Armenia , is a land locked country and, worse, the borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan are closed. To reach (or leave) this country, there are only a few passages with Georgia and one passage with Iran, so you may have to use the air, coming from overseas. Few international companies deserve Zvarnots International airport; in Sept. 2011, it was under renovation, and looked a bit messy, but all went quickly and easy; it now should be even smoother.
From the lounges, you have a beautiful view of Ararat.
Taxi to town is reasonably cheap, and you can reach the city centre within 30 mn.
For short trips, a taxi or a car with driver (no company, something informal) is the best option! For instance, there are a few nice churches and monasteries located 10-20 km from Dilijan; to get there you can try hitch hiking and after a short while somebody will stop and offer a lift; most difficult is to explain where you want to go. So I visited Hagartsine this way, and Goshavank with a taxi.
On the first picture you see the driver who took out his load from the back seat to give me some space. . .
Second picture: view through the windscreen of a taxi near lake Sevan
Armenia is not only a landlocked country but also a “politically locked” country as the only was to enter this country is by air at the Erevan Zvartnotz International Airport or through the few frontier posts (three road, one train) at the Georgia border and one border post at the Iranian border; the country is totally closed at its borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan.
I entered through road and left via air.
Entering at Chochkan, on the road linking Tbilisi and Erevan is very easy and straightforward; it takes few minutes, but the minibus driver may take his time, have a chat with friends, make some business. . . . Minibus seems to be the best option to go from Georgia to Armenia; there are also buses, but they do not travel every day and the train is said to be very very slow, and it crosses the border at night, and of course, at 2 a.m. you will not escape passport control! Use minibus if you come from Georgia.
If you come from far or overseas, or go there, the International airport is deserved by many international companies and of course, Armavia, the national company. At the Erevan airport, you will have a chance to have a look at the Mount Ararat, and if flying westward, you will soon be over the Pontides and Taurus Mountains and enjoy the views from above.
Minibus is the best option to get around in Armenia, and except very remote places or Nagorny Karabakh, you can go almost every where, you just need to be patient and have some time ahead; whatever, even waiting for some hours is not wasting time when you are in a foreign place, there is always something to look at, or some people who want to have a chat with you, or even you can take advantage of keeping your notes updated! I just was scared at the end of my trip here, in Sisian as the minibus, supposed to leave for Erevan (where I had my flight back to France next morning) at 10 a.m. did not show up, and I began to be scared at 3 p.m. as possibly there would not be a minibus that day. . . . . Finally it arrived, and left soon after for Erevan.
Minibuses are easy to get around, locals know very well the routes and are very helpful, you are never lost on the road in Armenia!
I just can recommend to travel by minibus (not bus, minibus!!), it is cheap, it is fun, you meet people, you discover local restaurants, it is a dive in an aspect of local life!
Picture 1: the sign says Sisian; easy, no? All minibuses have their final destination mentioned, and locals help you to find your minibus.
Picture 2: just in case you need something last minute, there are vendors at the bus station in Erevan.
Picture 3: to the contrary of some preconceived ideas, minibuses in Armenia are not on a hurry, and there are some stops along the way; here we stopped at a restaurant for one hour or so; refreshments, a short walk, and if some wanted there could even be a real meal, but no one dared as cooking takes some time. . . . .
Picture 4: bus station in Dilijan, waiting for the departure to Erevan.
Picture 5: a stop on a road in the Lesser Caucasus: some natural needs have to be fulfilled (emptied would be more appropriate in that case), and there is no problem to ask the driver to stop; everybody enjoys the stop!
On 10th January 2013, Armenia relaxed its entry requirements, meaning that all citizens of EU Countries (as well as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland) could enter the country for up to 180 days without a visa.
We took advantage of this new visa-free regime in February 2013, taking a day trip from the Georgian capital Tbilisi to the UNESCO-listed monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat and the historic church of Akhtala in northern Armenia.
We crossed the Georgia-Armenia border by car at the Sadakhlo (Georgia) – Bagratashen (Armenia) border crossing, about an hour's drive south of Tbilisi.
We asked our (Armenian) guide if she was aware of the new visa-free policy and she said: "officially no visa is required now, but we shall wait and see what happens at the border". In the event, the border crossing took a matter of minutes and we entered the country without having to purchase a visa.
Visa information is subject to change over time and anybody planning to visit Armenia in the future should check for up-to-date information.
The mashrutka from Yerevan to Stepanavan is leaving from the central bus station at 9.00 and 11.00 and 13.00 and 15.00. The trip takes 3 hours and costs 1500 DRAM. In summer this is a popular ride. Buy your ticket before in the bus station not in the mashrutka.
We took a mashrutka from Stepanavan to Tbilisi. They leave twice a day at 9.00 and 12.00 o'clock. It costs you 3.000 DRAM (6 euro). The trip takes 4 hours because the road is very bad. The minibus is leaving from the busstation near the statue and market. At the border nothing special happened. There were hardly any passengers and people at the border.
In summer there is a train going on daily basis from Batumi through Tbilisi to Yerevan. We paid 72 lari for a second class ticket from Batumi to Yerevan (=35 euro). It left at 15.25 and we arrived at 7.30 in Yerevan. It was easy to buy a visum at the border in the middle of the night. You get a formular to apply in the train from your hostess. You do not need a photo or letter of invitation or local currency although this is written on the paper. We could choose paying 20 lari or 10 dollar or 10 euro for a visa.
