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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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Armenia 2019 Crime & Safety Report

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Armenia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Do not travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh region due to armed conflict.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC’s Armenia-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is minimal risk from crime in Yerevan. Armenia is generally safe and relatively free of random acts of violent crime. The overall crime rate throughout the country is lower than those of the United States and many Western European countries. Crimes committed against U.S. citizens remain relatively infrequent; most involve petty theft (e.g., pickpocketing and vehicle break-ins to steal objects left in plain sight). Violent crimes do occur, though the embassy does not receive many reports of such crimes involving U.S. citizens. Although organized crime does exist, it is not a significant threat to U.S. citizens or interests.

Cybersecurity Issues

Although cybercrime is not a major concern, review and use established cybersecurity best practices in order to protect personal and business information systems.

Other Areas of Concern

Borders with two of the four neighboring countries (Turkey and Azerbaijan) are completely closed, and travel across the border of a third country, Iran, is prohibited for U.S. government personnel. Overland travel from Yerevan to the Georgian border takes approximately three and a half hours, with a trip to Tbilisi taking over five hours on poor roads.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in an ongoing dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. There are regular ceasefire violations near the militarized line of contact, and occasionally at areas along their international border. U.S. Embassy Yerevan restricts travel of its personnel to Nagorno-Karabakh and, therefore, is unable to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens there.

Travel by Embassy personnel is also restricted along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Tavush province, due to numerous ceasefire violations over the years. Villages with connecting border roads in that area include, but are not limited to Barekamavan, Azatamut, Vazashen, Paravakar, Varagavan, and Aygepar. This restriction also includes a segment of the frequently traveled route between Yerevan and Tbilisi on M-16/H-26 from Azatamut through Jujevan to the Georgian border.

The new government has taken steps to increase transparency in the tax and customs services; however, unscrupulous local business partners, difficulty in enforcing legal judgments, lack of protection for intellectual property rights, and an often lengthy and unproductive legal process continue to create barriers to investment.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Except for the few main roads and portions of the immediate city center, most roads are in relative disrepair, with large and deep potholes commonplace. Damage to tires and suspensions along with wheel alignment issues commonly result from poor road maintenance. Most roads do not have shoulders. Authorities do not repaint road markings (e.g. lane dividers, pedestrian crossings) on a regular basis, and markings may not be visible. In many places, especially outside cities, street lighting is nonexistent, not maintained, or turned off. Street signs outside Yerevan are not plentiful. Authorities only reliably remove snow from major thoroughfares. The U.S. Embassy prohibits personnel from traveling outside Yerevan after dark because of the extremely poor road conditions, lack of lighting, and the inability of emergency service first responders to reach victims of accidents in a timely manner.

Traffic is heavy in Yerevan. For the past few decades, the increase in the availability of cars has outpaced the expansion of the road system. Left turns are very difficult to make; they are either not allowed or traffic lights are poorly timed, forcing drivers to run red lights in order to make a turn. Instead of left turns, many drivers perform U-turns—without the aid of traffic lights—at designated points on roads. This increases the chances of collisions.

Many local drivers are aggressive, distracted, and/or poorly trained. Even where lane markings exist, drivers often do not heed them. It is not uncommon to see vehicles driving in the opposing lanes or down sidewalks in order to avoid traffic jams. Cell phone use while driving is commonplace. Drivers will often switch lanes without warning in order to avoid potholes or open manholes. Due to a lack of shoulders, drivers also park or idle their vehicles in traffic lanes, forcing other divers to change lanes quickly —often into the lane of opposing traffic—at the last moment; buses and taxis routinely stop in traffic lanes and change lanes without warning. Defensive driving is essential.

Pedestrians should be vigilant when crossing major thoroughfares. In Yerevan as well as in the countryside, pedestrians routinely cross streets – even major thoroughfares – at undesignated points or against the light, increasing the risk of accidents; the risk of striking a pedestrian increases at night and in bad weather. Even when pedestrians cross the street at designated points with the right of way, drivers frequently do not stop for them if there is not a stoplight associated with the crossing. Light-controlled crossings typically provide pedestrians with a minimum time necessary to cross the street.

When accidents do occur, local law requires vehicles to stay in place, even if they are in the middle of the road. The driver and passengers should move to a safe place and wait for the insurance company representative or Traffic Police officers to arrive.

