If you pay a visit to Armenia you will have to become familiar with their chosen currency, the Armenian dram. This was the name of a currency that dates all the way back to 1199! Incidentally the currency is also used by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
Most currencies in the world today are decimal currencies, and this one is no exception. It is divided into 100 luma. However don’t expect to see any coins denominated in this amount as it is no longer used, having been consigned to history by inflation.
There are six coins in the dram currency; these are the 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 dram. There are another six banknotes, denominated as 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 dram.
From past to present – the history of the Armenian dram
Armenia used to be part of the Soviet Union. However a referendum that took place in 1991 indicated that this was to end. Armenia became independent and the central bank went about the task of sorting out the new currency. The Russian rouble, which had been used up until that point, was no more – at least as far as the residents of Armenia were concerned. It would not be until 1993 that the dram came into being, but it has been in use ever since.
How to get hold of the Armenian dram
This country is relatively user-friendly when it comes to finding the currency you need. You may have a problem finding the dram at your usual bureau de change near home before you go, but this isn’t a big concern. In fact many people wait until they arrive in Armenia to get hold of the local currency. Some currencies are more challenging than others to buy and sell, and in this case it is usually better to exchange whatever dram notes you have left before leaving Armenia. This is easy enough to do and it saves you the hassle of trying to convert them back once you get home – something you may not be able to do.
Once you are in Armenia you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding cash machines to withdraw more money either. Obviously they will be more prevalent in towns and cities so bear this in mind if you are going somewhere a little more off the beaten track.
You should also be able to pay for goods via credit card too, although not every outlet will accept them. Be sure to ask before you assume, especially in restaurants and similar outlets.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Armenian dram
Just use a regular currency converter available online to find this out. The more regularly it is updated the easier it will be to keep up with the latest changes. You can get an idea of how many dram there are to the pound or dollar, or whatever currency you are going to take there.
The Embassy of Armenia to the United Kingdom is a useful point of contact to have if you want to find out more about the country. You don’t have to visit it in person though – you can go to the website in mere seconds by clicking on http://www.uk.mfa.am/en/.
Travelling safely with the Armenian dram
Armenia is generally a safe country to visit and plenty of people enjoy trips there each year. The usual opportunistic crimes such as bag snatching and picking pocketing do happen here, so it is wise to take natural precautions against these. Normally this would mean carrying things in separate pockets and not carrying more than you have to. For example try to book into a secure hotel that offers a safe in your room. You can leave any excess cash, your passport and jewellery in there while you are out and about.
There is really no need to be any more cautious about using cash machines than you would be at home. Keep an eye on who is around you and make sure your shield your information when you use the machine. Tuck the cash away quickly instead of counting it in full view in the street too.
As you can see these are all sensible precautions rather than being anything you wouldn’t already be used to. Opportunistic thieves will always pick on the easier options so by making sure you are not in that category you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Where to spend your dram in Armenia – and what to spend them on
Armenia sits in an area where the eastern part of Europe and the western side of Asia meet. It is landlocked, i.e. there are no oceans or seas on any of its borders. It is bordered by Georgia to the north, Azerbaijan to the east, Iran to the south and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic further round to the south-west. Finally Turkey completes the selection of countries, situated to the west.
You may not be familiar with the capital of Armenia but it is called Yerevan. In 2018 it will celebrate its centenary as the capital of the country. There are some stunning sights in the city, including Republic Square. This is a busy and large square that has a number of notable buildings around it, perhaps most notably the National Gallery, not to mention the History Museum. They are well worth a look as you can see many superb relics from centuries gone by, not to mention some impressive artwork in the gallery. Many artists from Armenia are recognised in the gallery, and as such you will have an altogether different experience here than you would in any other gallery around the world.
You should also make sure you see the stunning Yerevan Cascade. It may only be a stairway but we promise it is quite unlike any other stairway you have ever seen. Its size marks it out as being most unusual but there is a lot more to it than that. For example you can also visit the Cafesjian Museum of Art which is in the same area, under the stairs. However perhaps the best thing to do is to appreciate the stunning views of the surroundings both near and far.
Another impressive sight in the country is the Geghard Monastery. It has rightly been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the detail of the building is quite remarkable. This is even more accurate when you realise that part of the building has been cut from the mountain that is right next to it. There are churches and chapels within the structure so you can easily spend several hours wandering round and appreciating the hard work that has gone into such an impressive structure.
Elsewhere – and back towards Yerevan – you will hardly be able to resist seeing Lovers’ Park. This is a truly stunning public park that has waterfalls, sculptures and many other lovely sights. Look out for the pond and be sure to drop into the café for a refreshing drink or snack. If you want to bring your own picnic you can do this too – there are plenty of charming places to stop and enjoy it.
You can also look for the stratovolcano known as Mount Aragats. Some people opt to climb this for the views, but since it enjoys an elevation of over 13,000 feet it is not for the amateur!
If you fancy a spot of shopping while you are in Armenia you should head for the Dalma Garden Mall. This can be found close to the Tsitsernakaberd hill in Yerevan. It might sound odd to mention this mall but since it is the very first one of its kind in the entire country you can see why it is a headline-grabbing place to go. It is definitely on the large side and you can enjoy a day wandering around looking for bargains in the many stores available there.
Armenia offers many exciting places to go and things to do. You certainly wouldn’t run out of inspiring trips to go on if you did visit the country. There are many parks here aside from Lovers’ Park and you can also visit your fair share of monasteries and cathedrals. Look out for Haghpat Monastery and Zvartnots Cathedral for example, just two of the sights you could add to your Armenian itinerary.
There are many sights here that date back some considerable way. Armenia is certainly a country of many surprises so it is a good idea to plan your itinerary well in advance so you know where to go. Planning the right type of holiday is a good idea too. Are you into walking or hiking, or are you interested in the history of the country? Whatever the answer may be you can start spending some dram on food, drink and excursions when you finally arrive in Armenia. This could turn out to be one of the most memorable holidays you have had.