Before Leaving

 

Travel and Visa Services

Typically, the AUAC Oakland office will coordinate the purchase of your airline ticket and visa.  A visa is required to travel to Armenia.  Initially, AUA will purchase your visa and then extend it, if necessary, during your stay.  Once in Armenia, all travel plans and visa issues are coordinated through the AUA Faculty Services department.

Specific travel guidelines can be found in the General Terms and Conditions section of your contract.

 

Health and Immunization Guidelines

Although the government of Armenia does not require proof of vaccinations for entry into the country, it is advisable that you be up to date.  When in doubt, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.  Their hotline is 404-332-4559.  You can also visit their website, www.cdc.gov/travel/, for a listing of destination specific vaccination recommendations.  If you have specific health needs or concerns, please consult with your doctor prior to your trip.

 

Ordering Textbooks

Once you have selected a textbook(s) for your teaching you will need to consult with your Dean and secure approval for your textbook order.  After you receive their approval, submit your request to the AUA corporate office in Oakland, California, U.S.A.  Their contact information is: AUAC, 300 Lakeside Drive, 12th Floor, Oakland, CA, 94612; Telephone (510) 987-9452 and Fax (510) 208-3576.

Please provide complete and accurate information including the title, author, ISBN number, edition and the year of publication for each textbook.  This will greatly facilitate the processing of your order.  Normal delivery time for textbooks from the U.S. to Armenia is approximately 6 weeks.

 

Shipping of Personal Effects

Specific details concerning the shipping of personal effects to and from Armenia are covered in the General Terms and Conditions section of your contract.   AUA will not be responsible for shipping your personal effects when you leave beyond the scope of your contract.  The AUA Faculty Services Department in Yerevan can help you make these arrangements.

More details about shipping services can be found in the AUA Services General Information booklet that you will receive upon your arrival in Yerevan.  It is also available on the AUA website, www.aua.am.  This information is listed under Information about AUA Services.

 

Health Insurance

Please see the General Terms and Conditions section of your contract for full details.

 

Packing Tips

Remember the golden rule: If you absolutely can’t live without it, bring it along.

 

Suggested items to pack:

Photography Equipment:  Although you can find most European or American brand camera accessories in Yerevan, bring along anything special for your camera(s).  Batteries are available in the city but are much harder to find outside the city limits.  Bring a protective cover for your camera, as Armenia is dry and dusty in the summer and very cold in the winter.  Photo processing is inexpensive in Armenia and the quality of print is good.  Most photo processing shops will only print in color, not black and white.  Check with AUA staff or more experienced colleagues for the best print shops around AUA or in town.

Processing of slides is unavailable through most shops. Faculty who have located someone able to process slides have been very disappointed with the results: poor mounting, inaccurate colors caused by inadequate control of processing chemistry, and fingerprints, dust, and scratches on the slides.

Digital photography is an excellent alternative to film, and there are a variety of shops in Yerevan that will produce good quality digital prints for a low cost. 

 

Flashlights with spare batteries: Bring a pocket size flashlight to carry with you at all times for unexpected power outages. It should be powerful enough to use around the house, and in the stairways in apartment buildings and sidewalks off of main streets that are often dimly lit.

 

Eyeglasses:  Bring a second pair and your prescription.  Eyeglasses are available locally and are generally acceptable for simple prescriptions.

 

Contact Lens: If you wear contact lenses, bring extra lenses and all necessary accessories.  Cleaning solutions and saline solution are locally available.

 

Personal Hygiene products:  Most Western brands are widely available in the mini-markets around town.  Prices are comparable to the U.S. and, occasionally, cheaper.  Certain items, such as mouthwash, special types of shampoo and shaving cream, are either hard to find or very expensive.

Prescription Medicine:  Bring all your prescription drugs with spares.  Have them, along with spare clothing and valuables, in your carry on luggage in case your checked in luggage is delayed or lost.  There are pharmacies on every corner, and many “prescription” drugs are available over-the-counter, but make sure to consult with AUA clinic staff and proper physicians before purchasing anything.

