Iran is a beautiful country, and a paradise for travelers who love culture, adventure and interacting with locals. Travel through some of Iran’s most famous cities, or go off the beaten path to find Iran’s most beautiful treasures, you can do it all. And while traveling Iran is not hard, or complicated, there are a couple of things you should know before going, just to be on the safe side. So to help you out, we have compiled a long list of things to know before traveling to Iran, including visa tips, dress code tips, money tips and much much more. Click on the subject in the table of content down below or scroll down to read all the tips on traveling Iran!
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Visa for Iran
1. Policy is ever changing, so be sure to check 2 weeks or a week before leaving again to see if the same policy applies. You won’t want to arrive at the airport to find out you suddenly can’t get a Visa on Arrival (VOA) anymore!
2. Not everyone can travel to Iran independently. UK, US and Canadian citizens cannot travel the country independently, instead they have to book a tour to travel Iran and get a visa through a tour agency before traveling to Iran.
3. Moreover, there are some nationalities that cannot get a Visa on Arrival . Some of these are citizens from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, Somalia, Sri Lanka and a handful more (early 2019). As such it is important to check whether you can get a Visa on Arrival, or you may be denied entry upon arriving at the airport.
4. Visa on Arrival is only available at international airports, not on land borders and is valid for 30 days. For more info on the specific requirements check out this handy visa guide from Against The Compass.
5. Visa fees for Visa on Arrival range from €40 – €150, so be sure to bring some extra money.
6. You can’t have an Israeli stamp, or any of the surrounding land border entry stamps in your passport when traveling to Iran. Israeli citizens will be denied entry to the country.
7. While not listed as an official requirement, you will need proof of travel insurance to travel in Iran. A printout might be requested from you upon arriving at the airport. If you don’t have travel insurance you will be requested to buy a temporary travel insurance for the duration of your time in Iran.
8. Not sure what rules apply to you? Check out the e-visa website or visit a consulate or embassy.
General Info & Safety in Iran
9. Best time to visit Iran. The best time to visit Iran would be during spring or fall. In summer temperatures can rise up to 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country, which can get a bit hot for your adventures. Winter is ideal for people who love to go skiing, as Iran is filled with mountains it makes for a great skiing, with some locations just outside of Tehran. However in some parts of the country there might be heavy snowfall blocking access to certain parts of Northern Iran which might interfere with your Iran travel itinerary.
10. Iran uses a different calendar. Which means their new years (Nowrooz) is celebrated on the 21st of March of the Gregorian Calendar, and it is not the year 2019, but the year 1398.
11. It is easy to go off the beaten path in Iran. While the touristic destinations of Iran such as Isfahan and Shiraz are becoming more popular with foreigners every year, it isn’t hard to go off the beaten path in Iran. Visit the Kurdish region of Iran or explore Qeshm Island, located in the Persian Gulf.
12. It is safe. Iran is a safe country to visit, there is not much about it. There is a very low crime rate in Iran.
13. There is no ISIS in Iran. When many people here Iran they often want to group it together with some other countries in the Middle East such as Syria and Iraq. However, this would take away the truth of Iran, which is that there is no ISIS in Iran, nor has there ever been ISIS in Iran.
14. Gay and lesbian travelers. As Iran is ruled by Islamic Law since 1979 same sex marriage, or any activity of that matter is illegal, and according to the law is punishable with lashes or even death. While you can travel Iran as gay or lesbian traveler, as this is not asked on your visa application, gay and lesbian travelers are advised to not advertise they are part of a same sex couple.
15. There are different kinds of police in Iran. While you have regular law enforcement in Iran, there is also morality police in Iran, known as Guidance Patrol, whose main task it is to arrest women who don’t dress appropriately, but more on dress code below.
16. Feeling bothered, threatened or feel like you are in danger in Iran? Scream these words: “Komak!” meaning “Help!”, “Dozed!” meaning “Thief!”, or “Boro Gomsho!” meaning “Get Lost!”.
17. Be careful when crossing the street. Iranian traffic is madness, and cars don’t stop at zebra crossings, so be careful when crossing the street!
Money in Iran
18. Bring enough money for the total duration of your trip plus backup. You never know what happens, and you don’t want to be without money during your travels and suddenly have to miss out on items of your Iran bucket list!
19. International cards do not work in Iran. This is the main reason it is so important to bring enough money, plus more, as you cannot use ATMs in Iran you will be required to bring enough cash for your trip.
