Axis of evil, here I come!
April 5, 2009 12:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Iran in a couple of weeks and I need some help with my planning.

I'm going for an academic conference/summer school in Tehran for 12 days. After that I have a further 10 days to explore on my own. I am going to go to Esfahan and Shiraz at least after leaving Tehran. I would like to go to Masuleh in the north if I have time, but that's in the opposition direction as Esfahan and Shiraz, so I'll see how it goes when I'm there.

Relevant personal data: I am a white male, Canadian citizen, late twenties, traveling alone. I don't speak Farsi but I am learning a few phrases of introduction, how to ask directions, find the bathroom, ask for a glass of water, etc. I am not religious at all.

I like seeing historical stuff like ancient ruins, old mosques and other architecture, etc. I like museums, but I have limited patience for them. I really enjoy wandering the streets of cities, just seeing what life is like there, people-watching, and just generally trying to immerse myself in the culture.

I have a few specific questions:

1) How much money should I bring (per day)? I'd like to keep costs relatively low, but since it's very difficult to get more cash when in Iran, I don't want to underbudget and then get in trouble. I'll be staying in budget hotels but I don't want anything really grotty, and I won't be eating in fancy restaurants.

2) What sort of dress is appropriate? Obviously I am going to attract some attention anyway, but I'd rather not stick out too much based on my attire.

3) Any recommendations for places to go/things to see in or around Tehran, Esfahan, or Shiraz? Or some other places that you think I should go instead?

4) Any cultural or legal quirks I should be aware of? I know the basics, eg be respectful of Islamic values, don't photograph prisons/police/military sites, don't hit on Iranian women.

5) Anything else?

posted by number9dream to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Congratulations on your trip! You are going to have an amazing time. Isfahan is fabulous, I hope you have at least a few days planned there.

1) I don't know what to recommend for money because non-Iranians usually pay a lot more for everything than Iranians do. Bring more money than you think you'll need, because credit cards aren't accepted many places.

2) Dress depends on the city. Basically don't show your legs and you're good, but if you want to be conservative, long sleeves and closed-toe shoes, too. It's hot and you'll sweat, but once you accept that, you'll be fine.

3) Esfahan: Abbasi Hotel at night for some amazing Aash (the best soup earth has seen) in the courtyard. Naqse-Jahan Square and the accompanying bazaar and mosque and fort. See if you can't find a local tour guide (he charged us 30 bucks for an afternoon, maybe more for non-Iranians) to take you around some of the mud and brick back streets. Hasht-Behesht and Chehel-Souton are also mandatory. OH and Si-o-se pol (a bridge) is fantastic, and as you're driving around you'll probably see some pigeon towers, too. Seriously, Esfahan is amazing.

Tehran: If you go to any of the former royal palaces, don't waste a penny on the art exhibits. They're crap (unless it's an exhibition of Miniature paintings or calligraphy). See if you can't take a hike up the mountains- there's a path up Kuhestan that gives you an amazing view of Tehran. Shemran is the wealthier, western part of the city where you'll see gorgeous women barely, barely,barely meeting dress code and lots of hip young guys cruising them. Bazaar Tajrish is near there. Fruit is downstairs, make sure you try Zogholakhte because you can't get them in north ameica but don't have too many or you'll get diarrhea (it's a natural laxative). Upstairs you can commission amazing artists to paint anything you want. There's gold and silver stuff for sale everywhere at great value. You're not from the USA but the former embassy might be of interest to you.

Shiraz: I've never been, but obviously go to Persepolis (Takht-e-Jamshid).

Other: Mashad has an amazing, gigantonormous mosque that's worth seeing but I don't know if they'll let you in (if you're willing to learn enough arabic to say a prayer, you might convince them you're muslim).

4) Taarof is real. Don't try to shake hands with women unless they offer you their hand. Do not say anything against the regime in public. Don't be gay. Even when it's really scorching out, people will be offering you hot tea- drink up, it'll make you sweat and cool you down indirectly. If you get hassled by the law, just give them $20 or so and be on your way. You probably won't be, though.

5) Have lots of fun, take lots of pictures, and eat, eat, eat!!!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:35 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

(When I said Shemran was 'western' I meant as in culture, not as in direction- it's in the north)
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:52 PM on April 5, 2009

That Rick Steves show was absolute garbage. I'm glad I had this opportunity to put that out there.
posted by gman at 5:07 AM on April 6, 2009

Can you be specific, gman? It would be more helpful for number9dream if you were.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:17 AM on April 6, 2009

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