travel to Iran

Is Iran safe? A Tourist’s Perspective on Iran Safety

I always wanted to travel to Iran, otherwise known as Persia, this amazing land of many ancient civilizations, some of them going back to 6 000 BC, while the universally accepted birth of the Persian Empire happened “only” just over 2500 years ago.

So, once I had the possibility to go on a long journey, I decided to choose Iran.

Stereotypes About Iran

I must say, I was afraid for safety – and I was going here alone! On our TVs, we have only bad news about this country. In Western media, Iran is presented as an evil, aggressive and hostile nation, a threat to the region and the world, the same as North Korea… Not to speak about Hollywood productions showing Iranians in the worst possible way. The terrible news and images we see on our TVs from wars in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan, most Western people associate also with Iran.

I knew that there was no ongoing war here, but it was hard to forget the image of Iran we get from the European media – a dangerous place, full of fanatics that hate Westerners and the secret police just waiting to put you in prison under any pretext. Also, with economic problems and many Iranians going through hard times – perhaps there will be lots of common crimes targeting supposedly rich foreign tourists.

That’s why, when I told my family and friends about my plans to travel to Iran – all misconceptions surfaced! So, there would be a war here, and the country would be full of Afghan Taliban, or Arab terrorists, (or both of them) just waiting to cut off our heads. Explosions on a daily basis, evil, and hating the European local populace – to say it short I was a kind of crazy kamikaze looking deliberately for big problems or just bored with being still alive.

travel to Iran

Is Iran safe? I can say that Iran is definitely a very safe, tourist-friendly country. I met lots of international tourists who share a positive opinion on travel to Iran.

Procedural Steps Upon Arrival

When my plane landed in Tehran, I was indeed afraid – how would it be at the border?
Will I get a visa? Will the police check all my things, and my emails, confiscate my laptop or phones?
Perhaps they are just waiting for a reason to put me in jail or in the best case, deport me?

Well, I was among some 20 foreigners that needed Visa on Arrival – and it happened that …nothing happened. I mean nothing extraordinary, everyone paid for insurance and visa fees, then within half an hour, we all got our 30 days tourist visas. No police interrogation, luggage, or phone checks, it was an easy simple process – as in any average airport.

What You Experience in Iran?

I started my journey in Tehran, then I went to several other places. Yazd, Bandar Abbas, Qeshm, Shiraz, Isfahan, Caspian Sea towns…After a few weeks, I discovered (at least in a small part) the land of great diversity, for nature and climate, peoples and languages, local traditions, and gastronomic delights. While one can expect professional smiles in hotels or hostels, I was surprised by the sympathy and friendly attitude of so many common people towards me, an obvious foreign traveler. Iranians, even those whose English skills are limited, were happy to say “Welcome in Iran” and curious about my opinion of their country, sometimes about life abroad, and, most important, always offering help when seeing me somehow lost or troubled. I walked across main capital avenues and small streets of villages, always welcomed by smiles and nice words, on some occasions even invited to their homes for tea, lunch, or dinner. In no other country, have I ever enjoyed such attention – and I visited more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia until now.

Low Crime Rate

I can say now, after being around for several weeks in various cities – and it is what I heard from all those who visited Iran – it is one of the safest places on Earth. The huge majority of locals are very friendly, honest, and respectful, especially toward women, which comes from old Persian tradition and culture as to the laws of the Islamic Republic.
I think that it is much more probable to be mugged, or robbed in any Western city than in Iran; here I could walk everywhere, evening or night, and never saw anyone threatening.
Of course, there exist some pickpockets or motorbike thieves, but in my opinion (I saw what goes on in Rome or Naples), where this phenomenon is very limited. And of course, some taxi drivers will try to cheat you! So – use Snapp (the local Uber).

I never had any problem nor heard of typical tourists being bothered by uniformed or other police – one would need to work really hard to merit their attention – rather the opposite, I saw patrol police helping and giving a ride to foreigners. I mean “typical” – unless someone comes to Iran to make political activism, take photos where prohibited, or… “incidentally” fly drones over military installations.

