Shopping as a Tourist in Armenia
Traveling adventures are never complete without a decent shopping experience. There are definitely dozens of friends back home waiting for your gifts. So, instead of upsetting them with a simple post card, explore the shopping possibilities in Armenia and fill your bags with items most typical for this country.
Souvenirs are a complete must here. Armenia is a country of symbols, legends and traditions. This is why you will have a wide variety of choice.
Best souvenirs are stunning collections of wooden decorations, necklaces, bracelets, national instruments (for example, duduk, which was recognized by UNESCO as an Armenian national instrument) and so on. These wooden souvenirs are mainly hand-made and look great as a part of interior décor. The designs incorporate crosses, apricots, pomegranate, and images from Armenian rural life. Be careful when packing them in your suitcase; they are extremely fragile. It’s best if you carry them in your hand bag.The ideal place to look for such souvenirs is the Vernissage. It’s an open-air weekend market, located not too far away from the Republic Square and the metro station. Some sections of the market are open all week. Despite this, the best time for a souvenir shopping here is Saturday or Sunday.(Image by pcukr)
The items on display are usually made by the sellers. If you want a personalized souvenir with someone’s name or a special message on it, feel free to order one. The prices are varied depending on the customer.Tourists get higher prices than locals. So, if you have made a few Armenian friends, ask them to accompany you and do the talking for you. If you’re a lonely traveler, make sure to do some bargaining, especially if you’re buying a few things from the same artist.
If you miss the weekend Vernissage, look for the same souvenirs next to attractions located outside of Yerevan. The temple of Garni, ruins of Zvartnots and the majority of churches around the country either have their own gift shops or allow individual artists to sell their products outside the attraction gates.
Finally, Yerevan downtown is filled with souvenir shops. The majority of them are positioned in Abovyan Street. Prices are higher than in markets and bargaining may not be of any help here. However, the vast majority of Armenian souvenirs are hand-made, so the price you pay is definitely worth it.
Armenian sweets and chocolates can serve as unique gifts for kids. You can buy delicious dried fruits, sujoukh (walnut in syrop), sour lavash (paper-thin layers of dried gem), and so on. Supermarkets are the best place to buy them. Make sure they have decent packaging, so that you don’t come across food safety problems in the airport.
As for the daily meals, buying ingredients from a supermarket and cooking yourself is not efficient. On the contrary, fast food places serve a quick and an affordable lunch, but you won’t find a Subway or McDonalds here. Armenians have their own fast food comprised of the quickest dishes of the regional cuisine. Next up are the restaurants serving Armenian or Caucasian cuisine. If you can handle the evening with only one dish and a beverage, the average price for a dish and a beverage will range from $5 to $10. A wiser option would be finding friends and share the meals. This way you can order a few dishes, try all of them and share the bill.
You can buy alcoholic drinks from supermarkets, small shops, specialized liquor shops, pubs, bars, cafes and so on. The drinking age is 18, but hardly anyone will check your ID. You can visit the pubs and bars even if you’re under 18.
Armenia is a country of legendary wine and brandy. Moreover, Winston Churchill himself was a devoted fan and a consumer of Armenian brandy. If you are of age, take a bottle or two back home for important people like your dad or boss; that would be the most prestigious and expensive Armenian souvenir you’ll buy. Specialized liquor stores or factories are the best place to buy high quality brandy. Keep the supermarkets as a Plan B.
Whether you’re looking for a gift or comfortable shoes for yourself, the Yerevan shopping area is centered in Abovyan, Tumanyan, and Mashtots streets. Besides, there are two major malls – Dalma Garden Mall and Yerevan Mall – where you can buy clothing shoes, go to movies, and so on. Malls usually present international brands, while real Armenian production is found in downtown shops.(Image by Laetitia Blancher)
Items needed for everyday use, for example, a toothbrush, can be purchased from any supermarket or small shop. Small shop owners usually don’t speak English (only Russian), but you can show them what you need, and they will be glad to help. Shopping is easier in supermarkets, where you can pick and choose whatever you like, take them to the cashier and pay the amount stated on the screen. If none of the mentioned options suits you, ask the reception for help. They can order your shopping list from a local supermarket.
Anna is a part time tour guide but also occasionally writes for www.traveltoarmenia.am. She’s been almost everywhere in Armenia – from popular everyday monasteries to unbeaten paths through mountains
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Feature image by Lea_from_Armenia