It was a Friday morning when we left the warm Dubai weather to hop on our flight to the capital city of Armenia, Yerevan. We had such high expectations as to how Armenia looks like especially the weather! (For anyone who is residing in Dubai, it thrills us whenever we go to a place that is colder than 20’C! that’s a fact!) So we went to the airport 2 hours before the scheduled departure and waited eagerly for our boarding time.
However, just when we thought everything was going well, we suddenly realized the dilemma that is waiting for us at the Airport in Yerevan— we had checked in our wallet with our cards and our cash! We are aware that before you could pass through the immigration gates, if you are entitled to visa-on-arrival, you are required to purchase the visa just before heading to the immigration booth. So the problem we had was how to purchase the visa if our wallet and cards are already checked in and can only be retrieved after the immigration. Adrian, on full panic mode is already starting to loose his temper because of the situation and as for me, I was still trying to compose myself amidst the problem. We started to contact friends to inquire about the visa fees and to re-confirm about the procedures once we arrived there.
While wandering aimlessly at the airport looking very lost thinking of Plan A, B,C and D. Yes, we’ve all been there.
After few minutes of roaming around the airport suddenly it popped out in my mind that I was keeping another wallet inside my bag that surely has some UAE dirhams on it. It turns out that I have kept another wallet with cash that we used to pay the taxi going to the airport! What a relief! So I checked my wallet and counted the money we can use and we still have 170 dirhams to spend! That’s more than enough for what we need in the airport in Armenia! We immediately headed to the Money exchange station to change our 100 dirhams to USD (It is advised to change your currency to US Dollars before going to Armenia to avoid unnecessary hassle) and went straight to the food court and have our breakfast to re-assure ourselves how lucky we are that day.
Adrian: Okay take a picture of me going inside the airplane. Me: *Done*
Inside Flydubai aircraft with the aisle lights matching the blue shade of the airline.
The travel time from Dubai to Armenia took approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes flying over the Iranian airspace. We left Dubai at exactly 12:15 pm. And since we woke up early that day, we dozed off right at the moment the plane took off and woke up just in time for landing at Zvarnots International Airport in Yerevan at around 02:30 pm same time zone with Dubai.
Coming out from the plane, there are government officials welcoming some diplomats on the same flight as ours. Welcome to the land of Pomegranate!
(Pomegranate has been a symbol of Armenia that signifies happiness and prosperity)
Walking past the arrival area of Zvarnots Airport
From the arrival gates, you can easily find the way going to the visa registration centre. By the way for some countries if you need a visa going to Armenia, you can readily apply for an online visa that would set you back at 6 USD for a 21 days visa. ( for more details kindly check it out here.) For us, since we have researched that you can actually apply for a visa-on-arrival once you are in Armenia, we opted for that option since we thought that it will be easier for us. We were wrong.
Leaving the visa registration section of the airport that is just few steps from the immigration booth. How we describe Armenian Visa registration queue: ANYTHING GOES.
Before going to the visa registration booth, we were asked to fill out the visitor arrival forms at a special kiosk near the centre. As for those with E-Visa forms, you can easily go straight to the immigration booths (Imagine the amount of time we could’ve saved if we opted for the E-Visa option). After that I went to the nearby Forex counter to change my US Dollars (27 USD) to Armenian Dram for payment (They only accept Armenian Drams at the counter). We then proceeded to the line heading to the Visa registration where we took ages before we reached the counter because of some Iranian visitors who actually arrived later than us who kept on cutting inside the queue. We tried to tell them off nicely about proper way of falling in line however, it is no avail. We waited for some airport staff to man the situation but no one came to atleast organise the people lining up. Everyone was getting inside the queue lines from various directions without minding other people who are already in line. For a foreigner and first timer in Armenia, we find it quite difficult to bear with how the registration process goes. We are not saying that it is bad experience for us, and we understand that it is not entirely the airport management’s fault, rather, we are acknowledging that there are areas of the airport that needs to be improved especially for visa processing.
Making my way to the Passport control section of the Airport after waiting for the visa. Someone was quick at snapping forbidden shots. I do not encourage anyone to do this.
After an hour and a half of queuing, we finally have our 21 day Armenian visa! (cost: 3000 Armenian Dram/ 6 USD) we headed to the immigration control booth and informed the officer after observing that they do allow 2 people (if you are traveling together) at the same time to be at the immigration counters. You just have to inform the officer nicely of course, that you are together and he/she would happily assist you to be on the counter at the same time! we saved atleast 10 minutes because of that! Not bad at all!