Highly Recommended Destination

Over 3 times bigger than France, with more than 80 mln inhabitants, and an incredible variety of big and small places to visit and admire, starting with Tehran megapolis, going across high mountains and seas, deserts and lush forests of the North, ski resorts and diving-friendly islands of the Persian Gulf, Iran is an excellent destination for “slow tourism”. Because, aside from hundreds of old palaces, mosques, churches, traditional villages and towns, caravanserais, and bazaars, its greatest treasure, often missed by rushy travelers, are Iranians themselves – an incredibly friendly and hospitable people, with elaborated culture and percentage of high education better than in many Western countries.

Now, after a month of intensive traveling, I can say that Iran is definitely a very safe, tourist-friendly country. I met lots of international tourists who share a positive opinion of Iran, some really astonished by their experience – they expected all kinds of possible troubles – and only good things happened! Definitely, I want to travel to Iran again; next time I will explore Western Iran. I think honestly it is the greatest long trip I ever made until now!

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.

Iran travel budget - food expenses

Food, Drink & Souvenirs Price in Iran (Iran travel budget P3)

If your travel takes more just a couple of days, it will be absolutely useful to learn how to write and spell the Persian numbers from 0 to 9 and some two dozen words, about numbers and quantities. While visiting any shop of Bazaar stall, 99% of prices will be indicated exclusively in Persian numbers (and keep remembering- written in Tomans, so you’ll need to multiply them by 10 while using Rial banknotes). Learning essential sets of numbers from 1 to 1000 will make your life much easier. We discussed accommodation and telecom service expenses in Iran travel budget, part 2, and also flight expenses traveling to Iran in Part 1. Now sick with us with ran travel budget, part 3.
Hard budget traveler, admiring day by day wonders of Iran, cannot escape the food expense, whatever massive breakfast you consume, at some time in the afternoon or evening your stomach will ask his share of Iran’s delights.
While saving on hotel and transport expenses seems absolutely natural, it’s not so obvious when it comes to food. Well, you do not pass some weeks in Iran eating every evening just pasta or rice or whatever cheapest food you can cook yourself in a hostel kitchenette.
Actually there are lots of street sellers in every Iranian city, offering hot meals at very good prices. Bowl of tasty dense soup, that usually comes in 2 or 3 varieties will cost 1$, a small dish of spiced beans of red beets is 1.5$, these are among the cheapest ones. Powerful Kale Pache soup (essence form long-boiled sheep heads and legs) is 8$, at this price come start also street kebabs and other dishes.

Iran travel budget - food

A bowl of tasty dense soup, called Aash, that usually comes in 2 or 3 varieties will cost 1$ is only one of your options among the hundred kinds of cheap delicious Persian food.

