Daybudget (25 euro pp)
There are three ways of getting a visa for your entrance in Iran (with a Dutch passport):
1. Download and fill out an application form from the website of Iranian Consulate. Send or drop by all the required paperwork, including your passport, passport photo (women need to have their hair covered on it), proof of travel insurance, host or hotelbooking, your returnticket from Iran, money and other necessities to the Consulate to get your authorisation number and visa stamp. Duration of process: 15 working days in general.
Pros: you save agency fee and you get a one-month-visum (which you can extend 2 more times; If it gets accepted, you’re allowed to travel around for 3 months in total)
Cons: takes a long time, so you are forced to stay around for at least 3 weeks
2. Contact a visa agency to get you an authorisation number and filling out an electric form for further details, so you can collect your visa at an Iranian Consulate directly. Duration of process: 10 working days.
Pros: Faster and gives you more flexibility in traveling. In our case for example, we could have applied for an authorisation number in Georgia and get our visum two weeks later in Armenia before going to Iran (but since we had forgotten to apply for it in Georgia, we had no other option than to apply for it on-arrival). Also with this option it’s possible to extend your visum 2 more times.
Cons: more expensive
3. Getting a visa-on-arrival. Note: It’s only possible to get this on airport arrivals (no visa on the borders)! You have to be well-prepared: have proof of your returnticket from Iran, host or hotelbooking and travel insurance ready.
Pros: no embassy hassle/ waiting for your visa, easy to get (in our case it really was)
Cons: Chance of getting deported on the first available flight which can totally ruin your travel plans. Even when you meet all the requirements. I guess it only happens when you’re really unlucky having the wrong person processing your visa application or when you’re just very suspicious to them.
Getting around in Iran is best done by buses or taxis. The latter is more expensive ofcourse (yet still very cheap for our standards), but not perse more convenient. The bus transport in Iran is really well developed, comparable or even better organised than in Turkey! The infrastructure is perfectly maintained so it really isn’t a hassle to have long busrides. They also offer drinks and cookies if wanted. It’s possible to book ahead by calling the buscompany or buy your bustickets on the busstand and even in the bus itself if you catch the bus on the road (only when free seats are available ofcourse).
Finding good, but cheap accomodation is not the most easy task in Iran. Since there is not much tourism, there is also not much choice in hotels, hostels or guesthouses. Be prepared to pay a bit more for accomodation than you are used to in other Asian countries.
Here is a list of accommodations we stayed at with a short review:
|Teheran||Golestan Hotel||Central location, simpel but clean rooms, bad staff, good beds, bit pricy **|
|Kashan||Kamalalmolk Traditional Guest House||Good location, traditional rooms, very nice staff *****|
|Esfahan||Totia Hotel||Centrally located, new building, good price ***|
|Varzaneh||Home stay||Sleeping on the ground, no western toilet, but great fun and cool experience *****|
|Yazd||Kohan Traditional Hotel II||Nice location, friendly staff, clean but too many mosquitoes, good price ****|
|Shiraz||Karimkhan Hotel||Good location, new design hotel, good rooms, hard beds, ok staff, ok price ****|
Where do we start? We know for sure that Persian food is in our top 3 cuisines next to Afghan- en Indian Cuisine. It consists lots of varieties of kebabs and rice. The only thing we did miss sometimes was a nice curry, yet it was not actually needed since the meat was always so moisture and tender accompanied with delicious rice and grilled juicy tomatoes. Further you always get some salad with your meal so it completes the dish. Our personal recommendation of things you HAVE to taste when you’re in Iran:
– Traditional food in Haft Khaneh (Shiraz). I can’t imagine any food in general over there can be a failure anyway.
– Yazdi sweets
– Koobideh kebab (or any other kebabs, all of them are yummy haha)
– Food in Restaurant Naderi (Teheran)
– Faloodeh (traditional icecream)
– Lavash (sour dried fruit)
– Dough (yoghurt drink; the better version of Turkish ayran)
Please don’t believe the things you hear or read in the media about Iran. It’s just not correct! Iran is more than just a ‘dangerous country where they produce uranium for making atom bombs’. It’s funny that even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that traveling to Afghanistan is safer than Iran. All politics and a big bunch of bullshit. Persian people are one of the most generous, friendly, hospitable, respectable and nicest people we’ve met during our traveling. There is some tourism (something you wouldn’t expect), yet the country is unspoiled. We are so glad we were able to visit Iran as it is right now. In couple of years, when tourism grows further, everything will probably change like it changed the authenticity of other countries as well.
