Iran DIY: New Persia Travel Guide (2020)

Who I am
Alejandra Rangel
@alejandrarangel
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

If you feel like it travel to Iran independently in this article you will find lots of advice and information based on my personal experience in this wonderful country from which I reluctantly just returned. 

When I bought airline tickets for this fascinating Middle Eastern country a few months ago, the first reaction of friends and relatives was:

"Are you crazy? Traveling to Iran is dangerous!"

Imam Square, Isfahan

Now, that I have been back a few days, not to say hours, I can say with even more confidence than when I left that traveling to Iran is not dangerous at all, but that it is a trip to be recommended to everyone: this is really a country that it amazes and leaves you speechless for the amount of wonderful things to see, experiences to live but above all people to meet.



  • To know before leaving
  • How much does it cost to travel to Iran
  • Matter veil and women's clothing
  • How to get around
  • Security in Iran
  • Places to see
  • Experiences not to be missed
  • Off the beaten track

To know before leaving

When to go

Definitely i best times to travel to Iran are spring (April is the best month of all) and autumn. Temperatures are pleasant, neither too high nor too low. Summer, in the months of June, July and August, especially if you want to visit the deserts, is not recommended (some treks are even suspended for the season), while winter can be really cold, especially if you want to visit the northern regions.


We went in September, the month in which it is already starting to cool down and we were able to go trekking and hiking safely, despite the fact that in some cases the temperatures were above 35 °. In the Kurdistan region, on the other hand, in the evening without a shirt we were almost cold.


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To travel to Iran it is necessary to apply for and obtain the visa. There are two ways to do this: one arrived directly at Tehran airport, the other by requesting it directly before leaving.

Please note that the visa on arrival can be obtained for a maximum of 30 days.

Find more in-depth information on both procedures in thearticle on how to get a visa for Iran.

The road to Kalut: in July it is too hot to visit this fascinating desert

Accomodation

If you look for hotel e guesthouses in Iran on booking.com and other hotel search engines, you will not find any: this is always due to the Iranian policy that does not allow certain communication channels.

UPDATE 2019

Now you can book Hotels and transport in Iran on 1stQest Iran!

You can get a exclusive 5% discount to book any hotel, how many you want and want, when you want.
with the code PMT-1stQuest at the time of purchase.

While Iran is definitely a country off the beaten path, it still has one decent choice of hotels to sleep in, ranging from simple accommodations to real luxury hotels.


Read how book hotels in Iran to know more! 

There are no hostels, but the prices of the guesthouses are so low that you won't miss them. The price of a double room with bathroom in a more than decent place is from 30 USD to 60-70 USD.

Alcoholic beverages

Any alcoholic drink is prohibited, even if looking around and above all knowing the right people, you will find everything from beer to whiskey.


Keep in mind that if you are caught drinking any drink that has a higher alcohol content than water, they will take away your smile, in the sense that you could also get arrested and kept in prison for some time. If you really can't do without it, it is recommended to drink indoors in your hotel room.

Internet

Now in Iran the Wireless it is present almost everywhere, even if you do not have the maximum connection performance, it more or less works.

By law in Iran some sites and some social networks such as facebook and twitter for example or youtube are prohibited and blocked, to access which you will need to install a VPN (virtual private network).

There are many apps available for Iphone and Android, paid or not: we have tried and recommend HotspotVPN which, in the paid version is stable and manages to connect quite often (not for all of them and not always the VPN, if the wi-fi connection is not good, it guarantees the connection).


Currency

WARNING! Sufficient dollars or euro cash must be brought to Iran for the duration of the trip. In fact, ATMs are not enabled for withdrawing cash on international circuits with foreign credit and debit cards.

UPDATE 2019

a new one is born prepaid card for tourists to Iran. You order it online and it will be delivered to the hotel where you will be staying in about 3 days. I haven't tried it yet (I will) and I can't tell you if it works (but I think so). In any case is this card, Mah Card.

The current currency in Iran is the Rialbut more often than you can imagine you will be asked to pay in They take: don't panic, the Toman is their old currency and is worth exactly 10 times a Rial. So if they ask you for 1000 Tomans they really want 10.000 Rials, 10.000 Tomans is 100.000 Rials and so on.


How much does it cost to travel to Iran?

The Bazaar, joys and sorrows for hard shopping

Traveling in Iran is quite cheap, our average spending was about 50 USD per day in two (the euro at the moment - end of 2018 - is changed to about 48.000 rials, but keep in mind that traveling a lot on night buses and having been several times hosted we have saved a lot in the hotel)

Un hotels mid-range is $ 35 to $ 60-70 per night for a double room with bathroom. All hotels have a generous breakfast included in the price.

Hotel of our trip to Iran:

Tehran - Gollestan hotel
Shiraz – hotel Sadra
Kerman – Akhavan Hotel
Sanandaj – Hotel Sidra
Palangan (private house)

To eat very little is spent in Iran. For a nice plate of kebab (a dish that you can find everywhere) and a coke you will spend around 4-5 USD.

