I spent the weekend in Yerevan, Armenia…it turned out to be a lot of fun.
This was not my first trip to the Armenian capital. In fact, I even wrote about my last visit here back in the UGPRD days of this blog. I returned because my business partner dragged me…that and spending a weekend in Yerevan beat blowing a lot of money in Vienna, where we had been up until Friday evening.
I grew up in Glendale, California and have had Armenian friends and eaten Armenian food my entire life. It is a great culture with much to celebrate…and that is true in Yerevan as well.
Some observations from my weekend in Yerevan:
1. It’s Cheap
Your money goes a long way in Yerevan, which made the whole experience (at least for me) so much more enjoyable. Extra drink? Extra dessert? Without hesitation. A nice meal won’t set you back more than $10-15, and I’m talking about a multi-course meal with alcohol (or in my case, fresh-squeezed juice and coffee), not just a main course.
Taxi from the city to the airport, a 20-25 minute drive? Less than $5 (a flat rate of 2,000 AMD). Groceries are cheap. Clothing is cheaper.
On Sunday I got a massage…16,000 AMD ($33) for a very nice, professional, two-hour Thai massage! You’ll do better in Southeast Asia, but I highly recommend Thai Home for a clean, relaxing massage experience.
2. The Buzz
The city was crowded, but in a good way, not a bad way. Yerevan has a great buzz to it…difficult to describe. On Sunday evening there was a huge concert outside the opera house with thousands of people…young and old…enjoying themselves. We proceeded to Republic Square after where thousands more watched a water show that gave the Bellagio a run for the money.
We were jetlagged on Saturday night and by Sunday morning at 3:00AM, wide awake and hungry. Seeking food, we went out in search of food and found a little shawarma take-away that was buzzing. Everyone could not have been friendlier inside.
3. Hyatt Place Was A Good Choice
I wanted to check out the Hyatt Place, which is very centrally located. We arrived at 5:00AM on Saturday…very, very early. The hotel was full on Friday night or else would have gladly paid for an extra night. But although the hotel owed nothing beyond a 3:00PM check-in, it went out of the way to get the room cleaned quickly after the first guest checked out. By 9:00AM we had our room. While we were waiting, the hotel offered us all the beverages we wanted and also invited us to breakfast.
4. The Smoking Stinks
Notice anything in the picture above? That’s right, an ashtray in the hotel lobby. Yerevan takes a more laissez faire attitude toward smoking. As in, anything goes. Taxi? Hotel lobbies? Elevators? Grocery stores? Restaurants? Bars? Yep, go right ahead. It’s kind of quaint, but stunk up my clothes…
5. Very Friendly People
Just like last time, I found the people to be incredibly friendly. Yerevan gets many Armenian-American visitors, especially during the summer months, so you’ll hear English everywhere. Don’t worry about communication and even if you find yourself conversing with someone who doesn’t speak English well, you’ll laugh together as you figure out a way to chat.
6. Immigration Lines Were Horrible
We waited 45 minutes after landing at 4:00 AM to get stamped into the country. That’s 45 minutes too long. Sure, sure…America’s bad too. But American passport control is not the standard.
7. Generally Good Coffee
There’s a lot of “lounges” around time where people just sit and eat, drink (and smoke). We tried ice cream and coffee at a couple of them and I was pleased. I recommend Santa Fe.
8. A Lot of History
Armenia has incredible history, dating back to its self-proclaimed status as the first Christian nation to its Soviet days. A lot to see and take in if architecture and museums are your thing (and we did not even set foot out of Yerevan…it’s a big country).
I’ve had my fill of Yerevan for a few years now…with extremely limited air service, it simply is a pain to get to/from. But I want to take my wife and son back (and to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Artsakh as well) and do look forward to returning. There was an “incident” on the way out that dampened my enthusiasm a bit for Yerevan. I’ll share about that tomorrow.
> Read More: Feeling at Home in Yerevan