 

Food and Non-food items:  Bring anything you or your family cannot live without.  Some items that are hard to find or not available are peanut butter, maple syrup, and artificial sweeteners. 

 

Weather and Clothing Requirements

Armenia has a dry climate both in winter and summer with little humidity. Moisturizer, sunscreen and eye drops are extremely useful.  Temperatures remain true to the seasons.

Spring: 50os – 80os, Pleasant jacket weather, sometimes wet, usually sunny.
Summer:  70os – 100os, Hot even at night, very sunny, often buggy but no humidity.
Fall:  50 os – 70 os, Pleasant jacket weather, dry, Indian summer, usually nice until mid November.
Winter: 0o – 40os, Very cold, usually no central heating in homes, some snow and ice.

AUA classrooms are air conditioned as are most restaurants, but some apartments are not.  Faculty Services can supply you with a fan should your apartment not have one.  Bring light cotton pants/skirts, shirts and tee shirts.  Jeans sand sports wear are widely common for walking around town and for excursions.  The locals frown upon men wearing shorts, but women can get away with it during sight seeing trips and picnics.  Local women prefer casual pants for these occasions.  Don’t forget to pack a few sets of upscale casual clothing and suits for men for official functions, receptions, celebrations, the symphony and the opera.

Make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes (sneakers are a good idea) because you will be doing a great deal of that both in and around town and touring the country.  Don’t plan on buying shoes in Armenia as comfort is regularly sacrificed for what’s fashionable and stylish.  European made shoes are very expensive.

Armenia has a continental climate, similar to that of the U.S. plains states.  Winters are cold, with moderate amounts of snow, and summers are hot and dry.  Although the climate is not more extreme than in many U.S. cities, the lack of adequate heating in most buildings heightens the sense of cold.  Most faculty apartments are heated by old radiators converted for use with an electric heating element, by space heaters, electric oil-filled radiators, or gas-based boilers that provide hot water both to the kitchen/bathroom and to the space heating radiators in the apartment.  The AUA building is heated during the winter months and is generally comfortable.  In any case, bring warm clothing.

 

Airline Luggage Requirements

For all flights originating from the U.S., normally you will be allowed 1 piece of luggage at 50 pounds maximum. However, as the luggage allowance may vary from airline to airline, please contact the airline directly to verify this information prior to your departure.  For all flights departing Yerevan and connecting straight through to the U.S., you will have the same luggage allowance.  If you layover for more than 23 hours in Europe, the European luggage requirements may apply.  If so, you would be restricted to 20 or 30 kilos, depending on your class of ticket.  Your tickets will note the luggage restrictions.

 

Monetary Issues

The main banks in Armenia are HSBC and Ameria Bank.  Information about these banks can be found online at www.hsbc.am and www.ameriabank.am.  In the majority of cases, the ATM card you use in the U.S. will work in Ameria Bank machines.  Please visit the bank’s nearest branch office should you experience problems with withdrawing the money.

Please check the Armenia’s Central Bank website for the current currency exchange rates: www.cba.am

Although the most practical and convenient way to do business in Armenia is by cash, the major hotels and many restaurants are accepting Visa and MasterCard.  In some locations, the EuroCard is being accepted also. 

HSBC Bank’s ATM machines are available 24 hours in the lobby of the Republic Square branch, and at the entrance of the Komitas Street branch.  There are also ATM machines next to the Metro Yeritasardakan station, at the intersection of the Mashtots and Moscovian Streets near the Opera building, on Sayat-Nova Street, as well as at the intersection of the Terian and Isahakian Streets.

Ameria Bank machines are also available 24 hours at the entrance of the Ameria Bank Komitas Street branch, and at the intersection of Mashtots and Moscovian Streets near the Opera building, and by AUA Main Building’s entrance doors.

You can cash traveler’s checks at the major banks, but be prepared for hefty service charges.

Although you will be met by AUA personnel at the airport in Armenia, we recommend that you carry single dollar bills for porters and helpers when the need arises.

