General Tips for Travelling in Iran
- Safety: safety and security seem to be the two big concerns for visiting Iran and I got asked so many questions about it. I personally felt very safe even when I walking in an empty street close to midnight. My group also felt safe and many weren't even Muslims. Saying that, keep in mind that we weren't wearing anything flashy or jewellery. It's good to be vigilant, but generally Iran felt very safe.
- Language: The language used in Iran is Farsi/ Persian, but many people speak Arabic and English because they learn both languages for five years in school. I would advice you to learn few Farsi words and some numbers just in case. Someone will always understand you or be able to translate. They are friendly people, so they will try their best to communicate with you and they will appreciate you more for making an effort with speaking some of their language.
- Clothing: I already wear the headscarf and dress similar to Iranians, but my friends who came along who didn't wear headscarves found it easy to handle. The best thing is to wear a mid length top with loose pants and the headscarf ( square or rectangular). Make sure to take few safety pins and hair clips to put in the headscarf so it stays in place. Most of the ladies in the group had some hair showing in the top but no one stopped them or said anything. For men, most were wearing jeans and a t-shirt or pants and a dress shirt. No one was in shorts.
- Money: The official currency in Iran is Iranian riyal, but many refer to it as "tomans". When the Toman is used then a zero is dropped from the note. For example: 500000 Iranian riyals is 50000 Tomans. Sometimes it gets confusing with the money because there are many notes with similar colours. Best way is to look at each note and ask a trusted local or the hotel reception to help you understand the value of each note.
- Weather: Iran has all the four seasons. It's very hot in the summer, very cold in the winter and beautiful in fall and spring.
- Tourism: when I got back, many people asked me if my group and I were the only ones there. Funnily, there were so many European tourists especially on this trip because I visited the most artistic cities. Usually when I visit the religious cities like Mashhad and Qom they are filled with Arab tourists.
- Shopping & Haggling: What I enjoyed the most about my Iranian experience was how chilled the shop keepers were. It was such a relief when they just sat there answering questions without forcing the sales. That's the best way to shop I think. I generally didn't haggle because the prices seemed reasonable to me and I didn't buy anything that was overly expensive. Some of my friends who bought silk Persian carpets managed to get the price 50% down to the number that was given to them. So, it could be done.