Information below is valid for Armenia and Georgia – information on Turkey can be found on the bottom of the page.
Passport & visa information
Your passport should be valid until minimum 6 months after departure date. Rules per country can be slightly different, but this covers all. Visa Georgia: not required for citizens of European Union. Visa Armenia: not required for citizens of Schengen countries.
For a list of Schengen countries visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area Travellers with a passport from a non-European or non-Schengen country are required to purchase a visa, which can be obtained on arrival at airports or border. It has a validity of 21 days. (Visa for a longer stay is available at extra charge). Costs are low and must be paid in local currency. Bank at airports are open when flights arrive. It is best to change only a small amount of money, because the exchange rate is better in the city.
When you check in from your departing airport, you will receive stubs for your luggage. If you fly into Yerevan, make sure to remember where you keep the stubs, because you might be requested to show them after claiming your bags before leaving the airport.
When booking a vacation, you assume that your time away will be carefree and generally that is the case. However, to cover damage to your luggage or health care expenses, you might want to consider to have a travel insurance. Please make sure that your insurance is valid for this part of the world and check coverage. There may be circumstances that cause cancellation of your vacation or a later departure or earlier return. You can take out additional insurance to cover the cost of cancellation in case of a personal emergency (e.g., cancellation costs of air ticket/ accommodations, etc.). We leave this choice to you. Several companies offer these kinds of insurance. Traveler agreed by registration that the organizer cannot be held responsible for any damages or personal injuries during the tour.
The Armenian currency is the Armenian dram (AMD) and the Georgian currency is Lari (GEL). One Euro is approximately 540 AMD or 3,2 Lari (exchange rate January 2018). Several currencies can be exchanged, but euros and dollars are accepted everywhere. There are ATM machines in big cities, but foreign bank cards are not widely accepted and the machine has to show a Cirrus or Maestro logo. In Armenia this is less of a problem, but in Georgia it can be more complicated to find a suitable ATM. Therefore it is advised to bring cash. Euros and American dollars can be changed both at banks and moneychangers. Swiss francs and British pounds can be changed at banks and at some money changers. The rates are clearly indicated, show minor daily fluctuations and are listed on bulletin boards. There is no commission fee. The lowest exchange rates are found at airports and hotels. Euro or dollar banknotes must be relatively new and have no marks or tears. Dollar bills issued before 1996 will not be accepted. It is not necessary to change a large bill into smaller ones, for example, if you want to change 20 euros and you hand over a 50-Euro bill, you can receive 30 euros change. We recommend that you request for smaller denominations, preferably 5,000 or 1,000-dram bills in Armenia. It is hard to pay with bigger bills in small shops, kiosks or taxis. Notes of 5 Lari are usefull to use in taxis in Tbilisi.
Only major hotels and car rental agencies will accept VISA and MASTERCARD credit cards. In Georgia they are more widely accepted. To withdraw cash with your creditcard is expensive and therefore not recommended to cash small amounts.
Commercial goods exceeding a value of $ 500 must be declared. Personal items do not have to be declared. There is a 20-pack import and export limit on cigarettes, a 2-litre limit on alcohol and a 1-kg limit on coffee. There are no restrictions on the import of food. Alcohol is very cheap in Armenia and Georgia. Check with your local customs on what you are allowed to take back into your country.
It is forbidden to import or export pornography, loose pearls and antiques.
Do not bring valuable items (such as jewellery) and bring a money belt if you plan to carry a lot of cash. Most hotels do not have a safety deposit box. To store things in a suitcase which can be locked has proved to function well in the past years. Violent street crime is almost unheard of in Armenia and Georgia. Nevertheless we recommend that you watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas or markets. Being on the street at night is not a problem, and that goes for both women and men. Locals are out late and many families love to stroll in the streets or go for dinner in a restaurant. In this part of the world people are very helpful, hospitable and very child friendly. Communication in a foreign language might be difficult. In Georgia more people speak English.
For elderly or handicapped people it can be hard to move around because of the lack of elevators or adapted facilities. In addition, the pavement can be in poor condition.
In Georgia travelling to South Osetia or Abkhazie is not recommended due to political tensions. In Armenia the same situation applies to the border between Nagorno Karabagh and Azerbaijan.
There is a difference in time of 2-3 hours with The Netherlands, depending on our summer or winter schedule.
Telephone & internet
Country code Armenia +374, Georgia + 995. Your own mobile phone will not always work, and there is no overall network. Purchasing a local simcard can be an option. It is cheap I(also to call abroad) and it can be charged with a prepaid card. Many restaurants and cafeteria have free wifi.
Armenians speak East Armenian and Georgians speak Georgian, bots languages with their own alphabet. Many people also speak Russian, although the younger generation is now taught English or German as a second language. In big cities street street and traffic signs along major roads are depicted in our alphabet.
Vaccination of DTP, polio, hepatitis A and typhoid is not required, but some can be recommended. Check with your local health organizations on the internet. Medical care in both countries is of good quality.