 

Upon Arrival

 

Getting Through the Airport/Meeting the Driver

Chances are that you will arrive at Zvartnots Airport in the middle of the night, or the early morning hours, depending on your airline’s schedule.  An AUA housing assistant/driver will be waiting for you when you exit from customs.  Look for an AUA sign with your name on it. 

Getting from the plane to the Arrival Terminal lobby is relatively straight-forward.  As you exit your plane or after entering the terminal, you may encounter a number of people holding up name cards.  Don’t panic if you don’t see your name—it won’t be there: AUA staff can only meet you after you have passed through passport control and customs.  Follow the crowd inside to the passport control—marked with signs stating “Migrations.”  If you already have a visa, go straight to passport control and ignore any visa lines. If you are acquiring your visa at the airport, make sure to do so before proceeding to immigration control.  You will see the visa desk as soon you get off the escalator in the airport arrivals hall. The 4-month visa fee is 15,000 AMD = USD40. Please have this much in cash as the Yerevan airport’s ATMs not always serve the cards issued by foreign banks.

After passing through passport control, follow the signs to the luggage carousels.  There are luggage carts available for a nominal fee.  You have the option of hiring a porter or taking your own luggage.  The fees for luggage carts are posted in Armenian Drams.  Expect to pay 800 Drams, approximately $2, for a cart and 2,500 Drams, approximately $7, for a cart with a porter.  These prices are subject to change and you might be charged $3.00 USD and $8.00 USD respectively since porters will use a different exchange rate and don’t carry change.  Use your discretion for tipping since you only need help to get through customs which is a very short walk away.  After retrieving your luggage, continue on to the customs section, but keep your baggage claim checks handy as you leave the luggage carousel area.  Someone will compare the claim checks with the luggage tags and then will take the claim check from you.  If you have a problem with your luggage, this is the time to find the airline representative and file a claim form.  They are generally present near the luggage carousel in case of any problems.

Customs has a green channel and a red channel: go through the green channel unless a custom’s official tells you otherwise.  Follow the signs or other passengers to the exit where there is a glass panel that separates passengers from visitors.  Refuse any taxi offers and look for AUA staff holding a sign with your name on it.  The AUA driver will help you get everything to his vehicle. The AUA staff will take you directly to your apartment/hotel. AUA and most apartments are about 20 minutes from the airport.

If your experience through the airport varies significantly from this scenario, please let Faculty Services know.  There is a new airport manager and many changes have been implemented.

Resist the urge to change money at the airport.  The exchange rate at the airport is very high.  The porters will be glad to take your dollar bills so you won’t need Armenian Drams until you go to the local markets.  Just in case, there is a Converse BankATM in the airport’s exit area.

The AUA’s driver will assist you in loading and unloading your luggage at the airport and at your apartment.  Due to health and safety concerns, as well as consistency with airline regulations, AUA drivers are not permitted to lift or carry items over 25 kgs. (50 pounds)  If you plan to arrive or depart with baggage in excess of 25Kg/50lbs, please inform the Associate Director of Administrative Services, in advance so appropriate arrangements can be made.  AUA will assess a fee of $20.00 USD for this service in addition to airlines charges.

 

Your Welcome Packet

The AUA driver will have a welcome packet for you consisting of:

  • Your new address and phone number
  • Keys to the apartment
  • AUA Services General Information booklet
  • Yerevan General Information booklet
  • Armenia General Information booklet
  • A local map
  • A small flashlight
  • An In Case of Emergency laminated card
  • A list of basic Armenian expressions
  • SOS cards

 

Your Apartment

This is where a flashlight comes most in handy.  More often than not, the staircase leading to your apartment will be dark.  The housing assistant/driver will walk through the apartment with you and explain the operation of appliances around the apartment.  You will find posted instructions from the Faculty Services Department giving you operational directions for your hot water tank, shower facility, stove, etc. They will also have put in your kitchen a few candles, breakfast items, bread and bottled water.

