Iran, a country that many people have never even considered to travel to, but for the many who did, who decided to explore Iran, they ended up falling in love with the country… and I was one of them. Iran is a country that is filled with the kindest people who will welcome you with open arms into their country and their homes. It is home to a delicious and sophisticated cuisine with the most delicious herbs and spices. It has landscapes like no other country, from vast mountain landscapes to empty deserts. And don’t forget about Iran’s rich history and stunning art and architecture. Iran has something for everyone, it is a country that stole my heart, and perhaps it can steals yours too. If you are thinking of visiting Iran, keep on reading further to find all the essential info you need to make your trip a success.
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Before you go to Iran
When to visit Iran
The High Season in Iran is from March to May where temperatures are mild, but prices are also a lot higher. While this time of the year might offer the best weather conditions it also means more tourists. Prices of transport and hotels will especially rise around Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is at the 21st of March. So if you are traveling on a budget you might want to avoid the high season.
The Shoulder Season in Iran is from June to October where temperatures can rise, creating not the most ideal travel circumstances, especially with the strict dress code. However, the warmer weather does mean fewer travelers, and the prices will be slightly lower compared to the high season. In September and October the temperatures drop slightly, making it more pleasant to explore Iran.
The Low Season in Iran is from November to February, with lower temperatures and snow in a large area of the country. The low season is the perfect season for travelers on a budget, or travelers who want to go skiing in the mountains of Iran. We traveled Iran in February and March and experienced snow in the Northern areas of the country but pleasant temperatures (15 degrees celsius) during the day in the more Southern areas of Iran.
Safety in Iran
This is often the largest concern when people speak about visiting Iran, and contrary to what most people believe, Iran is considered a safe country. Most countries give a positive travel advice, especially when it concerns visiting Iran’s main cities and attractions. Warnings are often issued for shared borders and certain regions such as the Sistan and Baluchestan Province. However, we strongly advices to check your country’s travel advice Iran shortly before you leave as with any country the situation might change, and they will be able to advice you which regions you should avoid while traveling Iran. We believe, however, that if you just use common sense, and abide by the rules and the travel safety advice, you should have no trouble during your stay in Iran.
Visa Policy Iran
As the visa policy of Iran is something that changes quite frequently it is important to check the visa regulations regularly. The situation most of the time: a large amount of nationalities can get a visa on arrival, however, some countries still need to arrange a visa at the embassy in advance. Moreover, US/UK/Canadian citizens are not allowed to travel the country independently, plus, they need to arrange a visa in advance. And lastly, due to political reasons Israeli citizens are not allowed to enter the country. As we are no expert on visas for Iran we recommend you to check this complete visa guide for Iran for more detailed information on which situation applies to you!
Dresscode in Iran
Visiting Iran comes with a long list of rules, following a certain dress code is one of them. Not following these rules could mean being arrested by the moral police. So without further ado for women: women are expected to wear a headscarf and long pants (skinny jeans are allowed). Moreover, women should wear a long sleeved shirt, with a high neckline (so breasts are not visible) and a shirt/tunic that covers the bum. It is often said that for foreigners the rules are a bit more loose, however, just run into someone from the moral police on a bad day and you still face being arrested, which isn’t an experience you want to add to your Iran bucket list we assume. As such, we would personally not take the risk. Besides that, by following the dress code you also avoid some of the stares. So no, you don’t need to wear a burqa or a chador the whole time, however, some mosques will require women to wear a chador. If this is necessary you will be handed one upon arrival.
And make no mistake, there is also a dress code that men need to adhere too: Men are allowed to wear t-shirts, no sleeveless shirts, and even though summers are incredibly hot, leave you shorts at home, these are not allowed. When visiting a mosque: it is advised to wear a long sleeved shirt instead of a t-shirt.
We recommend visiting Iran for at least two weeks, but the more time the better of course. Two weeks will allow you to see the highlights of Iran. Visit Iran’s most beautiful cities, Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, but also explore some of Iran’s stunning nature and desert towns such as Kashan and Yazd. If you have more time available consider going a bit more off the beaten path, and consider visiting the Lut desert and Qeshm Island, places where you might not see another foreign tourist for days. Iran has a lot to offer, and with the immensity of this country and the stunning cities and sights you could easily spend months here. If you are looking for some more detailed info and inspiration to create your own itinerary check out our 1 to 3 week Iran itinerary guide here.
