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July 2019: Travel, Expenses, and Income from Kiev, Ukraine and Tbilisi, Georgia

I thought things in Kiev, Ukraine were cheap until I got here to Tbilisi, Georgia! It's crazy that growing up in America how closed off we are to the idea of traveling to many parts of the world. It's normal and acceptable to want to visit the eiffel tower in Paris, France or go to London, England for a vacation, but the idea of going to Eastern Europe would be insane. Yet, here I am in two countries that many Americans have never even heard of and I'm not only completely safe, but I'm living an incredible live for a literal fraction of the cost! It's funny how many friends messaged or commented on my photos saying how great it looks here and that they wish they could be here or visit. What I think a lot of people don't realize is that while it's super expensive to go to over touristed cities Paris, London, Sydney, or Barcelona, coming to and staying a month or two in less popular places like Tbilisi actually costs way less than just paying rent back home!

Tbilisi is so cheap that it's even less expensive than Kiev! In this month's travel, expenses, and income report, i'm going to break down the losts of living in both cities as well as go into detail on exactly how much I spent, earned, ate, saaw, did, saved and invested. This is going to be a fun write up as I'm sure a lot of people reading this will be shocked and amazed how great the value is here and what you can get for your money. Tbilisi, Georgia really is the Chiang Mai, Thailand of Europe when it comes to low costs of living, not to mention, you get an instant 1 year visa on arrival, making it one of the few countries that Americans can pretty much stay indefinitely on a tourist visa. Keep reading for all of the info on visas, costs of living, and why I chose both Kiev and Tbilisi as my July home base.





Travel Updates



I started July in Kiev after my trip in Lithuania the weeks before. Even though I really liked my two months in Kharkiv, I decided not to go back to to check out Kiev again and I'm glad I did. The city changed a ton since even 1 or 2 years ago, prices are higher, but there's also more things to do, nicer coffee shops and a growing digital nomad scene. I wrote all about Kiev for Digital Nomads in my previous blog post, but overall, I'm glad I made the trip and stayed. The main reason was actually because there were no cheap direct flights from Kharkiv to Vilnius or Vilnius to Kharkiv at the time, so I had to go through Kiev and decided that instead of wasting time going back and forth by train, I'd just make the most of the city. Luckily I had a lot of friends in town and even had one from Kharkiv visit me on her way through Kiev from Italy. 

This trip I only spent two and a half weeks in Kiev but it was enough to get a sense of the city, the new prices and what it had to offer. From there, I took a direct flight on Ukrainian Air to Tbilisi for a total price of $90.67 including the $18 I had to pay to a second 5kg carry on. The flight itself was fine, but they were super strict with luggage and their check in fees are outrageous so be careful if you travel with more than just carry on only luggage. I was technically allowed 13kg (28.6lbs) total but since I had checked in online and showed the boarding pass on my phone, I never actually went to the counter and no one weighed my luggage. However just prior to boarding, the gate attendant tried to get me to pay $40 to check in my bag. Even though I had paid for the 2nd bag during booking, it wasn't printed anywhere on boarding pass so I had to pull up my invoice and show her the 442 uah charge. Their baggage limits are the same as RyanAir and since I'm stretching the limits at first she wouldn't let me on even though it was barely over the limits. Ukrainian Airlines (UIA) is super strict when it comes to luggage allowances, some say because they're assholes, but others say it's because Ukraine would take advantage of leniency and over pack if they weren't.

Either way, luckily since both my bags are soft, I was able to stuff it into the tester box after putting on my jacket, putting my Bose QC35 Headphones around my neck, and stuffing a few things like my bottles of water, and snacks into my pocket. Speaking a bit of Russian helped as after a bunch of back and forth I said, "Net Bol'shoy. Davai, Davai!" which basically means, "it's not too big, lets go!" and she let me pass without issue. One thing that I love aboard Ukraine is if people try to nickel and dime or overcharge you, it's possible to just tell them to F#$k off and go about your day. If she had persisted on making me pay, I was ready to throw away a few things like the paperback book I was reading, my winter puff jacket, and a few t-shirts, but luckily it didn't come to that. 

