Is it Safe to travel in Iran?
My answer is Yes and No
* It is much safer than Europe or the U.S about being attacked by a terrorist
– If you think Iran is dangerous because of the terrorist, it means that you are brainwashed by Western media. Iran is very safe country for traveling.
– There are many terrorists attacking in Europe and the U.S these days. But in Iran, there is no such a terrorist. Just do not go to a conflict area such as Iraq border which has nothing to see.
* There is a risk for solo female tourist because of sexual harassing.
– There is a risk of physical sexual harassing if you are a girl and travel alone.
– I heard many girls got sexually harassed during traveling in Iran. If you are a backpacker, you might not get it. But if you are a girl on a bicycle alone, you would get it a 90% chance.
– I got sexually harassed two times on a bicycle.
(Even I had a male cycling partner in Iran, but when I was alone on a bicycle, it happened. I cannot imagine if I was cycling all the way for two months alone, how many times I would get sexually harassed. To cycle in Africa is safer than in Iran for a girl. )
* Men and couple should be careful as well about getting sexual harassing.
– Some male travelers told me they got sexually harassed as well. So even if you are a male, use common sense in Iran.
– Japanese cyclist couple and Swiss cyclist couple were attacked by local males and ran away from rape danger during wild camp at the mid night. So be careful in Iran for wild camp.
Places to visit
Iran Tourist Map (Red-Main touristic spot, Blue-touristic spot, Black-Not much things to see)
(Two to three days is enough. I liked Ispahan more than Shiraz. Local people would say Shiraz is more beautiful, but many tourists like Ispahan more.)
Big square is surrounded by a big mosque building. You have to pay (a few dollars) to go into mosque
Khajou Bridge and Siosepol Bridge
It is beautiful in the night and peaceful at the day. There is no water in the summer and it does not look much beautiful then.
A few Museums and Bazar
Presepolis and Pasagad Tomb
It is 55 km far from the city. Ruins is not well restored but it is worth to visit. It would be the only place to see many old and big ruins.
Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine (Mosque)
Built 700 years ago. Mirrors were build 200 years ago.
The girl will get chador at the entrance for free.
You have to wait some minutes to have a guide for free (it is mandatory.)
To take the picture depends on the guide. Some tourist were not allowed to take the picture. But my guide lets me.
If you followed the guide to the office, you will get the candy, cookies, and tea.
The yard is very big and beautiful.
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque(colorful window)
Open Hours : Week day 7:30-11:30, 14:30-17:00, Holidays and Friday 8:00-11:00, 15:00-17:00
Entrance fee : 100,000 Rial ($2.7)
It is good at early morning because the sun would be at the middle of the colorful window.
Big and some interesting stuff such as spicy, sweet thing, different kind of nuts and seed, hand craft
Entrance fee : 150,000 Rial ($4.16)
Built during Saljughid Dynasty era(1037-1193 ac)
Big enough and beautiful. (Much beautiful and worth than Fin Garden in Kashan)
April would be the best time to visit.
I visited on Dec, but it was green anyway. But not flowers and fruits.
Arge Karim Khan fortress.
Entrance fee : 200,000 Rial ($5.5)
Some local people said nothing to see that I did not visit.
Tomb of Hafez
(It is very popular for old town like mud house. ) (Picture is from Flikr, which is allowed to use.)
Towers of silence, Old Town, Mosque
Bagh-e Fin Garden
Local people will say it is the most beautiful garden in the world. It is true only for them who live in the desert. It is not that much special actually to other tourist.
(Tabatabei House, Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, Borujerdi House,
Abbasian House, Ameriha House)
You can buy the ticket for a few house or pay separately. It is not that cheap if you visit every house, which you do not need.
Namak salt lake and desert
You have to find the taxi to go to the desert which is 50 km far from the city. It is unpaved road. There is Caravansary you can sleep with cheap price and you can have meal (Of course kebab). . Caravansary is not on the desert but close to.
Salt lake is at the left side and sand desert is at the right side 10 km after Caravansary.
Salt lake is not like the picture you see on online. There is no more enough salt. The sand desert is not like the picture as well. You have to get off from the car and walk a bit to go into the sand desert.
Although it is not like picture on online, it is worth to visit.
<For cyclist : It is unpaved road, but not bad. You can buy water at Caravansary. Also there is a restaurant.>
Shazdeh Garden and Gonbad-e Jabaliye (Old building)
Imam Reza Holy Shrine
Mashhad is the most holy place in Iran because it is the only place they have Imam grave. The city is more conservative that you can see lots of girl wearing black chador on the street.
