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Iran

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Espinas
Espinas - dream vacation

KESHAVARZ BLVD - Tehran, Tehran

Niayesh Hotel
Niayesh Hotel - dream vacation

No. 10, Shahzadeh Jamali Lane, Bibi Dokhtaran Mausoleum Lane, Namazi Junction, Lotfali Khan-e Zand St., Shiraz

Ferdossi
Ferdossi - dream vacation

No.24 Kooshk E Mesri - Tehran, Tehran

Sasan Hotel
Sasan Hotel - dream vacation

Zand Avenue – Anvari Street, Shiraz

Iran (Persian: ایران) is a large country between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It was renamed Iran in the early 20th century; before that it was known as Persia. It is bordered by Iraq to the west, Turkey, Azerbaijan's Naxcivan enclave, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northwest, Turkmenistan to the northeast, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east.

Iran can be considered part of the Middle East, and thus it is included as part of that region here. However, it is also very much a part of Central Asia; indeed the Persian Empire was the dominant power in that region for many centuries.

Regions

Cities

Below is a list of nine of the most notable cities:

  • Tehran (Persian: تهران) – the vibrant capital, a beautiful city that suffers horrendous traffic and air pollution
  • 2 Hamedan (Persian: همدان) – one of the oldest cities in Iran
  • Isfahan (Persian: اصفهان‎) – former capital with stunning architecture, great bazaar, and tree-lined boulevards. Most popular tourist destination in the country. There's a Persian saying, "Isfahan is half the world."
  • 4 Mashad (Persian: مشهد‎‎) – greatest city of Eastern Iran with an important mosque, the shrine of the Imam Reza
  • 5 Qazvin (Persian: قزوین‎‎) – A former capital of the Persian Empire under the Safavids and a strategic location throughout the ages.
  • Qom (Persian: قم‎‎) – one of the holiest cities in the Middle East, considered the Jewel of Iran
  • Shiraz (Persian: شیراز) – a former capital, home of famous Persian poets such as Hafiz and Sa'di; known for gardens, especially roses. Very close to the famous ruins of Persepolis.
  • Tabriz (Persian: تبریز) – a former capital with great historical bazaar, provincial capital in Western Iran; it's been suggested by some that this is the site of the Biblical "Garden of Eden"
  • Yazd (Persian: یزد‎‎) – a remote desert city – circumstance influenced special architectural themes where water streams run in underground rooms in houses and wind-towers to keep them cool.

Other destinations

  • 1 Alamut (Persian: الموت‎‎), near Qazvin – castle of the legendary Assassins.
  • 2 Dizin (Persian: دیزین) – one of the highest ski resorts in the world located just two hours north of Tehran. Great powder snow, cheap prices and few international visitors makes this is a great place for a ski holiday.
  • Kish Island (Persian: کیش‎‎) – a free trade zone in the Persian Gulf, it is regarded as a consumer's 'paradise', with numerous malls, shopping centres, tourist attractions, and resort hotels. There is also Iran's first marina on the east side of the island.
  • 4 Qeshm Island (Persian: قشم) – Iran's largest and the Persian Gulf's largest island. Qeshm island is famous for its wide range of ecotourist attractions such as the Hara marine forests. According to environmentalists, about 1.5% of the world birds and 25% of Iran's native birds annually migrate to Hara forests which is the first national geo park.
  • 5 Pasargad (Persian: پاسارگاد) – the first capital of the Achaemenid Empire, and home to the tomb of Cyrus the Great.
  • 6 Persepolis – impressive ruins of a vast city-like complex built over 2,500 years ago, near the modern City of Shiraz. It was set on fire by Alexander of Macedon and further ruined by Arabs. Called TakhteJamshid in Persian, Persepolis is the symbol of Iranian nationality.
  • 7 Susa (or Shush) (Persian: شوش‎‎) – located 200 km North of Ahvaz, was Iran's most ancient city. The Ziggurat of Chughazanbil, Darius the Great's palace, the Jewish prophet Daniel's temple and Artaxerxer II 's palace are among the historical sites.

Understand

Iran, the wellspring of one of the world's great civilizations, is a country of striking natural beauty and gorgeous tiled mosques. Its landscape is incredibly varied. Its recent history has been tumultuous.

People

Humans have inhabited the area that makes up modern Iran since the Stone Age. There are paintings in Dusheh cave that date back to 15,000 BC. The ancient Persians arrived about 1500 BC, one branch of the great movement of people that also brought northern India and most of Europe their modern populations. The name Iran is from the same root as "Aryan" which, until Hitler perverted it, was just an ancient name for those arriving peoples. Persian (natively known as Farsi) is an Indo-European language; ancient Persian was related to Sanskrit, ancient Greek, and all the others in that family. Persians are ethnically and linguistically unrelated to their neighbours on the west, the Arabs and Turks.

Iran has many people other than ethnic Persians. There are substantial minorities with their own Turkic languages, including the Azeris who make up much of the population of Iranian Azerbaijan in the northwest and the Qashqai, a nomadic people in the region around Shiraz. Minorities with Indo-European languages include Kurds in parts of the west and northwest, Armenians in the north (and in Isfahan where one of the Shahs transported them a few centuries back), and Baluchis in parts of the southeast. There are also Arabs and, last but not least, Jews, who have been living in Iran peacefully for centuries.

There are also two substantial communities of people of Iranian descent in India and Pakistan - Parsis who have been there for over 1,000 years, and Iranis who arrived in the 19th and 20th centuries - both Zoroastrians who fled religious persecution in Iran.

History

See also: Ancient Mesopotamia, Persian Empire, Ancient Greece

Persia has always exerted a large cultural influence on its neighbors, especially Afghanistan and Central Asia. Persian influence can be seen in the art, architecture and languages of much of Central Asia.

Throughout history, Persia has generally been an empire, one whose fortunes varied enormously. During the Achaemenid Empire, Persia controlled most of what we now call the Middle East, and after Cyrus the Great's conquest of Ionia, Persia came close to conquering Greece in the Greco-Persian Wars of 499-449 BC. In 331 BC, Alexander conquered (among other things) the entire Persian Empire.

Sassanid rule from 205 AD to 651 AD is considered to be the most influential period of ancient Iran. In 651 AD, immediately after the death of Muhammad, the brutal conquest of Persia by the Arabs brought an end to the Sasanian Empire. Persian and other languages of the region are still written with the Arabic alphabet. In 1221 AD, Persia was overrun by Genghis Khan and the Mongols. Marco Polo passed through later in that century, learned Persian, and wrote extensively of the region. Tamerlane conquered Persia in 1383, and after a revolt in 1387, killed hundreds of thousands of people and built a tower with their skulls.

The Safavid dynasty re-united Persia as an independent state in 1501, established Shi'a Islam as the official religion, and ushered in a golden age of Persian culture. The dynasty was overthrown in 1736 by Nader Shah, the last great Asian conqueror, who expanded the Empire to again include Afghanistan and much of India. His short-lived dynasty and its successor, the Zand dynasty led by Karim Khan Zand, lasted until 1795. The defeat of Lotf Ali Khan by the Qajar armies, brought in a new dynasty, the Qajars, who ruled from 1795-1925. While many of the historic buildings in Iran are from this period, this era is considered to be one of decline for Iran, as the rulers were more interested in building their collections of art and jewels and succumbed to heavy pressure from foreign powers, notably Britain and Russia who jointly occupied Iran during World War I. In 1906, Qajar rule became a constitutional monarchy and the Majlis (Persian for parliament) was established.

The last dynasty

In 1925, a military coup by Reza Shah established a new "Pahlavi" dynasty, named for the most ancient Persian dynasty around 500 BC. His rule was quite nationalistic; he changed the country's name from Persia to Iran, and built a strong military. It was also quite authoritarian; he built a powerful secret police and a propaganda apparatus, and did not hesitate to crush dissent. He also made considerable efforts toward modernization, and came into conflict with conservatives over some of it.

When World War II came, he refused Allied demands for guarantees that Iran would resist if German forces got that far. Iran was then invaded by Anglo-Indian forces from the south and Russians from the north, and a railway built (largely by US Army engineers) to bring supplies from the Persian Gulf across Iran to beleaguered Russia. Reza Shah went off to exile in South Africa, abdicating on the steps of the aircraft in favour of his son.

The son, Mohammad Reza Shah, continued his father's nationalistic, authoritarian and modernising tendencies. As Iranian ruler he couldn't choose Britain or Russia as allies. Being pro-German had not worked out well for his father and France wasn't strong enough at the time. That left the Americans, and he became one of America's most important allies in the region, seen as a "bulwark against Communism", a constitutional monarch, in some ways a progressive ruler — modernising, sometimes comparing himself to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who led Turkey's modernisation — and a protector of US and other Western interests. He was one of very few Middle Eastern rulers to extend diplomatic recognition to Israel and helped prevent Iranian nationalisation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. On the other hand, he was quite capable of putting Iranian interests before Western ones, as when he was one of the key players in creating OPEC.

While in some ways progressive, the Shah was also very much a despot. When the Soviets left Northwestern Iran after the war, they left behind something that claimed to be an independent communist government of Azerbaijan. The first major conflict of the Cold War came as the Shah, advised by the CIA, brought in troops who crushed that government and the Communist Party (Tudeh in Farsi). Throughout his reign, his Savak secret police stomped hard on any opposition. His regime was also massively corrupt, with his relatives and various others getting hugely rich while much of the country was very poor. On the other hand, he did build infrastructure and start various projects to benefit the poor, including a program that sent new university graduates into the countryside as teachers.

In theory, Iran under the Shah was a constitutional monarchy. Mohammed Mosaddeq became Prime Minister in 1951 and instituted reforms that included nationalizing the oil companies and a land reform program. He was overthrown in a 1953 coup backed by the CIA, the British (who had large oil interests at stake), and the Shah. The Shah and the new Prime Minister reversed the oil nationalization, but continued with a land reform program. However, as well as giving land to the peasants, it worked out that the Shah's family and others with connections got a lot. The Ayatollah Khomeni went into exile at this time, originally because of his objections to land reform taking land from the mosques. In 1971, the Shah organized an expensive celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire at Persepolis. The extravagant party resulted in harsh criticism and his popularity ratings never recovered.

In 1979, the Shah was overthrown and went into exile, dying a year later. The revolution involved many groups - Mosaddeq-style secular reformers, the tudeh communists, and various Islamic factions - but came to be led and dominated by a conservative Islamic faction under Ayatollah Khomeni. Partly in reaction to the Shah's policies, they were also strongly anti-Western and in particular anti-American.

Religious conservatives subsequently crushed Westernisation and also any liberal/left-wing influences. Iranian student protesters seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held hostages for 444 days - until 20 January 1981. Noticing the upheaval in Iran, Saddam Hussein seized Iranian oil fields in the south of the country and from 1980 to 1988, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq and in the end, the borders were turned back to their pre-war locations.

Current issues

Key current issues affecting the country include the pace of accepting outside modernising influences and reconciliation between clerical control of the regime and popular government participation and widespread demands for reform. Inflation and unemployment (particularly among youth) are major economic challenges. Relations between Iran and the rest of the World, particularly Western countries, have considerably improved with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which started a gradual lift of economical sanctions against the country. On the other hand, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have drastically deteriorated in recent years, as of 2016, the two countries are opposing each other in violent wars in Syria and Yemen. Relations between Iran and the United States remain complicated despite the nuclear agreement, as there is a still a strong mutual distrust between the two countries, with several politicians in both countries respectively maintaining anti-US/anti-Iran rhetorics. This has certain consequences for visitors to both countries (see #Get_in).

Religion

The main divisions of Islam are Shi'a and Sunni. The split goes back to a time just after the Prophet's death; would the movement be controlled by some of his leading followers (Sunni), or by his family, in particular by his son-in-law Ali (Shi'a)? (Shi'a orignally comes from "shiat Ali", i.e. the faction/party of Ali) There was a long, complex and bloody struggle over this. Today, Iran is one of a few countries that are predominantly Shi'a, and the only one where Shi'a Islam is the official religion. The Iranian government supports the Shi'a Hezbollah movement among others, and is therefore accused by America of fomenting terrorism.

One of the major events of Shi'a religious life is the Day of Ashura on the 10th of the month of Moharram; "ashura" means "10th". It commemorates the death of Ali's son Hussein at the Battle of Karbala in 61 AH (680 AD). This is not a joyful celebration, but a very sober day of atonement. Travelers should not play music or act remarkably cheerful in public at this time.

Traditional activities include parades in which people do 'matham' — chest-beating, self-flagellation, sometimes even hitting oneself with a sword — which is a way of remembering Imam Hussein who was martyred along with his half brother, cousins, friends, and two young sons. Dramatic re-enactments of the battle are also sometimes done.

While Shi'a Islam is without a doubt the dominant religion in Iran, there are several religious minorities. Sunni Islam in Iran is mainly practiced by ethnic minorities such as the Arabs, Kurds, Balushis, and Turkmens. Non-Islamic faiths also exist in smaller numbers, the most notable being Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Judaism, all three of which are recognized as minority religions by the Iranian constitution, and each of these are guaranteed representation in parliament. Despite Iran being an Islamic republic, fire temples, churches, and synagogues continue to operate legally in the country. Most Iranian Christians follow Oriental Orthodoxy, and are of Armenian ethnicity. Iran also has the largest Jewish population in the Middle East outside Israel. While there are also a significant number of Baha'is in Iran, they are not recognized by the constitution and are instead branded as heretics of Islam, meaning that they continue to be persecuted to this day in spite of being Iran's numerically largest non-Muslim religion. One unique practice among Iranian men and women is the encounter of wedleases (temporary marriages) which locally are known as mut'ah.

Climate

Iran has a diverse climate. In the northwest, winters are cold with heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures during December and January. Spring and fall are relatively mild, while summers are dry and hot. In the south, winters are mild and the summers are very hot, having average daily temperatures in July exceeding 38° C (100° F) and can hit 50° C in parts of the desert. On the Khuzestan plain, summer heat is accompanied by high humidity.

In general, Iran has an arid climate in which most of the relatively scant annual precipitation falls from October to April. In most of the country, yearly precipitation averages 25cm or less. The major exceptions are the higher mountain valleys of the Zagros and the Caspian coastal plain, where precipitation averages at least 50 cm annually. In the western part of the Caspian, rainfall exceeds 100cm annually and is distributed relatively evenly throughout the year.

Landscape

Rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts. The highest point is Mount Damavand (5,610 m).

Desert: Two great deserts extend over much of central Iran: the Dasht-e Lut is covered largely with sand and rocks, and the Dasht-e Kavir is covered mainly with salt. Both deserts are inhospitable and virtually uninhabited.

Mountain: The Zagros range stretches from the border with the Republic of Armenia in the north-west to the Persian Gulf, and then eastward into Baluchistan. Zagros is extremely hard, difficult to access, and populated largely by pastoral nomads. The Alborz mountain range, narrower than the Zagros, runs along the southern shore of the Caspian to meet the border ranges of Khorasan to the east.

Forest: Approximately 11% of Iran is forested, most extensively in the Caspian region, and is densely populated. Here one finds the broad-leafed, vigorous deciduous trees, usually oak, beech, linden, elm, walnut, ash, and hornbeam, as well as a few broad-leafed evergreens. Thorny shrubs and fern also abound. The narrow Caspian coastal plain, in contrast, is covered with rich brown forest soil.

Get in

Visa

Main procedures

The Iran tourist visa is issued for up to 30 days and is extendable. It must be obtained before traveling to Iran and valid to enter for 90 days from the issue date. Approved Iranian travel agents can apply and get visas for all foreign nationals (except Israeli passport holders). As part of retaliatory measures against Donald Trump's ban on Iranian citizens entering the US, the Iranian government has banned US citizens from entering the country.

To apply and get your visa you must contact an approved Iranian travel agent. After receiving your personal data, they apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your visa will then be authorized by the MFA and faxed to the Iranian Consulate near you. Your travel agent gives you a visa authorization number with which you can refer to the consulate to get your visa. The visa authorization number, however, is valid only in the consulate you have asked them your visa to be issued in. The number they give you is just an "authorization". This reference number means that your visa has been authorized and approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but is not the visa itself.