Even in the top tier restaurants, don't expect to spend more than USD 15 each.

The buses are really very cheap and high-end in quality. We have used it almost alone VIP bus (very important passenger) for a very low price. For example, to do Tehran - Shiraz we spent about 15 USD each.

Ironically, in Iran the largest expenditure is constituted from visits and entrances to places of interest. For example, to visit Persepolis it is necessary to rely on an agency or a taxi driver and you pay about 30 USD in two, the same for the Kalout desert, near Kerman. The income (you pay almost everywhere) is around 3-5 USD each.

Matter veil and women's clothing

In Iran, wearing the veil is mandatory

And finally we try to address the controversial issue of women's clothing. Meanwhile, a clarification: in Iran, apart from the island of Qeshm, you will not see women with Burqa. The most religious dress it chador which is a kind of sheet in which they wrap themselves from head to toe.

The chador, which can be colored but most of the time it is strictly black, must be worn (and you will be asked to do so) in some religious places such as mausoleums (for example the famous one in Shiraz, Shah Ceragh |).

Although the chador is not mandatory in Iran it is instead mandatory for all women to wear the veil (or scarf in English). The veil can be of any type and should cover the head and neck, while leaving the face free.

In recent years the veil issue has been very fought and the laws have relaxed slightly so now the girls are pushing it further and further back, sometimes to the point of covering only a bun behind the head.

Sometimes the veil falls, but there is no problem, just pull it back up; it is however necessary to wear it from when you get off the plane without exception: the only places where you are allowed not to wear it are the hotel room and private homes.

In Iran, not only is the veil mandatory, but every woman must also hide her forms so it is necessary to wear long dresses that reach at least mid-thigh, even if you have pants: shoulders and decollete should never be left uncovered and in theory the sleeves should leave only the hands free, instead covering the arms. Remember that anyone who violates these rules can also be arrested.

To learn more you can read mine article on what to pack for a trip to Iran.

How to get around

Through the cities we generally travel to bus o taxi. Beware that the buses are divided into sections, one for men and one for women.

To know more you can read this post about public transport in Iran.

Taxis are much more comfortable and faster and although someone will try to charge you more they are still extremely cheap. You can bargain, but the best thing is to ask the hotel what are the prices for the route you want to do in order to know how to regulate.

Taxis can be private or shared, the latter are much cheaper, but they leave only if full so sometimes you have to wait (often no more than a few minutes) for another customer to arrive.

Book online buses, trains and flights to any destination in Iran here

Tehran has an efficient subway with which to move quickly from one part of the city to another: be aware that some wagons are reserved for women only, while others are mixed.

From one city to another, on the other hand, i VIP bus which I personally found excellent: cheap, clean and with wide, reclining seats. A snack is also offered during the ride.

As an alternative to the VIP buses there is the train, Iran has a good railway network, but they must be booked well in advance because the seats can already be finished two days before departure.

Both the VIP buses and the trains are great for people like us who love to travel at night.

Safety

Don't miss the opportunity to make friends!

Dozens of times before leaving I heard from relatives and friends the usual question "but is Iran safe?".

Probably the day you set foot there you will feel in the safest country in the world: Iranians are people of incredible hospitality and when they meet a traveler they treat him more like a precious and important person than a simple tourist: invitations to lunch, to dinner, sleeping in their homes are the order of the day. It is really important for them to try to give foreigners the best opinion about themselves and their country.

The areas near the border are quiet at the moment.

That said, traveling to Iran is not entirely risk-free, like anywhere else in the world. Beware of wallets and cameras especially in bazaars which being very crowded are the best hunting ground for pickpockets.

If you want to deepen and read more about security in Iran, I invite you to read this beautiful article by Monica Liverani.

Places to see and recommended itinerary

In Iran they really are lots to see. We've spent enough time here to see a lot of them, but we still have a pretty big list for the next time we come to this amazing country.

In our opinion, although there are travelers that travel to Iran for 7 days, two weeks is just long enough to get a taste of the things Iran has to see. Here is a list of what I think you absolutely cannot miss in a 15-day itinerary.

Esfahan (Isfahan)

Do not miss the famous Imam Square, one of the most beautiful squares in the world, but not only. Don't miss the Khaju Bridge, the XNUMXth century Bazaar, the mosques and the Armenian quarter.

La Vank Cathedral it is worth seeing and also the adjoining museum in which there is a hair on which a sentence and a part dedicated to the Armenian extermination is engraved. In Esfahan there are so many of those things to see that you could stay there for a week and never get bored.

Shiraz

The Nasir-ol-Molk mosque in Shiraz

Shiraz it is the city that I liked most of all. the Bazaar is cheerful, lively and hides corners and small squares from the Thousand and One Nights. The mosque Nasir al Molk it is unmissable as well as Shah Cheragh which is erroneously often called the Mosque of Mirrors as it is not actually a mosque but a Mausoleum.