The administration strives to find and equip appropriate apartments for visiting faculty and staff. While the apartments we procure are among the best that AUA budget can afford, they might not completely meet your expectations.  Apartments provided by the University are furnished and have basic kitchen facilities, utensils, and bedding.  Usually, the amount and quality of towels and bedding leave much to be desired.  Bring some towels along with you or plan to purchase additional locally.  AUA provides every new faculty member with 20 kg of propane for cooking purposes if the apartment is not connected to the municipal natural gas supply system. The housing assistant/driver will help you refill the propane tank at your expense.  In winter, the University can provide you with an electric heater. Plus, most of the apartments are equipped with the gas boiler-based heating systems/radiators.

The University has rented your apartment on your behalf.  You are responsible for the furniture and other household goods.  Please maintain the apartment as you would your own home and notify the Faculty Services Department of any problems or issues.

If you do not find your apartment adequate, the Faculty Services Department can help you relocate.  One month’s notice to the landlord is required for terminating the lease as per the AUA rental contract.  You are responsible for any additional rental fees above the AUA apartment allowance.

In addition, you are responsible for your utilities: water, propane, natural gas (if available), electric, and telephone.

 

AUA Barsam Suites

You have also a choice of staying in AUA Barsam Suites.  The Faculty Services Department would make a room reservation for you.

AUA Barsam Suites is managed as a faculty and student housing facility, as well as a revenue generator to support the core academic programs budget of the University.   A limited number of rooms at discounted rates is available for personal use by AUA students and faculty.  Please check with the Faculty Services Department regarding the room rates.  A brief description of room categories follows below:

JUNIOR SUITES (single occupancy studio): These are small but comfortable and efficiently designed rooms with a Hilton recommended Royal Suites Firm full size bed from Serta, refrigerator, microwave, and kitchen utensils for one.

SENIOR SUITES (double-occupancy): The Senior Suite looks like a one bedroom apartment.  It has a separate bedroom, living room and kitchenette with a dining table, refrigerator, microwave and kitchen utensils.  The bedroom has a Hilton recommended luxurious Royal Suites Firm king size bed from Serta.  Each unit is intended for occupancy of a single person or a couple; kids can be accommodated on a twin size bed placed in the living room upon request.

EXECUTIVE SUITES (triple occupancy):  The Executive Suite looks like a two bedroom apartment.  It has two separate bedrooms, a living room and a kitchenette with a dining table, refrigerator, microwave and kitchen utensils.  The bathroom has lots of space.  The living room and the kitchen gets splendid daylight from ski-light windows on the roof.  One of the bedrooms has a Hilton recommended luxurious Royal Suites Firm king size bed from Serta and the other a Queen size. 

You will be charged the difference between the housing allowance you are entitled to as per you employment contract with AUA and the University-subsidized room rates. Normally, these payments are made to the AUAC Oakland office.  The Associate Director of Administrative Services will facilitate the payment process.

 

Electricity

Standard voltage in Armenia is 220V/50Hz. (vs. 110V/60Hz in the U.S.)  Most new computers are shipped with power supplies that run on 220V.  The power supply information on the computer indicates the voltage and frequency range over which it will operate.   Laptops whose power supply indicates “CE” can run on both 110 and 220V without a transformer and will only need a plug adaptor.  For any other equipment that you may bring with you, it is advisable to bring a suitable transformer.  Transformers may be purchased in Armenia, but their quality and safety can vary.  For small home electronics (coffee grinder, toaster, etc.), local appliance shops carry a variety of European models.  The prices are higher than in the U.S., but it is always possible to acquire something locally that may otherwise be cumbersome to carry.  It is a good idea to bring a surge protector, especially for computers used at home, as voltage may fluctuate at times.  The electric outlets in Armenia are European style.  You may bring plug adaptors for equipment made in the U.S.A. or purchase it in transit or in Armenia.  They are widely available in electronic stores around town.