If you are a girl, you will get chador for free to enter Holy Shrine. Tourists have to wait for a guide for free. You will watch some video and then a guide will explain about Holy Shrine.
* Qesm Island
(It is more expensive than other cities in Iran.) (All place is far that you have to drive lot to vist all these places.)
You must go there at the right time when water comes so that you can see trees on the water. It is so pretty.
Chahkooh and Stars Valley
Namakdan Salt Cave
There are a few salt caves. It is difficult to find alone. You need a guide or local people’s help. It is very beautiful.
Watching dolphin with the boat
Salt Cave, Beautiful color mountain, and Sea
It is very colorful island because of different color sand on the mountain.
It is really beautiful place that you can go in the morning and come back at the afternoon from Qesm Island (And maybe from Bandar Abbas as well).
You can hire Tok-Tok three wheels taxi to look around. There is no transportation except it.
* Kish Island
Good for relax at the resort
It is the second holy place in Iran that you will see many women wearing black chador on the street. You can visit Mosque and have a guide look around for free.
Not much things to see except Bazar, Mosque, and Poets Tomb (Maqbaratol Shoara)
Not much things to see except some museums. Worst traffic in Iran.
But it would be interesting to see young local people to compare from other city how they wear hijab and clothes and couple walking with holding hands. Good place for party if you can find.
How is traveling in Iran?
– Local people are very kind that they love to invite you for sleeping or a tea.
(Because of this reason, most of Western people love to travel in Iran.)
– If you are an Asian, you have to hear all the time “Nihao, China, Ching chang chong”
(Because of this reason, some of Asian (None-Chinese) do not feel comfortable to travel in Iran.)
– Sometimes local people are too friendly.
(Too many people wants to talk to you specially if you are on a bicycle. )
– Not many people speaking English.
(But it is not bad that you can find always people speaking English. )
– You will eat endlessly Kebab that there is no such a choice in the restaurant.
– If you eat at the normal restaurant on the street, it costs only $2~3.
– If you are invited by local people at their house, you can see many different foods.
– March and April is the best season to travel Iran
– Iran is huge that the temperature varies.
– South is warm even in the winter. It is too hot in the summer and South is hotter than other place.
– I cycled from north to south on Nov and Dec and it was a bit chilly at the day and cold in the night in northern and central Iran. Anyway it was fine to cycle.
– There is no ATM for foreigners. You must bring USD or Euro.
– The rate on the internet is too low.
On internet $1=30,000. But real rate is $1=36,000 in 2015
Go to Local market (Bazar) and see what is official rate.
– There is no black market that exchange rate is similar wherever you go
– $1-36,000 Rial in 2015.
– 10,000 Rial = 1,000 Toman ($1-3600 Toman)
People usually use Toman more than Rial.
– Everything is very cheap that you can buy lots of things on the grocery with a few dollars.
*Ruins and culture
– There is no ancient ruins to see except Persepolis
Mostly things you can see is Old town, Mosque and local market (Bazar)
– Iran is culturally rich
There are lots of Persian cultures you might be interested.
If you have a chance to stay with a local people through Couchsurfing.org or warmshowers.org or just being invited on the road, you can see beautiful Persian culture.
– There are many beautiful places, sea, mountains, and desert.
– It is very cheap.
In the city, usually you share the taxi with other people and pay only 50 cents for a few kilometers.
Tran is very good and cheap. There is a bed if it is a long distance.
Men and Women are separated at the bus and train except taxi. Make sure you stand at the right place at the public transportation.
Iran is one of the worst place for driving that they drive like on the video game.
If you drive your car, be careful.
The road is always busy with too many cars.
– Girls can drive
If you go to bigger city, you will see more girls driving.
So even if you are a girl, you can drive without the problem in Iran.
– Extremely slow like Africa except a few bigger cities
The speed is same as like in Africa except a big city like Mashhad and Qeshm island. (I have never been in Teheran, but I guess they would have better internet than other city. )
I bought 10 gb sim card for two person. We could only use 100 mb for one month that it was impossible to use internet at many big cities.
– Most of the websites are blocked that you must install VPN before going to Iran.
Facebook, Youtube, Skype, Whatsapp, and many other websites are blocked except Instagram. Even they block famous Korean websites which are like Google. When you research on google in Iran, you would see lots of websites which are blocked.
– Recommend Free VPN for your laptop and smart phone.
