Menu of prices

Spending is both personal and circumstantial. I try to maximize the overall trip, limiting costs where I can while prioritizing certain things over others. I’d much rather spend money on local cuisine and unique experiences than hotel amenities.

As a budget-minded traveler, I prefer spending money on food and drink over accommodation. Of course, it’s nice to have a few amenities and know what to expect.

Sign at airport in Armenian
A sign in the local language is one of the best welcomes to another country

This post will break down the costs of my October 2022 trip to Armenia.

I’ll attempt to explain the nuances that may have increased or decreased my expenditures so that you will have an accurate representation of actual costs based on my travel style and apply that to your own.

For a detailed description of my itinerary and things to see, head over to my trip report.

Flights

Usually the highest priced travel item, my airline ticket was no exception. The decision to travel to this region came later than the optimal travel window for booking.

Windows with a few panes in different colors at the airport
This was as much color as I could handle after nearly two days without sleep

Additionally, I flew into Yerevan and out of Tbilisi, Georgia, so that increased the cost slightly.

A roundtrip to Tbilisi would have been about $100-200 less, but attending the Extraordinary Travel Festival in Yerevan was the primary reason for going, so it was an easy decision to start there.

Boarding sign "Group 1, Group 2" Brussels Departs 5:35 pm United
Waiting to board the plane

There are several options for getting to Yerevan (airport code: EVN) from the Washington, DC area. New York is often significantly cheaper, as are other main hubs, but for this trip it didn’t make sense.

Airlines Flying to the Caucasus Region

Some of the airlines that fly to Yerevan include the following:

  • Air France via Paris (airport: CDG)
  • Austrian Airlines through Vienna (VIE)
  • Brussels Airlines via Brussels (BRU)
  • Condor through Frankfurt (FRA)
  • LOT Airlines via Warsaw (WAW)
  • Lufthansa through FRA
  • Qatar Airways via Doha (DOH)
  • TAP Air Portugal through Lisbon (LIS)
  • Wizz Air via Milan (MXP) and other European airports
Selfie with Mannequin Pis
Taking advantage of a long layover in Brussels to see the famous Mannequin Pis statue

Brussels

I chose Brussels Airlines for two main reasons: 1) it was one of the cheapest and 2) the opportunity for a full day layover in Brussels appealed to me. If I have to have a layover, I might as well get the chance to explore a new place, even if it is just for the day.

The layover of course increased the costs since I would be storing my bag, taking transportation, and eating and drinking my way through Brussels. That is a cost I was willing to pay for the exploration factor.

Jupiler beer taps and a mug full
One of the beers I tried in Brussels

I’d never flown Brussels Airlines before, but since it was a Star Alliance member, I was able to book it through United and earn miles towards my account. The DC to Brussels leg was with United, and then Brussels to Yerevan was on Brussels Airlines. I thought they were good.

Return Flight

My return flight was from Tbilisi (TBS), which also has many options. Some of the major options were Air France, Condor, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines. Due to a combination of price, airline mileage partnerships, and schedule, I chose Lufthansa via Munich (MUC).

Hofbrauhaus Helles Vollbier and a pretzel
Beer and pretzel for early lunch at 10AM at the Munich Airport on my way home

There was a layover of about 5 hours, but that was not enough time to leave the airport and I’d already been to Munich, so I took advantage of the airport lounge’s free meals and beverages during that time.

The total roundtrip cost of the airfare was $968.77 USD. There wasn’t enough time for me to research travel points and miles, and I hadn’t been on an international flight since 2019, so this seemed reasonable enough for me to book it and move on.

Accommodation

This is usually the second most expensive category, and could easily overtake the price of flights depending on the length of stay and how expensive the hotels are.

My frugality would never allow me to travel as long as I do if I stayed at five-star hotels, so I always look for the best bargain with a mind for value.