 

Water

It is a good idea to drink and cook with bottled water in Yerevan during short-term visits.  Large jugs of bottled water such as Noy or Byuregh  (common local brands) are available at any store.  This is water from city water sources in the mountains that has been filtered, disinfected and bottled for distribution.  The Faculty Services Department can assist you in obtaining a supply of bottled water for drinking and cooking.  However, for longer visits and given the poor quality of tap water, you may want to bring a water filter such as a PUR filter.  However, such consumer grade water filters are insufficient to remove some pathogens (such as the hepatitis virus) or free-floating bacteria (e.g. those not attached to larger sediment particles). The most common method of killing the pathogens is by boiling the water for at least 5 minutes. 

Water is a valuable commodity in Armenia.  In homes, many people have water tanks or keep water stored in bathtubs.  Water tank(s) with heating elements for a hot water supply are installed in AUA-rented apartments with no running water.  These tanks also feed the toilet lines.

 

How to get to AUA

Whether you are a first time visitor or not, a driver accompanies you to the University or you decide to walk, there is a cardinal rule you need to be aware of: Beware of the traffic on the streets.  Make sure to use extreme caution before stepping into the street.  Don’t depend on the traffic signal for your safety when crossing a street.  Traffic lights, like everywhere else in the world go from green to orange to red and vice versa.  Regardless of where the pedestrian is when traffic lights turn to orange, drivers start moving sometimes trapping pedestrians between 2 rows of moving cars.
Before the driver and the representative from the Faculty Services Department leave you on your own at your apartment/hotel, they will make travel arrangements with you for the following day.  You have the option of walking to AUA or having an AUA driver take you.  You will need to tell them what time you plan to be at AUA for your orientation and to get settled into your office.  If you forget to give the driver this information, the Faculty Services Department will call you around 10AM.  Feel free to call the Faculty Services Department if you have any questions or problems.

 

Orientation

Your orientation meeting will be with the Associate Director of Administrative Services.  He/she will need to review your visa so be sure to bring your passport with you.  You will meet the senior members of the Administrative staff, take a brief tour of the University and end up at your office where he will help you set up your network password.  The Administrative Secretary for your department will issue you office keys.

The Associate Director of Administrative Services will also set up a time with you to take a tour of Yerevan, go grocery shopping and exchange money.  During your first week, an AUA driver will be available to bring you to/from AUA, take you shopping, etc.  Please make transportation arrangements with the Faculty Services Department during this time.

 

Registering at Your Embassy

The US citizens can register with the US Embassy online at http://armenia.usembassy.gov/acs_registration.html

 

Useful Web Sites

www.aua.am   – American University of Armenia

 

Embassies

www.usa.am   – US Embassy in Armenia
www.armeniaemb.org   – Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Washington

 

Government and International Agencies

www.gov.am  –  Armenian Government official website
www.undp.am   –  United Nations in Armenia
www.armenia.usaid.gov –  USAID in Armenia
www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/regions.htm –  World Bank in Armenia
www.agbu.org  –  Armenian General Benevolent Union
www.cia.gov/publications/factbook/index.html –  CIA Country Profile
www.travel.state.gov  – Travel Information, consular information sheets

 

Medical

www.cdc.gov –  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

News Sites

www.noyan-tapan.am –  Noyan Tapan, local English language newspaper
www.internews.am –  Internews Armenia, internet based grassroots news service
www.groong.com –  Armenian news network

 

Various Armenian Information Sites

www.arminco.com –  local ISP, has Mr. Ararat web cam, links, general info
www.menuatours.com –  Menua Tours: guide services, reservations, tour packages
www.armenia.com   –  links to other sites
www.cilicia.com   –  Extensive Armenia information and links
www.spyur.am  –  Spyur Information Service, business phone listings, links
www.freenet.am  –  Freenet, another local ISP
www.matenadaran.am –  Virtual Matenadaran Museum
www.theforgotten.org
  –  Armenian Genocide information
www.anca.org    –  Armenian political action in Armenia
www.armenian-genocide.org  –  Armenian Genocide information
www.armeniaguide.com –  Has just about everything
www.armeniadiaspora.com –  Another site with just about everything
www.sci.am –  National Academy of Sciences in Armenia