My husband, teenage son, elderly parents-in-law, and I visited Armenia for 9 days in early July 2017 as part of a three-week trip to Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. We had developed the itinerary ourselves and had already booked all of our accommodations, but I had not gotten around to making arrangements for a guide-driver for this trip until late May.
For the Armenia portion of our trip, I had emailed five tour companies, one private guide, and one private driver regarding hiring a driver/guide-driver for a customized 8-day tour for 5 people. Our private tour entailed one daytrip from Yerevan (visiting Echmiadzin Cathedral, Zvartnots, Geghard Monastery, Garni Temple, and Charents' Arch) and a 7-day multi-day tour using Dilijan and Jermuk as our base, visiting sights along the way as well as exploring the surrounding area.
Of the seven businesses I contacted, Juva Tours had by far the best customer service and price! Within a few hours of my initial email, Karen, the owner, personally responded to my inquiry and provided quotes for a driver and guide-driver for each day of our itinerary, as well as what was included/not included, as I had requested. I really appreciated Karen also taking the time to personally review our itinerary, point out any problems based on up-to-date information (e.g., road closures), and come up with a solution that also allowed us more sightseeing rather than less.
Karen and I exchanged many emails to further finalize our 8-day tour and throughout the process, he always remained customer service-oriented. From always starting his messages to me with a heartfelt "Hello dear Joy", to his continued willingness to answer all of my follow-up questions, as well as letting me know not to hesitate to contact him if I had any more questions, Karen was able to convey a sense of hospitality even though all our contact was through email! He continued being customer service-oriented even during our 8-day tour, checking in with us via email to make sure everything was going well and to ask if there was anything else they could do to make our trip perfect.
Armen, our guide-driver for our 8-day tour, was AWESOME!!! Armen is kind, friendly and intelligent, has a pleasant demeanor, and is a pleasure to interact with. Armen is also a very knowledgeable guide about the history and culture of Armenia, speaks English very well, and is passionate about having his guests explore all that his country can offer. We appreciated him taking the initiative to make little pitstops to show us other attractions along the way that were not part of our itinerary. My son and I love taking photos so it was nice to see Armen also taking photos of attractions, even though he undoubtedly has seen these sights on many other countless occasions—a testament that he enjoys visiting the sights as much as we did! We also appreciated Armen's sense of compassion; he noticed on the first day of our tour that my elderly mother-in-law has some limited mobility issues so he took the initiative to get permission to drop us off to as close to the entrance of sights when possible so she wouldn’t have to walk as far, and whenever climbing steps were involved while sightseeing, Armen always found the best walking route to minimize the number of stairs my mother-in-law would have to climb. My in-laws said that Armen even gave them the "royal treatment" during their early morning airport transfer by personally escorting them to the check-in counter to help them with their luggage and make sure everything went smoothly with their check-in.
As well as being a great guide, Armen is also a good driver. My father-in-law, who can be very critical about other drivers, didn't have anything but praise about Armen's driving skills, commenting that we couldn't have found a better driver because Armen drives safely and doesn't take any chances.
Aside from our praise for Karen and Armen, I'd like to point out that Juva Tours also has a great company philosophy. When researching the various tour companies, I checked out the website for Juva Tours and appreciated Karen's desire to develop a new kind of tour that is "more clients oriented, closest to the Armenian culture, more respectful of the environment and the Armenian people. Juva Tours is a small business and intends to stay this way: we want to take care of you as we would of our family." My husband and I also liked reading about its definition of the "right price" for one of their tours: "To us, it would be for you to pay exactly what your tour is worth, no more, no less, meaning no exaggerate and useless commissions to intermediaries, but at the same time, a staff and providers who get paid fairly regarding the good job they do and who will be happy to do anything in their power to make YOU happy." We also are supportive of Juva Tours’ environmental philosophy—conducting all tours to be respectful of Armenia's many natural beauties, spending 1% of its profits to environmental programs, printing materials with recycled paper and recyclable inks, and kindly encouraging customers to save paper by not printing up pages from its website. Kudos to Karen and Juva Tours for espousing and being true to such a philosophy!
All in all, my family and I had a wonderful trip. Armenia is an amazing country with stunning landscapes, a rich history, and an interesting culture. We hope to return at some point (hopefully next time in the spring or fall to appreciate the grand views of Mt. Ararat) and would certainly work with Juva Tours again to make our arrangements. And, of course, it goes without saying that the next time my family and I are in Armenia, we would definitely request for Armen to be our guide-driver again!