ARMENIA TRAVEL TIPS
If you’re going to travel to Armenia anytime soon, there are a few things you need to know. Here are the best Armenia travel tips from our Phoenix Tour experts.
INTERNET & MOBILE PHONE PROVIDERS
Internet access is widely available, except in remote areas where there is no cell phone network coverage. There are 2G, 3G and 4G service providers operating in Armenia. You can easily acquire the temporary prepaid SIM cards as they are cheap and convenient, allow both local and international calls, do not charge for incoming calls, and charge no monthly fee. Mobile internet and UTMS are also offered from all companies, as well as the normal full range of wireless services. The majority of foreign visitors will find their unlocked mobile phones compatible with Armenian SIM cards. A vast majority of cafés in Yerevan have free public Wi-Fi access spots.
CALLING ARMENIA & NAGORNO-KARABAKH FROM ABROAD:
To call a land phone number in Armenia dial: 00 (international) + 374 (code for Armenia) + area code + 6 digit number.
To call a land phone number in Yerevan dial: 00 + 374 + 10 (code for Yerevan) + 6 digit number.
To call a land phone number in Nagorno-Karabakh dial: 00 + 374 + 47 (code for Karabakh) + 6 digit number.
To call a mobile phone in Armenia dial: 00 + 374 + the mobile operator prefix number + 6 digit number.
To call a mobile phone in Nagorno-Karabakh dial: 00 + 374 + 97 (the mobile operator prefix number) + 6 digit number.
CALLING WITHIN ARMENIA & NAGORNO-KARABAKH:
To call within Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh to a land phone number from a mobile phone dial: 0 + city code + 6 digit number.
To call within Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh to a mobile phone from another mobile phone dial: 0 + the mobile operator prefix number + 6 digit number.
To call within Yerevan from a land phone number to another land phone number just dial your 6 digit number.
CALLING FROM ARMENIA & NAGORNO-KARABAKH:
To call from Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh dial: 00 + country code + area code + subscriber’s phone number.
Local post offices provide a variety of services: money exchange, phone calls within Armenia and abroad, postcards for purchase, utility payments, as well as sending and receiving letters and parcels. The main branch is located on Republic Square, with other branches located throughout Yerevan. There are several express mail services operating in Yerevan, including UPS, DHL, Federal Express, and TNT Express Worldwide.
Local time in Armenia is 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT + 4)
Daylight saving time is not applied in Armenia.
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Armenia uses the metric system.
VOLTAGE: 220 V
AC FREQUENCY: 50 Hz
The standard voltage in Armenia is 220V (as opposed to 110V standard in the US), while the wall outlets take continental type plugs, with two round prongs. Universal voltage converters and outlet plug adapters, as well as the various batteries are available at many electronic shops in Yerevan.
The official currency of Armenia is the Armenian Dram (AMD). There are in circulation coins of 10, 50, 100, 200, 500 dram nominations and bills of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 dram nominations.
There are currency exchange points almost in all supermarkets and virtually any shop, grocery stores and small vendors can exchange money legally as well. Scams appear to be rare, and transactions are straightforward.
There are cash machines at all prominent locations around Yerevan. All other main cities and even some small towns have ATM’s, though you may have to poke around to find one that matches your card. You cannot withdraw a foreign currency from an ATM machine in Armenia.
There is a Money Gram and other money transfer services operate in the country, so you always have that to back up should you run out of cash.
Typical meals can run to $15-20 or more per person for the dinner in Yerevan. Restaurants outside Yerevan are a little cheaper, an average of $10-15 per person for full course meals with wine.
BISTROS, CAFÉS & SNACK BARS
Bistros are small restaurants that serve limited menus often displayed at a front counter. Some have menus and wait staff, and often the difference between a bistro and a restaurant is negligible except bistros are much more reasonably priced ($3-7 for set meal). A bistro will tend to have specialty dishes and more homemade food, as well as grilled food and the ever present khorovats (barbecued pork). Snack bars are strictly stand up or eat and run affairs, with fixed sandwich or specialty menus. There is little to worry about where food safety in Armenia is concerned: the food is generally safe, even food from the roadside khorovats stands!
WHAT TO BUY
Armenian brandy, pomegranate and plum wine, dried fruits, souvenirs, oil paintings, jewelry, handicrafts made of wood, semi-precious stones, silver and other material, the Soviet memorabilia and antiques – these are some of the most popular things people take home from Armenia. Another gift is a duduk, or traditional flute made of apricot tree, which is part of the UNESCO Immaterial Heritage. Most of these are plentiful at “Vernissage” market, next to Republic Square.
Bargaining is uncommon in Armenian stores, though when purchasing expensive items or in bulk, merchants may be amenable to it. In markets, however, bargaining is a must!
Tipping has become fairly well established in Yerevan, especially in restaurants and coffee shops, where tips are now usually expected. Anything from 10-15% is OK. On smaller bills, just leaving the change may suffice. Taxis may or may not expect a tip. Drivers will sometimes say they don’t have change, or enough change, in hopes of getting to keep the difference. It’s always best to keep 1,000 drams in change to avoid these situations.
Outside of Yerevan is a different world. Those who have experience with Westerners will probably expect a tip, while those who don’t probably won’t. However, you should never tip unless you want to.
Some restaurants add an 8 to 10% “service” charge to the bill. This is not for a tip. This is a separate charge that the restaurant keeps, for no apparent reason. Ask about this type of charge, or look carefully at the menu, if you want to avoid places which cause this. If you want to tip, you must leave money separate from this charge.
COMING TO ARMENIA
Zvartnots International Airport (IATA: EVN), 10 km west of Yerevan is the country’s main airport.
Shirak Airport (IATA: LWN) in Gyumri has a few flights from Russia.