Foyer with Rooms 13 and 14 and "Boys' Showers" and an ottoman
Sometimes hostels like Kantar are really good

Daily Lodging Costs

I stayed 18 nights in Armenia, as follows:

  • October 11-18: Yerevan. Kantar Hostel, $187.94 prepaid (Agoda.com).
  • October 19-21: Sisian. Couchsurfing, free.
  • October 22: Yeghegnadzor. Spandaryan House, $17.55 cash (booked via Booking.com)
  • October 23-24: Dilijan. Airbnb, $41.08 prepaid (Airbnb).
  • October 25-26: Yerevan. Airbnb, $36.02 prepaid (Airbnb).
  • October 27: Gyumri. Couchsurfing, free.
  • October 28: Vanadzor. Hotel Maghay, $27.08 cash (booked via Agoda.com).
  • TOTAL COST: $367.45

My flight arrived in Yerevan a little after 1:00 AM, and knew I would need to rest up. I didn’t really want to stay in a dorm and wake everyone up but also didn’t want to have to move hotels the next day, so I just booked an extra night at the same hostel I would be staying at for the first week in Armenia.

Simple bed
My little room in Sisian was free with Couchsurfing

Yerevan

Kantar was my first choice due to its proximity to the event venue, affordable price, and central location in general.

The drawback was that the only option available was in a dorm room and there was only one bathroom on that floor with one shower, one toilet, and a stall with both. I opted for the 4-bed room, which turned out to be fine.

Breakfast buffet with jams & jellies, rolls, bread, salads, fruit, and chafing dishes with food
The amazing spread at Kantar, which changed daily but always had many choices

The best thing about Kantar was its breakfast buffet. Each day it offered something different as well as some steady favorites. The food included a nice mix of Armenian, Russian, European, and continental and everything was made fresh.

The buffet area surrounded the kitchenette, where staff were always cooking the food to replenish anything getting low. I’ve not encountered such options even in nicer hotels.

Mural of the world made of wine corks. "We drank 2,061 liters of wine to make this masterpiece for you."
Wine cork display in the canteen at Kantar

I should point out that the hostel also offered private rooms on upper floors, but they had all been booked. There were also dorm rooms with 6 or 8 beds.

At the time, there was a housing shortage in Yerevan due to the influx of Russian citizens fleeing their country. Everyone I encountered was very friendly and I would stay here again without question.

Yeghegnadzor

My one-night stay in Yeghegnadzor was pleasant enough at Spandaryan House. The fare included breakfast, and I could have requested dinner as well but I prefer trying local restaurants when I travel.

Edge of a bed, nightstand, and big cabinets
I had plenty of cabinet space, but really just needed towel hooks

The only complaint I would have is that I could smell cigarette smoke coming from the main residence below when I was in the hall. The bathroom is shared and down the hall from the rooms.

Vanadzor

Hotel MagHay in Vanadzor was my “splurge” after feeling sick and spartan couchsurfing. I got a special deal by paying in cash. The room was simple, but comfortable and nice, with a functional bathroom and good WiFi. The breakfast was the highlight for me.

Simple but nice bed
Simple but comparatively luxurious room in Vanadzor

Dilijan

The Airbnb I stayed at in Dilijan was called Old Dili, which was tricky to find by car but a very nice place. I had the large suite, which had a couch, dining room table, and enough radiators to hang my wet clothes up to quickly dry.

The kitchenette and laundry facilities are in a separate room. Each guest room got their own bathroom so in that respect, it’s private, even though they were not inside the room. The location is in Old Dilijan just below the Tufenkian Hotel.

Transportation

Since I rented a car and stayed close to downtown in most cities, the bulk of my transportation costs were limited to shared taxi rides. What renting a car provided, though, was much more flexibility and convenience to be able to visit places that public transportation doesn’t go.

A taxi to such places would have added up quickly, so in that light it may have been an overall cost savings. I also splurged on the cable car experience at Tatev.

