This first time visitors’ guide describes what we did and see in Iran, how we traveled around, where we stayed and what we ate. It is up to you to do more research and decide where you will go and what exactly you will do. We believe that our experience might be useful for planning your trip around Iran.
We planned to visit:
- Tabriz & North of Iran
- The Caspian seaside
- Gulf coast
- Shiraz, Persepolis
- Bam castle
View Iran – planned route in a larger map
The real route
The route has been adjusted on the way due to the following reasons:
- More research
- Our trip got shortened due to Airaisa suspension of the flight Tehran – Kuala Lumpur
- Talking to other travelers
View Iran – our route in a larger map
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR TRIP TO IRAN:
Other travelers & locals highly recommended:
- Homestay in Todueshk
- Kish and Qesm islands
- Rudkhan castle
Tehran: Firouzeh Hotel. The owner/manager is extremely helpful, and we highly recommend you to stay here. Price: 500.000 Rial/night including breakfast and internet.
Yazd: Kohan traditional hotel. Excellent choice. If you are looking for something more peaceful and less touristy, stay here. Price : 480.000 Rials/night including breakfast and internet.
Shiraz: Golshan Traditional Hostel. Good choice, very close to all the touristic sites. Price : 500.000 Rials/night including breakfast and internet. Many travelers choose Niayesh Hotel, which is indeed a nice place. We went there for lunch only and they have very good food and more important you can try most of the traditional dishes here. Prices are also reasonable. Recommended both hotels.
Isfahan: Couch Surfing ! Also we stayed for 1 night in a higher class hotel, as a treat. We have chosen Piroozy Hotel. It is an old style type of luxury. We liked it. For a more budget option we found :Iran Hotel, charging 500.000 Rials/night, including breakfast and internet. It looked nice and rooms were clean and newly renovated.
note 1 : all the prices are for double room with own bathroom.
note 2: prices in hotels are usually not negotiable. you can try, but most of the times the reception price is the one requested.
HOW & WHERE WE EXCHANGED MONEY
I have described in detail the situation with currency exchange in Iran during our travels in October 2012 and provided maps to best (in my opinion) places where to exchange. I also included some tips on how to get better rates and exchange safely.
Of course, the situation will keep changing but many things will be the same or similar. Read the full story.
PRICES AND MONEY
Prices in local currency vs foreign ones are pretty low due to the current hyperinflation. The rates are changing but most of the official prices (bus/train/airplane tickets, hotels, etc) cannot be changed, as the government prohibited that. When we came to Iran the rates were USD = 24 000 Rials, GBP = 40 000 Rials, in a week the rates were USD = 35 000 Rials, GBP = 54 000 Rials. So for our money we could afford more than a week ago.
All Iranians are using notion of Tomans instead of Rials when talking about prices and money.
1 000 Tomans equals 10 000 Rials. If a person says 5 000/five thousand/, he/she means 50 000 Rials, so you have to pay 50 000 not 5 000 Rials.
We always double checked how much a price was in Tomans and Rials.
- 0,5L water = 3 000-4 000Rials
- taxi = 20 000 – 50 000 Rials (around the city)
- a meal in a restaurant = 50 000 – 80 000 Rials
- 1 kg of grapes = 25 000 Rials
- 1kg of pistachio (exceptionally good one) = 200 000 – 300 000 Rials
- hotel room with shower, internet, breakfast = 500 000 – 1 500 000 Rials
TRANSPORT – HOW WE TRAVELED AROUND
We traveled by:
- Airplane (leaving Iran)
TAXI, SHARED TAXI
Taxis are very cheap though prices increased recently. You can choose between a taxi and a shared taxi where the latter means that you will share it with other people what considerably decreases the price. But, keep in mind that most of the taxi drivers do not speak English, and explaining to them that you wish for a shared taxi might rise some challenges. We often settled to have the taxi for ourselves as the real price for a non shared taxi is not high. Usual fare within the city might be around 1$ (30000 Rials at the rate on the black market ).
We often asked at info point or just people in a bus station how much it will cost from the bus station to the center, and then went to get a taxi. Or ask at your your hotel.
For example, in Isfahan a shared taxi costs 4 000 Rials/per person. When we asked taxi drivers outside the station, they wanted 50 000 Rials for 2 of us. In the end we paid 20 000 Rials.
When we took a taxi to the Isfahan airport we were told that it costs 100 000 Rials. Once we arrived to the airport, the taxi driver wanted extra 100 000 Rials. We refused and walked away.
Our advice: always ask other people how much it costs. You will anyway pay more than locals, but at least not 10 times more.
CITY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Metro, buses, minibuses and share taxi are very cheap and quite easy to use.
Note : If you are a woman traveler or a couple, please keep in mind that public buses have separate entrances for male and female. There is a small barrier separating the sides, but you will need to be on different sides.It is actually quite fun ;)
Metro also has separate cars for women, however women can also join the mixed cars, and so couples can ride the train together.
WHAT WE ATE (and when)
Food is not easy to find in Iran. Sometimes we walked for 1-2 hours before we could find a place to eat. Once in Tehran we walked for 2 hours and had a 30-min ride by taxi and still could not find a restaurant.
So what we ate and liked?
- Kebap and rice – the most typical food you will find. We got tired of eating it in about a week
- Dizzi – traditional Iranian dish, we HIGHLY recommend it.
- Gormeh Sabzi – traditional iranian dish.
- Mirza Ghosemi – eggplant dish, comes as a started. Delicious!
- Sheep head – is a breakfast dish. Try it !
Picture gallery here.
!!! Important notes:
- Majority of the restaurants have a very limited menu. You will end up most of the times having kebab and rice. If you wish to try other dishes you will need to research about a traditional restaurant, which (trust me) you will not find if you don’t have an exact address. Or, best option, if you will be staying with an Iranian family, there is a high chance you will join them for dinner in the most traditional way and enjoy super tasty food.
- Lunch time and dinner time are very well defined :
lunch: 12 pm -2 pm.
dinner: 7.30 pm – 10 pm.
IF by any chance, you have missed let’s say lunch time, at 3-4 pm you will most probably not find any restaurant to serve you food. Iranians have siesta. And so they close their shops and restaurants between 2 pm and 5 pm. So make sure you will have lunch within the set time frame, otherwise you will just wait for dinner.
- Each city of Iran, has a specific area where you can find all the restaurants/eateries. Since the cities are big, make sure you know where this area is located, and be close to it around lunch time. Do NOT think that wherever you are, there must be some place to have food, or at least street food. There isn’t or maybe just in some place like Isfahan.
If you arrive by airplane we recommend you to buy a sim card at the airport. You will have to register you passport number and leave your fingerprints, but it is worth is as you will most probably not buy it later. We entered by land and repeatedly tried to buy a sim-card but always failed. I think that shops were just afraid to sell one without a proper security procedure and did not want to bother.
Iran is generally safe. Of course, you should watch out for possible pick pocketing. We have not heard about people being robbed or attacked or anything stolen from hotel rooms or on night buses.