There is an overnight train once every other day from/to Tbilisi, or from/to Batumi, Georgia (seasonal). The train links with Turkey and Azerbaijan are severed.
BY CAR OR A BUS
You can drive to Armenia from Iran or Georgia. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed. Phoenix Tour agents can arrange your transfer to/from the Georgia & Iran borders, and all the way to Tbilisi and Tehran.
GETTING AROUND IN ARMENIA
If you plan to drive, bring your driver’s license, which will do for a few weeks. For longer stays an international driver’s license is recommended.
If you just don’t feel like walking – taxis cost 600 drams, which will take you anywhere in the Yerevan center (around 5 km), and an additional 100 drams for each additional kilometer. With Yandex and GG iOS and Android apps it takes just two taps on your smartphone to order car anytime in Armenia for as low as 200 drams.
Taxi fare from the Zvartnots International Airport to the city center is usually 3,000-5,000 drams, and from the city center to the Airport is 2,500-3,000 drams. Calling a cab company, or grabbing any cab with a logo and phone number on the doors is usually ensured you won’t have the driver try to rip you off, since those cabs have a taximeter. Most taxis do not have meters, though, so you should negotiate a price before you leave.
Yerevan does have a Subway network. It is a nice, clean system and very cheap. A single trip on the subway costs 100 drams payable on entry – buy a plastic token and use it to pass through the turnstiles.
There is also an extensive network of trolleybuses, buses, minibuses and minivans (marshrutkas). You pay 100 drams for all of them when you leave, giving cash to the driver – change is available. There are no transfers or season tickets – you just pay two or more times, and there are virtually no student discounts in Armenia. There are also no passenger information or route maps available apart from a listing of each route, which in Armenian only.
For travel to the regions, as well as to neighboring countries, minivans are again a popular and convenient mode of transportation. Other forms of transportation to the regions include the train, buses and rental cars. The latter can be rented with or without drivers. There are also many private taxi services that will ferry you to anywhere in Armenia.
If you are used to driving in the West and have not driven outside of America or Western or Central Europe, you should hire a driver when you rent your car, as driving in Armenia is often a difficult undertaking for the average tourist. A growing number of car rental companies may be used, including SIXT (office at the Zvartnots international Airport), Europacar, Hertz, and many others.
Most main roads around Yerevan are in decent to fair shape, with some being in unusually good condition. When you travel outside of Yerevan, roads are less well-maintained and rather bumpy, and you can feel this, especially when using public transport (minibuses are often in bad condition, too.) Potholes are very much a part of the experience and can test your driving skills, so, consider getting an all-wheel drive or sport utility vehicle when renting.
Not as common as in the days of the post Soviet collapse, hitchhiking is still perfectly safe and acceptable. Drivers often don’t expect anything in the way of compensation, but offer anyway, and sometimes they’ll take the marshrutka fare. Flag cars down by holding your arm in front of you and patting the air; this is how taxis, buses and marshrutkas are flagged.
It can be a great way to see and experience much of the countryside, if you can handle the inclines.
Trains in Armenia are Soviet style and a little slow as a means of moving around the country. Trains can be taken up to Gyumri and from there on to Alaverdi and Georgia, or they can be taken up to Lake Sevan all the way to the far side of the lake.
Domestic flights are not an option as there no internal flights in this small country.
Although there are more and more road signs in Latin script, especially in Yerevan, English is not widely spoken in Armenia. Many taxi drivers and sales ladies in grocery stores do not speak or understand English. Because of political and historical reasons, Russian has remained the most common foreign language spoken by the majority of Armenians. English is the third and the fastest growing foreign language in Armenia.
Yerevan, by any comparative measure, is a very safe city for its size (nearly 1 million people). Random crimes against people such as muggings, robbery, etc. are very rare.
Women travelers will probably be safer in Armenia than at home. Armenian men will usually do no more than try to talk to you, or stare. If it bothers you a loud goodbye should be enough, but having a companion will eliminate all issues. In the outskirts of the city, a single woman walking alone at night may attract unwanted attention.
It is always prudent not to make yourself a target. Keep to well-lit and main streets at night, take taxis anytime after 10pm, and travel with escorts whenever possible. Avoid displaying large sums of money and be aware of your surroundings and any suspicious individuals.
No risk to health. No need for vaccination and there are no obligatory immunizations required for travelers visiting Armenia. Armenia’s climate is generally pleasant and does not pose unusual health risks.
Medical facilities vary in quality and breadth, with many qualified doctors and dentists practicing in all specialties.
There are registered pharmacies on virtually every corner in Yerevan, carrying all of the basic toiletries and many over the counter drugs.
If you have special health needs, talk to your physician before traveling. If you travel in summer, it is a good idea to pack a sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, as the Armenian sun is strong.
Smoking is illegal in many public places. But bear that in mind that Armenia has the highest rate of cigarette smoking in Europe. Cafés will generally have a smoking area, if you see an ashtray on the table, you can smoke there.
In case of emergency, cash deposits and payments in local currency (AMD) will be required for health care at local healthcare facilities. Virtually no hospitals or clinics accept credit card payments at this time.
Spring water is located everywhere in the country, and along the roadside you will find hundreds of pulpulaks (drinking fountains) as an outlet for natural drinking water. Tap water in Armenia’s hotels, lodgings and homes is clean and safe to drink. Bottled spring and mineral water are available at every corner.
DRESS CODE & ETIQUETTE
Armenians put great emphasis on hospitality and generosity. Armenians are very accepting of western behavior and dress by tourists. As a foreigner, almost anything you normally do is perfectly acceptable in Armenia, and as a tourist you can wear whatever you are accustomed wearing at home.
There aren’t any street Laundromats. You can use hotel laundry services or the laundry services at the Dry Cleaners.
Public toilets cost 100 drams.