Iran is one of the world’s great civilizations. It is home to some spectacular historic cities and remains , and glorious mountains and landscapes. Best of all , the Iranians are extremely hospitable and will always make you feel welcome. A growing number of Iranians speak English (particularly the younger ones) so even without the language it is possible to get by.
1. The Country
Iran has an area of 1 ,648 ,195 square kilometers and is the 17th largest country in the world.
The population is 60 million (1996 census). The population growth rate , which was 3.9% per annum during 1976-86 , fell to 1.5% in the years 1991-6. 61% of the population is urban. Life expectancy is 67 for men and 70 for women.
The state religion is Islam and 99.5% of the people are Muslims. Shia Muslims represent 91% of the population and Sunni Muslims 8%. There are small numbers of Christians , Jews and Zoroastrians.
The official language is Farsi (Persian).
Modern guidebooks in English include the Lonely Planet and Bradt.
2. The Climate
Iran has a dry climate with low rainfall. Winter (December to February) can be very cold in most parts of the country , while in summer (June – August) temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius are not uncommon. Spring (March – May) and autumn (September – November) are ideal times to tour Iran.
In and around Tehran the weather can vary considerably. South of Tehran is hot , dry and stuffy in summer , but a short trip to the foothills of Mount Damavand (at 18 ,255 feet the highest mountain between the Himalayas and the Atlantic) brings cool relief. Winters in the capital can be very chilly , extremely so at night (as low as –15 degrees Celsius) , although any snow usually disappear by early March. Showers are frequent between November and mid-May , but rare in summer – the annual rainfall is about 240 mm.
It is wise for any individual traveler to apply 2-3 months ahead to the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran for your visa. Full details , including an application form , are on here at www.IranTravelingCenter.com/visa_iran.htm
It is quicker to get a tourist visa through a travel agency such as ours. any way if you are on a very tight budget the travel agent would be the simplest option.
For those coming at the invitation of an Iranian organization a faxed letter of invitation sent through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Iranian Embassy in place of stay is required. For such official visitors the time needed to secure a visa is usually less , though it is always sensible to start the process early.
4. Travel to Iran
There are many direct and indirect flights to Iran by Iran Air and other airlines. for more information have a look our page at Iran Iran Airlines Timetable
If you find a good travel agent (or you can go direct to the airline) the price of a return economy ticket Tehran-London-Tehran is between £470 and £570. Cheaper flights can be found but involve a stop-over.
5. Arrival and Departure
On arrival , if you are not being met , it is best to go to the airport taxi booth to get a taxi. The cost should be around 30 ,000 – 40 ,000 rials.
On departure it is wise to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight. You are allowed to take out with you duty-free a Persian carpet of up to 12 square meters (or , say , 2 carpets of 6 square meters). The export of antique carpets is forbidden.
6. Local Laws and Customs
You should take particular care not to offend Islamic modes of dress and behavior , especially with regard to sexual relations , alcohol and drugs. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Behavior that might be regarded as innocuous elsewhere can lead to serious trouble in Iran.
It is courteous to be particularly careful not to give offence during the fasting month of Ramazan and the mourning month of Moharram (for dates see the section on Holidays).
If you are invited to someone's house for a meal it is normal to take a gift (usually flowers).
Iranians are punctilious over such courtesies.
It is not customary for men and women to shake hands.
It is not polite to blow your nose in company.
7. Money and Prices
The official currency is the rials and these are what are marked on the banknotes. However , most Iranians speak about prices in tomans (one toman = ten rials). This can be confusing , so you need to try and get an idea of what the money is worth.
The current exchange rate is approximately 9200 rials to the 1 us$. There is little difference between the official exchange rate and the black market rate.
The largest regular banknote in circulation is 12 ,000 rials , worth approximately one 1 ,25 us$ although it buys a lot more than in the USA.
Dual pricing exists and foreigners sometimes have to pay in foreign currency for international flights and 4 or 5 star hotels. The price a foreigner pays for hotel accommodation and entrance to historical sites and museums is 5 – 10 times what an Iranian would pay (the excellent Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran is a shining exception and charges both Iranians and foreigners 2 ,000 rials).
Credit cards are accepted in international hotels and in some antique shops and shops selling carpets , though you may have to pay an extra percentage. (******but unfortunately lately the US embargo on trade with Iran extent has covered the sole common acceptable credit card (MASTER CARD) too.
Travelers cheques are not generally accepted , though they can be changed at official exchange offices – at a slightly lower rate than cash. but it is not recommended to be brought with.
