Are you planning a trip to Armenia? Good choice! This is one of the most fascinating countries with a rich history, beautiful landscapes, hospitable people and some amazing monuments.
I was lucky to visit Armenia around 10 times by now (I already lost the count) and I’m sure I will be returning there in future too. This country has something magnetic that draws you back over and over again.
I’m sure you will discover it too when you travel to Armenia.
Armenia travel tips
So, without any further ado, here are some Armenia travel tips that you will find useful when visiting Armenia.
If you still have any questions join my Facebook group about traveling in this region and ask there – it’s a friendly and knowledgeable community that is a wonderful source of information!
And now, onto the tips.
Where is Armenia
Armenia is a landlocked country in the Caucasus region, bordering with Turkey in the west, Georgia in the north, Azerbaijan in the east and Iran in the south (however the borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed for political reasons).
Until 1991, when it regained independence, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union at its south-west edge.
The capital city of Armenia is Yerevan with 1,1 million inhabitants (over 1/3 of the country’s population). It is located in the central part of the country, near the border with Turkey.
Why visit Armenia
You might be wondering why you should visit Armenia. The country might not be as spectacular or diverse as neighboring Georgia or Iran but it definitely has a lot to offer.
Armenia is the first country in the world that took Christianity as the state religion, in the year 301. Today you can visit many beautiful monasteries strewn around the country, many of them are centuries old and are a great history lesson. To get to one of the most famous monasteries – Tatev – you need to take the longest cable car in the world!
The landscape of Armenia is a bit harsh but beautiful. You can find here some incredible rock formations, like the so-called “symphony of the stones”, deep canyons, stone villages that look a bit like Cappadocia and more!
Lake Sevan is among the highest-located lakes in the world, with an altitude of 1,900 meters above sea level.
And then there is Yerevan, the capital city. It might not be a beautiful place in the classical definition but it’s a great city and offers so much that you need at least two days to get to know it in the slightest.
Armenia has a long and interesting (although tragic) history and very rich culture and traditions. You will learn a lot about it from friendly locals who are very proud of their national identity.
Last but not least – the food! Armenia is known for its fresh produce and everything you try is simply delicious! Some of the best dishes I’ve tried were in Armenia and the food itself is a good reason for me to book a ticket to Yerevan.
How to get to Armenia
Fortunately, getting to Armenia has become easier and cheaper, with low-cost airlines opening routes to Yerevan and Gyumri (second biggest city, located in the north-west part of the country). Therefore, the easiest way to travel to Armenia is flying.
You can choose from numerous connections from airports in Europe, Russia or the Middle East.
I usually fly with LOT Polish Airlines, they might not be the cheapest (but occasionally have some good deals that I always take advantage of) but they fly directly from Warsaw which is very convenient for me.
If you wish to travel overland to Armenia you can only enter the country from Georgia and Iran as borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan have been closed for years for political reasons.
You can take the bus from Teheran to Yerevan, it’s supposed to be rather comfortable but the whole journey takes 24 hours so that might be a bit too long in the bus going through narrow roads in the south of Armenia.
When I did this trip, in reverse, I was supposed to take the bus but since I had issues with visa to Iran and had to obtain one on arrival I needed to go to Tbilisi and fly to Tehran from there. The whole journey took me around 24 hours too…
Getting to Armenia from Georgia is much easier and you have three ways of transportation to choose from when you go from Tbilisi to Yerevan: minivan, marshrutka, and train.
After numerous journeys on Tbilisi – Yerevan – Tbilisi route, I can vouch for minivan – it’s the fastest and the most comfortable. Night train from Tbilisi to Yerevan is a fine option too, especially that you save time on the journey and money on accommodation.
You might also travel from Georgia to Gyumri. There is one marshrutka per day from Tbilisi, departing from Ortachala bus station at 10:30 in the morning. The night train from Tbilisi to Yerevan also stops in Gyumri, although in the middle of the night, at 03:50.
Another option is to take the marshrutka from Akhaltsikhe to Gyumri, using Bavra – Ninotsminda border crossing. There is one marshrutka per day, leaving from Akhaltsikhe in the morning.
Do you need a visa to Armenia?
Nationalities of most of the countries, including the European Union, the US, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina and some Asian countries like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan don’t need a visa to enter Armenia.
