Should I Travel To Iran?
82 Things To Know Before You Go
Are you asking yourself: “should I travel to Iran?” Then look no further amigo – you’ve found the ultimate list of things to know before you go.
Traveling to Iran is a bit like hanging out with the bad guys on the block. Your mum has warned you about it and you probably have no freaking idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
In reality, Iran isn’t as alien and scary as it might seem at first glance. After being cast as the dark, mysterious villain for decades, the country is now starting to peek its head through the door to the West. Although recent years have seen a surge in tourism and a relaxation of visa regulations, there still isn’t a lot of updated information out there on backpacking in Iran.
But fear not! We’ve put together a list of everything a budget backpacker needs to know before travelling to Iran. And by everything, we really do mean everything.
Lean back and prepare to have these 82 essential Iran travel tips served to you on a silver platter.
The Iranian Visa Situation
1. Travelers who don’t need a visa: you don’t need to worry about a visa if you’re from Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Egypt, Georgia, Lebanon, Turkey or Syria. Iran allows the lucky citizens of these countries to stay in Iran for up to 90 days without a visa.
2. Travelers who need to get a visa at an embassy: if you’re from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Britain, Canada, Colombia, India, Jordan, Pakistan, the USA, or Somalia you’ll need to get your visa from an embassy before you go.
3. British, Canadian and American travelers need to have a guide: yep, strictly speaking, if you guys want to go to Iran you’ll need a guide to accompany on your entire trip. There are ways to get around this if you want to travel independently but do so at your own risk.
4. Travelers who can get a visa on arrival (VOA): if you’re from any of the remaining 180 countries in the world, you’re eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival. This is by far the easiest and cheapest option for getting into the country and the way we got our visa. If this sounds like what you want to do, read our guide for full instructions on how to get the Iranian visa on arrival.
5. Don’t worry about getting a letter of invitation (LOI): a few years ago it was all the rage in Iran for travel agents to have to get you a letter of invitation (LOI) before you could get a visa. You would still need to pick your visa up at an embassy or the airport and you would obviously have to pay the agents for the service. Nowadays, since Iran is trying to improve its tourism image, you don’t need a LOI to get a visa. Save your dollars my friends!
6. No travel to Israel: regardless of which visa you apply for, you’ll be turned down if you have any proof of travel to Israel. This includes passport stamps from Israel, stamps from neighbouring countries’ land borders with Israel and Israeli passports. As you can see, Iran and Israel are not the best of friends, and there really isn’t any way around this one.
7. You’ll need a visa to visit the US after going to Iran: as of 2016, if you’ve travelled to Iran since 2011 you’re no longer eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program and will need to apply for a regular visa through an American Embassy.
8. Iran is super safe: forget everything you’ve heard in the media. Iran is a stupidly safe place to travel and there’s little to no petty crime. Wait and see, you’ll soon find yourself letting down your guard much more than you would in most Western countries. As always though you should use travel insurance. We use World NOMADS while we travel and highly recommend them.
9. Iranians don’t hate Americans: we met several Americans travelling in Iran and none reported any issues with anti-Americanism. Sure, there are occasional protests and some interesting propaganda posters here and there, but this is fuelled by the government. The vast majority of Iranians are normal guys that drink Coca-Cola and watch Hollywood movies.
10. Crossing the road is terrifying: make sure you tell your family you love them before venturing into the Iranian streets.Traffic rules seem to be some sort of general guidelines and you can forget everything about pedestrian priority. Your best bet is to maintain eye contact and look like you know what you’re doing.
Internet Tips For Iran
11. Good luck finding fast internet: warn your mom that you won’t be answering many Skype calls while in Iran. We only managed to track down fast internet in private homes. If you do find a café with wi-fi, it’s normally frustratingly slow.
12. Get an Iranian SIM card: instead of constantly chasing wi-fi you can buy a prepaid data card for your smartphone. We got an Irancell card for €8 which worked like a charm for the whole trip. Here’s a quick guide on how to activate your Iranian SIM card.
13. Download Telegram (the Iranian WhatsApp): Iranians do use WhatsApp, but Telegram is the go-to messenger service. If you want to make staying in touch with your new Iranian friends as smooth as possible, it’s a good idea to download the Telegram Messenger app.
