Travel to Iran: the best time of my life. The first time, I spent nearly 3 weeks in Iran in October 2018. The second time, I spent a week in Iran in November 2019.
I’ve made a lot of researches prior to my journey about how to travel to Iran and how to get prepared for traveling to Iran. I’ve collected my tips for traveling to Iran in this blog. It’s a set of blueprints guiding you with what exactly you need to do if you decided to take a journey to a wonderful Iran.
Updated on 26.4.2020.
If you have any questions along the way, write to me in the comment section! I’m always happy to help you.
Also, remember that if you book with 1stQuest through my website using my discount code, you get a 5% off. My discount code: Globetrotting
Table of Contents
- Best time to travel
- Getting a visa for Iran
- Travel Insurance for Iran
- Accommodation in Iran
- Iranian debit card
- Getting in
- Tours in Iran
- Safety in Iran
- SIM card
- Apps to use
- VPN in Iran
- Numbers and currencies
- Iranian people
- Language in Iran
- Religion and Islamic Law
- What to wear in Iran
- Prices in Iran
- Books about Iran
Traveling in Iran might be different from what you’ve experienced in other countries. But it’s still very easy. Especially, if you know my travel tips for traveling to Iran.
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1. Best time to travel to Iran
Due to the fact that Iran is an enormous country with a lot of different landscapes, it depends on where you want to go.
When I was in Iran for the first time, it was from the middle to the end of October. I visited Tehran, Kashan, Isfahan, Yazd, Kerman, the Kalut desert, Shiraz, Qeshm and Hormuz Island. I have to say that at that time the weather was excellent everywhere.
However, at the end of October on Hormuz and Qeshm Island, it was a bit too hot. I remember I was struggling with the heat. All things considered, I would dare to say that October was the perfect timing. If you would like to follow my route, I recommend it from the beginning of October. Moreover, spring is also a great time for this trip.
For the second time, I was in Iran at the end of November. In Kurdistan, which is a mountainous area, was really cold. It was already kind of winter. Then, I traveled to Tehran which was equally cold. Afterwards, I traveled to Shiraz which was also quite chilly when the sun was not shining. A few days later I was south in Bandar Abbas. It was warm during the day.
All in all, autumn and spring are best for visiting Iran. In winter it’s too cold and in summer it’s a scorcher in many places in Iran.
Ready for some super tasty traditional Persian Ghormeh Sabzi?
2. Getting a visa for Iran
When I applied for a visa to Iran for the first time, it was really easy. However, the second time, it was really annoying.
After my second time to try to get an Iranian visa, I decided to dedicate a separate travel blog on How to get an Iranian visa.
Here, I’ll explain everything about the Iranian visa including a visa in advance such as e-visa and visa on arrival. Don’t worry, every nationality can travel to Iran except Israelis. Yes, Americans, Canadians and UK citizens can travel to Iran as well.
Iranian spices? Yes, one of the best souvenirs from Iran.
3. Iran Travel Insurance
To enter Iran, you must have travel insurance for the period of your stay there.
There are only a few insurance companies that cover Iran.
I’ve chosen Hanse Merkur because that’s the company the website of the Consulate of Iran in Munich referred to. The name of the insurance is Auslandskrankenversicherung ohne USA/CND. It costs only 25€ for 17 days. I find it a really reliable and cheap travel insurance.
Just follow the link below to get this travel insurance.
Check it out here: Auslandskrankenversicherung
You can use the website in English as well. In English, the insurance you need is called travel health insurance.
4. Accommodation in Iran
1stQuest is an Iranian website where you can book hotels using your international credit card. This is literally the only website where you can find a wide variety of hostels and you can even book from the comfort of your home in your home country. And the best thing about it is that you get 5% discount using the following discount code: Globetrotting
HostelWorld is the only international website where you can book using your international credit card. Thus, I used it all the time for booking hostels. Moreover, there are more and more hotels and even homes appearing on HostelWorld. On a side note, in Iran you can most probably get a room in a cheap hotel for less than you pay for a hostel bed.
On TripAdvisor, you can get more info about accommodation possibilities in Iran! Here, you can find a lot of nice hotels at different budgets. Here you don’t really see the prices and you cannot make any booking online. Therefore, you need to contact them to make a booking.
Just forget it, it doesn’t work in Iran.
Let’s buy some Persian souvenirs!
5. Iranian debit card for foreign travelers
In Iran, you cannot use any international bank card due to the US sanctions. It means that if you don’t want to carry too much cash around, you might want to apply for an Iranian debit card.
If you use 1stQuest for booking hotels, flights, buses, or tours in Iran, you can choose to order your debit card as well as an add-on at a price of 19 €.
