If you are planning on going on a trip and visiting another country, choosing your destination can be a bit confusing. But if you are looking to see some historical monuments or enjoy the fresh air in nature, Iran can be quite an amazing choice.
You can find a lot of historical sites in Iran. And the green mountains, the deserts and the islands there will leave you speechless. On top of that, you will be amazed by the friendliness and the hospitality of the Iranian people. However, before you buy a ticket and start packing your clothes, here are 6 things you need to know before traveling to Iran.
1. Iranian people do not accept money immediately; you should insist on paying
When you visit Iran you will deal with something called Taarof, which is a common art of politeness and etiquette among Iranian people mainly used to express goodwill. But you need to understand that Taarof involves saying some things which are not meant to convey the literal meaning, especially when it comes to paying.
When you try to buy something from a store you will likely be told that the seller enjoyed meeting you and that it is not important to pay. Keep in mind that this is just Taarof and keep insisting on paying and eventually he will accept because Taarof is only their way to show kindness and respect.
Sometimes, especially when you are buying things from touristic places and after Taarof is over, you can expect to hear a very expensive price. Keep in mind that Taarof does not mean that you can leave without paying but it also does not mean that the price they tell you is final. Most often the bargaining starts after the seller says the price and you can buy the item at a lower price.
2. You need to dress modestly
You should follow certain rules related to the dress code in Iran and wear modest clothes even in the hot days of summer. For men, it is ok to wear T-shirts but pants should be long, and shorts are not allowed in public. Women, on the other hand, must cover their hair with headscarves and wear long-sleeved shirts that are long enough to cover the lower back.
Also read: What should I wear in Iran?
Keep in mind that the dress code may differ a bit from one province to another. While you may see women wearing leggings underneath their dresses, this could not be acceptable in more conservative places such as Qom.
3. You need to bring a lot of cash and it is possible to buy a local credit card
Tourists usually prefer to carry a credit card or a debit card instead of cash while traveling. But in Iran that will not be a good idea. Due to the international embargo imposed on Iran, foreign cards are not accepted. Therefore you should figure out your budget and maybe bring some extra cash.
While the US dollar, euro and British pound are acceptable in Iran and are easily exchanged, but you should exchange them with the Iranian currency. Although you can exchange money at banks, the exchange agencies have better rates. When you arrive at the airport try to exchange enough money for the first day and exchange the rest of your money at exchange agencies which can be found in the city center.
For those who do not like to carry a lot of cash, there is a solution. Several companies offer local credit cards that allow you to withdraw money from ATMs in Iran.
4. You need to understand the prices in Iran
While the currency in Iran is Rial, most of the prices will be in Toman. Since a toman equals 10 rials, this means when someone says the price is 10,000 tomans you will have to pay 100,000 rials. This looks easy but there is one problem that can confuse tourists. At some places when the salesman says that the price is 50 tomans, he means by that 50,000 tomans (which is 500,000 rials). To avoid the confusion, you can ask the salesman to wright the price in rials or even in dollars.
5. Alcohol is illegal in Iran and good coffee is very hard to find
If your idea of a vacation involves partying and drinking alcohol then maybe Iran is not the right place for you. In Iran, you will not find any bars nor liqueur stores, and the only way to obtain an alcoholic drink is though the black market, which might not be a good idea. Getting caught drinking alcohol could end up with you spending some time in jail or paying a fine.
While coffee is legal in Iran you might have a hard time finding a good cup of coffee because most Iranian people prefer drinking tea. If you really need that cup of coffee in the morning try to find one of the western coffee shops but keep in mind that it will not be cheap.
6. You need a visa to visit Iran
Getting a visa for Iran used to be very difficult. Now it became much easier with the introduction of visa on arrival program. Citizens of 180 countries can get a visa on arrival from any Iranian international airport, but you need to have an invitation letter or hotel reservation to get it.
Visa on arrival can only be collected from an international airport. Therefore, if you are traveling overland you need to have a visa in advance. And if you are a citizen of the USA, United Kingdom or Canada you can only travel to Iran on a tour with a guide.
Iran visa is valid for 30 days only but you can extend it twice for one month, which means you can stay in Iran for up to 3 months..
Major media agencies always portray Iran as a dangerous place to visit. But the truth is Iran is a very safe country. A lot of travelers who visited Iran described Iran as one of the safest counties they have been to. A new interactive map showing the travel risk level around the world in 2019 has shown that Iran is as safe as the UK.