Practical information before a trip to Iran
To choose the right time for your trip to Iran, it is important to take consider the local holidays and the weather.
Local holidays in Iran: Nowruz
Yes Iranians are big fans of local tourism! And if there is one time when they travel the most around the country, it is the celebration of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which takes place between March 20 and March 30 each year. Accommodation and transportation are crowded, prices are rising, and tourist sites are crowded. But it’s also an opportunity to get to know the Iranians better! You choose…
The periods and dates when the countries are slowing down a bit:
– The period of Ramadan
– February 11: Islamic Revolution Day 1979.
– March 20: Day of the nationalization of the petroleum industry, in 1951.
– April 1: Islamic Republic Day.
– September 8: Day of the Martyrs of the Revolution.
The weather in Iran:
The weather varies according to the different regions of the country (the northern mountains, coastal areas, desert areas, etc.) but generally winters are cold and summers are very hot. By the way, did you know that the Dasht-e-lut desert is the hottest point in the world with temperatures approaching 78 ° C in summer!
We recommend you to travel to Iran in spring (April and May) and in autumn (September, October, November). During these periods the temperatures are pleasant but there is always the risk of foreign tourists. If you want to be more alone, without tourists, in this case prefer February and early March.
The country has fairly optimal 4.5G coverage. The network works very well in all major cities. Obviously, when you move away from built-up areas, the signal becomes weaker.
You will have the choice between several operators. And a special offer is dedicated to travelers upon arrival if you land at Tehran airport. Otherwise, you will find mobile shops all over the city centers.
The price of sim cards and packages is very cheap, you just need to give your passport to be registered on the network. It’s quick and easy.
Warning ! If you plan to stay in Iran for more than 3 weeks, you must register your mobile on the HAMTA network and pay a tax which varies according to the model of your phone. If you don’t, you won’t be able to use your device with an Iranian sim after this time.
To connect to certain social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and YouTube) you need to download a VPN. It is a mobile application that allows you to use the internet by locating yourself from a country other than Iran. You can find plenty of them in the Play Store or Apple Store on your smartphone.
The most common route is to start in Tehran and end in Shiraz, passing through Kashan, Isfahan and Yazd.
On the road, you can visit Qom, Natanz, Tabas, Birjand, stop at Kerman and Dasht e Lut, if you have time.
Usually this classic initiation circuit is done over a period of 10 to 15 days.
Here are other areas we recommend you explore if you have the time, or if this isn’t your first trip to Iran:
Northern Iran from the Tabriz region along the Caspian Sea
Southern Iran with Bandar Abbas Province and Qeshm Island
Western Iran with the cities of Kermanshah, Hamedan, Susa and Shushtar.
In Iran, the local currency is the Iranian Rial, IRR, but all traders and almost all Iranians speak in Tomans.
100,000 Rials = 10,000 tomans, just subtract a zero.
Iran’s currency fluctuates wildly and has soared for the past two years following political events, the election of Trump in the United States, the end of the nuclear deal and the consequences of that decision.
Due to international sanctions, it is not possible to use your bank card in Iran (except at certain merchants paired with a bank account located abroad). You will therefore have to withdraw Euros before departure. Remember to take more than not enough.
Once there you can change your money as you go in the exchange offices. Above all, do not change all of your money upon arrival, as the amount of banknotes that will be issued to you will be difficult to transport.
Be sure to change your money in official exchange offices and not hastily in the street to avoid being given counterfeit banknotes or other disappointments.
Moreover, exchange offices offer much more advantageous rates than in hotels.
Warning ! the exchange rate given on the official sites is different from that practiced locally!
At the airport the exchange rate is less attractive, so only change money for the taxi and the first charges on the spot.
There are also temporary credit card solutions that you can use for the duration of your stay.
Card payment is very common in Iran and very convenient.
The two “leaders” of this solution are Daric Pay Card and Mah Card.
The visa for Iran
There are two ways to obtain a visa for Iran: either through the Iranian embassy in Paris or by obtaining a visa on arrival in Iran.
The visa at the Iranian embassy in Paris
This is the cheapest solution, 50 € during the last update, but the visa has a limited validity, however with the possibility of extending the duration up to 90 days once there, by paying a extra charge. Before going to the embassy, you must pre-apply for a visa online at e_visa.mfa.ir
Disadvantages: you have to do it a long time in advance, the time to obtain the visa, go there after having obtained an appointment, and you must also provide all the accommodation reservations during the length of stay with detailed planned itinerary
Visa on arrival in Iran
This is clearly the easiest solution and the one I recommend the most.
Visa price: 75 € to be paid on site in Euros
The visa is valid for 30 days, sometimes 90 days of validity can be obtained by making a request to the employee.
For the On Arrival visa:
– Make your pre-application for a visa for Iran at least 15 days before arrival in Iran on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs e_visa.mfa.ir
– Fill in all the requested elements and respect the sizes and weight of the files to be transmitted (identity photo – for women the veil is not compulsory – passport photo), Also indicate the place of issue of the visa, namely arrival airport.