Issuing the card directly costs 20 € and you can pick it up at IKI Airport, hotel, or hostel. You can charge it any time online and you can follow your transactions in the app DaricPay. Learn more about the DaricPay Iranian travel card for tourists.
When you arrive in Iran, you’ll need to pay your first deposit in cash to the Tejarat bank in the airport or a DaricPay representative in your hotel or hostel. Then, you will receive your card right away.
I really appreciated this card. In Iran, you can pay with the debit card almost everywhere and for almost everything. It was immensely useful.
But I was totally comfortable with carrying a lot of cash on me as well.
6. Getting to Iran
How to travel to Iran by air
If you want to have a holiday in Iran, one of the options is flying there. As always I made a booking on my favorite website for searching for flights, Skyscanner. The flights for Iran are pretty cheap and you can get a plane ticket for Iran for as little as 280€.
I paid 330 € for mine. I picked Turkish Airlines because I liked their time schedule the most. Moreover, because I always had a very positive experience with the airline itself. This time it was not any different. Similar to my earlier experience with Turkish Airlines, I was very satisfied with them.
Border crossing on land
Nothing is impossible. I have read blogs about backpackers crossing the border on land with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, or even Pakistan.
As for me, I crossed the border from Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan) in 2019 November. It was easy and safe. If you want to read about how I did it, there you are:
How to travel to Iran on water
UAE by ferry
My plan was to take a ferry from Iran to Dubai at the end of November. However, I was told that there was a 90 % chance that the ferry was going to be canceled due to the weather conditions. Thus, I spontaneously purchased a last-minute flight for the next day.
Nevertheless, here is all the information about ferries from Iran to the UAE.
From Bandar Abbas to Sharjah
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 9 pm
From Bandar Langeh to Dubai
Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 am
This info can give you an idea about the ferries from the UAE.
You can buy the ticket in travel agencies or on the spot. In case, you have the ticket and the ferry is canceled, you are supposed to get a refund.
By the way, my spontaneous flight cost me 12 million Rials. That means, the flight cost almost twice more than the ferry.
7. Getting around in Iran
Domestic buses and flights in Iran
The infrastructure for public transportation in Iran is amazing. I mostly traveled by bus, a few times by train and plane.
Flights from one Iranian city to another are frequent and affordable. There are classic buses that are cheaper and there are VIP buses that are much more comfortable and therefore they are more expensive.
Sometimes, I traveled with VIP buses. Sometimes, I used classic buses. As for me, classic buses are still more comfortable than long-distance buses in Europe. Nevertheless, I would always prioritize VIP buses Iran as they are only a bit more expensive than classic buses and they have a really huge seat with leg rest.
As for traveling at night, it’s totally fine. I’ve traveled both by bus and train at night. It’s completely safe.
How I traveled from one location to another, you can check in my 3-week Iran Itinerary.
You can spontaneously buy the tickets when you are in Iran. However, if you want to plan things ahead, buy your bus or plane tickets before you travel to Iran. Thus, you will pay a bit more as you will use a platform that accepts international credit cards.
Example of bus price from Shiraz to Bandar Abbas (590 km / 366 miles) as of 2019 December:
Classic bus at the station: 350.000 to 400.000 Rials (~2.30 € / 2.50 USD)
Classic bus from 1st Quest: 5 € / 5.50 USD
VIP bus at the station: 650.000 Rials (~ 4.30 € / 4.70 USD)
VIP bus from 1stQuest: 6.50 € / 7.00 USD
Book your seat here with 1stQuest using my discount code to get 5% off. My discount code is: Globetrotting
8. Tours in Iran
There are a lot of ways to find professional English speaking tour guides and tours in Iran. You can do it either spontaneously with your hotel or you can book in advance.
If you are a planner type, 1stQuest is here for you again. There is a wide variety of tours offered with professional tour guides for travelers of all budgets.
Make your booking here with 1stQuest using my discount code to get 5% off. My discount code is: Globetrotting
Popular tours in Iran
Discover Iran on a budget: Covering Tehran, Kashan, Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz in 8 days
Iran with style: 2-week luxury package: Exploring Tehran, Kashan, Abyaneh, Isfahan, Yazd, Kerman, Shahdad Kalouts, Shiraz, Tabriz in 12 days
Highlights of Iran in 8 days: Tehran, Kashan, Isfahan, Yazd, Shiraz
Is Iran a dangerous country?
Is it safe to travel to Iran? Is it safe to travel alone? Is Iran safe to travel for a family?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
First time in Iran
I never personally thought that Iran was a dangerous country or it would not be safe to travel to Iran by myself. I always felt super safe in Iran. I loved every minute of it. If you are with children, Iranians will love you like crazy. For the first time, I traveled to Iran in 2018 for three weeks. After the first time, I couldn’t wait to visit Iran again. About a year later, in 2019, I made my way to Iran from Iraq.