Citizens of Canada, most of the South American countries or South Africa can get a visa on arrival or e-visa. It costs 15.000 AMD (around $31 / €28).
Citizens of most African countries need a visa to Armenia and it has to be obtained in advance.
Crossing the border
Crossing the border to Armenia is easy and straightforward. You might be asked questions about your travel plans or accommodation but it’s nothing extraordinary in comparison to other borders.
Entering Armenia after visiting Azerbaijan
You might have heard some rumors about entering Armenia after visiting Azerbaijan. And yes, these countries are not in the most friendly relations, to put it nicely but it shouldn’t affect your travel plans.
You might be asked about your trip to Azerbaijan and the reasons behind your visit there but, as always, just tell the truth.
I visited Armenia twice after visiting Azerbaijan and never was questioned about my trip to the neighboring country, my many Armenian stamps raised some curious looks though.
How to get around Armenia
The biggest problem with visiting Armenia is getting around the country.
While you can easily travel between bigger cities, like Etchmiadzin, Gyumri, Sevan, Dilijan or Goris reaching some more remote destinations can be an issue. And the biggest attractions of Armenia usually are in those remote locations.
You might rent a car but roads in Armenia are often in a poor condition so driving might be a challenge. Not to mention crazy drivers that can wreck your nerves.
If you are not too confident or adventurous with driving I would reconsider your decision.
Fortunately, there are numerous affordable tours in Armenia, many of them operating as day trips from Yerevan. That’s also how I visited most of the Armenian highlights (I took public transport only to Gyumri and Dilijan).
You can use Yerevan as your base and do numerous day trips around. You might also go by public transport to one of the bigger cities, like Goris in the south, to use for your base to explore the area. I’m sure you would easily find a driver for a reasonable price there.
In and around Yerevan you can use the app called Yandex Taxi. It works like UBER, the only difference is you don’t need to register your card in the app and you can pay directly to the driver.
You can use Yandex Taxi if you want to go independently to places like Etchmiadzin, Zvartnots Cathedral, Zvartnots Airport, Garni temple or Geghard Monastery although if you are traveling alone tours might be cheaper.
Money in Armenia
The local currency is Armenian Drams – AMD. Currently (January 2020) 1000 AMD is worth $2,09 or €1,89.
If you want to exchange money your best bet is to bring American dollars or Euro. You can easily find exchange offices, especially in Yerevan. Those I know and used are at the corner of Northern Avenue and Teryan street or inside the shop at the corner of Tumanyan and Abovyan streets.
You can also easily pay by card in most of the places, especially in Yerevan. I usually take the money from ATMs and never had a single problem.
For over a year now I’ve been using Revolut pre-paid card and I used it during my last trip to Armenia too. Everything worked for me just fine, I was both paying by card and withdrawing money from the ATM.
I can definitely recommend Revolut to all the travelers. It supports most of the currencies and you can easily add money to your account using the mobile app. They have very good exchange rates that help you save a lot of money. Click here to learn more and order your own card.
Language in Armenia
The official language of the country is Armenian. It uses its own alphabet that you can see only in Armenia – it looks like nothing you’ve seen before and you won’t be able to read the signs, but it is really beautiful.
Fortunately, English is widely spoken among young people, especially in Yerevan and you shouldn’t have many troubles with getting around. Knowing some Russian, even basics comes in handy too.
But even if you have some language problems local people are very friendly and will help you for sure.
Safety in Armenia
Armenia is one of the safest countries I’ve been to. I even visited the country during the Revolution in April 2018 and everything was fine.
Of course, things happen, like everywhere but there is nothing, in particular, you should be warned about. On the crime index, Armenia is doing very well, with low and very low rates.
The only problems you might have are with bribery and corruption but this is also changing. Driving in Armenia can be a bit crazy too so be careful if you drive around.
You might notice people staring at you, especially in less touristy places. They don’t have bad intentions, they are just curious as Armenia is still a developing country, also on the tourist scene. Just smile, say hello and you will immediately see people warming up.
Solo female travel
Most of my trips to Armenia were solo and I didn’t have a single issue there. But this is the Caucasus, with very much male-oriented societies, so you might experience some unwanted attention and catcall. However, this is not as common as in some Middle East countries (Iran and Egypt were sometimes a bit of a nightmare for me).
