When you travel to Armenia you will discover a hidden treasure. The history, people, and way of life make Armenia stand out from anywhere else you've visited. It offers everything from a relaxed atmosphere to extreme adventure destinations. This helpful guide will better prepare you for your journey of discovery.
These are the 10 things you should know before traveling to Armenia:
You will learn about Armenia's rich tapestry of history in every village, town or city you visit. There are monasteries and temples everywhere in Armenia. When you step into one of these magnificently designed structures, you feel the past around you. Some of these historic structures are nearly two thousand years old, yet these are relatively recent. Armenian history goes back thousands of years before Christianity.
One easy way for you to learn about Armenian's history from past to present is to join a free walking tour of Yerevan. The tour usually takes about 2.5 hours. That's right it is free unless of course, you want to give a tip to the volunteer guides.
Another great way for you to learn heaps of history is to take tours.
Armenia prides itself on being the first state to accept Christianity. It is believed that the Armenian Church was founded by two of Jesus' apostles who preached Christianity between 40–60AD. This is why they call their branch of religion the Armenian Apostolic Church. That's why you will see some of the oldest Christian churches in Armenia. Although 95% of the population are Christians, they warmly welcome people of other religions. They even have the world's largest Yazidi temple.
The official language of Armenia is Armenian. This language and alphabet are unique to Armenia. Don't worry about having to learn Armenian, many locals are bi- or tri-lingual. Russian is the most common second language, but English is the third and fastest growing foreign language in Armenia.
You might want to learn a few words that will bring smiles of appreciation to the people you meet:
Barev (Hello), Kh'ntrem (Please) or Sh'norhakal em (Thank you).
There are ten million Armenian's scattered around the world. Due to the Armenian genocide a century ago, only three million live in what's left of their country. The Armenian Diaspora mostly live in Russia, Europe, Iran, USA, Canada, and Georgia.
You will discover that the Armenian people are very friendly to visitors. They are a very generous people who extend a very warm welcome to their guests.
Armenians are very family oriented. They will often ask strangers about their family. In the public squares and parks, you will see children laughing and playing with their parents and grandparents.
In public, the younger people generally dress quite fashionably. The older generation dresses somewhat more formally: Men usually wear slacks, button up shirt and coat; Women usually wear a dress, blouse, and smart looking jacket.
Many men smoke, but very few women do, especially in public. Many buildings now ban smoking inside, but some restaurants still allow it.
You will find Armenian food to be similar to Mediterranean food, yet uniquely different. It is often less spicy, relying on fresh grown herbs, legumes, nuts and fruit for flavor.
Mulberry trees line many of the streets and boulevards. During late May and early June, you will be probably want to feast on the sweet, ripe berries.
The pomegranate is a very important symbol in Armenian mythology. Look for the image of the pomegranate in the carpets, artwork, cooking and stone carvings. If you are in Armenia during the early summer, you will find delicious fresh apricots. If you miss the apricot season, don't worry, the dried ones are also delicious. The apricot is their national fruit.
Armenia is mostly a mountainous landlocked country. Lake Sevan is a large freshwater lake to the east of Armenia. If you want beaches, this is the place to bask in the summer sun. The summers are dry and sunny, lasting from June to mid-September. It is quite common the have snowy winters, especially on the upper elevations.
You will discover that transport in Armenia is very cheap by most standards. In Yerevan, an inter-city marshrutka, minibus or bus should cost you 100 drams per trip (approx. 20 cents). They are very frequent. The single Metro line, which runs every 5 to 7 minutes, is also 100 drams per trip and travels in a north/south direction. You could always take a taxi, which costs about 100 drams/kilometer (generally a minimum charge of 400 to 600 drams).
If you plan to stay in Armenia for a while, try downloading the "gg Taxi" app onto your cell phone. Just go to your app and tap "request" and the taxi will find your GPS signal. Often, within minutes a taxi with a "gg" sticker on the rear window will arrive.
There is a railway, but it is often slower and has fewer destinations. But if you have the adventurous spirit, ride the rails. Then again, if you're in a hurry, check out the domestic flight schedules.
9. Money/Cell phone
The currency of Armenia is the dram. For one hundred US dollars, you will receive nearly 50,000 drams. You will definitely feel like a millionaire in Armenia! Your drams will go a long way, as the price for food and accommodation is inexpensive. Just look for an ATM machine outside banks or supermarkets. They accept major debit and credit cards--and, their exchange rates are usually good.
If you have a cell phone that is not locked, purchase a SIM card from Viva Cell. The basic plan will cost you only 2500 drams. This gives you one month of 2GB, ample minutes to chat, including 47 minutes to Russia, USA or Canada. Try to beat that price anywhere, and the plans get better for not much more money.
1-7 January, New Year/Christmas
28 January, Army Day
8 March, International Women Holiday
1 May, International Workers' Day
9 May, Victory and Peace Day
28 May, Republic Day
5 July, Constitution Day
21 September, Independence Day
Don't short yourself for time, there are so many wonderful things to see and do. Sh'norhakal em.
Published May 31, 2018
Article by George Casparian