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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Savvy Tips on How to Travel or Spend Your Holidays in Armenia

Mt. Ararat - Noah's Ark Landed
Do you know where Noah’s ark landed? It is in Armenia.

What country is the first to adopt the Christian faith? Armenia.

Armenia is a small country with rich history. It may not be on top of your list of the best places to travel because of the difficulty in getting there.

But ask some people who have been there and they will tell you how great their experience was while having their holidays in Armenia.

The country itself is absorbing. But its history is even more fascinating.

I have never been there but some of my colleagues had the rare chance of visiting Armenia and they were absolutely astonished.

It is not a country you must not overlook.

When is the best time to visit the country?

The best times to visit Armenia will be May and June and/or September and October.

This country has high-altitude climate. It is hotter than the Philippines.

During those times, the weather is warm but it is not as warm as the other months of the year.

Do I need a visa?

If you are from Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the US, then you will need to secure a visa to enter Armenia. You can stay here up to 120 days.

You may apply for an e-visa. It is an online process in which the visa will be emailed to you through its PDF format. You will have to print it out and present it when you arrive.

It may take up to 21 days to process your visa and it may cost you around $10 in US dollars.

It is best to apply for Armenian visa at least two months before you arrive in this country.

Can I use my credit card in Armenia?

Yes, you can. But, just like in the Philippines, it is best no to rely on them all the time.

Credit cards are only accepted in major cities. And if you do want to use it, make sure that it is Visa as it is the most commonly accepted brand in the country.

What is the currency of Armenia?

The national currency is Armenian Dram (AMD). You may exchange your US dollars into AMD through banks, post offices, in hotels (where you will stay) and exchange agencies.

To make it easier for you to exchange your money, you should consider getting a tour package to Armenia. Your tour operator would be there for you in case you need assistance traveling in this country.

Is there an Internet access in the country?

There is an Internet coverage throughout Armenia. The good thing is that it is reliable and extensive. It is also cheap and convenient.

You may still use your mobile/cell phone but the rates can get expensive. Thus, it is ideal to simply obtain prepaid SIM cards, which you can avail through booths at the airport.

What is the public transportation of Armenia?

You can choose to ride on buses, microbuses, trolleybuses and the subway.

Minibuses and buses are the most popular transportation in the country’s capital city – Yerevan.

But, if you opt to have a comfortable and affordable ride, you may choose a taxi. All cabs have meters allowing you to pay only for the driven kilometers. The rate is $0.25 USD for every kilometer. But the minimal amount is $1.5 USD or 600 AMD. You need to pay the amount when you get inside. It will include a travel of four kilometers.

Expect to pay around USD$3 when you go around the city center.

If you are a man and you see a pinkish taxi, you must not raise your hand hoping it will stop and pick you up. Pink taxis in Armenia are only for the ladies.

How to be a responsible traveler in Armenia?

Just like visiting any other foreign countries, you should respect the customs, religion and culture, as well as the traditions of Armenia. Most citizens here are Christians.

Hospitality in this country is practiced. For instance, if you are invited for a meal in a local place, you must be ready for it as you will be lavished with great food and you must expect to participate in rounds of toasts.

When you are invited, it is best to bring a small gift to the host. It could be anything, from chocolates to alcohol to flowers. If you do bring chocolates, make sure that it is imported and not local.

When it comes to politics, Armenians are quite sensitive with some issues related to this area. Although the citizens here like talking about politics, you should be cautious when you express your opinion.

It is important to remember that Armenians admire the culture of Russia and Slavic.

It is okay to ask about life under the Soviets. But you cannot ask about Azerbaijan or Turkey. If you are really curious about it, make sure that you exercise sensitivity.

When you visit monasteries and churches, you should dress up nicely. By nicely, it means modestly and respectfully. Women must wear a dress that covers their shoulders up to their knees. You must remove your shoes each time you visit a place of worship.

To minimize unnecessary waste, it is ideal that you bring a reusable bottle or a canteen and drink through a tap water. Tap water in this country is safe to drink. So, there is no need for you to buy bottled water.

What is the country’s most popular dish?

Barbecued meat is the most popular dish in Armenia. You can purchase a loaf of baked bread at 20 cents to get a full meal with it.

Or you can have a bottle of wine to go with that meal, which will cost you around $2 a bottle.

Should you wish to obtain organic tomatoes or cucumbers, expect to pay around 20 cents. When you visit the country during the summer time, you will find organic fruit and vegetables being sold in the roads of Ararat Valley, which is outside the capital city.