Food & drink
Although water is of good quality, some people have a sensitive stomach. In that case we advise you to drink only bottled water. Food is of excellent quality and salads are safe to eat.
Expenses for food/drinks
Most dinners are included in the tour package but generally lunches are not. According to our criteria, lunch is relatively cheap and will vary between € 3 (supermarket) to € 15 (restaurant). There are several small restaurants and supermarkets close to the hotel. Drinks are not included in the package. Prices vary between € 1.50 for a glass of beer to € 0.60 for a coffee. A bottle of wine is around € 10.00. Sometimes dinner is not included our program for practical reasons. It is not pleasant to be held to a schedule for a group dinner on a free day. As compensation, a lunch will be offered at another occasion. Mark that the menu in restaurants doesn’t show the price including the service fee. This will be added later and the percentage is listed in the menu.
Standard voltage is 220 volts. USA appliances designed for 110 volts require a voltage converter. Electric outlets use European/Dutch style plugs with two round pins. North American participants should bring a converter.
Both countries have a continental climate: summers are hot and dry, winters are very cold with heavy snowfalls. Spring arrives by the end of April, and a bit later in mountainous areas. Do bring an umbrella for occasional rain showers, which can be short and heavy. After a hot summer, in autumn, often nicknamed the “velvet season”, the temperature typically reverts to that of springtime. After the mid-September break in the hot weather, Indian summer arrives and lasts throughout October. In this season too it is sensible to bring an umbrella for sporadic rain showers. A good website to check the weather is www.freemeteo.com it includes a seven-day forecast.
In Yerevan people are extremely fashion conscious, and a well-groomed appearance is appreciated. For both countries applies that in the countryside people dress more simply and conservatively. Shorts are only worn by young people. The somewhat longer Capri pants or 7/8 models are common; tank tops are worn in the cities. When going out for the evening, to the theatre or a restaurant, especially women, generally dress stylishly and avoid the casual clothing that’s more common in the west. Bring comfortable hiking shoes and a more formal pair for dress-up occasions. Very important to bring to Georgia: a scarf and a wrap skirt for women. They need to cover their head and wear a long skirt visiting monasteries and churches. Men need to wear long pants and take off hats in monasteries and churches. Frequently wrap skirts are offered near the entrance of a religious complex. In Armenia this does not apply.
It is very important to bring sunscreen because of high altitudes – you can quickly get sunburned. You may also prefer to take a hat for sun protection.
Bring all the prescription drugs you believe you will need. Bring enough for the entire stay and leave them in their original marked containers. Bring some basic medication such as ibuprofen, Tylenol or aspirin and anti-diarrhoea medication such as Imodium. Bring enough lens cleaning solution for your entire visit and maybe a spare set of eyeglasses. If you are prone to car sickness, please bring medication for it. It will not always be possible to claim seats in the front of the bus. In big cities pharmacies and bigger supermarkets carry these items, but that might not be the case in other parts of the country and there might be a language barrier.
During our tour, we will travel in an air-conditioned bus. Although Armenia and Georgia are relatively small countries, distances can take longer to travel than expected. There aren’t many highways and it takes time to wait out cattle crossings and wind your way up mountain roads. In general main roads are in good condition, but some parts can be in poor repair or under construction especially after winter damage. Infrastructure in Georgia was improved on large scale in past years. Outside the capital fuel and spare parts supplies are limited. It is possible to rent a car but not always easy if one doesn’t understand the local language. Driving standards of the average Armenian can be described as ‘creative’ and unpredictable and in Georgia as reckless.
Minibuses are very populair and cheap means of transport run on standard routes. They leave from bus terminals spread over the city and leave when the bus is full. The destination is marked on the minibuses, but then you would have to be able to read the local alphabet! The easiest choice for tourists is to use taxis. They are very inexpensive. Rides in the centre of Yerevan or Tbilisi cost €2,10-€ 2,00. A good option is to rent a taxi for a half- or full-day tour. Taxis do have meters, although solo drivers might not have one.
Armenia is the first Cristian nation in the world and Armenians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. There are two minorities: Yezidi are ethnically related to Kurds, but practice a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern religion with ancient origins and Russian speaking communities of Molokans. They are Christians who separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th Century. Georgians are mostly Christian and in majority member of the Geoprgian Orthodox Church. In contrast to Armenia where 98% of the population is Armenian, Georgia knows a larger diversity of ethnic minorities such as Adjarians, Mingrelians, Svanet, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Abkheses, Russians and Ossetians. Around 84% of the population is Georgian.
Our hikes are aimed at people with a normal physical condition and can walk without restrictions. You will require comfortable hiking shoes, because some sightseeing spots can be reached after a short walk on foot. For the hike to the caves of David Gareja a good physical condition is required as well as sturdy hiking shoes with grip soles. Considering the busy traffic and small distances in both Yerevan and Tbilisi, we will often walk to the restaurants. Of course one is free to choose an alternative and to take a taxi.