Although we would like to say otherwise, the cost of backpacking a country does pay an important role in our decision to visit a country or not. And while Iran might not be on the top of everybody’s list , the cost of backpacking Iran should definitely not hold you back. Backpacking Iran for 24 days costed me a total of €750, averaging a rough €30 a day in February 2017. Curious to see where my money went, where I spent my Iran Travel Budget and the exact cost and prices of traveling Iran, keep on reading.
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How much does it cost to travel in Iran?
To make it a little bit easier, let’s break the cost down into 5 categories: accommodation, food & drinks, sightseeing, transport and “other”. The categories are quite straightforward, but in the paragraphs down below I’ll explain a little bit more about each single one of them and will give you multiple example prices to give you a better idea. As expected with any holiday, accommodation and food & drinks took up roughly 50% of my budget. Here is an exact breakdown of our Iran Travel Budget:
|Cost 24 Days
|Accommodation in Iran
|Food & Drinks in Iran
|Transportation in Iran
|Activities in Iran
|Miscellaneous Costs in Iran
I set a budget in advance, in this case it was €30 per day. Now, these costs can be much higher or lower, depending on what kind of traveler you are. To give you a better idea and understanding of how I travel and if your costs will be lower or higher then ours, here is a bit on how we travel:
- I prefer to arrange our own transport, from taxis to buses, ferries or simply walking.
- I only take tours if they will take me further off the beaten path.
- I splurge on food and activities, since this is one of the main reason of travel to me.
- I stay in dorms or budget accommodation to keep cost low.
- I travel slow, trying to make the most of each destination and to split out the cost of activities and transport over multiple days.
Money in Iran
The money situation in Iran is rather complicated then many of the other countries we travel to, and definitely something you must learn about and know before going to Iran. It is complicated in the way that exchange rates online are not the exchange rates used in the country, that there are two currencies and that your foreign cards won’t work in the country. To help you with preparations and setting your Iran travel budget we have explained the money situations you should know before going to Iran down below:
Exchange rate in Iran: The exchange rates are not corresponding to exchange rates as stated online on for example XE.com, your Euro’s or Dollars are often worth a bit more in the country itself! In February 2017 for example €1,- corresponded to 40,000IRR, but online the exchange rate equalled 30,000 IRR. On top of all of that, the Iranian Rial is a currency that fluctuates strongly. In November 2018 you would get almost 150,000 IRR as the market rate within Iran.
Iranian Currencies: Well, this is where it gets a bit confusing. Iran’s official currency is the Iranian Rial, however, the old currency, Toman, is often the one used as the price. The Iranian Rial is worth 10 times as much as the Toman, so 200,000 IRR would be 20,000T for example. However, local vendors and shops will often give the price in terms of thousands, for example, 20 Toman or 200 IRR. Hence, if you are asking for the price always be sure to ask if the price is in Rial or Toman to avoid confusion.
ATMs in Iran: there are no ATMs for foreigners available in the country, you will have to bring all your money in cash (Euro’s or American Dollars). So make sure to overestimate how much money you’ll be spending in the country, and always have some back up money available. So I took €1000 with for a 24 day trip, just to be on the safe side!
Travel Credit Card for Iran: As foreign credit cards don’t work in Iran, and you might not feel like walking around with €1000 cash during your travels there is now also the option of getting a Mah Card. The Mah Card is a local prepaid debit card for tourists and temporary visitors. You can easily add funds to the card in cash upon your hotel in arrival (someone will meet you there) or online. I have not used the Mah Card myself as it did not exist in early 2017, but the concept seems perfect for travelers to Iran. You can find more info on the Mah Card here!
Cost of Accommodation in Iran
Accommodation took up most of my expenses in Iran, €210 to be exact. With hostels costing us roughly €10 euro’s a night, this sounds about right. Luckily I traveled of season, meaning we had many discounts on our stays, and free upgrades from dorms to private rooms once we arrived. If you want to read a little bit more in detail about where to stay and if I would recommend the accommodation or not, read the whole article here. However, options of hostels have significantly increased since early 2017 with many Western style hostels popping up throughout the country, simply to be booked on Hostelworld. To help you out we have created an overview of the most popular hostels in Iran for budget travelers here. Or else, here are the exact hostels and prices I paid in February/March ’17.
|See You in Iran Hostel
|Private room (free upgrade)
|Seven Hostel Isfahan
|Private room (free upgrade)
|Discount due to low season
|Accommodation included in tour
|Included with cost of food
|Private room (free upgrade)
If you are looking to cut down your cost, and want to go full on budget, check out Couchsurfing. I have met multiple people, and read from loads of travel bloggers, that Couchsurfing in Iran is a great idea. Not only will you cut down your cost, you will also have the opportunity to interact more with the locals!
Cost of Food & Drinks in Iran
Well if there is one thing you shouldn’t be saving money on in Iran (unless you’re a vegetarian), it would be food and drinks. While often a bit greasy, the dishes are full of spices and flavor, and often have taken hours and hours of work to prepare. Taste the delicious ghormeh sabzi, the kebabs, falafel or the classis fesenjoon. And the best thing is, eating out is not that expensive! In total, I spent over €170,- on food and drinks in Iran, averaging €7,20 a day, but did eat until my stomach hurt. Do note, dishes in Iran are often large, and meant to be shared, so two dishes between the three of us was often enough. Here are some example prices of food and drinks:
|Tea or Coffee
|Fresh Pomegranate Juice
|1.5L Water Bottle
|Samosa – Street Food
|Bags of Raisins
|Kebab and Bread
|Fesenjoon with Rice
|Omelet with Bread
Kebab and falafel must be the cheapest food to find in Iran, but don’t forget how much more of this tasty cuisine there is to explore. Restaurants are not expensive, and you will be ensured to leave with a full stomach! We also had a lot of snacks such as cookies, dates, raisins and nuts from the bazars (we just wanted to taste it all). If you snack less, or eat street food instead of restaurants you can easily cut down your cost of food and drinks, and hence your cost of travel in Iran.