20. Bring crispy euros and dollars. These will be the easiest currencies to exchange at exchange offices, but be sure that they are clean and crispy, or else some offices might not accept your bills.
21. The exchange rate on Google, Xe and other websites are not the exchange rate you will find in Iran. The rate you will find on Google is the official government exchange rate, that differs largely from the actual market rate. To be sure you get the right amount when traveling Iran check the market rate online here.
22. Exchange at exchange offices and exchange offices only. As these will give you the best rates, don’t exchange at banks or you will loose out on a lot of money.
23. Don’t want to walk around with all cash? Get a Mah Card instead! The Mah Card gets delivered to your hostel in Tehran, where you can hand over cash to deposit into the card. This card will work at ATMs allowing you to carry 1 card instead of a bundle of cash around. Find more info on the Mah Card here.
24. Iran has one currency, with two names. While the official currency of Iran is the Iranian Rial, Iranians often speak of Toman. This is the same currency, just a 0 less. For example, 40,000 Rial is 4,000 Toman. And to make it even more difficult, some shops will just say 4 Toman, leaving the thousands out.
25. Prices are almost always given in Toman. So be sure to check before ordering or buying something, as you might end up paying 10 times as much, or 10 times less, then you expect it to be.
26. Learn the Farsi numbers to read the prices of products and menus in Iran. In Iran they speak Farsi, and also write in Farsi, including the numbers. This can make it a bit hard to read prices yourself. As there are only 10 numbers it is easy to learn them, and it will help you during your travels in Iran. Note: while writing is normally read right to left, numbers are read and written like most of us are used to, from left to right. To help you out, we have listed the numbers below! Just simply screenshot them for your travels:
- Zero – ۰
- One – ١
- Two – ۲
- Three – ۳
- Four – ۴
- Five – ۵
- Six – ۶
- Seven – ۷
- Eight – ۸
- Nine – ۹
27. The exchange rate fluctuates massively. For example, in early 2017 €1 at the market rate was roughly 40,000 Iranian Rial. Now, early 2019, €1 is 150,000 Iranian Rial.
28. It is easy to travel Iran on a budget. Iran is inexpensive, and if you pay attention to your money, it is easy to travel Iran on a budget. We traveled Iran on a budget of €30 per person per day, you can read the full breakdown of our cost in Iran here.
29. Entry fees to sights are often between 50,000 Rial and 200,000 Rial. Many mosques, museums and sights require an entry fee, which are often between 50,000 and 200,000 Rial.
30. That said, these prices are often 5 to 10 times as high as the prices for locals. At almost all sights expect to pay the foreigner price, not the local price when visiting Iran.
Culture & Religion in Iran
31. Iranians are not Arabs. Iranians are Persian. Don’t mix the two up, you will offend them.
32. Plenty of people speak English in Iran, but it wouldn’t hurt to learn a couple of words or sentences. In most hostels, restaurants and anywhere on the streets you will find Iranians speaking English to you and even if they don’t they will always try to help you out.
33. The official language in Iran is Farsi. Here are a couple of sentences to help you out:
- Hello – Salam or dorood.
- How are you? – Haleh shoma chetooreh? (Formal)
- Are you good? – Khoobi? (Informal)
- Thank you – Merci, like the French Merci
- Have a good day – Roozeh khoobi dashteh basheen!
- Where is… ? – Koja… ?
34. Weekend is on Fridays. Which means you will find most sights closed or having limited opening hours. While some shops are open, many of them will be closed in the mornings.
35. Learn about tarof. Tarof is complicated to explain, but is very important in Iran. Basically, tarof means offering something for free such as food, taxi ride, products or anything really, to be polite. This doesn’t only go for items that hold value, it also means inviting people for tea, lunch, dinner etc.. It is also tarof, to be polite, to decline these offers, and something that makes it difficult for foreigners to know when it is Iranian hospitality, and when something is tarof. The easiest way is to decline the offer three times, if they then still insist, you can accept the offer or invitation.
36. Iranian’s are extremely hospitable. They will welcome you with open arms into their country, and it is pretty common for them to invite you over for some tea or even lunch. Keep tarof in mind, but don’t be scared to accept a cup of tea.
37. Iran is home to one of the oldest religions of the world: Zoroastrianism. While Iran is an Islamic Republic, it is also home to one of the worlds oldest religions called Zoroastrianism. Interested in learning more? Be sure to visit Yazd where you can visit the towers of silence and the fire temple!