Red Chevy Aveo parked
My rental car (I named it Argo) was the best, even on the terrible streets of Sisian

Transportation Costs Overview

Here is a summary of the costs related to getting around:

  • GG ride from airport to hostel: $6.72
  • Hyur Service group tour bus to Garni, Geghard & lavash-making, full day trip: $22.25
  • GG from Yerevan to Zvartnots Cathedral: $6.17
  • Collective bus from Vagharshapat to Yerevan: $0.75
  • Rental car for one week: $330.03 + $95.45 in gas
  • Parking fees at lots: $0.62
Tramway with cable cars over a canyon
Soaring over the Voratan river canyon on the Wings of Tatev Aerial Tramway
  • Wings of Tatev aerial tramway, roundtrip: $17.37
  • GG from rental car return to Airbnb (within Yerevan): $3.99
  • Yerevan Metro: $0.25 per ride
  • Armenian Railways from Yerevan to Gyumri: $3.26
  • Hitchhiking from Gyumri to Vanadzor: Free
  • GG from Vanadzor city to the Georgian border (1.75 hours): $22.16
  • TOTAL COST: $509.53 [$84.05 without the car & gas]

Rental Car

I highly recommend renting a car in Armenia. Swift Rent-a-Car in Yerevan is a great local option. I was able to rent an automatic transmission within less than two weeks of arriving. David was super accommodating and responsive to my many questions. Other companies either did not reply within a few days or at all, were sold out, or were slightly more expensive.

Argo the red Chevy Aveo, next to the Vorotan River and a big tree
Without this car, I wouldn’t have been able to explore so much of Armenia

Ride Sharing & Public Transportation

GG taxis work very much like Uber or Lyft, but instead of paying in the app, you must have cash. This presented a little dilemma for my first ride, but the driver was patient and luckily had just enough change to help me break a larger bill that I had gotten at the airport. Otherwise, I suggest always carrying smaller denominations if you can.

Metro rides in Yerevan were about $0.25 each and I only took one shared inter-city bus because Yerevan was so walkable. Other cities had a bus system, and there were the longer-distance buses available, but I didn’t investigate the costs.

Blue subway doors with Armenian language
The Yerevan Metro doors

Train

The only time I took a long-distance train was going from Yerevan to Gyumri. It was a 3-hour ride, which got crowded an hour in. It wasn’t bad, but I was still suffering a head cold and felt uncomfortable sitting for that long.

I hear the most popular route is from Yerevan to Tbilisi, but it was overnight and inconvenient for my schedule, since I wanted to stop along the way.

Cemetery and field
The train ride from Yerevan to Gyumri passed by this cemetery near Jrarat

Train tickets can be purchased in the station shortly before departure, at least when I visited. I tried to buy the day before, but was told to return before the train left.

The Armenian Railways online system wasn’t working at the time. It appears to be functional at the time of writing, but also looks complicated. I believe the timetables are at least accurate for research purposes.

Museums

I typically enjoy local and regional museums, but I also have a limited ability to spend hours in them. I would prefer spending time exploring a city or countryside, or going on a hike.

Still, I was sad to miss some of the places I had planned to see but most of the museums I visited were worth the admission.

Sansarian palimpsest behind a glass case
This ancient manuscript (called a “palimpsest”) is one of many treasures at the Matendaran

Museum Costs

Summary of Museums Visited:

Interior of the Mother Armenia monument
Inside the Mother Armenia monument is a museum
  • Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery Complex (Garni/Geghard): included with tour
  • Zorats Karer (Sisian): $3.46
  • Areni-1 Cave (Areni): $7.45 with guide
  • Momik Museum (Noravank): $1.23
Tree painting with names
I found this family tree painting at the Momik Museum in Noravank

Donation Options

This does not include all of the monasteries, churches, and religious sites, which were all free. Of course all of them can be opportunities to donate money.

I had given a few dollars worth of drams to a few places along the way, including an older woman who insisted on giving me a tour of the Noratus Cemetery in Russian and then tried to sell me socks (I only had about 100 drams to spare, so no socks).

Department of State USA sign "Noratus Medieval Cemetery and Field of Khachkars was rehabilitated with the financial support of the Embassy of the United States of America in Armenia through an 'Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation' project. The project was carried out during 2009 and 2010."
Noratus Cemetery has no admission charge, but this sign shows it was funded by the USA

At Zorats Karer, there is no “museum,” but the entrance fee allows you access to the site. However, I arrived about 15 minutes prior to them closing for the day and stayed well after they left.

