Practical Information in Armenia

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Getting around by day tour

One of the best options for getting to the major tourist sites - some of which have infrequent public transport - are the many day tours advertised throughout Yerevan. Starting at $6, you can choose from a variety of half to full day trips which include a good number of the country’s major attractions. Some of the more remote and exotic destinations, such as the Petroglyphs of Ughtasar and many of the caves for example require special planning.

Getting around by mini-bus or bus

Public transportation is very good and inexpensive in Armenia, but it is not necessarily clean, comfortable, fast or easy to navigate. It can also be tough to get to more remote sites outside of populated areas. The system could be described as a hub and spoke system, with each city offering local transportation to its surrounding villages and each city offering connections to Yerevan. Most inter-city travel is by minibuses or buses. Yerevan has a few bus stations that serve the whole country so depending on where you want to go you must find out what bus station services the area you wish to go to.

Getting around by taxi or car

For the average western tourist, you can hire a taxi to go most any where in the country on very short notice. If you have decided to travel heavy by bringing big bags, then going by taxi will be the best option. Prices are about 100 drams (33 cents) a kilometer. Most taxis have meters, and for day trips might negotiate a slightly lower rate.

You can rent cars, but if you are used to driving in the west and have not driven outside of America, Western or Central Europe, you should hire a driver when you rent your car. Driving in Armenia for the average tourist can be a hazardous undertaking. Drivers often ignore the lines on the road, or even stop lights and in rural areas livestock and large potholes are serious hazards. If you are undeterred, there are a growing number of car rental companies, including Europacar (office at Hotel Yerevan), Lemon Rent-a-car, Hertz, and others throughout the central Yerevan.

Getting around by thumb

Not as common as in the days of the post-Soviet collapse, hitching is still perfectly safe and acceptable. Drivers often don't expect anything, but offer anyway, sometimes they'll take the marshutni fare. Flag cars down by holding your arm in front of you and patting the air. This is how taxis are flagged and buses and marshutnis as well.

Language

Armenian is the native language of nearly everyone in Armenia, which is one of the most monoethnic states in the world. However, Russian is almost universally spoken as well, and English is becoming common throughout Yerevan, and to some extent in the outlying regions as well.

What to buy

Armenian carpets, cognac, handicrafts, and Soviet memorabilia are some of the most popular things people take home from Armenia. Most of these are plentiful at Vernissage, a seemingly never-ending weekend flea market next to Republic Square with the more touristy stuff in the back half, further from Republic Square.

Currency

The Armenian currency is known as the ‘’dram’’, and the currency is abbreviated as AMD (Armenian Dram). The dram is accepted everywhere, and often the dollar will be accepted for larger purchases - though the dram is the only legal currency for commerce. Dollars, Euros and Rubles can be exchanged almost anywhere in the country, with other major currencies also not hard to exchange. Exchange booths do not charge a commission and rates are almost always quite competitive.

ATMS (Bankomats) are widely available in larger towns, though outside of Yerevan you should have a major system such as Visa Electron on your card for it to work.

Credit cards are not widely accepted yet, though they will get you pretty far in Yerevan.

Purchasing customs

Bargaining is uncommon in Armenian stores, though when purchasing expensive items or bulk, they may be amenable to it. In markets however, bargaining is a must!

Tipping is increasingly common in Armenia, especially at cafes and restaurants. Many Armenians will simply round up their checks, or leave ten percent. Some café staff are only compensated in the tips they earn, though you cannot always tell by the service they provide. Many restaurants have begun to charge a ten percent “service fee” which they usually do not share with the waiters, and it is not clear what it is used for. This fee is often not clearly stated on the menu, so you should ask if you want to know. Tipping is usually not expected in taxis, but again, rounding up is not uncommon.

Food

Khorovats (BBQ) which can be pork, lamb, chicken or beef. Tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers are also part of the khorovats meal. Try Aveluk (greens either fried or as a soup), kamadz matsun (strained yogurt) and other dishes new to you. khash, tpov tolma (stuffed grape leaves; a variety with stuffed cabbage leaves, bell peppers and eggplants also exists), piti (stew), tnakan smetan, dzvacegh (omelette)...

Drinks

Alcoholic: Vodka, tutti oghi (mulberry vodka), honi oghi (cornelian cherry vodka), local beer (Kilikia, Kotayk, Erebuni), wine (can also be made of pomegranate), brandy.

Other: Tan (Buttermilk), Jermuk (carbonated water), masuri hyut (rose hip juice), chichkhani hyut (sea buckthorne juice), bali hyut (sour cherry juice), Armenian coffee, herbal teas.

Smoking

Technically illegal in many places, but almost universally ignored. Armenia has the highest rate of cigarette smoking in Europe.

Activities

* Hiking
* Rock Climbing
* Wind Surfing
* Sun Baking
* Camping
* Skiing
* Monastery hopping

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://wikitravel.org/en/Armenia

Contributors
October 30, 2008 change by raffikojian

Currency

The local currency is the Armenia Dram (AMD)

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stepanakert

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Zvarnots is the main hub for air traffic in and out of Armenia.  It is located in Yerevan.  Construction is occuring to improve this Soviet style relic.

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Central Bank of Armenia

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www.cba.am

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