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A woman's guide to visiting Armenia

2012-02-05

Women travel for numerous reasons, whether to discover new destinations and cultures, come up with business opportunities, or simply to relax - not unlike men. But when it comes to personal security, and the way religious and cultural beliefs of the foreign countries affect travelers, there's a huge difference between women and men. It's surely admirable for an independent woman to explore the world on her own, as embarking on a journey of this mode will surely increase the efficiency and overall, her self esteem. However, from the midst of the merits emerge some challenges.

Different countries have different rules and they require matching behavior accordingly. So, ladies, here's what you need to know should you decide to take a solo journey to Armenia.

Armenia is a Christian country but sometimes more conservative than other Christian countries. Even though there is no certain dress code neither for men, nor for women, there are still several underground rules that shouldn't be ignored.

If you are a tourist, you can dress as such, however, whatever comfort you might find in wearing minimal clothing will be canceled out by the discomfort of having men stare at you all the time. Oops, hey! This has its birght side, depending on how optimistic you are! Attention? Then attention! Be confident, walk your head high and let them admire your beauty, after all it's safe for you, isn't it?

Whether you dress modestly or a little bravely, if you are somewhat attractive, you certainly can't prevent compliments and filtration, which is usually pretty harmless. Men will call you qaxcr (sweety), sirunik (cutey), etc, the best is not to react to this, unless you are willing to engage in a romantic conversation :)

If you feel that someone is stalking you, find a public place (such as a store). Try to keep your money, credit cards, and ID close to your person, as big purses can make easy targets, though Yerevan is one of the world's low crime rate cities. Usually there is no pattern of location. In most of the parts of the country, there is no or little harassment.

At summer nights people like to go out and walk along the streets, parks and squares. Republic Square is one of the major attractions, where you can see many tourists. Even though the main fountain show starts at 9pm, you have better not stay out later than 11pm if you are alone and if you live not in the city center. The public transportation is also safe and works until 12.00-01.00am, while Yerevan Metro works until 11.00pm. The bus directions are writtein only in Armenian, so you might need a bus-guide to look it up. Buses are very economic and comfortable (unless overcrowded). However, if you decide on a taxi, be aware that sometimes the fee may be on tourist level, especially if you don't speak the language. Recently the street names got romanised, making it easier for forigners to navigate.

People are polite and very friendly. Unlike many conservative cultures, people in Armenia are very much sociable and open to start a conversation with strangers. Do not hesitate to ask for directions or other type of information, you will always be welcomed and assisted by the locals. No or very limited knowledge of Armenian (or Russian) can sometimes be a bounder, as not many people speak English even in Yerevan. However if you are good at navigating, you can handle it.

Difficulties are certainly many, but so are the benefits! In fact, there are some benefits that trail mostly woman travelers, such as free invitations for lunch or dinner, a free tour around the city etc.

As far as you look like a tourist, you will always get plenty of attention from the locals, but if you follow the same precautions you might in your home country, you should really be fine in Armenia. Simply knowing some easy-to-follow rules, you can relax and enjoy Armenia's rich culture and amazing historical sites.

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