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Transport

AIR Yerevan has two airports, at Zvartnots 10km west of the city and Erebuni (now used only by the military) closer to the centre on the south side. A new terminal has brought Zvartnots fully up to international standards with signage in English as well as Armenian.

The new departure hall has a well-stocked duty-free area where there are typical Armenian specialities such as crafts, dried-fruit sweetmeats, coffee and herbal teas as well as the usual alcohol (including brandy which is cheaper than in central Yerevan), perfume, clothes, luggage, etc. There is a small range of books mostly in Armenian. Several western European airlines fly to Yerevan. As airlines change schedules frequently,  it's better checking online at what options are available. Try skyscanner.net for the start.

The city centre can be reached by minibus 108, but this is of no use to passengers arriving on flights from western Europe since it does not operate at night. However, Yerevan's taxis are cheap and the journey takes about 15 minutes. In the arrivals hall, after passing through passport control there is a desk where you can arrange a taxi. Note that on leaving the airport the tag on your luggage will be checked against that on your ticket or boarding pass, so do not discard it.

TRAIN It is quite possible to arrive in Armenia by train. An overnight service operates from Tbilisi in Georgia on odd dates (though not on both the 31st and the 1st as these are consecutive dates) departing at 16.00 and arriving in Yerevan at 06.06 the next morning. The northbound service leaves Yerevan at 20.20 on even dates and arrives in Tbilisi at 08.15. En route the train calls at 12 intermediate stations, including Vanadzor and Gyumri, but mostly at inconvenient hours of the night. Trains have four classes: obshiy (open seating on wooden benches), platskart (reserved seats, possibly on wooden seats, more often on padded ones) and two types of compartments: coupe (compartments with sleeping berths for four), and CB (SV in English) or Luxe, a compartment for two. Toilets on the train are not noted for their cleanliness, and food is not available so bring some with you rather than rely entirely on your fellow passengers to share their usually ample provisions. The ride is highly scenic but the best bits are hidden in the dark except, to some extent, in midsummer. Tickets are bought at the stations and can be purchased up to about ten days in advance; seats can also be booked.

BUS It is easy to travel by bus from either Georgia or Iran. There are also services from Turkey which operate via Georgia, but note that it is currently not possible to travel from Russia to Armenia via Georgia, as was previously the case. It is now illegal under Russian law for foreigners to enter or leave Georgia via land borders with Russia. In theory a Georgian transit visa should not be required for holders of Armenian visas spending less than 72 hours in Georgia. Georgian visas can now be obtained at the border if necessary at all. Tickets should be bought in advance if at all possible. The baggage allowance on buses is 20kg with excess being charged per kilo. Most buses to destinations outside Armenia leave from Kilikia Central Bus Station (6 Isakov Av, just past the brandy factory on the road to Ejmiatsin; +374 10 565370).

THE SUBWAY - The Yerevan subway is a very simple system consisting of just one line and ten stops. Built by the Soviets, it is old but efficient, and largely government subsidized. One ride costs 100 drams. Plans to expand the system were mothballed during the economic crisis of the 1990s, and have not been seriously reconsidered since.

MARSHRUTKAS (Shared Cabs) - If you find that the subway doesn't have a stop near your intended destination, one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to get around the country, in or out of Yerevan, is by shared vans called marshrutkas. A ride in one of these costs around 250 dram, and can take you almost anywhere along set routes. They can be crowded at rush hour, and you may find yourself a little too close to your companions, but it's reliable transportation.

Usually seating six to ten people, marshrutkas pick up and drop off passengers at kaugars (bus stops), but outside the city center they will usually stop anywhere along their route if you signal that you want to get out.

The route numbers and landmarks or roads along the way are displayed in the windows (in Armenian). Watch for the route numbers, as these are really all you can see as they dash along the streets.

The marshrutka system follows a "hub and spoke" plan, with the larger towns providing local transportation to the surrounding villages, as well as to Yerevan. It is also possible to take one to Georgia or Karabagh.