You should bring sufficient hard currency. US dollars are best but pound sterling is acceptable.
You should declare all foreign currency brought into the country on the customs declaration form provided. Failure to do so may result in undeclared foreign currency being confiscated on departure.
On departure any remaining Iranian currency can be changed for US$ at the airport.
At the time of writing there are no compulsory vaccinations for entry into Iran.
Pharmacies in Iran stock many European patented drugs , though if you are currently taking a particular medicine it is only sensible to bring the necessary supplies with you.
Iran is not an unhealthy country. You can drink the tap water in most towns , and stomach upsets , though they occur , are not common. Fruit and vegetables should be washed before eating.
The sun can be fiercely hot. Beware both of dehydration and sunburn.
Pollution is a problem in Tehran.
9. Food and Drink
At its best Iranian cuisine is very good indeed , with its emphasis on the freshest ingredients , especially vegetables and fruit. The Iranian diet is heavily based on rice , bread , fresh vegetables , herbs , fruit – and meat. Iranian bread is one of the highlights , and is always fresh; it can be bought in a bakery for between 500 and 1000 rials. Iranian long-grained rice , grown in the Caspian region , is superb.
The commonest main dish in Iran is kebab; this is served in most eating-houses. It is good , either beef or chicken , but it is possible to have too many. When served with rice it is called Chelo Kebab.
Dishes that are well worth trying are:
Fesenjan: a stew of duck , chicken or beef made with ground walnuts and pomegranate juice
Ghorme Sabze: a stew with lamb or veal with spinach and other herbs , beans and dried lemons.
Abgoosht: a thick "soup" with lamb , lentils and potatoes served in a special container. The soup is poured out into a bowl and the meat and vegetables are pounded. Usually eaten with bread as a main course.
Baghali Pulo: rice mixed with broad beans and dill with either veal , lamb , chicken or fish.
Tea , drunk without milk , could be said to be the national drink. Doogh (a yoghurt drink usually served with meals) makes a pleasant change from other soft drinks , while non-alcoholic beer is usually available. Alcohol is strictly forbidden
The best Iranian food is usually found in Iranian homes. However there is a large number of restaurants serving good Iranian food. Where there is music , you may expect to pay of the order of 60-70 ,000 rials per person for dinner. Without music the price is more likely to be 30 ,000-40 ,000 rials. A sample of recommended restaurants is given in below.
Pizzas – often of good quality – and hamburgers are widely available.
There are a number of restaurants serving western food , none of them of particular quality. There is a good , but expensive (by Tehran prices) Japanese restaurant – tel 877 3735; the Monsoon restaurant provides some Chinese , Malaysian , Thai and Japanese food – tel 879 1989.
Generally speaking , Iran has a reasonable range of accommodation. The four and five star hotels generally do not stand up to scrutiny by international standards , but the more modest middle of the range hotels offer good value for money. There is a wide choice of cheap accommodation.
There are no set rules about whether breakfast is included in the room tariff.
Apartment hotels are worth considering if you are staying any length of time.
Lodging for academics is available at the British Institute of Persian Studies (BIPS) , but should be booked through the London office. For more information contact BIPS , the British Academy , 10 Carlton House Terrace , London SW1Y 5AH.
A selection of hotels in Tehran is given below. Prices , which are quoted at the rates for foreigners , are inclusive of tax.
1. Esteghlal Hotel
Tel: 204 0031-9
Single bed with breakfast: $139 and $166
2. Azadi Grand Hotel
Tel: 207 3021-9
Single bed with breakfast: $139
3. Laleh Hotel
Dr. Fatemi Avenue next to Water Organization
Tel: 896 5021
Single bed with breakfast: $122
4. Amir Tehran Hotel
No. 325 , between Iranshahr Street and Forsat Street , Taleghani Avenue.
Tel: 830 4066-9
Single bed with breakfast: $50
5. Homa Hotel
Bijan Street , Vali-e-Asr Avenue
Tel: 877 3021-9
Single bed with breakfast: $146
6. Canary Hotel
No. 92 , Somaye Avenue
Tel: 882 5616-7
Single bed with breakfast: $38
7. Simorgh Hotel
No 1096 , Vali-e-Asr Avenue (next to Saei Park)
Tel: 871 9911
Single bed with breakfast: $44
8. Hoveizeh Hotel
Taleghani Street , Ostad Nejatollahi Cross Roads
Tel: 880 4350-5
Single bed with breakfast: $56
1. Arian Hotel Apartment
No 24 , Jafarabad Street , Tajrish Square
Tel: 257 0414-5
Double bed suite with breakfast: $ 123
2. Tehran Hotel Apartment
Hafez Street. , before College Cross Roads
Tel: 880 4181-2
Single bed suite with breakfast: $ 70
Double bed suite with breakfast: $110
12. Getting Around in Iran
Internal air travel is efficient and cheap; a return flight to Shiraz costs 460000 rials.
