Why not Iran? Practical tips and personal impressions.

This blog entry is my contribution to very modest amount of information on Iran from independent travellers. Owing to the series of diplomatic crises, policy of self-isolation and generally negative image of Iran in mass media, this country is unfairly avoided by many travellers. After spending almost three weeks in Iran I can say without any doubt that it was a fantastic adventure. I am happy that I did it and I want to share my experience with other travellers who are preparing their trips or just start considering such idea.

So, we are Sergii and Pavlo, two Ukrainians who have known each other for many years. I currently live in Sweden, Pavlo lives in Germany and we have a tradition to do one backpacking trip every year. This year, as you might guess, we went to Iran. Why Iran? This question is the motto of the whole trip. Firstly your friends and relatives will ask it. Then, once you have arrived in Iran, it will be one of the first questions that locals will ask you. At the beginning I honestly tried to answer this question, mentioning rich history, unique architecture, beatiful nature and so on. At some point of time I got tired of repeating same thing again and again and instead of explaining why I started to ask a counter-question “why not?”. And really, why not? Actually, credit for this counter-question goes to comrade Koohyar, Tehran. Koohyar wants to start a tourist portal promoting Iran as a tourist destination among Iranian and international travellers. I hope you succeed in it, mate!

In this article I discuss the following topics: visa, transport, photography, money, drugs, hygiene, tips on hotels, couchsurfing and cultural aspects. Keep in mind that I share my personal experience so do not expect that everything described here will happen to you. When you go to Iran you will have your own unique experience.

Itinerary
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  • Day 1: Tabriz
  • Day 2: Kandovan + Lake Urmia
  • Day 3: Move to Zanjan + Soltanieh + Dashkasan Temple
  • Day 4: Zanjan + Takht-e Soleyman
  • Day 5: Move to Rasht
  • Day 6: Rasht + Anzali
  • Day 7: Rudkhan castle
  • Day 8: Move to Tehran
  • Day 9: Tehran
  • Day 10: Tehran
  • Day 11: Tehran
  • Day 12: Flight to Kerman + Kerman + The Kaluts desert
  • Day 13: Move to Yazd
  • Day 14: Move to Esfahan
  • Day 15: Esfahan
  • Day 16: Move to Kashan
  • Day 17: Surroundings of Kashan + move to Imam Khomeini Airport
  • Day 18: Finish

I think that 18 days is totally enough for such itinerary. I can not say that any of cities that we visited requires more time. Despite common opinion that one should plan at least three-four days for such cities as Esfahan and Yazd, frankly speaking I do not know what to do there for such a long time. These cities are indeed historical and very important but there not that many attractions to see: main square, several mosques and a couple of gardens and that’s it. However, this is not true for Tehran. Tehran is a huge city with crazy traffic and limited subway coverage, so a lot of time will be spent on travelling between sights you are interested in. And yes, we did not go to Shiraz. A motto of our trip was “Change your plans and go to Shiraz!”. Literally everyone we met said that, but we were stubborn. If the weather was not so unbearably hot we would add additional couple of days to visit Persian Gulf, like Bandar Abbas and Qeshm island but we had to drop that idea.

How to survive Ramazan
The timing was very wrong. We chose probably the worst time possible to go to Iran. June is not only hot but also coincides with Ramadan in 2016. Ramadan migrates throughout the seasons since it depends on lunar calendar, so it is always a good idea to check when Ramadan is celebrated when you plan your trip. We were fully aware of this fact but due to various reasons June was the only time when we could go.

Ramazan is a holy month for muslims and it is all about fasting. People refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and many other activities from dawn until sunset. While in many countries with muslim majority fasting is voluntarily, Iran is an Islamic state that legally enforces fasting. Restaurants and cafes are required to be closed until sunset and it is really hard to find a place that is open for lunch. However there are always some exceptions. Hotel restaurants are usually open and serve food to foreign tourists without any problems. In addition Quran makes an exception for travellers and says that those who are on the move may eat and drink. In practice it means that bus terminals, railway stations and airports are your best friends during Ramazan. Such “transport” restaurants are open and are happy to feed you. If you happen to be in Yazd, try chicken kebab at bus terminal, it is delicious! However not all bus terminals are equipped with restaurant, for example Kashan bus terminal is not.