Second time in Iran
It was in November in the year of 2019. The Iranian government tripled the oil prices the night I arrived in Iran. As a result of that, demonstrations started all over the country and the internet was soon blocked in the entire country.
I spent only a week in Iran this time and I had no internet during this time. However, I didn’t think for a moment that it wasn’t safe to be Iran at this time or it would be dangerous. Things might have been going on in the country but I didn’t really change much in my life.
Yes, I was annoyed by not having internet. But if you are not addicted to constant internet connection like me, it might not bother you.
Yet, I was happy and felt safe all the time. And I’ll be back again for sure for the third time, exploring different parts of Iran.
Selfie business in a tradtional Persian restaurant :-)
10. SIM card in Iran
I used Irancell. Here is how much I paid for having an Iranian number with 5G internet in 2018. And a year later this SIM card was still working and I had internet right away as soon as I entered Iran for the second time.
SIM card: 50,000 Rial (~0,30€)
5G internet: 220,000 Rial (~1,50€)
You can check the current prices here: Irancell internet packages
If you want to know more or have anything to say, feel free to ask me in the comment section below. :-)
11. Apps to use in Iran
Apps for communication
– WhatsApp: All Iranians use WhatsApp. It’s the easiest way to communicate with hostels, hotels, tour guides and your new friends you make in Iran. Don’t be surprised when everyone will want to have your WhatsApp number. Iran is an extremely open society and sharing numbers is important for communication and sharing photos.
– Google Translate: You will meet people who don’t speak English. But not having a common language to speak with Iranians cannot stop communication. I used Google Translate quite a lot to chat with people. Make sure you activate the Persian keyboard as well.
– Instagram: In Iran Instagram is popular as Facebook is not legal in Iran. Here you can keep in touch with your new friends Iran or follow accounts related to traveling to Iran.
App for taxi
– Snapp: It is the Iranian Über. In Iran the taxi is cheap, but Snapp is even cheaper.
12. VPN: Apps for blocked websites
In Iran, a lot of websites and apps are blocked by the Iranian government: Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Tinder, Couchsurfing, blogs, pornography sites, and who knows what else.
Moreover, you cannot download paid apps from Google Play and Apple Store. However, you can manage to use all of them with VPN apps. VPNs are illegal in Iran but everybody is using them.
I tried a ton of free VPN apps. The free VPN apps are actually annoying. I hate using them because everything gets super slow while it’s on. For this and many other reasons, it’s better to pay for a proper VPN app. The best ones are Pure VPN, Express VPN, and Private VPN.
Pro tip: Download the apps before you travel to Iran and save blogs from which you need information.
13. Numbers and currencies in Iran
Persian numbers will be everywhere. Therefore, learning the numbers will help you a lot in coming to terms with the prices.
The official currency in Iran is Rial. In writing, you will almost always see Rial. However, in speaking they always use Toman. Toman is one zero less than Rial. It helps you get less confused when it comes to prices. 1 € is equal to around 150,000 Rials. So, you’ve got to deal with big numbers.
As for the exchange rates, forget the ordinary exchange rate websites as they don’t show the right figures. The correct exchange rate for the Iranian Rial is on bonbast.com.
Exchanging Euro to Iranian Rial
If you come to Iran, the best currency to bring is EURO. You can always exchange Euros anywhere easily, you can pay for booing tours, hotels, hostels, and souvenirs with Euros.
Exchanging Iraqi dinars to Iranian Rial
For the second time, I came from Iraq. This time, I wasn’t bothered to get Euros before entering Iran. It was ok. As for the Iraqi dinar, most offices didn’t have Iraqi dinars. Even if they had, the exchange rate was too bad. Therefore, I exchanged money on the street all the time.
Exchanging money on the street is totally fine. The guys there are very nice. But mind the fact that this is making business on the street. You need to be aware of the exchange rates, negotiate and count your money well. And don’t get embarrassed if other money exchange guys surround you while striking the deal. They are just curious about what exchange rate you managed to negotiate for yourself.
Persian numerals – Iran travel information
14. Iranian people
Iranians are predominantly Persians (61%). As for the rest, there are Azeris (16%), Kurds (10%), Lurs (6%), Turkmens (2%), Balochis (2%), Arabs (2%), others (1%). If you travel through Iran, you will meet a lot of different cultures.
