As it has become a famous phrase and saying and popular among many tourists who have visited Iran; “Do not believe everything you are told about Iran by the media”.
I am an optimist with a vision that people with reason would take the above phrase on its face value and would want to travel to Iran. Here, I am to write about 13 things that an interested and enthusiastic traveler may wish to know before traveling to Iran. Make no mistake, by no means this list meant or purports to be exhaustive. It only provides the basics:
- Iranian visas: Certain nationalities are able to get their entry visa upon their arrival at the major Iranian airports. Please, ensure that you communicate to learn prior to your trip if your country is included in the waiver list. Otherwise to apply for your Iranian visa, you will need an Iranian national or a travel agency to apply for your visa in Iran and prior to your trip. Once approved, he/she/ it will send you the approval reference number by which you may endorse your passport with the Iranian visa at your country of residence where Iran has an Embassy. Under usual circumstances, it usually takes 7-10 working days to get the process done.
- Dress code in Iran: If you are men, avoid shorts and dresses with derogatory statements and or signs. If you are women, make sure to have scarf to cover your hair at all times, albeit when in public. Bring one or two or as many as you wish long sleeve mid length shirts to maintain modesty in public. A recommended model is to wear jeans or khakis and then tuck your long sleeve shirt out.
- Internet access in Iran: Iran has the largest communication facilities in the entire Middle East. Almost all hotels are equipped with high speed Internet and WiFi can be accessed in the majority of city hotels and full dining Restaurants.
- Sim card/ Cell phone/ Skype in Iran: If you are brining your international number beware of roaming charge which is peculiar to any country. You could buy cheap sim cards upon your arrival at major Iranian airports. Skype is quite popular and if you have a good Internet connection you could chat both in audio and video mode.
- Iranian cuisine: If you are not in diet or tempted to ignore it during the time you are staying in Iran, you are going to love the major dishes in Iran. If you wish to have a taste of Iranian food go for Abgoosht, Ghomeh Sabzi, Khoreshte- Bademjan or Eggplant Stew, and above all Baghali Polo ba Goosht (Broad bean rice and lamb) and of course Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Barberry, rice with chicken). Don’t forget to ask for Kabab, or Kebab Koobideh. You’re going love it!
- Best time to visit Iran: Iran has been blessed with such a diverse climate which can let you see the spring and winter type of weather at the same time. The climate can fluctuate greatly depending on the area and time of the year. If you wish to visit ancient histories then you could do throughout the year except July and August, which are really hot. If you wish to visit nomads May and June is the best time. Skiing in popular from Beginning of January through early March. During winter time, you may want to focus more on the southern parts of Iran including Kish & Qeshm Islands with warmer weather and in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf.
- Popular activities in Iran: Use your best time to explore the warmth of Iranian hospitality, ancient sites, visit botanical gardens specially in Shiraz around May or June, desert trekking, mountaineering in summer and skiing during the winter. Damavand, Alam Kooh, Sahand, & Sabalan are amongst many famous Iranian mountains that attract many Iran adventure travelers each year. Don’t forget jewel of desert and visiting the central of Iran including the ancient city of Yazd.
- Accommodation choice in Iran: Obviously a considerable sum of your money is going to be paid for accommodation. However, try to visit more of licensed traditional accommodation especially in Yazd and Isfahan which are cheaper. You will be amazed by their fine architecture and warm environment. These are reasonably clean and have their private facilities including their own Restaurant.
- Most popular Iranian cities to visit when you are on tight budget: If you are on a budget but wish to use most out of your money, you may want to include, Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd and Kashan in your itinerary.
- Iranian handicrafts, souvenirs and Iranian Bazaars: Iranian hand-made carpets are best in the world specially those made of silk. They can last a long period of time, mostly for generations. Iranian hand-made handicrafts are also unique in their craftsmanship. Make sure you buy something even a small souvenir to bring back with you to your home country.
- No public display of affection: Couples, de factor partners, please note what is acceptable behaviour to avoid causing unease.
- No men shake hands with women not related to you: If you are men avoid offering shake hands with women not related to you. A simple greeting would do. Similarly, if you are women, avoid shake hands with men not related to you.
- Iranian hospitality: Often you may be befriended by someone in the street, whose only wish is to show you his/her country while insisting paying for instance for your tea/meal and he/she may ask nothing in return. It is your choice to accept such approach. This is often how people in Iran exhibit their hospitality even when they don’t know you.
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