So, if it is possible in some hostels to get a massive breakfast, your daily Persian food should cost about 3$, with this you can try a local “working class” eateries, avoiding obviously any kind of elegant restaurant or pricey products.
To drink, a good choice is try Doogh (big bottles 1,5 lt selling in every shop) – local yogurt-based bit salty drink, which can be in different flavors and sometimes sparkling (carbonized). There is a variety of “malt beverages” which means non-alcoholic beer and fruit beverages – all these usually cost around 50-70 cents a big bottle at actual exchange rate. More expensive but containing vitamin and delicious will be freshly pressed pomegranate juice from street sellers, but can cost you even 2$ or 1 lt bottle.
If you are however a dedicated carnivore and can use your hostel kitchen – then why not to cook sometime; in street foot meat will be very tasty but let’s say the truth – not in a big quantity.
In Iran you will not find cheap pig meat, of course; and bovine one is very expensive – the best choice for hard budget folk will buy a package of chicken bits and prepare it your way.
There are some shops called “discount”, one known network with best price meat is Refah (so google Refah supermarket to find nearest) – a package of near 1 kg chicken meat was around less 2$. As for common vegetables or fruits in bazaars of supermarkets, at least now in December 2019 – prices are similar to prices in Europe.
Last but not least aspect of your travel – the tourist attractions. To visit most of them, especially those most important – there is an entrance fee. Bad news, indeed there a 2 ticket prices – for locals and for foreigners. Differences can be terrific, for example, National Museum of Iran price is 100 000 rials, foreigner pay 2$. Not much can be done if you have a Nordic look; if you are lucky to pass visually for an Iranian, it can be an idea to go with an Iranian friend perhaps found on Couch surfing (many want just to hang out and practice language) – who buys 2 Iranian-priced tickets for both of you, and if you are lucky, you will save a lot on this occasion.
Unfortunately for those who cannot pass for Iranians (or are too formal to try this escamotage) visiting important monuments, museums and landmarks just in most popular cities can easily cost up to 150 -200 euros. Each beautiful garden, poet tomb, the small local museum will have this double price system, so it is important to take this into consideration when planning a hard budget trip to Iran.
You will normally need a local sim card to use for call and internet – it is easy but will take some time registering at least 15 minutes. There are 3 major telecoms in Iran, you can get a package with lots of calls and internet for some 5 euro, then recharge it as in every country.
Attention – to combat smuggling of goods, Iranian Customs allow nor registered phones to be used in Iran for around 1 month. When you enter Iran on roaming (or if spent – in the day you activate your Iranian sim) arrives SMS telling you to register the phone with them (to pay an import fee) – or it will not work inside Iran (they identify it via IMEI number). So, if you plan to stay more than 1 month and have no wish for bureaucratic complications – take a spare smartphone with you (and keep it spent until the main one goes out of service).
Concluding, in my opinion, it is absolutely possible to travel comfortably with a 10 Euro /day budget, this includes hostels, food, telecom, and transport. But this will not be enough to visit many important monuments – in such case you should plan 15 euro/day expenses, to cover entrance fees and hopefully, few souvenirs from your hard budget, adventurous Iranian Journey.

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.


Tehran traffic: Rules and tips for tourists

Everything – or quite everything – is relative, many may say – and this applies also to our road traffic opinions. Depending on the country you come from, the country you live and whether you traveled to certain places, as for example India, sadly famous for near-total chaos on the city roads. Those who lived there say that Tehran is very quiet, comparing to Mumbai! So, how is Tehran traffic?
I was never in India and coming from a country where road traffic is disciplined and rules mostly respected, mainly because enforced $$$ painfully by police and thousands of street cameras and photo-radars – I had really hard shock during my first days in Tehran (same goes on in other Iranian cities, btw). But as you can imagine, in the megapolis with over 2 mln cars and an unspecified number of motorbikes, the traffic is monstrous, and I needed only…to cross the streets from time to time!


While drivers seem aggressive at first look – once you are crossing an avenue, they indeed do their best to absolutely avoid hurting you!