38. Don’t use the thumbs up in Iran. Giving the thumbs up sign, may it be for hitchhiking or trying to communicate with hand signals, is the same as giving someone a middle finger, so perhaps better to not use thumbs up!
39. Do not insult the leader of Iran. Insulting the regime, the leaders or just the government in general is punishable by law in Iran. So while many people are open to talk about politics, it might not be the best idea.
40. When visiting religious sights, such as the beautiful mosques, be sure to be respectful. Be respectful of people praying and look out for signs that say if photography is allowed inside the mosque.
41. Take your shoes off. Don’t forget to take your shoes off when entering a house or a mosque, there is often a spot at the mosque where you will be able to leave your shoes. The same goes for eating in restaurants where you sit on carpets, take your shoes off before sitting down.
42. Don’t blow your nose in public. Having a cold? Try to blow your nose as discreetly as possible, and definitely not at the dinner table or when with company, as this is considered quite disgusting.
43. Don’t expect locals of the opposite sex to touch or shake hands with you. It is often more common for men to shake hands with men and women to shake hands with women.
44. Separate entrances. Visiting a mosque? Be sure to check if there are separate entrances. Women and men often have separate sections in the mosque, and as such separate entrances as well.
Dress Code in Iran for Women and Men
45. No, they don’t wear burqas in Iran. Doesn’t need much more clarification then that.
46. There is a strict dress code for women and men in Iran. Which should be followed as closely as possible as it could get you into trouble as not following these rules is punishable by law.
47. Men can wear t-shirts, but shorts are not allowed in Iran. T-shirts are okay, but leave your cutoffs at home.
48. Women have to wear a headscarf at all times in public to cover their hair. This might take some getting used to at first, but it is one of the most important rules to follow, failure to follow these rules could lead to an arrest.
49. Women also have to wear a tunic, manteau or long coat to cover their bum and have sleeves till at least up until the elbow, although long sleeves are recommended. T-shirts are not allowed for women.
50. The tunic, manteau or the long coat should have a high neckline and have a loose fit so women’s curves cannot be seen. Bring some dresses and combine it with some cardigans to avoid having to buy too much clothes.
51. When entering a mosque, women will often have to wear a chador, which can be borrowed from the mosque upon arrival. However, more touristic mosques such as the Shah Mosque in Isfahan, or the Nasir al Mulk-Mosque in Shiraz do not require you to wear a chador.
52. Women can wear tight pants. However, they need to be long pants, going all the way down to the ankles. So be sure to pack those skinny jeans.
53. You need to put a headscarf in your hand luggage, as you will be required to wear it when the plane has landed on Iranian grounds. Something you might not think about, but good to keep in mind.
54. This might seem like a lot, but trust me, Iranian women are extremely fashionable. So bring your colorful clothing and pretty tunics or go shopping in Iran for a manteau or headscarfs.
Accommodation in Iran
55. Most of the major booking websites such as Booking.com, Airbnb or Agoda are not available in Iran. Making it slightly harder to book accommodation, but not impossible.
56. However, Hostelworld is now available to book budget accommodation in Iran. The amount of hostels on Hostelworld has been increasing since it became possible to use Hostelworld in 2018 making it a whole lot easier to book accommodation for Iran.
57. That said, looking for budget accommodation? Check our complete blogpost about budget accommodation in Iran here!
58. Traveling on a strict budget, look into using Couchsurfing. Hotels and hostels are available everywhere, but looking to save even more money, check out Couchsurfing.
59. For luxury accommodation, check out TripAdvisor to find the best hotels with contact info to make a reservation. Find a complete overview of the best hotels in Iran here!
60. It is common for the hostel, hotel or guesthouse to hold your passport during your stay. So don’t worry about this, it is common policy.
Food & Drinks in Iran
61. There is more then kebab. While there are even more then one version of kebab, there are also a lot of different dishes to try in Iran. Try fesenjoon, dizi or ghormeh sabzi, just a couple of many of the delicious dishes you will find Iran.
62. Drink tea. While the coffee culture is slowly getting more popular, tea is still the way to go. Put a sugar cube between your teeth and sip the delicious chai.
63. Alcohol is banned in Iran and it is punishable by law.
64. Vegetarians will have a hard time in Iran. Vegans… even harder. While it isn’t impossible to find vegetarian or vegan food in Iran, it won’t be easy as many of the dishes contain mean, even when you don’t expect it. A simple example, haleem, which is a breakfast porridge almost always contains meat, something you won’t expect to find meat in.