Depending on your nationality, you may be required to present at the Iranian consulate in your country to have your fingerprints taken. British and American passport holders will be fingerprinted upon arrival.

After your travel agent tells you your visa authorisation number you should first get a visa application form from the consulate and follow the requirements of the application form (you may either personally go to the consulate to get the application forms or, if the service available, download it from the web site of the Iranian embassy in your country). Then, you should refer to the consulate to lodge your passports and application forms with the visa number they gave you (it can be either a physical presence or by post). Then it might take from 1-5 days for the consulate to issue your visa.

You may also need to provide a letter of recommendation from your embassy if you are applying outside your home country, a photocopy of your air tickets in and out of Iran and any student or press card.

Normally, all tourist visas issued by Iranian consulates have a "3-month" validity. The visa allows you to stay in Iran for up to 30 days, (sometimes you can get the tourist visa up to 90 days), although the duration of your visa is at the discretion of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. (Notice all the tourist visa will be issued as a single entry, unless you request the approval from Tehran) Note: as of May 2013, tourist visas must be used within 14 days from issue, but the maximum duration of your stay is still 30 days. This change is related to presidential elections in June.

Rarely, you may be asked to provide a letter from your employer or proof of funds. Visas are generally valid for three months that is you must enter Iran within three months of issue.

Depending on your nationality, issuing a visa may take 30 days or more.

There are reports that it is possible to get a visa in 10 days in Istanbul consulate, especially for German passport holders.

Types of visa: Entry, Transit, Business, Tourist and Journalist. Fee varies according to nationality of applicant, type of visa and the existing regulation between countries.

A visa cannot be issued for passports which have a validity of less than 6 months. Exit permits required by all (often included with visa).

  • Transit visas have a maximum of 10 days.

Transit visas are usually easier to get than tourist visas (usually for one or two weeks) and very useful for people travelling between Europe and South Asia. Various travel agents inside Iran help you obtain visas, often through their home pages.

You can get an extension for your transit visa usually valid for five or ten days, inside Iran easily but once for the same number of days as the original visa.

For foreign drivers carrying cargo to Iran or other countries, it's necessary to co-ordinate in advance with the Diplomatic Missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  • Tourist visas require a passport, an application form, four passport-sized photos, and a special authorisation in the form of a reference number issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran.

Extending a tourist visa is very easy and can be done in most cities. Some travel guides say not to do this in Tehran as it is very time consuming. This is no longer the case and the process of extending a visa in Tehran can be done in just 1 hour (including tea offerings and being the object of curiosity in the office). Extending a visa a second time requires the passport to be sent to a department in Tehran (no matter where you extend your visa from) and thus takes longer time than doing this the first time. The tourist visa can be extended once or twice at most, each time you can get 15 days more. The price of extending a visa is fixed rate 300,000 Iranian Riyal. To extend your visa in Tehran, the first or second time, you should go to the Passport and Immigration office situated on Parvin Street, at the crossing with 150 East street and 123 Khovat street, very close to Tehranpars metro station. Here is the OSM link : http://www.openstreetmap.org/?mlat=35.72822&mlon=51.53174#map=17/35.72822/51.53174&layers=N

Although it has become easier to get a tourist visa in recent years, whether the process takes one day or one month depends largely on your nationality and the staff of the embassy you are applying to. Your best bet is to apply to the Iranian embassy in your own country at least three months before your departure, but it is possible to obtain one while travelling in other countries, with varying degrees of difficulty. Women need to make sure they are wearing the Hijab or a head scarf in their submitted passport-sized photos.

  • Business visas require a passport, an application form, 4 passport-sized photos, a special authorisation in the form of a reference number issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, and a business letter. Business visas are extendable once, sometimes twice up to two weeks each without difficulty. One extension of one month may also be possible in some cases.

Visitors from the Persian Gulf States need no visa to enter Iran. These states are: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. People from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey can get a three-month tourist visa on arrival. People from Japan can get a three-month tourist visa at an Iranian embassy with no difficulty.

Places known to extend visas happily in Iran are TehranMashhadTabriz, Esfahan, ShirazKerman and Zahedan. The extension process is normally handled at provincial police headquarters.

Visa on arrival

A valid passport and a visa are required for the citizens of most countries for travel through Iran. Although in 2006, the rules had been eased, since the presidential elections protests in 2009, the unofficial policy became subject to rapid changes. Theoretically speaking, the VOA (Visa On Arrival) is still available and in 2015, Iranian consulates have started to sometimes explicitly recommend the visa-on-arrival procedure which seems to have become a time-consuming but otherwise hassle-free alternative. Some foreign ministries still recommend to apply for a visa before travel.

Tourist visa on arrival (VOA) is issued 30-day tourist visas on arrival at the airports of TehranMashhadShiraz and Tabriz to people from about 58 countries, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Germany, Austria, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Spain, Australia, Slovenia, Slovak, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ukraine, Italy, Ireland, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunet, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Romania, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, France, Palestine, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, Croatia, South Korea, North Korea, Colombia, Cuba, Kuwait, Georgia, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Poland, Malaysia, Hungary, Mongolia, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Venezuela, Vietnam, Netherlands, India, Yugoslavia, and Greece. Tourist visa on arrival can be extended by 15 more days. Citizens of the USA, UK, Canada, Somali, Bangladesh, Jordan, Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot obtain visa upon their arrival in airports, and they are required to have the visa stamped in their passport in advance. Instant visa is obtainable for tourists from the above-mentioned countries and it does not apply to those who hold official passports as well as businessmen and journalists.There is no restriction for foreign tourists to obtain a visa upon their arrival at Iranian airports several times within a year.

To get the visa on arrival, be sure to have a legitimate confirmed accommodation for at least a night in Iran, e.g. hostel or hotel. Write down the hostel name, the address, and the phone number as the visa officer will call your accommodation. Entry could be denied if you just write down a random hostel or hotel as they won't be able to confirm you to the visa officer.

The visa generally costs €75 (US$85) for most of the countries (European and also Thai). However, visa cost differs from nation to nation, for example for Indonesian, it costs €45 (US$51). There is a mandatory insurance of US$16 need to be purchased before you can get the VOA, even if you already have an insurance. You will receive the forms on arrival. There is no need for passport photo.

Your bags probably will not be searched for salacious material, but if any is found, it will be confiscated and will complicate your arrival. Don't try to bring in any magazines or books that might offend strict Islamic sensibilities or criticise the government.

As a notable exception, nationals of all countries including Americans are allowed to travel to free economic zones of Kish, Qeshm and Chabahar without a visa for stays of 14 days or less. Kish and Qeshm are easily accessible from Dubai. See the Kish Island article for details.

Iranian dual citizens

People who are Iranian citizens (those whose father were Iranian, women married to Iranian men, and others), and also citizens of another country are considered pure Iranian citizens by Iran. This means that if such a person is arrested, the embassy of the home country is not contacted and has little ability to help. The marital laws of Iran affect women who are married to Iranian citizens, and they can be banned from leaving Iran if their husband doesn't approve. Divorces that have taken place in other countries are not recognized by Iran.

By plane

All international flights to Tehran land at the new 1 Imam Khomeini International Airport (IATA: IKA) based 37 km southwest of Tehran. Pilgrimage flights to Saudi Arabia still fly from Mehrabad airport. There are 70 smaller regional airports, for example those in ShirazMashhad, and Isfahan, and these have daily flights to many international destinations.

Dubai has scheduled flights to many Iranian cities, including TehranShirazIsfahanKerman, Lar, MashhadTabrizKish Island, Bandar Abbas, Bushher, Zahedan, Kermanshah, Chah Bahar and is therefore worth considering travelling to Iran from. Flights are operated by Iran Air, Emirates (for Tehran), Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air and other Iranian companies. Fares are relatively cheap on Iranian carriers, ranging from US$100-250 for a return trip depending on your destination and time of booking.

Iran Air and Mahan Air connect Tehran with some of the major European cities as well as destinations in Asia and Middle East. European companies landing in Tehran include Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot and Middle-Eastern airlines: Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates, and Etihad. So finding a flight to Iran should not be hard.

Connections are also easily available via Manama, Bahrain using Gulf Air (but has stopped recently). Additionally, Qatar airlines offers several flights to Iran and provides non-stop service to Doha from to many US cities.

Low-cost carriers (LCC) also operate flights to Tehran or other cities in Iran.

  • Pegasus Airlines has flights to Tehran via Istanbul.
  • Air Asia's has flights to Tehran from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Note that if not staying in Tehran and planning to get to any city other than Tehran upon your arrival, you would have to change airports, from Imam Khomeini to Mehrabad, 40 km away, to get to your domestic flight. Allow at least 3-4 hr between the flights. If going to Mashhad, you may be able to avoid the plane change in Iran using Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Jazeera Airways, or Qatar Airways. If going to Shiraz, several flights from Persian Gulf States are available. For Tabriz, you can try travelling via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines or via Baku on IranAir.

In spite of economic sanctions the majority of Iranian based airlines did not have high level of incidents during recent years. However sanctions resulted in inability to purchase new planes and the fleet of all airlines are old. Among Iranian based airlines Iran Air, Mahan Air and Aseman Airlines have been completely safe with no serious incidents during recent years. Due to safety issues flying with other Iranian based airlines is not recommended. The service and flying skill of Iranian pilots are fairly well known.

Due to sanctions there are no direct flights at present from Canada or the USA, but you could travel via either Europe or Persian Gulf States. Non-stop flights from Dubai via JFK, IAD, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston or Toronto are good bets. Visitors from Australia or New Zealand can consider travelling via Dubai or Abu Dhabi, or can use a combination of Iran Air and Malaysian Airlines to get from any major city in Australia to Tehran, via Kuala Lumpur.

There are weekly flights from Sulamaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan to Sanandaj and from Arbil to Urmia.

From Damascus in Syria there are charter flights to TabrizTehranYazdIsfahanMashhad. There are agencies in Seyyedeh-Zeinab district (a popular place with Iranian pilgrimages) that can sell you empty seats of these charter flights for less than US$100.

Caution. Any travel to Syria should be carefully appraised for risks due to current internal conflicts within Syria and potential problems at border crossing points. Please refer to the article on Syria and current consular travel advisories concerning entry, transit, and adjacent border zones. Normal services to and from Syria may be disrupted, suspended or cancelled without notice.

By train

Turkey

Note: all trains between Turkey and Iran have been cancelled by Iranian Railways since August 2015 until further notice for security reasons.

Syria

Caution. Any travel to Syria should be carefully appraised for risks due to current internal conflicts within Syria and potential problems at border crossing points, please refer to the article on Syria and current consular travel advisories concerning entry, transit, and adjacent border zones. Normal services to and from Syria may be disrupted, suspended or cancelled without notice.

  • The Syria service does not cross Iraq, stopping at Aleppo before crossing the Turkish border, heading to Lake Van and running along a similar route to the Istanbul service. This journey takes 54 hr (2 nights travelling) leaving Damascus Monday mornings (arriving Tehran Wednesday evening) and leaving Tehran at the same time (Monday) with corresponding arrival in Damascus (Wednesday evening). Couchettes are available between Lake Van and Tehran, but need to be specially booked for the Syrian leg between Damascus and Lake Van otherwise reclining seats are available. The journey costs around US$90 for couchettes the whole way, and US$60 for the reclining seat and couchette combination.

Afghanistan

  • The Mashad-Herat railway which is under construction right now is completed until the city of Khaf near the Afghanistan border. The cheap daily service from Tehran to Khaf is about US$5.

Iraq

  • The Khorramshar-Basra railway will be completed in a few months which will connect Iranian railways to Iraq. There will be special train routes for Iranians going as pilgrims to Najaf and Karbala. There is another project that will be completed later going through Kermanshah to Khanaqin in Iraq.

Pakistan

  • The Quetta-Zahedan line connects Pakistan and Iran by rail. A train leaves every 1st and 15th of each month from Quetta and the journey takes 11 hr and costs about €8. In opposite direction the train leaves every 3rd and 17th of each month from Zahedan.

In June 2009 a Bam-Zahedan link was completed, which connected Zahedan to rest of Iranian railway network. However there is no passenger train between Bam and Zahedan, so you have to take a bus or taxi.

Azerbaijan

  • The Nakhchivan-Tabriz service connects Nakhchivan_(city) with Tabriz and crosses from the Jolfa border. The route used to be a part of Tehran-Moscow railway line which is closed right now due to Azerbaijan-Armenia conflicts.
  • There is a railway from Baku to the border city of Astara. From there you can walk through the border to Iran. The railway is going to be joined to Tehran via Rasht and Qazvin.

Turkmenistan

  • There is a daily service between Mashad and Sarakhs border every day. The train does not go further because of the gauge changes. At the other side of the border there is train to Merv and Ashgabat.
  • A railway from Gorgan has been built up to the Inche Borun border which will continue to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

By car

Many people drive a car to Iran via Turkey.

This requires a Carnet de Passage unless you wish to pay import duty. A Carnet can be acquired from your local drivers association (such as the RAC in the UK). An international driver's license is highly recommend with translation into Persian very beneficial.

By bus

Armenia

From Armenia there are daily, modern buses from Yerevan to Tabriz and even further to Teheran. Otherwise the only Iran/Armenia land border at Nuduz/Agarak is very badly served by public transport. On the Armenian side you can get as far as Meghri by one Marschrutka a day from Yerevan. In both directions the Marshrutka leaves quiet early in the morning. Kapan and Karajan are more frequently served by marschrutkas but it is a long and mountainous (and therefore expensive) stretch to the border from there. From Meghri it is around 8 km to the border and hitching or a taxi is the only option. On the Iranian side the closest puplic transport can be found around 50 km to the west in Jolfa, so a taxi for around US$10-15 is the again only commercial choice. Expect to be asked a lot for all taxi rides, so hard bargaining is essential. Make clear, or at least pretending that you have other choices may assist you to get fairer prices.

The border is not busy at all, so when hitching you have to mainly stick with the truck drivers and Russian or Persian helps a lot here. Consider for yourself whether this is a safe option.

Turkey

You can find Seir-o-Safar agencies in Istanbul, Antalya and Ankara to buy cheap bus tickets for Tehran. A one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran costs US$35.00.

  • Dogubeyazit/Bazergan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and fast) done by public transport. Take a bus to Dogubeyazit and a frequent minibus (c. TRY5, 15 min) to the border. Cross the border stretch per pedes, take the customs taxi (give the driver some 1,000 rials bakschis) to the next village and take a taxi (US$3-4) to the bus terminal in Bazergan. There could also be buses to Bazergan, but the taxi drivers approaching you at the border are not the right people to ask for that. From there you can easily get buses to major destinations in Iran. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict. Make sure you get a clear idea about exchange rates if you want to change Turkish lira or rials as the official bank at the border does not exchange these currencies and you have to deal with the plentiful black market.
  • There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing from the Esendere-Sero border. The buses cost €13 and takes more than 6h to finish the 300km route. That's because of poor roads on the Turkish side and also the many checkpoints on the Turkish side (more than 5) because of the Kurdish (PKK) insurrection.
  • You can also take mini buses to the town of Yüksekova near the border and ask for taxis to bring you to the border. Cross the border check point on your own since the taxis won't cross into Iran.

Pakistan

You can also (depending on the political situation) enter from Pakistan via the border crossing between Taftan (on the Pakistani side) and Zahedan (on the Iranian side) as long as you have a valid visa for Iran. You can NOT get a visa on the border. Overnight buses leave from Quetta arriving in Taftan in the early morning, from there you can either hire a taxi to the border or walk a couple of kilometres. Once across the border (which can take some time on the Iranian side, you need to organise transport to Zahedan (the local town) where buses depart for destinations in Eastern Iran such as Bam, Kerman and Yazd. See the Istanbul to New Delhi over land 3.9 Iran-Pakistan border, for more details on the crossing.

Iraq

There are daily buses from Arbil to Urmia, also there are daily buses from Sanandaj and Kermanshah to Sulaymaniyah. From Tehran, there are also buses to Sulaymaniyah and Arbil.

Afghanistan

There are daily buses between Herat and Mashad. The buses go through Dogharoun Border. The road has been built by Iran and is reported safe.