In Tehran mains streets, included on crossings where in theory traffic lights should regulate it, even the frequent presence of police does not change much; I started to consider this incessant traffic a kind of bloodstream, pulsing in an unstoppable manner – with all possible infractions, cars and motos passing on red, doing crazy u-turns, in apparent absolute ignoring of pedestrian’s need to cross “their territory”. For me, especially awful were motorbikes are coming fast from an unexpected side, where they should simply not be! Aside from driving on walkways, of course! Even worst in evening or night, when some do not bother to put their lights on.
While I had some experience of mildly similar things from Rome, here it was massive! So, what to do? When in the need to cross an important street, waiting for a small break in the flush of vehicles can take eternity…The only solution – while in Tehran, do as Tehranis do, it seems obvious and easy, doesn’t it?
Well, it is very mental. Slowly, most people get used and, strange as it can be, they survive!
They simply enter and walk, meter after meter negotiating, via visual contact with oncoming drivers (and calculating their speed and possible moves) the next steps, with dozens the cars and motos passing around, some accelerating, some slowing down, and sometimes you must run a bit…its always stressing, of course, and a rush of adrenaline happens. In some very large avenues crossing just one lane is a psychological challenge, for unfamiliar ones. To add insult to injury, besides looking really 360 around, pedestrian must-watch down, too – along most of Iran streets there are small rain canals, ready to trap your foot – and in worst of cases, break it!
It took me a couple of weeks of hard stress to adapt more or less to this, and slowly understand and accept some logical findings: this the way it works here; from many, many years. And no hope to change it in any near future. Yes, it is very chaotic and our European minds would love to regulate it severely – but otherwise, Iranians became masters in functioning in exactly this way. In fact, walking for hours on a daily basis I did not see incidents. (Btw most victims of careless driving in Iran find their fate on highways or roads out of the cities). Also, while drivers seem aggressive at first look – once you are crossing an avenue, they indeed do their best to absolutely avoid hurting you – for human compassion, of course, but also for lots of problems that putting someone under-car would cause in Iran, including so-called “blood money”. Hundreds of times I saw Iranians, sometimes lone ladies in chadors, just walking fearlessly inside these rivers of fast coming cars and simply passing unhurt across, as it would be the most natural thing they ever do.
Well, as it takes a while to adapt, what can do a tourist that stays only a few days in Iran? Easiest tip: stick to someone crossing a street, so you will also pass safely. And try to cross streets at official crossings with lights, at least some cars stop there at red – but always watch out for motorbikes! And please, do not be so afraid – even if it looks so crazy, the Iranian city traffic is indeed quite safe.

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.

Iran travel budget

Accommodation, Food & Telecom Price in Iran (Iran travel budget p2)

Well, once we arrived and changed some precious money avoiding traps described in Iran budget travel – part one, several next challenges appear – mainly where to stay, how to move in the cities and inside the country, find good and inexpensive food, and telecom service.

In Iran, Couchsurfing is very popular and many will be happy to host a foreign traveler; if someone likes this kind of experience, it can be a good idea. Just remember, you will need a VPN app to use it in Iran. If however, it is not your preferred way – in Iran, there are hundreds of hostels and cheap hotels.

The main international resource in the case of hostels is, full description and lots of travelers’ reviews will help in your choice, but you can check also the local smaller web

As of December 2019, there are lots of hostels, also in Tehran, offering stay with unlimited breakfast for 4 or 5 euros/night; in dorms of course. The hostel staff is usually very well informed about all your possible questions, speaks good English and can give you advice about local landmarks and how to get there.

As for the typical hostel breakfast, you can have a look here (based on Heritage Hostel, Tehran): My Persian breakfast experience in Iran.

Interestingly, while dorms are now incredibly cheap – these hostels have also some private rooms offered on rather prohibitive 20 to 30 euro prices. Just in case a desire for a small luxury becomes irresistible – there are cheap “1-star hotels” in many less touristic places – in Tehran for example in South Saadi street (close enough to metro Saadi and Great Bazaar). Just asking for curiosity (without trying to bargain), I was offered private rooms for 800 000 rials, some 7 euros – but no breakfast included. These hotels serve mainly locals and hardly you can find them on English language websites, so if interested – ask Iranians (in case you do not find them walking around).

Next comes the transport. About the Tehran public transport, regular taxis and Iran taxi apps you will find more here: Public transportation in Tehran

In other Iranian cities using public transport, consisting mainly of common buses will be a bit difficult without a local helpful to tell you which line of local bus is best for you. I stayed several days in Shiraz and found out how to use to my benefit 2 or 3 bus lines, avoiding kilometric marches. There is always one linking bus terminal in the city center, others to run along main streets, it is good to use them, tickets are very cheap, people pay for drivers.  If you need to go to a specific place far away and have no way to use the city bus – try in first place Snapp, the local Uber-like service. Try to avoid a regular taxi if possible!

By the way, in other big Iranian cities there is a limited metro service, (networks are under construction), actually consisting of 2 lines in Mashhad and just one operating in Tabriz, Esfahan, and Shiraz. On some occasions it can be also useful for tourists, so – why not try?