Travel Tip: Don't travel with clothes and coats you're not willing to lose or throw away.




Happily boarding my UIA Flight

Good bye Ukraine, hello Tbilisi! 


Kiev vs. Tbilisi



It's almost funny comparing prices in Ukraine and Georgia as these are the two cheapest countries in Europe and it's almost like comparing the costs of a Honda vs. a Toyota. They are both cheap and both great value. But realistically, neither of them are Japanese cars with long term stability or reliability. A better comparison if you're into the car analogy would be Kiev being kind of like buying a 2014 Mercedes Benz E-Class, it looks beautiful, is luxurious with leather and wood, it's overall strong, classy and from the outside looks like a great value as the deperaction has taken this otherwise $60,000 when new all the way down to $21,701 today. When things work, or if you're just staring at its beauty, you're happy, but little things end up costing a lot to fix or maintain, and you realize that some things are completely falling apart, need repair, but it's just not worth doing, so you cover it up and hope it doesn't fall apart and no one notices.

Tbilisi on the other hand is comparable to buying a used 2016 Hyundai Genesis. Most people have never heard of it, but once people discover it they are amazed at the value they get here. For almost exactly the same price you have more space, amenities, and it's more reliable and things surprisingly just work even though no one would expect it to. It's still very nice, but takes a keener eye to appreciate the beauty and most people simply doesn't know it exists. Like Hyundai, Georgia 10-15 years ago was a piece of sh!t, nothing worked, things broke down, and it was outright dangerous. Unfortunately a lot of people still think of both the country and the car as it was back in the late 90's when you would have been smart to avoid both. But like many things, reputations and popular perception takes a long time to change. So even though Georgia has been a very safe country ever since President Mikheil Saakashvili came in and cleaned up the country 10 years ago and Hyundai started building amazing cars and the Genesis line around the same time, most people still wouldn't consider either. But those people are missing out.

There are amazing values to be had by not following the mainstream and going to big cities everyone has heard about such as Barcelona, Paris, London, Sydney or Venice or buying cars with status name plates such as BMW, Mercedes, or Maserati. Below the car photos are breakdowns of the costs of living in Kiev vs. Tbilisi followed by what I actually spent in the two cities this month. 



This E-Class is Basically Kiev, Ukraine

This Hyundai Genesis is Tbilisi, Georgia


The Price Differences of Kiev vs. Tbilisi


Monthly Rent Prices



Even though most things in Ukraine are super cheap, renting apartments in the city center is not one of them. It's not that rent should be expensive in Ukraine, it's that for many cultural and mindset reasons Ukrainians love buying property if they can afford it, but are afraid to rent it out and have people damage things. But also aside from that property prices and rent in Kiev really are significantly more than Tbilisi, almost double. In Kiev I was renting a tiny 1 room apartment that looks like it was furnished in the 90's by my mother. Even though the location was great, it was almost impossible to find anything for less than $750 a month whether on Airbnb or locally.

Here in Tbilisi, there are similar options on Airbnb (get $40 your first rental!) in the city center for as low as $300 a month. But even better, if you bump up your budget a bit, you can get an amazing, large, modern place for less than $500. I'm currently paying $415 a month for a huge 3 bed/2bath unit with a giant living room, huge kitchen, 3 balconies, big flat screen TV, also in a fantastic central area of the city. Sure, I've paid less per month in cities like Chiang Mai, Thailand where you can rent a room for around $200-$250 a month, but those are almost always tiny rooms without a kitchen, basically a hotel room. As far as renting an actual apartment with a full kitchen, living room, and proper bedrooms, Tbilisi has been the best value I've seen anywhere in the world, especially since we're talking about month to month rentals on Airbnb, in the city center, furnished, including all utilities, and without contracts. Check out my video tour below.







