Iran is one of my favourite destinations in the Middle East. As a Saudi, I wasn’t always allowed to visit Iran especially with the Political climate, but a few years ago the borders were opened and I got to visit on three different occasions and every time I visited Iran, I got to experience a whole new side of that beautiful country. The rich history, the sophisticated architecture and the hospitality of the locals have always warmed my heart. Sadly, the political situation between Saudi and Iran is not great at the moment, so I am not able to go agin at this time, but the second the boarders open again, I will be visiting for a few more times. This post includes some general tips for travelling in Iran to ensure you have a good trip when you go there.
Safety in Iran
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. The only thing you should be aware of is crossing the roads in Irans because the drivers are all in a mad rush!
Language in Iran
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.
How to dress in Iran?
I already wear the headscarf and dress similar to Iranians, but my friends who came along that 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 and currency in Iran
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. Also, Iran doesn’t have financial ties with international banks. Therefore, you can’t use your ATM card at all. Your whole trip will be based on the cash you bring with you to the country, so make sure you budget everything and take enough money with you.
Weather in Iran
Iran has all the four seasons. It's very hot in the summer from May until August, very cold in the winter between November and January and beautiful the rest of the months. I really enjoyed it in September. There was some heat, but it was great for the most part. The weather also changes on the area, so check the location before you go!
Tourism in Iran
When I got back, many people asked me if my group and I were the only tourists there. Funnily, there were so many European and Asian 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 in Iran
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.
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