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Yes, it doesn’t matter if you have prepared a thousand trips before, there will be things you will not consider when preparing your trip to Iran. We tell you from the experience. Iran is a particular country, with a particular situation, a different religion (very likely) and a series of laws and limitations that has nothing to do with common sense. It’s still a beautiful country, with kind and warm people who, mostly, know what we’re talking about.
With this said, here it goes a small list of things we think necessary to take into account before travelling to Iran.
Travel insurance to travel to Iran
Make sure your insurance covers Iran, not all of them do, it’s also really important to get a paper from them (in English) clearing that they do. This way you will save having to pay 15 € for your visa on arrival once in the airport.
Find the best travel insurance we have found here (and is not World Nomads, what a surprise) and in fact the one we took to Iran without problems.
Limited internet access and VPN’s
A large portion of the web is blocked in the country (including sites like Facebook). So in order to make use of the information as you are used it is necessary for you to count with a tool to remove this block.
This tool is a VPN, a VPN is a system that allows you to connect from Iran by faking a connection from another country (putting it in very simple words). There are free VPN and also paid ones, free ones have their limitations and are, often, at some point blocked by the government. So if you choose this option we recommend you to do it with several just in case.
There are also payment services that normally use their funds to maintain the connection for their customers. We hired two months of Viper VPN, with an account you can connect 3 devices for $ 10 a month. We never had a single problem.
Whatever you choose, you need to download the applications and do the whole process before travelling to the country.
Money in Iran
The money subject has several points to keep in mind, so let’s go by steps.
Forget about the ATMs: Due to the embargo, cards do not work in Iran. This means you’ll have to go with all the money you think to spend in the country in your pocket.
During our stay in isfahan, we met a Spanish who came with the idea of being 6 days in the country to visit Persepolis with $ 50 in his pocket. Don’t make the same mistake and plan in advance.
Once in Iran, it is possible to get tourist cards from most banks. You take your money and they enter it in prepaid cards that you can use throughout the country. You don’t need to put all the amount on one card, you can do it in several so you don’t have the pressure to go with so much money.
Do not trust the locals telling you you can use any ATM, they think so but it’s not true.
The exchange rates: On another side, the change of currency is never the “official”. during our journey, the official change was 35.000 rials and the change that gave us everywhere was 40.000 rials, is quite normal.
The Tomans: Due to the high inflation and the large numbers that are often handled, Iranians have reduced their work with the tomans. One toman = 10 Rials, so simple.
This is very important since 95 % of cases prices will be given to you in tomans so if you are not sure always ask Toman or Rial? We had a misunderstanding and during our trip we saw at least 3 more tourists having another kind of misunderstanding for the same issue.
The thing goes beyond, sometimes, for example, if you ask for the price of a room and they say “60” this means 60.000 tomans = 600.000 rials. As a tip, carry a cheap calculator on hand (a little one, an Iranian friend gave it to us) serves to solve also the language barrier. Every time you need a price, ask your interlocutor to mark the amount in the calculator (just by passing it to him/her he or she will understand) be careful, the crooks know that foreigners are walking around with a lot of cash. We got 500 € stolen from us.
What to wear in Iran
Due to the laws that govern the country it is necessary to dress in a “decent” way. With this, they basically refer to long leaves, long shirts (covering your ass and the scarf) and for men basically no short pants or Beefeaters.
Online communication and Telegram in Iran
Telegram is the most widespread communication application in the country, everyone has telegram so we certainly recommend you to create an account.
To the Iranians giving up phone numbers and telegram accounts is a common thing and it’s done very often, with barely shaking your hand they are asking for your telegram account. You must put the limits here. If you feel good giving your number no problem. The truth is that we never had it, quite the opposite, the dozens of contacts that we accumulate during the trip helped us in more than one occasion. Another social network they love is Instagram.
Other tips to travel Iran
Create Photo albums on your mobile phone.
Especially if you’re going to do Couchsurfing or hitchhike. Iranians love to look at photos, but not any kind of photos, especially if it’s friends and family. A few days after the start of your trip you will realize that they have a certain obsession for selfies, so don’t be shy and include some of yours from other trips, photos of your dog, your house etc… We recommend an album because they don’t mind to keep on scrolling on your phone and who knows what is there, so an album is the way to go to limit their curiosity.
Bring traditional music from your country
Another thing they love is listening to music from other places in the world. If you hitchhike or travel with friends with almost all security they will ask you if you have music with you.
They also love to sing and love to hear sing, so if you have a minimum of skills don’t hesitate to learn a couple of songs and jump to stardom.
The dates and the holidays
In Iran the calendar works otherwise, they live in a different year, on a different day and in a different month, so forget about your dates and get the idea as soon as possible.
If you don’t want to get lost miss you can take a look at this website with the Persian Calendar (this way you won’t get scared when you see someone’s birth date in 1360).
But the thing doesn’t end here. Weekends also work different, Fridays are the new Sundays and Sundays are the new Mondays. Yes, get used. On Fridays, everything will be closed and it will be almost impossible to do paperwork of any kind.
And I think that’s it!
We have covered the most important aspects and that at some point we thought “we should have done this before coming” have we forgotten something?