Costs of Living



A friend messaged me on Instagram (@johnnyfdk) after seeing my IG stories of all the amazing restaurants I was eating at and asked how much I was paying and if it was more expensive than Kiev. At first I wanted to assume it was as restaurants in Ukraine are an amazing value,  but when I really stopped to think about it and compare priced, I was shocked that eating out is actually cheaper in Tbilisi than in Kiev! Even buying groceries and cooking at home is cheaper in Tbilisi than Ukraine which was surprising. Here in Tbilisi you can walk by any of the hundreds of small bakeries in the city and buy a hot, freshly baked loaf of their amazing Georgian bread called Shotis Puri which are basked in traditional circular clay ovens called Tones for usually 1 lari or less. That's around 30 cents and they are delicious! 

At most restaurants you can get a decent meal for less than $6 and even at the most trendy, expensive restaurants where I'd order either a ton of food, a whole rotisserie chicken, ribs, wine, and other really tasty expensive dishes I've never spent more than $15 for a meal. Nice coffee is always around $1.50 for an Americano at cafes, taxis are the cheapest I've seen anywhere in the world at around 4 gel ($1.35) for a ride almost anywhere in the city. And until Ukraine where the cheap taxis are usually old cars, in Tbilisi 90% of the time you'll get a modern Toyota Prius. A litre of fancy Boromi carbonated mineral water is usually 50 cents at a shop or $1 in a restaurant. The tap water is also drinkable and very good, saving costs and effort of having to buy bottles like you do in Ukraine or Thailand. 

The only things that are cheaper in Ukraine is Milk, McDonalds, Phone Data and Gym memberships. It's strange as some random things in Tbilisi are much more expensive like swimming pools for whatever strange reason. In Kiev you can go to an Olympic sized pool, beach club or even join a gym with a pool for a $2 to $5 for session, while in Tbilisi some places wanted an insane $25 for day use or $80 a month to use their pool. SIM cards and phone data was also significantly cheaper in Ukraine where you can buy a 10GB plan for $5 a month, while in Tbilisi you'll pay at least double that amount, and triple if you buy the SIM card at the airport as most travelers do. 

Still, remember that either way, we're comparing costs of living in two of the cheapest countries in Europe if not the world. In the next section I'll show you exactly how much I spent in both cities this month for compassion. But for now, here's a breakdown of costs per item in both cities. Make sure you mentally compare them to how much things cost where you're living as well for reference. 








My July Expenses



It was a bit of a strange mash up of expenses as I spent the first half in Kiev and the second half in Tbilisi. For expenses i'll show the two cities side by side, but then calculate what I actually spent for the month for my grand total. Either way, in both cities you can live a good life in the city center for around $1,000 a month including going out to each everyday, taking taxis and joining a gym.

If you want to upgrade your life to live in a modern or luxury apartment, eat at fancier restaurants, join a coworking space, nicer gyms or get massages twice a week, then you'll need to bump your budget up to $1,500 a month in Tbilisi and $2,000 a month in Kiev. Either way, whichever route you choose, you can give a great life and enjoy summers in Eastern Europe for less than half of what you would pay back home to just get by with a normal life. Also with the average salary in both countries being around $500 a month or less, you can obviously also live like a local for that amount.

But the freedom to me of being a digital nomad, earning US dollars or Euros while traveling and taking advantage of location arbitrage isn't to just get by, but to thrive. That's why I love having the freedom of month to month contracts, house cleaning service, taxis, massages, nice gyms, nice restaurants, and other things that are considered a luxury for high earners back in the US. Even my gym here in Tbilisi is literally a World Class gym and costs 3x more than the local gyms. It just happened to be the closest one to my apartment and I really loved that had floor to ceiling panoramic windows overlooking the city, boxing bags, and a cafe lounge that had comfortable chains, wifi, power outlets, and doubled as my coworking space. I found the gym through the TrainAway gym finder app which I've been using throughout my travels to find local gyms and purchase day passes whenever I happen to be traveling.