Turkmenistan

A bus service also runs between Ashgabat and Mashhad.

By boat

It is not possible to get a Visa on Arrival if arriving by boat. Therefore if you wish to enter Iran by this method you must get a visa in advance.

There are some scheduled services from Baku to Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea and from cities on the Persian Gulf to cities on the Iranian coast. They are usually of low quality.

From UAE

High quality semi-luxurious ferry service is available between Kish Island and Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This service costs US$50, and the journey across one of the busiest stretches of water is sure to entertain. You should confirm what the Customs and Entry Visa process is like using this service however as the boats do not enter via the airport. While the entry/exit process at the airport is fairly well established, it is unknown if the process is as well managed when entering via the docks. It is likely to be more chaotic and visas may not be issued on the spot as is the case at the airport.

There are ferries from Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to Bandar Abbas.

From Qatar

From Qatar to Bushehr.

From Bahrain

From Kuwait

Ferries from Kuwait are operated by Valfajr Shipping Company. Rates depend on your exact journey, but as of June 2011, Bandar Abbas-Sharjah (UAE) was sold for 795,000 rials (about US$80). Boats run twice a week (Monday & Wednesday), departing Bandar Abbas around 8PM. Tickets can be bought from one of the agencies listed on the website. Expect to be the only non-Iranian on board. Plan loosely around the boat trip, as schedules are not strictly enforced.

Get around

Iranian transport is of high quality, and is very affordable. There are few places the very cheap buses don't travel to, the train network is limited but comfortable and reasonably priced and travel by air is not expensive. The ticket prices are always fixed and you don't have benefits of early bookings.

However, train stations and bus terminals are often located on the outskirts of their cities. As an extreme example, Shiraz Station is located farther away from the city center than Shiraz International Airport. Since city transport is notably underdeveloped, the cost of an intercity trip could actually mostly consist of taxi fares.

By plane

For anyone on a tight deadline, affordable domestic air services are a blessing. The major national carrier Iran Air, and its semi-private competitors such as Iran Aseman Airlines - Aseman meaning "sky" in Persian, Mahan Air and Kish Air link Tehran with most regional capitals and offer inter-regional flights for no more than US$60.

Their services are frequent, reliable and are definitely worth considering to skip the large distances within Iran. Planes are aging, and maintenance and safety procedures are sometimes well below western standards, but it still remains the safest way to get around Iran, given the huge death toll on the roads.

Tupolev Tu-154 and other Russian planes aren't used by some carriers and they change with MD82 or 83. However, the odds are you will board a Shah-era B727 or some more recent Fokker, ATR or even Airbus A310 if you're lucky. Busy domestic routes are sometimes flown by B747SP, and the extra boarding and run-up time are worth the thrill of flying in one of the last of these shortened Jumbos still operated in the world. Saha Air, another internal Iranian airline, is also the last operator of the Boeing 707 in scheduled commercial passenger service. If you insist on flying, try getting some of the new planes leased from Russia.

Tickets can be bought at airports or travel agents dotted through the most major cities. Book early during the summer months of August and September since finding seats at short notice is virtually impossible. It is possible to pay extra to get onto a booked flight by bribing someone or paying them to take their seat on the plane. Some flights will auction off the last few seats to the highest bidder. For westerners, the conversion makes it easy to outbid everyone.

You can also find domestic tickets in some Iran Air offices abroad, such as in Dubai. Expect to pay a little more due to the exchange rate applied. Domestic tickets for other companies must be bought inside Iran.

Note if you are from a "western" country, some agencies are reluctant to let you book a domestic flight.

By bus

The Iranian domestic bus network is extensive and thanks to the low cost of fuel, very cheap. In fact the only drawback is speed: the government has limited buses to 80 km/h to combat lead-footed bus drivers so long haul trips such as Shiraz to Mashhad can take up to 20 hours.

There is little difference between the various bus companies, and most offer two classes: 'lux' or 'Mercedes' (2nd class) and 'super' or 'Volvo' (1st class). First class buses are air-conditioned and you will be provided with a small snack during your trip, while second class services are more frequent. Given the affordability of first class tickets (for example rials 70,000 from Esfehan to Shiraz), there's little financial incentive to opt for the second class services, especially in summer.

Buses start (and usually end) their journeys at sprawling bus stations, called "terminal" (ترمینال) in Farsi. On important routes such as Tehran–Esfahan they don't stop along the route except at toll booths and rest areas. This probably shouldn't discourage you from leaving a bus before its destination because most travellers would take a taxi from the terminal anyway.

You can buy tickets from the bus terminals or ticket offices up to a week in advance, but you shouldn't have a problem finding a seat if you turn up to the terminal an hour or so before your intended departure time.

Most cities operate comprehensive local bus services, but given the low cost of taxis and the difficulties of reading Persian-language signs (which, unlike road signs, do not have English counterparts) and route numbers, they are of little use to the casual travelers. If you're cash strapped and brave enough to try, however, remember that the buses are segregated. Men enter via the front or rear door and hand their ticket to the driver before taking a seat in the front half of the bus. Women and children should hand their ticket to the driver via the front doors (without actually getting on) before entering via the rear door to take a seat at the back. Tickets, usually around 500 rials, are sold from booths near most bus stops. Private buses accept cash instead of tickets. There is also rechargeable credit ticket cards accepted in buses and metro stations (in Tehran since 2012 paper tickets are no longer accepted in buses).

By train

Raja Passenger Trains [1] is the passenger rail system. Travelling by train through Iran is generally more comfortable and faster than speed-limited buses. Sleeper berths in overnight trains are especially good value as they allow you to get a good night's sleep while saving on a night's accommodation.

The rail network is comprised of three main trunks. The first stretches east to west across the north of the country linking the Turkish and Turkmenistan borders via TabrizTehran and Mashhad. The second and third extend south of Tehran but split at Qom. One line connects to the Persian Gulf via Ahvaz and Arak, while the other traverses the country's centre linking Kashan, YazdKerman and Bandar Abbas.

Departures along mainlines are frequent. 6 to 7 daily trains leave Tehran for Kerman and Yazd, with additional three bound for Yazd and Bandar Abbas. Mashhad and Tehran are linked by some ten direct overnight trains, not counting services to KarajQom, Kashan, etc. Direct services between main lines are rare, if any. For example, Esfahan and Yazd are connected by one train running every second day.

There are high-speed trains from Tehran to Mashhad and Bandar Abbas called Pardis. Another high-speed line connecting Tehran, Imam Khomeini Airport, Qom and Esfahan is under construction as of 2016.

Tickets can be bought from train stations up to one month before the date of departure, and it is wise to book at least a couple of days in advance during the peak domestic holiday months. First class tickets cost roughly twice the comparable bus fare.

Known as a "ghatar" in Persian; trains are probably the cheapest, safest, most reliable and easiest way to travel around the country. As an added benefit; you'll get to meet the people, sample food and see other tourists. You also avoid all the checkpoints you will encounter driving on the road. Trains are frequently delayed so leave plenty of time between destinations.

By metro (subway)

Tehran has 5 metro lines. One of these is essentially a suburban line going to Karaj and beyond.

Mashhad has 1 underground line. It runs from Vakil Abad to Ghadir. Two further lines are to be added in the near future.

Shiraz has one metro line.

Isfahan has one metro line that connects Terminal-e Kaveh with northern parts of the city.

By taxi

Low fuel costs have made inter-city travel by taxi a great value option in Iran. When travelling between cities up to 250 km apart, you may be able to hire one of the shared savāri taxis that loiter around bus terminals and train stations. taxis are faster than buses and Taxis will only leave when four paying passengers have been found, so if you're in a hurry you can offer to pay for an extra seat.

Official shared local taxis or Savari, also ply the major roads of most cities. Recently the taxis are turning into yellow, also on busy routs there are green vans with a capacity of 11 passengers. They offer less fare for every passenger. They usually run straight lines between major squares and landmarks, and their set rates between 2,000-10,000 rials are dictated by the local governments.

Hailing one of these taxis is an art you'll soon master. Stand on the side of the road with traffic flowing in your intended direction and flag down a passing cab. It will slow down fractionally, giving you about one second to shout your destination--pick a major nearby landmark instead of the full address--through the open passenger window. If the driver is interested, he'll slow down enough for you to negotiate the details or simply accepts your route.

If you're in a hurry, you can rent the taxi privately. Just shout the destination followed by the phrase dar bast (literally 'closed door') and the driver will almost be sure to stop. Negotiate the price before departure, but since you are paying for all the empty seats expect to pay four times the normal shared taxi fare.

You can also rent these taxis by the hour to visit a number of sites, but you can expect to pay from 40,000-70,000 rials/hr, depending on your bargaining skills.

Most of the taxis have "taximeters" but only 'closed door' green taxis use it.

By car

A large road network and low fuel costs have historically made Iran an attractive country for exploring with your own car. However a recent government fuel tax on foreigners entering Iran by private car has somewhat dimmed the allure.

Foreigners arriving in Iran with their own car will need to have a Carnet de passage and a valid international drivers' license. Petrol stations can be found on the outskirts of all cities and towns and in car-filled Iran, a mechanic is never far away.

Do not underestimate the sheer chaos of Iran's traffic. The often ignored road rules state that you must drive on the right unless overtaking and give way to traffic coming on to a roundabout. Drivers frequently top 160 km/h (100 mph) on intercity highways. Laws requiring car occupants to wear seat belts for rear passengers are not always complied with.

Be aware also that motorcycles are sometimes seen transporting up to five people, without helmets.

Avoid large rocks in the middle of highway. These are often placed there in an attempt to burst your tires. Afterward, a passerby will offer to replace your tire for $US50. This is of course a scam that occurs mostly at nighttime but has diminished due to aggressive policing.

You can also rent a car, usually for $US20-50 a day. Insurance and legal liability may make you think twice about renting a car, especially considering the fact that renting a car with a driver usually costs the same.

People are not allowed to carry their pet even in their private car and will receive driving penalties if caught by the Police.

Iranian roads and major streets usually feature traffic enforcement cameras.

Talk

See also: Persian phrasebook

Persian (called fārsi in Persian, فارسی), an Indo-European language, is Iran's national and official language. Although Persian is written with a modified Arabic alphabet, the two languages are not related; however, Persian does contain a very large number of Arabic loanwords (that may differ in meaning), many of which are part of basic Persian vocabulary (see section on "Iranian nationality" under "Respect" ).

Many young Iranians in major cities, and almost certainly those working at international travel agencies and high-end hotels will know conversational English, but for the tourist knowing basic Persian phrases will definitely be of use, particularly in rural areas.

Road signs are often double signed in English, but few other signs are. As an extra challenge, most Persian signage uses an ornate calligraphic script that bears little resemblance to its typed form. This can make comparing typed words in phrase books--such as 'bank' and 'hotel'--to signs on buildings quite difficult. However it is still worth memorising the Persian script for a few key words such as restaurant, guesthouse, and hotel (see relevant sections below for the script).

Being able to recognise Persian numerals is extremely helpful in situations where one needs to deal with directions (e.g. finding a bus at a bus station) and sums (e.g. understanding what is written on a restaurant bill). The numerals are:

Be aware that Kurdish and Azeri languages are also spoken in areas of large Kurdish and Azeri populations.

See

Ancient cities

  • Hegmatane (or Ekbatana) - The capital of the ancient Medes. In modern-day Hamedan.
  • Persepolis - Probably the most important historical site in Iran. The capital of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire built by Darius. Near Shiraz.
  • Pasargad (or Pasargadae) - The initial capital of the Persian Empire built by Cyrus the Great. Near Shiraz.
  • Susa - Built by Elamites an then adopted by Achaemenid (Persian) and Sasanid empires, it has three layers of civilisation in it. Located in the modern-day town of Shush in the Khuzestan province.
  • Chogha Zanbil- A ziggurat built by Elamites. Near Shush.
  • Na'in or '''Naeen''' or Naein is a small pre-Islamic city in central Iran with over 2000 years of history. It's a small pattern of an ancient desert town. The locals in Na’in still speak in ancient Zoroastrian dialect.
  • Sialk Mount (Tappeh Sialk) - More than 7,000 years old, this is world's oldest ziggurat. In suburbs of Kashan.
  • Jiroft
  • The world heritage listed Persian Qanat; ancient underground aqueducts of which 11 have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Tombs of some famous people

  • Cyrus the Great in Pasargad near Shiraz.
  • Avicenna in Hamedan.
  • Khayyam in Neyshaboor (near Mashhad).
  • Prophet Daniel in Susa (Shush).
  • Mordechai and Esther in Hamedan.
  • Saadi and Hafez famous Persian poets in Shiraz.
  • "'Imam Reza'" an ornate shrine to the eighth of the Shiite imams (the only one buried in Iran) in Mashhad.

Museums

  • Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Amassed by the former Shah and his wife who were avid and ostentatious collectors, the museums collection, conservatively valued at $2.5 billion dollars, is one of the most important modern and contemporary art collections in the world. It includes collections from Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Jackson Pollock among many others. Much of it remains un-catalogued, officially because it is so numerous but also because it is currently taboo. No western works have been on display for many years although in late 2013 staff expressed hope that the authorities may grant permission for specific pieces to be displayed as part of a tourist drive. It remains to be seen. In the meantime art lovers can sigh as they leaf through a reference copy of some of the collection, available for viewing at reception. Nevertheless, the museum still warrants a visit for a rare opportunity to explore contemporary Iranian art which although inventive and progressive in its execution, remains nonetheless true to established morals.

Palaces

  • Sadabad. A palace complex where Mohammad-Reza Shah and his family used to live. Some palaces converted to museums now. In Tehran.
  • Falak-ol-aflak - Falak-ol-Aflak Castle is among the most important structures built during the Sassanid era.
  • Shamsolemare
  • Forty Pillar Palace (Chehel Sotoun) literally: “Forty Columns”) is a pavilion in the middle of a park at the far end of a long pool, in Isfahan, Iran, built by Shah Abbas II to be used for his entertainment and receptions. In this palace, Shah Abbas II and his successors would receive dignitaries and ambassadors, either on the terrace or in one of the stately reception halls. The name, meaning "Forty Columns" in Persian, was inspired by the twenty slender wooden columns supporting the entrance pavilion, which, when reflected in the waters of the fountain, are said to appear to be forty.
  • Ālī Qāpū (The Royal Palace) - Early 17th Century. It is forty-eight meters high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic. It is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal, and bird motifs.

Squares and streets

  • Naqsh-e Jahan Square also known as shah square or imam square-1602. With two mosques and the bazaar.It is an important historical site, and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era.

Parks and gardens

Armenian churches

  • Saint Thaddeus Monastery in West Azerbaijan Province.

Do

  • Meymand (Meimand), Kerman province, Shahr-e-Babak (Persian Gulf high way). Meymand (Maymand, Meimand, Maimand) is a very ancient village located nearby Shahr -e- Babak city in Kerman Province. Maymand is believed to be one humanities earliest remaining places of habitation on the Iranian Plateau and dates back 12,000 years. It is still inhabited by around 150 people, mostly hospitable elderly citizens who live in 410 houses hand hewn into the rocks. 10,000 year old stone engravings surround the village. 6,000 year old potteries relics reveal a long history of the village. Living conditions in Maymand are harsh due to the aridity of the land and to high temperatures in summers and very cold winters. In 2005 Meymand was awarded the Melina Mercury International Prize for the safeguarding and management of cultural landscapes.

Desert trekking and desert excursions

Though the northern part of Iran is covered by dense rain forests called Shomal or the Jungles of Iran. The eastern parts consists mostly of desert basins such as the Dasht-e Kavir, Iran's largest desert, in the north-central portion of the country, and the Dasht-e Lut, in the east, as well as some salt lakes. There is also the Central desert which as can be understood from its name is located in the central regions. This is because the mountain ranges are too high for rain clouds to reach these regions.

There are a lot of activities that can be done in the desert areas including; desert tracking, camel riding, bicycle riding and 4x4 driving excursions.

In some parts of the deserts there are some camping sites available. The easiest budget priced desert tours can be organised in Na'in and Kashan.

