Things to know before travel to Iran
The truth is travelling in Iran definitely has its quirks, and being an Islamic country means there are a few things you need to know about the religion and culture before you go so you can show absolute respect.
Luckily these are easy enough to know before you go if you do a bit of research. We spent one month travelling around Iran and learnt so much during our time there.
To help put your mind at ease about travelling in this incredible country, here’s our list of the most important things to know before you visit Iran.
YOU NEED A VISA FOR IRAN
In order to visit Iran, you’re going to need to get a tourist visa. This used to be a very difficult process, but luckily things have gotten easier with the introduction of visa on arrivals in 2016.
On the 14th February 2016, the Ministry of Iran announced that citizens of 180 countries can now apply for VOA of 30-days at most international airports, including Tehran, Shiraz, Mashad, Tabriz and Isfahan.
There’s an exception to this rule though, and if you are from Canada, the UK or the USA, we have some bad news for you…You can only visit Iran if you join a guided tour, so no chance of getting a VOA and travelling independently. We will help organise your visa for you.
Dress Code in Iran
Women need to cover their arms, legs and head. This including a Hijab, loose long length shirt with long sleeves and pants. Have a headscarf in your carry-on luggage before arrival.
The most common way to cover your head is with a scarf. The local women wear bright colours and are very stylish with their clothing, so don’t think you need to wear all black.
You can wear sandals. Some guesthouses and hostels will allow you to take your headscarf off on their premises but do check first.
Men aren’t allowed to wear shorts in public, so bring long, lightweight pants as the best option. T-shirts are fine to wear in public. Men can wear sandals too. All tourists are subject to these customs.
Religious Etiquette in Iran
In order to visit a mosque or any holy shrine in Iran, women should wear a chador before entering the place. There is usually a kiosk at the entrance gate where you can rent one.
Men are expected to wear long-sleeved shirts when visiting a mosque or holy shrine. please note that you have to take off your shoes before entering a prayer area of a mosque.
please note that you have to take off your shoes before entering a prayer area of a mosque.
Alcohol is illegal in Iran
Even though wine has played an important role in Persian culture and literature throughout history since the establishment of the Islamic republic government in 1979 alcohol has been banned in the country. You are also not allowed to bring alcohol with you to the country.
Therefore, it cannot be served in hotels, restaurants, and cafes. So if you are looking for bars in Iran, we’re sorry to let you down. Instead of traditional Iranian drinks, such as Sharbat, dough, and different types of herbal tea which are so refreshing.
International Credit Cards – no Visa or Mastercard
The currency has tow names. Toman or Rial? Get used to asking that question, because if you don’t it could end up being a costly mistake. The currency in Iran is officially known as the Rial and is valued at roughly 100,000 IRL to USD$1. That’s a lot of zeros, so what the locals have started doing is dropping a zero and calling the new value a Toman.
1 Toman = 10 Rial
When you hear prices quoted in Tomans you need to add a zero on the end and pay the amount in Rials. It sounds confusing, but you’ll pick it up pretty quickly.
International Credit Cards like Visa and MasterCard are not accepted in Iran, therefore to make any exchange in the country, you have to bring cash with you.
However, the National Bank of Iran has taken a helpful step to resolve this problem by providing a Tourist Card to help tourists enjoy a safer and easier journey in Iran.
Language – Farsi is the official language of Iran
The majority of the population speaks the Persian (Farsi) language, which is also the official language of the country.
There are also some other dialects spoken by people around Iran. Turkic, Luri, Lari, Kurdish, and Arabic are the languages people speak in a different part of the country.
Armenian, Georgian, and Neo-Aramaic are also minority languages spoken by people.
Telephone services within Iran are efficient and reliable. International calls can be made from public and private phones and fax services are available at most hotels.
Internet access is widespread via Internet cafes and hotels.
National Dialing Code in Iran is 0098.
Mobile (cell phone) services are provided by three different companies in Iran.
You can check their websites to understand their services and tariffs:
Internet and mobile data in Iran
Nowadays, you can access the Internet almost everywhere in Iran with some limitations. Basically, there are three ways to access the internet in Iran.
First of all, you can buy a local Sim Card, so you can have 24 hours access to the Internet.
You can also use free Wi-Fi at Hotels, Café’s, and public centers.
In addition, you can buy a pocket Wi-Fi internet, a portable Wi-Fi hot-spot that gives you access to the internet.
You need a VPN to access some Social Media Platforms (Facebook and Tweeter)
Having access to a number of websites is blocked by the Iranian government. At the time of writing, these included Facebook and Twitter as two major social media platforms.
