Armenia travel guide
It might be a small nation, but Armenia is big on character. Its 20th century history was troubled and relations with neighbouring Turkey are still fractious to put it mildly – although a visit to the country today is more likely to be dominated by its medieval treasures than its more recent past.
The welcome is rarely anything less than warm – and usually accompanied by brandy – and the countryside itself is often breathtakingly beautiful. Tourist numbers are generally low, but you’ll find yourself wondering why.
This is a country with serious historical legacy. Christianity arrived in AD 301 and Armenia proudly calls itself the world's oldest Christian nation. Religion still tends to play a large part in visitor itineraries – from the centuries-old monasteries that stud the hilly Lori region to the mists-of-time bibles at the wonderful Museum of Ancient Manuscripts – but Armenia is changing.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the country has re-embraced its traditions while moving on. Much of this progress is focused on the capital city of Yerevan. Loomed over on clear days by Mount Ararat across the border, it is the nation's hub of cultural activity and progressive thought, with a lively modern arts scene and plenty of large-scale redevelopment.
Armenia has a large diaspora population – there are thousands of Armenian Americans – and a lot of wealth has been brought back into the country as a result. But the passions that underpin life here, from patriotism to religion, chess to cognac, aren’t the sort that cost millions. Cafe culture has been perfected and it's de rigueur to spend inordinate amounts of time lingering over a conversation. Armenian food is another treat – expect mounds of grilled meats and vegetables straight from the nearest garden.
Around the country, travel highlights include the charming little town of Goris and the arty mountain settlement of Dilijan, but exploration anywhere in Armenia is likely to reap rewards.
29,743 sq km (11,484 sq miles).
3,026,048 (UN estimate 2016).
102.8 per sq km.
President Serzh Sargsyan since 2008.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan since 2014.
Last updated: 14 December 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to within 5km of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Tavush and Gegharkunik regions, and along the M16/H26 road between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh continue. The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed. Several ceasefire violations along the Line of Contact separating the opposing forces and elsewhere on the inter-state border between Azerbaijan and Armenia have taken place in 2017, resulting in a number of deaths and casualties.
Take extra care near military emplacements and in villages and connecting roads between the main M16/H26 artery and the border to its east.
The British Embassy can’t provide consular assistance or advice to visitors to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Armenia, attacks can’t be ruled out.
The main alternative route to the M16/H26 between Armenia and Georgia (Yerevan-Vanadzor-Alaverdi-Bagratashen) will be closed for maintenance work for 2 to 3 years from September 2016. If you’re travelling by road between Yerevan and Tbilisi you should use the M3 route from Yerevan through Tashir on the Georgian border.
Protests sometimes take place in central Yerevan and other major cities. These are usually organised by opposition political parties or activist groups highlighting topical social issues. Although protests tend to be peaceful and usually pass off without incident, you should take care, monitor the media and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
In May 2012 a gay-friendly bar in downtown Yerevan was attacked and a diversity march in central Yerevan was disrupted by nationalist groups.
From 10 January 2013, British and EU passport holders no longer require a tourist visa to visit Armenia.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Crime levels are low. But there are incidents of pick pocketing, bag snatching, theft from cars and burglary involving British or other foreign nationals. There have been occasional shooting incidents, chiefly related to organised crime. Although tourists and foreigners have not been targeted, there is a risk of being caught up in such events and you should remain vigilant at all times.
Don’t carry your passport, credit card, travel tickets and money together. Leave spare cash, passports and valuables in a safe place. Take the same personal safety precautions on the street and when using ATMs as you would in the UK. Take particular care if using an ATM after dark, especially if you are alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
The police in Armenia have discovered and closed an internet ring targeting British and Europeans through on-line dating agencies. Never part with money or share personal information including date of birth, address or financial information to someone that you have never met.
The FCO advise against all travel within 5km of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Tavush and Gegharkunik regions, and along the M16/H26 road between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan.
The border between Armenia and Azerbaijan is closed. There are frequent violations of the 1994 ceasefire between these countries from military emplacements along the border. There have been periods of increased tension which can make the security situation in border regions unpredictable.
Visitors travelling from Yerevan into Georgia should do so via the towns of Vanadzor/Alaverdi or Gyumri.
The land border with Turkey is also closed, although there are occasional direct flights between Yerevan and Istanbul.