Festivals

  • Norouz Eve, The beginning of Iranian New Year and the start of the Spring. On the 20th or 21st of March. It is rooted in the Zoroastrian religion.
  • Chahar-shanbe Suri (Wednesday festival) - On the last Wednesday before Noruz. People set up fires. The traditional festival involves jumping over the fire while saying a specific sentence. Nowadays it involves a lot of firecrackers Although the government is against it and police usually Disperse the young people's gathering!.
  • Shab-e Yalda, The last night of Autumn, which is the longest night of the year, is celebrated in Iran, and has a history from long ago (Mithraism age). Families has traditional gathering to commemunicate and eat the last remaining fresh fruits from summer. They read traditional Persian poems or stories.
  • Ashura-Tasua is the most interesting and amazing days for tourists.Shia muslims believe that their popular leader and the son of their prophet Muhammad , was killed in in the year 61 AH . He was killed by a cruel king , because he wanted to revive the real islam and war with cruelty of him . he was killed tyrannous and he lost his family and 72 real muslims . For shia muslims this is a very sad events and a period of intense grief and mourning.
  • Golabgiri, of Kashan city near Isfahan. During the spring some people go there to obtain the local rose water. It has very nice smell and many use it in traditional drinks.

Ski

There are five ski piste around Tehran. They are at Dizin, Darbandsar, Tochal and Shemshak.

The longest one is the Dizin piste, this is north of Tehran and reachable during winter by using either Chalous Road or Fasham Road.

The more professional slope is at Shemshak and that is the one used for national and international tournaments.

The ski pistes near Tehran are all normally accessible by road in around 1-2 hr.

Swim

Iran has coastline along the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. A popular place for its beaches is Kish Island in the Persian Gulf that men can enjoy it all the year & women are limited to use only covered beaches.

Itineraries

We have one itinerary for a route that is entirely in Iran:

  • Mount Damavand Trek

There are also several for routes that pass through the country:

  • Silk Road
  • On the trail of Marco Polo
  • Istanbul to New Delhi over land

Buy

Money

The rial, denoted by the sym bol "﷼" or "IR" (ISO code: IRR) is the currency of Iran. Coins are issued in values of 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 2,000, and 5,000 rials. Banknotes are produced in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, and 100,000 denominations and banknotes called "Iran Cheques" are produced in 500,000 and 1,000,000 denominations.

Toman

Confusion with the currency is standard for a visitor, not just because of the large numbers but because of the shorthand routinely used. Prices of goods may be verbally communicated or written in toman (تومان) instead of in rial. One toman is equal to ten rials. There are no toman notes - prices are quoted as such just as a shortcut. If it is not obvious, be sure to clarify in which currency the price is quoted.

Exchanging money

ATMs and merchants in Iran generally do not accept foreign (non-Iranian) cards due to the sanctions, so bring all the money you might need in cash, preferably in US dollars or Euros.

Bills in good condition as well as large bills (US$100 or €100) tend to be preferred at currency exchange offices. Small denominations can be useful for small purchases before you get to an exchange office, although many exchange shops will not exchange small bills. On arrival at Tehran International Airport, the maximum amount that may be exchanged at night is limited to €50 per person.

The best places to exchange money are the private exchange offices (sarāfi) scattered around most large cities and major tourist centres. Their rates are usually 20% better than the official rate offered by the banks, they are far quicker and don't require any paperwork, and unlike their black market colleagues, they can be traced later on if something goes wrong. Exchange offices can be found in major cities, their opening times are usually Sunday to Thursday from 8 am to 4 pm. Note that most are closed on Fridays and on holidays. There is little point in risking the use of black market moneychangers who loiter outside of major banks and only offer marginally better rates than the banks.

A list of licensed sarraafis of the whole country, in Persian (Farsi), can be found here. This list includes phone numbers and addresses as well as license numbers and dates.

The most widely-accepted currencies are US dollar ($) and euros (€). Other major currencies such as the Australian Dollar and Japanese Yen are accepted at many - but not all - money changers. Non-major currencies usually cannot be exchanged. US$100 and large euro unfolded notes tend to attract the best exchange rate, and you may be quoted lower rates or turned down for any old or ripped notes or small denomination notes.

Foreign credit cards are only accepted by select stores with foreign bank accounts such as Persian rugs stores but they will almost always charge an additional fee for paying by credit card rather than with cash. Most of these stores will be happy to forward you some cash on your credit card at the same time as your purchase. If you are desperate for cash, you can also try asking these shops to extend you the same favour without buying a rug or souvenir, but expect to pay a fee of around 10%.

Travellers' cheques: Cashing travellers cheques can be hit-or-miss and it is advised not to rely on travelers cheques issued by American or European companies.

Prepaid debit cards can be bought at Iranian banks and serve as a good alternative to carrying a large wad of cash around the country. Make sure that the card you buy has ATM withdrawal privileges and be aware of the daily withdrawal limit. The ATM network in Iran is subject to outages so make sure that you withdraw the entire balance well before you leave the country.

Bank-e Melli-ye Iran (National Bank of Iran) which is a government-owned bank in Iran, provides an ATM debit card service (plastic magnetic card) for tourists who visit Iran. Tourists just need to head the nearest branch of this bank. Information on this service can be found here. Sepah Bank or Bank -e- Sepah is a governmental bank that has a current account service for foreigners which provides both ATM debit card and a cheque writing option. Another way to prevent having your money stolen, is going to the nearest bank and getting a gift card (Kart-e Hadiyeh کارت هدیه). They are exactly like ordinary ATM debit cards, but once they get empty, they cannot be recharged. The two first ways are more recommended. A list of permitted Iranian banks can be found here.

Large Iranian banks, like Bank-e Melli-ye Iran (BMI), Bank -e- Sepah, Bank Mellat, Bank-e Saaderaat-e Iran (BSI), Bank-e Paasaargad and Bank-e Saamaan (Saamaan Bank), and Beank-e Paarsiaan all have branches outside the country that can be found at their websites. You can open a bank account abroad before arrival. This might be possible even in some European countries. You can find the addresses of these banks' websites using famous search engines; then you need to click the link to the English section of their sites which is usually shown using the word English or the abbreviation En.

Bazaars and bargaining

While the shops offer a wide selection of quality goods, local items can be bought in the many bazaars. Purchases include hand-carved, inlaid woodwork, painted and molded copper, carpets, rugs, silks, leather goods, mats, tablecloths, gold, silver, glass, and ceramics. There are restrictions on which items may be taken out of the country and many countries restrict the amount of goods you can bring in due to sanctions.

Bargain ruthlessly when buying handcrafts, rugs or big ticket items and modestly when hailing private taxis. In most other aspects of life prices are fixed.

Tipping

Tipping is generally not expected, but locals will generally round up the bill in taxis and add around 10% in restaurants. Porters and bellboys will expect 5,000 rials. A discreet gift of a few thousand tomāns may help grease the wheels of Iranian society and serve to thank an extraordinarily helpful local.

Foreigner surcharges

You won't be able to escape the government-sanctioned dual pricing system that applies to accommodation and some tourist attractions in Iran; foreigners often pay up to five times the price quoted to locals. However, prices tend to be very reasonable by Western standards.

Budgeting

Due to an extremely volatile exchange rate and high inflation, the prices estimated by many guidebooks and travel agencies are outdated immediately.

If you are prepared to stay in the cheapest guesthouses, travel only by bus and eat only at fast food outlets or kabābi, you can get by in Iran on a minimum of around 500,000 rials per day. If you want to eat a decent restaurant meal every now and then and stay in mid-range accommodation, a more realistic budget is around 1,000,000 rials. If you want to eat and sleep in luxury and fly between major sights, you can easily spend 3,000,000 rials per day.

Eat

Meal times in Iran vary considerably from those in Europe and the US. Lunch can be served from 12PM-3PM. and dinner is often eaten after 8PM. These and other social occasions in Iran are often long, drawn-out affairs conducted in a relatively relaxed tempo, often involving pastries, fruit and possibly nuts. As it is considered rude to refuse what is served, visitors should accept the items offered, even if they do not intend to consume them.

The importation and consumption of alcohol is strictly banned throughout the majority of Iran, but is tolerated in a few rural and poorly regulated areas. Penalties are severe. Registered religious minorities, however, are allowed to manufacture and consume small quantities of alcohol, but not to sell, export or import it. Pork and pork products are forbidden and, like alcohol, their import is illegal, though in practice shops serving the Christian community are allowed to sell pork with no major issues.

The good news for travellers is that Iranian cuisine is superb. A wide range of influences from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Middle East have created a diverse, relatively healthy range of dishes that focus on fresh produce and aromatic herbs. The bad news, however, is that Iranians prefer to eat at home, rather than in restaurants, so decent eateries are scarce and stick to a repetitive selection of dishes (mainly kebabs). An invitation to an Iranian home for dinner will be a definite highlight of your stay. When visiting an Iranian household for the first time or on a special occasion it is customary for Iranians to bring a small gift. Flowers, sweets or pastries are popular gift choices.

Traditional cuisine

Iranian cuisine is related to the cuisines of neighboring Middle Eastern and South Asian countries but is in important ways highly distinctive.

Fragrant rice (برنج, berenj) is the staple of Iranian food. Boiled and then steamed, it is often coloured with saffron or flavoured with a variety of spices. When served plain as an accompaniment it is known as chelo (چلو). The two most common meat / chelo combinations are kebab variations (chelo kabāb, چلو کباب) or rotisserie chicken (chelo morgh, چلو مرغ). Flavoured rice, known as polo, is often served as a main course or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. Examples include shirin polo flavoured with orange zest, young cherries and honey glazed carrots, the broad-bean and herb heavy bāghli polo and sabzi polo laced with parsley, dill and mint.

The rice and kebab dish chelo kabāb (چلو کباب) and its half-dozen variations are the most common (and often the only) items on Iranian restaurant menus. A grilled skewer of meat is served on a bed of fluffy rice, and accompanied by an array of condiments. You can add butter, grilled tomatoes and a sour spice known as somāgh to your rice, while some restaurants also provide a raw egg yolk. Raw onion and fresh basil are used to clear your palate between mouthfuls. Variations in kabāb dishes come from the meats they are served with. You will commonly see:

  • Kabāb koobideh (كباب كوبيده) - a kebab of minced beef, shredded onion and spices.
  • Kabāb barg (كباب برگ) - pieces of lamb sometimes marinated in lemon juice and shredded onion.
  • Joojeh kabāb (جوجه كباب) - a skewer of chicken pieces sometimes marinated in lemon juice and saffron.
  • Kabāb bakhtiāri (كباب ب‍ختیارِی) - great for the indecisive eater, this is a skewer of alternating chicken and lamb pieces.

At home people most often eat rice with a thick stew (khoresht, خورشت) containing a modest amount of meat. There are dozens of khoresht variations such as the sweet and sour fessenjān made from ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, most popular ghormeh-sabzi is based on fresh herbs, dried limes and kidney beans, gheimeh flavoured with split-peas and often garnished with French fries.

Hearty Iranian soups (āsh, آش) are meals in themselves. The most popular is the vegetarian āsh reshteh (آش رشته) made from herbs, chickpeas and thick noodles, and garnished with kashk (which looks like yoghurt but is another thing) and fried onions.

Flat bread (nān, نان) is another pillar of Iranian food. It is served at breakfast with herbs, feta cheese and a variety of jams, or as an accompaniment to meals. Sangak (سنگك) is a dimpled variety cooked on a pebbled oven while lavāsh (لواش) is a thin and bland staple .

International cuisine

There are several good international restaurants which offer Chinese, Japanese, Italian and French food as well as vegetarian menus in Tehran and other major cities.

Fast food and snacks

Most food outlets in Iran are either kabābis or fast food outlets serving a standard fare of burgers, sandwiches, felafels or pizza (پیتزا). A burger and a soft drink at a snack shop will fill you up at lunchtime for around IR 40,000, while pizzas start at IR 50,000.

Many teahouses (see Drink below) also serve traditional snacks and light meals. The most common of these is ābgusht (آبگوشت) a hot pot made from lamb, chickpeas and dried limes that is also known as dizi, also the name of the dish in which its served. You will be given a bowl (the dizi) containing the ābgusht and another, smaller one. Drain the broth into the smaller bowl and eat it like a soup with the bread provided. Then pound the remaining meat and vegetables into a paste with the pestle provided and eat with even more bread, pieces raw onion and wads of fresh herbs.

Sweets and desserts

The never-ending demand for dentists in Iran lies testament to the country's obsession with sweets and pastries, known collectively as shirini (شیرینی).

Iranian baghlava tends to be harder and more crystalline than its Turkish equivalent while the pistachio noughat called gaz (گز) is an Isfahan speciality. Sohan is a rich pistachio brittle popular in Qom, and freshly-baked pastries are often taken as gifts to people's houses. Lavāshak fruit leathers are delicious fruit leathers made from dried plums.

Honey-saffron and pistachio are just two local flavours of ice cream, while fāloodeh (فالوده) is a deliciously refreshing sorbet made from rosewater and vermicelli noodles made from starch, served with lashings of lemon juice.

Special needs

Given that most travellers are stuck eating kebabs for much of their trip, vegetarians will have a particularly difficult time in Iran. Most snack shops sell falafels (فلافل) and garden salads (sālād-e-fassl, سالاد فصل) and greengrocers are common. Most āsh varieties are meat-free and filling, as are most variations of kookoo (کوکو), the Iranian take on the frittata.Also some restaurants make Spaghetti with Soya (Soy).You can find Pizzas like Vegetarian Pizza (Pitzā Sabzijāt, پیتزا سبزیجات) or Cheese Pizza (Pitzā Panir, پیتزا پنیر) or Mushroom Pizza (Pitzā Ghārch, پیتزا قارچ) almost everywhere and Margherita Pizza in some restaurants which all are meat-free. The phrases man giaah-khaar hastam (I am vegetarian) and bedoon-e goosht (without meat) will come in handy.

It's a safe bet that most food in Iran is halal (حلال, ḥalāl, halaal) and will conform with Islamic dietary laws as specified in the Qur'an, the exceptions being some shops in districts with large Christian communities. However, those seeking a strict kosher diet may have to concentrate their efforts in the districts with higher numbers of Jewish inhabitants. If in Tehran look in areas such as older parts in the south of the city, like Udlajan or the Yusef Abad neighbourhood.

Drink

Black Tea (chāi, چای) is the national drink of Iran. It is served strong and with crystallised or cubed sugar (ghand, قند) which is held artfully between the teeth while tea is sipped through. You can try asking for milk in your tea, but expect nothing but strange looks or a big delay in return. Tea houses (chāi khāneh, چای خانه) are a favourite local haunt for men (and less commonly families) to drink tea and puff away on a water pipe.

Coffee (ghahveh, قهوه) is not as popular as tea. Where available, it is served Turkish style, French coffee or espresso. Imported instant coffee (nescāffe, نسكافه) and instant Cappuccino are available also. Coffee shops (called "coffeeshop" in Persian, versus "ghaveh-khane" (literally, coffee house) which instead means a tea house) are more popular in affluent and young areas.

Fruit juices (āb miveh, آب ميوه) are available from shops and street vendors. Also available are cherry cordial (sharbat ālbāloo, شربت آلبالو) and banana milkshakes (shir moz, شير موز).

Soft drinks are widely available. International products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and their brand names including 7up, Sprite and Fanta have sold alongside local brands such as Zam Zam Cola ( زم زم كولا , Zam Zam Kola). The local cola has a taste not unlike "Coca-Cola Original" or "Pepsi Original". Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo's concentrates entered Iran via Irish subsidiaries and circumvented the US trade embargoes. Ironically ZamZam was originally launched in 1954 as a subsidiary of the Pepsi Cola company. As an intriguing outcome of the Iranian cola wars the real coke was generally sold in plastic bottles and the non-genuine coke, using a substitute syrup devised to overcome earlier Clinton era US imposed embargoes, was distributed in the real thing bottles that the then syrup-less bottler was left stuck with at the time.

Doogh (دوغ) is a sour drink made from yoghurt, salt, and water (sometimes gaseous) and sometimes flavoured with mint or other plants. It takes some getting used to, but will rehydrate you quickly in the heat of Iran's summer. It is the same as Turkish Ayran. It can be purchased at almost any establishment and is often consumed in the afternoon while eating kababs. It comes in two main varieties fizzy (gaz-daar) and non-fizzy (bigaz).