Know Before You Go
While these tips above might help you out a little bit, there are a lot more things that you should know before going to Iran, and instead of listing them all here we have created the ultimate guide for you that includes 86 things to know before you go! That list will help you out with your travel planning to be sure that when you arrive in Iran you can just simply enjoy your vacation, and don’t have to worry about anythings else. This guide includes tips on photography, internet in iran, culture and religion in Iran and much much more.
Money & Budget in Iran
Iran Travel Budget
Iran is an amazing destination for budget travelers. With the rise of tourism it has become a lot easier to find budget accommodation in Iran as hostels are popping up all over the country, with prices as low as €7 a night. Moreover, you can find long distance buses as affordable as €4, visit most sights for roughly €3 – €5 and falafel sandwiches for €1. We traveled Iran on a budget of €30 a day, and had no trouble sticking to it, and could include tours and all the major sights we wanted to see. We recommend a budget of roughly €25 – €40 a day for budget travelers. Curious to see where our money exactly went? Check out our complete detailed Iran travel budget guide and breakdown of travel cost here.
Currency in Iran
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 IRR would be 20 T for example. Hence, if you are asking for the price always be sure to ask if the price is in Rial or Toman. To make it even a bit more confusing, the exchange rates are not corresponding to exchange rates as stated online, your Euro’s or Dollars are often worth more in the country then stated on websites such as Xe.
ATMs in Iran
Foreign credit cards or debit cards do not work in Iran, anywhere, at no ATM at all. As such you will have to bring cash to Iran, and enough cash to last you for your trip plus backup. Lookup in advance how much on average you will expect to pay for accommodation based on your kind of travel style as it will be hard to get money once you are in the country. For example, I had the plans to travel Iran for 24 days and had scheduled a €30 a day budget based on my travel style. This would mean I would have to bring €720, to be safe I brought €1000 while I ended up spending a little bit more, I was happy to have brought more money just to be safe and to be sure I wouldn’t have to miss out on any experiences while traveling Iran. Better be safe than sorry right?
Places to visit in Iran
Some may call it polluted, many will tell you to leave as soon as you can. But don’t forget that it is the capital; a city that is home to 15 million people. Tehran, in my opinion, has loads to offer. Go explore Golestan palace, get lost in the Bazar, visit a couple of museums or just enjoy a simple coffee, these are simply one of the many things to do in Tehran. This concrete jungle could still keep you occupied for days, if it is not weeks for the ones who will give it a chance. Not sure what to do in Tehran? Read our complete guide to Tehran here!
Only a couple hours down south of Tehran’s concrete jungle you can find the “small” desert town of Kashan. The small city of Kashan has a couple of things to offer: a UNESCO garden, traditional houses and bathhouses and beautiful mountain views. We would personally recommend to make a 2 night stop in the city as this will allow enough time to explore the city itself. However, if you are keen on exploring more book a trip to the nearby desert for a day or perhaps even a night! Read about Kashan in our guide including 9 amazing things to do in Kashan!
Just like Kashan, Yazd is a beautiful sand colored city that is not situated far from the desert… or the mountains. Day tours to the desert, or even half day tours to the desert, are offered everywhere around the city centre, but that is not the only thing this town has to offer. More than that, Yazd gives you the perfect opportunity to learn more about Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest extant religion that’s originated from the Indo-Iranian religious systems. Visit the towers of silence for sunset or the fire temple to learn more about a religion that you might have never heard before. Yazd is a stunning city, and considered one of the highlights of Iran for many travelers.
The city of architecture, a city that is home to some of the most beautiful mosques in the country. The river floating through the city might be dry, but the bridges crossing the dry river bed are still just as impressive. Spend a couple of days admiring the bazar, the many mosques or enjoy some of the delicious food (Biryani) that the city is home to. You never know, you might end up climbing the minaret of the Shah Mosque, viewing the city from above! Isfahan is a city you don’t want to leave out of your itinerary, so read our full guide, including 11 things to do in Isfahan, here.
Near the city of Kerman, and in the same named province, you can find Dasht-e Lut or the Lut Desert. The Lut Desert is the 27th largest desert in the world, stretching far into the Sistan and Baluchestan Province (a place that has a very high travel warning due to drug trafficking). While you are only allowed to visit the Lut Desert with a guide, it is a place that is well worth your time, as it is unlike any other desert. Kaluts, which are large sand formations cover the desert creating the most unreal and out of this world like landscape, see the sun set, or rise, in this beautiful place. Visiting the Kaluts was one of the highlights of our trip, something you might want to add to your Iran bucket list.
