Despite 15 years of independence from the Soviet Union (independence from Russia still to come) and aeons of progress, Armenia can still seem to the casual traveler to be caught in a back water, communication wise. And you would be right, on face value. But like the riddle of the region, one must look beyond the obvious to see the truth within (and one may have to go to the back alley to find the 100 AMD call to the USA).
True there is mobile phone service and relatively good-- if unstable -- Internet connection (at prices that would make any ISP in the west bereft of customers storming to the nearest competitor) --but they are restricted to Yerevan, Giumri, Sevan and Echmiadzin--the range for mobile phone service doesn't even make it to the top of Aragats, a 40 mile distance. Internet has been promised for the rest of the country for years, but has yet to make serious inroads.
Miles of fiber optic cable have been laid down the spine of Armenia, both as part of the "information highway" connecting Asia with Europe; and in Yerevan by Armentel, the Greek owned monopoly that controls telecommunication in the country. Unfortunately Armentel is trying to block Armenia's access to the European-Asian fiber optic cable, citing its monopoly prerogatives, preventing the deepening of information technology for the country.
Making Calls All this hinders the development of the country, but for the traveler, communications will seem expensive, but normal, even in the most remote regions of the country you can cop a call at the local post office to any where in the world.
In Yerevan, Giumri, Echmiadzin and Sevan, you won't have any trouble at all with telecommunication, including GSM mobile phones. In Vanadzor, Sissian, Goris and Kapan, there are local ISP providers that can set you up for PC-phone calls at a nominal charge. At all locations, Armentel offices or the local post office will let you place a call.
Call But Don't Write Despite any progress in the airwaves, getting mail has become the butt of so many jokes it has entered retread territory. But the good news is that mail does work--at the post office, and with a lot of time. At Yerevan and Giumri central post, you can get a box, receive mail (no poste restante) and send out mail with fair confidence it will be delivered eventually. This is impractical for most travelers, since it will take up to 4 weeks to receive a letter by post. IN an emergency, EMS (Express Mail Service) works extremely well for deliveries into Armenia.
Online The internet is the best chance for rapid development, for communication, and for economic vitality, something we proposed in 1996, and are thrilled to see the fruits of. Not only do local Armenians talk over the net, with e-mail, PC-PC calls, PC-Tel calls and instant messaging, they also work, delivering high tech commodities in ways their parents could never imagine.
Which One For the traveler, using the internet is the most reliable and secure way to stay in touch, and makes attempting the post or land phone silly, with any area in the country with an internet connection a call home. You can even bypass custom regulations on exporting computer disks by sending files off beforehand.