Alcohol is illegal to drink for Muslims only, and if seen by police may be met with punishment. Therefore, you will rarely find places in Iran that openly sells alcohol. However it is legal for Non-Muslims to produce alcohol for their consumption. Drinking is, however, common among some people, especially during parties and weddings, and is officially tolerated for use among the small Christian and Jewish communities but only for religious purposes (e.g., wine for holy communion). There is no set legal drinking/purchasing age for Non-Muslims. The Iranian Government allows Non-Muslims to bring alcoholic beverages into the country.

Sleep

Accommodations in Iran range from luxurious, if a little weary, five star hotels (هتل) in major cities to the small, cheap mosāferkhaneh (مسافرخانه) and mehmānpazir (مهماﻧپذیر) guesthouses that are littered about most centres. Moreover, staff in mosāferkhuneh often are so happy to provide room for non-Iranians, as these facilities have a recommendation from local governments to serve all tourists. For longer stays, villas with all facilities (including central air conditioning, pool and Internet connection) can be rented in Tehran and all other major cities at reasonable prices. Note that a man and woman cannot share the same hotel room unless they can prove their relationship (as a married couple or siblings). Foreign tourists are usually excepted from this law.

Also, you can find traditional hotels in central Iran including IsfahanShiraz and in particular Yazd.

Learn

Iran has a large network of private, public, and state affiliated universities. State-run universities of Iran are under the direct supervision of Iran's Ministry of Science, Research and Technology (for non-medical universities) and Ministry of Health and Medical Education (for medical schools).

Work

Foreigners with special expertise and skills have little difficulty in obtaining permits. Work permits are issued, extended or renewed for a period of one year. In special cases, temporary work permits valid for a maximum period of three months may be issued. An exit permit must be obtained for a stay longer than three months.

The maximum working week is 44 hours, with no more than eight hours any single day unless overtime compensation is provided. Overtime could not exceed four hours per day. Friday is the weekly day of rest. Overtime is payable at 40 per cent above the normal hourly wage. There are allowances for shift work equivalent to 10, 15 or 22.5 per cent of a worker's wage, depending on working shift (e.g. evening, morning and night)

Workers are entitled to public holidays and a paid annual one-month leave. For workers with less than a year of employment, annual leaves are calculated in proportion to the actual length of service. Furthermore, every worker is entitled to take one full month of paid leave or one month of unpaid leave (if no leave is available) once during his or her working life in order to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The employment of workers less than 15 years of age is prohibited. Young workers between 15 and 18 years of age must undergo a medical examination by the Social Security Organisation prior to commencing employment. Women are entitled to a 9 month maternity leave.

There is a minimum national wage applicable to each sector of activity fixed by the Supreme Labour Council. Workers and employers have the right to establish guild societies. Collective bargaining is allowed. Membership in the social security system for all employees is compulsory.

To have a valid contract concluded under the Law, the following provisions must be included:

  • 1. Type of Work, vocation or duty that must be undertaken by the worker;
  • 2. Basic compensation and supplements thereto;
  • 3. Working hours, holidays and leaves;
  • 4. Place of performance of duties;
  • 5. Probationary period, if any;
  • 6. Date of conclusion of contract;
  • 7. Duration of employment; and
  • 8. Other terms and conditions required may vary according to the nature of employment. An employer may require the employee to be subject to a probationary period. However, the probation time may not exceed one month for unskilled workers and three months for skilled and professional workers. During the probation period, either party may immediately terminate the employment relationship without cause or payment of severance pay. The only caveat being that if the employer terminates the relationship, he must pay the employee for the entire duration of the probation period.

Business customs

  • Iranians are very formal and it will take several meetings before a more personal relationship can be established. This is particularly true for government officials, representatives of state controlled companies and foundations.
  • Negotiations will be long, detailed and protracted.
  • Exchange of gifts is a tradition among private sector business people.
  • Along with the social customs, certain additional business etiquette should be realised prior to interaction with Iranian businessmen. Although officials of the Islamic Republic are not allowed to wear a tie, it is very common for visiting foreigners to do so though proper business attire need not include a tie in Iran.
  • Women must adhere to the Islamic dress code referred to below. It is important to note that most officials will not shake hands with a member of the opposite sex, especially in public. It is highly recommended not to create an awkward situation by extending one's hand. The same is true for private citizens who are particularly religious.

Stay safe

Iran is still a relatively low-crime country, although thefts and muggings have been on the increase in recent years. Keep your wits about you, and take the usual precautions against pickpockets in crowded bazaars and buses. Due to US sanctions, using international credit or debit cards in Iran is not possible, but you can buy Iranian banks prepaid no-name Gift Cards to enjoy money withdrawal from more than 11,000 ATMs around Iran for free. Purchasing gift cards has no surcharge or service fee and you can withdraw or spend all the money you put on your gift card. Some of the gift cards have no ATM withdrawal feature and are only for use in shops and stores POS, so make sure you an ATM enabled gift cards before purchasing it from a bank. There is a 2,000,000 rials daily withdrawal limit for most of the Iranian bank cards, so purchasing several card lets you withdraw more money from ATMs per day. Gift cards usually are non-reloadable. Some are pre-loaded with a designated amount but some banks let you load them for your desired amount when you purchase. As they are anonymous, there is almost no way to report a stolen card and get a duplicate. Always keep passwords and cards in a safe place. Having a couple of used empty cards with passwords written on them may help you in case of being mugged for money! There is no cash-back feature in Iranian POSs but in case of an emergency and having no access to ATMs you may ask a shop owner with POS to give you cash-back. They may charge you for bank service fee (1% - 5%). Withdraw your leftover money in cards a few days before leaving Iran to avoid any problem which may cause by SHETAB Interbank Network failure (very rare). It is common that ATMs do not work for an hour between 12:00AM - 01:00AM due to a database update. When using an ATM be alert. Better to use it in not very quiet areas.

In particular, the tourist centre of Isfahan has had problems with muggings of foreigners in unlicensed taxis, and fake police making random checks of tourists' passports. Only use official taxis, and never allow 'officials' to make impromptu searches of your belongings.

Iranian traffic is congested and chaotic. Guidelines are lax and rarely followed. Pedestrians are advised to exercise caution when crossing the roads, and even greater care when driving on them - Iranian drivers tend to overtake along pavements and any section of the road where there is space. In general, it is not recommended for inexperienced foreigners to drive in Iran. Watch out for joobs (جوب), the open storm water drains that shoulder every road and are easy to miss when walking in the dark.

Travellers should avoid the southeastern area of Iran, particularly the province of Sistan va Baluchistan. The drug trade thrives based on smuggling heroin from Afghanistan. There is plenty of associated robbery, kidnapping and murder. Some cities, such as Zahedan, Zabol and Mirjaveh are particularly dangerous, although not every place in this region is dangerous. Chahbahar, which is close to the Pakistani border, is a very calm and friendly city.

Iranian perceptions of outsiders

Even though travellers may arrive with the image of a throng chanting "Death to America", the chances of Westerners facing anti-Western sentiment as a traveller are slim. Even hardline Iranians make a clear distinction between the Western governments they distrust and individual travellers who visit their country. Americans may receive the odd jibe about their government's policies, but usually nothing more serious than that. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid politically-oriented conversations, particularly in taxi cabs. In addition, a few Iranian-Americans have been detained recently and accused of espionage, as were three American hikers in 2009 who allegedly strayed across into Iran from Iraqi Kurdistan. These kind of incidents are rare, but still the broader implications are worth considering and bearing in mind.

Photography

There are a lot of military and other sensitive facilities in Iran. Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited. Any transgression may result in detention and serious criminal charges, including espionage, which can carry the death penalty. Do not photograph any military object, jails, harbours, or telecommunication devices, airports or other objects and facilities which you suspect are military in nature. Be aware that this rule is taken very seriously in Iran.

Women

Female travellers should not encounter any major problems when visiting Iran, but will undoubtedly be the subject of at least some unwanted attention but they should obey local laws. Contrary to popular belief, Iranian women typically differ little from those in the West, although differences may be more prominent in highly religious families. In Tehran and several bigger cities Western clothing and formality is accepted but wearing a hijab may be required in most of rural areas. Women by law must wear a headscarf in public.

Gay and lesbian travel

It's not recommended for gay or lesbian couples to travel in Iran. Iran has some of the strongest anti-homosexuality laws in the world.

According to the law in Iran, male homosexuality is punishable by death and female homosexuality is punishable with lashes. In theory, these two punishments in Iran's judiciary system are only given if an act of gay or lesbian sex has 4 or more witnesses (although the definition of a witness can be surprisingly broad).

Public displays of platonic affection between male or female couples, such as holding hands, arms draped over shoulders and kissing on the cheek might result in harassment by the security forces.

Emergencies

Emergency services are extensive in Iran, and response times are very good compared to other local regions.

  • ☎ 110, is the telephone number of the local Police control centre, it is probably easiest to phone 110, as the local police have direct contact with other emergency services, and will probably be the only number with English speaking operators.

Other Emergency Services are also available.

  • ☎ 115, for Ambulances
  • ☎ 125, for the Fire and Rescue team (these numbers are frequently answered by the Ambulance or Fire crew operating from them, there is little guarantee these men will speak English).
  • ☎ 112, the international number 112 is available from cell phones, and will usually connect you to the Rescue and Relief Hotline of the Iranian Red Crescent Society.
  • ☎ 141, Road Status Information

Natural disasters

Earthquakes may occur in much of the country.

Stay healthy

Iran has state-of-the-art medical facilities in all its major cities.

Apart from being up to date with your usual travel vaccinations (tetanus, polio, etc.) no special preparation is needed for travel to Iran. For minor ailments, your hotel can contact an English-speaking doctor. In case of serious illness or accident, you can ask to be taken to a hospital with English-speaking staff (such as Milad Hospital, Atiyeh Hospital, Mehrad Hospital, Day Hospital or Khatam ol-Anbia Hospital in Tehran). Make sure that your health insurance covers illness or accident on holidays since free medical service is not available in Iran.

Tap water is safe to drink in most of the country (and especially the cities), although you may find the chalkiness and taste off-putting in some areas (mainly QomYazd, Hormozgan and Boushehr provinces). Bottled mineral water (āb ma'dani) is widely available. Also, on many streets and sites, public water fridges are installed to provide drinking water.

Respect

In general, Iranians are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures. In dealing with Iranians, the following tips relating to customs and etiquette may prove useful:

Although its strict Islamic moral code is well known, Iranian laws are not as strict as other countries such as Saudi Arabia. Respecting the dozens of unspoken rules and regulations of Iranian life can be a daunting prospect for travellers, but don't be intimidated. As a foreigner you will be given leeway and it doesn't take long to acclimatise yourself.

The culture, like most others in the Middle East and Central Asia, has a strong tradition of hospitality. Guests are often treated extremely well. On the other hand, there is some insularity; any foreigner may be regarded with suspicion. In Persian for Mr, Ms they say “Aghaye [name], Khanoome [name]” and out of respect they use plural verbs and pronouns. They often greet by raising hand to shake or/and give a hug which is a common Middle Eastern tradition. And they will tell you: Kheili Khosh Amadid. (Welcome! for greeting.) But if you are a man, do not attempt to shake hands with a woman unless she voluntarily raises her hand. When you greeting to a sitting,he/she will be rise up.

Iranian nationality

Most Iranian citizens are not Arabs and their primary language is Persian (natively known as فارسی Farsi or پارسی Parsi). Referring to them as "Arabs" in general conversation may irritate them. Iranians are very proud of their history, nationality and country and are highly sensitive to this.

Iran has over 4,000 years of written history and organised civilisation; see Persian Empire. It was conquered three times: by the Greeks under Alexander in the 4th century BCE, the Arabs in the 8th CE, and the Mongols in the 13th. "Persia" is a name of Greek origin attributed to Iran. "Persian" cannot be equated with "Iranian," as Iran has several ethnic groups, including Persian, Azeri, Kurd, Arab, Baluchi and Mazandarani. After the Arab conquest, Persian alphabet was changed to an Arabic-based one. Indeed the word "Farsi" itself is an Arabic articulation of the word "Parsi", the original word meaning "Persian". Today, the Persian language has many loan words taken from the Arabic language. The Arabic language has also adopted some words from Persian. There are several widely-spoken Iranian languages, Kurdish, Persian, and Balochi are all Western Iranian languages, while Pashto is an Eastern Iranian language. Persian is the official language of 3 nations - Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan - and is spoken within 13 nations of the region and in general by the Iranian diaspora elsewhere.

Over the 19th and 20th centuries Iran was frequently subjected to unfavorable political interference by the Russian Empire and its successor, the USSR. The British and then the USA also sought to influence and control the politics, resources and destiny of Iran. In 1980, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, supported by most of the global community, attacked and invaded Iran, causing the country to suffer a bloody 8-year war that drastically undermined its infrastructure and consumed its resources.

Given the above, the Iranian people feel that history has frequently not been on their side and that the global community owes them respect and sensitivity.

Dress

Perhaps the most visible mark of Iran's Islamic leanings is the conservative dress expected of its citizens. Although normal Western-style clothing is acceptable in private homes, when in public women are required to cover everything but their face, hands and feet.

The most common uniform consists of a head scarf (roo-sari, روسری) to conceal the head and neck, a formless, knee-length coat known as a manteau (مانتو) and a long dress or pair of pants. In holy sites, you will be expected to dress even more modestly in a chādor, a full-length swathe of black cloth designed to cloak everything but your face from view.

As a foreigner, a female traveller is officially expected to cover her hair and body excluding hands and feet. Usually more tolerance tends to be shown towards foreigners over the detail of the dress code than is the case for Iranian women. However, this does not include leaving one’s hair fully uncovered under any circumstance. "Acceptable" outfits may include a long, loose dress or shirt worn over loose skirt or pants and a scarf in the summer, and a full-length woolen coat and scarf in the winter (calf-length is acceptable if worn over pants). All colours and modest designs are acceptable. Even when undertaking sporting activity in public (such as tennis or jogging), the dress code described above must be maintained.

Men are also required to abide by the following dress code: Short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are acceptable for daily wear. Shorts and three-quarter length pants are only acceptable on the beach. Dress attire for men is similar to that in Europe. Neckties are better to be avoided if visiting one of the more conservative government bodies. Regarded by the authorities as a sign of Imperialism and a reminder of the pro-western kingdom era, wearing neckties by the authorities and office workers of state-run companies is forbidden. It is quite acceptable in the areas outside though it denotes indifference toward or opposition against state regulations and values. Jogging in tracksuits (but not shorts) is acceptable for men.

Conduct

Greet people of the same sex with a handshake, three kisses or both, but avoid physical contact with people of the opposite sex in public. Wait for them to introduce themselves instead; or just introduce yourself normally. (Bowing with a hand over your heart has been outdated since the 70s and is rarely done.) In private, only shake hands with a member of the opposite sex when he/she holds out his/her hand first.

Be careful of initiating political discussions. The relative political freedom of ex-President Mohammad Khatami's era is fading quickly and vocal opposition can be more trouble than it's worth, even if your Iranian companions get engaged in it. It's best not to discuss topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or the role of Islam in society regardless of what opinion you hold.

Tarof

Tarof (Persian: تعارف ) is a genuine Persian form of civility emphasising both self-deference and social rank. The term encompasses a range of social behaviours, from a man displaying etiquette by opening the door for another person, to a group of colleagues standing on ceremony in front of a door that can permit the entry of only one at time, earnestly imploring the most senior to break the deadlock.

The prevalence of tarof often gives rise to different styles of negotiation than one would see in a European or North American culture. For example, a worker negotiating a salary might begin with a eulogy of the employer, followed by a lengthy bargaining session consisting entirely of indirect, polite language -- both parties are expected to understand the implied topic of discussion. It is quite common for an Iranian worker (even one employed in an Iranian neighbourhood within Europe) to work unpaid for a week or two before the issue of wages is finally broached. Likewise, a shopkeeper may initially refuse to quote a price for an item, suggesting that it is worthless. Tarof obliges the customer to insist on paying, possibly several times, before a shopkeeper finally quotes a price and real negotiation can begin.