For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Public Transportation Conditions

The most common form of public transportation in Armenia is the small, often owner-operated minibus or van (marshrutka). These minibuses frequently are overcrowded and in disrepair. The vehicles generally lack seatbelts and other safety equipment, drivers often have only basic driving skills, and the threat posed by petty theft is high due to the overcrowding. The Embassy discourages travelers from using them.

While the use of taxis is prevalent in Yerevan due to their ubiquity and low cost, be forewarned that most lack seat belts and other safety features. To reduce the chances for overcharging or other crime, find taxis through online apps (two of the most widely used are GG and Yandex Taxi) or by calling reputable taxi companies. If travelers hail a taxi on the street, negotiate the price in advance. Most taxi drivers do not speak English.

Car rental companies like those found in Western Europe or the United States are rare; when they are available, the vehicles are often very expensive to rent. For travel outside Yerevan, it often is more economical to hire a car and driver.

Due to the poor condition of roads outside Yerevan, consider sturdy vehicles (usually four-wheel drive vehicles) when traveling through the countryside or between major cities.

There is a regional train from Yerevan to Tbilisi. If traveling by train, reserve a private compartment that can be locked.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Armenia has two international airports: Zvartnots (ENV) in Yerevan and Shirak (LWN) in Gyumri. Zvartnots, a modern facility with good infrastructure, handles the vast majority of commercial flights. Most international flights to and from Europe or the United States depart and arrive in the early hours of the morning.

Within the region, there are no direct flights from Yerevan to Azerbaijan; roughly 3 – 4 flights a week between Yerevan and Tbilisi; and about 2 – 3 flights a week between Yerevan and Istanbul. Flights between Yerevan and other European destinations occur on the following basis: Vienna (daily); Warsaw (daily); Paris (4 – 5 times a week); Moscow (multiple flights a day); Kyiv (1 – 2 flights a day); and Brussels (2 – 3 flights a week).    

For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Terrorism Threat

There is moderate risk from terrorism in Yerevan. While there is a heightened risk of terrorism in Europe, there is no recent history of terrorism in Armenia. Attacks cannot be ruled out, and travelers are advised to be vigilant.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest

There is minimal risk of civil unrest in Yerevan. While there is a history of civil unrest in post-Soviet Armenia, with a few notable exceptions it has not been violent. In the past, most cases of violence associated with protests were due to law enforcement response, and not protesters. Since the “Velvet Revolution” of April/May 2018, law enforcement authorities have shown less inclination to use force against protesters. Avoid large political rallies or demonstrations.  

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Armenia is located in a zone of high seismic risk. Small tremors occur periodically—the most recent being the 1988 Spitak earthquake. The risk of catastrophic earthquakes exists.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

In 2006, the Armenian government passed new laws to ensure safer building standards, particularly higher earthquake standards; however, many older buildings remain unsafe from a seismic standpoint.

The Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (also known as the Metsamor) is located in the town of Metsamor, 36 kilometers west of Yerevan. The plant began operating in 1976. If there were to be a release of radioactive material at the plant due to problems with the aging systems or as the result of an earthquake, Yerevan lies in the projected fallout zone.

Personal Identity Concerns

Armenia in general is a conservative country. There are no laws protecting LGBT individuals, though at the same time there are no legal impediments to organizing LGBT events. Due to traditional cultural attitudes, LGBT individuals often face de facto discrimination and harassment by state and private actors. LGBT U.S. citizens have been subject to threats and harassment.

Drug-related Crimes

In recent years, Armenia, primarily a transit country, has experienced an increase in domestic drug use and transportation through its borders. Legal and law enforcement officials are getting better at investigating and prosecuting drug cases, but lack appropriate resources and support to further large-scale investigations. Many legal and law enforcement professionals lack the expertise or experience in conducting counter-narcotics activities and developing the intelligence to combat sophisticated drug-trafficking and money-laundering organizations. Courts are not equipped to conduct lengthy narcotics distribution and money-laundering trials, let alone prosecute cases requiring the introduction of testimony and evidence from multiple foreign nations at trial. In 2017, authorities seized 105 kilograms of heroin at the border with Iran at Meghri, a hot spot for transit due to an increasing number of heroin conversion laboratories in Iran.