Here are all of my expenses for both the month of July but for reference how much some things cost per month.


Rent: $455.83 (Kiev, Airbnb - 17 nights)
Rent: $415.00 (Tbilisi, Airbnb - 32 nights)

House Cleaning: $0 (included in Kiev)
House Cleaning: $17 (1 time in Tbilisi)

Utilities: $0 (Included)
Wifi: $0 (Included)

Taxi Center to Kiev Airport $10 (250 uah)
Taxi Tbilisi Airport to Center: $7 (20 gel)

Flight: Kiev to Tbilisi - $89.26 (UIA, 1-way, Direct)


Data/SIM card: $4 (10gb of 4G - Kiev)
Data/SIM card: $15 (25gb of 4G - Tbilisi)

Gym Membership: $30 (1 month 9am-5pm - Interfit, Kiev)
Gym Membership: $90 (1 month unlimited - World Class, Tbilisi)

Massage: $100 ($33 each - Kiev)
Massages: $60 ($20 each - Tbilisi)


Coffee/Tea: $20 ($1 each - Kiev)
Coffee/Tea: $30 ($1.50 each - Tbilisi)

Food/Groceries: $100

Restaurants: $300 (meals $5-$15)

Uber/Taxi: $30 ($2-$3 a ride in Kiev)
Bolt/Yandex/Taxi: $20 ($1-$1.50 a ride in Tbilisi)

Metro/Train: $3 (10 rides - Same in both)

Misc/Other: $100 (random stuff)
Gift to my parents: $1,000 (for their retirement)

Wordpress Website Hosting: $6 (Siteground)
Ecommerce Stores Hosting: $29 (Shopify)
VPN: $4 (WiTopia)
Email Autoresponder: $50 (Aweber / GetResponse)


Total Expenses for the Month: $1,050.00


*Decrease from last month's $1,547.99 (not including donations and gifts)




My Daily Office at World Class Gym

Followed by a World Class Workout


Income for July



This was an incredible month but as the entrepreneurial paycheck goes, it's not necessarily for things I did these past 30 days but often months ago. Also a big portion of it came from my investment income, a lot of it, $2,520.47 this month to be exact, only gets paid out once every quarter so we happen to land on that as well. But still, it was a really great month that I'm proud of and was happy to see. The funny thing is, I used to have five figure months every month when I was living in Chiang Mai and grinding away full time running my dropshipping stores. Now that I've scaled back on the amount of work and stress in my life, I feel much more free and don't focus on making as much money as humanly possible.

So when I get a great month like this, I feel super fortunate and grateful. I have some amazing partners that run our dropshipping stores on a daily basis. I have a podcast editor on my team, the Nomad Summit crew planning the event, my podcast co-host Sam Marks who arranges and interviews all of the guests, Chris my facebook ads and bff, as well as a ton of friends who give great advice and keep me going strong.

My income comes from a mix of 14 different streams of income, including my two kindle books 12 Weeks in Thailand and Life Changes Quick, which have actually dropped in sales since I got attacked with a ton of 1 star reviews when refused to take down the article about ASA ripping off senior citizens. I have my affiliate blogging course Income Boss and all of the actual affiliate referral income  a lot of which I receive still from the work i've done years ago now that are mostly evergreen. My dropshipping stores built with Anton's Dropship Method are doing well with one crushing it with over $15k in sales this month. Plus on top of that a bunch more that I'll explain more in the video below as well as with a few screenshots of some of the fun ones from this month.

 Overall this month was a fantastic month income and profit wise and I'm super grateful for it!

Total Net Profit: $10,145.10

*increase from $4,158.51 last month.



Sales from dropshipping store #2

Sales as an Amazon Affiliate. See my Shop.

