50 Things you want to know before traveling to Armenia
Armenia isn’t on many people’s list of countries to visit. However, if you are considering visiting Armenia soon, you will probably have a few problems finding correct and reliable information. Why? There aren’t many people traveling to Armenia an even less writing about it. That’s why after visiting Armenia we built this list!
50 travel tips about Armenia
Armenia and the locals
#1 Armenia isn’t a “tourist ready” country, but that’s probably just another thing that makes it even more interesting! This doesn’t mean that tourists aren’t welcome since we were always pleasantly received in Armenia. However, the country still lacks many infrastructures to receive big amounts of tourists.
#2 Barely anyone speaks English, only Russian and Armenian. We believe it’s the least English-speaking country we have been to… Communication can be very difficult, though it’s manageable.
#3 Armenia is a very dry country, at least in the Summer. Yellow is the prevailing color and makes it quite scenic 🙂 There’s something about it that’s soothing…
#4 It’s very mountainous or else wouldn’t be a Caucasus country… The mountains aren’t as high as its neighboring Georgia but the whole country is marked by mountains, gorges, and valleys.
#5 There are more Armenians outside Armenia than in the country! In fact, there are almost 3 times more Armenians outside Armenia (8M) than living in Armenia (3M)! This happened due to the Armenian Diaspora.
#6 During WWI the Ottoman Government (nowadays Turkey) killed 1-1.5 M Armenians in what it’s called the Armenian Genocide or Armenian Holocaust. Until today Turkey does not recognize what happened as a Genocide.
#7 Armenia is considered the first Christian country! Christianity was implemented as the state religion in 301 A.D. Though it was introduced in Armenia even earlier, during the 1st century by Christ’s disciples Bartholomew and Thaddeus. They are known as the “Illuminators of the Armenian world”. Even today Armenia is still a very conservative and religious country, 95 % of the population is Armenian Apostolic.
#8 Armenia (and Georgia) connects Europe and Asia. For centuries was a center of trade between continents and the epicenter of many wars! It has been attacked and invaded by the Greeks, Mongols, Persians, Turks, Russians, etc…
#9 However, today Armenia is a geopolitical hotspot! It has no access to the ocean and has a conflict with many of their neighboring countries. It has no relation with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Iran to the south mostly supports they fellow Islamic countries. This leaves only Georgia, who wasn’t too happy with their support to Russia during the recent war…
#10 All this made Armenia’s economy struggle and made Armenia’s transition to a market economy more difficult. Though, Armenia is still a very poor country!
#11 However, don’t feel discouraged Armenia is a stable and safe country. Moreover, it feels safe… As a tourist, I always felt relaxed and comfortable, almost as in Georgia or Western Europe.
Travel in Armenia and the tourists
#12 Armenia is one of the least touristy countries in Europe. Out of the few tourists they host, even fewer are western backpackers… We only saw a handful of them!
#13 Even in the peak season, in the biggest tourist attractions we only saw a few tourists and no queues. It was great not being overwhelmed by people everywhere we went!
#14 If you are planning an overland trip be aware that Armenia borders are closed with both Turkey and Azerbaijan. If you want to go to any of these countries your best option is to go through Georgia.
#15 While traveling through Armenia, one thing will catch your eyes… Half the country seems to have been abandoned to their own fate… There are way too many half-deserted towns with buildings falling apart.
#16 Yerevan is the exception, the center is much more developed than the rest of the country. It’s known as the pink city because of the color of the stones of the beautiful old and new buildings. Yerevan is a buzzing city and very pleasant to walk around both during the day and at night!
#17 If we had to choose the best travel attraction of Armenia, that would be the Tatev monastery and the Wings of Tatev aerial roadway! The Tatev monastery is amazing and situated in an incredible scenic mountain range, which you can appreciate from the Wings of Tatev.
#18 Mount Ararat is a very important part of Armenian National identity, however, it’s nowadays part of Turkish territory! Though you can see it from Armenia and it’s an incredible view that allows some amazing pictures particularly from Khor Virap! Unfortunately, when we were closer to it, there was a strong fog ruining the pictures…
#19 Sevan Lake is the biggest lake in Armenia and occupies 5% of the territory! We read how beautiful it was and that it’s a beach destination within Armenia… Well, the lake is impressive and being 1900-meters high makes it rather unique, however, most of the surrounding felt abandoned! it definitely wasn’t a place where we wanted to beach…
#20 Moreover, the town of Sevan itself was probably the worst place we have been in Armenia! Felt completely abandoned and with nothing to do… I would suggest visiting the lake as a stopover on a road trip, but nothing more!
#21 Armenia is the place to go if you want to see unique monasteries in a beautiful setting, usually hidden away in the Mountains. The most interesting we visited were Noravank, Tatev, and Geghard. Khor Virap isn’t that impressive by itself, but the view to Ararat is incredible! We also went to Etchmiadzin, which is supposedly the first cathedral ever built (between 301-303)!
Food and drinks in Armenia
#22 Armenian food is pretty cheap, even in restaurants. With 5-10 Euros one couple can have a very good meal at a nice restaurant.
#23 However, it isn’t easy to find quick meals or fast food. Definitely, the country isn’t prepared for travelers… We ended up going to supermarkets and buying supplies to being able to eat “on the road”.