65. Try the pastries and sweets in Iran. While the stews, kebab, rice and many of the other dishes in Iran are simply divine, don’t forget to enjoy the pastries. Some of our favorites: ghotab, koloocheh, sohan, zoolbia and bamieh. However, not every city offers all of these pastries, many of these are only available in certain regions.
66. Every city has local specialities. Besides the pastries, every region also has its own local specialties. Try the Isfahan Biryani or the ghotab cookies in Yazd. Not only are there local specialties, dishes with the same name will also vary largely on where in Iran you eat them.
67. Rice portions are large. One portion of rice is often enough for 2, or even 3 people, so don’t order too much of it! And don’t forget to try the different kinds of rice: tahdeeg (crunchy rice), sabzi polow (herbed rice), zereshk polow (rice with barberries and saffron) or many more!
Photography in Iran
68. Ask permission before photographing people in Iran, especially when it comes to photographing women and children. Common policy when traveling, but always a good reminder.
69. No tripods allowed. Planning on bringing a tripod? Might as well leave it at home, they are almost always forbidden. Especially in mosques and touristic sights, if you try to set it up security guards will come and tell you to put it away.
70. Special permits for professional photographers. You can take photos as an amateur photographer at many sights, however, professional photographers require special permits. As tripods almost always make you look like a professional photographer, they will almost always tell you to put it away. DSLRs however, seem to not form any issue.
71. Don’t take photos of the army, police, anything politically related or forbidden sights. This is very important, as it can get you into a lot of trouble, you don’t want them to think that you are a spy right?
72. Be respectful when taking selfies in public. Putting an arm on someone’s shoulder is okay, but no hugging or kissing, as this is considered very disrespectful and against the law.
Internet in Iran
73. Many social media sites are banned in Iran, so are other major sites such as CNN and BBC.
74. Still want access? Get a VPN! If you still want access to websites such Facebook, or follow international news you will need to get a VPN before leaving to Iran.
75. Expect low wifi speed. So if you need to upload videos to Youtube as a vlogger or upload stories to your blog, realize that that might not be possible during your time in Iran.
76. However, sim cards are cheap and widely available, and offer a great 3G network for your phone. So at least you will be able to let your mom know you are safe and sound and you can upload your photos to Instagram!
77. To get a sim card be sure to unlock your phone before leaving to Iran. Very important, and it will be useful for your future travels as well!
Transport in Iran
78. Public transportation in Iran is cheap and convenient. Trains, buses, taxis, ferries, there are plenty of options to make your way around the country.
79. There are often women only section at the front and end of the metro, but women are also allowed to enter the the other carriages of the metro. They are also marked on the metro platforms already to make it easier for you to find.
80. In the larger cities, such as Tehran, you can find metro rides as cheap as 10 cents. While we agree you experience and see most when walking around a city, it can get a bit tiring in a large city such as Tehran!
81. Taxis are also widely available, and are never metered. As such you will have to discuss a price in advance. Not sure what a ride should cost? Ask at your hostel or hotel, they will be able to give you a good idea.
82. Don’t feel like discussing a price or negotiating? Download the Snapp app instead! Snapp is like uber in Iran, prices are set so no negotiating skills needed.
83. Buses are the way to go in Iran, and often go multiple times a day. Just be sure to be at the right bus station, but buses between the touristic cities go frequently, and you almost never have to book a bus ticket in advance.
84. If your budget allows, take the VIP bus. VIP buses have larger seats, more leg space and are often a lot more comfortable. They are often twice the price, but especially when taking a night bus, it could be worth your money.
85. Be sure to never sit next to the opposite sex, unless you actually know them of course. This is on buses, trains, ferries or simply anywhere. You can sit next to your spouse, but you shouldn’t sit next to an unknown person of the opposite sex.
86. Be sure to pack some snacks, and to use the toilet before boarding the bus. Especially when it comes to night buses, the bus will not stop frequently.
Iran: Know Before You Go
And there you go, everything you need to know before traveling to Iran. 86 Tips to make your trip to Iran a guaranteed success! Looking for some more Iran travel inspiration, be sure to check out all our Iran blogpost here and of course to read our ultimate Iran Travel Guide to be sure you have everything you need to know about traveling Iran! How about you, have you been to Iran before? Have any tips we have missed in this list? Be sure to tell us in the comment section down below, and oh, don’t forget to pin it!
Awesome guide for first time travelers to Iran! I’ll definitely refer back to this when planning a trip there!