Nestled between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran, few destinations compare to the exotic charm of this beautiful nation in the south Caucasus. With a rich history, scrumptious cuisine, and a language that sounds like no other, visitors to this unique country are truly amazed upon experiencing this land’s one-of-a-kind nature. As with anywhere else, travelers shouldn’t just go in blind when experiencing a new country, so here is some travel advice to get the most out of your trip to Armenia.
Armenia — The Basics
Armenia is one of those hidden gems that most of us don’t hear too much about. It’s such a safe place that we rarely see Armenia in the headlines. As an unfortunate result, many people go their whole lives without thinking to visit this stunning oasis. Due to this place’s mysterious nature, it’s good to have the basic scoop before we go into specific Armenia travel tips.
Armenia is a nation of nearly three million people. 95 percent of the country speaks Armenian, which is the only language of its family, and they write with the exotic Armenian script. Armenia was a founding member of the USSR, and the country remained a part of the Soviet Union until the USSR’s collapse in 1991.
Armenia, like most western nations, is a representative democracy, and they produce a wide range of consumer products for global export.
Sights and Attractions
Armenia is so vast, and it has so much to offer that a simple list wouldn’t do it justice. While Armenia is small, it’s not lacking in fun! As there are so many things to do, try to focus on doing what you love most. Is hiking your thing? If so, then you’re in luck; the vast Caucasus extend through the country. Climb to the peak of Mount Aragats just like the Christian monks of the 4th century, or take an easier hike up one of the amazing plateaus in the south.
For lovers of history, Armenia is a goldmine. Armenia was the first country in the world to officially adopt Christianity, and there are hundreds of old temples and monasteries dotted around the landscape because of that. The medieval fortress of Amberd calls the slopes of Mount Aragats its home, and a millennium later, this imposing wonder is still mostly intact. The nation is marked by a unique blend of old and new at every corner.
All about the nightlife? Then Yerevan, the nation’s capital, is the place to stay. There’s a club on almost every street, and like everything else in this amazing nation, many of these clubs have a rich, colorful history. Get your swing on at the Malkhas Jazz club. Dance the night away at the Paparazzi. Down a beer at the Station Pub. Whatever your preference is, you’ll find a club for you in Yerevan.
Armenia Travel Tips
Armenia Currency Considerations
Armenia’s official currency is the Armenian Dram. When dealing with Armenia currency conversion services and kiosks, look out for the best rate. Since mid-2018, the dram has fluctuated between 470 and 500 drams per United States dollar. Always keep up to date on the exchange rate. While there will be fees, certain Armenia currency exchange services are better than others. You are certain to get a terrible rate at an international airport.
Armenian banks and your local banks usually offer the best exchange rates. Most ATM’s will allow you to withdraw money in the local currency, but different ATM’s will have different rates. Furthermore, since Armenian drams can’t really be spent anywhere else, you don’t want to exchange too much of your local money for dram.
No exchange is free. Some value is always lost in a currency exchange, so it is vital to minimize this loss. If you have an excess of drams, you’ll lose even more money exchanging them back to your local currency. It may feel nice to walk around with a fat wallet, but you’ll go broke paying for your own money twice.
There are a number of hotels and hostels with English-speaking staff all over the country. If you plan on an extended stay or are travelling with a large group, consider trying to score some travel deals to save a couple bucks. If you can’t get a deal at one place, there are enough lodging options that you won’t have a hard time looking elsewhere.
Flights and Transportation
Book in advance to get the best travel deals. The longer you wait, the more you’ll pay. Most flights go in and out of the capital city of Yerevan, so your exhilarating journey is likely to start there. Armenia has a modern metro and public transit system, so getting around Yerevan and the surrounding areas is a piece of cake.
If you want to go on a trip to rural or less-visited areas, then consider hiring a driver. Relative to the US or western Europe, a personal driver is very inexpensive, and you may get a good rate with local travel deals.
Aside from Armenian and various minority languages, Russian and English are the most widely spoken second languages. About 40 percent of Armenians claim a basic understanding of English, though less than five percent could be considered to have an advanced proficiency.
About 90 percent of Armenians can speak varying degrees of Russian. As Armenia used to be a soviet republic, many Armenians speak Russian fluently. If you or someone from your party knows any Russian, it will surely be of use! English should suffice to make basic transactions in most areas. In rural areas, a local guide will ensure that your excitement isn’t lost in translation.
What to avoid
When going anywhere, one of the best pieces of travel advice to limit yourself to the subjects of polite dinner conversation. What does this mean? Avoid talk of God, sex, and politics when possible. As a highly religious nation where 95 percent of the population adheres to orthodox Christianity, edgier topics that may be the norm in your country are likely to be considered rude and vulgar subject matter.
On the topic of politics, try to refrain from talking too much about Turkey. Armenians were the victims of a Turkish-led genocide less than a century ago, so Armenians really don’t feel like talking about Turkey.
Also, even though Armenia used to be a part of the USSR, please don’t refer to their culture as “Soviet” or their country as a “post-Soviet state.” There’s no better way to receive an eye-roll. The people and their country have a rich, unique heritage. They don’t want to be conflated with Russia. A great piece of travel advice is that a little courtesy and sensitivity goes a long way around the world.
Try to get the best rate for your Armenia currency exchange, be friendly and considerate to the locals. Plan ahead for a trip that fits your tastes, and your trip will be unforgettable. Be warned, though: After your first Armenia travel experience, you’ll have an unyielding desire to return!