#24 Lavash is the staple bread in Armenia. When you ask for bread, usually you get Lavash. It’s a soft, thin flatbread. “lavash, the preparation, meaning, and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
#25 The best things we tried in Armenia were Zhingyalov hats and Dolma. Zhingyalov hats are flatbread stuffed with finely diced herbs and green vegetables. Dolma is a dish of minced meat wrapped in grape leaves.
#26 Be careful when you ask for a Lemonade! It may not be what you expect… We learned that, in Armenia, a Lemonade is Soda, and it doesn’t have to be a Lemon Soda! you can easily have a pear or Tarragon (Yeap…) Lemonade! 🙂
#27 Fruit (fresh and dried) is very good in Armenia, particularly peaches and figs! You will also see lots of melons and watermelons… Enjoy them, it’s a great way to eat some healthy food during the trips!
Money and expenses in Armenia
#28 Overall Armenia is a very cheap country to travel in! Food, accommodation, fuel, and tickets to attractions are all very inexpensive. Overall, in 5 days we only spent 190 Euros, which means less than 20 Euros per person per day. This doesn’t include the car rental!
#29 You can withdraw money from almost any ATM with your foreign card, without extra fees! It’s similar to Georgia and very different (better!) from SE Asia! Note: We are talking about the local ATM fees, not the fees charged by your bank… those depend only on your bank!
#30 The problem is that in most places it can be difficult to find ATMs! It was actually easier to find shops than ATMs. I would advise you to take a few extra Eur/USD just in case you need an alternative… The exception is Yerevan, where there’s ATM everywhere like you would expect in a big capital city.
#31 Accommodation is also very cheap! It’s fairly easy to find a private double room in a nice guesthouse under 20 Euros. Most of the times we ended up paying about 15 Euros per night.
#32 Expect to pay an added service fee of 10% in every restaurant. That information is usually on the menu.
#33 Cash is King in Armenia. Many places only accept cash, even some that have Visa’s and Mastercard’s signs (no internet, no service or any other problem). Mostly supermarkets and big restaurants/hotels are the exceptions. Almost every guesthouse will have to be paid in cash and you can’t even pay with a card when booking.
Transportation in Armenia
#34 Roads in Armenia are terrible, much worse than in Georgia. They are full of potholes, even some of the main roads that connect the country. Also, be aware that just because a road is considered a highway or a main road doesn’t mean that is any good, or even paved… You may need to drive gravel in places you won’t expect it!
#35 Therefore, you cannot blindly trust Google Maps (or maps me) expected time or you’ll be in for a bad time! In our experience, add 30 – 50% to the ETA to be safe…
#36 However, you don’t have to drive a 4 x 4 / SUV! It will make your journey more pleasant and allow you to go to more extreme places, but the most of the usual destinations can be reached with a normal car. We did it with a small Toyota and it was OK.
#37 If the roads terrible, drivers are even worse… mostly because they are impatient and will overtake you in the craziest places. We think they are more reckless than actually aggressive. Anyway, it can be dangerous and if you are driving you should be aware of it. Our experience driving in Angola was very, very useful 🙂
#40 Fuel is very cheap at half the price of western Europe countries, which is great for road trippers!
#41 In Armenia you can (or may really need to) fill up your car in these pumps… how cool is that? 🙂
#42 Armenia is part of the silk road and one of its most famous passes was the Selim pass (now called Orbelian’s pass). The scenery is amazing and the road is actually good and enjoyable to drive in. Selim pass goes as high as 2410 meters!
#43 If you are driving in Armenia please note that there are way too many speed cameras on the main roads! In almost every small town you’ll see one, or several! We didn’t get any ticket, however, be careful because they used to enforce the speed limit.
#44 If you are planning to bring a car from Georgia to Armenia you will need a cross-border authorization to cross the border to Armenia. It’s a document from the car rental authorizing you to take the car to Armenia in Georgian and translated to Armenian! It will cost at least 50 USD and you’ll probably need to request it 1 or 2 days in advance.
#45 Additionally you will also need to buy car insurance in Armenia, but you’ll need to buy it in Armenia. Right after crossing the border you’ll find many places selling insurance. Just stop and buy it. It’ll probably cost 10-15 USD.
Other travel information about Armenia
#46 In Armenia you’ll find free WIFI everywhere, restaurants, bars, hotels, guesthouses and even some tourist attractions! However, if you want you can also easily buy a sim card close to the borders. We didn’t buy and didn’t miss it!
#47 If you can, buy products on the side of the road. This way you will get great products at very reasonable prices and it will directly help the local economy! Fruits, nuts, honey, and wine are some of the great things you can buy…
#48 Be aware that the working day starts very late… There’s nothing open before 9:00… However, at night many things come to live, particularly in Yerevan.
#49 Crossing borders between Georgia and Armenia is perfectly easy and fairly quick. One time took us 30 minutes, the other almost 2 hours. But most importantly it was peaceful and without any “problems” from the Police. We were particularly worried about Brava Border (because it’s very small) but it was very simple and without any trouble!
#50 If you want to travel to a country that it’s still off the radar of tourism, visiting Armenia is probably one of your best options! It’s safe, cheap, relaxed, fairly easy to travel. It has many interesting destinations and a unique culture and history!
Bonus Travel Tip
As said above Armenia is pretty safe! Though, You don’t want to risk having a problem and not being insured! So, always Remember to Buy Travel Insurance Before Your Trip !
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