What makes Armenia a unique country to travel to?
Armenia is a constitutional republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities, especially outside the capital city of Yerevan, are not very developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries may be difficult to obtain.
Crime against foreigners is relatively rare in Armenia. Break-ins-- particularly of vehicles-- and theft are the most common crimes, but there have been instances of violent crime. While the incidence of violent crime remains lower than in most U.S. cities, you should exercise caution. Several U.S. investors have also reported being involved in disputes over property ownership, and have had to seek legal recourse through long, and often unsuccessful, court proceedings.
Do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, but if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Armenia, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own, and criminal penalties vary from country to country. There are some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States; for instance, you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Armenia, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It is very important to know what is legal and what is not where you are traveling.
Armenia strictly enforces its laws relating to the possession, trafficking, and use of illegal drugs, including marijuana. Further, Armenia prohibits the receipt of packages that contain illegal drugs, including small amounts of marijuana. Persons arrested for violating Armenia’s drug laws may be detained for lengthy periods of time while the investigations proceed, and if convicted, face significant prison sentences.
Authorities of Armenia are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request that police or prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Though there are many competent physicians in Armenia, medical care facilities are limited, especially outside the major cities. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians in the area. Most prescription medications are available, but the quality varies. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
Safety and Security
Separatists, with Armenia’s support, continue to control most of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven other Azerbaijani territories. The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains the subject of international mediation by the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France, and the United States, and a cease-fire has been in effect since 1994. Be extremely cautious near the line of contact between Azerbaijani and Armenian positions in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, as intermittent gunfire continues, often resulting in injuries and/or deaths. Because of the existing state of hostilities, consular services are not available to U.S. citizens in Nagorno-Karabakh. Please consult the Country-Specific Information for Azerbaijan for supplemental information.
Armenia has land borders with Turkey, Iran, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain closed and continue to be patrolled by armed troops and/or border guards who stop all people attempting to cross. Although de-mining operations have been largely completed, isolated land mines remain in some areas in and near the conflict zones with Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Traveling to the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding occupied areas via Armenia without the consent of the Government of Azerbaijan could make you ineligible to travel to Azerbaijan in the future.
Political rallies often occur around elections and other political events; there have been no such violent confrontations since 2008. Visitors should be mindful that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful could turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Information regarding demonstrations that have been brought to the attention of the U.S. Embassy can be found on the Messages for U.S. Citizens section of the Embassy website.
Armenia is an earthquake- and landslide-prone country. A Soviet-era nuclear power plant is located in Metsamor, approximately 30 kilometers southwest of Yerevan.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Armenia, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Traveling in Armenia requires caution. Public transportation, while very inexpensive, may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Minibusses are more dangerous than other forms of public transportation. These vehicles are often overcrowded and poorly maintained, commonly lack safety measures, including seatbelts, and are frequently involved in accidents.
Drivers in Armenia frequently ignore traffic laws, making roadways unsafe for unsuspecting travelers. Those driving in towns at night should be especially cautious. Pedestrians often fail to take safety precautions, and in cities at night, it is common for pedestrians in dark clothing to cross unlighted streets in the middle of the block. “Road rage” is becoming a serious problem on Armenian streets and highways. To reduce your risk of being a victim of aggression, yield to aggressive drivers. Though crime along roadways is rare, the police sometimes seek bribes during traffic stops and sometimes harass drivers using U.S. or international driver’s licenses.
We recommend that U.S. citizens not travel at night due to poor road conditions. Winter travel can also be extremely hazardous, especially in mountain areas and higher elevations. Areas near the line of contact with Azerbaijan remain potentially dangerous. The previous restriction on travel via the Ijevan-Noyemberyan Highway by U.S. citizen employees of the U.S. Government and their family members was recently lifted. Individuals traveling between Nerkin Voskepar and Baghanis should use the “new road,” which is about 5 km longer.
On weekends, the number of intoxicated drivers on Armenian roads increases. Be extra careful on the main highway from Yerevan to the resort areas of Tsaghkadzor and Sevan. Traffic police will attempt to stop individuals driving erratically and dangerously, but the police presence outside of Yerevan is limited.
With the exception of a few major arteries, primary roads are frequently in poor repair with sporadic stretches of missing pavement and large potholes. Some roads shown as primary roads on maps are unpaved and can narrow to one lane in width, while some newer road connections have not yet been marked on recently produced maps. Secondary roads are normally in poor condition and are often unpaved and washed out in certain areas. Signage is poor to nonexistent. Truck traffic is heavy on the main roads linking Yerevan to Iran and Georgia. Police and emergency medical services may take considerable time to reach remote regions.
The quality of gasoline in Armenia ranges from good at some of the more reliable stations in cities to very poor. The gasoline and other fuels sold out of jars, barrels, and trucks by independent roadside merchants should be considered very unreliable.