Armenia has little tolerance for recreational drug use. Even though marijuana grows naturally, the possession of marijuana carries stiff sentences. Possession of even small amounts of the drug may result in sentences in excess of five years imprisonment. U.S. citizens found with marijuana have faced significant prison sentences.

Kidnapping Threat

Since 2013, there have not been any reported cases of kidnappings of U.S. citizens. Though rare, when criminally oriented kidnappings take place, they usually only last for a short duration.

Police Response

Police response times generally are slower than in Western countries. Law enforcement officials often lack the sensitivity training required to investigate crimes such as domestic violence and rape. Many law enforcement officers do not speak English, although a special division of police who patrol downtown on foot do speak English.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

There are no recent reports of abuse of U.S. citizens by Armenian law enforcement officials. Armenia generally affords arrested U.S. citizens access to legal counsel and consular services. U.S. citizen travelers harassed, detained, or incarcerated by local law enforcement officers during business hours (Monday – Friday, 0900-1800) should contact the ACS unit at +374 (10) 49-45-85 or http://armenia.usembassy.gov/acs_emergency.html. For after-hour emergencies, call the embassy’s duty officer at +374 (55) 05-74-29.

Crime Victim Assistance

If you are the victim of a crime, immediately contact the police emergency line at 102 and/or proceed to the nearest police station to complete a police report. If you need further assistance, contact ACS Support.

Fire Emergency: 101

Police Emergency: 102

Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance): 103

Police/Security Agencies

The Police of the Republic of Armenia is a national police force, spread throughout the country’s 10 mars (districts). It is responsible for maintaining public order, and responding to and investigating general crimes. The Traffic Police of the Republic of Armenia is similarly structured. Unlike in the United States, where a single law enforcement entity in each geographic area is typically responsible for both public order and the enforcement of motor vehicle laws, Armenia separates the responsibilities of the two agencies. The Traffic Police handle violations of the law related to the nation’s roads, and does not become involved in the enforcement of other laws; the reverse is true for its sister agency.

Armenian police departments lack a Western-style patrol mindset. They respond to crimes or accidents once reported, rather than trying to prevent them or maintaining a continuous presence throughout the geographic area of responsibility. As a result, response times are longer than in the United States or Western Europe. Recently, the chief of police publicly announced his intention to establish a modern patrol police based on Western models by the end of 2019.

The National Security Service (NSS) is the government’s domestic security and domestic and international intelligence agency. In its law enforcement role, the NSS functions in a manner analogous to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Most private security companies provide little professional training and pay their staffs low salaries.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care is limited, and emergency services may be slow to respond to calls for assistance. Although basic medical supplies (e.g. disposable needles, anesthetics, standard antibiotics) are generally available, advanced medical care is not available outside Yerevan. Individuals with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities and services. Emergency medical responses to traumatic accidents or injuries may arrive too late to provide necessary lifesaving treatment.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, please refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Insurance Guidance

Doctors and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for health services on a “pay as you go” system, and often will not release persons from the hospitals without payment in full. Patients must arrange food delivery services separately.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Armenia is home to numerous, sometimes aggressive, stray animals, particularly dogs and cats. Visitors should exercise caution and not feed or pet stray animals. If bitten, contact Nairi Medical Center. Pre-exposure rabies vaccine is recommended only for those subject to occupational exposure. Even those already immunized should seek post-exposure prophylaxis due to the large number of feral animals and the inability of the local health system to provide immunizations. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report, When Wildlife Attacks.

Remain up to date on immunizations, including vaccines for hepatitis A and B. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends receiving a tetanus/diphtheria booster every five years. Carry a copy of your immunization records. The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Armenia.

OSAC Country Council Information

The OSAC Country Council remains in the development stage. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

1 American Ave., Yerevan, Armenia.

Monday-Friday 0900-1800, excluding U.S. and Armenian holidays

Embassy Contact Numbers

Country Code: 374

Yerevan City Code: 10

Embassy Operator: 46-47-00

Post One Marine Guard: 49-44-44

Website: https://am.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

U.S citizens are encouraged to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive updated information on travel and security in Armenia.

Additional Resources

Armenia Country Information Sheet

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