The Amateur Traveler talks to David Dougherty about his recent trip to the small country of Armenia.
David talks about viewing Mount Ararat (just over the border in Turkey), visiting monasteries and churches, riding the packed minivan buses (marshrutkas), meeting locals with a shared interest, and eating the food
He also talks about the legends and some of the history (the Armenian genocide).
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$1.00=about 300 AMD (Armenian Drams). Money is easily converted in some supermarkets and travel agencies (in either direction). Mostly a cash-only economy except at larger and expensive shops and restauraunts in Yerevan. David says “I had no trouble carrying cash around. I concealed it and there is no street crime to speak of.”
Malaria medicine (chloroquine) sometimes recommended late spring-fall when visiting the Ararat valley area (including Khor Virap). From what David heard locally, it’s probably only necessary if visiting the Armash fish ponds, or if staying overnight in the summer. Casual visitors really don’t need it.
Be careful drinking local tap water, otherwise no special concerns.
Usually 10%. Some restaurants add the service to the bill, although they won’t always tell you. If you see a % at the bottom of the first page of the menu, that’s what that usually means.
Tax and Red Tape:
10,000 AMD departure tax at the airport that you don’t know about until you are standing in checkout and customs lines (and you have to pay this before, of course! Pay at the money exchange desk and they will give you a receipt. E-visas available if you fly into Zvartnots airport only.
You can apply for an Electronic visa at the Armenia foreign ministry and follow link for E-visa.
“In Yerevan I stayed at the Envoy Hostel, which was great, in the center and reasonable. A bread and marmalade breakfast included. Guests may use communal kitchen. They can arrange a van from the airport (I recommend this).
Large hotels are available in Yerevan and maybe some larger towns (but are very expensive). Homestays are available, and can be requested with dinner (highly recommended to do). Home cooking in Armenia tends to be much better than a restaurant.”
Taxis sometimes rip you off and don’t run the meter, but fares are still reasonable as a rule.
Marshrutka (minivan)- 100 AMD within Yerevan, intercity depends on destination. Pay as you get off. You may tell the driver where to drop you, or tell them to stop if you know your way.
David recommends Sati Travel for guided tours. You can join tours on the spot if you wish. They run certain tours on certain days, just take your pick. They do Armenian, Russian, and English language by default without any further notice. Other languages cost more and need prior arrangement.
Museums in Yerevan:
- Tsitsernakaberd (the Genocide Memorial)
- The Sergei Paradjanov House Museum (an eccentric artist and film director). The exhibits are rather bizarre, but interesting
- State Museum of Armenian History (on Republic Square)
- National Art Gallery (on Republic Square).
- Cascade – outdoor sculptures on a hill with a view of Mt. Ararat
- Erebuni – museum with artifacts and outdoor exhibit of excavations from the very first settlement in what is now Yerevan
Many museums in Yerevan are open on Sunday.
Allow more time to get around than you expect, because things are often not signposted. They are not used to tourists, but they certainly deserve more. If you get lost or have trouble finding something, the people will usually steer you right. This happened to David at the Genocide Memorial. “I also met someone who showed me around the memorial and pointed out to me a new memorial stone there – I understood better (in spite of not understanding the language) because I had done some background reading and followed current events.”
“Armenian, and in Yerevan, Russian will also do you well. I found a 10-lesson cd course by Pimsleur for Armenian, which is good for the basics. Use East Armenian for Armenia. West Armenian is spoken by diaspora Armenians who lived in Lebanon, Turkey, etc. East Armenian is what they speak in the Republic of Armenia now.”
For current events and news in English check out Groong – The Armenian News Network.
To get in the mood for your trip, listen to a online radio station with Armenian pop music (requires Flash).
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