Renting a car in Armenia can definitely be a challenging endeavour, but if you value flexibility, adventure and setting your own pace it’s the best way to see the country.
Driving in Armenia was one of the highlights of our trip, and we never would have had the amazing experiences we did if we hadn’t rented a car.
Keep in mind, the roads aren’t exactly in good condition and your fellow drivers are unpredictable. But we had no issues driving in Armenia, despite the crazy traffic in Yerevan and potholes everywhere on the ‘highways’ outside the capital. It was great to have our own wheels after months of reliance on public transport and taxis.
Tips for Renting a Car in Armenia
It’s Not Cheap!
Car rental in Armenia starts from about $19 per day. This is quite expensive in comparison to other countries (it was only $8 per day in Cyprus), and especially so when considering the cost of living in Armenia.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
If your licence is in the Latin alphabet (don’t worry, this includes English), you don’t need an international driving permit.
Despite what some websites stated, we were never asked for an international driving permit and our Queensland (Australian) licences were fine. As long as your licence is in the Latin alphabet, and has a photo, you don’t need an IDP.
Manual Transmission (AKA ‘stick shift’)
Most cars in Armenia have manual transmissions, and I would recommend some experience and confidence in driving a manual if you are renting a car in Armenia. Yerevan traffic can be a bit hectic, and the roads are often mountainous, windy, and in terrible condition.
In saying that you don’t need to be an expert, Dan hadn’t driven a manual in 10 years and he managed ok after a little refresher.
If you have no prior experience driving a manual, perhaps pay a bit extra for an automatic transmission.
What Type of Car Should You Rent?
We rented a ‘mini’ category car (the cheapest and most basic model) and were given Bessie (as we Christened her), a cute red Nissan Micra. It costed us $91 for 4 days rental, and Bessie could handle everything we needed for our Armenia road trip itinerary.
We travelled at the end of March and even encountered snow up in the mountains!
Unless you are travelling to very remote places or high in the mountain villages, you will be fine with a regular car (it’s what most of the population drives- though don’t take after them- we saw a lot of cars missing various parts, especially bonnets).
What Rental Company to Use?
We chose to rent a car through an international company (Alamo) for peace of mind. This has always served us well when renting cars overseas, as you are more familiar with the terms of rental, and have more recourse options if anything were to go wrong (these companies have an international brand to protect).
There was a slight mix-up when picking up the car, which was totally our fault, and Alamo were quick to help us. Plus the return process was simple and we had absolutely no issues (our deposit was returned to our credit card within two days).
Alamo had the best deals at the time we rented. But compare the prices for your trip on Kayak to find the best deal.
Traffic Laws in Armenia
- In built up areas (towns) – 60 km/h
- Outside built up areas (highways – regional) – 90 km/h
- On motorways (freeways – around Yerevan) – 110 km/h
- In residential areas (non-main roads through towns) – 20 km/h
You will know when approaching a town, as there will be a blue sign with the town’s name on it. When you see the blue town sign again with a red cross through it, you have exited the town and can increase speed again. This is common practice throughout Europe, but for us it was new information.
Something we also found confusing was when a speed limit sign would state (ie) 30km/hr then have a small sign underneath with an arrow and 500m on it. This means 30km/hr for the next 500 metres (I thought various things before clarifying).
Alcohol and Driving
Driving under the influence of alcohol is strictly forbidden in Armenia. You must have a blood alcohol content of 0.00% to drive.
You are only allowed to use a mobile phone whilst driving with a hands free set (not sure if this is strictly enforced, but not worth risking it! That’s what your co-pilot’s there for).
Other Road Rules
- It is compulsory for front seat occupants to wear seat belts
- You are not permitted to cross the continuous white line in the middle of the road (though this is never enforced or done as far as we saw)
- Children under 12 years old are not allowed to sit in the front passenger seat
Tips for Driving in Armenia
Drive on the Right Side of the Road
They drive on the right hand side of the road in Armenia, which is normal for a lot of the world… but takes a bit to get used to for Aussies such as ourselves (though it wasn’t difficult).
The hardest (funniest) part, other than the potholes, was that I automatically tried to change gears with my left hand for the first hour after renting the car.
Seriously, there are potholes everywhere. The potholes on Armenian highways are only to be seen on 4WD tracks in Australia. Once you get about 30 kilometres outside of Yerevan the roads become terrible.
I once described the roads as ‘swiss cheese’ due to the sheer number of potholes on the highways. There were times when we were doing about 20 km/hr trying to avoid them.
Take your time and you’ll be fine! Just because everyone else is racing along doesn’t mean you need to. Watch what other cars are doing, if they slow down be aware as there is likely a bad patch of potholes ahead!
Also try to avoid travelling at night, it is impossible to see potholes (or how big they are) in the dark, and some of them can do serious damage to your car.
