Yerevan, Armenia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/27/17
Personal Experiences from Yerevan, Armenia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This was my first post with DoS, however I have been a government contractor in Baghdad and Kabul, as well as working in Delhi for several months with Dell.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Nashville, TN, USA is about 15 hours of flying from Yerevan, with connections available through Paris, Vienna, and Dubai.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is the sole reason I felt it necessary to write up a Real Post Report. Housing locations are great, with relatively short commutes. Sizes are also decent for the most part; apartments downtown vary in size but homes are mostly large to accommodate families.
However, it's the sing-family homes that are the main issue. Many people I know living in them have had roof leaks. Even one apartment dweller who was on the top floor of a building had a leak this spring. Repair work isn't the finest here so several people also reported recurring issues with their roof. One person I know suspected he had some items inside his home stolen by repairmen; he certainly hasn't located them and they were last seen as the workers arrived.
The homes also lack insulation in walls and ceilings, making for cold winters and hot summers. The situation is better in the apartments downtown, but you still tend to run the A/C regularly to deal with the hot summer. Apartment dwellers have radiators for heating that are turned on or off seasonally by the building, so you have periods of freezing or overheating when the seasons change.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The local market has many of the same items under foreign brands. You can easily get household cleaners, shampoo, etc, but you are reliant on the local quality which isn't what we expect in the US.
Grocery costs are inexpensive. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are great tasting; be sure to try the apricots during the couple of weeks they are in season!
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Honestly, more peanut butter. That's about the only thing which I really miss!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Menu.am is a great delivery service that has food to you in under an hour, sometimes less, for less than 1 USD in delivery charges. They offer delivery from most restaurants and some other businesses. You can use either the website or their phone app to order
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Mail delivery through the embassy is fine. No DPO exists nor is it expected to be arranged soon since this is a former Soviet Socialist Republic which maintains strong ties to Russia.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
You can cheaply hire local drivers, which is recommended over the taxi services for safety reasons. Costs run up to 60 USD per week. Likewise, you can pay for household help at a rate of ~3 USD per hour; that rate applies to maids, cooks, and gardeners.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Various gyms outside the embassy are available. Costs are comparable with the USA and facilities available vary. The higher end places (~1000 USD/year) offer spa services with membership, such as sauna, steam room, etc.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards are accepted, but cash is highly preferred especially for smaller purchases. ATMs are common and I'm unaware of any problems with crime (such as card info being skimmed).
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is widely spoken, knowing a bit of Russian helps outside the city. Local tutors are available, the embassy newsletter has current pricing for each person's services. You'll see tutors who are also maids/cooks, and some tutors who are professors.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The city is not built with the disabled in mind, so there are no wheelchair ramps, elevators can be small even for two standing adults, etc. There are medical hospitals, but I cannot attest to how they are at helping the disabled.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The train system is very affordable at 25 cents (100 AMD) per trip. Taxis are about 2 USD per trip or less to most places in the city but I found few had seat belts and sometimes drivers would try to overcharge me, especially if they didn't use a meter. A phone app called GG taxi is what I now use whenever I have to rely on a taxi, since the app meters the fare.
There are other local transport options such as mashrutkas (hell no, even if the embassy did allow us to use these), local buses, and electric powered street cars, but I have had no reason to use any of these. You can easily walk most places in Yerevan
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
For travel outside Yerevan, you'll want some type of SUV. Some roads are modern and well maintained, but even those can have stretches where it's under repair and you will traverse gravel or dirt to get back onto tarmac.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High-speed internet is available. Downtown it was a quick installation. Some homes needed trenching to get service which took a month or more. The embassy employee association can help you rent a USB wireless NIC to get internet while you wait on install.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I went with a local provider, Viva Cell. I bought a smartphone outright for ~250 USD and pay about 15 USD/month for service. Local cafes and restaurants have free WiFi, you just need to ask the passphrase. This will help keep your data usage under the cap.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Vets locally are not bad, but not great. Same with kennel services, which are mostly offered by the same vets.
I'm not aware that animals need quarantine, but I got my dog locally after arriving (a rescue). You should be aware that people don't treat their dogs particularly well here. Also, dogs sometimes roam the streets downtown either solo or in groups of 3-4. Animal control can be called and will (try to) catch them, but others appear in a few weeks at most.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Typical embassy attire - no less than a polo shirt and Dockers.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Due to occasional demonstrations downtown, usually in Freedom Square or Republic Square, you should maintain personal awareness of your surroundings. It's generally very safe to walk the city, even at night in the less well maintained parts.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Air quality is decent, with some bad days. You can generally tell by looking at Mount Ararat; on a clear day there's a great view of the mountain. Some days, you can hardly see the top of it.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It is temperate, with a colder winter and a hot, dry summer. We see all four seasons here. Spring and fall are shorter, maybe a month and a half.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
No direct experience with this; embassy kids seem to keep busy with sports and music lessons, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are many opportunities to socialize, from jazz clubs to martial arts.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's good here for singles and couples/families. I see this as a pleasant place, with only the social problems you might expect from a developing economy which occasionally struggles with corruption.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
NO. The local culture is strongly anti-LGBT and there have been incidents of violence directed at them, as well as problems like graffiti on LGBT friendly businesses (what few there are).
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender issues are a concern here. You also will encounter dislike ranging to hatred for the Turkish and Azeris.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
See Tatev, especially the tramway. It's a bit of a journey but worth the four-hour drive. For a hidden gem search out the largest medieval castle in the Caucasus, Dashtadem Fortress. It's not listed in most guidebooks and there is no charge to go inside. It's huge by comparison to most other places in the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashtadem_Fortress.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Adventurous souls should try Yell Park, near Dilijan. It's a zipline place!
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The Vernissage has a lot of local handicrafts such as wooden chessboards, jewelry, etc.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's safe, there are lots of good restaurants, and the people are friendly.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, definitely. I wish I could extend my stay!