Just use your typical precautions and you should be fine. The general rule is don’t do stupid things that you wouldn’t do at home and I would just stick to it.
I’d also avoid hailing a cab from the street if you are traveling solo. In most of the cases, everything is fine but I’ve heard some unpleasant stories that ended up at talking only but still. Yandex Taxi is a much better option as just in case there is always the app that tracks your moves.
Best time to visit
I would recommend visiting Armenia in the warmer seasons, from April to October, with the exception of July and August. In the summer months, it’s simply too hot, the weather can be even over 40C (that’s why I’ve decided to cancel one of my trips to Armenia in August, I couldn’t imagine dealing with this heat).
Summer and autumn, on the other hand, are really pleasant, with warm and longish days that will let you enjoy Armenia to the fullest. I remember so many nice evenings in Yerevan, spent in the outdoor cafes, talking to friends, enjoying the warm breeze and falling in love with Yerevan more and more.
If you think about a trip to Armenia in winter it might be not a bad idea, however, I would avoid the very first week of January. That’s when I was in Yerevan during my last trip and 80% of shops, cafes, and restaurants and 100% of museums were closed.
There were moments when the capital felt like an abandoned city. I still enjoyed it, because that’s Yerevan, but for the first visit to the country, it might be a bit challenging and disappointing.
What to see
Armenia has a lot of attractions and everyone can find something interesting here.
There’s a vibrant and cosmopolitan capital – Yerevan.
There are also some impressive, centuries-old monasteries spread all over the country – some of them are located in some stunning, remote places (like my favorite one – Noravank).
You can also visit beautiful Lake Sevan, the second-largest city of Gyumri, charming Dilijan (often called “Armenian Switzerland”).
If you are looking for a Soviet vibe then Alaverdi is your answer. There are also some quirky places like the Monument of the Armenian Alphabet.
Armenia is a very affordable country and everything, from food to accommodation and from transport to activities has a very good price, especially if you compare it to Western prices.
To give you some examples:
- a good hotel in Yerevan (like R&R Hotel where I stayed last time, with the very central location, hearty breakfast, and modern design) – around $40
- Lunch in the restaurant – around $10 (4.000 AMD)
- Craft beer – $2-3 (around 1.000 AMD)
- Coffee – $2-3 (around 1.000 AMD)
- Train ticket from Yerevan to Gyumri – $2-$5 (1.000 – 2.5000 AMD), depending on the train
- Marshrutka from Yerevan to Dilijan – $2 (1.000 AMD)
- Bottle of water – $0,30 (around 150 AMD)
- 2 liters bottle of Coca Cola – $1,25 (600 AMD)
- Metro ride in Yerevan – $0,20 (100 AMD)
- Day trip from Yerevan to Lake Sevan – around $20 (around 10.000 AMD)
- A SIM card + 2 GB data – around $6 (2.800 AMD)
- Yandex taxi ride from the airport to the center of Yerevan around $3 (1.500 AMD)
Wifi is widely available in Yerevan and beyond. Basically every cafe and restaurant has wifi, you just need to ask for the password.
There is also free, public wifi available in some places like metro stations in Yerevan.
If you want internet data on your phone you need to get a local SIM card – it’s an easy process and the data package is affordable too. You only need a passport to do all the paperwork.
I usually get VIVA cell / MTS, there are two shops in central Yerevan (at Amiryan, near the Republic Square, and at Northern Avenue, close to the Opera) and in both, you should find someone speaking English. The whole paperwork takes maybe 5 minutes.
What to bring
Besides bringing with you typical things like the camera, power bank, the notebook, etc I recommend taking with you the reusable bottle. Water in Armenia is very good, you can easily drink tap water there.
If you are coming from outside of Europe you might need the power adapter to charge your phone, computer, etc.
All over the country, you will also find so-called “pulpulak” – the water fountains. They are such a strong part of the Armenian culture!
They are perfectly safe to use, the water often comes from the mountain springs. On a hot day, in the busy places, like Republic Square or Northern Avenue, you can often see the line of people waiting to take a sip from pulpulak.
