Travel to Iran in November
September 16, 2015 9:46 PM   Subscribe

It looks like I have a chance to travel to Iran for two weeks this November with my son (aged 11). Any tips or hints for someone who has not been there before?

We will most likely be flying in to Tehran from Istanbul (I wanted to take the train but the line is currently closed). My plan is to mainly Couchsurf for accommodation. At this stage I want to visit Tehran and Isfahan but to be honest I don't know much about other parts of Iran so if there is somewhere I should see feel free to let me know.
What is the best way for a woman and pre-teen to travel about - intercity buses, flying, trains?
Are there any festivals or celebrations in November I should try to see?
posted by Megami to Travel & Transportation around Iran (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
From your profile, it looks like you are Australian. The Australian Foreign Ministry's official guidance on travel to Iran is here:

While the situation is a bit different for Americans, you can also see the U.S. Department of State's guidance here:

There's usually good information in these types of reports on recommended dress, availability of healthcare, regions to avoid, transportation, local customs, how to get money in/out, common tourist scams, etc.
posted by whitewall at 2:04 AM on September 17, 2015

Wow, what an adventure! And probably a very good timing, too.
I've only been there on a group tour, so I don't know much about public transportation (we did go by metro and it was simple and clean and nice).

As you have two weeks, I'd suggest that you also go to Shiraz and if you can, Persepolis. Generally, it's a very safe country, if you stay away from the border areas (because of the unrest in both Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kurdish Turkey, there is a spill-over of violence and crime in these areas and some of the other neighboring countries) So it's good you are flying in.

Qom is on the way, but I've heard it might be difficult as a single woman - this is the centre of the religious people.

We were just talking about Iran yesterday at work, and my couch-surfing solo-traveling colleague said to spend as little time as possible in Tehran. I didn't have any bad experiences there, but he said it's a bit rough if you don't have a lot of money - or a group. We both agreed it is a really nice country for traveling in, because people are so friendly and open.

When I went there, I did move about on my own several times, and I felt a lot safer and more welcome as a single woman than I've ever felt in the Arab world where I have also traveled.

There are restaurants in the cities, but people eat at home a lot, and that is where the great food lives - lets hope you find some good people who'll invite you in. In Esfahan, we had good meals at a hotel in a former caravansarai, and in a very popular tourist place on the great square, on the corner of a street going into the square on the same side as the Sheik Loftollah Mosque, on the first floor (sorry for forgetting all names).
posted by mumimor at 4:49 AM on September 17, 2015

Oh, and stating the obvious: you need to wear trousers/jeans at all times, and a top-garment that covers the arms and goes to just above your knees. I wore coat-ish dresses.
And a scarf over your hair, which is worn in different degrees of looseness across the country. Depending on the texture of your hair, it's advisable to find scarves that can sit loosely without falling off all the time, or you will come to hate scarves.
Your son needs to wear clothes that cover his arms and legs and have a short(ish) haircut.

These rules are upheld most places, but with varying vigor.
posted by mumimor at 4:58 AM on September 17, 2015

My information is old as my parents got out decades ago, however from what I know (and from their biases) Tehran is a bustling developing-world style concrete city, while Isfahan still has a lot of old charms. They would also recommend Shiraz and Rasht.

You may have some trouble getting money for your trip. You will likely not be able to use an ATM card to draw out cash in country. So you would need to secure everything in cash in Istanbul (easy in the many Iranian banks and exchanges in the Laeli area just west of the University on the Golden Horn).
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:26 PM on September 17, 2015

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