On October 23, 2021, Iran has reopened its borders for foreign tourists. Travelers are trickling back in after nearly a 20 months closure. However, every traveler must be fully vaccinated and carry an RT PCR negative certificate taken within 96 hours before arrival. It is once again one of the upcoming destinations and this ancient country does have a lot to offer. To know more, read the rest of the Iran series and check out this post to plan your Iran trip.
Table of Contents
Iran Tourist Visa
Most nationals, except for Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Syria, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Syria, and Venezuela (visa-free) need to obtain a visa from the Iranian diplomatic missions before their arrival into the country. Indian passport holders can apply for an Iran tourist visa online at the official Iran tourism website.
Most international flights arrive at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, although Shiraz, Esfahan, Mashad, etc also cater to international flights. Visa on arrival is available at the above-mentioned airports. Expect unprecedented delays and a long drawn visa on arrival process and the latest procedure (and fee) includes travel insurance, which is in Farsi. Iran Air, Air Arabia, Mahan Air, Emirates, Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Alitalia, Aeroflot, Lufthansa, etc fly to Tehran.
Iran is well connected by domestic flights and there are plenty of comfortable long-distance buses available. The interstate buses are ridiculously cheap and are excellent value for money transportation options. Some include dinner or lunch and they are best for overnight journeys. Train connectivity is also there in some sectors and there is a good metro system in Tehran. On my last visit in 2013, Shiraz was also undergoing a major construction overhaul to join the metro network. Iranian public buses are gender-segregated and the men’s section is in the front, while the women use the rear end of the vehicle. Shared taxis or savaris are cheap ways of getting around the city and intercity distances and they are faster than buses. Iran is best explored by car and an English-speaking driver and Iranian traffic can be quite maddening. Try to avoid visiting the country during national holidays, since the entire population seems to be on the move and all major destinations get overcrowded. Nowadays you can book hotels, bus, and train tickets in Iran on 1stquest.com
Places of Interest
Iran is a vast country and it is not possible to visit every place during one visit. The best way is to see the three crown jewels of Tehran, Shiraz, and Esfahan along with their surrounding attractions like Persepolis, Abyaneh, etc. Then decide on a couple of other places of interest depending on your time. The other recommended places are Kashan, Lut, Kandovan village in Tabriz, Rasht, Lut desert, Qeshm, and Yazd. I also loved the Kermanshah region with its Bisoutun complex and Taq-e-Bostan archaeological site.
The official language
Farsi is the official language of Iran and many urban Iranians speak English. In cities, road signs are in Farsi and English but expect little or no English the moment you step outside the urban areas. Although tolerant to practicing of most religions, Iran is a conservative Islamic country and even visitors are required to follow the imposed customs.
Iran has a dual currency system and it is quite confusing too. Although the Iranian Rial is the official currency of Iran, Toman is widely used. Before confirming a price, it is important to decide whether it is quoted in rial or toman. It is most advisable to change money at the airport and due to international economic sanctions, Iran has an extremely high inflation rate. It is important to keep a currency check before visiting Iran. NOTE – Iran is a cash-only country and foreign-issued credit/debit cards DO NOT work there. It is important to bring wads of USD or Euros (preferably USD) before entering Iran. Very few business establishments and hotels accept credit cards and they charge exceptionally high commissions on each transaction. For more information click (here)
Iran Travel Tips
- The best way to experience Iran is through its people. Iranians set an unbeatable benchmark for hospitality and consider yourself lucky if you are invited as a guest into an Iranian household.
- Hotels in urban Iran are very modern and the internet can be slow or fast depending on the kind of accommodation you choose.
- Many social media sites like Facebook etc are banned in Iran and it is important to keep those restrictions in mind, before visiting the country.
- Accommodation-wise, Iranian traditional guesthouses provide the best option of enjoying the famed hospitality to the fullest, and set in restored old Farsi houses, they are a delightful way of experiencing the Persian grandeur.
