Iran


Overview

Iran travel guide, including map of Iran, top Iran travel experiences, tips for travel in Iran, plus advice for women travellers in Iran

Iran is one of the world’s best-kept travel secrets. A large and diverse country, Iran has rugged mountains, secretive forests, salt-plains, arid deserts, mysterious steppes and sleepy beaches.

The man-made attractions can be equally magnificent, with stunningly beautiful Isfahan way up any list of travel highlights, while Persepolis is one of the world’s greatest ancient sites.

But it’s the Iranian people who are the real surprise to the unsuspecting visitor; most Iranians are friendly and approachable, with many curious about the outside world. Add to this, Iran’s fascinating history, its rich culture, its many contradictions, and you have a heady mix. Iran has suffered from an image problem; be prepared to have any preconceptions overturned.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Explore the stunning main square and magnificent mosques of beautiful Isfahan. Recover with tea in a traditional teahouse
  2. Visit the tomb of one of Persia’s great poets, Hafez, in Shiraz.
  3. Look for graffiti left by Stanley (as in “Dr Livingstone, I presume”) in magnificent Persepolis
  4. Go  trekking in the Alborz mountains and climb Mount Damavand – the Middle
    Eastern Kilimanjaro

 

Wanderlust tips

 

Iran is probably the safest country in the world for women. But you do need to observe the hejab dress code. Cover your head at all times – a headscarf is fine. You can show a fringe but nothing more. You are expected to have no flesh showing except hands and face. The ideal is baggy clothing; loose trousers with a modest long-sleeved tunic or baggy shirt is fine. Or top it with a thin cotton coat (a roupush) as many of the locals do.

Men should not wear shorts or reveal too much flesh. Don’t take magazines that include photographs of scantily clad women. Remove shoes if entering a house or mosque.

Even if you’re not into football, gen up on Manchester United and some of the world’s top footballers! Iranians are passionate about football, and it makes a great ice-breaker if you can name a dozen or so footballers.

Further Reading

Travel in Iran: vital statistics

 

  • Capital of Iran: Tehran
  • Population of Iran: Around 70 million
  • Languages in Iran: Farsi. English is not widely spoken, but this is gradually changing as it is taught in school
  • Time in Iran: GMT+3.5 (Mar-Sep GMT+4.5)
  • International dialling code of Iran: +98
  • Voltage in Iran: 220 AC, 50 Hz
  • Visas for Iran: Iran visas Note that women are asked to observe the Islamic dress code in their photographs.
  • Money in Iran: Currency is the rial. However, prices are often quoted in tomans, which are the equivalent of 10 rials. Always be very clear what you are actually paying. Tipping is not expected but is appreciated. Credit cards are not widely accepted. Take US dollars cash (or Euros are increasingly accepted).
  • Iran travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

 

When to go to Iran

 

Spring and autumn are the ideal times to go, with temperatures at their best for sightseeing and activities. Summer is blazingly hot, winters are searingly cold except in the south.

 

International airports

Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA), 30 kilometres southwest of Tehran

Getting around Iran

This is a big country so distances are large (eg Tehran to Shiraz is 900km) but it has a good transport network. Domestic flights run between the major centres. Public transport, such as buses and mini-buses, is cheap and frequent. Note that women have to sit at the back on buses. Car rental is almost non-existent. However, you can hire cars with driver easily. Note that the standard of driving is atrocious!

Iran accommodation

There is a wide range of hotels but the budget ones often don’t take foreigners. Hotels are graded but don’t expect the equivalent to a European rating. Most hotels expect payment in dollars.

Iran food & drink

Persian food is one of the most ancient cuisines of the world, and is rich in spices, herbs and fruit. Sadly, you won’t find much sign of it outside private homes. In restaurants the most common meal is lamb kebabs with rice, or chicken. The rice is superb, and may be cooked with saffron, or with dill, berries or orange peel. Nuts, fruits and cakes are found everywhere. The yoghurt and ice cream are delicious.

Vegetarians will survive on rice, yoghurt and salad but may struggle to get much else. Falafels are widely available from snack bars.

Alcohol is banned. A very malty non-alcoholic “beer” is available. Tea (chai) is the most common drink and is served without milk. Doogh is a rather sour but refreshing drink of yoghurt, water, salt and mint that is widely served. Soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available.

Health & Safety in Iran

There are no particular health risks. Violence towards tourists is rare. Muggings and pick-pocketing incidents have increased over the past few years so do take the usual common-sense precautions.