– After entering the information, you will receive by e-mail a visa application notice (Visa Application Submission Notice) that you will have to print and present at the airport if you have not received your final visa before your departure (it sometimes the processing is out of time)
You will need this document to board some airlines such as Qatar Airways or Turkish Airlines.
– You will also need to provide proof of at least one night’s accommodation upon arrival in Iran (1st night). You can make a pre-reservation by contacting a hotel by e-mail, they will give you a certificate.
You may also be asked for the name of a local contact, as well as their address and phone number. It is in fact a “guarantor” who certifies that he knows you.
To simplify matters, you can go through a travel agency that has accreditation and for which access to the registration of visa applications is a priority, therefore faster. This service will cost you between 15 and 25 € depending on the agency.
Passport for a trip to Iran
Your passport must be valid for up to 6 months after the visa end date. Consider making photocopies that you can slip into all your travel bags. Also remember to take ID photos with you, you never know, it can always be useful at the airport or elsewhere.
Compulsory travel insurance for Iran
To travel to Iran it is imperative to justify that you have travel insurance that mentions the dates of stay and the country “Iran”. If this is not the case, you have the option of purchasing local insurance once at the airport (between € 15 and € 40 a year depending on the length of your visa), but this does not include repatriation.
If you are paying for your trip (plane ticket) with your credit card, the best solution is to contact your credit card service and request an insurance certificate in English (free and included in the most basic packages).
The attestation must be in English and presented to the visa issuing office.
Traveling to the United States after a trip to Iran
If you wish to travel to the USA after a trip to Iran, you will no longer be able to do the usual ESTA but a B2 tourist visa by going to the US Embassy in Paris.
How to get a visa for the USA after a trip to Iran?
– Choose the type of visa for the USA
– Make your visa application online with the DS-160 form. entering information takes time and the site may bug at times. So remember to take screenshots, especially one where your Application ID appears.
– After having completed everything, you must sign the form (electronic signature)
– You must then pay the visa on this site
– You will receive an email to validate that refers to the agenda of the US Embassy to schedule an appointment.
Address of the United States Embassy in Paris:
2 avenue Gabriel
Phone. : 01 43 12 22 22
– Remember to bring all the requested documents.
– More information on the website of the US Embassy in Paris
– On site, you will have to leave your passport, which will be returned to you by registered mail to your home within a week
It is the easiest, cheapest and most popular way to get from city to city during your trip to Iran.
There are the classic buses, called maamouli, cheap, basic comfort, 4 seats per row, non-reclining chairs. Perfect for distances of less than 3h, for example, Kashan Isfahan.
And there are the VIP buses, higher category, which are very comfortable: 3 seats per row, very wide and reclining armchairs with footrests.
The cost of a trip from one city to another is around € 3, on average, and it is possible to travel at night.
For “popular” destinations it is not necessary to make a reservation in advance, you can show up in advance at the bus station and leave for the desired city in the process.
For specific destinations, it is best to find out in advance the days and times of departure.
You can ask your host to do this for you.
When booking in advance, it is good to go to the company counter thirty minutes maximum before departure in order to pay and print the ticket.
If you have paid for your ticket in advance, there is no time constraint, just go to the counter to confirm your presence and print your ticket.
Bus stations are located at the entrance to towns most of the time. You will need to take a taxi or the metro (Tehran, Isfahan) to reach the city center.
For some routes you need to book more than 2 weeks in advance. But the experience is well worth it.
For longer distances, berths are available, as well as on-board catering and showers.
You will be greeted in your compartment with a welcome cup of tea and cookies.
The prices are less attractive than for the bus, the train is also slower, but the landscapes are breathtaking.
Count on average ten euros per trip.
If you want to save time you can take internal flights for the long distance journeys of your trip.
You can book your tickets once there at a local travel agency, or on a dedicated website, such as Flightio or Alibaba.
Airports are located outside cities, the price of airport taxis is higher than others.
This is the most expensive solution relative to the price of the bus or train.
You will most likely use a taxi to get from Tehran airport to the city center first.
The price for a yellow taxi ride in Tehran is around € 3
The price for a yellow taxi ride in a big city is 1.5 €
You can also order a taxi from your accommodation, a store or a restaurant.
If you are traveling with several people (3/4 people) find out about taking a private taxi from one city to another, the rates can be interesting.
Snapp, or Tap30 are the equivalent of Uber in Iran. Available in most major cities.
This app is very popular.
– Download Snapp or Tap30 on iOS or Androïd
– Validate the code sent by sms on your local sim card
– Indicate via the map where you are and where you want to go
– You pay for your trip in cash with the driver
Please note: the estimated price is the same as that announced by the driver and the price is always cheaper than that of a yellow taxi
The prices are very affordable and make Iran a cheap destination.
For accommodation in a guest house, count between € 10 and € 30 / night for a single room. The prices offered for a place in dormitories are even cheaper.
For hotel accommodation: between € 15 and € 70 / night for a room for 2 people. The price varies depending on the prestige of the establishment.
For lovers of street food or small popular restaurants: around 3 € / person.
If you go to a classic restaurant: around € 7 / person for a full meal served in a pleasant setting.
