[ armenia - weather and travel info]
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The climate in Armenia is markedly continental. Summers are dry and sunny, lasting from June to mid-September. The temperature fluctuates between 22° and 36°C. However, the low humidity level mitigates the effect of high temperatures. Evening breezes blowing down the mountains provide a welcome refreshing and cooling effect. Springs are short, while falls are long. Autumns are known for their vibrant and colorful foliage. Winters are quite cold with plenty of snow, with temperatures ranging between -5° and -10°C. Winter sports enthusiasts enjoy skiing down the hills of Tsakhkadzor, located thirty minutes outside Yerevan. Lake Sevan nestled up in the Armenian highlands, is the second largest lake in the world relative to its altitude, 1,900 meters above sea level.
Country Specific Information
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:Armenia is a constitutional republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities, especially outside Yerevan, the capital, are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries may be difficult to obtain. Read the Department of State's Background Notes on Armenia for additional information.
A passport and visa are required. For stays longer than 21 days, but not exceeding 90 days, an official invitation from a qualifying entity in Armenia is required. U.S. citizens may purchase visas for a stay of up to 21 days online at http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am/ for the fee of USD 60 or upon arrival at the port of entry for the fee of $30 US. Visas for up to 120 days may be purchased at the Armenian Embassy in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate General in Los Angeles for the fee of USD 61. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Armenian Embassy at 2225 R St. NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 319-1976 and (202) 319-2983; the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles at 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel. (310) 657-7320, or visit the Embassy of Armenia's web site at http://www.armeniaemb.org for the most current visa information.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
A cease-fire has been in effect since 1994 around the self-proclaimed "Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh", an unrecognized ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.
However, reports of intermittent gunfire along the cease-fire line and along the border with Azerbaijan continue.
Because of the existing state of hostilities, consular services are not available to Americans in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Travelers should exercise caution near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and consult the Country Specific Information
for Azerbaijan if considering travel to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian territory. Armenia's land borders with Turkey,
Azerbaijan, and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan remain closed and continue to be patrolled by armed
troops who stop all people attempting to cross. There are still land mines in numerous areas in and near the conflict
Several political rallies occurred in Yerevan in the spring of 2004 and in the fall of 2005. Though the majority of these demonstrations were peaceful, police forcibly removed protesters from the scene in at least one instance in 2004. Political rallies in the run-up to the May 2007 Parliamentary elections were mostly peaceful. However, some demonstrators were beaten by police during one march in central Yerevan. Americans should be mindful that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful could turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
Armenia is an earthquake and landslide-prone country. In addition to these natural disasters, there exists the possibility of chlorine gas spills and radiation poisoning due to industrial accidents; the Soviet-era Armenia Nuclear Power plant is located in Metsamor, approximately 20 kilometers southwest of Yerevan. The plant was closed temporarily in 1988 following a devastating earthquake, but reopened in 1995. Armenia is currently under international pressure to close the plant permanently, due to safety concerns.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
FOOD and DRINK
A restaurant and cafe culture is starting to flourish in Armenia, with street stalls and privately run establishments
replacing the colourless state restaurants typical of the Soviet era. New cafes and restaurants open daily.
Many of the cafes are in parks, and are very popular in summer with locals and tourists alike.
Things to know: Much Armenian cooking is based on lamb, either grilled and served as khorovats (shashlik) with flat bread named lavash, or prepared as soup (the most popular being bozbash, a dish which exists in infinite variations) or stew, often in combination with fruit or nuts. A meal usually starts with a large spread of hors d'oeuvres, which may include peppers and vine leaves stuffed with rice and meat (tolma), pickled and fresh vegetables, salty white sheep's cheese eaten with fresh green herbs and flat bread, and various kinds of cured meat (basturma).
Lavash - is a soft, thin flatbread of Armenian origin, made with flour, water, and salt. It is the most wide-spread type of bread in Armenia. Toasted sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds are sometimes sprinkled on it before baking, though this is very uncommon in Armenia. While some wrap breads sold in the United States label themselves as lavash, actual lavash is significantly thinner than those products.
While soft, like a tortilla, when fresh, lavash is very quick to dry, becoming brittle and hard. The soft form is usually preferable, due to a better taste and ease of making wrap sandwiches, however the dry form can be used for long-term storage and is used instead of bread in Eucharist traditions by the Armenian Apostolic Church. Lavash bread is also used with kebabs. In Armenia when a meat kebab is rolled in a lavash bread it takes the name "bertuch", and the kebab's first name.
Traditionally it is rolled out flat and slapped against the hot walls of a tandoor oven, also called tonir in Armenian.
During the season following the grape harvest, locals sell effervescent, mildly fermented grape juice from roadside stands. Armenia is also abundant in all kinds of sweet-tasting fruits, from figs to pomegranates to quince. Coffee is served Turkish-style (strong and black in tiny cups) although in view of national sensibilities, visitors would be ill-advised to refer to this cultural similarity.
