Practical information for traveling in Armenia
Medieval monasteries, high mountains, deep gorges, and one of the friendliest people we have ever met. These are just some reasons why you should visit Armenia. Still, only a few tourists come to the beautiful country. And when they do, it is mostly in organized groups.
It was a challenge to find up-to-date information for our stay in spring 2019. To make it easier for you, we summarized some first-hand tips for visiting Armenia.
We recommend reserving your stay ahead of your travels. There are not many hotels outside the capital. Nice B&Bs often only have one or two rooms and can be sold out. We booked our stay a few weeks before the trip via Booking. Look for places serving breakfast. In some areas, it is not easy to get it elsewhere.
Good to know: Most stays outside Yerevan only accept cash.
Food and drinks
We didn’t have a problem finding a restaurant anywhere. Sometimes they are not easy to spot, but Google Maps is a good help. Don’t be scared if the front of the building does not look appealing. Often, a beautiful garden with a view awaits behind the threshold. Séparées are quite common in Armenia, so don’t be surprised if you’re invited into a small room or gazebo with only one table.
Tip: 99% of the restaurants outside Yerevan only accept cash. A lunch or one-course dinner for two will cost between 7 000 and 10 000 AMD (~13 to 19 EUR) including drinks.
Armenian cuisine is a blend of Caucasian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking with a bit of Russian influence. Be ready for delicious Dolmas (vine or cabbage leaves stuffed with lamb), cheese, kebabs, and barbeque. Everything is served with vegetable salad seasoned with fresh herbs and lavash, an unleavened flatbread.
Apparently, water quality is good in Armenia. During our stay, we saw fresh water fountains everywhere with many people using those. To be on the safe side, we only drank bottled water. It’s easy to get a large pack at a supermarket.
Armenian beer is not special. We liked Kilikia more than Gyumri. However, you should definitely try their wine. Together with Georgia, Armenia has the oldest tradition of wine production in the world. We especially liked pomegranate wines.
If you prefer a non-alcoholic drink, order a “kompot,” a sweet drink made by cooking fresh fruits in water with sugar, usually served in a jug with the fruits floating in it.
The official language is Armenian. English is now widely spoken in Yerevan. Outside of Yerevan, everyone will make a lot of effort to understand and help you. However, some basic knowledge of Russian is helpful in the conversation. The menus in restaurants are mostly available in Armenian, Russian and English.
Note that Armenia uses its own alphabet. Street names and new traffic signs are written mostly in Armenian and Latin letters.
Money exchange and payments
Armenian currency is Dram (1 Euro ~ 530 AMD | 1 USD ~ 480 AMD). In Yerevan, credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants, shops, and hotels. Outside the capital, cash is king.
Exchanging money is pretty straightforward. The exchange rates for Euro and USD in banks are fair. Some banks (like EVOCABANK) even have exchange machines. You will find banks in larger towns. Be sure to check opening times.
In large villages and towns, there are also ATMs where you can get cash. All machines we tried could be used in English.
Exploring Armenia on 4 wheels is very convenient. You can decide where to go and when to go. Renting a car is simple and relatively cheap. Compared to Europe, gas is inexpensive as well.
Driving style is temperamental, but if you are familiar with driving in southern Europe, you’ll be fine. Lanes serve more as a recommendation and overtaking over the double line with close to no visibility is quite common.
Road conditions are pretty rough. Some potholes are huge, paved roads turn into dirt regularly and are bumpy most of the time. We recommend renting a robust SUV or a 4WD with high ground clearance.
Road signage is relatively good. We used Google Maps for navigation during the entire trip. It knows even the smallest backcountry road. Add 25% to 50% to the displayed ETA to compensate for the road conditions.
Gas is widely available throughout the country. The stations are full service, you only need to open the tank. Be aware that most of the stations only accept cash.
Good to know: Stations marked with “Gas” are LPG filling stations. Look for a pump with a “Petrol,” “Premium/Regular,” or “бензин” sign.
Parking outside Yerevan is simple. At most sights, you’ll need to pay 200 ADM (~ 0.40 EUR). A guide will show you where to leave the car. Have coins or small bills ready. In Yerevan, parking is a nightmare. Opt for a hotel with a designated parking spot.
Observe the speed limit in villages, there are speed cameras around every corner.
Wifi is available in hotels and restaurants. Because we wanted to use Google Maps, we also got a local SIM card for the internet. We opted for Beeline. They offer prepaid SIM cards with 12 GB for 30 days for 5500 AMD (~ 11 EUR). Their 4G coverage around Armenia is excellent. You can get a SIM card in Yerevan or even in the baggage claim hall at the airport.
Armenia is safe. Even in the capital during the night, we never felt unsafe. Armenians are one of the friendliest people, always helpful and trying the hardest to make you comfortable even if they don’t speak English.
With common sense and general rules about traveling you’ll be fine.
Be aware that the conflict with Azerbaijan for the disputed area of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) ended in 1994 in a ceasefire. No peace treaty has been signed yet. We didn’t encounter any issues while staying in Armenia, but we didn’t visit Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) where the border is still prone to unrest.
Traveling in Armenia
Check out more information about Armenia
– Yerevan: The Pink Capital
– Garni and Geghard: Medival beauties close to Yerevan
– Sevan Lake and Armenian Stonehenge: Traveling to the South
– Tatev: Monastery on the edge of a deep gorge
– Noravank, Areni, and Khor Virap: History and wine
– Practical tips for traveling