Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. In fact, it is older than Rome itself. Throughout its history, Yerevan has been subjected to several invasions, diverse kingdoms, rebellions, and communism. A couple of years back, the Velvet Revolution in the country ushered in a new wave of reforms, which gave the citizens a glimmer of hope for the future.
Currently, Yerevan houses at least a million people and construes of an ambiance which is strictly European- sidewalk cafes, and boulevard. Also, Yerevan is a place of pilgrimage for the Armenian diaspora, which constitute about 7-10 million throughout the world. The capital city is safe, comfortable, and exceedingly affordable- with a plethora of hotels, museums, and dining options available to tourists.
But, if you are planning on giving this city a visit, here are a few things that you absolutely need to know about Yerevan.
1. Visiting Yerevan
Armenia has had a history of granting visa-free entry to citizens from a huge list of countries to tour around. If you are from the United States, you wouldn’t have to indulge in paperwork or fees as visitors- as long as you have on your person a valid passport. Also, the law states that you can stay in Armenia for up to six months- which is when you would need to apply for a visa. There are flights that go from Moscow, Paris, and Dubai, which cost $200 per round-trip.
2. Hospitality in Yerevan
The people of Yerevan believe in hospitality, and most of the citizens would cater to you as if you were the second coming of God. The hospitality is such that the Armenian people would still feed their guests even if it meant getting starved in the brief period in 1990 when famines were rife.
Even when the country was just out of Soviet Rule and had people struggling to make ends meet, you would still come across people who would gladly take you home on your trip and treat you like royalty. How many countries can say the same?
3. Clear Potable Water
Yerevan has forever boasted of clean, and fresh water. Although the water system in the country was pretty bad in the wake of the Soviet regime, the government did manage to turn it around. With the help of the private sector, the country managed to set up a clean drinking water system. The water in this country has been thought to be the purest of all. In 1968 the country celebrated its 2,750th anniversary when they built 2,750 fountains from which one can drink.
4. Food is Aplenty
The people of Armenia care a lot about their food, for the meals are delicious, hearty, and affordable. Most of the traditional meals include a trip of the ‘mante’, the ‘dolma’, the ‘lahmajun’, and the ‘lavas’. A proper meal would be initiated at the restaurant ‘Mer Taghe’, where you can relish on their lahmajun, and then move into Anteb- a Syrian- Armenian restaurant for their ‘mante’. After that, you could move into Dolmama for their signature dish- dolma.
If you want to get a look at Mount Ararat, the best way would be to have your lunch atop the Cascade Royal. The menu at this place is a combination of both Italian and Armenian- so you might get both Lake Sevan whitefish, and Penne Arabbiatta. Breakfast in Yerevan is usually a grand affair, especially when you bring into account the mastodon cup and the vegetable omelet.
You absolutely need to leave a tip of around 500 drams after you have paid your bill at either a restaurant or cafe. Although it is true that the price does include both tip and tax, you still need to give out a little more.
6. Digital Networking
Yerevan is quite an advanced country so you will find Free wi-fi throughout the country, along with public hotspots strewn across. But if you do want uninterrupted service, you could always apply for a SIM card from VivaCell at the airport- or even one of the many locations across the country. The prices can be anywhere from US$5 to US$15.
7. Change Money By Shopping
Since it is not at all feasible to change Armenian drams outside Armenia, all you need to do is get your own cash and exchange it at the airport. Once you are in Yerevan, you will find better rates for the cash. Money can also be exchanged in the banks, and in certain supermarkets.
8. Carry Money with You
Always carry cash with you when you are traveling around Yerevan. Although there are a few restaurants, cafes, and stores that accept credit cards, cash has always been the preferred option. Also, if you do intend to use a credit card, go for Mastercard or Visa.
9. Also Carry Small Bills for Taxi Fares
The taxi fare is pretty cheap throughout Yerevan, which is why you need to carry small change with you. More often than not, the taxi driver would be unable to pay you back in large bills. You could also opt for cash-free options if you don’t have cash in hand.
10. A Homely Feel
Visiting Armenia and especially Yerevan can be considerably cheap since there are a few AirBnbs around, as well as single-room apartments. This will help you enjoy your visit as well as not expunge your pockets. You could also go for internationally acclaimed hotel chains if you so prefer- for there are hotels like Radisson, Marriott, and Hilton.