As a foreign tourist in Iran, what can you expect from Iranians? Based on my personal experience, you can experience a lot of kindness and respect. They will just treat you like a Queen or a King. If you haven’t read my travel blogs about how awesome Iranians are, here they are again:
At this point, I would like to mention an Iranian friend, Amir Tavassoly. He’s making funny YouTube videos mostly about Iranians like this one here: 10 Things Persians Do.
15. Language in Iran
The official and main language of Iran is Persian (Farsi). It is the mother tongue of about 63% of the population. Azerbaijani is the second most spoken language and the third one is Kurdish that are followed by many other languages.
Furthermore, there are also many linguistically mixed regions in Iran due to the fact that there are many people who move from one region to another for work or studies.
I believe when traveling to another country, it’s important to devote some time to learn some words and polite phrases in the local language.
If you can, find someone in your community or on Facebook who would teach you Persian. Iranians will appreciate it a lot.
In any case, here are a few phrases. They are very easy. :-)
Hi! – Salam!
Mamnun /merci / moteshakkeram – Thank you.
Khoda hafez! – Bye!
16. Religion and Islamic Law in Iran
I would like to tell you a bit about religion and the Islamic law briefly and how it affects your daily life in Iran.
In Iran, the official religion is Islam since 670 AD when the Arabs invaded Iran. A few hundred years after the Arab conquest of Iran, Shia Islam became a religious and political power.
By the way, what is Shia Islam?
Generally, Islam has two main branches, Shia and Sunni. The vast majority of Iranians, approximately 90%, practice Shia Islam.
Then, one day in 1979 as a result of the Islamic Revolution Iran has officially become an Islamic theocracy. For this reason, the official name of the country is the Islamic Republic of Iran. It means that the legal code is based on Islamic law, namely Sharia.
So, let’s see, what does it mean to you as a foreign tourist. If you ask me, not much. There are only a few things you need to consider, in my opinion: what to wear, alcohol, parties, public affection for couples.
Concerning public affection for couples, I don’t have much to say. It’s totally fine to walk hand in hand with your partner even if you are not married. However, no hugging and no kissing in public are acceptable. Period.
On that note, I would like to mention that as opposed to Iranian unmarried couples, foreign unmarried couples are allowed to check in a hotel together in Iran.
Quran, the holy book of Islam, in arabic language with Persian translation
17. What to wear in Iran
– Men: Easy-peasy! Long pants and a T-Shirt are the musts. No short pants and vests are permitted in public places.
– Ladies: You need to use a headscarf. Take at least one headscarf from home if you are not a hijabee. As for more headscarves and clothes, buy them in Iran and don’t waste your time trying to find suitable clothes in Europe. In Iran, clothes are super cheap. The pink-white outfit cost around 4 € / 4.4 USD and the yellow shirt cost about 2.5 € / 2.7 USD.
Here are a few examples of what I was wearing in Iran to get an understanding of what you can wear there as a female traveler. You don’t need to wear your hijab in a strict way, just loosely. I only tied it stronger, when it was windy. I absolutely loved my Iranian outfits and can’t wait to wear them again! They are not only super comfortable but very stylish.
How to by stylish in Iran – Iran travel tips
How to dress up in Iran as a woman – Iran travel tips
18. Alcohol and parties in Iran
Alcohol is prohibited. However, it doesn’t mean that there is no alcohol in Iran and Iranians don’t drink alcohol. Alcohol always finds its way to those who like it. Alcohol is being smuggled to Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey, Armenia, and Dubai. Moreover, there are people who make alcohol at home.
There are no clubs, bars, and pubs in Iran where people could party and drink. However, it doesn’t mean that Iranians do it. In fact, Iranians love parties. They either organize their own illegal parties or travel to other countries to party, such as Turkey.
I haven’t been to any party or drunk alcohol in Iran. I wasn’t tempted to try illegal stuff. :-) I know foreigners who do. I guess, there is something exciting about doing forbidden things.
19. Books for your trip in Iran
Iran Travel Guide by Lonely Planet: This Iran travel guide book was so helpful on the road. I highly recommend it.
Farsi (Persian) Phrasebook and Dictionary: Thanks to the book, I kept learning a lot of Farsi on the way. Believe me, I really impressed Iranians with my Farsi. You can do it, too. :-)
Iran Awakening: It was my first connection with Iran. I was in a bookstore in London in 2006. I was 23 years old at that time. I saw the book and bought it. I didn’t even have to think about it. I just knew I had to read it. In this book, you experience life in Iran before and after the Islamic Revolution from the female perspective. When I write these lines, I get the goosebumps. I remember that I felt that I’m with the writer in the same room.
Couchsurfing in Iran: I read this book in German. This is a story of a German backpacker who spent 62 days exploring Iran. I’m happy that it’s also available in English and I can recommend it to you.
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