Personally, Shiraz has a special place in my heart as this city, or specifically a mosque in this city, was the sole reason I decided to travel to Iran. When browsing the internet years ago I found a picture of an amazing colorful mosque, when I found out it was in Iran I immediately added it to my bucket list… Years later I finally stood there at 7.30am, witnessing the lights shining through the stained glass windows. This mosque known as the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, or the pink mosque, is for many people reason alone to travel down South to Shiraz. But besides the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, Shiraz is famous for many more things: it is the city of poets, literature and flowers. Visit the Tomb of Hafez, Iran’s most famous poet or learn more about Iran’s history by visiting Persepolis. Shiraz is small, but can easily keep you occupied for a couple of days, a city definitely worth the visit if you have the opportunity. Read about the most beautiful sights of Shiraz in our complete Shiraz travel guide.
Travel all the way down South till you reach the mesmerizing Persian Gulf in Bandar Abbas and take a ferry to Qeshm Island. If you thought you barely saw any tourists on the main land of Iran, go visit Qeshm… you might run into a couple, but not unlikely none at all. Qeshm has been gaining more and more popularity with tourists and travelers abroad, all trying to get a glimpse of the beauty of this island. Qeshm is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes you will find in Iran, has incredibly wildlife and has an incredibly delicious seafood cuisine. If you have the time, consider adding Qeshm Island to your Iran itinerary! If you are not convinced yet, check out our complete Qeshm Island travel guide, including how to get there and things to see on Qeshm Island.
Last, but definitely not least on the list, is the small island of Hormuz, located in the Persian Gulf. Hormuz is only a short boat ride away from Qeshm, but it is like stepping into a complete new and different world. Dark red landscapes with rainbow valleys makes Hormuz one of the most unique and stunning places in Iran to visit, especially if you are a nature lover. As Hormuz isn’t large it is the perfect destination for a day trip, or perhaps to spend a night if you want to see the sun rise and set over the Persian gulf.
Transport in Iran
Transport Between Cities in Iran
Bus – One of the easiest ways to get around the country, and also one of the most affordable ways, is by taking a bus. Between larger cities you often have the option of booking a VIP bus, which has larger seats and more leg space, or by booking a regular bus. While the VIP buses are more expensive (often double the price), they are often also a whole lot more comfortable, especially if you are planning on taking the night bus. During the day and for shorter rides it is fine to take the mahmooly bus, as it will save you a lot of money. While this service wasn’t available during our travels in Iran, and we haven’t used these services ourselves, there are websites like 1stQuest that allow you to book your buses online.
Train – Another good way to get around the country is by using the train, however, as this is a very popular transport mode you sometimes have to book in advance to be sure you have a seat on the train. Which means less flexibility in your itinerary, and the train does not always go everywhere, hence why some travelers prefer taking the bus. More info on the train network in Iran is available on the Unofficial Homepage of Iranian Railways.
Transport Within Cities in Iran
Taxis and Snapp – Taxis in Iran are extremely affordable, however, they are never metered. This means that with some taxi drivers not speaking fluent English, it can get a bit complicated on negotiating a price. However, a good alternative is using Snapp, it’s like the Uber of Iran, allowing you to order it from a simple app of your phone. No negotiating prices or explaining where you are going to, prices are set, just pay on arrival. You can find the Snapp app in your app store.
Public transport – Within larger cities you will often find bus networks or metro networks, which are both extremely affordable. As bus networks can get a bit complicated ask your hostel reception for the directions, they will often be able to advise you. In Tehran it is easiest to use the metro network as it such an extensive and large city, and rides are as affordable as €0,10.
Accommodation in Iran
It isn’t hard to find accommodation in Iran, but booking it is slightly more difficult then other countries. Many of the booking sites, such as Booking.com don’t offer the possibility to book any accommodation in Iran, however, as of last year it has become slightly easier to book budget accommodation as you can now use Hostelworld to book hostels in Iran. Many of the larger cities and more touristy destination such as Tehran, Shiraz and Kashan have a selection of hostels and guesthouses available. To help you out, save you some time on research, we have created a list of the current (early 2019) most popular hostels on Hostelworld, which you can read more about here in our guide to accommodation in Iran for budget travelers.
The Ultimate Iran Travel Guide
And there you have it, everything you need to know to travel in Iran. Iran is a beautiful country, which so much to offer in terms of adventure, cuisine, nature and history, for those who are willing to go there. It might not be as easy as visiting Thailand or Bali, but the memories and experiences therefore can be so much more rewarding. If you are looking for more travel inspiration on Iran don’t forget to check out all our other Iran articles. And oh, don’t forget to pin it!