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Armenia Guide & Travel Advice

Getting there

There are no direct flights to Armenia from the UK so all journeys will require a stop en-route. Air France via Paris and Austrian Airlines connecting in Vienna are the best options.

Flying times

Flights with stops en-route take between 8 and 9 hours.

Time zone

Armenia is +4 hours ahead of GMT.

Visa requirements

British Citizens do not need a visa to visit Armenia and can stay for a maximum of 90 days. Please ensure that your passport is valid for a minimum of six months from the day you arrive in the country.

Do’s and don’ts

Men greet other men with a handshake but women greet each other with hugs and a kiss on the cheek, even on a first meeting.

Western style clothing is common but neither women nor men should wear shorts.

If you try to learn some basic Armenian words if will be greatly appreciated.

Money

The currency used in Armenia is the Armenian Dram (AMD) though you will often find prices for services or goods listed in US Dollars. Pound Sterling and US Dollars are easily exchanged in Yerevan but will be hard to convert outside of Yerevan. Credit cards are accepted throughout the country except in rural places and ATMs are common.

Tipping

Tipping is a fairly new concept in Armenia but is expected in restaurants with a tip of 10% to 20% the norm. Outside of Yerevan, tipping is rare. A guideline for tipping your drivers and guides will be advised prior to travel.

Food and drink

Armenian food is mostly based around meat with lamb and chicken popular, but there are also influences from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The Armenians still grow wild rice the way it was grown before man started to cultivate it over 15,000 years ago and this is regularly served as an accompaniment to meals. Typical dishes include sou-berag, a savoury cheese pastry, kalajosh, a braised lamb with a yogurt or butter sauce, keufta stuffed meatballs and lahvosh, a flat cracker bread.

Armenia is famous for its coffee and it is usually served in individual brass or copper pots. It is quite sweet and in the summer is sometimes served cold. The best known Armenian alcoholic drink is brandy and is one of the finest in the world. Beer and imported spirits are widely available and as Armenia produces its own grapes, wine is abundant – most are semi-sweet or sweet dessert wines.

Holidays, festivals and celebrations

Armenia has a rich culture and history and has many holidays and celebrations for special days. As Armenia is a Christian country many of the festivals coincide with Christian celebrations. Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 6th January and this is when Armenians celebrate the birth of Jesus and the Epiphany. Also in early January, New Year is celebrated for a whole week and New Year cookies are made and people feast together and exchange gifts. The 24th April is a time for all Armenians to remember the 1.5 million victims of the 1915 genocide. A procession is made to Tsitsernakaberd to pay respects to those who perished and on the 9th May Armenians remember and pay respects to their war dead with a march through Republic Square.

Shopping

Armenia is most famous for carpets which have been woven since pre-Christian times by Armenians to cover floors and walls as well as sofas, beds and tables. Carpet weaving has been a popular family tradition and profession for many Armenian women and often the carpets have symbols that reflect the religion and beliefs of ancestors woven into the pattern.

Other traditional souvenirs that you may wish to take home include anything made from obsidian, pomegranate ceramics, mother earth spice serving containers, apricot wood carvings, needlework and embroidery, a duduk which is a traditional flute or a khachkar – a free standing rectangular stone with elaborate carvings on the west facing side and a cross carved in the centre. There is also a flea market at Vernissage that is well worth visiting. It is a huge bazaar of intermingled handicrafts, carpets and memorabilia as well as clothing, jewellery, ceramics, games and wood crafted items.

Suggested reading

Aside from the main guidebooks which provide a good overview to the country, ‘Armenia: Masterpieces from an Enduring Culture’, by Theo Maarten Van Lint and Robin Meyer explains the history of the country and the Armenian people. Covering over 2500 years of history, this is an excellent book and looks at the cultural changes, works of art and ancient artefacts that make Armenia unique. ‘An Armenian Sketchbook’, by Vasilly Grossman is an account of a two month period which the author spent in Armenia, ‘They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide’, by Ronald Grigor Suny chronicles the Armenian Genocide and ‘Visions of Ararat: Writings on Armenia’ is a collection, brought together by Christopher J. Walker, of the best writings on Armenia including accounts written by travel writers, historians, soldiers, poets, painters and politicians. For a book on the history and traditions of Armenia ‘The Crossing Place’, by Philip Marsden is recommended.

Health

Your doctor is the best person to advise you on staying healthy whilst abroad but current recommended vaccinations are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Yellow Fever is compulsory, but only if you have visited an affected Yellow Fever area within 5 days prior to your arrival. In some instances anti-malarial tablets may also be needed. For current information on health advice you may wish to visit the Medical Advisory Services for Travellers Abroad (MASTA) Web Site on www.masta.org. The NHS ‘Fit for Travel’ website (www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk) is also a useful resource.

Travel advice

For current information on Armenia the best resource is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) which is a comprehensive resource and updated regularly. We would also recommend visiting the Safer Tourism Foundation website (https://safertourism.org.uk/) before you travel and will be happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Armenia Holiday Ideas

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