Armenia is a land of timeless history and hidden treasures. Nestled in the South Caucasus, this country is a blend of rich heritage, culture, breathtaking landscapes, and delectable gastronomy.
It might come as a surprise to you that Armenia is one of the world's oldest nations, and surprisingly not many people know about this. An interesting fact about Armenia is that this country holds the distinction of being the first nation to embrace Christianity as its state religion. Let’s not forget that Yerevan the capital of Armenia is one the oldest city in the world, in fact, this city is older than Rome. Even as someone growing up in Iran, a neighbouring country, I didn’t know much about Armenia, until I had a chance to visit it.
Armenia with a population of less than 3 million, is one of the safest countries, making it a must-visit for every traveller. Before travelling to Armenia, I noticed there was not so much information online, and definitely, there were things that I wish I had known. So, in this article, I gather all you need to know before travelling to Armenia.
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Do you need a Visa?
Good news for all travellers! Getting to Armenia is a breeze for most nationalities. If you're from the US, most European countries, or about 22 others like Iran, China, and Japan, you're in luck, you can stroll right into Armenia without the fuss of a visa. Don’t worry if your country is not on this list, 20 more countries can get visas on arrival and many other countries can apply for an e-visa. For more information, make sure to check the official website.
Is Armenia Safe to Visit?
Armenia is one of the safest countries for travellers. The crime rate is very low, but you might have heard in the news about the conflicts in the country. Armenia has no official relations with Turkey and is technically at war with Azerbaijan. So, it is wise to avoid travelling close to the border and the UK Government advises against all travel within 5km of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Quick tip: If Azerbaijan is on your list, skip visiting Nagorno-Karabakh. We had Armenian stamps on our passports and were stopped in Azerbaijan. One of the questions we were asked was if we visited Nagorno-Karabakh.
An easier option is to visit Azerbaijan first and then Armenia.
How to Get to Armenia?
The most convenient way to get to Armenia is by flying to Yerevan International Airport. There is no direct flight from London to Armenia, but there are regular flights from other European cities like Athens, Kyiv and Frankfurt.
Now, if you're already in Georgia, you've got the option to take a train ride into Armenia. And, if you're coming from Iran, you can either catch a flight from Tehran to Yerevan or opt for a bus journey.
Quick note: the border between Turkey and Armenia is a no-go, so if you're coming from Turkey, your best bet is to head to Georgia first and then make your way into Armenia.
Money in Armenia?
Alright, let's talk about money in Armenia. The official currency is the dram, and it's divided into 100 lumami, which are their version of coins.
Now, if you're thinking of bringing some cash, it's a good idea to go with US Dollars or Euros. You can easily exchange them at currency exchange offices, banks, and even some of the larger hotels in the cities.
Speaking of which, in Yerevan, the capital, you'll find that most cafes, restaurants, and shops accept Visa and Master Cards. But here's the thing, you'll still need cash for some situations like taking a taxi or if you plan to explore more off-the-beaten-path places.
You’ll find ATMs around Yerevan and plenty in other major cities too. But if you're travelling to rural areas, it's a good idea to have some cash with you.
Can you Drink Tap Water in Armenia?
Water in Armenia is considered one of the tastiest and cleanest water in the world. So, drinking tap water is safe and very common in Armenia. You will see many fountains for drinking water in the streets of Yerevan and other Armenian cities and villages. You don’t need to buy bottled water, but if you really want you can still get bottled water almost everywhere in the country.
Internet and SIM Cards
The Internet works fine in Yerevan and the main cities. Most hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars offer free WiFi in Yerevan, but if you are planning to travel to rural areas, the best way to stay online is to purchase a local SIM card. There are three main operators, Vivacell, UCom and Team Telecom. You can buy a SIM card from any of these companies at the airport or in Yerevan.
What to Wear in Armenia?
Armenia is still a Christian and conservative country, which means you should avoid wearing revealing clothes if you want to be respectful and avoid unnecessary attention. In Yerevan, the situation is a bit different, but outside the city, you don’t see short skirts or tank tops and most local men wear trousers. During the summer, when it can get hot, it is common to wear a T-shirt and shorts or a skirt just above the knee.
How Many days should you spend in Armenia?
Armenia is a small country with a rich history and beautiful landscapes. If you want only to see Yerevan and a couple of touristy spots in the country to kick it off your bucket list, you only need a few days, but that is not really enough. You should spend at least a week or 10 days to see what the country has to offer and visit the most important historical sites and main attractions in the country. We spent two weeks in Armenia and it was amazing since we got to see what the country has to offer and avoid rushing around.
How to Get Around?
If you plan to stay in Yerevan, you can rely on public transport, taxis, or travel on foot. You can also take a day trip from the city to some of the most popular tourist attractions in Armenia. There are buses running between cities, but not everywhere in Armenia is easily accessible by public transport.
The most convenient way to go around the country is by renting a car. It is good to book your car online from a reliable car rental company and to compare the prices check rentalcars.com.
Driving in Armenia comes with its challenges. Local drivers don’t follow basic driving rules and some roads are not in good condition. These might put you off, but we still think you can drive in Armenia if you are an experienced driver. The alternative is taking guided tours from Yerevan.
Food in Armenia
One of the many reasons that I would like to go back to Armenia is the food. Armenian Cuisine is a mixture of Caucasian and Mediterranean cuisine and you can see the influence of the Middle Eastern and especially Persian on Armenian cuisine in the use of fruit, both fresh and dried, in soups and main dishes.
Basically, the food in Armenia is delicious and the main reason is the use of fresh ingredients. Let’s not forget that eating out in Armenia is cheap and you can go to a fancy restaurant without breaking the bank.
Language in Armenia
The only official language in the country is Armenian. Russian is the most common foreign language in Armenia and English is the second one, but it is gaining popularity. Most restaurants in Yerevan have English menus and you will see many young people able to speak in English in the city. But this is not the case when you travel to rural areas. Some places don’t even have an English menu. In this case, we used Google Translate to communicate with locals and it was quite helpful.
Where to Stay in Armenia?
Many visitors choose Yerevan as their base to explore the country. There are various types of accommodation in the city and you can easily book a 4-star hotel for less than £100 per night.
But if you want to stay outside the hustle and bustle of the city, you can stay in a resort in nature in Tsaghkadzor, Lake Sevan or Dilijan National Park.
In general, Armenia is not an expensive country and you can always find nice accommodation.
Best Places to Stay in Armenia
Downtown Suites Yerevan is a modern 4-star hotel, located in the centre of Yerevan. Some rooms are equipped with a kitchen and dishwasher.
Dave Hotel Yerevan is another 4-star hotel in Yerevan, situated less than 1 km from the Cascade. It features an indoor swimming pool, a fitness centre and a restaurant.
Teghenis Resort in Tsaghkadzor is a great place for a family or a group of friends, offering an indoor swimming pool and a spa.
Tsovazard Beach House is one of the best places to stay in Lake Sevan. All rooms include a terrace with sea views and free WiFi.