Madi Jahangir – A friend recently emailed me that he is going to visit Iran with a group of tourists and asked me some questions regarding getting around Tehran and traveling to other cities from the capital. I thought those questions plus some information i add in, might be every traveler’s questions who is willing to visit Iran anytime soon.
As you may have heard through the media, the recent oil sanctions imposed on Iran have caused steep fall in the value of the Iranian currency. Beside the misery that it brought for the Iranian civilians, it may have had some positive effects on tourism. Fall in the value of currency made Iran an incredibly cheap travel destination for International tourists.
Though I am pretty sure many of the visitors are not going to visit Iran solely for the reason that it is inexpensive. Iran has many beautiful characteristics, from breathtaking landscape to countless historical sites and warm and welcoming people.
But what are the average expenses of traveling through Iran now? My friend asked.
Run errands in Tehran
Cost of traveling to any country depends so much on your own way of spending. Food, accommodation and transportation are so different for a budget traveler than lavish tourist. However something that would make Iran still less expensive than other countries is the fact that there is no night clubs, pops or public drinking in the country. So the cost is probably lower than traveling to anywhere else. Food is also cheap. There are fast food restaurants and local food (Iranian or Italian) which averagely cost 1$ per dish. There are of course the fancy restaurants in which one may pay average more than 10$ per dish too.
Public transportations in Tehran is available and convenient. It costs very little by bus in Tehran to go around the city. Tehran subway regardless of destination is about 2 cent or so. Public taxis start from a third of a dollar and Private taxis are more expensive but start from 2$ and go up to 10$ depending on the destination. In other big cities of Iran, the price is slightly cheaper. Can you sum up your daily expenses now?
A female public bus driver
Iranians love to travel and since due to sanctions they have less chance to get visa for certain touristic countries, they travel inside Iran. Specially during holiday seasons i.e Iranian new year by end of March, its so crowded in touristic areas, particularly Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and north provinces at Caspian seacoast.
But If you are not arriving during the holiday season, then would not get into trouble for hotels. I personally do not book hotel before I travel inside Iran. I usually go to the city and search there and then to find the best deal i want; The deal which suits me for the price & quality or service. In Touristic cities there are plenty of hotels & there is a wide range of choices.
Bring cash with you!
Did I mention sanctions? Again due to sanctions imposed on Iran, there is no transfer connection between Iranian banks and international banks. There is no western union branch, and Visa/MasterCards do not work here, though certain money exchangers work for sending/receiving money to/from abroad. But it may not be as convenient for a foreigner. So bring cash with yourself. It is easy to exchange money at the airport for your urgent need.
But best deal is to exchange in authorised money exchange shops outside the hotels & banks called Sarrafi available in every city. Think about it, be patient and get the best deal!
Traveling from Tehran to other cities
Iran is a very safe country for tourists. Iranians welcome foreigners with open arms and are very helpful and give free tips if they speak English. For the same reason, it is very safe to take Public transportation i.e. bus and train rather than private taxis to visit other cities, because at the same time it can be much cheaper and much more comfortable. There are a type of bus which is called VIP and goes to most of the cities and have very comfortable seats to sleep in long distance. Some of them have TV monitors for each seat and all of them have TV for whole the bus. The price starts from 5$ which is considered nothing in many countries. I personally choose to travel with them when I can not take the train.
But can women and men sit together in the same train cabin? Yes of course they can sit together. For those women who are traveling alone and wish to have only woman companions, there are only-woman-cabins available too. But groups and families can choose an ordinary mixed cabin.
Inside the train
Every country has certain rules to obey. In Singapore, chewing gum in public is forbidden. In Lebanon smokers are not allowed to smoke in the closed area. So what about buying Hashish in Iran? Let’s put it simply! Even so there are many stories on how easy it is to obtain drugs in here; Selling and purchasing any type of addicting drugs are severely illegal in Iran and only sold under strict medical prescription by official doctors. If arrested by police, the charge is jail and more. What about that? Let’s obey the law and enjoy the trip!