Tarof also governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times before the host and guest finally determine whether the host's offer and the guest's refusal are real or simply polite. It is possible to ask someone not to tarof (tarof näkonid), but that raises new difficulties, since the request itself might be a devious type of tarof. The best approach to handle Tarof is to be politely direct. Accept or reject as soon as you wish to, and be sure that Iranians will not be offended. Even though Tarof is purely about the art of civility, your engagement in Tarof might enter you into a vicious cycle of hypocrisy that may ruin your entire stay. The exception to this may be with food; as mentioned above, guests are expected to accept food they are offered at dinner, regardless of whether they intend to eat it.

Visiting holy sites

Although no trip to Iran would be complete without a glimpse at the stunning architecture and sombre environments of its mosques or holy shrines, many travellers are daunted by the prospect of walking into the foreign world of a mosque. Don't let these fears stop you; Iranians are welcoming and will understand any unintended breach of protocol.

Some mosques, and most holy shrines, require women to be wearing a chādor before entering the complex. If you don't have one, there are sometimes kiosks by the door that lend or hire chādors. It is better for men to wear long-sleeved shirts inside a mosque or shrine, though this is not mandatory.

Shoes are not worn within prayer areas of a mosque or shrine. Busier mosques have free shoe repositories where you trade your shoes for a token. Also try to avoid mosques on the holy day of Friday as they will be much busier and don't photograph a mosque while prayers are taking place.

Holy shrines, like those in Mashad and Qom, are usually off limits to non-Muslims, although the surrounding complexes are fine. Always ask first before you enter a room you are unsure of.

Obscene gestures

The thumbs up gesture is extremely rude in Iran, roughly equivalent to raising the middle finger in Western countries.

Hitchhiking is rare in Iran, and the country has a good public transportation system. If you do hitchhike, do not use a thumbs up signal. Instead, hold your hand outstretched, palm downwards and, using a stiff arm, move it up and down below the waist in a motion similar to a British driver hand signaling that he is slowing for a pedestrian crossing. Like in Japan, if you are an obvious occidental you are likely to make rapid and friendly progress. Also, be aware that drivers will generally expect to be paid and, unless you are an expert haggler, hitchhiking will often be more expensive than taking a bus.

Religion

Contrary to popular belief, public observance of other religions, except the Baha'i faith and Ahmadiyyah, is officially tolerated in Iran. There is a sizable Christian community, most of whom are ethnic Armenians or Assyrians/Chaldean, and a small Jewish community (which is nevertheless, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel). In addition to the Abrahamic faiths, there are also significant numbers of Zoroastrians who are basically free to practise their own religion.

However, remember that this is still a fundamentalist Muslim country and do not do or say anything which can be perceived as an insult to Islam. Also note that the Islamic dress codes still apply even to non-Muslims.

Music

Western music and dancing in public is banned . However, the visitors may notice that even shared taxis openly play the music of their choice. Still, customs may confiscate any music tapes or CDs brought in as some western music is considered un-Islamic, degrading towards women and corrupting for the minds of the youth. However, many Iranian youth have widespread access to all kinds of music. Women are not allowed to sing in public (even the traditional music); they may sing indoors for other women only.

Connect

Emergency services

  • Police: ☎ 110
  • Ambulance: ☎ 115
  • Fire: ☎ 125

Embassies and missions

  • 1 Australian Embassy to Iran, ☎ +98 21 8872 4456, fax: +98 21 8872 0484. No. 13, 23rd Street, Intifada Ave, Tehran -
  • Croatian Embassy in Tehran No. 25 Avia Pasdaran, Tehran ☎ +98 21 2258 9923 - Fax: +98 21 2254 9199
  • Embassy of Ireland North Kamranieh Ave., Bonbast Nahid Street 8, Tehran ☎ +98 21 2280 3835 (8:30AM-4:30PM, Sun-Thur)
  • 2 Royal Netherlands Embassy in Iran, ☎ +98 21 2256 7005, fax: +98 21 2256 6990. Darrous Shahrzad Blvd., Kamassale Street, First East Lane no. 33, Tehran; teh@minbuza.nl
  • Royal Norwegian Embassy in Tehran, 201 Dr. Lavasani St (Ex. Farmanieh St.), ☎ +98 21 2229 1333, fax: +98 21 2229 2776. No., Tehran, Iran -
  • Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Iran 9 th street, nr. 9, Velenjak, Tehran, P.O. Box 11365-118. ☎ +98 21 2241 2569, +98 21 2241 2570 - (Fax:+98 21 2240 2869) serbembteh@parsonline.net
  • Embassy of Switzerland in Iran, 13 Yasaman Street, ☎ +98 21 2200 8333, fax: +98 21 2200 6002. Sharifi Manesh Avenue, Tehran.
  • Americans should go to the US Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy if in need of assistance. Services are extremely limited, and the Swiss may be reluctant and/or unable to help in minor cases.
  • Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Tehran, ☎ +98 21 2283 6042, fax: +98 21 2229 0853. 30 Narenjestan 8th Alley Pasdaran Avenue, Tehran.

Landline phone

An Iranian phone number is of the form +98-XXX-XXX-XXXX where "98" is the country code for Iran, the next 3 digits (or 2 in the case of Tehran and some big cities) is the area code and the remaining 7 digits (eight in the case of Tehran and some big cities) are the "local" part of the subscriber number that can be called from within that particular area code using abbreviated dialing. You will need to dial "0" in front of the geographic area code from outside that particular area code (but when still within Iran).

Mobile numbers in Iran must always be dialed with all 11 digits (including a "0" prefixing the "9nn" within Iran), no matter where they are being called from. The 9nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits denote the original mobile network assigned.

These are the area codes for major cities: Tehran (021) - Kashan (0361) - Isfahan (031) - Ahwaz (061) - Shiraz (071) - Tabriz (041) - Mashad (051) - Kerman (034) - Gorgan (0171) - Na'in (0323) - Hamadan (081) - Kermanshah (083) - Sari (011)

When making international calls from Iran, the prefix to be dialled prior to country code is 00.

Cell phone (SIM card)

Irancell (MTN), MCI, Iran Taliya and Rightel offer pre-paid SIM cards for international travelers starting at 60,000 rials. It is possible to buy recharge cards from all newsstands and supermarkets for 20,000 rials. GPRS, MMS, and 3G services are also available at very low prices, specially at night, for surfing the web or checking your email. With a copy of the information page of your passport and a copy of the page with Iranian visa and entrance seal, you can buy SIM cards and access the internet with GPRS, EDGE, 3G and 4G technologies. SIM cards are available in places like post and government e-services offices (Persian: singular: Daftar-e Pishkhan-e Khadamat-e Dowlat دفتر پیشخوان خدمات دولت; plural: Dafater-e Pishkhan-e Khadamat-e Dowlat دفاتر پیشخوان خدمات دولت), in big shops and at the Imam Khomeini airport.

In September 2016 at IKIA an Irancell SIM card cost 100,000 rials and a 3 Gb Internet plan cost 200,000 rials. Some shops refuse to sell SIM cards to British nationals.

Post

The Islamic Republic of Iran Post Company has 209 central post offices which supervise all the 275 urban and 1,153 rural post offices. The company provides many of the internationally available post services. Parcel sending is very cheap and reliable. Bring your items unpacked to the post office. International courier companies such as DHL, Skypak etc. have offices in Tehran and accept documents for foreign destinations.

Internet

You can readily access WiFi internet services (depending upon network availability) in many areas, and in all provinces.

Some websites, including Facebook and YouTube are blocked in Iran. You can circumvent this by downloading a free proxy app such as Psiphon. You need to use a proxy server, VPN or a software like Freegate to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and some websites; otherwise, you might see this page which shows that the site you want to access is filtered and blocked by the judiciary system. You also need to use Freegate to check your bank account balance; otherwise, your account might get blocked due to the sanctions against Iran.

Internet cafes

You can expect to pay 15,000 rials per hour and speeds range from acceptable in major cities, to the infuriatingly slow in small towns and rural areas. Some facilities in major cities use broadband wireless or DSL connections. Most coffee net places will also have a DVD burner for downloading photos from digital cameras.

Working hours

  • Banks. All banks were nationalised after the revolution. However, during the past decade, the following private (non-governmental) banks have been founded, which usually provide better service:
  • Mellat
  • Parsian
  • Saman
  • Eghtesad Novin
  • Pasargad

Banks are generally open from 7:30AM-1:30PM Sat-Wed and 7:30AM-12 noon on Thursdays. Main branches are usually open to 3PM. (Closed on Fridays). International airports have a bank open whenever international flights arrive or depart. All banks have boards in English and Persian.

  • Bus company. Offices at the terminals in larger cities open daily from early morning until the evening more or less without a break. In smaller cities they may keep smaller or less regular hours.
  • Foreign embassies. Consulates and Embassies follow the Iranian working week, closing on Friday and often on one other day of the week, usually Saturday, as well as their own national holidays. However, to make sure on all cases, it is advisable to call first before visiting.
  • Government offices. Generally open from 8AM-2PM, Sat-Wed. Some offices, especially Ministries in Tehran, are closed completely on Thursday and others open only from 8AM-11.30AM or noon. In general, Thursday is not a good day for conducting official business.
  • 'Principal businesses. Open from 9AM-1PM and 3PM-9PM weekdays and closed on Fridays. The bazaar and some shops close on Thursday afternoon, too.
  • Museums. Each museum has its own visiting hours. It is better to check the timings before visiting.

Hours may change during Ramadan, the month of fasting. During that month, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink while the sun is in the sky. Restaurants are closed all day, opening at sundown and perhaps remaining open very late. Other businesses may adjust their hours as well.

The mountains above Tehran are home to some of the world’s best skiing – and an escape from the restrictions of city life. As sanctions are lifted, we join Iranians at play

Continue reading...

Photo: zoghal

For most western people Iran invokes images of violence. Of religious fanaticism, of anger against westerners, of a ruthless, hard-line government ready to punish the slightest digression, of travelers arrested and thrown in jail. But then there are the reports from people who have actually traveled to Iran, from Anthony Bourdain to amateur travel bloggers, and without fail they all mention how friendly and hospitable the people were and how welcomed and safe they felt, Americans included.

So what gives? No doubt the biggest possible discrepancy between the news and the reality.

I’m fortunate to have experienced Iran for myself and don’t have to rely on misleading news. Here’s why I can’t wait to go back:

1. The people.

Iranians are outgoing, fun-loving, and direct, which means that they won’t be shy about talking to you. And the famous Iranian hospitality is no joke. This means that you’re guaranteed to have plenty of genuine contact with the locals when traveling. Here’s a few examples from my two-week trip: In Isfahan, five cheerful women invited me to join them on a picnic because I happened to sit on a park bench by myself; one night I asked a passerby directions to my hotel and was given a motorcycle ride to the hotel entrance; a friend of a friend, before meeting me in person, booked me a hotel in Isfahan and Yazd, a ride from the bus station and credit for my phone; the southwestern nomads, who my new Iranian friends took me to meet on our road trip, treated me as a guest of honor and showered me with gifts. I was even proven that such a thing as a free lunch does exist: I had finally found the famous lamb kebab place in the beautiful, early 17hcentury maze that is the Isfahan souk, but there being no menus I didn’t know how to put my order in. The place was crowded but I found an empty seat at a table with two women and decided to wait until a waiter comes. As I sat down, the women at the table offered me to share their food, while another woman from the next table asked in perfect English if I needed any help. Since I didn’t know how things worked, she suggested she put the order in for me on her way out. Soon she came back to inform me that my food will arrive soon and that it was already paid for. Dumbfounded, I tried to protest but the woman stopped me and said: “I paid because you’re a guest in our country. Welcome.”

2. The architecture.

While the people will always be the number one reason for me to return to Iran, the historic sites with their mind-boggling details are so beautiful and humbling that they managed to blow me, a seasoned traveler, away. Kashan’s merchant houses. Isfahan’s Naqsh-e Jahan square. Yazd’s Zoroastrian sites. Shiraz’s beautiful mosques and Hafez’s tomb. Persepolis. Visiting these sites that are unlike anywhere else in the world, give you a strong sense of a unique, pristine culture with rich history, not overshadowed with western consumerist products.

3. The food.

Iranians take great pride in their cuisine and for a good reason. I know I’m not the only traveler raving about the traditional dishes — the tasty kebabs or the meat and vegetable stews, cooked with fragrant spices and fresh herbs, often with plums, apricots, walnuts or pomegranate sauce. Great news for foodies, too: while in recent years the inflation has raised Iran’s hotel and ticket prices, eating out remains inexpensive.

4. The mutual excitement.

Once in Iran, you’ll realize that your excitement about finally being there is not one-sided: the Iranians are equally excited about your visit. They’re aware of the distorted image the western media has created of their country and are pleased that you didn’t believe the negative news and decided to come. They’re eager to show you that they haven’t bought their government’s propaganda about westerners by showing the best of their culture. In the era of mass tourism and jaded locals, who are often just after the tourists’ money, such mutual excitement is a rare situation, to say the least.

If you’re still thinking about the headlines of tourists arrested in Iran, go check and you’ll find out that they had always done something like hiking too close to a border to arouse the officials’ suspicion. My advice: don’t be afraid, but be smart and don’t take unnecessary risks by acting rebellious. Iranian people and the culture are friendly and overwhelmingly welcoming, but the fact is that the hard-liners run the country. Don’t give them an excuse to make you into an example and they won’t. Go see the sites, sip coffee and watch the crowds, eat your way around the country and most importantly meet the people, many of whom don’t agree with the government’s views any more than you do.

If any destination, Iran and its people deserve that visit and support. As much as the fear-mongering media deserves to be proven wrong. More like this: I traveled to iran as a solo woman. Here are the myths I found that seriously need debunking

Skúli Mogensen of WOW Air spends a lot of time in the sky. Here is where he likes to go, and what he brings.
The leaders of TripAdvisor and American Airlines are among those critical of the order related to seven predominantly Muslim countries. Tour operators hope Iran trips will continue.
After President Trump’s travel ban was announced, uncertainty about visas for Americans who want to visit Iran has led operators to cancel trips.

America is my home. When I chose to become a U.S. citizen 20 years ago, I swore to protect it from enemies, foreign and domestic, and I take this oath very seriously. If refugees posed a credible threat, would I vehemently oppose their entry into the U.S.? Absolutely. But there is no evidence suggesting that refugees are, or will be, a threat to America. These refugees are escaping terror, and the robust vetting process protecting our borders ensures that this is the case. Yet many of my fellow Americans support a Muslim ban.

I am a refugee from one of these banned countries. This is my story.

***

I was a rebellious teen. What set me apart from millions of other rebellious teenagers around the world was that my acts of rebellion could have gotten me executed.

I had all but forgotten what freedom was like, even though deep in my belly I knew this wasn’t right.

That’s because I was a 13-year-old in post-revolution Iran, where the laws deemed any sort of opposition as an act of treason. And not any kind of treason. It was treason against God and therefore punishable by death. Acts of treason included, but were not limited to: playing chess or cards, listening to unapproved music, fraternizing with a person of the opposite sex to whom you were not related, women displaying unapproved body parts such as hair, possessing contraband literature, and expressing any negative opinions about any of the above.

I was guilty of a number of these infractions, but most were committed in the privacy of my home, which was only raided once. I had lived under these laws since I was 6, and I had all but forgotten what freedom was like, even though deep in my belly I knew this wasn’t right.

My resistance began when I was 7, founded on a fierce belief in equal rights. The new law had me cover my hair, while boys could dress as they pleased. I defied this law by pretending to be a boy from time to time — until people began recognizing me in public, and I had to stop.

So I engaged in secret deeds of defiance that would have given my parents a heart attack if they were privy to them. While every morning at school, I was forced to chant “Death to America,” in the darkness of the night I snuck out and wrote these words on my neighbors’ walls: “Death to Khomeini. Death to the Dictator.” The messages stood in stark contrast to the pro-regime graffiti that covered walls at the time. I would write on every clean space I could find; when the owners of the houses would paint over the blasphemous writing, I would rewrite the same messages the following night.