Hiring a taxi for the day is a good way of getting around a provincial city – the price should be something of the order of 20000 rials per hour.
Travel by bus between cities is very cheap; Tehran to Isfahan is 20 ,000-30 ,000 rials. A taxi hired to take you from Tehran to Isfahan should cost between 200 ,000 and 300 ,000 rials.
It is possible to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle , with driver , from a travel agency; rates must be negotiated.
13. Getting Around in Tehran
In Tehran drivers have their own view as to which traffic rules they would like to obey. Look both ways , several times , before crossing the road.
In Tehran there are two underground lines , but the best way for practically all journeys is by taxi. Every area in Tehran has an “Agence” – taxi company – which you telephone; they will then send a taxi to pick you up and take you to your destination. It is easier if a Persian speaker books the taxi for you. In addition to the local “Agencies” there is the city-wide Tehran Taxis (tel: 133)
The maximum price for a journey within Tehran is 20 ,000 rials (taxis booked through expensive hotels cost more , and journeys to the airport perhaps 40 ,000 rials). If you want to hire the taxi by the hour you can do so at the price of 18 ,000 rials per hour; for an air-conditioned , more comfortable car the price would be of the order of 20 ,000 – 30 ,000 rials per hour.
Alternatively you can stand in the street and shout your destination to passing taxis. Some of these taxis work on fixed routes and you will share the taxi. Others rove around. You can share such a taxi or ask for “Darbast” which means that the taxi is yours alone.
It is not wise to get in an unmarked taxi.
It is not normal to tip.
It may sound difficult , but nearly always someone will be kind and help you on your way.
Non-Farsi speakers should have their destination written out in Farsi so as to show to the taxi driver. A telephone number for your destination is also useful to carry with you.
Iran is full of an amazing array of historical sites , and of spectacular scenery. Sightseeing is truly rewarding
.In Tehran there is a wide range of good museums (though captioning is poor). It is hard to choose but strongly recommended would be the National Museum of Iran , also known as the Archaeological Museum of Iran (next door to which is the Islamic Arts Museum) , the Carpet Museum and the National Jewels Museum.
Shopping is exhausting but interesting. The bazaar in south Tehran is worth visiting. Carpets - the range and choice is extraordinary - are an obvious buy , though it will save you money if you can go with an Iranian friend.
A trip to Darband in the north of Tehran , nestling at the foot of Mount Tochal , with a pleasant trail lined with cafes and kebabis and what is said to be the longest telecabin in the world , makes a pleasant excursion.
A day's excursion into the Alborz Mountains - hiring a taxi (costing around 150 - 200 ,000 rials for the day) and then walking is recommended.
There is little in the way of organized nightlife. Iranian classical and traditional music is performed in centers such as Rudaki Hall.
There are many. Official holidays to the end of 2002 are:
March 21 - 24 Nowrouz
March 25 Ashoora
April 1 Islamic Republic Day
May 11 Death of Prophet Mohammad
May 13 Martyrdom of Imam Reza
May 30 Birth of Prophet Mohammad
June 4 Death of Imam Khomeini
June 5 15th of Khordad Uprising
August 12 Martyrdom of Prophet's Daughter
September 21 Birth of Imam Ali
October 5 Mab’as
October 22 Birth of 12th Imam
November 26 Martyrdom of Imam Ali
December 30 Martyrdom of Imam Ja’far
Definitely to be avoided is the period of Now Ruz (New Year); little to no work can be done from around 20 March to 5 April.
It is better if you can avoid traveling to Iran during the mourning month of Moharram (c 16 March - 13 April 2002) and the fasting month of Ramazan (c 28 October – 25 November 2002).
