Backpacking in Iran (Why You Should Visit Iran)

Backpacking in Iran?

Why would you go to Iran?

Isn’t Iran Dangerous?

 These are just some of the questions I was asked about my trip to Iran back in 2012.

I figured it was time to write a post about that trip, and why you should put Iran high on your list of countries to visit.  


 

Backpacking in Iran

Lets answer one question first;

Is Iran safe to visit?

This is a common question, and if you want the quick answer, then yes Iran is safe to visit, in parts. 

I say in parts as there are some areas, especially around the Afghanistan and Pakistan border areas, that can be dangerous.

However the vast majority of Iran is perfectly safe, and I have felt very welcomed wherever I went.

Considering that my government (U.K.) are one of the leading countries putting sanctions on Iran, I was somewhat cautious when being asked where I was from.

 I always got the same response: U.K. great country! Welcome to my country!

Of course the situation can change in the future, but as of now it is fine to go to Iran.

Iranians are very hospitable people.

Never judge a book by its cover. Never could that be more true than with Iran.

When you hear the word Iran you could automatically  think of nuclear weapons and axis of evil etc, but the opposite is true.

Of course Iran has its assholes, like every country, and I am certainly not very fond of their government, but my experience, as well as friends who have been there, is that the people you will meet are overwhelmingly friendly.

Upon arrival at Tehran airport a man offered to help me travel to Tehran, after seeing me look rather lost! He came on the bus for twenty minutes or so, before transferring to the subway.

After another twenty minutes he walked with me too find the hotel I was staying at. He then said goodbye and please enjoy my country.

On top of all that he payed for my transport, and it turned out he was going in the opposite direction.

Welcome to Iran indeed.

I met military officers in Esfahan who hanged out and had a laugh.

Of all the people who would be pissed off about where I was from, I figured it would be them, but they were very friendly, and was the same almost everywhere.

 


 

The cities and scenery in Iran are beautiful

Iran has an amazing ancient history.

The persian empire was once vast, leaving behind archaeological wonders. The cities are full of old buildings, especially eye catching mosques and old residences.

The scenery goes from big city to desert, then mountainous terrain in a heartbeat. Inside the cities are huge bazaars selling everything you could envision, the most impressive of which I found in Esfahan, the cultural capital.

Wandering around the huge complex, getting lost in the maze of lanes and shops, is a great way to spend a few hours.

Taking a taxi into the desert and hiking through the dunes is very peaceful.

Going  into the mountains and visiting old towns filled with smiling locals, while shopping for traditional crafts.

Exploring the old residences of exquisitely designed buildings, filled with grandeur in Kashan. Visiting the grand old ruins of Persepolis and other ancient sites.

There are many, many other such good things to see and do.

 


 

The food in Iran

If you never visit Iran, then at least try to find a local Persian restaurant near you too sample the delicious cuisine.

Aside from the usual tasting kebabs found throughout the region, there are many other delights to discover.

Sitting on the floor in an old restaurant, you can savour the taste of a camel steak with rice spiced in all kinds of flavours.

Staying at a home-stay in a desert oasis as an old grandmother cooks up eggplant in an old earthen oven, covered in fermented cheese and spices, was the best eggplant I have ever eaten.

Tasty soups and stews, sweetly spiced pilaf rice, traditional Iranian ice cream.

 Your taste buds will not be upset!

 

Iran is Cheap to Travel

As a budget traveller (backpacking specifically), Iran is excellent value for money.

You can get in cheap overland from Turkey easily, or through more hassle countries bordering Iran.

 I got a cheap flight to Amsterdam from Tehran on Pegasus airlines, and a cheap flight into Tehran on Tajikistan airlines from Dushanbe.

Picking up a Persian carpet while there could be a good thing, as they are very cheap to buy at the moment.


 

Practicalities of Backpacking in Iran

There is some strict dress codes in Iran, being a predominantly muslim country.

 If you are a female visiting Iran, then you will have to wear a head scarf and a jacket that covers your butt.

 This is not the kind of head scarf that covers your face, but over the hair.  The headscarf is a law in Iran and must be worn.  

As bad as that may sound, many female friends visited Iran and had no problems. It certainly is not ideal, but it has to be done.

Men must wear trousers in Iran, no shorts are allowed.

 Alcohol is illegal, so don’t expect crazy parties! However if you really want a drink, you could find some underground places to do that.

Here are some interesting and fun facts about Iran to check out for further reading.


 

Getting a Visa For Iran

Now you have a decent enough reason to visit Iran, lets get onto the hard part, getting an Iranian visa.  This is the real bitch of a visit to Iran, the visa.

If you are from the U.S.A.  then there is some bad news, you cannot get an independent visa to visit Iran.

This is all political of course, with huge distrust between the two governments.

