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Armenia is a perfect mix of rocky highlands, lush forests and the clear blue waters of Lake Sevan. By car, it is possible to reach some of the more remote areas, such as Syunik, along with the café culture and lively art scenes in Yerevan. Some hidden highlights, such as the Debed Canyon and the historic town of Goris, are easily accessed by car and well worth a trip.
Driving Tips for Armenia
The main roads around Yerevan are reasonably well maintained, although heading north or south, things tend to get bumpy. Signs are sporadic and driving in the winter in the mountainous regions can be tricky, so always ensure that your vehicle is prepared for the weather.
Driving licences: UK drivers are permitted to drive here providing they have a valid UK licence including both the photo and paper sections, along with an International Driving Permit.
Which side does Armenia drive on: the right.
Motorways: 55mph (90kph)
Rural areas: 55mph (90kph)
Built-up areas: 24mph (40kph) or 37mph (60kph)
Alcohol limits: a zero tolerance policy is enforced. Drink-drivers may face severe penalties.
Driving age: 21 years.
Seatbelts: compulsory for all passengers and this is strictly enforced with fines. Children younger than four years need to be provided with a booster seat.
Mobile phones and GPS: there are currently no laws to prevent drivers from using their mobile phones while driving. GPS is allowed.
Cost of fuel in Armenia: petrol is much cheaper here than in the UK, at nearly half the price.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit card payment is not accepted at the majority of petrol stations but they are still required for picking up your car rental.
Insurance: third-party insurance is included in car hire but excess insurance is recommended.
Traffic and parking: driving in Yerevan can be difficult due to traffic congestions and few parking spaces. However, outside of the main cities, traffic is scarce and parking is easy to find.
A sleeper train runs several times a week from Tbilisi, Georgia. The domestic train service is a relic from the Soviet era and as a result, is rather slow and tends to be unreliable. The most popular routes include the services to Gyumri and Lake Sevan. However, the rail routes are not as extensive as the road network, and driving is considerably quicker.
Taxis do not commonly drive to neighbouring countries, although it is possible to get one to the border and then change taxis. However, many are happy to drive anywhere within Armenia and often at short notice, so there is no need to book in advance. Prices can be reasonable; in Yerevan they work out about £0.15 per kilometre but as the taxis do not run on a meter, passengers need to agree on a price before setting off. Taxis can be flagged down in the big towns or booked through hotels.
A minibus service, marshrutka, runs from Tbilisi, Georgia, to Yerevan and costs around £22.00. This service also goes to a number of other towns in this area. Bus transport is inexpensive; mini-buses in Yerevan cost about 20 pence for a ticket, and generally reliable although networks aren’t extensive so reaching small towns can be difficult. Inter-city travel is undertaken in small minibuses, with fares paid to the driver at the end of the journey.
The principal airport for Armenia, located some 14km from Yerevan is Zvartnots International Airport. It was updated in 2006, but is still quite small. The national carrier, Armavia, is based here and offers flights to and from various European and Middle Eastern destinations. Most people entering Armenia require a VISA, a 21-day visa can be purchased on-line in advance here www.mfa.am or on arrival.
Although travel close to the Azerbaijan border is not recommended, Armenia has plenty to offer visitors elsewhere.
The country’s largest lake, Lake Sevan, has clear turquoise waters which are perfect for swimming as well as numerous sandy beaches backed by resorts. Centrally located, the lake sits near the historic Sevanavank peninsula, which offers a 9th century monastery.
Yerevan, the capital, is known for its art scene and has recently taken on a Mediterranean vibe, with its many cafés and independent restaurants. Museums, art galleries and concert halls offer endless entertainment here.
Armenia has a rich history, evident when visiting both Haghpat and Sanahin. These monasteries boast World Heritage listed churches from the medieval times, and both are set against the striking background of forests and canyons in the Lori region in the north.
Dilijan, a northern spa town, is easy to get to by car. During Soviet times, it was a retreat for writers and artists seeking a creative hub, but it is now a great tourist spot with many old Soviet houses renovated to provide accommodation.
The town itself boasts lush oak forests and gentle landscapes, along with plenty of local architecture. It maintains a local way of life, with many of the inhabitants living off the land. Both Haghartsin and Goshavank churches are just a short drive away.
Armenia has a dry climate, with occasional rain in a handful of areas, such as Lori and Tavush. Winter usually lasts through to April, but summers here can see temperatures of 40ºC. Autumn is considerably more comfortable, with average temperatures of 27ºC. The north of the country has a short summer and cold winters with temperatures of around -10°C.