Each and every time I get an email from a reader, who wants to learn more about Armenia, I feel so special. I’m proud that people think of me as a right person to reach out to. Today, I’m doing a little wrap-up, where I’m trying to answer the most popular questions that have been asked so far.
Are there many accommodation options for a budget traveler?
If you are staying in Yerevan, there are many hostels to choose from. A bed in a dorm typically costs around 6000-7000 AMD (12-14 USD). They are mostly centrally located and easy to find. I never stayed in a hostel here, but I can recommend Balcony Hostel or Envoy Hostel. If you are a Couchsurfer, you can try this option, too. The movement is alive and well here in Armenia.
Is it safe for a solo female traveler?
Yes, it is. Armenia is one of the safest countries I’ve ever been to. There is nothing here to be scared of. Criminal rate is unbelievably low. Locals are friendly. Don’t let your common sense fall asleep, and you will be fine. All that said; remember that some locals might find solo female travel a slightly odd first world hobby. Solo backpacking is not popular among local girls. It’s slowly changing, but be ready for curious looks. Some people will think you are brave and awesome, others will judge you as silly. Don’t take either of them seriously. Just do your own thing. Staring has never killed anybody, right?
How to get to Yerevan from Georgia?
Yeah, I know. The airfares from Europe to Yerevan are scandalously expensive. On top of the prices, they are mostly red-eye flights. That’s why many travelers and residents, including me, choose to fly to/from Georgia. Flying to Tbilisi might be even 25% cheaper than to Yerevan. If you live in Central/Eastern Europe, you can also make use of the new low cost airlines airport in Kutaisi. Wizzair flies from Kutaisi to Budapest, Vilnius, Warsaw and Katowice. It's a great value for money, especially in low season.
If you are in Tbilisi you can get to Yerevan by minibus (locally called marshrutka) or a train.
They train journey takes exceptionally long, but the train compartments are spacious and comfy. Night train is a good option if you want to save time.
Schedule: Timetable depends on the season. In spring/autumn/winter (late September to mid-June) the Tbilisi-Yerevan train runs every second day, departing Tbilisi at 20:20 and arriving to Yerevan at 06:55 next day. In summer (mid-June to late September) the train runs daily and starts in Batumi. It leaves Tbilisi at 22:16 arriving to Yerevan at 07:25.
Price: The fare is 71 GEL (about 45 USD) in 1st class sleeper and 49 GEL (31 USD) in a 2nd class sleeper.
What about the minibuses? You can catch one at the Ortachala bus station. The price is 30 GEL (12,5 USD). Marshrutkas operate from 9.00 (well, approximately). They take off when the vehicle is full. Be prepared that you might wait.
If you’d rather use something that actually has a schedule, go to Avlabari, the Armenian district. The parking is located in front of the Armenian church, very close to the Avlabari metro station. Marshrutkas run four times a day. I like them much more than the Ortachala minibuses, because they simply use better, newer cars.
Schedule: every day, 10.00,13.00,15.00, 17.00
Price: 35 GEL/8000AMD/16 USD
To book your seat, call: (+995)5 93 22 95 54 (Ashot).
It takes around 6 hours to get to Yerevan. I made it in 4,5 h once, but I seriously hope I won’t encounter that crazy driver again. All the minibuses go to the Kilikia Bus Station.
Shared cab might be an option, too. A taxi ride costs around 100 USD for a cab. If you have someone to share it with, it’s actually quite affordable. You can find the cars at the Ortachala Bus Station.
What are the easiest and most scenic day trips from the capital?
Armenia is a tiny country and Yerevan is in the heart of it, so, if you are an early bird, you can go for a day trip almost anywhere. If you are looking for something easy and relaxed, I can give you two ideas. They are both less than an hour away from the capital and accessible all the year round.
Have you ever heard of an Armenian monastery carved out from natural rocks and an Hellenic temple surrounded by scenic mountains that are located just 10 kilometers from each other? This can only happen in Armenia.
You can find more about this trip here.
How to get to Garni&Geghard?