14. Western media is blocked: the Iranian government has set up a massive firewall to block the access to a large number of Western websites including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, BBC, NY Times, CNN, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and Gmail.
Utilize A VPN While In Iran
15. Download a VPN: fear not – the firewall doesn't mean Iran is in a dim vacuum with no online networking or news all things considered. All you have to get to the blocked locales is to download a VPN or virtual private system. We prescribe utilizing PureVPN, which is the VPN we by and by utilized as a part of Iran (and have kept utilizing from that point onward). Bounce over to getting to the web in Iran manual for take in more about the web in Iran and find other prescribed VPN brands.
16. Download your VPN before going to Iran: Obviously, the Iranian government makes a decent showing with regards to of restricting the entrance to VPNs inside Iran, so ensure you have yours before you travel.
17. Try not to utilize a free VPN: be extremely cautious with free VPNs when searching for the best VPN for you. Without a doubt, free equivalents ideal for us spending explorers, yet with regards to VPNs, the inconvenience you hazard is so not worth the $5 sparing.
The Money Situation In Iran
18. ATMs: Iranian ATMs don't acknowledge Western Visas. Sounds like a bother, we know, yet it truly just means you'll have to bring all the cash you anticipate spending in Iran in real money.
19. We burned through €18/day: since you can't get cash out in Iran it's essential to have a really smart thought of the amount will spend.
20. Come up short on cash? In case you're frantic to take out cash in Iran, a few shops can go about as an ATM however they charge idiotic expenses (up to 30%!).
21. Try not to trade cash in the banks: there's a flourishing bootleg market money in Iran and you'll be ripped off by 10% in the event that you trade your cash in a bank. Nobody – and by nobody, we really mean nobody – utilizes the official rate. Lodgings, inns, eateries and taxicabs all utilization the underground market rate.
22. Trade your cash in the lanes: simply recollect to check for fake notes and the standard cash misleading. We didn't have any issues trading our cash in the avenues, however our lodging warned us.
23. Rial is the cash, yet costs are in toman: the Iranian money is somewhat precarious. The official money in Iran is rial, yet in day by day life, costs are cited in toman. Befuddled? 1 toman = 10 rials, which means you ought to simply add one zero to the cost to change over it to rials. This is to make things more straightforward, as there's a considerable amount of zeros in rial costs. Be that as it may, some vacationer eateries and attractions do demonstrate their costs in rials to assist the gringos.
24. Iranians are absurdly inviting: stunning. Simply stunning. Iranians are probably the most truly affable individuals we've ever met on our voyages. Get used to everyone making proper acquaintance, asking where you're from and perhaps welcoming you home for supper!
25. Say yes: pull out all the stops! Stunning, veritable encounters lie around the bend in case you're willing to be unconstrained. Join the flavor shopman and his family for supper at his home in case you're welcomed. You'll be dealt with like a departed relative, meet some great individuals and obviously crunch down some stunning home-cooked nourishment.
26. Try not to go in the taarof trap: taroof is an astounding personality diversion ensured to confound a gringo or two. It's a custom in which Iranians offer to accomplish something decent without really anticipating that the other individual should acknowledge. It's essentially a propelled session of affableness where you need to make sense of if the offer is genuine or not.
Case: an Iranian offers to pay for your tea. In the event that you presume he may utilize taarof, you ought to offer 3 times to pay for the tea yourself. On the off chance that regardless he demands, you're great!
27.Iranian merchants are not pushy: no compelling reason to stress over pushy venders, these folks are more keen on bringing a photograph with you as opposed to attempting to press cash out of you.
28. Iranians are Persians, not Arabs: call an Iranian an Arab and you will be placed in prison for whatever is left of your life. Not exactly, but rather the reality of the matter is that a few Iranians do resent being called Arabs because of social contrasts.
29. Observe some zurkhaneh preparing: this bizarre, customary game includes singing, drums, games, and bunches of sweat. There's clubs in many urban communities and it's justified regardless of the extra charge to watch.
30. Toilets are all over the place and free: there's a lot of open toilets in the bazaars and in the roads, and eateries for the most part have no issue loaning their toilets to gringos with feeble bladders without making them purchase anything.
