March 11, 2019 - As Iran is about to celebrate the Persian New Year, in Mid-March, it's the sign that the first days of spring are at the doorstep.
Months of nice weather all over the country are about to start, making it the best time to visit the former land of the Persian Empire. The resplendent Persepolis, the beautiful Shiraz and Isfahan, and the quiet deserts are waiting to be discovered. Yet, before packing everything up, there are a few things to know.
For several years now, getting a visa to Iran has become a piece of cake for most nationalities. A large number of countries can apply directly at the airport for a 30-days "Visa on Arrival" (VOA). It is advisable to register online for "e-visa" about a month before the departure date. To obtain your visa, the sole requirements are to be covered by travel insurance, book a hotel for your first night, and, of course, paying the fees which usually are around 100 Euros. Note that Iranian customs no longer stamp passports, so that your trip to Iran is not an issue to visit the United States.
For that matter, if you are American, British or Canadian, you need an official guide to organize your trip for you. Don't worry, it's as simple as that. As for all other nationalities, simply contact local agencies such as TasteIran (travel to Iran tours and experiences) to take care of all the administrative procedures for you, wherever you are from.
Rials and Tomans: Master the Iranian Currency
For tourists, Iran is a land of cash: Unfortunately, due to international sanctions, foreign credit cards are useless. So leave your Mastercard at home, and be ready to carry with you batches of banknotes. It's a scary thought for most tourists, but there is actually nothing to be afraid of: Iran has been rated as one of the safest countries to travel by a group of independent experts. Risk of theft is quite nonexistent. Yet, you can make your trip easier by contacting travel agencies and start-up such as TasteIran to book accommodations, tours, and even transportations, in advance for you.
Once in Iran, you will have to get familiar with the way prices are expressed. If the money is the "Rial", in everyday life, people speak in "tomans". It's the way more prices are written in bazaars and small shops. What are tomans? Simply the same amount of rials, minus one zero. As simple as that!
Transportations: Wandering around by air or by land
You have now arrived in Iran, probably enjoyed the buzzing life of its capital, Tehran, while tasting numerous delightful Persian dishes. Next, it's time to explore the country! Be aware that Iran is huge: About five times the size of Germany. Luckily, transportations are adjusted to this challenge. VIP buses, trains, and airplanes are linking, often several times a day, all the main cities and can be booked even last minute.
Don't miss your chance to experience shared taxis too: it's not only a cheap way to travel inside and between the cities, but also a whole part of the Iranian culture and a fantastic way to meet Iranians.
For your stays, appreciate the intimacy of beautiful traditional houses and even Caravanserais turned into hotels and hostels. If you’d like to stay with locals and have a real experience of Iranian lives, opt for guesthouses and ecolodges, which participate to perpetuate the local and traditional lifestyle. You might even want to stay at local and traditional accommodations through having new and authentic experiences. If you are the ones who want to taste unique local experiences and tours in Iran, TasteIran experiences are the best choice.
Whatever is your choice, you can be sure of one thing: A trip to Iran is not possible without tasting the Iranian hospitality. This is the part where you need to get a little bit more familiar with the cultural aspect and norms in Iran. Like the dress code for example: at first, it looks like a puzzle for foreign women, but it’s actually quite easy. Women can wear all kind of clothes and colors, as long as it covers the shapes of the body, the bottom part, and the arms. Hijab is also mandatory, but it doesn’t have to be worn strictly: don’t worry if some of your hair and your fringe are visible, as well as if the scarf falls down sometimes. Nobody expects you to dress like a born Muslim and Iranians are more than tolerant with foreigners.
For men, it’s much easier: the only restriction concern shorts pants, which are not allowed in public spaces. And for those who have tattoos and piercings, it’s not a concern either. A simple look at Iran’s national football team should convince you that tattoo is not uncommon any longer in Iran.
To polish your cultural knowledge, gather some useful sentences in Farsi and discover the practice of “taarof”: thanks to this habit specific to Iran, even sellers and taxi drivers will offer you not to pay. It’s only by courtesy, and you’re not supposed to accept! Check out the dates of national holidays and the way to enjoy the celebrations that go with it, from New Year to Ramadan and Ashura.
It’s one of the many ways to discover the ancestral and poetic Persian culture, far from outdated stereotypes. That’s precisely the purpose of TasteIran to make the world discover the true face of Iran, by helping travelers to enjoy their journey.