Groceries and bazaar are not required to close so technically you can buy some food and what is even more important water. But how do you eat it? You never know who is passing by you and you do not want to have any problems with crazy religionist (frankly speaking we have not seen any). To be on the safe side try to eat in places where as few as possible can see you. As it is very hot outside you will need to drink a lot of water. Camelbak will ideally suit this purpose. Majority will not even understand that it is for water and you will be able to drink almost freely.

Lunch at Yazd bus terminal.
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Travel guide book
There are not many travel guide books about Iran. More or less choice is limited to Lonely Planet and Bradt. Current Lonely Planet edition is quite old (2012) and new one is expected to be released in second half of 2016. Despite its age Lonely Planet is still quite accurate and very helpful. Unfortunately we opted for Bradt 2014 edition and left very disappointed by it, Bradt guide was not helpful at all. We had a chance to read Lonely Plante guide when we stayed in Tehran and in Toudeshk and found a lot of useful information in it. So I would recommend to take Lonely Planet guide with you.

Money, money, money
In Iran Mastercad can’t buy you anything. You precious card with all you savings is just a piece of plastic due to international sanctions, so cash is king. You will need to bring all your budget in cash and once you start exchanging money amount of paper in your pockets will grow exponentially. Crazy enough, the best exchange rate was found at last day in Imam Khomeini airport. Otherwise we usually exchanged money at bazaar from street dealers or exchange services, which are like shops that sometimes give you a receipt. They offer better rate than banks and hotels.

Here is a cheat sheet that helped us a lot. Try to learn Persian numbers as fast as possible, you will have to use them a lot. You can download this cheat sheet here.
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  • Budget. I spent approximately 750 US dollars. We spent 10 nights in hotels and hostels and for other 8 nights we did couchsurfing. Initially we planned to do more couchsurfing but for various reasons it did not work out in all places. For example in Esfahan our host cancelled his invitation at last minute and in Rasht a guy who met us had no place to host us. He is a student at Gilan University and lives in a dormitory. We had a lot of fun there but idea of sleeping on the floor in a small room with a bunch of other guys was not that attractive so we opted for a hotel. We did not initially plan to spend the night in Yazd but changed our plans when we came there, so it was to late to look for a host. Otherwise couchsurfing in Iran is great and is highly recommended to do. You can meet fantastic people and learn a lot about the country from them.
  • Bargain. Never accept first price you hear. When I asked “how mush does it cost” I could see dollar signs in seller’s eyes and nobody answered immediately. Usually sellers make a pause, evaluate you, and estimate in mind how much would they like you to pay. Then it depends on your bargaining skills how close you can get to the fair price. Of course you need to know how much is the fair price in order to get there, so try to ask locals about that plus after some time you will start getting a feeling about fair prices.
  • Rial? Toman? Thousands? Official currency in Iran is Rial, but nobody uses name Rial in everyday life. Instead everybody is talking about Toman, which is a virtual currency with 1 Toman equal to 10 Rial. So amount that you see written on bills is in Rial, there are no Toman bills, Toamn is just a naming convention. As of June 2016 market exchange rate for US dollar was almost 35 000 Rial which is equal to 3500 Toman, so you will have to deal with a lot of zeros. In practice people often omit not only one zero but four zeros. By this convention 1 US dollar is equal to 3.5 Toman. Isn’t it confusing enough yet? What if I say that number of omitted zeros depends on the context? For example if a taxi driver says 4, he probably means 4000 Toman or 40 000 Rial. If you want to buy a kilo of pistachios then 4 means 40 000 Toman or 400 000 Rial. If you want to buy a cucumber than 4 means 400 Toman or 4000 Rial. And if you want to buy a carpet then 4 means 4 million Rial. Have fun!
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Meet the locals
The best way and the only way to learn Iran is by talking to people. Lonely Planet claims that number one experience is meeting Iranian and I totally agree with that. I have seen 30+ countries on different continents and none of them had as hospitable people as Iranians. Iranians love to meet foreign travellers. The easiest way to meet locals who can speak English is to do couchsurfing. Iran has one of the most active communities on couchsurfing. I created a public trip and got a lots of messages. In every city there were people that wanted to meet for a tea/walk or whatever. We met stayed in a traditional religious family, we met very open-minded and progressive people, we met students and teachers, old kinds of people. All of them were kind and helpful, we enjoyed conversations on various topics, shared food and smoked kalian together.