The only way US citizens can visit Iran is on an organised tour. (UPDATE: As of March 2014 British and Canadians also need to be on an organised tour, but the method of using an agency for a visa is still valid for other nationalities).

Also some travellers I met have reported that it is quite easy to get an Iranian visa in Trabzon, Turkey, although I cannot independently verify this.

For the rest of the world it depends on your country as to how much a visa costs.

As it would be very impractical to list all countries requirements, do a web search for your own specific one.

Having said that, friends from other countries who get cheaper visas, such as The Netherlands, got denied a visa all together, while others from The Netherlands did get a visa. Fellow citizens from my country got denied a visa, while I got one.

It seems to be a lottery on who gets a visa or not. It is a rather strange system.

The way I got my visa was to use a travel agency based in Tehran, in my case key2persia. For a fee (check their website), they will apply in Tehran for you and hopefully get a visa clearance number.

They will email this to you, where you will then take it to the Iranian embassy or consulate you chose to get the visa from.

This whole process can take up to a month, not easy or convenient.


 

Visit Iran

Despite the hassles of getting a visa, a visit to Iran should leave you very happy.

If anything go there to meet the diverse and friendly people. Ignore the bad press and go and pay a visit, you will most likely be glad you did.

If you liked this article about backpacking in Iran a share would be appreciated!

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56 thoughts on “Backpacking in Iran (Why You Should Visit Iran)”

  1. Took me some time to get used to the Persian/Arab difference, but now I can finally remember that people of Iran speak Farsi and are not Arabs..Safe to say I would not offend anyone by forgetting what quite naturally is a very important distinction to them. I´ve heard many stories about Iranian hospitality, too, and I can´t help but think how tourism could boom here if they just opened this place up..

  2. Yes it’s a distinction they are proud of. The people really are so hospitable, it is a shame that it can’t open up more. Here’s hoping the future looks better for Iran and all its people.

  3. Iran is a country in the world that have all the seasons in a same time, and jungles are very fantastic
    visit there I have some picture from iran but I don’t know how to
    send them? if I had your E-mail, I would send the pictures for you.
    send your e-mail address to send you the pictures
    ebrahimahamdi@yahoo.com

  4. Hey
    I found the best site for exploring PERSIA/IRAN
    http://www.magij.co.uk/
    Explore ancient PERSIA, Book Persia Tours travel packages Plan a tourism, travel to Iran and its various tourist attractions with Iran holiday packages. Explore exciting Persia Tourism with vacation packages.
    Must visit this site once-http://www.magij.co.uk/

  5. Mate. I enjoy very much people sharing there views on articles I write, and everyone wont have the same opinion, however I appreciate that they actually READ THE ARTICLE FIRST.

    If you had read it you would have seen me state that I am not a big fan of their government (translation: I don’t support them), but the people there are very friendly and hospitable.

    I thought George Bush and the American government were absolutely terrible, but did I tell people not to visit the USA. Of course not. Don’t judge a country and people by what their government does. Sometimes the people don’t have much say in it.

  6. I am part of a group of 17 South African architecture students who are visiting Iran in June for our masters research journey. We are having difficulty finding accommodation, not just for the large group, but in general! Can you recommend how to find good, affordable hotels? We are on a serious budget, much like any backpacking budget that is!

  7. Hey! I’m not sure I could be much help to you as I was by myself and just went on recommendations from other travellers as I moved around. I didn’t do any internet bookings or anything like that. I guess you could check out a guidebook and see if they have hotels mentioned that could help. I also don’t remember any of the hotel names I stayed with. I hope you get it all done ok, and then you can enjoy the beautiful country of Iran.

  8. i am agree with you. I am from IRAN. there are too many incorrect opinion about Iran and its citizens.
    we do not speak Arabic.we are Persian (land of PERSIA) and we have our lovely own language : Farsi 🙂
    we don’t want war.we love all the countries and all the goverments.
    if you want to see my country again… I am at your service.

  9. Hola,

    In november we go one girl, three men to Iran, checking out paragliding sites. I organise trips to Morocco already. I think Iran should be next on my list to bring paragliders to. Did you see any ? Never know …. .

    Love your blog,
    Nick

  10. Hey Nick,

    I didn’t see any paragliders when I was there but most of my time was spent in towns and cities so didn’t get into the countryside much, but I’m sure they’re about.

    Have fun in Iran!

  11. Hello !

    I read your post and enjoyed every single word of it ! I am an Iranian an i’m truly happy that you had a fun time !

    Thanks for showing the real side of my country . If you were to ever come back , send me an Email , I’d be happy to show you around !

  12. I loved my time in Iran Emad as this post shows. Hopefully I will be back again someday and hopefully when this political bullshit between all our countries is over!