The main alternative route to Georgia (Yerevan-Vanadzor-Alaverdi-Bagratashen) will be closed for maintenance work for an estimated 32 months from September 2016. If you’re travelling by road between Yerevan and Tbilisi, use the route: Yerevan – Spitak –Stepanavan (M3) – Tashir – Georgian Border (Gogavan) – Bolnisi – Marneuli – Tbilisi.
Travelling in the South Caucasus can be unpredictable and infrastructure is sometimes in a poor state of repair. You should plan your travel carefully.
You can drive in Armenia on an International Driving Permit. The local standard of driving is poor. Be prepared for drivers who drive recklessly and flout traffic laws. Roads are in a poor state, particularly in the coldest months (November to February). If you are walking, be careful when crossing roads and use subways where available.
Avoid using local buses or minibuses as they’re often poorly maintained and sometimes overcrowded.
Public transport is often overcrowded and poorly maintained. If you have to travel by train, secure your valuables, do not leave the compartment unattended, and lock the door from the inside.
A list of incidents and accidents in Armenia can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
In 2007, an International Civil Aviation Organisation audit of aviation safety oversight found that the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Armenia was above the global average.
You can see a list of airlines banned from operating within the EU on the European Commission website. The list is based on random inspections on aircraft of airlines that operate flights to and from EU airports. The fact that an airline is not included in the list does not automatically mean that it meets the applicable safety standards.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. The British Embassy can’t provide advice or consular assistance to visitors to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Although a ceasefire has been in place since May 1994, the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian forces are closed.
There are no peacekeeping forces separating the two sides. There are regular exchanges of sniper fire and some skirmishes. The border areas also contain mines and unexploded ordnance. Any foreigners venturing within 5km of these borders are liable to be stopped by the police or the military.
Telephone and internet communications
Communication by telephone and e-mail can sometimes be difficult especially in the regions. Not all British mobile phones work in Armenia; check for coverage before leaving the UK if you intend to rely on it.
There are a growing number of internet cafes but access can still be slow and unreliable. Make sure family and friends who expect regular contact are aware of this to avoid unnecessary worry.
Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Armenia, attacks can’t be ruled out. You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
Armenia is a Christian country and women can usually dress in normal western-style clothing. Outside the capital people are more conservative and inappropriate dress will attract attention.
Carry a photocopy of your passport as identification at all times.
The use of illegal drugs carries stiff penalties, including fines and long prison terms. The penalty for smuggling drugs carries a prison term of between 4 to 10 years.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 2003 but is still viewed with disapproval by many Armenians. Local LGBT groups occasionally suffer from verbal and physical harassment. Although same sex couples are often seen holding hands and kissing in public, this is common in Armenian culture, and is not necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation. You should be discreet.
Don’t photograph sites such as military bases, equipment and installations. These are considered sensitive areas and visitors have been detained and questioned while attempting to photograph them.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British and EU passport holders no longer require a visa to visit Armenia. The entrance stamp is valid for a period of 90 days only. Children arriving on a British passport with parents entering Armenia on an Armenian passport will require an Armenian passport to leave the country; this is stated in Armenian law. For further details visit the: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Armenia website.
If you intend to stay in Armenia longer than 90 days, you must register with the OVIR (Administration Department for Passports and Visas):
Address: Mashtots Ave. 13A,
Tel: 00 374 10 536 932/ 941
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Armenia.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Armenia.
Dual nationals entering Armenia using their Armenian passport and travelling with children on a United Kingdom passport should be aware that under Armenian Law a child of an Armenian passport holder is automatically regarded as Armenian and must present an Armenian passport to leave the country. The child may be detained on departure if he/she can’t produce one.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
The reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Armenia terminated on 1 January 2016.
Medical facilities are generally poor, particularly outside Yerevan, and treatment is not recommended for anything other than minor or straightforward ailments. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Armenia is in an active seismic zone. The last serious earthquake was in 1988 in the Lori region in the north. It killed between 25,000 and 50,000 people, injured thousands and left several cities in ruins.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Cash can be changed at banks and in exchange bureaux. British pounds may be less readily accepted outside Yerevan than US dollars or Euros.
Credit cards and UK debit cards displaying the Maestro and/or Cirrus sign are accepted at major stores and restaurants in Yerevan but far less so outside the capital. Prices for goods and services are sometimes quoted in US dollars, but by law payment must be made in Armenian Dram.
There are many ATMs in Yerevan. They accept major credit cards and debit cards with the Maestro/Cirrus or Visa sign displayed on the card.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.