31. Convey bathroom tissue: make it a propensity to convey a move of tissue with you as this is infrequently given outside private homes. Understanding this past the point of no return is dependably somewhat of a (messy) bummer. Likewise, rather than a can, request the WC since this word is more typical in Iran.
32. Iran is squat latrine region: prepare to practice those thighs! Squat toilets are far reaching in Iran and just favor inns and eateries have western toilets. New private houses regularly have one of each. Individual exhortation: watch your pockets when on the squatter potty! We can state from intense experience that an iPhone fits superbly in the deplete.
33. Iranians talk amazing English: anybody from elderly women to adolescents knows no less than a couple expressions of gringo dialect otherwise known as English. It's additionally extremely regular for Iranians to hit up irregular discussions with outsiders to rehearse their English. We once had a 30-minute discussion with a gathering of understudies that surfaced to us arbitrarily as we were savoring tea the bazaar. So much fun!
34. Formally Iran utilizes an alternate logbook: as indicated by the Persian schedule, we are at present in the year 1395 and the Iranian New Year, Noruz, is hung on 21-24 March or Jomeh: 11. Dey 1394 as the date is brought in Iran. In any case, don't stress, our Gregorian date-book is additionally far reaching, so you won't be around 700 years late for your flight.
35. Get a cheat sheet with the numbers in Farsi: Iran doesn't utilize the Latin letter set, so having the numbers from 0-9 recorded in the nearby dialect, Farsi, is an extraordinary offer assistance. Thusly, you'll be somewhat less defenseless when taking a gander at costs, timetables and so forth.
36. Look over your Farsi: knowing a couple words in Farsi is a magnificent approach to make Iranian companions (or simply make individuals giggle at the dumb gringos). Here are 4 simple words to begin:
Much obliged to you: tashakor/merci
Good: kheily khoobe (articulated hreily hroop – this will make any road nourishment seller laugh uncontrollably!)
Part of the way through – Here's Some Useless Fun Facts
37. Gift boxes: you'll see these blue and yellow gift encloses completely wherever Iran. They're set up by the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation, a philanthropy that gives money related guide to poor families in various nations including Kosovo and Palestine.
38. Iranians adore nose employments: Iranians say that 'God left tops bolt on when he made their noses' and we're not going to hazard losing any Iranian companions by getting into that one, as they're really the nose work capital of the world. It's somewhat of a materialistic trifle and you're ensured to see a lot of band-help wearing Iranians waltzing around.
Clothing regulation For Women In Iran
39. Clothing regulation for ladies: as a lady in Iran you have to wear a headscarf, cover your legs and arms, maintain a strategic distance from tight garments and not demonstrate any cleavage. Fortunately, you can in any case take your hot shoes for a turn as demonstrating your feet and lower legs is totally fine.
40. The tenets are marginally more adaptable for voyagers: this is valid, however let's be honest, you won't flaunt any favor summer dresses in Iran. For significantly more data and motivation on the clothing standard, look at our what to wear in Iran post.
41. These standards don't matter in private homes: Iranians wear and do what they need inside their own homes. In the event that your host approves of it, you're ordinarily welcome to remove your headscarf and set that mane free.
42. Ladies infrequently need to wear a chador: some religious locales oblige ladies to wear a chador keeping in mind the end goal to enter. A chador is a major "sheet" that covers your hair and whole body. It might sound a bit of overwhelming however fear not – the chadors are given at the passageway and are super simple to put on.
Ha! Men Have A Dress Code Too
43. Clothing regulation for men: shock – men additionally have furnish limitations! Men are not permitted to wear shorts or shirts that are tight or potentially have short sleeves.
44. But in the event that you're doing sports: we met this one Dutch person that figured out how to overcome an entire month in Iran wearing shorts. This was conceivable in light of the fact that he was going on a bicycle and truly brought it with him wherever he went. Evidently being energetic (or even simply strolling his bicycle) supported the shorts. So better believe it, in case you're ready to fit a bicycle in your knapsack, shorts might be an alternative. Something else, toss on some jeans and simply maintain a strategic distance from the most sultry months.
Customary Iranian Food
45. Eat away from the tourist area: take a walk 3-4 blocks away from the main tourist area and you’ll find some killer feeds and stupidly cheap prices.