The national language of Iran is Persian , also known as Farsi , an Indo-European language. A few of the more frequently used phrases are:
|English ||Farsi Pronunciation |
|Goodbye ||Khoda Hafez|
|Good Morning - Good Day||Sobh bekheyr - Rouz bekheyr |
|Nice to meet you||Az didan-e shoma khoshvaghtam|
|What is your name?||Nam-etan chist?|
|Where are you from?||Ahl-e koja hastid?|
|Could you give me a hand?||Momken ast be man komak konid? |
|How can I go to
?||Chetor mitavanam be
|Where can I find a good restaurant?||Koja mitavanam restouran-e khoubi peyda konam?|
|Where is post office?||Post khaneh kojast?|
|Where is the nearest hospital?||Nazdiktarin bimarestan kojast?|
|Where can I find a doctor?||Koja mitavanam yek doctor peyda konam?|
|Which road is it?||In rah be koja miravad?|
|What time is it?||Momken ast begoueid sa'at chand ast?|
|Could you show me the way of
hotel?||Momken ast rah-e hotel
ra be man neshan dahid? |
|Could you develop this film?||Aya momken ast in film ra zaher konid?|
|I want these laundries be washed and ironed. ||Mikhaham in lebas-ha shosteh va otou shavad.|
|Could you repair these glasses?||Aya mitavanid in eynak ra ta'mir konid?|
|Please, give me a box of cigarette. ||Lotfan yek basteh cigar bedahid.|
|Can I light a cigarette? ||Aya momken ast yek cigar roshan konam?|
|Where can I change the money? ||Koja mitavanam meghdari poul tabdil konam?|
|I want to complain?||Mikhaham shekayat konam.|
|I have lost my purse.||Kif-e poulam gom shodeh ast.|
|Could you show me
on the map? ||Aya momken ast
ra rou-ye naghsheh be man neshan dahid?|
|Where can I take a taxi? ||Koja mitavanam taxi begiram?|
|How much does it cost?||Hazine-ash cheghadr ast?|
|Could you call the police?||Aya momken ast polic khabar konid?|
|Where does this bus go?||In autobus be koja miravad?|
|Which is the next stop?||Istgah-e ba'di kodam ast?|
|Which bus will go to
?||Kodam autobus be
|When will we reach to
? ||Key be
|Will this train go to
?||Aya in ghatar be maghsad-e
|I want to reserve a seat. ||Mikhaham yek ja reserv konam.|
|Please, give me a round-trip ticket. ||Lotfan, yek belit-e do tarafeh be man bedahid.|
|How long this ticket will be valid? ||E'tebar-e in belit ta key ast?|
|How much shall I pay for cancellation? ||Hazineh-ye cansel kardan cheghadr ast?|
|How much dose the flight of
cost?||Hazine-ye parvaz be
|How can I go to the airport?||Chetor mitav?nam be foroudgah beravam?|
|Where can I make a call?||Koja mitavanam telephon bezanam?|
|Please, issue the invoice.||Lotfan, sourat hesab ra bedahid?|
|Where should I get off?||Koja bayad piyadeh shavam?|
|May I take a picture?||Aya mitav?nam aks begiram?|
|Where can I buy
|Please, take me to the center of city.||Lotfan, mara be markaz-e shahr bebarid.|
|How much is my rent? ||Keraye-ye man cheghadr ast?|
street far from here?||Aya khiyaban
kheyli dour ast?|
|I think I have lost. ||Fekr mikonam gom shodeh-am|
|Can I make a direct call to
?||Aya mitavanam mostaghiman be
|How is the charge of call to
?||Hazineh telephon be
cheghadr ast. |
|Must we change the train here?||Aya ma bayad inja ghatar ra avaz konim?|
|Who will check our tickets?||Che kasi belithayeman ra control khahad kard?|
|I am very hungry / thirsty. ||Man kheyli gorosneh / teshneh hastam.|
|Where can I buy postage stamps?||Az koja mitavanam te'dadi tamr bekharam? |
|I want to post a registered letter.||Mikhaham yek name-ye sefareshi post konam.|
|What is good for my headache?||Bara-ye sardard-e man chi khoub ast. |
|Can I take some pills here? ||Aya mitavanam az inja meghdari ghors begiram. |
Iranians are a very polite people , and appreciate formal courtesy (in Persian "ta'arof").
17. Useful Telephone Numbers
British Council 2001 222 , 264 905
British Embassy 670 5011 - 18
British Institute of Persian Studies 261937
Tehran Taxis 133
Telephone Information Service 118
Flight Information 6001011 to 17
Iran Tourism Organization 646 7251-5
18. What to Wear
Most Iranian women wear a manteau (a long shapeless coat) and headscarf; some still use the chador. Foreign women visitors should wear a manteau or loose knee-length jacket and headscarf. Headscarves can be too colorful and black is recommended during days of mourning. It is easy and cheap to buy a manteau (between £8-20) when you get to Tehran. For first arrival a woman should wear a loose-fitting coat to knee-level.
For men shorts are unacceptable.
Both sexes should dress more conservatively if visiting mosques and religious buildings.