After ages of waiting, finally, an Armenian Visa!
The immigration process was pretty straight forward. After the visa registration, you will just proceed straight to the immigration booth which is situated next to the visa registration centres and voila! from the immigration booth just walk straight past the officer and after about 10 steps you would need to turn left to pass through the duty free for the exit. You won’t get lost here because the area isn’t that big. Also there are friendly airport officials that are willing to assist you. (And they speak good english!)
Coming from the immigration booths there is no other way but to pass through this Duty Free store on your way out.
After passing by the immigration and collecting our bags, we then proceeded to the arrival area of the airport where we met our taxi driver for our whole trip, Cmoh. He was the one arranged by the hotel to pick us up from the airport and eventually the one whom we preferred to be our driver for the rest of the journey. Cmoh waited for over an hour and a half outside as we have informed the hotel staff that we will be arriving by 3 pm however the delay at the visa registration came up and we have have been late for our informed expected arrival. But even after waiting that long, Cmoh, unwaveringly kept his smile and welcoming presence all the way through.
Withdrawing Armenian Drams at the airport because the initial plan of withdrawing money before arriving in Armenia had some twists and turns. As we have noticed, the charge for international banking in Armenia is on par with other European destinations.
exiting from the airport vicinity.
We finally made our way going to the hotel which is roughly a 20 minute drive from the airport. We have chosen a location a bit far from the centre so we could be as relax as possible for the first few days.
Cmoh, our ever friendly driver. He doesn’t speak english but we are able to understand each other during the time we are together. Looking back, we are still amused as to how we are able to do that within our trip without having any word of English and only with only bits of miming and sign language!
First glance of Yerevan. Road going to the city centre.
Time Travel: We instantly felt like we were warping into some age before technology was a hit. It is of course remembered in a very good way.
Laid back vibes. We were oogling at the vintage cars we see as well as the luxury cars we are coming across while driving.
Armenian Architecture evident on many churches across the country marked by domes, stone vaulted ceilings, mostly made with Tufa stones.
Post soviet influence: Yerevan Trolley Buses (These buses are powered through cable wires attached to them)
We arrived at around 7 in the evening at our hotel however the sun is still shining brightly outside so we adjusted a bit with the day light transition. Our hotel has the view of Mt. Ararat on clear day however, that whole time we were there it was very cloudy that we didn’t see the glimpse of the infamous mountain. We booked our hotel (Hotel Caucasus) via booking.com one of our well trusted accommodation websites from the past.
Cozy lights, royal interior designs (reminds us of our love for Game of Thrones)
We had such a nice time when we were staying at our hotel and we will be having a separate review for that soon. That night, since it’s a bit late for us to go outside and explore (plus the fact that we were too tired traveling), we decided to just relax and have a good night at the hotel. So we have resorted to ordering our super late brunch/Dinner once we had our stuff secured at our room.
Sampling home made Armenian wine
Armenian gastronomic indulgence for two. (Trout Fillet with mushrooms and cheese, Egg and tomato with spinach, BBQ pork ribs, Ker ou sous and lavash)
You can literally choose to dine anywhere inside and outside the hotel.
The view outside our room. You can see the city from a different perspective.
We then spent the whole night updating our itineraries for the next few days. Armenia is so perfect for breaking free from the hustle and bustle of the city life and a perfect escape for everyone who wants to just chill and let time go by.
Zvartnots International Airport (IATA: EVN) is the main gate to Armenia. In 2006, a new terminal was opened, where most arrivals and departures are now based. It remains a smaller airport however, so navigating your way around is easy and fast. Free Wi-Fi access is available in the departure terminal.
Numerous carriers fly to Yerevan aside from Armavia: AirFrance, Lufthansa, Iran Air, Czech Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot and the like. Yerevan is connected to all major European and Middle Eastern cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Athens, Moscow, Vienna, Berlin, Prague, St Petersburg, Zurich, Minsk, Riga, Kiev, Istanbul, Dubai, Aleppo, Tehran, Beirut and so on. Air Arabia connects Yerevan to the Gulf states, Egypt and India via Sharjah. Armavia reopened the Route Yerevan – Tbilisi – Yerevan again, with two daily flights.
From the Airport to the City:
Zvartnots is only 14km from Yerevan city centre by road.
- A public bus N107 is available during the day-time for about USD0.70, which will take you to the Opera House in central Yerevan.
