Iran is not a country that you can simply visit without any prior knowledge. In fact, I nearly made this mistake by just reading about it just a few days before traveling there, and I came across crucial facts that I should have known beforehand! It is truly a nation unlike any other. So I’ve gathered all the information I believe is essential to know before going to Iran, from safety to visas to food you should try, in this article. So go ahead and book your flight; but read this blog post first so you don’t get any unpleasant surprises!
Where to travel in Iran
Most people will begin their trip in Tehran and explore the three main “tourist” destinations from there: Esfahan, Shiraz, and Yazd. You could visit this sort of “Iran highlights” itinerary in around 10 days to two weeks, however you’d be seeing just the main sites and locations that most tourists see.Many people also travel to Kashan, not far south of Tehran, as well as Tabriz, northwest of Tehran, with a few extra days.
When to go to Iran
You can visit Iran all year, although the winter is bitterly cold and the summer sweltering. It’s a nation with extremes in terms of weather, comparable to temperatures topping out at 500 degrees Fahrenheit during summer versus snowstorms in the winter. The high season is March-May, when prices are higher and you should expect crowds. However, this is when the weather is at its most pleasant.
In August-September, when I visited, the weather was still scorching during the day, with temperatures around 40 degrees in some areas. It is dependent on your heat tolerance and at that time going south to Qeshm or Hormuz was almost out of the question due to the intense heat. It also meant fewer people, which I preferred.
Is Iran safe to visit?
Is it safe to travel to Iran? Is it riskier than other countries to visit? The simple answer is Yes. The Iran that is the subject of so much attention isn’t the same as the one you’ll encounter on the ground. Many Iranians will tell you that they disagree with a large portion of what their government does, and this reflects in how they are depicted in the media.
The long answer is as follows: There’s some logic in being cautious, particularly for dual nationals (somehow Iran thinks these people are suspicious), bloggers, and anybody who works in the media (particularly if traveling on a tourist visa). There have been arrests of tourists for a variety of reasons, but generally speaking, if you follow common sense and don’t draw undue attention to yourself, you should be fine. In terms of crime, Iran has very little trouble, however as usual you should take basic precautions against pickpocketing and thievery to be safe.
Female travellers in Iran
Women, in particular, are hesitant to visit Iran. Solo travel to Iran, on the other hand, is not as daunting as many people believe. People are usually courteous and don’t give you too much unwanted attention or harassment; this may surprise many individuals. The same caution is required as it would in any country, and I’ve heard of stories of some women having negative encounters; nevertheless, I can say that I never had such an experience.
Because it’s a traditional society, as long as you follow the dress code and don’t do anything too outrageous, people will respect you. However, recognizing how Iranian women are treated may be difficult, especially in terms of legal equality and freedom. It’s a nation that still has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality. In the cities, some young females are fighting boundaries visibly, particularly when it comes to fashion and human rights.
Iran is a nation rife with political discussion. Iranians, on the other hand, are generally quite curious and don’t react well to being asked potentially inflammatory questions or issues. It’s not a good idea to criticize the regime if you want to leave Iran when your plans are up. Controversial themes, on the other hand, are frequently chosen by Iranians because they are often very interested; don’t be scared if you find yourself in a debate about America!
It’s typical for people who speak English to ask political questions, especially about Iran, such as “What do you think of Iran?” or even “Is there anything you don’t like about Iran?”
Religion in Iran
Iran is home to the world’s largest Shia population, and Shia Islam is the country’s official religion. The split between Shia and Sunni (the sect that most of the world’s Muslim people adhere to) occurred as a result of their dispute over the Prophet’s successor. As a consequence, they have developed somewhat variant customs and traditions. Shiites rely on their Ayatollahs (religious leaders) for direction and guidance, whereas Sunnis look to the Sunnah, which is a collection of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings.
According to government statistics, Iran’s population is approximately 98% Muslim, with 95% of those Muslims being Shia. Despite what people believe, belonging to a different religion is not against the law in Iran, and atheists are tolerated.
Although the Zoroastrians have been persecuted in Iran for many years, there are still a few of them left. Zoroastrianism was the major religion of the Persian Empire before Islam and is one of the world’s oldest religions. Fire temples belonging to the Zoroastrian faith may be seen in Yazd, although most significant ones remain around Yazd.
Iranian food and drink
In Iran, as in most of the Middle East, water is drinkable. As a result, buying plastic bottled water is not required. Alcohol is illegal and prohibited in Iran, but it may be purchased on the black market where it comes in from Armenia or Iraqi Kurdistan. However, I would advise anyone asking about alcohol to be cautious; while some locals do consume wine on occasion.
Traditional Iranian cuisine is exquisite, although it may be monotonous and limited. Chicken is among their main sources of protein. In fact, a meal without meat would not be considered a meal and vegetarians traveling in Iran find it to be particularly difficult. Beans and eggplant are common, however if you don’t eat meat, you’ll likely live on rice and bread. Large amounts of rice and bread are consumed, making them hearty meals.
Right now, going to Iran is quite affordable. This is due to the sanctions’ significant impact on the economy, which has resulted in things being very inexpensive for tourists but extremely expensive for locals. You may expect to spend between AUD$20 and $30 per day as a backpacker on a limited budget, obviously less if you hitch lifts or couchsurf.
However, owing to the country’s current economic situation and exchange rates, it is subject to great change. If you need to keep a budget, I recommend doing additional research on Iran’s present condition.
Souvenirs in Iran
Souvenirs can be found in the major cities, such as Esfahan, Shiraz, and Yazd. Persian carpets (of course), ceramics, printed table cloths and wall hangings, jewelry, scarves are some of the typical gifts. Similar products may be found in Shiraz, Yazd, and Tehran but with fewer options and less bargaining space.