46. Must-try restaurant food: one of the most memorable dishes you’ll have in Iran is fesenjan, a walnut-pomegranate sauce served with chicken – yum! It tastes unlike anything you’ve ever tried before. Another fun dish is dizi, a distant relative of the Hungarian goulash.
47. Street food is dirt cheap: Iran’s street food scene is not super varied but it’s dirt-cheap. The perfect backpacker meal in Iran is ash, a thick spinach stew that keeps you full for hours, can be found everywhere and only costs €0.20.
48. Must-try sweets: where to start – the bazaars in Iran are booming with all sorts of sweets! High on the list are shirini nargili, a coconut macaroon, and halva, a turrón-like sesame paste (and it’s even healthy!).
49. Don’t miss out: the Iranian kitchen is booming with exotic flavours and dishes. Check out our complete guide to all the scrumptious food you have to try while you’re in Iran to make sure you don’t miss out!
Can You Get Alcohol In Iran?
50. You can get beer in Iran: well, non-alcoholic beer anyways. To be fair, alcohol-free beer is actually not that bad at all and is available in most tourist restaurants and some street food stalls. Iran has many beer brands, but we recommend the lemon-flavored Istar beer.
51. There is a black market for alcohol: Iran is a dry country, so you won’t see a drop of alcohol in public. However, drinking is a pretty normal thing for many Iranians in the private sphere, and if you know the right locals, you can get your hands on alcohol. But be warned – it’s quite expensive. Prepare your wallet if you’re dead set on a Persian wine and cheese night.
52. Try doogh, our favourite Iranian drink: you’ll also run into doogh, a salty yoghurt that accompanies most traditional meals. Warning: some of us (Mariana) think it’s pretty horrible, others (Liam) think it’s nice and refreshing.
53. Water is everywhere and free: bring a re-usable water bottle with you to Iran as there are free water fountains on almost every street corner.
Accommodation In Iran
54. There are hostels everywhere: since 2015-16 there has been a huge growth of hostels in Iran. The main group is called Seven Hostels and they have their own or an affiliate hostel in almost every major city.
55. Guest houses are cheaper: if you want to get away from the hostel scene there are plenty of cheap guest houses around that have the added bonus of being cheaper as well. Just go for a wander away from the tourist areas and you’ll find something.
56. The receptionist will want to keep your passport: most hostels/hotels will ask for your passport at check in and only hand it back when you check out. This might be an issue as you’re not unlikely to be subject to a passport check by a random police officer in the streets at some point during your travels in Iran. Best bet is to get a photocopy of your photo page and give that to the accommodation and keep your actual passport with you.
57. Use Couchsurfing: even though Couchsurfing is illegal in Iran, it’s super popular. Again this goes back to Iranians being incredibly nice. So get on, request some couches, give them your Telegram number and get ready to meet some amazing people.
58. Don’t forget to take your shoes off: no matter where you’re staying, whether it’s a private home or a hostel, all Iranian accommodation options have one thing in common: no shoes allowed inside!
Travelling As A Couple In Iran
59. Men and women don’t sit together on buses: unless you’re married, men and women are not allowed to sit next to each other. This means a male passenger will have to move if the seat next to him is free and a female passenger wants to sit there.
60. Don’t show public displays of affection: we actually did see a few rebellious Iranian couples holding hands and kissing in public, but this is definitely not allowed by Iranian law. As a gringo, you should opt for the safe side and save those cuddles till you’re no longer in the public eye.
61. Pretend you’re married: as always, the rules are slightly bent for tourists and unmarried foreign couples don’t need to have an express wedding in the bus terminal to sit together.
62. No shisha in Esfahan: that’s right, if you want to sit back and suck down a shisha (hookah) with your special someone, you’ll have to do it somewhere else than in Esfahan. The city has actually made shisha illegal as it promotes boys and girls fraternizing.
Rules For Women
63. Men and ladies don't shake turns in broad daylight: in Tehran, a couple of men did really contact shake Mariana's hand, yet this didn't occur anyplace else in Iran. To stay away from ungainly mistaken assumptions, female visitors are best off going for a grin rather than a handshake.
64. Isolate wagons for men and ladies on the tram: the initial two wagons of the prepare are entirely ladies as it were. There's likewise an exceptional segment for ladies on the stage which is set apart with a yellow line on the floor. Men are never permitted in the ladies' wagon yet ladies can go in the men's wagon on the off chance that they're joined by a man. Once more, the principles are bowed for travelers – Liam once wound up in the ladies' wagon and the ladies just chuckled and let him know not to try evolving wagons.