Who should pay the bill?
Personally I prefer German way, aka going dutch, when everyone pays for himself. It will not work in Iran. For some reason people we met were always insisting on paying the bill and it was nearly impossible to stop them. Sheila, if you read this post, be ready that next time we meet you will NOT pay the bill :)

Transport

  • How to buy airline tickets for domestic flights? Just go to the nearest travel agency and get your ticket there. You will recognise travel agencies by airlines logotypes in the window. Nothing special about that.
  • Intercity bus service is good in Iran. If you hoped to take a ride in legendary Mercedes-Benz O321H bus I have to disappoint you, it is too late, sorry about that. Intercity bus fleet is represented by assembled in Iran Scania and Volvo buses, more on that in car fleet section. Bus tickets are cheap and roads are in good condition so travelling by bus in Iran is a pleasure. Buses run often, equipped with air conditioner and are not overcrowded.
  • All freeways are toll roads. Keep in mind that it is not uncommon that buses do not go inside all cities on their route and might drop you off on a toll station. From there you will have to take taxi to the city center.
  • Transportation inside big cities is a totally different story. It seems like all investments have gone to intercity bus service and nothing was left for public transport inside cities. City bus service is sporadic and there is hardly any navigation. Tehran is lucky enough to have metro system but it will not take you everywhere you want. Shared taxi, or savari, is the best option you can get. Any Saipa is a potential taxi that you will share with other Iranians. Do not forget to bargain!

Buses are comfortable and very cheap.
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Iranian free- and highways are in good condition.
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Taxi is the main mean of transportation in cities. Either private or shared, you will use it a lot.
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Drugs
I bring this topic in a separate section because for some reason we were proposed to do drugs many times during our trip. I had a stereotype that an Islamic state is free of drugs related problems due to combination of severe punishments and conservative society. Well, the only thing that is true about stereotypes is that most of them are wrong. Unfortunately there a lot of problems caused by drug consumption in Iran. Marijuana and opium are easy to get. If we wanted we could stay high nearly every day. I will not go into details here for various reasons, not least because I do not want to promote doing drugs.

No Photo? Yes please!
Taking photos in Iran is absolutely possible and a great pleasure however it has some very important reservations. You can freely photograph everyday life, people, bazaar, metro, shops, etc. Unlike Europeans, who can easily get offended if you photograph then, Iranians love to be photographed and often they will not let you go without taking a picture. It is ok to take pictures of children and men but it is more difficult with women. Women will often turn away and cover their faces once they have noticed that you photograph them. After all be polite and ask if you want to take a picture of someone, with 90% probability they will smile and let you take a picture.

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On the other hand I hope you are smart enough not to take pictures of military objects, police, government buildings, embassies, prisons and demonstrations (the list is not complete, so use your brain whenever you are not sure). Unless you are a reporter whose career depends on a picture of a nuclear facility do not take the risk. You can really get into trouble because of some stupid “top secret” object that you happened to photograph. Generally if authorities do not want you to photograph something there will be a “no photo” sign. Respect that sign and better put your camera in the bag, just to be on the safe side. We had a strange incident in Bandar-e-Anzali. We spent there like two hours taking pictures of everyday life, bazaar and seafront, really nothing special. At the end of the day we were sitting on the seafront when a random dude popped up and introduced himself as a policeman. He had no uniform and showed some id card which of course had text only in farsi. He did not speak English so we could not understand him. He asked for our passports and we told him that our passports are in hotel in Rasht, which was true. Then he called someone and gave us the phone. A guy at the other end spoke English, was polite and told, that he had been reported that we took picture of something, but we could not understand which object he was talking about. We explained that we are tourists and did not photograph anything special. I showed him my recent 20 or 30 pictures and that was it, the incident was closed. He shook our hands and disappeared. We are still not sure whether he was a real policeman or a fake one, who just wanted our money. Fortunately that was the only incident that we had during our trip.