• Lavash is a soft, thin flatbread of Armenian origin.
• Sharots (Sujukh) is cooked with grape juice and a dark cherry-coloured syrup called doshab.
• Shampours are skewers that are jam-packed with all kinds of marinated meat and vegetables.
• Ghapama is pumpkin stew with rice, raisins, apples and cinnamon.
• Khash is a national institution rather than just a dish, with poems and songs throughout the centuries being composed in homage to it: in case you are wondering, khash is a delicious broth made from hamhocks and herbs and served with lots of garlic and bread.
• For dessert, eat a dish made from grape juice, dried into thin sheets of a deep, reddish brown colour, and then rolled up into long cylinders around walnuts or other nuts.
• Brandies are exceptional (Dvin).
• Kotayk and Kihikia are Armenian beers worth giving a go.
• Armenian wine is well worth tasting: the Areni red wine is particularly lauded and many are semi-sweet or dessert wines and are world-renowned.
There are restaurants and nightclubs featuring local music in Yerevan. There are several restaurants, clubs and discos. There are several casinos. Opera, theatre and ballet performances are of a high standard, and tickets are cheap. Armenians love music, from the traditional, liturgical songs (Sharakans) with distinctive musical instruments, to contemporary jazz and pop. There will often be venues accommodating for this at night. There are often concerts at the Philharmonic, Chamber Music Hall and Opera & Ballet House in Yerevan.
Although Armenia’s economy is still relatively undeveloped, new shops are now opening. The Vernisaj flea market in Yerevan attracts sellers of all kinds of goods and is popular with tourists.
Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 09:00-21:00. Many shops are open 24-hours. Shops stay open longer in the summer.
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 as well. In May 2004, an American citizen was murdered in Yerevan; the crime remains unsolved. While the incidence of violent crime remains lower than in most U.S. cities, American citizens are urged to exercise caution and to avoid traveling alone after dark in Yerevan. Several American investors have also reported being the victims of financial scams and disputes over property ownership.
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.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Armenia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travel in Armenia requires caution. Public transportation, while very inexpensive, may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Travel at night is not recommended, and winter travel can be extremely hazardous in mountain areas and higher elevations.
Travelers should avoid the old highway between the towns of Ijevan and Noyemberyan in the Tavush region, as well as the main highway between the towns of Kirants and Baghanis/Voskevan. The U.S. Embassy has designated this portion of the road off-limits to all U.S. government personnel because of its proximity to the cease-fire line between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, a line which has seen numerous cease-fire violations over the years.
On weekends, there are an increased number of intoxicated drivers on Armenian roads. American citizens are urged to exercise particular vigilance while traveling on the main highway from Yerevan to the resort areas of Tsaghadzor and Sevan. Traffic police will attempt to stop individuals driving erratically and dangerously, but police presence outside of Yerevan is limited.
Armenia does have emergency police and medical services, but they may take time to reach remote regions.
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 places. Street and road signs are poor to nonexistent. Truck traffic is not heavy except on the main roads linking Yerevan to Iran and Georgia.
Minibuses are considered more dangerous than other forms of public transportation. Travelers who choose to ride minibuses should exercise caution because these vehicles are often overcrowded and poorly maintained, commonly lack safety measures including seatbelts, and are frequently involved in accidents.
Though crime along roadways is rare, the police themselves sometimes seek bribes during traffic stops. Drivers in Armenia frequently ignore traffic laws, making roadways unsafe for unsuspecting travelers.
Pedestrians often fail to take safety precautions and those driving in towns at night should be especially cautious. In cities, a pedestrian dressed in black crossing an unlit street in the middle of the block is a common occurrence.
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.
Armenia remains largely a cash-only economy. Credit cards are accepted at some businesses, including major hotels and restaurants in Yerevan, but rarely outside of the capital. Limited facilities exist for cashing traveler's checks and wiring money into the country. There are a number of ATMs in the center of Yerevan. Dollars are readily exchanged at market rates. Travelers may experience problems with local officials seeking bribes to perform basic duties.
Armenian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Armenia of items such as firearms, pornographic materials, medication, and communications equipment. For export of antiquities and other items that could have historical value, such as paintings, carpets, old books, or other artisan goods, a special authorization is required in advance from the Armenian Ministry of Culture. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, D.C. or Consulate General in Los Angeles for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Dual Nationals: In addition to being subject to all Armenian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Armenian citizens. Male U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are also considered to be Armenian citizens may be subject to conscription and compulsory military service upon arrival, and to other aspects of Armenian law while in Armenia. Since the summer of 2005, Armenian authorities have regularly detained U.S. citizens on these grounds upon their arrival in the country. In most cases, ethnic Armenian travelers who are accused of evading Armenian military service obligations are immediately incarcerated and later found guilty of draft evasion. Penalties for those convicted are stiff and, by law, include jail time. Those who may be affected are strongly advised to consult with Armenian officials and inquire at an Armenian embassy or consulate to their status before traveling.