Hitchhiking around Lake Sevan, Armenia / Photo: Arty Om
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Hitchhiking isn't a widespread means of traveling among Armenians, but you'll be surprised at how easy it is to hitch a lift and travel around Armenia in a Kerouac style. You get picked up quite fast, people are excited to meet foreigners and help them out, even if they don't speak English. Hitchhiking in Armenia is not much different from what it is in most parts of the world, but there are a few things you should know to make your journey easier. I've tried to sum up some useful information and tips on hitchhiking in Armenia based on several years of experience, but if there's anything else you think should be mentioned, let me know in the comments. So far, here's the hitchhiker's guide to Armenia!
Getting in Armenia:
Due to historical past and current political situation, the borders of Armenia with two of its neighboring countries, Turkey and Azerbaijan, are closed. Therefore, you can get into Armenia overland only from Georgia, or Iran. And although there are no difficulties in passing the border control, hitchhikers may get stuck right after crossing it into the country, especially you cross the border in the evening. There are few cars passing by, so you'll have to walk along the road until someone stops. Thus, if you don't want to waste time, take a taxi to the nearest town and start hitchhiking from there.
Getting out of Armenia:
Naturally, the above mentioned borders with Iran and Georgia are also the only available options to travel out of Armenia overland. While you'll definitely make it to Tbilisi from Yerevan in one day, in case of hitchhiking to Iran, you will most likely have to spend a night in the city of Meghri in the south of Armenia. Luckily, there are many guest houses and B&Bs in the city.
HITCHHIKING TO ARMENIA FROM IRAN
If you’re traveling to Armenia from Iran, the nearest big city after the border is Meghri. The taxi ride from the border to the city costs 1000 AMD (~2,5 USD). Once you pass the border, just get on a cab, and go to Meghri. Now there's one thing to keep in mind - because of the road conditions (several mountain passes on the way), the journey to Yerevan takes about 7-8 hours, if not longer. So, if you enter Armenia around 2:00 or 3:00 PM, it is better to spend the day in Meghri - explore the city, enjoy the atmosphere, roam the narrow streets of the old town of Meghri, and hit the road again early in the morning of the next day. This way, you'll manage to get to Yerevan by evening, and will also be able to see the surrounding landscapes.
Border - Meghri - Kajaran - Kapan - Goris - Vayk - Yeghegnadzor - Ararat - Yerevan
HITCHHIKING TO ARMENIA FROM GEORGIA
And if you're hitchhiking to Armenia from Georgia, then once you cross the border, hitch any vehicle (even if it's a short ride) until you get to a town/city with a more or less active traffic. Note that there are three border crossing points between Georgia and Armenia, but I recommend you use the two of them, depending on where you are coming from. If you're traveling from Batumi, then you'll need to head to Ninotsminda-Bavra border control; from here, the nearest large town is Amasia, then Gyumri. And if you're hitchhiking from Tbilisi, you'll enter Armenia at Sadakhlo-Bagratashen border control point, from where the nearest big cities are either Alaverdi, or Noyemberyan, depending on which route you take.
Recommended route (when coming from Batumi):
Border - Amasia - Gyumri - Talin - Ashtarak - Yerevan
Recommended route (when coming from Tbilisi):
Border - Alaverdi - Vanadzor - Spitak - Aparan - Ashtarak - Yerevan
Border - Noyemberyan - Ijevan - Dilijan - Sevan - Yerevan
Border - Alaverdi - Vanadzor - Dilijan - Sevan - Yerevan
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT HITCHHIKING IN ARMENIA
Is it easy?
Hitchhiking in Armenia is easy and fast. Average waiting time on a road with a more or less busy traffic is about 10-15 minutes. Easiest and fastest way to hitchhike in Armenia is when traveling in a pair (boy-girl, girl-girl). But it is possible to hitchhike in larger groups, too. I once hitchhiked with three other guys from Iran, and we managed to travel around without splitting into groups, and were even invited for a dinner with homemade vodka on the shore of the Lake Sevan.
What's the hitchhiking sign?
The traditional "thumb up" sign is also the common hitchhiking sign in Armenia. Waving the hand with the palm facing down is usually how people stop a taxi, or other paid means of transportation.
