All Roads Lead to Yerevan

Alaverdi, Armenia
Aug 7, 2018

More than eighty percent of all travelers to Armenia choose to stay in Yerevan and take packaged tours to various parts of the country. Of the remainder, smart ones rent cars to travel around the country. The tiny percent who choose to travel independently minus transport, soon find that there is an unwritten law. Thou shalt not travel to or from anywhere but Yerevan. At least not by public transport.

There are plenty of countries where public transport is non-existent, some, where even roads are hard to come by. But information is usually available via the local grapevine and sharing rides are the norm. Being squashed inside is routine and expected.

Here, the marshrutkas from towns travel only to or from Yerevan, not to one another. They stop enroute and will take passengers but only if there are seats available. Strangely, overcrowding is apparently strictly forbidden, despite the dearth of transport. Even more curious is the lack of information. Neither the guest house owners nor any locals I asked seemed to have much information, or none that they cared to divulge. Traveler lore advises shared taxis but this too must be a closely guarded secret because only in one town, Goris, did I find a shared taxi. And then only because a local had befriended me. Ranks of taxis on the other hand are easily found in all towns, the drivers adept at charging visitors ten or fifteen times the going rate. It is yet another unwritten law, but one that is true the world over. It must be among the job description of taxi drivers. Not adhering to it likely means expulsion from the exalted ranks.

So clueless travelers such as I, do what locals do – hitchhike. It seems the norm in Armenia and is easy enough between towns albeit tedious. But heaven forbid you should have the gall to want to visit villages or places off the beaten path. I tried and failed spectacularly and am rapidly losing the will to try. The supposed grandeur of villages along Debed canyon has proved elusive. And the towns of Vanadzor, Stepanavan and Alaverdi have not exactly made me jump for joy. Despite not visiting some places that I wanted to, I head back to Georgia with a vague sense of relief.

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