The gate just closes, and even if it’s locked you could walk around it. The fee was reasonable, but I suppose I could have entered for free if I arrived after hours.

Stones and sunset
Zorats Karer is an open-air museum just north of Sisian

Other Museums

The list of museums I didn’t make it to is much longer, but since museums are so personal (I think), I will spare you that list. Follow what interests you, what is open, and what is convenient amidst a day of sightseeing or people-watching.

A few that I wish I had gone to are the History Museum of Armenia, Ararat Brandy Factory Tour & Museum, Erebuni Archaeological Museum & Fortress, Local Lore Museum and Art Gallery of Dilijan, and the Cobweb Art Gallery in Gyumri.

Meals & Drinks

I’ll probably create a separate post all about the food and beverages I had in Armenia, but I wanted to provide some details about costs.

I don’t always eat three square meals a day, especially when on the move. And I like to splurge once in a while. I always budget for beer, wine, and other local alcoholic beverages while my liver is still mostly intact.

Pasta, beer, and a beer bottle with onion rings on the top
Pasta dinner with onion rings and a craft beer at 379 Torch & Brew

Several of my meals were part of the Extraordinary Travel Festival, and my generous Couchsurfing hosts also provided most meals.

I rarely went out to a restaurant for breakfast, instead snacking on previously purchased items, combining it with lunch, or it was included in my stay. Rather than break down each meal or drink, I’ll give some generalizations of costs.

Beverage Costs

Let’s start with the liquids.

Coffee Smile shop with menus
It’s easy to get your java fix in Armenia
Coffee

Coffee is a staple in Armenia, and places to get it are everywhere. From sidewalk vending machines to gourmet cafes, you can find it in various forms and strengths.

Prices range from $0.25 on the street to $2.50 in a western-style cafe or bakery. Tea and hot chocolate are about the same.

Juice

Juice shops are also popular, as are individual juice vendors who are set up in places like markets or outside busy stores. Fresh-squeezed juices can be a little pricier, but average $2-4.

Water fountain
Bubbling water fountain (called “pulpulak”) in Gyumri, Armenia
Water

Water was one thing I never spent a penny on because the water everywhere is potable and there are bubbling drinking fountains all over the country, even in some small towns.

I brought a portable water bottle and filled up every chance I could. Bottled water is available, but there is no need to purchase it with clean, fresh water available.

Beer

Beers can range from $2-7, depending on the venue. I often combined lunch with an adult beverage, and in such places the beers are obviously more.

Menu of various beer styles and prices
Beer menu at Dargett in Yerevan

Supermarket bottled beers are in the lower range, whereas a beer sampler at a Yerevan craft brewery would be the highest. Still, I don’t think I paid more than $6, although I usually did not get a full liter of beer, which on the high end would be about $7.

Wine

Wine by the bottle can be $8-15. I picked up a decent bottle for $10 to give as a gift to one of my hosts. The same bottle would probably be the equivalent of $20 in the US.

Areni Winery and Hin Areni Wine Factory, right next to each other
Twin wineries in Areni

Glasses of wine are $2-5. Armenia has evidence of the world’s oldest winemaking press, so it is definitely a beverage to indulge in while you’re here.

Spirits

Spirits by the drink are much more affordable, ranging from $1.50 to $5. A glass of 20-year aged cognac was priced at over $10.

Sovats Vozni drink menu
Drink menu from a bar in Dilijan

Most other spirits or mixed drinks were around $2.50-6. Bottles of the higher end specially produced brandy could be hundreds of dollars, some of which I saw in random markets along with the cheaper stuff.

Dessert Costs

You can get an ice cream cone for $1, sweet sausage “soujouk” (fruit juice coated nuts on a string) is around $2-4.

Pastries like gata are usually less than $1-2. It would be easy to pick up a few junk food snacks for less than $2. I got 2 different types of freshly baked bread for $1 in Mughni.

Menu of types of gata
House-made gata (Armenian pastries) at the Harghartsin Monastery

Meal Costs

I didn’t seem to notice much of a difference between dinner and lunch prices in most of the places I went, probably because I sometimes ordered a drink with one or the other.

