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Armenia - Travel and visas
Citizens of all EU member states and Schengen Area member states are entitled to enter Armenia for up to 180 days per year without a visa, as are passport holders of various other countries including Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and the US. See the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the most up-to-date information.
Holders of passports from all other countries require a visa. The easiest way for visitors from eligible countries to obtain one is on arrival; again, consult the website above for the most up-to-date list. At Zvartnots International Airport, where most visitors arrive, it is straightforward and quick. Single-entry tourist visas are available for 21 or 120 days. The fee must be paid in Armenian drams (AMD3,000 for a 21-day visa, AMD15,000 for a 120-day visa).
The second method, which is compulsory for certain nationalities, is to apply for a conventional visa through an Armenian embassy abroad. The application form for a conventional visa can be downloaded from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and applications should be made to the appropriate embassy. The fees for a conventional visa are the same as for those obtained on arrival. Visas for children under 18 are issued free of charge. Multipleentry visas are only available through an embassy.
Yerevan has two airports, at Zvartnots International 10km west of the city and Erebuni (now used only by the military) closer to the centre on the south side. Direct air routes to and from Yerevan tend to reflect the locations of major Armenian diaspora communities within flying distance, particularly in Russia, Europe and the Middle East, though other routes have begun to spring up as tourist numbers increase.
Armenia Aircompany is now the only Armenian airline operating international commercial passenger flights, serving destinations in Russia, the Middle East and Europe. Many foreign airlines operate routes to Yerevan. However, there are currently no direct flights from London, nor indeed from most western European capitals besides those with significant Armenian communities (such as Paris and Vienna). Air travel from Europe to Armenia therefore tends to involve at least one change of plane and relatively high fares for the distance involved, due in part to the high landing fees.
Overnight trains between Tbilisi and Yerevan run year-round and are operated by South Caucasus Railways. In the summer holiday season (15 Jun–1 Oct) the service is extended to the Georgian seaside town of Batumi and runs every day, taking at least 16 hours, though the travel time tends to decrease year on year as the service is upgraded.
It is easy to travel by bus from either Georgia or Iran, and there are also services from Turkey that operate via Georgia. Citizens of most Western countries, including most of those exempt from the Armenian visa requirement, should not need transit visas for Georgia. Nor, in theory, should a Georgian transit visa be required for holders of Armenian visas spending less than 72 hours in Georgia. If you do need a Georgian transit visa they can now be obtained at the border. Tickets should be bought in advance if at all possible.
All towns and cities are linked by minibus (marshrutka or mashrutni) services, and a few larger buses ply some of the same routes, costing a little less and taking a little longer. They are cheap: the maximum minibus fare to Stepanakert or Meghri, both of which are several hundred kilometres away, is just AMD5,000. Minibuses are driven more recklessly than buses and are consequently considerably quicker, if somewhat more challenging to the sensitive passenger! Yerevan is the central hub for almost all routes: when travelling between the north and south of the country by bus, it is invariably necessary to travel via the capital.
Taxis in Armenia are so plentiful and cheap that they are often treated as if they were another form of public transport, even for intercity and international journeys: taking a taxi from Yerevan to Tbilisi can prove surprisingly cost-effective if shared with other passengers. Bus stations and other transport hubs always have plenty of waiting taxis but be wary of being ripped off; they can also be flagged down in the street (look for a green light in the windscreen), and if you see a taxi stationary at the side of the road then it is probably available. You are also well advised to avoid taxis without meters wherever possible and to insist that a meter be switched on if the driver does not immediately do so. On the whole, taxi firms and drivers do not speak English, so if phoning for a taxi it is best to ask your hotel or host to do it for you.
A more convenient arrangement for non-Armenian speaking visitors – at least in and around Yerevan – is to download and use a regional smartphone taxi app, such as ggTaxi, UTaxi or Yandex, which will summon a driver to your precise location and comes with the added bonus of displaying the price of the journey on screen.
The road network in Armenia is based on infrastructure developed under Soviet rule, and as such the driving rules and road layouts will be familiar to those who have driven in other former Soviet and Eastern bloc countries. As a rule of thumb, routes between towns and cities tend to be paved to varying levels of quality, whereas local access roads to and between villages set off from these routes tend to be of dirt. Much improvement in the state of the roads has taken place since the struggles of the 1990s, but many roads remain poorly maintained and pot-holes continue to be a problem. Drivers will also encounter assorted livestock, either going out to pasture in the morning, returning in the evening or simply grazing on the roadside. The latter are not usually much of a problem being either tethered or looked after by a nearby herder.
Speed limits are 60km/h within settlements (as demarcated by the name signs), 90km/h on rural roads (except parts of the new North–South Road where it is 100km/h) and 40km/h in tunnels (for which headlights are compulsory).