However, Skype and Instagram are accessible at the time of writing.
In addition to these social media platforms, BBC and most Western news services are also banned in Iran.
To get around blocked websites, you need to a VPN service to freely search on the web. Although it can slow things down considerably, which can be particularly frustrating where the Wi-Fi is already slow.
Don’t travel with your dog
In many countries around the world, dogs are one of the most popular pets. However, according to Islamic rules, having a dog is illegal.
Therefore, the Iranian government made keeping dogs illegal in the country. Therefore, bringing dogs with you to Iran and walking the dogs in public places is forbidden.
Iranians Aren’t Arabs
Due to its location in the Middle East, and citizens who are Muslims, many people think of Ian as an Arabian Country. However, Iran means “land of the Aryans” and is excluded from the list of Arab League Nations in the Middle East and North Africa Region.
Iranians are Persian, the only minority ethnic group in Iran which is Arab, is the people who are living in the southern parts of the county.
The official language in Iran is also Farsi or Persian which is far from the Arabic language.
Iran is safe?
When it comes to safety, Iran is one of the safest places in the world and people are very friendly and helpful wherever you travel according to two recent international reports.
According to the 2019 Travel Risk Map, launched by global risk experts International SOS in collaboration with Control Risks, Iran has been deemed as safe as a majority of European countries when it comes to travel security.
In another report, SafeAround has compiled and analyzed data from several public sources to make a safety index that allows ranking the world’s countries by safety.
In this ranking list, Iran stands at the 95th row, which means that the country is a relatively low-crime one.
In general, Iran is much safer than many from the West might believe. Most people are genuinely friendly and interested to know about you and your country, so leave aside your preconceptions and come with an open mind.
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 center, 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 via 115 for Ambulances and 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). The international number 112 is available from cell phones, and will usually connect you to the Police. Iran has also “Iran Assistance” an insurance company specializing in international medical evacuation.
Unmarried foreign couples can stay in the same hotel room
You may have heard that unmarried Iranian are not allowed to stay in the same room in the hotel in Iran according to the Islamic rules.
However, this rule is not implied for foreign people and unmarried foreign couples can stay in the same hotel room.
The gracious hospitality of Iranians
When it comes to hospitality, generosity and kindness, the people of Iran rank at the top of the list. Iranian people hospitality is famous. To Iranians, hospitality has a much deeper meaning. They like to share part of their existence with you, part of their hearts and they are not satisfied until they fulfil that desire! People from Iran are some of the most genuinely hospitable people you’ve ever met. They never want anything in return, they just want to show you a good time and hope that you’ll spread the word back home that Iran is a safe place to visit.
Like many other people who have the idea of traveling to Iran, you might have heard about Iranian hospitality. So what is especial about Iranian Hospitality that everybody talks about it?
Persian culture is characterized by Taarof (the art of excessive politeness and humility). The art of Taarof has its roots in the Persian tradition of treating your guests better than your own family and the insatiable desire to be the best hosts.
Taarof is best described as a play of words between the offerer and the recipient until one of them agrees. It is an Iranian cultural phenomenon in which you refuse something that is offered to you more out of politeness and not wanting to come across as greedy rather than accepting something even though you want it. As the offerer, you might be offering to give something that might be too expensive to give away just like that or for free.
For instance, if you are invited to a Persian home for a meal, the food is delicious and you have eaten enough yet wouldn’t mind eating some more, Taarof demands that you say no even if your host offers you a second helping. The factors at play here are, your host wanting to be gracious and ensuring you eat more than your fill and you wanting to eat some more without appearing to be a glutton. In such a case you may refuse once but accept when the offer is made a third time so that you don’t appear greedy.
Taarof is a big part of the buying and selling that goes on in stores across Iran, particularly in small shops selling low priced items. When you enquire about the price of a certain product, the shopkeeper will tell you “it is nothing much” instead of quoting a figure. Taarof demands that he say this because while the shopkeeper wants you to buy the goods on offer they must tell you that you are worthy of much more. That is the reason why shopkeepers may say the price is nothing.
Taarof can be quite irritating and frustrating at times, more so if you are not familiar with it. Most people are known to ask their guests not to do Taarof (Taarof Nakonid) when they refuse something.
Taarof brings to life the dilemma of “to be or not to be” and can create sticky situations where hosts can end up feeling insulted if a guest refuses to eat some more leaving the cook mortally wounded. That is precisely why it is an art with Taarof hat one should know where to draw the line and relent.
In general, Iranians are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures. In dealing with Iranians.