The cheapest meal for me was a hastily put together spread of bread, vegetables, and cheese in Darbas for $2. Most lunches without booze were $4-6 in local cafes to $10-13 in upscale restaurants near tourist areas (and possibly with alcohol).

In Sevanavank I spent $10 on a mediocre sandwich with a cup of tea, but in Areni I spent just $10.30 for a hearty bowl of soup, chicken cutlet, a full teapot, and a basket of various breads. I could’ve ordered just one of the items and still been full.

Receipt for 1650 drams, mostly in Armenian
Typical lunch prices at a sit-down restaurant (about $4 US; Vagharshapat)

Most dinners were accompanied with some sort of drink, with or without alcohol. The cheapest evening meal for me was $3.70 for a lahmajun (Armenian pizza) and tea.

On the high end, I splurged on my last night in Yerevan for steak tips, broccoli, and seabuckthorn tea for $17, including tip.

Meal of steak tips & rice with broccoli, bread, and hot seabuckthorn juice
My cheap splurge in Yerevan

Because some of the meals were based on convenience or hunger, I missed out on some of Armenia’s culinary delights. I’ll delve more into this on the next post.

Other Costs

No trip is complete without additional costs, unforeseen and unbudgeted. I knew I would probably purchase a few souvenirs and gifts, and there are things like tissues, toilet fees, stamps, and books.

Medications

A rather unpleasantly large expense was for medications and related expenses to attempt to relieve my cold. I was probably moving too fast and not resting properly, so my body didn’t get a chance to heal. As a consequence, I left a trail of drams at each city’s pharmacy.

Tissues, zinc, vitamin D3, Coldrex, and Halls cough drops
A collection of medical items in Dilijan

Miscellaneous Costs

Some of the miscellaneous expenses are described as follows:

  • T-shirts from the festival: $34.87
  • A new pair of flip-flops after mine broke: $4.51
  • A map book in Armenian: $2.86
  • Souvenirs from Etchmiadzin: $16.00
  • Postcards: $0.99
  • Bottle of honey: $5.01
  • Medicines (nasal spray, pills, cough drops): $82.16
  • A new, cheap suitcase: $37.37
  • Postage stamps: $2.75
Selfie with suitcase
I finally found a cheap suitcase at Rossia Mall in Yerevan

Pre-Trip Costs

There are also pre-trip purchases that I included in my overall trip costs:

  • Lonely Planet guidebook (I’m still a sucker for these): $20.02
  • A new pair of travel pants and shoes: $243.80
  • Registration fee for the Extraordinary Travel Festival: $349.00
  • International Driver’s License from AAA + photo: $29.67
  • Meal and cocktail at airport in DC before departure: $10.81 (after Priority Pass covered $28)
  • Total expenses for Brussels layover (food, transport, drinks): $78.70

The total for the Armenia portion of the trip, minus Brussels but including the airfare and other pre-trip costs was $3,007.17.

Hand-written receipt
Some places provide hand-written receipts

Adding in Brussels and the remaining 20 days in Georgia, the grand total was $4,633.22.

I used the TravelSpend app to track all of my spending. While I likely didn’t enter every single expense, I tallied all of my bank and credit card account details to report an accurate total.

Menu of lahmajun from Elie's in Yerevan
Lahmajun (Armenian pizza) is usually an affordable meal

The per day spend is decidedly not very budget friendly. However, when you look at the actual on-the-ground spending, it’s more like $72/day. I could have gotten it down to $50/day without the car, but my overall budget for the trip (including Georgia) was $5,000.

I don’t micromanage my budget when it comes to travel, so for me this still counts as “budget” because the places were affordable and most definitely worth it.

Dinner menu
The all-inclusive menu at the Extraordinary Travel Festival gala dinner

There you have it! If you want a deeper dive on what I did during my trip, check out my “Extraordinary Armenia” post here.

What are some things you would have done to reduce or perhaps increase your spending for this type of trip?

Updated May 5, 2024

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