Beware Sneaky Speed Bumps
It’s not only the random holes in the road that you need to watch out for, but also the sudden speed bumps. Particularly hazardous when entering cities, these incredibly sharp, steep speed bumps will emerge without any signage or warning. Always keep an eye out when driving into a town, especially in low riding vehicles.
Allow for More Time than Suggested
Plan for your journey to take longer than what google maps (or your GPS) states. Due to the road conditions you won’t be travelling the speed limit very often, and you’ll likely be driving slower than the locals.
In some cases it can take twice as long as what Google Maps suggests. We found it generally took us 1.5 times longer than suggested, so plan accordingly if you have to be somewhere by a set time. Though to be fair, this was largely due to us slowing down to 25-30kph while trying to navigate pothole laden roads in blinding snow.
Have a look here for the best offline apps to use on your road trip.
No One Drives Inside Their Lanes
The lanes are only a guideline, people make their own lanes within traffic flow, so don’t expect everyone to patiently sit in their marked lanes.
If you are concerned about getting used to driving/traffic in Yerevan, we recommend starting your rental on a Sunday. We inadvertently did this, and the roads were really quiet when we left Yerevan around midday.
Please Note: If renting on a Sunday you must book in advance, as the rental office are only open upon request (and at your specified pickup time).
Watch Your Speed
We saw signs for speed camera’s in most larger towns (though we rarely actually saw any camera’s), so be mindful of your speed.
We were also warned multiple times about the police in Armenia being strict about speeding. While we never had a problem, and there’s not many places where you could safely speed in my opinion, we did see a few cars pulled over around Yerevan, so please be cautious of speeding.
Follow the Road Rules (even though no one else does)
Armenian drivers aren’t known as sticklers for the road rules. However despite ignoring many road rules, Armenian’s appear to be sticklers for stop signs (I have no idea why).
It was quite entertaining watching them swerve all over the road avoiding potholes while chatting on their mobile phone, only to stop suddenly at a stop sign in a town when there is NO traffic coming and no one would know if they didn’t stop.
It can be difficult to find somewhere to refuel your car outside of Yerevan. We pulled in to four petrol stations before finding somewhere that both sold petrol (not gas) and actually had petrol available.
Look for larger European style petrol stations, not the ones attached to tiny mechanics shops, and ensure it says ‘Petrol’ on their signs (we made the mistake of pulling into a ‘gas’ filling station). An attendant will fill your car for you.
Also ensure you have enough cash available. We didn’t find anywhere that accepted card payment.
Parking inside Yerevan was included in our rental agreement (though we didn’t use it).
Additionally, small parking fees may be charged at some tourist sites. There are generally around 200 AMD, though some places may try and charge more.
We were charged 1000 AMD at Khor Virap and are pretty sure it was inflated. However we didn’t argue as we didn’t want to risk anything happening to our rental car. If you encounter something like this use your own judgement and common sense, but remember, its only $2.
If you are in an Accident, Don’t Move your Car!
We were strictly told that in the event of an accident (even a small one) to never move the car and contact the rental company straight away. Apparently if you move your car before the police arrive the accident is automatically your fault.
Luckily we never had to deal with this, but your rental company should give you instructions and emergency contact numbers to use in the event of an accident.
Other Transport Options
If this all sounds too daunting and complicated, know it isn’t absolutely necessary to rent a car to travel in Armenia. Your other options in this case are local minibuses (marshrutka’s), hiring a driver and group tours.
Marshrutka’s (minibuses) travel all over the country for a reasonable price in varying levels of comfort. Trips costs 1,000 to 5,000 AMD ($2 – $10) depending on distance.
Keep in mind, they often don’t travel to tourist sites which means having to organise taxis or hitchhike to your actual destination, adding to your time and cost.
Hiring a driver for a day, or multiple day’s, is also an option that will offer more flexibility without the extra planning of driving yourself.
Prices start around 25,000 AMD ($52) for a car (up to 4 passengers) for day trips close to Yerevan.
A driver will be more expensive than using marshrutka’s or hiring a car yourself, but will still give you flexibility. You could potentially save money by organising a group at your hostel to share the ride with.
Group tours offer day-trip options to various sites from Yerevan. Costing anything from 15,000 AMD ($31) per person (depending on length and inclusions), they can be quite costly if you are more than 1-2 people, and will limit your freedom to explore sites at your own pace.
If you would like to take a tour, check out some great options in Armenia here:
Why Renting a Car in Armenia is Worth It!
Hiring a car gives you an unparalleled sense of freedom and autonomy. Not only can you choose to go down that scenic looking back road on a whim, but you’re not bound by anyone else’s schedule.
There’s no waiting for buses, no getting up obscenely early for trains – it’s entirely up to you. Not to mention the incredibly important point of being able to choose your own driving music!
In Western European countries with modern and easily accessible public transport this may not be as necessary, but when venturing off the beaten path it’s always worth looking into hiring a car.
We hope this ultimate guide to renting a car in Armenia was helpful in planning your next trip!