Before your trip to Armenia, I recommend downloading these applications to your phone:
- maps.me – for very good offline maps that you can use everywhere
- Yandex Taxi – to easily get around Yerevan
- Google Translate – and download Russian languages for the offline use (right now in Poland Armenian is available only when using it online)
You will need all three of them, trust me.
What to eat and drink in Armenia
Armenian food is delicious, thanks to its fresh produce, and even such a simple dish like the grilled vegetable is to die for (the best one I had were at dots…)
You can’t leave Armenia without trying dolma, lavash, khorovats, ghapama or khash.
You might not know that Armenia is the oldest wine-making country in the world. First traces of the wine production date back over 6.000 years.
Not only you can try here the traditional wine from the grapes but also other fruit variations, like pomegranate, apricot or blackberry wines. They all have an interesting taste so be sure to try them all.
Armenia is also well-known for its brandy and some of the most important people in the world, like Stalin or Churchill, were big fans of it.
In Yerevan, you can tour the brandy company with the tasting at the end. The most popular Armenian brands are Ararat and Noy.
Tipping in Armenia
Tipping in Armenia isn’t very common yet. In the restaurants, you are expected to leave 5-10% tip. When you take the taxi you can round up the amount.
But Armenians are a very proud nation and outside of the obvious situations they will often not take your money.
On the other hand, when hitchhiking you might be asked for a little amount for the ride.
Electricity and power sockets
The standard voltage in Armenia is 230 V. The power sockets are the same as in Europe. If you are coming from outside the region be sure to take the adapter with you.
Taking a taxi
If you use Yandex Taxi all is fine as you will see how much you need to pay already in the app (I always rounded up the price because it just felt too little).
However, if you hail the cab from the street be sure to ask for the price before agreeing to ride or insist on using the meter. The drivers might try to charge you more only because you are a tourist.
What to wear in Armenia
Armenia is still a very traditional country and if you are planning to travel outside of Yerevan and/or visit monasteries be sure to have some modest clothes with you. Women also need a headscarf to cover the head when entering the monastery.
High altitude location
Armenia is a mountainous country and some of the places are located on a high altitude which means low oxygen.
Some of you might not feel it, while for others it can cause some problems with breathing, headaches or fatigue. If you had some problems with the altitude in the past take it into consideration.
To give you some examples: Yerevan is located 990 meters above the sea level, Tatev Monastery 1500 meters above the sea level, Lake Sevan 1900 meters above the sea level or Amberd Fortress 2300 meters above the sea level.
You might have heard about Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh (the Armenian name) – the unrecognized country with the Armenian ethnic majority that is officially part of Azerbaijan. The dispute over this place and the ongoing tension and occasional clashes are the main reason why Armenia and Azerbaijan have a closed border and no real political relations.
However, if you wish to visit this region you might easily do it from Armenia, there are daily marshrutkas from Yerevan to Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Just keep in mind that if you would like to visit Azerbaijan afterward, even during another trip to the Caucasus, and the local authorities find out about your visit to Nagorno-Karabakh you might be in a lot of trouble since you will be accused of entering Azerbaijan illegally.
Be also sure to follow current events in the disputable region to know before your trip about the situation and the situation there.
Bargain at the markets
When you visit the local market most likely you won’t see the price of the products. If you feel you are asked for too much – bargain. Sometimes the sellers try to charge the tourists a bit more, this happens especially at the GUM market in Yerevan (that is still the best place to buy delicious and fresh local food).
But also don’t go too crazy with bargaining and pay the price that you believe is fair.
Get the Yerevan card
One of the best ways to save money in Yerevan is to get the Yerevan card – the official city pass.
Not only it will give you free admission to most of the museums, including the most important ones, but you will also get free airport transfer and metro rides, free or discounted tours and lots of discounts all over the city. This is really a very good deal that will help you discover Yerevan!
I wrote a few other articles about traveling to Armenia. You can read them here:
- 18 Amazing Places to Visit in Armenia
- 31 Amazing Things to Do in Yerevan, Armenia
- Guide to Yerevan Soviet architecture
- Guide to the Cascade in Yerevan – City’s Biggest Attraction
- Yerevan travel tips – all you need to know about visiting Yerevan, Armenia
- 50 Pictures of Armenia that will Inspire you to Travel to Armenia Soon
- and more!
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