Cheap Comfort: New hostel adds budget option to tourists accommodations

Calling itself a first for Armenia the “Envoy” hostel has opened in Yerevan bringing European-style budget accommodation to the emerging tourism menu.

Based on models that have made student “back-packer” tourism affordable in Europe, the new hostel offers basic service for those who don’t mind a communal environment.

Guests will share one toilet per five people and one shower for seven. Each guest is provided a locking wardrobe.

Other essentials are a bed, breakfast, a TV room and advice about tours. The cost per night is 5,000 drams (about $11; expected to increase to $15 next year).

The hostel is centrally located in a basement and the ground floor of a 3-stored apartment bloc at the corner of Papetsi and Pushkin streets. The nine rooms are designed to accommodate 42 guests (two rooms are for 8 people; 6 for 4). One room, priced at about $45 is aimed for couples, and includes the bathroom.

“I think the hostel will serve perfectly, especially to the students who come from abroad with their friends to travel with their backpacks,” says Lusine Ghahramanyan, representative of “ArmenTour” travel agency. “Of course, they don’t need expensive hotels. While the conditions at Envoy are sufficient; the only problem is, maybe, the fact that there can be up to 8 persons accommodated in one room.”

The idea of opening a hostel belongs to Erik Carapetian, a 35-year-old Australian of Armenian descent born in Iran and permanently residing in Australia since 1986.

“In 2003 when I came to Armenia for the first time, I saw how expensive the Armenian hotels are, while there is no alternative of relatively cheap stay,” Carapetian says. “There were no hostels that would serve as alternatives for tourists with limited financial means. So I thought to open a guest house like that in Armenia.”

Returning to Australia, Carapetian found three partners and, after seven months’ work, received the first Envoy guest in October.

“The prices and conditions in the hotels of Armenia are extreme - either very luxurious and expensive, or poor and cheap,” says coordinator at the Armenian Tourism Development Agency Lusine Stepanyan. “Consequently, tourists need also accommodation with low prices but with normal conditions. Opening such guest houses will, of course, facilitate tourism development in Armenia.”

In its first few weeks the hostel hosted about 60 tourists from 18 countries, says the Executive Director of the Envoy, Hamlet Avanesyan. Most learned of it on the Internet (