People are extremely generous when it comes to money. One time a complete stranger paid our food just because we had only big money with us which the restaurant couldn’t change. Even the taxidrivers don’t want to accept your money out of courteousy in the first place (Taroof). Many times we had to insist to give them money or even a tip. Something we hadn’t experienced in none of the other countries we have been to.
During our stay we were received so warmly by villagers in Varzaneh. They brought us tea, cookies & fruit constantly just because it’s normal to shower your guests with food and drinks.
Since we are talking about an islamic, conservative country there is strict control; the country has its rules and regulations. You willl see all women covered up from head to toe. The hijaab is very normal, yet you will also encounter many women who are dressed more modern relatively (but still quite conservative for our standards) in cities like Tabriz, Esfahan and Tehran. People are different on the streets than at their homes though, not only in their way of dressing but also in their attitude and behavior. Many progressive youngsters who are against the gouvernment yet have no choice than submitting to its rules. We do think it’s a matter of couple of years before a new revolution will take place with a gradual course of change in the whole country as a result.
Things we noticed during our stay in Iran
1. Many Western brands/products are banned in Iran, still you could find coca-cola, nutella, kitkat and many other brands which are illegally imported from Armenia, Dubai and other surrounding countries. You could also find copycats of the brands/ products with the same appearance but a different name.
2. Many locals have limited kmowledge about foreigners/ tourists. We look persian, still they knew we were foreigners because of our clothing. And when we told them we were from the Netherlands they immediately believed us and were surprised that we could speak some Farsi haha.
3. Prepare to get invited at someone’s home for tea, food or a sleepover very often. But be certain that it’s not only taroof (invitation out of courteousy) but an actual invitation.
4. Facebook and Youtube is banned, still everyone uses them through vpn- software.
5. Men don’t stare disrespectfully to women (if you blend in with your clothing). It’s one of the few Muslim countries where I actually felt safe on the streets.
6. Men and women are devided in weddings generally, but most of the time cops are paid off to party in Western Style (big halls, men/women mixed and sometimes even alcohol included)
7. Many Persians do cosmetic surgery on their nose (price starting from 300 euros), so you will see many Persians walking around with a nose patch. We heard it even happens when no operation has taken place because having such patch displays money, power & status. Mostly it’s the women who do surgery, we think for reasons like that their faces are the only feature they can show to the world so perfection is important.
8. No irritating, pushy taxidrivers, shop- and restaurantowners who want to rip you off or earn money off you. Even not in the famous, big and hectic bazaars of the big cities. You can take you time to wander around as long as you want.
9. Take some time to get used to the money (two weeks were not enough for me though). The currency is Rial, but they always speak in Toman (1 Toman = 10 Rial). In general they are too lazy to speak in thousands, so when they tell you it’s 10 Toman, they actually mean 10.000 Toman which you have to pay with a 100.000 Rial note. Yeah, hell lot of confusion. Since 1.000.000 Rial is about 25 euros and having to walk around with cash only since you can’t use ATMs, you walk around with millions of Rial. You basically feel like a billionaire who never has a clue how much something actually costs.
10. Prepare yourself for squad toilets and have your toiletpaper with you.
So in short, how can you ‘survive’ Iran? Our top-5 tips would be:
1. You’re a guest in a foreign country so you should adjust and follow the rules (like covering up) just like the locals automatically do.
2. Don’t talk or criticise governmental or religious issues openly (spy danger).
3. Try to blend in, don’t do crazy stuff which make you stand out.
4. Use your photo camera wisely! (we know a Japanese tourist who was deported for taking “wrong” pictures)
5. Be prepared answering questions like visiting purpose (tourism), travelroute (no traveling near borders or around Natanz) and occupation (no journalism).
Keep these tips in mind and more you don’t need to enjoy your travels in Iran!