Taxi: less than € 2 per trip in town, on average. In Tehran the prices of taxis are higher.
In any case, when you take a taxi, be sure to ask for the fare before departure to avoid any misunderstanding or bad surprises.
Bus transport between cities: the price varies depending on the distance, for a Tehran Isfahan for example, less than 3 €
Domestic flight: count between 30 and 50 €
Shopping budget: to be adjusted according to your purchasing plans (rugs, miniatures, various crafts, etc.). Good to know, most traders in bazaars offer an international credit card payment solution.
The prices given above are for the year 2020, based on the current exchange rate.
Do not hesitate to ask for more information, we will be happy to update this information.
Hotels and other types of accommodation are not linked to traditional booking sites, such as booking.com or others. It is therefore more difficult to book and almost impossible to pay for your hotels in advance. You can only contact them by e-mail and make a pre-reservation that you will pay on site, unless you go through a travel agency.
Be aware that the prices charged for payments made from abroad are much higher than if you pay locally, unless you go through a travel agency whose prices are guaranteed and adjusted according to the fluctuation of the exchange rate.
The hotel offer is varied and in full development following the tourism boom that the country experienced in 2016, although it was slowed down in 2018.
You will find the most basic accommodation, such as hostel dorms, single rooms in guesthouses, western style hotels, but also charming traditional mansions transformed into luxury hotels.
Most have opened up to international tourism, so you can contact them on social networks, or on their websites.
Warning ! Couchsurfing is banned in Iran! You and your hosts risk serious problems if you are confronted with the authorities. There is a good chance that you will be invited to sleep with people you have met during your trip. Think carefully before you agree!
Iran is a safe country for foreign travelers and feels safer there than in most travel destinations. Again, Iranians are caring and will do everything possible to help you if needed.
However, here are a few tips:
– As in many other countries in the world, it is forbidden to take pictures of military buildings, official buildings, as well as sites monitored by the police and / or the army.
– Make sure to always keep your money and valuables with you
– Always have a photocopy of your passport when you go out or take a picture of it with your smartphone, as hotels and guest houses ask to leave it at reception when you check in. Don’t worry, just leave it with confidence.
– There are police and military stations in every city in the country. The police are present but very discreet, which reinforces security. For the sites most frequented by travelers, there is even a tourist police dedicated to travelers.
What is surprising in Iran is to see such a paradox between the ideas received before departure, what we imagine to know about this country, the image conveyed by the media, and the real kindness, benevolence, warmth of the reception of Iranians.
Iranians are very welcoming to foreigners. You will be seen as guests who need to be taken care of, and wherever you go they will be very helpful.
It is important to take into consideration some local rules before embarking on a trip to Iran.
You are traveling to an Islamic republic, so there are certain rules to follow in public space and during your stay.
For example, it is not possible to kiss, nor to shake hands with the opposite sex, unless you are offered it.
We greet each other by bowing our heads, with our hands on our hearts.
The consumption of alcohol and drugs is of course prohibited, so be careful if you are offered any.
Women are obliged to cover their heads, wear long clothing (pants, skirt or long dress), and a sufficiently long tunic reaching at least the top of the thighs, not low-cut and covering the arms to the elbow.
Shorts and tank tops are prohibited for men. Short-sleeved t-shirts are allowed.
The authorities, however, are very flexible with regard to foreign travelers.
In houses, it is customary to take off your shoes before entering, and for toilets and the bathroom, it is necessary to use a pair of specially dedicated slippers that you will find inside.
There is no such thing as nightlife as we know it in the West. So you can’t find bars, nightclubs or other nightlife entertainment venues.
However, Iranians are very good at partying inside homes. They are a very festive and happy people.
If you have more specific questions, please write to us.
– Travel to Iran when you are a woman
It is quite safe and secure to travel to Iran when you are a woman alone or in a small group.
Many undertake this journey solo without any difficulty or danger.
As stated above, Iranians are a caring and respectful people.
– Iranian politeness: the Taarof
Taarof is a kind of exaggerated politeness and courtesy that Iranians practice on a daily basis.
It’s about complimenting too much, using strong words like “I would sacrifice myself for you” or “May your hand feel no pain” or “I am your slave”. These are common expressions that have fortunately lost their meaning.
It also consists of refusing three times before accepting something. For example, before accepting an invitation we must refuse it three times, the fourth time we accept. It is the same for the payment of taxis, restaurants or your purchases.
It may sound over the top or inappropriate, but it is the art of Iranian communication.
– Other things to know …
If you are invited to an Iranian family, it is customary to bring a small gift, fruit or pastries, not to come empty-handed.
If you are invited to dinner or lunch, you will be greeted with tea, fruit, dried fruit, sweets. Then you will be served the meal that you must eat, and leave immediately.
Iranians are very curious and ask a lot of questions that may seem intrusive to us. Like knowing your age, if you are married, if you have children …
They are also very fond of showing photos of their family and expect to see personal photos of yourself or loved ones as well.
They will certainly ask you to take pictures with them. Iranians love to take pictures of themselves.
You understand there is a big cultural difference, but Iranians are very accessible and warm.