  13. Thanks Jonny, meanwhile in touch with Mohammed Ranzini, he is sorting out special ‘sport’ visas for us, besides the other visas of course.
    Seems necessary.

    Have great times Jonny

    thanks a lot,
    Nick

  14. Hello Jonny
    Thanks for the great read. We are considering a family trip this November to Iran and your blog was rather inspirational. I’ve heard amazing things about Iranian hospitality and am looking forward to our trip. Safe travels!

  15. Great! Iran is such a good country to visit. I’m sure you will love it. Leave a comment on this post again when you come back from Iran to let me know how it went 🙂

  16. Hello
    My name is mojtaba and I am from the historic city of Qazvin.
      If you like me, I invite you to visit Iran
    And I advise you travel
    Of course, my English is not good
    But I sincerely welcome you
    mojtabag025@gmail.com

  17. Hi my friends;

    I am from IRAN Kerman,you can travel here and enjoy from everything.
    The people of here are very hospitable and warmblod 🙂
    When you come to Kerman,if you like i can come with you to see the interesting place of here 🙂

    Thanks,have a good time
    😉

  18. Hi there.
    Thank you so much for this impressive website. If you need a hand helping people to get further information about Iran, I would be glad to provide some piece of advice or help tourists having nice stay here. I hope to see you in Iran someday too.

  19. Hello friends

    My Iranian girl living in Iran and am very happy that you have enjoyed your visit to Iran
    Welcome to Kurdistan, Iran once again to check on our house to you is open and ready to welcome guests, we have long insisted Habib Allah
    I saw on another website negative comments a lot about my country and I was very shocked and I ask all of your loved ones and good friends of our country in the eyes of the media, see

  20. I’m sorry if there are problems in typing because I’m 14 years old and I do not speak good English if you are happy for us to come to our home to be welcome in Iran

  21. I’m sorry if there are problems in typing because I’m 14 years old and I do not speak good English if you are happy for us to come to our home to be welcome in Iran

  22. Hi Jonny,

    last november with my wife and a friend in Iran. Absolutely loved it, amazing people. And we got our paragliders out.

    In april and november we go back, with little groups of paragliders, To check out more of this so friendly and welcoming country,.

    We were in Teheren, Esfehan, Chiraz and its mountains.

    I can recommend this trip to anyone.

    Hope all is well Jonny,

    Nick

  23. hOLA

    Visited Iran with my wife and a friend. Absolutely loved it, amazing people. And we got our paragliders out.

    In april and november we go back, with little groups of paragliders, To check out more of this so friendly and welcoming country,.

    We were in Teheren, Esfehan, Chiraz and its mountains.

    I can recommend this trip to anyone.

    Hope all is well Jonny,

    Nick

  24. Thank you Jonny, as you have realized Iranian people and their behaviors, I would like to add some more informative points! Iranian have never invaded any countries for any reasons to occupy, or plunder for their benefits!
    we were attacked many times by many occupants during all our more than 3000 years of history (Alexander – Arabs – Turks – Mongols – Saddam Hossein, Iraq) ! and plundered by them! we reconstructed our mom land again and again, but never decided to avenge! we helped occupants to be persianized, and be civilized in the cradle of civilization Iran!
    Cyrus the Great was our earliest peace leader in 2500 years ago, therefore I promise all nations in all over the world!! feel free and safe, we are the same civilized people, and will never change our thoughtful behaviors!! Visit Iran Please, we
    welcome you deep of our hearts to your own home Iran.
    Then taste all Iranian foods, see thousand years aged unique monuments, nomads, and amazing nature you have never seen before!!
    God bless all

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  27. Hey All
    Thanks lot for your amazing article ,If anyone’s interested in asking tourism-related questions and find&book hotels across Iran we’d be glad to help : en.pintapin.com

  28. Hi,

    Kate from Kerman, Iran. I am an American/Iranian. Originally born in Iran and raised in the states. Kerman is an old historical province located in the Southwest. It has a dry climate yet many treasures to offer. Worth seeing the Kaluts and the old residences. I will be glad to help anyone who needs assistance. This is my email: payvark@gmail.com

  29. i got my visa in 2 hrs in bahrain -) filipino expat here..
    love to revisit Iran soon.
    warmest people -))

  30. Dear Jay
    All Iranian don’t speak Arabic, just south of Iran close the Persian Gulf and Khoozestan province, in other parts we have different languages or Local accents.But be sure with all different languages all Iranian people are so kind and hospitable that you have never believe it.
    Irangazette Mag

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  34. Thanks Jonny

    I like this part that you said at the end “Ignore the bad press and go and pay a visit, you will most likely be glad you did.”

    cool article and blog as well.

  35. Pingback: 5 Beautiful Places To Visit In Iran - Backpackingman

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