There is a bus that takes you to the Garni temple from a place called 2nd Masiv. The bus stop is located right by the Mercedes Shop. You can get to 2nd Masiv by several buses and minibuses, I recommend 8,5 and 44 from Mashtots Avenue (near the Opera House). The ride to Masiv takes around 20 minutes. The bus fare is 100 AMD (0,20 USD). You pay the driver at the end of the drive. Bus stops in Yerevan are marked, but they never have names written on them. If you want to be sure you get off at the right one, ask someone for the Garni bus. All the locals will know.
When you find the Garni bus, you can just sit back and relax. The fare is 250 AMD (0,50 USD). You pay directly to the driver. The ride should take around 30 minutes.
There is no bus from Garni to the Geghard monastery. You can take a taxi or make it a hike. The distance is around 10 kilometres.
Another 2in1 that makes it to the top of the list of many travelers. The ruins of the greatest Armenian cathedral of all time and a spiritual center of Armenian and Armenians that are both situated not more than forty- minute ride from downtown Yerevan? Yes, you should check that out.
You can find more about this trip here:
How to get to Echmiadzin?
Bus 111 goes straight to Echmiadzin. One of the bus stops is on the corner of Mashtots Ave and Saryan St (close to the Blue Mosque and the Pak Shuka Market), the fare is 250 AMD (0,5 USD). The ride takes around 40 minutes. There are also marshrutkas that leave from the Kilikia bus station (500 Dram, 1,2 USD).
Zvartnots is on the way. You will see it from the bus. You can simply ask the driver to drop you off, and hop on another vehicle later.
What about the language barrier?
Armenian language is a living fossil that doesn’t really resemble any tongue you might speak. It also has its own alphabet that is not really close to any other writing system you might be able to read. But don’t worry, some Armenians take their language classes very seriously. The younger generation, especially in Yerevan, speaks English. Literally everyone in the country is fluent in Russian. People working in hospitality industry usually speak both of them.
What are the costs? How much a typical meal might cost? Or the transportation around town?
If you are coming from Europe or North America (as most of my audience do), everything in Armenia will be affordable for you. Some things might even be, well, dirt cheap. Like fruit and vegetables in the season for example, or public transportation. Of course, the capital is more expensive than other places, but it’s still a great value for money for most of travelers.
Prices of meals might be very different, but let’s say that you can get a traditional Armenian meal with a drink for 3000-4000 AMD (6-8 USD). The public transportation costs 100 AMD (0,2 USD), a taxi service in the city center is 600 AMD (1,25 USD, 100 AMD/km). The entrances to museum vary from 500 AMD to 1000 AMD (1,1 USD to 2,2 USD).
I'd like to know some top attractions, expense relative to other countries close by, whether there is much of a tourist infrastructure, like hotels that are easy to use, restaurants that welcome travelers, guided tours in English.
Top attractions: Armenia is famous of her mountains and monasteries. It’s a great place for hiking and exploring architecture. The most beautiful monasteries (in my humble opinion) are Haghpat and Sanahin, Noravank, Geghard, and Tatev. If you are coming to Armenia in summer, you should visit Lake Sevan. The capital city of Yerevan has a great vibe and is a good base for day trips.
Hotels: there are hotels in every bigger city. Some cities, that are favored by locals as weekend getaway destinations (like Dilijan, for example) offer also cozy, family-run guesthouses. In Yerevan, you will also find a lot of budget hostels.
Restaurants: food places are everywhere here and they are open to foreign visitors. In bigger cities they usually have menus in Armenian, Russian, and English. In the village, language might be more of a problem. Sign language works shall work though. Locals are very friendly and extremely hospitable. I wouldn’t be scared of language barrier.
There are numerous travel agencies based in Yerevan that offer guided tours in Russian and English. They organize day trips all over Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. I partnered with one of them in the past, and I was very happy with the quality.
Is it safe?
Yes, yes, yes. I’ve received a lot of safety inquiries lately after Electric Yerevan (massive protest over the electricity price hike that took place on Baghramyan Avenue in June this year) got covered by the media all over the world. It is safe. Come.