Soon after the revolution, my sister’s classmate was arrested and executed without trial, which was not uncommon. She was 16. At the time, half of my sister’s classmates were in prison for normal activities like possessing anti-revolutionary literature and expressing defiant views, now a crime under the new rule of law. Sometime later, my dad ran into the slain girl’s father and asked why she was executed. The man had shaken his head; “they never told us.”

Clearly capital punishment wasn’t a deterrent, as I continued my illicit activities while my parents were sleeping. Perhaps I was depressed over an unending war that had my people in a perpetual state of mourning. Or I just could no longer carry the mountain of everyday restrictions on my shoulders. Death was one answer. The other was to escape the nightmare of Iran and flee to America. But that was as lofty a prospect as winning the lottery.

***

I knew my history. I knew that once upon a time we had a fledgling yet thriving democracy in Iran. Iranian oil was nationalized, and my mother recalls purchasing oil stocks as a teenager. But the British, with the help of the CIA, deposed our democratic leader, so they could continue enjoying access to our cheap oil. The ramifications of this coup d’état led to the mistrust of the U.S.-backed Shah and eventually prompted the Iranian revolution. Even so, I couldn’t find too much fault with a country that produced Michael Jackson and Madonna.

More than anything, I wanted to move to America.

When I was 14, my mother wrote a poem about India’s Independence Day, and when the Indian ambassador took a liking to it, we got a visa to go to India. From there, I was eventually able to obtain a U.S. visa. I landed in Las Cruces, New Mexico with my parents, who then left to return home to Iran to be with my sister. Being completely out of my element in America was like a twisted anthropological experiment.

I was thrilled to be in America, but every time I thought of Iran, a deep saudade brought tears to my eyes. Eventually, I settled in to my home — and all the daily restrictions I was so accustomed to gradually disappeared. Trauma has a way of taking one’s voice away. It took a long while to get used to the freedom of speech. I found myself astounded that people could openly criticize the President without retribution. The Constitution protected my rights, and most people I knew respected the law rather than feared it. My new home certainly wasn’t free of problems, but I continually saw how people stood up for the oppressed and tried to make laws more just. It was hard not to fall in love with America.

***

When anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiments began spreading last year, I became concerned. Then a parent at the pick-up area of my son’s multi-cultural elementary school exclaimed, “When Trump becomes President, all you immigrants will be deported!” Something broke loose inside me. This was my home, and the only home my child has known, yet I was viewed as the “other.”

It was hard not to fall in love with America.

This time, I had my voice. I began speaking out. Through this activism I met a woman from the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It turns out that we spent our childhood growing up on opposite sides of the Iran-Iraq war. As we got to know one another, we realized that our experiences from that time bore striking similarities.

I remember being 7 years old, doing homework in the darkness of our basement as the earth shook from Iraqi bombs. She recalls being 14 in another basement fearing that she might die by an incoming Iranian missile. This war lasted eight years and claimed more than a million lives. We both recall the brutal loss of our family and friends.

Like the last scene of The Usual Suspects where the detective is putting together the clues, I connected the dots: My family members who had been drafted by the Iranian army were quite possibly responsible for the death of my new friend’s family — and vice versa. The U.S. was selling weapons to both Iran and Iraq during that war. In 1988, Saddam turned his chemical weapons against his own people in Kurdistan. He was supported militarily and politically by the U.S. and other Western countries. In 2003, Iraq was invaded by the US. Now, along with more than a million fellow Iranians and Iraqis, my Iraqi friend and I live in America.

To add irony to the present predicament, my Iraqi friend first took refuge in Syria before migrating to the U.S. Now she is helping Syrian refugees settle in the U.S. Both of our families and those of the Syrians are now subject to the Muslim ban.

***

I call America home. I take my oath to protect it seriously. And while the fate of refugees hangs in the balance of a fierce legal battle, I am compelled to reflect on my past. In Iran, it took only a matter of months to cut women’s rights in half, jail journalists, target people of a certain religion, become involved in a deadly war, and label dissidents as terrorists. The Iranian government cited security to trump freedom and rights, and its supporters followed along without questioning the new laws.

Under those new laws, for participating in even the most minor of infractions, I most likely would have died or been imprisoned if America hadn’t welcomed me. Girls were imprisoned, raped, and killed for showing hair or talking to a boy; boys were killed for possessing anti-revolutionary pamphlets or hashish.

***

In the early days post-revolution, we knew something was wrong when numerous fatwas were issued to brutalize us and do away with our civil rights. But consider what a fatwa is: It’s an executive order, unhindered by checks and balances, issued by a supreme leader. Our American democratic ideals and rights guaranteed by the Constitution are being undermined right now.

There are enemies I must protect America from. And they’re not the refugees.

This story originally appeared on The Establishment and is republished here with permission.

More like this: This was my experience visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq

It’s not an exaggeration to say that my life was likely saved by a poem.

During the Iran-Iraq war, when Iran was an unofficial “banned nation,” an unspoken agreement among countries of the world slammed the door in the face of Iranian refugees. My mother, along with her visa request to India, wrote a poem about India’s Independence Day. The Indian ambassador took a liking to the poem and granted us a visa to India, where we could secure a meeting with the American embassy.

This is how America became my home.

It was not the first time poetry played a role of deep significance in my life. I come from a culture in which Persian poetry is as much a part of a person as her very heartbeat. In Iran, we use poetry not just at weddings, but in conversations and in welcoming sorrow and despair. Children begin studying poetry in first grade and continue until the end of high school. You hear poetry in conversations in remote villages, as well as at bustling modern offices. In the popular competition moshaereh, one uses the last letter of the selected rhymed verse to begin the next verse.

***

During the terror-filled cacophonous moments of the Iran-Iraq war, we saw poetry as a window to a world filled with beauty and justice.

In the wartime blackouts, when the threat of scud missiles filled the air, we would descend to our basement. We’d take with us a shovel, in case our house was struck by the lottery of destruction and we needed to dig ourselves out of the rubble, and a transistor radio, to alert us when the air raids were over. And we lit candles — not only so I could do homework, but in order to set the proper mood for the poetry contest that glued us to the radio. While trying to come up with the second verse for a poem line announced by the radio host, our fear of death gave way to excitement and our world became not only sane, but fun.

Poems run in my blood and have been with me in the most crucial moments of my life. And now, as the U.S. ramps up its aggression against Iran, I have no choice but to examine my love for both countries through the multi-faceted kaleidoscope of Persian poetry.

Our current administration has made war with Iran seem like a real possibility. In addition to putting Iran on its Muslim ban list, Trump controversially proposed naming Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp a terrorist organization, and it’s been said that new Defense Secretary James Mattis has a “fixation on Iran.” Meanwhile, democratic Senator Alcee Hastings just introduced a bill helping Trump wage war against the country.

This hunger for battle is rooted in the idea that Iranians are, collectively, our enemy — a belief espoused, ironically, by many commenters on a recent piece I wrote about the dehumanizing Muslim ban.

Iranian director Asghar Fardhadi, who won an Oscar for his film The Salesman, emphasized the dangers of this line of thinking in his acceptance speech read by Iranian-American astronaut Anousheh Ansari on Sunday. Declaring that he did not attend the ceremony because of the Muslim ban, he pointed out that:

dividing the world into the ‘us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war. These wars prevent democracy and human rights in countries which have themselves been victims of aggression.

As hatred, fear, the threat of war escalate, I turn — as I did those days in the basement, missiles overhead — to Persian poetry.

Do not fixate on a fault, less your eyes of wisdom become closed to goodness — Saadi

Certainly, Iran has its problems. I long for a day where the people of Iran can openly criticize their government and women are free to dress as they wish. But Iran is also full of surprises, and Iranians have many gifts to share with the rest of the world.

More than 60% of Iranians are under 30, and largely as a result of this creative and youthful energy, the arts are flourishing and entrepreneurs are emerging. Imagine being a filmmaker and not being allowed to show romance, politics, and anything that the government sees as too controversial. And yet, year after year, Iranian movies end up at prestigious international film festivals and lauded at award ceremonies (the Oscar just won by Farhadi was his second).

We must also challenge the myth of the bridled, uneducated Iranian woman. Despite oppressive laws, women recently outnumbered men two to one in universities, prompting the government to install a quota so men could catch up. Even so, women’s numbers are still higher than men at universities. Iran even produced a female Nobel peace laureate, the human rights lawyer and activist, Shirin Ebadi.

***

As for Iran being a ISIS-allied hostile force?

Actually, ISIS hates Iranians. The majority of Iranians are Shiite, and ISIS has been killing the Shiites as part of their holy war. The Iranian government has also been actively fighting ISIS.

***

“If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, break yourself, not the mirror” — Nezami

I’m reminded of this poem verse when I think of those who beat war drums by painting a nation of 80 million people simply as an extended terrorist organization. First let me remind you that there have been zero attacks committed by Iranians in the U.S. Secondly, if we peer into the same mirror we hold up for Iran, we can easily see how our own policies and acts of violence in the U.S. have resulted in death and terror around the world. The freshest example of this is the botched Yemeni raid that killed up to 30 civilians, including an 8-year-old U.S. citizen.

The drone attacks, which by international law are illegal, have been used for the past 15 years, claiming thousands of lives, many of which were civilian. In fact, one report shows that during one five-month period, 90% of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. To bring this closer to home, imagine if rather than working with local authorities, drones targeted the residential area where the Boston Bombers hid.

***

I oppose the use of drones as the loss of civilian lives hurts our efforts to curb terrorism. When innocent people are killed, the aims of terrorism are furthered, no matter the perpetrator.

Make no mistake, this is not just a list of faults, as I know America is much more than some of its more unfortunate policies. This is about using the mirror to look at ourselves accurately. It’s about believing that staying well-informed is, in fact, our democratic responsibility to this wonderful country. It’s about having the agency to challenge our leaders’ policies when they don’t reflect our deepest values.

Forgive the wars among seventy two nations. Unwilling to see the truth, they were led by fantasies — Hafez

Believing alternative facts has long provided the foundation for war. The Iraq war was based on several lies, resulting in over 200,000 Iraqi and over 4,000 American deaths. And while we continue to hold bake sales at our schools due to funding cuts in education, this war has cost us way over $2 trillion and helped create ISIS. Another heartbreaking and unintended consequence of this war shows up in the 22 servicemen committing suicide every day.

In the coming days, you might see plenty of alternative facts pointing to an imminent threat to American security and an urgent reason for a preemptive attack against Iran. This will certainly benefit certain sectors as well as an administration desperate to find enemies to distract from its dysfunctions. But as people of America, all we have to do is look at the real cost of war in Iraq and say no.

If you have an opinion about Iran, I encourage you to please learn about its people. If you don’t agree with the Iranian government, consider how their policies are not in keeping with the will of its 80 million inhabitants, real people just like you, except that they don’t have the freedom to question their government.

***

In America, we can fight back against a fascist government — and as part of our patriotic duty, we must. Please consider how America’s interventionist policies will impact both Iranians and Americans, and how we can behoove our leaders to make the right choices.

Instead of viewing Iranians as others to be feared, go meet actual Iranians — and then pressure your representatives to curtail presidential powers to go to war. Because, my dear fellow American, most Iranians will invite you to their home, recite a poem, and treat you to a delightful meal. And if you compliment their handmade Persian rug, they will say, “It’s yours.”

This story originally appeared on The Establishment and is republished here with permission.

More like this: I’m a refugee from a banned country — This is my American story

Kristina Paltén, A woman and a runner, took an incredible 1144-mile journey from Turkey to Turkmenistan to fight the prejudice against Muslims currently rampant in Europe and in her home country of Sweden. Although the first kilometer was filled with fear, the kindness of the Iranians she met during her two-month adventure proved her right.

For more about Kristina’s journey, check out Alone Through Iran’s Facebook page. More like this: 33 iconic photos of people standing up to injustice

Lonely Planet Iran (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Iran is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Experience the lavishly decorated Ali Qapu Palace, explore the covered bazaars of Yazd, or try a variety of Iranian kababs; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Iran and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Iran Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including customs, history, art, literature, poetry, cinema, music, architecture, politics, wildlife, and cuisine Over 48 local maps Useful features - including Month-by-Month (annual festival calendar), Visas & Planning, and Travelling in Iran Coverage of Tehran, Kashan, Esfahan, YazdShiraz, Qeshm Island, Garmeh, Mashhad, Masuleh, Tabriz, Soltaniyeh, Bisotun, Choqa Zanbil, Gorgan, Semnan, Damghan, Chalus, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Iran, our most comprehensive guide to Iran, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Middle East guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Andrew Burke, Virginia Maxwell, and Iain Shearer.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travellers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

Hooman Majd

Including a new preface that discusses the Iranian mood during and after the June 2009 presidential election and subsequent protests, this is an intimate look at a paradoxical country from a uniquely qualified journalist.   The grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, Hooman Majd offers perspective on Iran's complex and misunderstood culture through an insightful tour of Iranian culture, introducing fascinating characters from all walks of life, including zealous government officials, tough female cab drivers, and open-minded, reformist ayatollahs. It's an Iran that will surprise readers and challenge Western stereotypes.    A Los Angeles Times and Economist Best Book of the Year With a New Preface

Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

Najmieh Batmanglij

Completely redesigned for today's generation of cooks and food enthusiasts, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij provides a treasure trove of recipes, along with an immersive cultural experience for those seeking to understand this ancient and timeless cuisine. This edition is a more user-friendly edition of the award-winning and critically acclaimed cookbook series which began in 1986. Food of Life provides 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes as well as an introduction to Persian art, history, and culture. The book's hundreds of full color photographs are intertwined with descriptions of ancient and modern Persian ceremonies, poetry, folktales, travelogue excerpts and anecdotes. The 2011 Edition of Food of Life is a labor of love. The book began in exile after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as a love letter to Batmanglij's children. Today, as accomplished adults in their own fields, her two sons, Zal and Rostam, encouraged her to redesign the book for their generation.

Food of Life propels Persian cooking into the 21st Century, even as it honors venerable traditions and centuries of artistic expression. It is the result of 30 years of collecting, testing and adapting authentic and traditional Persian recipes for the American kitchen. Most of its ingredients are readily available throughout the U.S. enabling anyone from a master chef to a novice to reproduce the refined tastes, textures, and beauty of Persian cuisine. Food-related pieces from such classics as the 10th century Book of Kings, and 1,001 Nights to the miniatures of Mir Mosavvar and Aq Mirak, from the poetry of Omar Khayyam and Sohrab Sepehri to the humor of Mulla Nasruddin are all included. Each recipe is presented with steps that are logical and easy to follow. Readers learn how to simply yet deliciously cook rice, the jewel of Persian cooking, which, when combined with a little meat, fowl, or fish, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, provides the perfect balanced diet.

ABOUT THE BOOK'S TITLE Food of Life, the title of the book, comes from the Persian words nush-e jan, literally "food of life"--a traditional wish in Iran that a dish will be enjoyed. For the updated 1993 edition the title was changed to New Food of Life. Now, for the 25th anniversary edition the title returns to its original name, Food of Life.

The full-color Food of Life 25th Anniversary Edition contains 50% more pages than its 2009 predecessor and special added features: *New Recipes adapted from Sixteenth-Century Persian cookbooks *Added vegetarian section for most recipes *Comprehensive dictionary of all ingredients *A glance at a few thousand years of the history of Persian Cooking *Master recipes with photos illustrating the steps. *Color photos of most recipes with tips on presentation *Updated section on Persian stores and Internet suppliers *Fahrenheit and Centigrade temperatures for all recipes *Choices for cooking recipes such as kuku in oven or on stovetop. *Encourages use of seasonal and local ingredients from farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) sources or one's own backyard

Iran - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Stuart Williams

Iran is rarely out of the headlines, and there is likely to be a rush of interest from tourists and investors if the provisional framework agreement reached in April 2015 is implemented, lifting most sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program for at least ten years. Western fascination with Iran is nothing new. For centuries, foreigners have been entranced by a country that is quite distinct from all others in the region. Iran is home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. Travelers have long been seduced by the echoes of the extraordinary ancient history contained in the word “Persia.” But Iran is also a modern society that is experiencing great change. Although it is still feeling the effects of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, social restrictions have loosened considerably in recent years. Strict Islamic rules coexist with an increasingly dynamic society driven by an overwhelmingly young population. Animosity toward the West at a political level sits side-by-side with a wholehearted welcome for foreigners as individuals. Culture Smart! Iran takes you beyond the clichés to show how life in Iran really is and how you can feel comfortable in its society. It offers insights into a country full of surprises. Despite Iran’s deep commitment to Islam, the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian past is still part of everyday culture. Its language, Farsi, shares linguistic roots with English and French. It is a country where one of the more genuine democracies in the Middle East is overlaid by an unelected theocracy. And where “no thank you” really does sometimes mean “yes please.” If nothing else, this entrancing, beautiful, and sometimes infuriating place is a country whose inhabitants genuinely wish visitors Khosh amadi!—Welcome!