11. Check Out Mount Ararat
There are a few things that have been left unchanged by Armenia– one of them being the picturesque setting of the mountain. You will be missing out on a lot if you didn’t get the chance to gaze on the beauty of Mount Ararat, something you need to make a trip for. The sentiment behind Mount Ararat makes it even more special. For, it symbolizes something that can be seen, but not touched. And precisely so, because it remains on the Turkish border.
If you are craving a view of the mountains, all you need to do is go up the Cascade, and you will have an uninterrupted view. Or, you could go to Khor Virap, a sacred monastery which offers a good view of the monastery- and is just 40 minutes away.
12. Don’t Jaywalk
As it goes with any road in any country, traffic can be dangerous at times. Always look at both ends if you don’t want to end up in the hospital. Sure, the government has placed several cameras over the city center, but Yerevan can be a bad place for drivers, and pedestrians. So, look before you step out.
13. Operas Are Important
If you truly want to experience everything Armenia has to offer, you definitely should take opera into account. For a very cheap price of $5, you will be able to book Verdi’s La Traviata. If you are interested, you can get the tickets from the box office themselves. All you need to make sure of is that you don’t wear your typical sneakers and jeans.
14. You could Also Enjoy Buskers
If opera life isn’t for you, you could always enjoy buskers that play for fun in the streets. Simply go to any street corner, and you will come across the duduk or the accordion. Sometimes, you need to just go over to Republic Square or Northern Avenue and find yourself surrounded by dancers.
15. Music is in the Blood of Yerevan
Armenia is always playing host to several international as well as local bands who play at the Calumet Ethnic Lounge Bar. This is where you would be able to just lie down on floor pillows, and drink beer. The Lounge Bar is a good place, with a pretty open atmosphere- one that welcomes art exhibitions. Also, you could pay Malkhas Jazz Club a visit, and write something on the walls.
Yerevan is a historically significant city, precisely why it has over 50 museums. The main highlight would be the Matenadaran- where visitors will be able to view illuminated manuscripts that have been hand-drawn, along with the Sergei Parajanov Museum- which has been dedicated to this filmmaker. You can also go over to Republic Square to visit the National Gallery of Armenia, but they have an admission fee of $3.
Yerevan also has a relatively new museum called the Cafesjian Center for the Arts- one that focuses on contemporary art. The admission for this is $2. Most of the museums are closed on Monday, so you may need to check out when the timings are.
17. Metro Rides Are Pretty Cool, too
The metros are pretty ornate, as the platforms are decorated beautifully. The Metro was built during the Soviet rule and has a price of 100 drams per ride. This transport facility is also pretty relieving during the hot summer months. If you get down at the Sasuntsi Davit Metro stop, do look around for the animal motifs around.
18. Blend In
If you really want to experience Yerevan and Armenia, you need to travel around like a local. All you have to do for that is get into minibusses and let them transport you. Most of the route number will be present on the dashboard. The payment per ride costs around 100 drams, which you need to pay when you exit. Also, minibusses can get crowded, so you need to take care of your wallet and belongings.
19. Enjoy The Brandy
Armenia has had a thriving brandy industry since the 19th century- something that has been the stuff of folklore. If you are visiting Armenia, don’t miss out on the brand/spirit, which is made from spring water, and white grapes. The highlight of the event would be pairing chocolate with brandy- to give out an exotic taste. At the end of the day, the brandy is not just the national drink of Armenia- for it is used for medicinal purposes too.
20. Improve Your Chess Game
Armenia is one of those countries where the emphasis is placed on learning chess. Yerevan is filled with people continuously playing chess throughout the city- from older men starting games in the public to schools having compulsory classes. If you want to, you can always join in on the games that are being played around you every single day.
21. Try The Local Markets
If you want to carry back some souvenirs that you would love to keep on your mantelpiece, you might as well give the markets a try. You will be able to find duduks which are made from apricot wood. You could also go to the Yerevan Mall if you are looking for something international. You will also be allowed to sample the dried fruits, along with basturma, and large blocks of local cheese.
Yerevan is an amazing place with a lot of history and culture behind it. For tourists wanting to see something different from the usual tourism centers, Armenia can be a good option- one that wouldn’t weigh much on your pockets too.