65. Ladies enter transports in the center, men in the front: open transport inside the urban areas has diverse segments for men and ladies, and the two genders enter in better places. The two segments are isolated by a line of seats or a metal bar, with the front segment being for men and the back being for ladies.
66. Ladies are not permitted to ride bikes: better believe it, we know. Truly far out. The official explanation behind the boycott is to additionally limit the introduction of ladies' bodies as though the hijabs and chadors weren't at that point making a quite decent showing with regards to.
Going to Attractions
67. Many spots are shut toward the evening: between 1 – 4 p.m. most nearby places like bistros and shops are closed so Iranians can escape the warmth and have lunch with the family. Consider it like a Middle Eastern rest. Vacation spots for the most part remain open amid this time.
68. Vacationer costs are 8 – 15 times the cost of the nearby cost: as a traveler, you'll pay all things considered ten times the passageway value an Iranian will.
69. Deal on ticket costs: at most gardens, places of worship and so on., you're ready to cajole your approach to 2 x 1 tickets or paying the Iranian value which is a small amount of the vacationer cost.
70. Visit mosques toward the evening: numerous mosques are shut amid the day. The possibility of getting inside is greater toward the evening around 5 PM when they begin opening for supplication.
71. Shockingly better – go during the evening: on the off chance that you need an exceptional mosque encounter you ought to head there after dim when the mosque is altogether lit up in various hues.
72. Men and ladies enter independently: this was most regular when we entered a mosque or place of worship. Once you're through the passage you can get back together and investigate together.
73. Visit the Pink Mosque in Shiraz early: the recolored glass windows at the Pink Mosque or Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz cast some totally dazzling shadows in the early morning hours. This mystery is particularly out and the primary transport heaps of selfie-stick-holding vacationers touch base around 8 a.m. Make a beeline for the mosque at dawn and appreciate an undisturbed photograph session.
Photography In Iran
74. Iranians wouldn't fret photographs: Iran is a travel picture taker's wet dream. Dissimilar to for example Moroccans, Iranians wouldn't fret getting their photo taken. Actually, they may even posture for you! This transpired in the strange bazaars of Iran.
75. But in the event that you take photographs of things you shouldn't: simply don't attempt and take any photographs of structures you think the legislature may get unstable about. Iranian cops are not known for turning a visually impaired eye, so attempt and remain out of inconvenience. Confronting spying charges in an Iranian correctional facility by one means or another doesn't sound that good times.
Tips For Getting Around Iran
76. Take transports between urban communities: at €0.7 every hour, the general population transports between urban areas are shabby as chips. There's pleasant agreeable transports running throughout the day and night between most enormous urban areas.
77. Utilize VIP transports for overnight treks: in the event that you need somewhat more extravagance, go for a VIP transport which is around €1.3 every hour. They just have 3 seats for every line and more extra space, which is extraordinary when you need to take an overnight transport to spare cash and time. Roughing it is fun, however a decent night's rest is precious.
78. Intercity transports don't stop for sustenance: neither the VIP or ordinary transports stop for nourishment en route. They do pass out some bonehead lunch boxes with anything from treats to bits of cake, however.
79. No toilets on transports: not exclusively are there no toilets, the drivers additionally don't really make unrequested can stops. Strolling up and compassionately illuminating that you will detonate inside the following 10 minutes ought to do the trap.
80. Utilize open transport: open transport inside significant Iranian urban communities is exceptionally shabby. The tram in Tehran is just €0.3 per ride – contrast that with Barcelona where it's 8x the cost! We like you, Iran.
81. Bicycle taxis at the metro stations: the folks lounging around on bicycles at the passageway to the tram stations in Teheran are bicycle taxis and will take you anyplace inexpensively.
82. Few transports keep running on Fridays: Friday is the petition day in Islam and is fundamentally similar to a Christian Sunday. Many shops are shut and open transport is less incessant. On the off chance that you plan to get an intercity transport on a Friday, it's a smart thought to twofold check the transport plan – we once needed to hold up 2 extend periods of time since we overlooked it was Friday.