Land of the Turquoise Mountains: Journeys Across Iran

Cyrus Massoudi

For Cyrus Massoudi, a young British-born Iranian, the country his parents were forced to flee thirty years ago was a place wholly unknown to him. Wanting to make sense of his roots and piece together the divided, divisive, and deeply contradictory puzzle that is contemporary Iran, he embarked on a series of journeys that spanned hundreds of miles and thousands of years through the many ebbs and flows of Iranian history. From the border with Turkey to that of Turkmenistan, from the Caspian basin down to the Persian Gulf, his journeys took him from the mythological first kings of Iran, to the Elamite kingdom, the eras of Cyrus and Darius, the glory of the Sasanians, the shock of the Islamic Arab conquests and the later Mongols, Safavids, and on to Khomeini, Ahmadinejad, and beyond. Rich portrayals of Sufis and ageing aristocrats, smugglers, and underground rock bands are all woven together with history, religion, and mythology to form a unique portrait of contemporary Iranian society. And, like a fragile thread running through the heart of the narrative lies Massoudi's poignant personal quest; his struggle echoing that of Iran itself, as it fights to forge a cohesive modern identity. With its tensions of young against old, reformists against reactionaries, and the computer against the Qur'an, it is a battle with global implications for a future that is poised so precariously between promise and ruin. Land of the Turquoise Mountains reveals a world beyond the propaganda-driven, media fuelled image of fractious, flag-burning fundamentalism, and provides a compelling glimpse into the heart of a deeply misunderstood nation and into what it is to seek out and discover one's heritage

Iran (Bradt Travel Guide Iran)

Hilary Smith

Now into its fifth edition, Bradt's Iran continues to provide the most detailed background, history and cultural information available when visiting this ‘Jewel of Central Asia'. This new edition has been thoroughly reviewed to provide all the latest information, from updated history and cultural developments to security, language and hotel prices, plus expanded practical information for independent travellers. Food and arts, rugs and handicrafts are all covered, plus new details of skiing in Iran and recommended Iranian movies. For outdoor enthusiasts, swimming and desert and eco-tours are also included. With new direct flights to Iran now available from Europe, and a warm-hearted and welcoming people eager to meet tourists, visiting this intriguing country has never been easier.

Iran's cities are packed with gilded mosques and blue-mosaic shrines built in honour of the country's greatest leaders. Its people are generous and its terrain ranges from the sands of the Persian Gulf to the Alborz Mountains in the north. The expert authors give first-hand descriptions of attractions ranging from the exquisite mosques of Esfahan and the museums and palaces of Tehran to remote, spectacular mountain hikes. New maps and up-to-date information on all the basics - hotels, restaurants, businesses and shops - help you to uncover the mysteries of ancient Persepolis, to enjoy a soak and scrub in a local hamam, or to pick up a pair of giveh slippers or a Persian rug in Kirman's bazaar.

Thoroughly updated, this new edition also includes new details of ‘Around Tehran', caravanserai, Nishapur, Qaleh Rudkhan and Kurdish villages on the Silk Road Trail, plus new maps of the historic bazaars of Esfahan, YazdKerman and Shiraz. It has been updated by Middle East expert Maria Oleynik, who is fluent in ten languages, including Persian and Arabic

The Temporary Bride: A Memoir of Love and Food in Iran

Jennifer Klinec

For fans of Reading Lolita in Tehran, a true story of forbidden love set against the rich cultural and political backdrop of modern-day Iran.Jennifer Klinec is fearless. In her thirties, she abandons her bland corporate job to launch a cooking school from her London apartment and travel the world in search of delicious recipes and obscure culinary traditions. Her journey takes her to Iran, where she seeks out a local woman to learn the secrets of Persian cuisine. Vahid is suspicious of the strange foreigner who turns up in his mother's kitchen. Unused to such a bold and independent woman, he is frustrated to find himself, the prized only son of the house, largely ignored for the first time. But when the two are thrown together on an unexpected adventure, they discover a mutual attraction that draws them irresistibly toward each other--but also pits them against harsh Iranian laws and customs, which soon threaten to tear the unlikely lovers apart. Getting under the skin of one of the most complex and fascinating nations on earth, THE TEMPORARY BRIDE is a soaring, intricately woven story of being loved, being fed, and struggling to belong. *Includes Reading Group Guide*

Amazing Pictures and Facts About Iran: The Most Amazing Fact Book for Kids About Iran (Kid's U)

Mina Kelly

Kid’s U presents… Iran- Amazing Pictures and Facts About Iran. Have your children ever wondered where Iran is located? What language do they speak? What types of food are popular in Iran?

In this book you will explore the wonders of Iran, finding the answers to these questions and so many more. Complete with incredible pictures to keep even the youngest of children captivated, you will all embark on a little journey into the great unknown.

In school our children aren’t taught in a way that makes them curious and want to learn. I want to change that!

This book will show your children just how interesting the world is and help ignite a passion for learning. Your children will learn how to: Become curious about the world around them. Find motivation to learn. Use their free time to discover more about the world-and have fun while doing so! And much more! Table of Contents Introduction Chapter 1- What is the Official Name of Iran? Chapter 2- What is the Geography Like in Iran? Chapter 3- Where is Iran Located? Chapter 4- How Big is Iran? Chapter 5- What is the Climate Like in Iran? Chapter 6- Are There Animals in Iran? Chapter 7- What is the Flag of Iran Like? Chapter 8- What is the Capital of Iran? Chapter 9- How Many People Live in Iran? Chapter 10- What is the Currency of Iran? Chapter 11- What is the Highest Peak of Iran Called? Chapter 12- What do People Eat in Iran? Chapter 13- What is the Government of Iran Called? Chapter 14- What is the Main Religion in Iran? Chapter 15-What are the Main Exports of Iran? Chapter 16- What is the Most Popular Sport in Iran? Chapter 17- What Types of Plants and Trees are in Iran? Chapter 18- What is the Average Life Expectancy of the Iranian People? Chapter 19- What is the Official Language of Iran? Chapter 20- What is the Longest River in Iran Called?

AVOID ALL TRAVEL

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The Government of Canada takes the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provides credible and timely information in its Travel Advice. In the event of a crisis situation that requires evacuation, the Government of Canada’s policy is to provide safe transportation to the closest safe location. The Government of Canada will assist you in leaving a country or a region as a last resort, when all means of commercial or personal transportation have been exhausted. This service is provided on a cost-recovery basis. Onward travel is at your personal expense. Situations vary from one location to another, and there may be constraints on government resources that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide assistance, particularly in countries or regions where the potential for violent conflict or political instability is high.

Terrorism 

Heightened tensions throughout the region, together with increased threats globally from terrorism, may put you at greater risk. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times as the security situation could deteriorate rapidly and without notice. 

Crime 

Violent crime affecting both Iranians and foreigners has increased. Petty theft occurs. Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure, and carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times. 

Watch for fraudulent plainclothes police officers who may ask to see foreign currency and passports. If you are approached, politely decline to cooperate but offer to go to the nearest police station. 

Demonstrations 

Political demonstrations and gatherings occur. On several occasions, demonstrations resulted in violent clashes. People near demonstrations have been assaulted and deaths have been reported. Further incidents of political unrest may occur with little warning. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities, and monitor local media. 

Women's safety 

Numerous cases have been reported of a Canadian or dual-citizen woman being stranded in Iran or mistreated by her Iranian husband or a male member of her family. Women in difficulty should know that the Government of Canada cannot intervene in family matters.

There have been reports of physical and verbal harassment of women. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women. 

Border areas

The regions of Sistan and Baluchestan (bordering Pakistan) are regularly affected by ethnic conflicts and there have been a number of kidnappings involving foreign tourists. Terrorist attacks may also occur in these regions.

Bandits in border areas with Afghanistan and Pakistan are usually involved in drug trafficking and use kidnapping operations to secure the release of group members from prison.

The region of Khuzestan (bordering Iraq) is regularly affected by ethnic conflicts and there have been a number of kidnappings involving foreign tourists.

The borders with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are open only to citizens of those countries. Foreigners travelling in sensitive border areas (Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, Kurdistan, and Baluchistan) often attract the attention of local security forces, which can result in short periods of detention.

If you decide to travel overland to Pakistan and Afghanistan despite this warning, travel only on main roads and in official parties, and avoid travelling after dark.

Travel to Iraq

The border with Iraq is usually closed. It can be opened on a case-by-case basis to allow the passage of certain foreigners or to allow refugees access to containment camps located on the Iranian side of the border.

Before undertaking any trip to Iraq, read our Travel advisory for Iraq.

Road travel 

Road conditions are good in cities, and the highway system is relatively well developed. Hire cars with a driver familiar with local conditions as driving standards are poor. Driving at night can be dangerous as streets are poorly lit and some motorists drive without headlights. Motorists routinely ignore traffic lights, traffic signs and lane markers, and almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks. 

In the event of a car accident, remain at the scene until authorities have made an official report. 

The use of four-wheel-drive vehicles is not recommended due to the high risk of theft.

Hire only official taxis from agencies or hotel-based companies, and always pre-negotiate the fare. Most taxis do not have meters, and foreigners are often overcharged. 

Sidewalks on main roads in urban areas may be obstructed by cars. Sidewalks are rare in residential areas. 

Rail travel 

Trains are comfortable and punctual, but service is limited and slow. 

Sea travel 

The waters around the islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs in the southern Persian Gulf are politically sensitive and patrolled by the military. Foreigners navigating Iranian waters have been arrested and detained in the past. 

Air travel

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General safety information 

Carry identification with you at all times. Leave a photocopy of your travel documents with a relative or a friend at home. 

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Polio

There is a risk of polio in this country. Be sure that your vaccination against polio is up-to-date.

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Western Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Western Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Western Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, Rift Valley fever, and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that typically causes fever, bleeding under the skin, and pain. Risk is generally low for most travellers. It is spread to humans though contact with infected animal blood or bodily fluids, or from a tick bite. Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals. There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Leishmaniasis, cutaneous and mucosal

Cutaneous and mucosal leishmaniasis causes skin sores and ulcers. It is caused by a parasite spread through the bite of a female sandfly. Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from sandfly bites, which typically occur after sunset in rural and forested areas and in some urban centres. There is no vaccine available for leishmaniasis.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Certain infections found in some areas in Western Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

The quality of medical care varies and is generally not up to Canadians standards. Major hotels frequented by foreigners have access to English-speaking doctors. 

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Iran is under strict international and Canadian sanctions. While these sanctions do not prohibit travel to Iran, they could be relevant to your travel.

Residents must possess an Iranian driver's licence in order to drive. Non-residents require an International Driving Permit

The work week is from Saturday to Thursday. However, many private companies and government offices are closed on Thursday. 

Illegal or restricted activities 

Possession, use or trafficking of drugs and alcohol is forbidden. Convicted offenders can expect very severe penalties, including capital punishment. 

People who challenge the Islamic faith or attempt to convert Muslims to another religion may be condemned to death. 

Avoid public displays of affection between two people of the opposite sex, especially between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman. 

Those who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage are subject to severe penalties, including death. 

Homosexual activity is a criminal offence. Those convicted may be sentenced to lashing, a prison sentence, and/or death. 

Magazines and DVDs with sexual or explicit content are forbidden. 

Photography of government and military installations—such as ports and airports and their surroundings—is strictly prohibited. Such sites are not always identifiable. Refrain from taking pictures whenever you are not at a recognized tourist site. When in doubt, ask for permission. 

Playing music loudly in public, including in cars, is prohibited by law.

Religion 

Iran is an Islamic theocratic republic. A conservative interpretation of Islamic practices and beliefs is closely adhered to in the country's customs, laws, and regulations. Dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities. Men should not wear shorts, and women should cover their head with a scarf and cover their arms and legs. 

Former Muslims who have converted to other religions have been subject to arrest and prosecution.

Dual citizenship - Military service 

Male Iranian citizens aged 18-34 are required to perform military service, unless exempt. This requirement also applies to Iranian-Canadians, even those born in Canada. Iranian-Canadians who have turned 17 years of age will not be allowed to leave Iran without first having completed their military service.

Marriage and divorce 

The Government of Canada can provide only very limited assistance if a Canadian woman married to an Iranian man has marital difficulties and/or encounters difficulties leaving Iran. 

Canadian women married to Iranian nationals who register their marriage with the Iranian authorities automatically become Iranian citizens and are deemed to be Iranian citizens according to Iranian law, even if they travel to Iran on a Canadian passport with an Iranian visa. Iranian immigration authorities often impound Canadian passports, particularly those of women who intend to reside in Iran. Women who are considered to be Iranian by marriage must have their husband's permission to travel and to leave Iran, even if they intend to use their Canadian passport. 

Iranian women married to Iranian nationals and divorced in Canada need to have their divorce certificate issued in Canada authenticated by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa. The divorce certificate must then be sanctioned by a court of justice in Iran in order to be valid under Iranian law. 

Iranian women married to Iranian nationals in Iran and divorced in Canada cannot use their Canadian divorce certificate for official purposes in Iran unless it is first authenticated by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in Ottawa and properly sanctioned in Iran by a court of justice. A Canadian divorce certificate that is not sanctioned by an Iranian court would automatically be void in Iran, meaning that the divorce would not be recognized under Iranian law. Therefore, in Iran, an Iranian woman would still be considered to be married to her husband. 

In order to avoid any difficulties in Iran related to a Canadian divorce, women should consult both a Canadian and an Iranian lawyer before travelling to Iran. 

For more information, consult our Marriage Overseas FAQ and our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide.

Custody of children 

Under Iranian law, children of divorced parents—even if they were born in Canada—are under the sole custody of their father, regardless of what a Canadian court may decide. Therefore, if such children are travelling with their mother in Iran, they may encounter great difficulty in returning to Canada. Women in such situations should consult both a Canadian and an Iranian lawyer before travelling to Iran. 

In the case of divorce or of the husband’s death, an Iranian man’s foreign-born wife may renounce her Iranian citizenship. However, the couple’s children will irrevocably be Iranian citizens, and will have to enter and leave Iran with an Iranian passport. 

Guardianship of children under the age of seven usually goes to the mother and is automatically transferred to the father when the child turns seven. In rare cases, Iranian courts may grant legal custody to the paternal grandfather or to the mother if a court determines that the father is unsuitable to raise his children. Women can only gain custody under these circumstances if they hold Iranian citizenship and are residents of Iran. 

Even if a woman is granted custody of her children, children under the age of 18 still need permission from their paternal grandfather or the court to leave the country. Such permission is also required for other activities involving legal decisions, such as applying for a passport.

Canadian children of Iranian fathers 

Canadian children whose father is an Iranian national face difficulties while in Iran. Under Iranian law, children of a male Iranian national, including Canadian-Iranian nationals, are in the sole custody of their father. Children require their father's permission to leave Iran.

Iran is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Money 

The currency is the Iranian rial (IRR). The economy is exclusively cash-based. Credit cards and traveller's cheques are not accepted in Iran. Automated banking machines exist only for local banking by Iranians. Bring sufficient cash, preferably in U.S. dollars, to cover all expenses. Only crisp U.S. banknotes are accepted.

Climate

Iran is located in an active seismic area. Be aware of appropriate steps to take in case of an earthquake. 

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit western Iran near the city of Bushehr on April 9, and another measuring 5.7 struck the same region on November 28, 2013. Both caused casualties. On April 16, 2013, an earthquake measuring 7.8, struck a sparsely populated area near Khash, close to the Pakistani border. Transportation, health and telecommunications services may be affected, and land travel could be disrupted. Monitor local news reports, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

Dust storms and sand storms may occur in some areas.