Travel Safely in Armenia: Crime, Local Laws & the Political Situation

Armenia gets a bad rap. It's a country trying desperately to move forward and lose the stigma associated with various internal and border conflicts. Part of the Caucasus region of Eurasia, it's beautiful, exotic and feels like an adventure. However, like all good adventures there are a few things you should keep in mind to stay safe during your travels.

Stay clear of the Nagorno-Karabakh area. While a cease-fire has been in effect since 1994, this strange self-proclaimed Republic is an unrecognized ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.

The territory is under dispute and the border areas are not safe - by that we mean landmines, border patrols, border conflicts and occasional shootings. Just stay clear of the whole area.

Your adventures in Armenia should not include participating in or even watching any demonstrations.

Political rallies after the 2008 presidential elections turned violent and government security forces clashed with demonstrators leaving ten people dead and dozens injured. While it's been pretty quiet since then, you'd be wise not to risk it.

As with most countries, particularly in the cities petty crime is common in Armenia.
Pick pocketing and theft from vehicles are common. Also, be aware that robberies have been reported on train services from Armenia to Georgia.

A few other things to avoid on your adventures in Armenia: drugs; overt homosexuality and photographing military sites. Regarding drugs - the penalties for the use of, smuggling or possession of drugs include fines and long prison terms.

Homosexuality - while it was decriminalized in 2003 it is still not widely socially acceptable and finally; just don't photograph sensitive areas, military bases, equipment and installations - regardless of their condition. You risk detention and questioning otherwise.

Part of the adventure of Armenia is its ancient and fascinating culture. However, the exportation of antiquities and other items that could have historical value, such as paintings, carpets, old books or other artisan goods requires special authorization in advance from the Armenian Ministry of Culture.

If you are male, over eighteen and hold dual Armenian citizenship and you don't want your adventure to include Military Service consult with Armenian officials before travelling to the country.

You need to check your status regarding military service obligations. Draft evasion in Armenia is a serious offence and you can be detained, jailed of fined either upon entry to the country or while trying to exit.

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