The visa rules of Armenia have changed since we last crossed the border. Back then kiwi needed to get a visa – fortunately it was available at the border. So when we went first time Yunni had to get a visa at the border.
Back six years ago when we arrived at the Georgian side of the border we are all asked to leave the marshrutky to go through the immigration. Getting out of Georgia should be fairly easy you would assume – for me it is no problem, since my nice little EU passport convinces the people at the border I can easily get into Armenia. But Yunni is holding a kiwi – and it doesn’t seem like they got that many kiwi passport at the border between Georgia and Armenia so the officer at the border are not sure if kiwis need a visa in advance – or they can obtain one at arrival. After a quick phone call to someone possible at the other side of the border we are allowed to go through the Georgian immigration – which is pretty fortunate since the alternative would have been to go back to Tbilisi.
After the phone call the rest of the exit procedure at the Georgian border control is very easy and we get through and walk to the end of the border building. Then we get out to the marshrutky and jump back onboard for the short ride to the Armenian border control. After the short ride we get back out of the marshrutsky and walk the few meters to the passport control. My passport is accepted immediately but they are not so found of kiwi passports here so we have to go to the visa on arrival first to get a visa for Armenia. Next to the visa stand is an exchange machine which should be able to change dollars into Armenian Drams. We look at the machine and try to figure it out – then one of the border guards comes and have a look and says it is doesn’t work. So I have to gross over to the other side where it is possible to exchange money.
When I walk through the border area the guard holds my passport as collateral so he can be sure I will come back with the money for the visa. I have a bit of problem finding the exchange place since they have given me the directions in Armenian and I am really not that good at Armenian but after a bit of a look around I find a couple of places which will change money. I get some cash and walk back to the other side of the border.
With some local cash in hand it is very easy to get the visa and getting through passport control is also easy. On the other side of the border we jump back into the marshrutky it has picked up a few more passengers by now but still less than half full so still got room.
This time around we have a car and they only let the driver stay in the car while the passenger has to walk across the border. Yunni is driving while I walk through the passport control. The border isn’t very busy so I am getting to the front of the line. The border policy look at my passport – there isn’t a lot of stamps in my passport is fairly new so my passport hasn’t got a ton of stamps in it yet – but on the first page there is an entry and exit stamp from Azerbaijan. And the border police officer takes a pretty long hard look at my stamps. Then he asks me where I will be going and why. I let him know where we are heading and it is for tourism. And he let me in despite the stamps from Azerbaijan – I guess he figure I am actually a tourist and not a spy from the enemy from the war of Nagorno-Karabakh back 30 years ago.
I walk through the emigration area and see Yunni again she has to take the car paper to another officer at the border to get them stamped and then we can drive into Armenia. I ask Yunni if the border police look much at her stamps – and apparently he hadn’t taken much notice – either because Yunni got more stamps in the passport or because the border police officer only spoke limited English.