A visa is required if you are US citizen. You can get it via the internet before you arrive, but it will cost $60, or you can get one on arrival for $30. Both are valid for three weeks and can be extended for two additional weeks. If you overstay your visa by a few days, customs officials will overlook it, but for longer periods, will require you to get another visa. When you leave Zvartnots, expect to pay a $20 departure fee. There is a small exchange booth near the Austrian Airlines ticket counter - Just say "tax" to the employee there and hand him 10,000 drams or $20 and he will hand you a small slip of paper proving that you have paid this. Do this before checking in!
Warning: if arriving early in the morning, which you most likely will, try to arrange for somebody to pick you up as there will be no public transportation. There will be many taxi drivers who will try to solicit your business, but try to charge upwards of $50. Hold out for much less, as it should only cost you $5 to the city center, or 2500 drams.
I flew Armavia airlines from Yerevan to Kiev. I booked on-line and it was secured. The flight was about 2 hours and cost US$300 or more, depending when you book.
From Yerevan city center, the direct taxi fare should be 2,000AMD. But i did a very good deal by going to the Armenia genocide museum (Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex) first then airport for 2,500AMD. By visiting the genocide museum (Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex) alone for return trip from the city, it would cost 800AMDx2=1,600 AMD.
Taxis are a mixed blessing in Armenia.
AT THE AIRPORT
Odds are, if you jump into one at the airport, you'll start off cursing them. There are MANY con artists there, but they can only rip you off if you let them. Absolutely refuse to pay more than $10-15 for your ride to anywhere in Yerevan. Believe me, $15 is VERY generous, VERY, so try to stick to $10. When you get in, don't let them try to change the price - if they try, or act like it's some misunderstanding, demand either to be taken back, or call the police, do not ever give in, and feel free to involve complete strangers, they will help you (unless you're still at the airport and they may be in cahoots).
IN THE CITY
Taxis basically charge 100 drams (33 cents) per kilometer, but the minimum is usually 600 drams. Most rides in the center won't exceed 600 drams. Most taxis have a taxi meter now, including any that have a logo on the door. Make sure they reset and use it. If they don't have one, note what the kilometers are at the start of the ride. The drivers in Yerevan are usually fine with you handing them 600 drams (plus any tip which you are not obligated to give) and jumping out. If you have any trouble, again don't hesitate to involve strangers, threaten to (or actually) call the police. I've never heard of it getting to that point, but the police will not let them rob you blind.
ANYWHERE IN ARMENIA!! THIS IS THE SECRET
For those who want to go on day trips, consider a cab! You'd never think about it in NYC, but in Armenia, you're in a tiny country, and it only costs 33 cents a kilometer... it gives you a lot of flexibility and is often a great option in a country where public transport schedules may not be convenient or fast - and if you share a ride with a couple of friends, you're styling!
If you need the cab to wait for you, it's $5 an hour standard, and the meters ALREADY count that in the price, nothing extra.
Enjoy, there's lots of very nice cab drivers there believe it or not. Good luck finding them :-)
This newly rehabilitated teleferic robaway is climbing between the Alaverdi mine plants habitat area to the Alaverdi hills . Great view is awailable from the top station which can be seen a little from my Sanahin intro page.
to see most of Armenia and learn most about the culture of this interesting country I would suggest to make day or more day tours by one of the plenty tour agents. My experience with Hyur was absolut first class so I would absolut suggest to give it a try with Hyur tours
One of the best ways to see Armenia if you have some extra cash and have limited time is to use country tours. There are several based in Yerevan but I found that the best was Sati tours who do daily tours around Armenia and Karabagh. They offer free hotel pick up and they are very professional. I used them several times and their tour guides are fantastic.
Monday they go to Echmiadzin and Zvartnots and Dilijan and Haghartsin/Goshavank from 6500 AMD to 11 000. Tuesday they go to Vanadzor/Haghpat/Sanahin for 13 000 AMD (I highly recommend this one due to public transport is a hassle). Wednesday they go to Dilijan/Haghartsin/Goshavank for 11 000 AMD and Garni Temple and Geghhard Monastery for 6000 AMD. Thursday they go to Tsaghkadzor/Lake Sevan 9000 AMD and Karaback for a 3 day trip costing a pricy 90 000 AMD. Friday they go Echmiadzin/Sardarapat/Zvartnots for 8000 AMD while Khor Virap/Noravank costs 10 000 AMD. Saturday they go to Oshakan/Saghmosavank/Amberd for 8000 AMD and Lake Sevan/Noradous/Sevanavank for 9000 AMD. Sunday goes to Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery for 6000 AMD. Again I highly recommend them (I usually dont promote tour companies due to price and not a way to do independant travel) but I had fantastic experiences.
There is a marshrutka (minibus) at 9.20 from Ortachala in Tbilisi to Vanadzor. It leaves earlier if it gets full, which was the case when I travelled with it. To Ortachala you can take marshrutka 94 and 118 from Marjanishvili (from outside McDonald’s). I arrived at the station around 8.00, bought the ticket and had some tea and bread. At 8.45 the bus was full and left Tbilisi. We were going very slowly and after a while we stopped and the driver fixed the engine. Almost all the way the road was bad with lots of potholes. Before the border the road only became more narrow and it was slowly going up and up, and we did not meet any other vehicles for a long time. The border crossing was Mughanlo.
Getting the visa was easy. I filled in a form and paid 30 dollars, they put the data in the computer and stamped the visa. There was no comments about my Azeri visa.
In Stepanavan the marshrutka stopped outside an office for money exchange and I changed my last laris into drams.
The bus ride took between 5 - 6 hours and the price was 16 lari.
In Vanadzor the bus stopped at the bus station, next to the train station.
From Ortchala in Tbilisi there are also several buses a day leaving for Yerevan.
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