The cuisine of the country is of Middle-Eastern. Thus, you should expect to see or eat beef, pork, fish and lamb in their dishes.

If you are fond of eating fresh herbs, then you are in luck as Armenians love to add fresh herbs in their foods.

However, if you are not the type of traveler who wishes to try Middle-Eastern cuisines, you can go to restaurants that serve European and Eastern cuisines.

What language do people speak in Armenia?

Although some Armenians can speak English, its official language is Armenian, which is a part of Indo-European language.

Now that you know the most important tips in travelling to Armenia, it is also essential that you know the great things that you can do when you arrive there or the best places that you can visit in this exotic country.

Mt. Ararat

It is where Noah’s ark landed centuries ago.

Even though it is already a part of Turkey, the citizens of Armenia still consider it as a symbol of their country. This is one of the reasons you can see its image on postcards, cognac labels, etc.

Any resident of this country can tell you the best place/position to take a photo that can completely capture the mountain, from its foot to the top. The best place where you can view it is from the Khor Virap Monastery. It was in its pit that Saint Gregory was imprisoned for 13 years.

You may climb down the steps of the Pit but be extra careful as the experience can be freaky for those who are not used to it.

However, you must be here in a good weather condition.

Lake Sevan

You must not miss it when you go to Armenia. The lake changes its colors from blue to silver.

You can do some fishing or swim with your travel partners. But be careful when exploring the territory as the area around it is National Park’s reserved zone.

While discovering the lake, you may go and visit Sevanavank, which is a monastery that can be reached through a one-day trip.

Garni Temple

This is another historical landmark of Armenia. Garni Temple is considered to be the oldest Pagan temple in the world. It played a significant role in establishing Armenia as a country.

It is nearly 2,000 years old but you can still see older structures around it.

If you are so lucky, you may experience pagans holding a ritual in this temple.

Genocide Complex

Centuries ago, the Ottoman Empire ordered its men to destroy all Armenians in Eastern Turkey or in Anatolia. All women, children and older people were sent on death marches towards the desert of Syria in February 1915.

To commemorate those millions who died on those marches, this Genocide Complex was built.

This memorial has an eternal flame with a pillar that points towards heaven. When you get to look at it closely, you will find some flowers pile up in a circle and placed around the flame.

Etchmiadzin Cathedral

If you are fond of exploring churches, then this cathedral must be on your list when visiting this country. It is the oldest church in the world that is built by the state.

It is in that same spot where Saint Gregory had a vision about Christ. In that vision, he saw Christ coming to the Earth to strike it down with a hammer.  With that vision, he was convinced that God wanted him to build a church there, which is now the oldest state-built church on Earth. It was built after the country had been named as the first Christian country.

With its rich history, it is no wonder that this church is regarded as UNESCO heritage site.

There are other great places where you can roam around and get to know the culture and history of Armenia. But these ones are the best places, so far.

If you are fond of taking souvenirs, you should definitely go to Yerevan Vernissage. It is where you can find not just paintings but other things that are up for sale. National souvenirs, coffee machines, and expensive antiques are just three of the things you can find and buy here.

And if you know how to haggle, you might get those antiques at a very low price.

Carpet buying

Then, do not forget to purchase a carpet here. Carpet weaving is popular amongst Armenians. In this country, carpets can serve as curtains and used in the doorways.

It is ideal to go to a factory so you can find a customized carpet based on your taste. However, make sure that you keep its receipt as soon as you go and check at the airport. This is to prove that the carpet has no historical value.

On the other hand, if you have negotiated and purchased an antique carpet, you should secure a certificate that would allow you to export or bring the carpet to your country.

Cognac in your bag

You are not done yet, unless you have tasted and bought Armenian cognac. It is a must-have item when you leave the country. Although you can easily buy it from one of the stores there, it is best to visit a factory that manufactures Yerevan cognac.

The country grows six varieties of grapes, so it is no wonder that they have the best cognac in their basements. Thus, before leaving the country, make sure that there is a branded Armenian cognac in your bag.

Surely, there are a lot of great things that you can experience when traveling to Armenia. If you are into history, then you should consider visiting this country. Because of its rich history, it has become a top tourist destination for those religious individuals. It is an ancient kingdom that, unfortunately, is off the radar for most tourists.

Flying to Armenia can be a challenge. But getting in touch with one of the travel agencies there can ease it out.

Check out Armenia’s travel agency to learn more about its packages in touring the country.

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