While we were preparing our trip I encountered question about professional photo cameras many times. This question is relevant for me since I use Nikon D600 DSLR. It is an entry level full-frame camera but in combination with 24-70 lens it looks very professional. My experience is that I have not got any questions neither from border guards nor police about it, everything was cool. However, if you want to go unnoticed better use you smartphone. Level of acceptance of smartphones is much higher than of heavy-weight DSLRs. For example, when we visited Ayatollah Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran we were required to leave our bags in storage room. There was no chance to take my camera with me, but I forgot to put my phone in the bag and it was left in my pocket. At security checkpoint policeman did not react when he saw it and the only question that I was asked was “where are you from”, followed by a comment on EURO 2016. Before going to mausoleum we read that photography is strictly forbidden inside. Once there we saw that all visitors were taking selfies and I just happened to have iPhone in my pocket! So now I am happy that I forgot to leave it and I will with great pleasure publish a post about Khomeini mausoleum a little bit later. It is a crazy place and probably the only mausoleum of modern history dictator where you can take a selfie.
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The two
These two bearded guys, Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, will follow you everywhere. You will see their portraits in every shop, restaurant, institution, souvenir kiosk, public place and sometimes even buses. However, we have never seen their portraits in private houses. Of course our sample of Iranian homes is not statistically representative but I still find it important to mention. So who is who? It is pretty simple to remember: Ayatollah Khomeini is always stern while Ali Khamenei is smiling. Both of them are supreme leaders of Iran: one is former and another one is current. Ayatollah Khomeini held the office from islamic revolution in 1979 until his death in 1989 and Ali Khamenei succeeded him.
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Hello, mister, where are you from?
Just like Americans, Iranians love to ask travellers where do they come from. It would be the first question to ask and you will understand it even in farsi. Despite curiosity and intercultural exchange aspects, answer to this question leads to some practical consequences. For example, if you say that you are American, British or Russian it might lead to undesired political questions reflecting all issues that these countries had in the past and have right now. If you think that Iranians are big fans of Russia you are totally wrong. Firstly, they remember Russo-Persian wars that two empires have had during almost 200 years. Secondly, there are a lot of issues involved in Syrian war, that do everything even more complicated. If you say that you are from Israel… Well, I hope you won’t, otherwise next Darwin Award goes to you. Another example is that your country of origin might heavily affect expected price that you are to pay for any kind of services. Remember, that German and French tourists are well known for their generosity and are expected not only to pay triple price but also to tip. According to our behavior pattern we were often classified as Poles, which kinda makes sense for Ukrainians. One hosts of ours generalized polish tourists in the following way: “They do not want to pay at all and instead of buying souvenirs just send home a postcard”. Well, one of the first questions that Pavlo asked once having arrived at a new place was “Where is post office? I want to send a postcard!”. In addition, poles are known for doing couchsurfing a lot. Guess who did it as well? So talking about the next destination I wonder which country is trending in Poland right now, thуsу guys know a lot about travelling! To sum up it is best to introduce yourself as a national of some unknown country that is not involved in geopolitical game of thrones. Ukraine is more or less one of such kind, so I have never had any negative experience because of my country of origin during my travels, and Iran is not an exception. I do not advise you to lie about your nationality and always say that you are from Andorra, but sometimes it can save your time and nerves.

You would like to have chocolate ice cream but my favourite is a raspberry one.
Iranians are extremely friendly and welcoming people. But there is the dark side of the moon: hospitality comes often in combination with intrusiveness. Here is a sketch from Tehran. Pavlo stops by an ice cream vendor and his sympathy goes to a chocolate one. It does not take long time before a random dude pops up and tries to help Pavlo to order his ice cream using both basic English and body language. Pavlo says that he wants a chocolate one, but the dude parries with a brilliant answer: “But my favourite is a raspberry one!”. Next moment Pavlo finds a sample of raspberry ice cream in his hands. Long story short you can guess which ice cream did Pavlo finally get :) I tell this story not to insult Iranians or depict them as impolite, on the contrary, such involvement often leads to unforgettable experiences or helps to solve a problem. At the same time sometimes such invasion to your private space is undesired and can be irritating, so be prepared.

