Driving in Armenia

Driving in Armenia – road conditions, road rules, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, campervans, navigation, maps, GPS, navigation, rental cars, getting around, distances, highways, motorways, police, parking, tips …Drivers in Armenia have a reputation for being somewhat crazy if what you read online is to be believed. I didn’t find it that bad. Some overtaking maneuvers out on the highways seemed a bit risky, and large 4wd vehicles drove like they owned the road (perhaps they did), trying to push more timid drivers out of the way with horns and lights flashing. Some tips …

  • Get a decent map of Armenia, or GPS navigation device. Get a map with place names written in Armenian as well as English (more to show Armenians who don’t read English so well when you get lost).
  • Signposting is poor to non-existent. But when there are signs, they are usually in Armenian and English, sometimes Russian also. Occasionally signs are in Russian only.
  • There aren’t that many major roads between towns and cities so once you get on the right one, you’re unlikely to get lost easily.
  • Asking for directions is difficult outside Yerevan if you don’t speak Russian or Armenian.
  • Speed limits are rarely posted – assume max 90 kph on highways, 60 kph in towns. Police seem to be quite vigilant on speed and there are occasional speed cameras. Whatever nonsense drivers get up to, by and large they seem to stick to the speed limits, especially in towns.
  • The sign with the town name at the start is also the start of the 60 or 50 kph zone. It ends with the sign with the town name crossed out.
  • On roundabouts, it’s normal to give way to traffic entering the roundabout, not on the roundabout. Sometimes that’s clear with give way triangles painted on the road, sometimes it’s not.
  • Road conditions are good on some highways, average on most, and terrible occasionally. Some main highways have sections with large potholes or unsealed and very bumpy (10-20 kph driving speed).
  • A 4wd vehicle is useful if driving off the main roads, and essential in some places.
  • Rental cars in Armenia are expensive – cheapest is about US$40-$50 per day from a reputable organisation with newer cars. Older cars are available for cheaper rates but reliability is very questionable. Road conditions are hard on cars, especially the suspension, wheels, and tyres.
  • Petrol stations are frequent enough on main highways but probably a good idea to try to keep tank half full at least by stopping at larger petrol stations when you see them.
  • There are no rest stops with restaurants, toilets, petrol, supplies like you see on Western European motorways. Roadside toilets are few and far between, and not usable when you do see them (clogged up and not cleaned). Keep toilet paper in the car and expect to have to find a tree when you need to unload. Or try a roadside cafe.
  • There are occasional parking areas with picnic tables on highways, but it’s easy enough to stop pretty much anywhere anyway. Some of the minor roads have quite pleasant picnic and BBQ areas.
  • Roadside cafes exist but look fairly rudimentary – like a shipping container in many cases. Bring food and drink with you from a supermarket in Yerevan. Occasionally you’ll see somewhere that looks a bit more decent, but only occasionally, and never when you want one.
  • Parking in Yerevan seems to be relatively unrestricted … if you can find a spot during the day.
  • Parking anywhere else is relatively straightforward and seems to be free.
  • Driving at night is a bit unnerving – there are no streetlights on highways, and poor or no lighting in towns. Occasionally cars and trucks drive at night without headlights on.
  • If you see a puddle, slow down and try to go around it, or follow someone with a smaller car, it might be a deep pothole.
  • I saw one campervan or motorhome in the week I was there. I saw maybe a dozen bicycles on the highways, very few in Yerevan city. I saw very few motorcycles.
  • Cycling in Yerevan city is for the brave or adventurous. Very few people seem to do it. Traffic would put most people off I expect.
  • Cycling around Armenia is possible and the scenery is great. But road conditions and traffic do not make for a pleasant experience. Plenty of steep hills to keep you fit. Bring a good puncture repair kit or a few spare tubes – the unsealed roads and rubbish that litters the side of the road will probably take their toll.
  • Cycling on secondary roads will be unpleasant – the road conditions are very rough in many cases (although some are quite good).
  • Weather is hot in summer for cycling.
  • I saw no campgrounds or RV parks. But roadside camping or wild camping is probably ok and relatively safe. Probably … I’m guessing.
  • I saw a cycle hire place at the Marriott Hotel, Republic Square, Yerevan.
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