Hotspot Shield Free VPN (But lots of advertising), Betternet (Very simple. But it may not work. Just try and delete if it is not working.)
* Other useful info
– Iranian Sunday is Friday. On Friday, all things close. Their Sunday is weekday.
– Shop(and Bazar) closes 1pm to 4 pm.
If you need something at the shop, try to go earlier or later.
– Alcohol is forbidden by the law.
– Toilet is Squat toilet and usually there is no toilet paper. So prepare all the time toilet paper.
At some place such as the hotel, maybe you can have other toilet.
– Girls talk only to girls and boys talk to boys (and girls sometimes)
Usually girls will not talk to a male that you (if male) will not have the chance to talk to a girl on the street.
– Iranian is not Arabs but Persian and they do not speak Arabic but Farsi.(But actually Farsi and Arabic are similar.)
To them, it is not Arabian Gulf, but Persian Gulf.
If you say like this, they would feel offend “You speak Arabic? Right? you Arabs. I like Arabian Gulf.”
– Do not take the picture of the government building.
– Crossing border is quite easy. They did not check my bags at all over a few times.
Some Japanese tourist I met bought alcohol at the airport and brought to Iran and it was no problem. (Maybe she did not know alcohol is forbidden in Iran.) The thing is workers at the airport did not check her bag.
* Some fact
– Whenever you go, you will see the picture of Iranian Leader.
It is very common thing on some Muslim countries like in U.A.E (Dubai) and Oman
– Many people are actually not Muslim.
Nobody knows how many population is Muslim.
– If you want to see serious religious Muslim culture, you should go to other country.
Such as in Sudan or Zanzibar, you can see people stop working or driving car to pray five times a day and most of them do fasting during Ramadan.
– Most of girl do not like hijab and even Muslim girl do not like hijab as well.
Hijab is only mandatory at the public place.
When you are invited at local people’s house, eight or nine of ten will say “You do not need wear hijab at my house. ”
But if the owner of the house did not say anything about hijab after inviting you, you have to wear it all the time.
Many girls post on online with wearing short clothes or without hijab like other countries.
-People are afraid of being investigated as spy.
Just try to understand their situation and respect their house rule if you are invited at their house. Some of them on couchsurfing might ask you “Please, do not leave reference on my profile.”
– If you go to Teheran and know right young guy, you can go to party and drink as much as you can.
You will see girl wearing mini skirt like in western country and of course none of girl wear hijab at the party.
Some of young guys are like in other countries. Party, Drink, and have fun.
Iran is paradox that you can see very conservative things on the public and very progressive things at the behind. One example is Facebook is blocked but Iranian government had Facebook page.
How is cycling in Iran?
* Mostly you will have shoulder and the road is well paved.
* Local People are very hospitable that they love to invite you.
* You can sleep at Red Crescent. A 80~90% chance they would let you sleep at the inside.
* You can sleep at mosque whatever you are a girl, boy, or couple.
At the gas station, it is 24 hours that it is no problem to sleep. But in the city, they close in the night that you have to ask.
* You can sleep at caravansary in the city for free after getting permit.
* A bottle of water is very cheap like 20~30 cents.
* There is a village and town every 10~30 km. Remember a grocery shop closes from 1pm to 4 pm.
* It is pretty safe from thief, kidnap, and terrorist.
* Many people want to talk to you that you might be asked to stop quite often on a bicycle.
* There is no high mountain at the central part that it is easy going.
* Many places are semi-desert that it has similar landscape except northern part and some southern part.
What to wear and some tip for a girl
– Girl must wear hijab by the law.
Try to buy not slippery scarf. If it is slippery, you must put your hands to head to check all the time “Are you there?”
Be careful when you go to a toilet to not wet your scarf
You do not need hide all your hair. You will see many young girls only hide half head. You will learn once you go to Iran.
– How to wear
Fold one-third horizontally, Put it on your head, left side should be shorter and right is longer, take right side to your left shoulder. That’s all.
– Every girl hides their hips with long jacket or shirt. It is not the law, but you must do actually.
It can be really uncomfortable because it makes hotter during the day and also it is difficult for a squat toilet.
– Hide your skin with long pants and long sleeve
– Flip flob is okay actually
What to wear for a man
* You can wear short sleeve
* You must not wear shorts for your legs.
For couple in the public place
* Do not kiss or hold hands on the public place.
But actually you will see brave young couple holding hands in a big city such as Shiraz or Tehran and then you can try to follow them. But just be smart. Don’t do all the time but only sometimes.