- A taxi ride from the airport to the city will cost from AMD4,200 (USD10) to the centre, and up to AMD6,700 (USD16) for the most distant parts of the city. Some drivers may try to convince you to pay more, but don’t ever believe them, and telling them you will call the police (who will help you) should straighten out any opportunists. Almost 100% of taxis are using a taxi meter (sheochik), so, the best if you have local currency with you to pay for the trip.
You may want to use taxis that are the official transport of Zvartnots Airport – AeroTaxi so that in case of losing your baggage, you always know where to find it. Do not agree on a flat fee, but insist on the meter being used (and switched on), even with AeroTaxi.In these cars you’ll also find free Wi-Fi internet, and payment can be also done by POS terminals. You can book a taxi on-line and be sure that your driver is waiting for you. You can also book your taxi far in advance or just appear to AeroTaxi’s desk inside the airport; the taxis are just outside the door.
An overnight (sleeper)train runs every second day from Tbilisi in Georgia. After departing at 22:15 the journey takes nine hours with a scheduled arrival time in Yerevan of 07:18. Border formalities will be at 23:00, expect it to take some time. The wagons are the standard Soviet era hold-overs but they are fairly comfortable. Bring your own food and water as there is no restaurant car onboard. Fares start at 31 laris per bed (includes sheets, pillow and towel). Make sure you get a ticket early on the day you travel as the lower bunks sell out fast.
Overnight trains in the winter depart at 20:20 or 22:00, you should check at the station which time is valid for any day. The journey takes approximately 11 hours. The cheapest seating place in “obschij vagon” is 22 lari, but you may find yourself being seated among hundreds of boxes of mandarins and other fruits, since this is one of the ways of moving goods to Armenia. Perhaps this information is outdated. Check at the railway station.
Notice that during the summer months this train runs from Batumi instead, arriving at 21:40 in Tbilisi. It takes around 10 hours from there, border formalities are uncomfortably around 02:00. Snacks/water “gifts” will be provided on the train. Perhaps this information is outdated. Check at the railway station.
UPD. November 2015, Train departs at 20:20, arrives at 6:55, bed costs 50 Georgian Lari (22 USD)
There is metro station right at the train station. Easy to reach city center. Money exchange open after 9 or 10 am. But you can use ATM inside railway station building.
Options include arriving into Armenia via Georgia or Iran. A drive to Yerevan from Armenia-Iran border will take approximately 6 hours, and is a great way to explore Southern Armenia, cities like Meghri, Kapan, Goris, Sisian, etc.
Arriving from Georgia will allow you to drive trough Northern Armenia and driving to Yerevan will take 4-5 hours.
Highways are high standard, although sometimes can be narrow (1 line to each direction) due to mountainous terrain.
You can reach Yerevan by bus from Tbilisi, fare costs 15 lari ($10US) and takes about 12 hours. More expensive is to take a 30 lari ($20 US) marshutka/minibus but it’s much faster at about 5 hours. Sometimes you can take a shared car from Tbilisi as well. Again, a bit more expensive than minibus, but faster and more comfortable.
Bus service to Yerevan also is available in Istanbul, or many of the cities on the Black Sea coast of Turkey en route to Yerevan, with a detour through Georgia.
There is also a daily service to/from Tehran and Tabriz. Buy ticket at Kilikia bus station, 25000 dram (55USD) the same for Tabriz and Tehran. Ticket office with old lady (probably speaks no English) works till 17:00. Bring passport with you. Departure around 12:00. The bus is extremely comfortable, a small bag of snacks and water is provided, it stops at least once each side of the border and the scenery is incredible, however it does take about 22 hours. The border crossing is, of course, an absolute nightmare beyond imagination. (November 2015 was very easy, but took 2.5 hours in total)
After you clear Iranian border you can change money. Rate is good (34900 IRR/USD, November 2015). Almost the same as in Tehran.
In Yerevan some of the bus lines from Turkey are: Karbut Tour: +374-10-54-26-97 and Oz Aybaki +374-10-56-50-03. Yerevan Central Bus Station: Armenia, Yerevan, Tsovakal Isakovi Ave., 6 Building, Tel: +374-10-565370 Bus to Istanbul is around 60 USD
There many buses to Russia as well. As far as Moscow.
Marshrutka to Karabakh (Stepanakert) costs 5000 dram, departs every hour from 7.00 to 10.00, takes 5 hours.