From Shiraz in a short time it can be reached Persepolis, the impressive complex of ancient ruins built over 2500 years ago.

Yazd

Yazd is the center city of the Zoroastrian religion: its old city entirely made of bricks and mud is characterized by narrow alleys with high walls that seem to close above you, in which you have the impression of getting lost until they open onto green gardens or on the courtyards of some mosque.

Definitely not to be missed in Yazd il Water museum, really interesting, the Towers of Silence and the sunset over the roofs of the city famous for the presence of Towers of the Wind (the old house air conditioning system).

From Yazd take a day trip to Chak chak, to the charming abandoned town of  Karnaq (and explore it by getting lost among its houses) and the city of Meybod where you can visit the citadel, the Pigeon Tower, a caravanserai and a Ice House.

Kerman

Deserto Dasht-e Lut

If Kerman itself is nothing special, apart from its Bazaar, it is the best base from which to visit one of the most impressive deserts I have ever seen, the desert. Kalut (Dasht-e Lut).

Try to get there in the evening for two reasons: the first is the infernal heat, the second is the sunset over the sand sculptures.

A word of advice, stay at the hotel Akhavan because besides being one of the few recommendable hotels in Kerman, its owner will organize everything you want. Plus the best dinner of our entire trip we had right here.

Qeshm Island

Few think Iran is also a seaside destination: with over 1.500 kilometers of unexplored coastline, the coasts of the Persian Gulf are home to a unique landscape, a culture and, of course, wonderful islands, two of which are the main ones: Kish e Qeshm.

Both are not "typical" islands in the sense that you shouldn't expect palm-lined beaches and women in bikinis, but they are full of culturetraditions and things to see.

Qeshm is the largest island in the Persian Gulf and is shaped like a dolphin: it has a myriad of natural attractions, from small unspoiled satellite islands to forests, valleys to caves and, in between, all the wildlife and cultural heritage that is difficult to understand. find elsewhere.

Read this post to learn more about Qeshm Island!

Experiences not to be missed

My thought is that if Iran really has some places that absolutely every traveler should visit at least once in their lifetime, they really are experiences who can live here to make this trip truly special.

And once again it is the people who should be thanked: the Iranians are of incredible hospitality and if you are lucky enough to spend a few hours with them they will surely make you live (or recommend) some experience that you will never forget.

Garmeh and the desert

If you decide to travel to Iran, you will surely have in mind to experience its wonderful deserts in some way. If you have the time to do so, stay at Garmeh, All ' Ateshooni Guest House, where Maxiar, the magnetic owner can organize some interesting excursions, such as, for example, seeing the sunrise over the great salty desert.

If, on the other hand, you want to experience the real deep desert, you can do as we do and ask Maxiar to organize you a couple of days' trek, sleeping in a tent under the most incredible starry sky you can imagine.

Staying at the home of Iranians

You don't necessarily need to do couchsurfing in Iran to have the opportunity to spend an evening or a night at the home of Iranians.

Iranians are extremely kind and during the trip it happens very often to meet people who with their hearts in hand invite you to their home.

It has happened to us more than once and it was truly an experience of the real ones: having the opportunity to touch the real Iranian life live, to see their home and why not try to cook with them is really worth everything. travel.

If they invite you to their home, don't refuse! It will undoubtedly be the best opportunity you will have to learn a lot about culture, but above all to get a taste of what real Iranian life is like!

Smoking the ghelyoon

Smoking the ghelyoon while sipping chai in company is one of the most loved pastimes by Iranians

One of the pastimes that Iranians love the most is to spend a few hours in company drinking tea (chai) and smoking ghelyoon. The Iranian water pipe, unlike what many think, is not enriched with some strange substance, but what you smoke is simply flavored tobacco: you can find it in many flavors, from apple, to orange to mint and lemon and to my opinion is delicious to try with a real steaming chai alongside.

It's not good for your health of course, but I think you can try it once, after all it doesn't happen in Iran every day.

Attention! In other countries the ghelyoon is called shisha (or sheesha): NOT HERE. In Iran, sheesha is a crystal drug (I think it is a kind of crack), highly dangerous and very forbidden, so you have to be careful not to order ghelyoon by calling it by this name!

Off the beaten track

Palangan (National Geographic)

Anyone who has been reading my blog for some time (thanks travelers!) Knows that in every trip I always try to carve out a few days to dedicate to some destination off the beaten track.

This time it was the turn of the Iranian Kurdistan e in special modo a Palangan, a village clinging to a very steep rocky wall, where time seems to have stopped.

Here, apart from electricity and a few slightly dated cars, the rhythms and crafts are still those of many many years ago: the girl who brings the goats to pasture in the morning, the peasant woman who milks the cows, the old woman who manually creates the typical drink based on water and yogurt, in the exact same way that its ancestors did hundreds of years ago.

This article was updated in March 2019

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