Solo Armenian Travel Guide – Welcome You to a Small Country in the Caucasus Mountains
Armenia is a landlocked country in the Caucuses which is special for so many reasons. It is a staunchly Christian country which has its own Church. The country proudly reminds you it was the first country to officially adopt Christianity as its religion. Armenia is full of churches and millennium-old monasteries to prove this claim. Here is the account of my solo trip to Armenia.
It is also a former Soviet republic (apparently the most corrupt one) but this era shaped a lot of its current infrastructure, architecture and life as people know it especially in rural areas.
Fun Fact: In the Jerusalem old city, there is a separate quarter for Armenian Christians and its church. The rest of the sects from Christianity have to share the Christian Quarter. Armenians are Apostolic Christians and they have their own religious leaders or Catholicos.
Armenian diaspora around the world has also given it fame, there’s a sizable population in many countries including Lebanon, Israel and West.
Fun Fact: Kim Kardashian is perhaps the most famous name in pop culture when it comes to Armenians. She is a vocal supporter of the country. (Not sure her followers know where Armenia is though, only jk!)
Armenia Has Complicated Borders
During my solo trip, I found this region to be littered with small countries which are semi-independent. By this I mean they have declared independence but no one accepts it. Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) between Azerbaijan and Armenia is one example and South Ossetia and Abkhazia between Russia and Georgia are some more examples. This coupled with intense wars between neighbours makes the border crossings very complicated. For example, Azerbaijan and Armenia are arch-rivals and technically still at war and there is no way to cross borders between these two countries other than involving a third country like Georgia.
How To Visit Nagorno-Karabakh?
Nagorno-Karabakh or Republic of Artsakh is technically part of Azerbaijan but Azerbaijan hasn’t claimed sovereignty over this area for quite some time. The only way to visit this area is via Armenia but it is complicated. If Azerbaijan officials find out you have visited Nagorno-Karabakh you will be refused entry and deported.
There is almost no border for Nagorno-Karabakh but it is not easy to reach and despite Armenia being a small country, a day trip to this part is almost impossible. I was short on time so had to skip it coupled with the fact that my next stop was Azerbaijan which I didn’t want to jeopardise.
How To Plan Your Trip To Armenia?
I spent 6 days in Armenia, 2 days around Lake Sevan and Dilijan which is a hill station in the north. Dilijan is host to the Hagharstin Monastery complex and Lake Parz. I spent the other 4 days in Yerevan taking a day trip to Tatev via Khor Virap, Noravank Monastery and then to Tatev riding the longest cable car ride in the world.
Fun Fact: Lake Sevan is the biggest water source and covers 5% of the landmass of the entire Armenia.
Want to plan your perfect trip? Read this.
Is Armenia Expensive? Should You Carry Cash Or Cards In Armenia?
Armenia is generally quite a cheap destination and value for money is high especially for food and accommodation. Day to day items and tours are all at reasonable prices. It is best to buy tours outside Yerevan during your stay in the country instead of booking them in advance, it will be much cheaper.
Armenia uses Dram (AMD) as its currency. It is what I call ‘Kingly’ currency because you’re playing with thousands in a day. Cards are accepted in bigger cities mostly and you need cash generally. ATM’s are also available at main points, for rural areas you will need to grab cash. There’s also limited Contactless payments availability.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling.
What Is Public Transport Like In Armenia?
Public transport between cities is non-existent or bad. You need a car to go around especially if you want to go to places at your own pace and stop wherever you’d like. I hired a car when I arrived in Sevan and the guy took me around and dropped me back in Yerevan. My Airbnb host also helped me arrange a car for the day trip to Tatev which was also quite reasonable at around £100 for the full day.
Check out all the different modes of transportation you can use in a new city.
Is it safe to travel to Armenia alone?
Armenia is a very safe place generally, people are friendly and throughout my visit, I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point including the time I spent in and around Sevan. As a solo traveller, it is quite important o feel safe and Armenia made me feel at home throughout.
Read more about staying safe during solo travelling.
What Is Food Like In Armenia?
Food in Armenia is generally very good with plenty of local dishes that come with fresh grilled vegetables and warm bread. There are plenty of options at most places. I don’t think it is a breakfast country but the rest was amazing. Even in far off places, the quality of food was great. I still love Jingyal bread which is two thin layers of bread with mountains herbs as filling. There’s plenty here for meat eaters, fish lovers and vegetarians.
In Yerevan, there are a lot of international restaurants especially Georgian restaurants. Armenian food is quite similar to Turkish food but don’t say it or you won’t get a happy reaction and you don’t want to piss off people who handle your food.
Another amazing thing was the plenty of fresh fruits especially melons and watermelons. It is also vital you try some apricots here.
Fun Fact: The orange colour in the flag of Armenia comes from the colour of Apricots which is the national fruit.
Armenia might not get as much limelight as its neighbour Georgia but they do have some good quality wines and you can visit wineries to taste the local production. I have been told it is quite good. I am not a wine person myself so can’t vouch for the quality but why not give it a try?
Can I Drink Tap Water In Armenia?
Tap water is not drinkable and you should grab your bottle to refill it. A lot of cafes and restaurants will provide filtered water. In the mountains, water is especially delicious.
Read more about eco-friendly travelling.
How To Get Past ID Checks In Armenia?
There are no checks generally and on my solo trip to Armenia, I only kept my passport in the accommodation.
Which Sim Card To Buy in Armenia? Is Internet Good In Armenia?
I got a local sim card for my solo trip to Armenia. Internet and phone connection is generally good and WIFI is also easily accessible. In the mountains connection was sometimes patchy but nothing too serious for too long. I used Vivacell MTS during my fairly convenient stay. You can find more information about different providers here.
Are Armenian People Friendly?
People are nice, sweet and friendly. There is a small sense of old Soviet straight-face but nothing serious. Armenians are generally very lively and will engage with you at a decent level. There is no pushy attitude when it comes to selling things neither is any threatening or racist stuff that I heard during my solo trip to Armenia.
Which Languages Are Common in Armenia?
The official language is Armenian with Russian widely spoken and understood. The proportion of the local population which speaks English is very limited and mostly within the capital, Yerevan. This coupled with an Armenia alphabet system which is unique; it is hard to communicate if you’re on your own. I highly recommend downloading Armenian google translate pack, it is absolutely essential.
Learn more about all the ways you can use to explore a new city.
Is Armenia Racist?
The short answer is No. Armenians are not racist although they are intrigued by foreigners since the country hasn’t seen a huge influx of tourists before. Curious yes, racist no!
Is Armenia Safe For LGBT Travellers?
Armenia is a fairly conservative country; I mean they have their own sect of Christianity and being the first Christian country clashes quite severely with the LGBT rights issues. On my solo trip to Armenia, I sensed that locals aren’t very vocal about their sexuality and there are hardly any venues that are LGBT specific. Homosexuality has been decriminalised here since 2003 but there are no specific protections for LGBT people. I had heard about a bar that does undercover gay night once a week but I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit it due to safety concerns and my laziness towards bar culture. That being said, I didn’t feel any discrimination or threatening behaviour during my stay.
Grindr and other gay dating apps work normally here and while most of the local population doesn’t display their faces, there are some decent people. I met 3 guys during my stay who were absolutely lovely and I’m still in touch with after they showed me around and suggested things to make my stay memorable.
Read more tips and tools you can use during travelling.