Do drivers ask for money?
When hitchhiking around Armenia, I sometimes come across taxis with no identification signs. Knowing Armenian, in a brief dialog with the driver, I immediately understand that he just picks up passengers for money. So, in order to avoid possible issues, make it clear that you're traveling without paying before you actually get into the car. Usually, the driver will actually ask you how much are you going to pay. But these kind of things doesn't happen too often.
Are the roads good?
A new highway is being built currently that will run across the country linking the Georgian border with Iran, so hopefully, in a few years we'll have a good quality road. But for now, the road conditions and the mountainous terrain make the hitchhiking journey slow. To compare, when hitchhiking in Russia, I usually covered 350 km in about 4-5 hours. In Armenia, it will take you at least 7-8 hours.
How about police?
Hitchhiking in Armenia is legal, and there's absolutely no reason to be worried. In fact, the policemen are often kind and helpful, so if you're stuck on the road, consider asking police (if there's any around) to help you get a ride. There's a chance that the driver will not be happy about it, of course, but people here are hospitable and are eager to help travelers and guests of the country, so it won't get you into troubles.
Can I camp?
Camping in Armenia is fine. If you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, know that you can set up your tent and spend the night on the road.
Do people speak English?
Language barrier can be another problem, since most of the people don't speak English at all. The most common foreign language spoken in Armenia is the Russian.
How about traffic in remote locations?
There aren't too many cars in remote areas of Armenia, and waiting for a ride for an hour or more is normal. Keep in mind that if you're planning a one-day trip to a remote location, then start your journey early in the morning.
Are people hospitable?
Well, that's another thing that slows down your trip. The locals. They're always happy to invite travelers over for a cup of coffee, which isn't bad, of course. Only in Armenia, the treats are rarely limited to coffee. Be prepared to drink wine, cognac, or even vodka all along the way. One of my favorite tricks to avoid getting drunk and offending people is to tell them I'm fasting. This also helps when your hosts offer you barbecue, but you're vegetarian.
Now how about safety?
Generally, Armenia is considered to be a safe country for hitchhiking - both for male and female hitchhikers, so usual hitchhiking safety measures apply! If you're a solo female hitchhiker and you're concerned about your safety, try to stop only those cars that have other women or children inside.
Robbery is rare. If you become a victim of thieves, go to police straight away. They'll help you to get your things back and will help you in any possible way. Because treating guests of the country badly is perceived as a very shameful act, considering that people are proud of their hospitality.
Some drivers do drive pretty fast, and some also drive drunk. If for some reasons you feel it's not safe, just tell the driver to drop you off.
HOW TO GET TO THE MAIN ROADS FROM YEREVAN:
Direction: Gyumri, Vanadzor, Stepanavan, Tbilisi
From the Kilikia central bus station, get on any bus going to the city of Ashtarak. Tell the driver you need to get off at Bagavan. He'll drop you off by a gas refilling station right on the highway. You can start hitchhiking right from here. About 3-4 kilometers further, the road splits - Gyumri runs to the left, Vanadzor to the right. Bus fare is 250 Armenian drams.
Direction: Sevan, Dilijan, Ijevan
From Kilikia central bus station, get on the bus #259. This bus goes to the city of Abovyan. You'll have to get off at the Northern bus station ("Hyuseesayeen avtokayan" in Armenian). The bus station is situated on the main road that runs to Lake Sevan and continues to Dilijan and Ijevan. Just walk a few meters furthers until you find a suitable spot and start hitchhiking. Usually, it takes about 1,5 hours to get to Lake Sevan. Bus fare is 200 Armenian drams.
Direction: Ararat, Yeghegnadzor, Goris, Meghri, Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Iran
Take a metro to the "Sasuntsi David" station. Once you exit through the glass doors of the metro, walk left until you get out of the underway pass. You'll find yourself on a little square with many buses. Get on the earliest departing bus to Vedi. Tell the driver, you need to get off at Khor Virap. He'll drop you off on the main road that connects Yerevan to the southern regions of the country. You can hitchhike right from there. Bus fare is 200 Armenian drams.