The most budget-friendly way to travel across Iran is without any doubt by using intercity buses. Even more, the night buses – saving you a hostel fee and also a full day for a new destination.

Tehran has 4 bus terminals, other cities just 1 or 2 – from each one you can pick a normal (Maamuli) or luxury (VIP) intercity bus. Maamuli is a typical tourist bus, usually not the newest one, with some 50 passenger capacity. Another story for VIP – luxury extra large seats, lots of space for legs, great comfort during the journey, some 25 seats altogether – obviously the best choice for a long journey. Unfortunately, there is the price tag – VIP costs around 80% more than a normal bus, to give a fresh example, my recent trip Babolsar – Tehran, some 200 km: Maamuli 240 000 rials (2 euros) vs. VIP 420 000 rials (3.7 euros). Btw in any Iranian bus voyage, there is a bottle of water and a small snack included!

The best way is to ask an Iranian to book for you using local websites – or doing yourself a trip to terminal, there are at least several companies and their hawkers, initially insisting you should take a VIP bus. If you resist and insist on Maamuli, you will be able to buy the cheaper one, of course!

Avoid English language bus booking sites directed to tourists – it is easy, but you’ll pay double or triple. For example on one such “helpful” website, my Tehran – Babolsar tickets were for “only” 5 euro – in real exchange 700 000 rials at that moment –  for Maamuli bus – while I paid for the same ticket 240 000 rials (2 euros), like normal Iranians, at the bus station.

There is quite a good railways network, but tickets are more expensive, and often no places available in immediate days. As for local airlines, it can be an idea in case you want to do a really long jump –  f. ex. Tehran – Bandar Abbas flight can cost around 30 euro (at this time). Always ask an Iranian to help you, using local booking sites; if you do it by an agency or English language website – you will pay more.

BlaBlaCar does not include Iran, unfortunately (neither AirBnB).

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.

Qeshm Island

Top 4 Iran less-known places to visit

There are hundreds of wonderful places, some of which are well known to all visiting tourists, but there are a few rather less-known places to visit in Iran. I will introduce four of these off the beaten path places I have loved visiting in Iran.

Qeshm Island

The largest Persian Gulf island does not make part of the standard Iran tour most tourists follow – but nevertheless is among the most interesting places for those who can stay for more than one week in the country. Located in the Hormuz Strait, close to Bandar Abbas port, the island offers several unique amazing spots as well as the possibility of practicing sports, snorkeling and diving, watching turtles and dolphins – or simply relaxing on its warm beaches.
Its main wonders include the unique geological natural wonder Stars Valley, Mangrove Forest to visit by small boat, and a huge colorful salt cave. You can stay in traditional Hormuzi guesthouses, try local fish-based food and you definitely will meet many lovely camels, a frequent sight on this island, and in some parts of the Deep South of Iran. In the main city, also called Qeshm, is located an old Portuguese fort – in fact, Portugal controlled the Strait of Hormuz for more than 100 years and a couple of their castles survived until our days.
Curiously Qeshm, as well as smaller and more luxury-oriented Island of Kish island, enjoys a kind of tax-free regime, hence it is a destination of shopping trips for many Iranians.
Definitely not a place to go during very hot summers, Qeshm will charm you from early fall to late spring. You can arrive by fast ferries or by place. Once there, you can visit nearby Hormuz and Hendan islands, too.

places to visit in Iran

Iran less-known places – Qeshm: The largest island in the Persian Gulf.

Khararanagh adobe ghost town

Situated not far away from Yazd, this incredible place consists of hundreds of small adobe houses, usually connected between them, slowly degrading with each year passing…Hundreds of years old dwellings, still bustling with life some 30 years ago, were left by its inhabitants for modern homes with gas and water. Others left for big cities… It is a strange sensation, walking around and inside these domes, so small for our standards, aware of generations that passed their lives just there.
Kharanagh has situated some 80 km from Yazd, usually, you can visit it on “3 in 1 tour”, together with Chak Chak Zoroastrian holy place and the ancient city of Meybod. Iran, Yazd province, the edge of the Dasht-e Kavir desert, Kharanaq old village with its mud bricks (adobe) houses overlooking the Andjir valley.

places to visit in Iran

Iran less-known places – Situated not far away from Yazd, Khararanagh adobe ghost town consists of hundreds of small adobe houses.