Coffee
Forget about coffee, chai (tea) is king. Tea culture in Iran is like coffee in Italy. Of course you can find tea in Italy, but that would be weird. Same applies to coffee in Iran. If you are coffee dependent take some caffeine pills.
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Persian toilet
An inevitable experience from Iran is Persian toilet, aka squat toilet. If the difference between Persian toilet and Western one limited to only sitting position, I would have to end this paragraph right here, but there is an important notice. Always carry a toilet roll, it will literally save your ass! Do not ever expect to find toilet paper in public restrooms. Sometimes it is unavailable even in private houses, but this was a rare case for us. Instead of toilet paper all toilets are equipped with a water hose. Theoretically it is a nice idea to wash you ass with running water once you have done all dirty job, but personally I found it very impractical. Maybe there are some tutorials on Youtube that explain how to use water hose in a proper way, but I have always ended up with wet pants and a puddle of water around me. Looking on puddles around the bowl in public restrooms I guess that not only I had that problem. The worst thing about those puddles is that you never know their origin, so let’s hope that was just water from the hose and nothing else. To sum up, think about Persian toilet as a free trial of Squatty Potty.
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Car fleet
Car fleet is a part of today Iran identity. There are few countries in the world whose car fleet is an industrial history sanctuary and Iran is definitely one of them (other such countries that I know are Cuba and Armenia). Declared self-sufficiency objective combined with protectionism economic policy and international trade embargo resulted in outdated and homogeneous car fleet. I can count on my hand car models represented in Iran. Usually they are models of European and Asian origin that are still produced in Iran. At the same time I must give credit to Iranian automobile industry that produces these models under licenses of Western and Asian companies unlike Chinese who do pirate copies. For example, two most popular private car models are Peugeot 405 (1987) and its modifications Peugeot Pars and IKCO Samand and Saipa Saba (Kia Pride).
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Intercity bus fleet is represented by Scania Oghab and Volvo Runiran models manufactured by Iran Khodro Diesel. A real jewel in Khodro Diesel lineup is the Mercedes-Benz Trucks L-series introduced in 1959 which is still produced in Iran and branded as Benz Meiller. These trucks are not 40 years old. They may be just 5 years old or even brand new, you never know!
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You may think now that no car model is too old for Iran but this is not true. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce Paykan, a true legend, the Iranian chariort, that holds a title of environmental hazard. The Paykan (Persian for arrow) was a Rootes Arrow built under license. This model was introduced in Great Britain in 1966. In Iran the last Paykan was built by Iran Khodro in 2005. Unfortunately for travellers and fortunately for Iranian people Paykan is not produced in Iran anymore but it is still very common on the roads outside Tehran. In 2005 Iran Khodro announced that it had sold the discontinued Paykan’s automobile production line to the Khartoum Transportation Company, Sudan. Long live the Paykan! And my condolences to the people of Sudan.
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Female travellers
Yes, as a female traveller you will have to wear a head scarf regardless of your religion, beliefs and air temperature. This is the only thing I can say for sure. Otherwise two male backpackers are of limited use regarding advices to female travellers going to Iran. We met several solo female travellers and none of them complained about any problems, so yes, it is possible for women to go there on their own. If you are an unmarried couple, be prepared that you might not be allowed to stay at the same room in hotel while in homestays it is up to the owner. I cannot say for sure, because my girlfriend did not go with me, but I heard such rumors.