Referral Earnings from WP Hosting

Dividends from FundRise 
Interested Collected from PeerStreet




Monthly Goals Review



I planned my last 30 days around going to the coffee shop, working for a few hours, hitting the gym and intermittent fasting to have my first meal after 2pm. Mostly it worked. It was actually really nice to get up, leave the house straight away and walk to the coffee shop, enjoy some sun and get some fresh air. The only problem with doing it in Kiev was that since it's such a large city, i'd often have to take a taxi to the other side of town to meet with friends to cowork from where they were. The coffee shops near me, although still in the city center weren't great for working. Luckily here in Tbilisi, I found both a fantastic coffee shop within walking distance as well as one literally inside my gym.

The one thing I for sure achieved was hitting the gym consistently five days a week, and sometimes more. Part of it came from wanting a nice routine, and the other was boredom to be honest. I'd look forward to meeting up with friends for dinner or going out at night, but during the day, it was mostly coffee shops and workouts. The good news is that I gained a ton of muscle and got much stronger during this month lifting approximately 30% more across the five main lifts. I use the StrongLifts app which you can download on either iOS or Android and it's great at telling you what to do and adding a few pounds to your lift every time you do it.

My cardio however has been suffering and it was really apparent when I first arrived in Georgia and attempted to go on a 17km hike the next day. My calves were cramped up, my lungs burned, and I just simply couldn't handle the high altitude with my pack and lack of training. Luckily it was still a beautiful trip to the mountains so I have no regrets, but I really don't want to miss out on the beauty of the Caucasus Mountains. So since then I've been refusing to take the elevator and walking both up and down to my 7th floor apartment everyday, and also walking home up the hill I live on. A few days ago I tested my new cardio and endurance by hiking up the trail from Vake Park in the city center, up to Turtle lake. It's only about an hour in distance, but is straight up hill and was definitely challenging. I was super happy I was able to make it, but am still unsure if I can handle a proper hike in the high altitude mountains at this point.

I need to choose one or the other, as if my goal was to be able to complete long mountain hikes then cardio, endurance, and losing weight should be my focus. Adding 10lbs of muscle doesn't help with hiking as it's like adding another heavy pack on your body. I'll sleep on it, but as much as I'd like that to be a goal in the future, right now I'm really enjoying eating Georgian bread, dumplings, lifting weights, and going that route. So for August, my goal will be to get the three big movements my bench press, deadlift and squat to 100kg (220lbs) for reps. Then after that it'll be to maintain that strength while slimming down a bit and losing 7kg/15lbs of body fat. Lets see if it's possible with just working out and IF (intermittent fasting) because if it is, I'd much rather still be able to enjoy bread, wine, and the occasional craft beer.



In the Georgian Caucasus Mountains

The Wrap Up




Overall, I can't complain. this was a great month. I got to visit friends and have fun in Kiev. I made a ton of money this month and best of all, only spent 1/10th of it, allowing me to invest 90% of it into more income producing assets. I'm healthier, wealthier, stronger, and had more experiences than I did compared to the month before. That's how I measure success. I simply look back month to month or year to year and ask myself if I'm better off than I was the month before, and if the answer is yes, and I enjoyed myself and didn't stress too much, I know i'm on the right path.

Tell me, what are your goals for the month. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Check out the video for a more detailed version of this monthly travel, expenses and income report.






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Warm Regards,

Johnny FD


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Post a Comment

  1. If Kiev is a 2014 Mercedes and Tbilisi is a 2016 Genesis, what is your home country or place you've traveled? Go!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where did you get your flight from Kiev > Tbilisi for $90 ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use http://www.azair.eu to look for cheap flights within Europe. There are a ton of $90 or less flights from Ukraine to Tbilisi right now on both SkyUp and Ukraine Air. The trick is having carry on only luggage like I do.

      Delete
  3. What gym are you using? We're at Snap, but yours looks nicer. And if you want to get fit hiking, check out Grimentz, Switzerland. Just spent a month there and between the insane cost of food and all of the amazing hikes, I think I dropped about five kilos.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Michael, I'm at World Class Georgia. Hiking in Switzerland sounds amazing!

      Delete

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