work till 8 pm. Camping gas can also be obtained. There is a central fruit and vegetables market open daily from 8 am till 6 pm at least. Several bakeries with delicious Georgian bread are open from 8 am.
There are also several souvenir shops in Mestia where you can buy and stamp post-cards, try on Svan hats and get Svan salt, excellent honey, magnets, and all the usual small gifts of the kind.
In the smaller villages there are only tiny food mini-markets with chaotic assortment and working hours.
Tap water is drinkable everywhere. There are a lot of streams and mineral springs in the mountains, but you need to know that cows and horses use them too!
The restaurants and cafes in Mestia are mostly in the centre. Service is a bit slow. For better time and money value we recommend to order breakfasts and dinners in guest houses.
The emergency number is 112. There is a hospital and 2 pharmacies in Mestia, the best pharmacy is the one in the hospital.
Telephones and Internet
There are payboxes that allow you to top up a Georgian SIM card in most shops. There is a Beeline booth in Seti Square selling SIM cards.
If you have a Georgian SIM card, you dial local numbers without country code, starting from the first digit (normally a 5 for mobile numbers).
Guest-houses provide free wi-fi, but you need to check, especially in the smaller villages.