Visa
Almost all nationalities require visa to enter Iran and it is the first potential difficulty that travellers might face. The general rule is that there are no general visa requirements. Iranian embassies in different countries have different rules and requirements. For example I had no problems at all to get my visa in Sweden. Iranian embassy in Sweden as of April 2016 does not require any confirmation number or invitation and can issue visa the same day you apply if you pay extra. I did not want any extra expenses so I opted for one week waiting time. Pavlo applied for his visa in Germany, where things are a bit more complicated. Iranian embassy in Germany requires confirmation number, which is some kind of formal invitation to Iran, and to get that was a little bit tricky and resulted in extra expenses. At the same time I was told a story from a backpacker from Hong Kong, who got his Iranian visa in Kyiv, Ukraine. The only document that he needed to submit in Iranian Embassy in Ukraine was some amount of US dollars. It took 10 minutes and his visa was ready. In addition there is such thing as visa on arrival (VOA) when you get your visa on a border checkpoint. A girl from Japan that we met in Esfahan arranged her visa on arrival without any problems. I would guess that the most problem-free checkpoint is Imam Khomeini International Airport, because majority of travellers enter Iran there and it works 24 hours per day. We entered Iran in Tabriz Airport which is a very small one. We arrived at 02:00 AM and Visa counter was closed, so I am very happy that we didn’t have to test VOA thing. We had our visas arranged in advance so crossing the border was as simple as x = 2 + 2 equation.
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Carpets.
Carpets are a big deal in Iran. Whole cities and a lot of villages are heavily dependent on carpet industry, for many families carpets production and delivering of supplemental products is the main source of income. There is a holy war between church of handmade carpets and adepts of machine made carpets. You will hear a lot of different opinions and frankly speaking I do not know whom to trust. Some people will tell you that old carpets are always better than new one, because during those good old days all carpets were handmade and nowadays you cannot trust anyone, because all carpets are industrially produced. Other people would laugh at that and say that old carpets are suitable only for museums and machine made are better. Same thing with colors: natural vs artificial. Arguments of pro-natural side sounded reasonable before we heard an opinion that natural colors do moult while this is not a problem for artificial ones. So you never know and selecting a carpet is a very complicated process. If you want to buy a carpet your best option would be to find a local whom you can trust and do it with him or her. By local I do not mean a tour guide. Of course he will be more than happy to help you and will swear to god that he does not have any commercial interest. That is bullshit, tour leaders always do have a commercial interest and will introduce you only to those vendors that would share profit with them.
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Stay connected
Once in Iran it is advisable to buy a local sim card to call your couchsurfing hosts and use mobile internet. There are several telecommunications operators in Iran. We had Irancell and I would not recommend it. There where many situations when people with other operators had service but we did not. By the way, here is how sim card contract looks like. Ok, at least we didn’t have to sign it with blood. So be careful with visiting porn sites, government keeps track of you! The last but not the least, even if you phone says that you have LTE do not expect it to be fast. Iranian government on purpose limits connection speed in order to make it more difficult to use social medias and share information with the outer world. Facebook and many other popular services including Gmail are blocked. You will need VPN connection in order to use them. Personally I used TunnelBear and PrivateTunnel apps for iPhone. These two together give you 2.5 gb of free traffic which is more than enough for 18 days trip.
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A guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy.
Tourism industry in Iran is run by individual enthusiasts, not big corporations. Due to international sanctions you will not find any international hotel chains and tour operators and will not be able to book your hotel on booking.com. How do you do otherwise? Well, use experience of other travellers. This might sound complicated but this is what I appreciate travelling for! The world will be a boring place if all over the globe your choice is limited to the same hotel chain and tour operator. Here I share business cards of places I stayed and people I met. All of them are recommended, but read comments carefully.