- Iranian food is meat-heavy and the cuisine varies from province to province. Chelo kebab, kebab torsh or sour kebab, mirza ghasemi, jujeh kebab, and biryani are some of the must-try Iranian dishes. Most Iranian cities have great cheap eats like shawarma sandwiches, grilled chicken, and delicious fruits and the country is also famous for its state of art medical facilities.
Mandatory Dress Code for Travelers in Iran
Hijab is mandatory in Iran and women visitors are required to cover their heads with scarves. They are also expected to wear loose clothing which covers their bodies completely except for their hands, face, and feet. Loose trousers with long loose, full-sleeved shirts with headscarves is the most appropriate dress code for women travelling to Iran. Men are not allowed to wear shorts in public. Women are required to wear a chador (long loose sheet) before entering mosques or any religious building and men are expected to wear long-sleeved shirts when visiting a mosque or holy shrine. Shoes need to be taken off before entering a prayer area of a mosque.
Iran is a handicraft lovers paradise and shopping is most fun in one of the countries cavernous local markets. Polite, smooth bargaining is customary and Iranians, in their courteous way, make it seem like an art. Carpets, inlaid woodwork, silver, rugs, silk, dry fruits, honey, leather goods, table mats, and ceramics are must buy in Iran and Esfahan is a wonderful city for shopping.
Things to Carry from home
In Iran, you will need a UK 3 pin to type a C/F travel adapter, loose-fitting clothes, scarves, sandals, walking shoes, sunscreen, ski equipment and gear (if planning to ski), hiking boots, contraceptives, and other medicines.
Best time to Visit
Iran is most visited during two periods – from the beginning of March to the end of May, and from the beginning of September to the end of November. A couple of weeks before or after each Iranian New Year (Nowruz) is also good and January and February are the best time to visit the south of Iran (like Persian Gulf islands and shorelines).
An idea of my 2013 Iran Expenses
Presenting a list of my Iran expenses, as a guideline. Please note that these expenses have been incurred in 2013 and Iran has undergone high inflation ever since.
Visa on Arrival fee along with mandatory travel insurance = (30 + 16 USD)
Taxi from Shiraz airport to city center = 70,000 Rials
Lunch at medium range restaurant = 9 USD
Water, Ice cream, a bottle of doug, Eram Garden, and Aliebnehamze Mosque visit = 2 USD
14 days road trip across Northern Iran (inclusive of car, driver, fuel and taxes, accommodation, and all meals) = 900 USD
Nasir ol Molk Mosque Entrance fee = 30,000 Rials
Per day guiding fee in Shiraz = 20 USD
Esfahan Blue Mosque Entrance Fee = 10,000 Rials
Lunch for two at the high-end Zagros restaurant at Esfahan = 50,000 Rials
Entrance fee for offbeat attractions like Bisitoun Complex in Kermanshah = 15,000 Rials
Souvenir Handwoven doll at Masouleh = 80,000 Rials
Medium range hotel room at skiing destination of Chaloos = 700,000 Rials/night
Follow the rest of the Iran series
- SOLO TRAVELING TO IRAN
- MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SHIRAZ
- MY BEAUTIFUL SHIRAZ DAYS
- THE PINK MOSQUE OF SHIRAZ
- MOST BEAUTIFUL SHIRAZ ATTRACTIONS
- SHIRAZ TRAVEL GUIDE
- GHOST AND GARDENS OF QALAT
- START OF MY IRAN ROAD TRIP
- THE HALF OF THE WORLD AT ESFAHAN
- NAQSH-E-JAHAN SQUARE OF ESFAHAN
- ESFAHAN ATTRACTIONS AND A BRIEF CITY GUIDE
- ABYANEH, THE RED VILLAGE OF IRAN
- A DRIVE THROUGH WEST IRAN
- THE FORMIDABLE ORAMANAT MOUNTAINS
- ICE-CREAM, GANDHI, AND AMITABH BACHCHAN IN KURDISTAN
- AN IRANI NIGHT IN KERMANSHAH
- SILVER RAIN OF GILAN AND OTHER EXPERIENCES
- MASOULEH, AN ANCIENT IRANIAN VILLAGE
- BITTER SWEET IRAN ROAD TRIP MEMORIES
For more first-hand traveler’s information click here
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE