Getting In & Out
Ways In - Cheap Fares - Routes
Cheap Fares Watch
This chapter will surprise those who think the only way in and out of Armenia is by air. There is a common myth shared by past visitors that Armenia, being a land-locked country, meant "air only".
You can of course travel by air, on non-stop flights from Europe, the CIS and the Middle East. But you can also travel by cruise ship, overland by bus, train, hired car or van. And you can also drive in yourself. Whether by land, sea or air, both route and price options are numerous.
With the exception of air tickets, transport prices are incredibly cheap, which will be a relief to the budget traveler. Air is faster, but it is not always comfortable, and it takes a little planning to find the ticket that is rationally priced. Customs has revamped their processing points throughout the country, and despite what the naysayers tell you--it IS easy to cross the frontier. You can avoid the passenger crush at Zvartnotz (and save lots of money) by taking alternate routes.
And more scenic ones, at that. If you combine boat ferries from Bulgaria, Odessa, Athens or Istanbul across the Black Sea to Batumi, then take rail, bus, van or car transport into Armenia, you will be exploring one of the oldest trading routes used by Armenians. The Istanbul-Yerevan route is also an excellent path for those interested in visiting Byzantine historical sites.
And the choices are growing, with three flights to London, flights to Vienna, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, the train route between Tbilisi and Yerevan, and bus routes regularly travel via Athens, Aleppo, Istanbul and Tehran.
Ways To Save
Shop around. There are differences in prices. The internal airfare charged to General Sales Agents (GSA), who in turn sell to travel agents can be much lower than the price you are charged. With no competition from other GSA's, sometimes the prices for tickets bought in the USA may be more expensive than those bought in Europe, even if you are flying from the USA.
Buy Offshore. You don't have to buy from the GSA in your country. The internet, fax and express mail have made the days of single choices obsolete. While a GSA in one country will charge a higher rate, another GSA will charge much less. Tickets can be sent overnight express, or picked up at the airline desk at your departing airport.
Also shop directly through Interline carriers, which have internal fare agreements with the main carrier. thogh lately the prices have not been favorable over pairing on your own. These are special agreements between carriers for flights on both networks. GSA's and Travel Agents earn commissions on these fares, tacking additional "charges" on top. Interline carriers can undercut agents by charging only the internal agreement fare if they want to. Armavia and its parent Siber Air have almost 100 Interline agreements with International carriers, covering the entire world. You may still find it cheaper to pair a $399 R/T ticket NY-Amsterdam with a $750 R/T to Yerevan over an interline $1500 R/T fare.
Use Other Routes. The busiest (and most expensive) route to Armenia is via Paris and London. Though they are the cheapest for transcontinental flights, using Armenian Airlines' travel rep commissioned tickets, they can still be very expensive. If you fly to one of the other gateway cities, you'll find the price much more in line with what they should be. If you take advantage a $699 specials to Athens, Istanbul or Kiev and combine it with fares to Armenia, you'll usually beat the prices on the other routes. You can even do this with supersaver fares to the major European cities.
Combine Transport. Combine cheaper fares to the Middle East and CIS with train, bus or boat transport. For example, a flight from Marseilles to Paris is about $350 R/T, whereas Armenian International Airlines charges up to $850 R/T Paris-Yerevan. That makes the full trip from Marseille to Paris $1150. If you flew from Marseilles to Istanbul, then took the bus from Istanbul to Yerevan, the total cost is around $525; take the cruise line from Istanbul to Batumi, then the train or bus to Yerevan, it's $450-600. The bus from Batumi to Yerevan about $20, a hired car is about $100. You can also take the train to Tbilisi and Yerevan for around $40, or fly from Tbilisi to Yerevan for around $150.