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  • Reza Ghadiri is a tour guide located in Tabriz. Reza is punctual and helpful, he delivers what you agree on. What I personally did not like is that he all the time tried to impose additional services. He was especially willing to exchange money for us for a rate far below the market. Otherwise he is cool.
  • Tak-Taku Homestay. Highly recommended. The owner, Mohammad, is a very open-minded guy, you can talk about literally everything with him. He has a very nice place, his mom cooks delicious food, you can smoke kalian and do many fun things, just ask him.
  • Sina hotel in Tabriz. Nice hotel with good rooms and service located in the very center of Tabriz. Their official rate is 50$ per doube room which is heavily overpriced. We did not know that because Tabriz was our entering point, but otherwise we would have bargained.
  • Ordibehesht hotel in Rasht. Same comment as for Sina, bargain!
  • Amir Kabir hostel in Esfahan. As Lonely Planet says, Amir does not like to spend money and it is totally true. This place has not seen renovation since probably Shah time, but is still reasonable for its price. If air conditioner does not work it means that Amir turned it off, so ask him to turn it on again. Bargain! Especially during low season.
  • Silk Road hotel in Yazd. Same comment as for Sina and Ordibehesht. We managed to push down the price because they had no rooms with two beds, only a king one. We did not want to share one bed, but discount made us tolerate that for one night :) They serve very nice breakfast!
  • OBS! Not recommended!
    Hossein Vatani is a tour leader in Kerman. His is in Lonely Planet but I hope they will delete his contact soon. Hossein acted very unprofessionally and tried to cheat us. We wanted to spend a night in the Kaluts desert and agreed to pay him 100$ for that. Hossein promissed that we will go with a tour guide who can speak English, but instead he arranged an ordinary taxi driver to go with us and that guy could not understand a single word in English. Personally I found it not only a deal-breaker but firstly a security issue. I was not comfortable with idea of spending a night out in the desert with a guy I cannot communicate with. Hossein was blind to this reasoning so we simply did not go. I do not recommend you to do any business with him.

To sum up, Iran is not for everyone. Iran is one of few places that globalization has not reached yet. This fact has both pros and cons. If you seek an easy travel, cannot imagine your vacation without alcohol and shopping then you most probably will not enjoy Iran. If, on the other hand, you are not afraid to say “salam” and shake a stranger’s hand then Iran is a must-go destination.

Do not hesitate to ask questions, write comments and share your experience. I would be happy to answer your questions and hear your comments and eventual corrections. If you like this article and know anyone whom it might help please share it, I would highly appreciate that!

4 comments

  1. salman says:

    Hi there

    I love tge picture you portrayed about our country. Sepcialy, how to identity khomeini and khamenei :))) plus, puddle of water in the squat toilets. I think it is necessary that we upload a tutorial about squat toilets om youtube. :))))

    • Sergii says:

      Thank you! Yeah, a tutorial on Persian toilet would be useful :)

  2. Angela says:

    very useful, I had my first trip to Iran in november 2014, omg, how much I would apprechiate to find some blogposts like yours. In many aspects I had similar experiences :)
    I went with a girlfriend of mine, and I found it a very safe place to be for two women.
    I am going again in January, cant wait :)
    Btw we were at SIlk Road hostel in Yazd too, highly recomended, and there the owner/receptionist recomended to take a tour with some of his relatives, the guys name is Mehdi (quite comun there) and so we spent one night in the middle of nowhere, probably this was one of the nicest memories, Mehdi was a great guide, he has a good level of english and knew a lot about historical places.
    I really hope we can meet him again and spend a night in that village :)

    Thanks a lot again for sharing this, I am sure that it is very helpful for a lot of travellers who are planing to visit this amazing country!

  3. Saeed says:

    I read the full story and i think and am sure that you are wrong! totally wrong about the main parts of your story.

    ‘….For example if a taxi driver says 4, he probably means 4000 Toman or 40 000 Rial.” its not true we never mean 40 000 by 4…

    “…You will need to bring all your budget in cash and once you start exchanging money amount of paper in your pockets will grow exponentially…”
    this is maybe your problem… we have been using credit for many years and it will be ridiculous to carry money with you and we do transactions via internet-based banks and other e-exchanging ways … yes it may be a problem for foreigners, though there are recently services like paypal recently available in Iran.

    “….If you say that you are from Israel… Well, I hope you won’t, otherwise next Darwin Award goes to you. ….” this is not true and that critical you are saying!

    “….To sum up it is best to introduce yourself as a national of some unknown country that is not involved in geopolitical game of thrones. Ukraine is more or less one of such kind…. ”
    Oh my Gush! hope U Ur favorite raspberry Ice cream in Ur heaven Ukraine! … My ppl just are kind he wanted for sure to help U or have an alibi to start a conversation…. You use a pathetic way to generalize your experience of free-loadering to my kind Iran.

    “….So be careful with visiting porn sites, government keeps track of you! …..Facebook and many other popular services including Gmail are blocked. ……” i`m sure this is not true they never pray into ur online surfing looking for ur prono favorites… Gmail! is not and never had been filtered in Iran….” watafukingjudgeU R

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