Cost of Sights and Tours in Iran
So we’ve got the basics covered, we have a roof over our head and our bellies filled with delicious food. Now lets get to the reason we came to Iran, to see the country right? Iran is filled with many beautiful sights, from UNESCO World Heritage gardens, mind-blowingly beautiful mosques, and well lets not forget the nature. But sightseeing and tours come with a price, and contrary to what the old lonely planet told us, sightseeing in Iran is not the cheapest. Prices are often split between prices for locals and prices for tourists, and while yes we can have a whole discussion if this is fair or not, it is just the way it is and sadly enough we do not have the ability to change it. So if you want to see the wonders of the country, you might have to just accept it, pay the price, but trust me you’ll be happy you did, as you don’t want to leave anything of your Iran bucket list! I spent a total of €165 on sightseeing and tours. Here are some example cost:
|Combi ticket for garden and main halls.
|Den of Espionage
|1 Night Desert Tour
|Incl. transport, food and accommodation
|Tomb of Hafez
|Nasir al Molk Mosque
|Not including transport
And while these entry fees might not seem high, visiting every mosque and sight does add up… However, not every sight will cost you money. Some mosques do not have entry prices, if you want you can often leave a small donation instead. The Aran va Bidgol mosque, for example was free of entry, but just as beautiful as some of the other mosques I have seen. And while these costs may end up, some mosques, like the Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque are worth the money. After a while you will also get a bit more selective of which sight you might want to see, we did. In the end I still felt I had seen everything I wanted to see, and used my money wisely, but this is all personal of course. If I didn’t do a tour in Kerman I would have cut these cost down in half for example.
Cost of Transport in Iran
Ha well, okay we got most of the cost out of the way. Now the only major category left is transport. If you want to see the country you will have to move from city to city. Besides that, Iran is a big country, cities are large, and while I am all pro walking around, it is not always possible. Well luckily for all of us, transportation in Iran is cheap, even taxis. If you want to be sure you won’t get ripped off, let your hostel book a taxi and set a price a beforehand! Here are some of the example prices you might encounter:
|€1 – €4
For buses between cities you often have the choice between regular buses and VIP buses. VIP buses are a bit more expensive, but often a lot more comfortable, especially if it is a night bus. Taxis might not be the cheapest option if you are traveling solo, but if you found other travelers (like I did), it becomes really cheap. We often split the cost between 3 or 4 people, which made a taxi ride as cheap as €0,25 per person on some occasions. If you are traveling in a group, or prefer to have more freedom it is also a possibility to rent a car in Iran. I spent a total of €90 on transportation, including the rent of a car on Qeshm Island!
Other Costs while Backpacking Iran
And then the last category… “other”, taking up 16% or €120 of my budget. Other classified anything that didn’t fit into the other four categories. From souvenirs, to sending postcards, to buying more headscarfs. While this often is a much smaller category, I sadly enough had some money stolen (€50) from me during a day trip, hence largely increasing these costs. If I would have taken that out of the equation, my daily spending would have been €28,75, or €690 for the total of my trip. However, things like this happen, and thus I took it all into account when writing this post.
How to lower your budget of traveling in Iran
While I always aim to travel on a budget, there is always room for improvement. While I have named a couple of options of how to cut down cost of traveling in Iran here are a couple of tips summarized on how to keep your Iran travel budget as low as possible:
- Go couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is extremely popular in Iran, and while it does not only mean free accommodation, it also means connecting with local people.
- Travel in the low season. Prices in the high season are almost twice as high, in the low season you can expect discounted rooms, free upgrades and tours to cost a lot less compared to the high season.
- Eat local street food. Eating out in Iran is not expensive, but it is definitely more expensive then grabbing a quick kebab on the go or a simple falafel sandwich.
- Take night buses. The local VIP buses are extremely comfortable, and taking a night bus means you will save on a night of accommodation.
- Split costs. Traveling with more people definitely cut down many of my costs in Iran. From splitting taxi’s and renting a car to splitting rooms.
- Be selective of sights. There are many mosques, palaces and historic sights to see in Iran, but they do come with a price tag. Paying €5 for every mosque tends to get a bit expensive and to increase your travel budget. Check before hand on Tripadvisor if the sight is worth seeing or see if there are free alternatives.
Budget Travel in Iran
As you can see it is quite easy to travel for €30 a day in Iran. You can visit sights, go on tours, fill up your belly and stay in lovely hostels. However, if you are a bit more of a luxury traveler: prefer to take taxis everywhere, no dorms, no street food, VIP buses all the time… you might have to increase your budget a little bit to €45 – €50 a day. Conclusion: money should not be the reason you don’t want to visit this beautiful country. Has this post convinced you to travel Iran? Be sure to check out our complete Iran Travel Guide with everything you need to know about traveling to Iran. Oh, and don’t forget to pin it!