Ken+Kat’s 2nd Installment to “Buhay OFW” series. ❤
One of the things that Pinoys have to deal with when changing visa or on expiration of tourist/ visit visa is exiting the UAE and re-entering with a fresh visa- a visa policy faced by many expatriates in UAE. Unfortunately for Pinoys, exiting back to the Philippines is not a practical option, not only because of costlier airfare but also because of the risk of being offloaded on return due to immigration policies. This is also true even in the case when you are expecting an employment visa on return due to our country’s policy of going through POEA in cases of employment.
I’ve also selected this as the second entry while the memory is still vivid and I hope our story will help you decide and plan your trip ahead. 🙂
Discovering Armenia (literally!)
Our trip to Armenia was unplanned. Due to our visa cancellations, me and my husband have to exit UAE and thereafter re-enter the country via another visa. Considering Oman as our first option was practical as this was largely the common choice of many and is relatively cheaper (if you compare the cost in case of exit via bus, otherwise the cost via air travel is pretty much the same). It was timely however that several promotions were ongoing at that time from several travel agencies which made us notice Armenia.
The decision to go to Armenia was finalized 2 days before our scheduled flight which made our trip all the more exciting! Added bonus was the excitement of having my sister in law, Brenda and cousin Merriam, joining the trip for 3 days. Don’t we all just love rushing to beautiful journeys ahead? And so, we geared up for winter season and packed our things- ready to discover Armenia!
So why did we opt for Armenia? And was Armenia a better choice? Here are top 5 reasons why we chose Armenia and why we think it was a better choice.
1. Armenia Package Tours are Aplenty.
There are quite a number of travel agencies nowadays offering promo and package tours to Armenia which includes UAE visa (for the return) and airfare. The promo packages can be customized to include hotel accommodation and tours as well.
Personally, we found Tabeer Tourism offering the most budget-friendly at that time. We were also very happy with their services as their staffs are all friendly and accommodating 🙂 A big THANKS to Anne of Tabeer Tourism who had been very helpful and for ensuring that our return visas are processed on time. You made sure that our trip was hassle-free – Salamuch! 🙂
Ken+Kat tips: Aside from watching out for promo offers and ensuring that you canvass and compare prices with other agencies (and online). It helped our budget a lot when we:
(i) booked our accommodations via bookings.com and search that which suits your budget. It is recommended that the hotel is at or near the city centre as this will save you from getting a cab every so often. You would prefer to be near or at city centre because this is where you will find several attractions within walking distance including opera theaters, restaurants, shops and souvenir stops, cafes and bars.
ii) booked our tour package in Armenia itself (as they offer cheaper prices over there). In most cases, local hotels offer tour packages so it’s best to check those out and negotiate (Yes! you can negotiate, for us we negotiated on adding more places to visit for the price quoted 🙂 like asking them in advance to stop by monasteries which are along the way.
2. You can enjoy local food and wine without spending a fortune.
Apart from budget-friendly fares, accommodation and tours – it is a great relief to find decent restaurants offering local cuisines at very affordable prices. Their cuisine is centered mainly on grilled meats, hearty soups and a varieties of bread. Their grills and kebabs are akin to those served in gulf countries, whereas their soups are somewhat a mix of asian and continental. What is surprising though is that their food costs 1/4 to 1/2 of what you would normally pay in Dubai. Armenia is also home to legendary brandy and wines and you can buy them literally anywhere and better priced too! Almost all their food chains and restaurants serves them all throughout the day. I was surprised to find out that even Pizza Hut does! I don’t know if it was just me but even their beer (‘Kilikia draft’) tastes better! And I do not even like beer at all, Swear! ).
Ken+Kat tips: (i) There are only a few restaurants which serves rice, so be prepared to miss it XD . And when they do, they normally serve it with butter on top, so you may want to tell the waiter not to top your rice with butter (prior to serving) in case this is not your preference. (ii) Also, in case you plan to taste their local wine when dining in restaurant, do not be shy to ask their servers for promos, you might be surprised to know that they have buy 2 take 1 on their wine bottles! 😉
3. You get to experience snow ∗ 😎 ∗
Having been in the gulf for quite sometime and hailing from a country with a tropical weather, it is fascinating for us to get to experience snow the first time around 🙂 . We were all smiles and excited to have experience snow and we did not pass on the opportunity to create snowman, do snowball fights and just lie down in the snow.
The usual weather in Yerevan itself is mostly cold- i’s like “Baguio feels” times 3 (or 5 on certain days) 😯 .
Ken+Kat tips: (i) Prior to your trip, you can search weather forecasts so you can plan ahead, not only on your daily schedule but more importantly on outfits to bring! 😆 (ii) Boots is a staple footwear so you can enjoy your OOTDs 80 otherwise, make sure you are bringing socks and closed shoes to keep warm.
4. You can explore on your own and enjoy long walks feeling safe.
Armenia is fast becoming popular due to the many tourist spots, specially if you are fond of museums, monasteries, churches and quaint structures- you will definitely not run out of places to visit. 😉
We highly recommend for you guys to spend a day taking a tour of the city centre area all on foot and see where your feet will take you. Me and my husband did several long walks and during these times we get to discover old churches, cheap souvenirs, local food chains and pastry shops even clothing stores and supermarkets where we were able to buy some of our provisions in the hotel. It’s ok if you get lost, there are cabs almost everywhere which you can take anytime to go back to the hotel!
Ken+Kat Tips: (i) Like I’ve said, it’s ok to get lost in your long walks within the streets of Yerevan- Just make sure you have the complete and full address of your hotel so you can tell the cab driver where to take you back! 😆 (ii) Only a few cab drivers understands and speaks english so another useful tip is to have a recorded instruction of your hotel location saved in your phone in Armenian language, so you can replay this message to the cab driver – this was an ingenious idea by Kenneth ❤ . Whereas, other hotels provide a card wherein a small location map is printed at the back. (iii) Also, in taking a cab, the rule of thumb normally is that within a 10 km radius – you should only be charged 1,000 dram, so do not agree on anything more than that. (iv) You also need to get your hosts local mobile number so that in case you find yourself in a situation where you need their assistance, they can be a phone call away.
5. Armenians are generally warm and hospitable
We are so grateful to have found gracious hosts during our stay – Thanks to Ara Grigoryan and his lovely mother of Planet Hotel 🙂 . They made sure that we were comfortable at all times and that we had what we need. They also serve the best and biggest breakfast. 🙂 Planet Hotel does not have any fancy amenities but it was just right for our tour because hey, you shouldn’t be staying in the hotel for the most part anyway. You need to be out to explore. 😉
Not all Armenians speak the english language, so you have to be prepared with this barrier. But nonetheless, I didn’t find this much as a problem during our stay because for the most part, they can understand and speak a few words which you can already make out. Also most restaurants has one or two guys who speak english and they will direct you to them when ordering or asking anything. 🙂 Otherwise, the old fashioned pinpointing and sign language will do 😉
Additional tips: (i) As with most countries, it is best to bring with you US Dollars for exchange for Drams (Armenia’s local currency). They are not accepting UAE Dirhams in their foreign exchange counters. (ii) Visa is on arrival for Filipinos and will cost you 3,000 drams.
So have I convinced you to exit in Armenia instead? I’d like to hear from you.