TAXIS - Taxis are relatively inexpensive in the city. There are official taxi stops, including the large gathering of taxis at Sakharov Square, but you can flag one down in central Yerevan at almost any time of day. Most taxi drivers speak Russian in addition to Armenian, and a few speak English, although this is not common. Tipping the driver (10-15 percent) is appreciated. Be careful with taking unmarked taxis, as these tend not to have meters. If you want to take a taxi for a long trip, such as to Lake Sevan, or the Georgian border, it's wise to arrange it in advance.

RAIL - The railway system was recently taken over by a Russian company. Trains in Armenia have a reputation for being slow and not particularly comfortable or convenient. The Yerevan Central Train Station is located above the Sasuntsi Davit subway stop. From here, you can catch a train to Yumri, Lake Sevan, and Georgia. There are also marshrutkas available for trips to Georgia and the countryside.

CARS and BICYCLES - Armenia is such a small country that driving around should be quite simple. However, as most foreigners soon discover, there are some challenges, including finding your way around poorly marked streets.

If you choose to drive in Yerevan, you are braver than most foreign visitors. Those cars that speed up to pedestrians are equally cavalier with other drivers, and speed limits are often disregarded. The police do issue tickets, but of course they are not always around. Also, driving along the center of a road's white line demarcations is considered acceptable. In the countryside, potholes and errant animals abound. Nevertheless, if you still want to drive, there are many car rental companies in Yerevan. They will rent you a car and wish you lots of luck as you take off!

Given the traffic situation, bicycling is relatively rare in Yerevan. Although bicycles are sold in Yerevan, they are mostly for children to ride in parks. Adult cyclists tend to be an oddity, so city drivers are surprised to see them and often disregard the courtesies usual in other countries. Bicycling in the countryside is a safer prospect if you're ready to tackle the hills. Most countryside cyclists prefer to travel in groups.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS - Yerevan is making many improvements in increasing access for wheelchairs, and several buildings already have good facilities, though there remain many older buildings that have long staircases without ramps. Much of the advocacy for Armenia's disabled population comes from nonprofit groups which have exerted pressure on the government for mandating more widespread awareness. However, there are still places in the city where access can be a big challenge.

Taxi and minibus drivers will readily help those in wheelchairs, with little or no prompting, and ordinary citizens will also usually lend a hand. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it.

From Georgia direct buses leave Tbilisi at 08.00 and 10.00 daily, taking seven hours for the journey to Yerevan via Stepanavan and Ashtarak at a cost of about US$25. The return service also operates at 08.00 and 10.00 and takes seven hours. Minibuses also travel between Tbilisi and Yerevan, hourly 10.00-16.00, taking six hours for the journey. In both countries tickets are purchased at the bus stations (Ortachala bus station and at the main train station in Tbilisi; Kilikia Central bus station in Yerevan) and can be bought a few days in advance. There is a bus from Batumi on Georgia's Black Sea coast leaving at 07.00 on Mondays and Fridays and taking 12 hours for the journey via Gyumri at a cost of US$18. The return service leaves Yerevan also on Mondays and Fridays at 07.00. (Note: times and days can change so check locally if intending to use these routes.)

From Iran the bus leaves from Tehran daily at 13.00 and is scheduled to arrive in Yerevan 26 hours later. The fare is US$25 (although note that some sources quote 34 hours and US$35). The southbound service leaves Yerevan at 10.00 daily.

From Turkey, a number of companies operate buses between Yerevan and Istanbul, all apparently leaving Istanbul on Thursdays between 09.00 and 10.00. From Yerevan buses depart on Saturdays at 10.00 or 11.00 or 'when it is full'. The journey is scheduled to take 41 hours and the fare is US$60. You may need to obtain a Georgian transit visa (available at the border) and travellers report being asked for an additional US$10 'entry fee at the Georgian border at Batumi. The advice is to check details before travelling and to book ticket three to seven days in advance either personally at the bus station or via Emniyet Kesebirler Turizm (Hotel Erebuni, 3rdfloor, room 21A; +374 10 540756, 560638, 564993; eminet@netsys.am) in Yerevan or the same firm in Istanbul (Kucuk Langa Cad. Emniyet, Oto Gari No. 5/A Aksaray-IST; +212 632 78 74).


You can find all usefull information about Armenia travel here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time and we will gladly answer your questions.


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