Armenian Public Transit Explained
For all the budget travelers--Armenian public transit can get confusing. If you asked me last year I'd have told you just how bewildering I found it to be, as expressed with great frustration in my post Lost and Not Quite Found in Armenia. But here's some personal growth for you; I'm back here for 2.5 months this summer and I've finally figured this one out. This guide will cover transport both in the city, and between cities (including to Tblisi!), and a few non-public transit options that you can use as well.
Some parts of this system seem very strange by American standards, but Armenian planning works differently than what we’re used to. It can be a little stressful to get used to this much more laid back system, but just bear with it and you’ll get where you need to go, and have a valuable cultural experience in the process. You’ll notice that I encourage you repeatedly to message me or comment for recommendations in this post, which I know seems bizarre by American standards, but asking around is generally the best way to find information in Armenia, so I want to give you access to this Armenian network if you’re not in the country.
You have several options for getting around Yerevan:
- Buses: These will get you most places around the city. There are no routes on Google maps, but you can find them using the Yerevan Routes app. The best way to use the app is to put in your destination. Open the app, press “By Destination,” find your destination on the map, and click the area. The app will then show you all of the buses that go there, and you can wait at your nearest bus stop until one of them comes. If you’re in the center or on a major street there are likely to be multiple buses you can take. If you’re somewhere more out of the way, you can click on the bus routes to make sure that they will stop at your starting points as well.
Buses cost 100 drams each, which you give directly to the driver. It is best if you have 100 dram coins, but your driver will likely have change for anything up to 1000 dram. Buses should stop at every stop, so you don’t have to worry about telling the driver to stop, but there is no indication of which stop is which, so keep your map with you on the ride.
- Marshrutkas: Marshrutkas are the little Soviet-style vans that you will see around most former Soviet countries. They work much the same as busses, and they will show up when you search on the Yerevan Routes app as well. They are generally less comfortable, so I would recommend taking busses whenever possible. In addition, they will not stop at every stop, so be prepared to tell the driver to stop. In Armenian, this is “Kangnek” and you have to make sure to say it loud so they hear you.
- Metro: The metro is definitely the most comfortable option, but it only has one line in Yerevan, so the places you can go with it are relatively limited. The metro will show up when you search for directions in Google maps. To use it, go down to the metro station, and go to the little booth window. You pay 100 drams for one token, but you can buy multiple tokens at one time if you want to keep a few on you for convenience. There should be signs on each side of the metro station saying which direction it goes. The metro generally comes within five minutes, especially if you are at a central station, but can take up to fifteen minutes at odd times, or in the farther away stations.
- Taxis: This is not public transportation, but is a good option if you need to get somewhere fast, or if your destination is not easily accessible by public transportation. It is best to use a car sharing app, as regular taxi drivers are much more likely to charge you higher prices if they hear you speaking a foreign language. GG is the best of these apps. It is an Armenian startup and does thorough background checks on its drivers, so it is your safest option. However, there are sometimes very long wait times, at which points you can use Yandex. Both of these apps work like Uber or Lyft. Yandex is less trustworthy than GG, but will sometimes get you to your destination faster, and is still better safety-wise and price-wise than hailing a random taxi off the street. If all else fails, however, you can hail a taxi in most central locations.
Going between cities:
- Marshrutkas: This is often the cheapest method of inter-city transportation, especially if you are solo or with only a few people. They are the same type of vans that go in the city, except that they are sometimes bigger, and they always have luggage strapped on the top (you can even bring suitcases!) They are not the world’s most comfortable method of transportation as the vans are often very old and never have air conditioning, but you can almost always get them, and they go between most major cities, and even to Tblisi. There are no tickets for marshrutkas; you simply show up at one of the central bus stations, get on and pay the driver. Unfortunately there is no map for marshrutkas either, and the general Armenian way to find out what goes where is by asking around. If you are not in Armenia, we will be happy to be your connection to the Armenian network. Just comment on this post, or send us a message on Facebook, with where you’d like to go by marshrutka, and we’ll help you find the station to catch it at, the times that it runs, and the price. It is always good to know the prices, because drivers may also try to charge you a higher price if they know that you are a tourist. For price reference, a two hour bus ride to Dilijan is around $4 the most expensive one I have heard of is $15 to Tblisi.
- Trains: There are trains to Gyumri and Tblisi. I personally have not taken these trains, but I have heard that they are old, slow, and not very comfortable, and that it is usually better to take the marshrutkas. If anyone else has more info on trains, please comment and let me know, but they have not been recommended to me.
- Shared Taxis: You can generally catch shared taxis at the bus stations of major cities. This is a more comfortable alternative to the marshrutkas generally, but you are still likely to be with strangers in a full taxi, and they may not have space for your luggage depending on size. The way these taxis generally work is that you buy your seats and wait at the station for enough other people to come to fill the taxi so that you can go. Alternately you can buy out the other seats, but this will be more expensive for you.
- Hiring Cars/Vans: This is probably the most comfortable option, and is especially good if you have a bigger group (5-7 people). These can vary greatly in price, but for reference I hired a van with a group of 5 people to Tblisi, which was $36 round trip per person. You can find some of these drivers online, but if you’re looking for one, feel free to comment or message us on Facebook, and we can provide you with recommendations and prices.
Now you're ready to explore Armenia like a local!
By Araxie Cass