Makhunik “Liliput village”

For some factors, during a couple of centuries, like lack of green land to feed animals, that forced people to a rather poor vegetable diet for all their life, and near-total isolation of the small population – when “discovered” about 100 years ago, the Makhunik villagers became quite famous for their small stature – having in average about 130 cm. For that reason, you can imagine their adobe houses were also very low, often round and have usually only one small window –  to keep warm and save heating during harsh winters. Actually, with a road finally open, changed diet and mixed marriages, more and more inhabitants are average tall, but while visiting Makhunik you will surely meet older people proud of their unique look and living in those picturesque little houses.
The village is located in South Khorasan province, best to visit in spring or fall time.


Ray, the ancient city in Tehran metropolitan area

While for most tourists Tehran is the point of entry to Iran and the place they stay first few days visiting its museums and landmarks – it is very easy to miss a much older city, that actually makes part of the huge and growing Tehran metropolis. Fortunately, Shahr e Ray (City of Ray) is now easily connected thanks to the metro network, and it takes less than half an hour to reach it from the center of the capital. While Tehran itself was a small town until becoming Persia’s capital in 1795, Ray located south of it was a thriving big city for over 2000 years. Although destroyed heavily during Mongol invasions, Rey offers several interesting landmarks, as wonderful Emamzadeh Abdol-Azim shrine (place of prayer and pilgrimage, but open to anyone), Rashkan Castle on the hill, Chesmeh Ali rock reliefs and famous Seljuk period Tughrul Tower.
The simplest way to reach this ancient city is by metro Red Line direction south, station Shahr e Rey. To stations further south there is a really huge, beautiful, recently build shrine (some decoration works inside and outside are still ongoing) of Emam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran (also open for everyone).

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours. Maybe the best places to visit in Iran is also interesting for you.

travel to Iran

Iran Flights, Visa & Money (Iran Budget Travel P1)

In this article, I would like to present some information and tips, hopefully, useful for “hard budget” travelers, with limited means but nevertheless dreaming of exploring the ancient land of Persia. As it was exactly my case, I am glad to share my experience in Iran travel costs!

Iran visa

While most Europeans (with the notable exception of UK) can obtain VOA in Iran’s several main airports, this obviously closes the possibility to arrive in other ways – by land or sea.
If you arrange an electronic visa before coming to Iran and are not in rush – you will be able to spice up your trip by making your journey a bit more adventurous and at least having a glance of some South Caucasus countries – while using well known European low-cost airlines.

Economic flight to Iran

Wizzair already connects Kutaisi in Georgia with lots of European cities; recently also Ryanair opened some connections with Kutaisi and Tbilisi. From amazing Tbilisi, it is possible to take a bus to Tehran, transiting Armenia and admiring towns and mountain roads. The bus price recently was around 60 euro, but take note that its some 30 h trip. Georgia and Armenia are visa-free for most Western nationals.
Otherwise, there is also the Wizzair connection Budapest-Baku, often around 50 euro, but in such a case you probably need also Azerbaijan e-visa that costs some 20 euro. There are bus and train connections to Tabriz or Tehran, or you can cross the Astara border and continue by exploring wonderful Green Paradise of Caspian areas of North Iran.
In case you come from Russia, Azerbaijani Buta Airways offers good prices Moscow to Tehran, via Baku.
Otherwise, as I did myself – the cheapest flight from many European countries is with Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish near-low cost company, obviously via Istanbul Sabiha Airport. In some periods of last year, there were prices (hand luggage only) of around 80 euro, one-way ticket – even from so faraway places as Madrid.
OK, so assuming you came to Iran you will need to stay somewhere, travel inside the country try local food – the good news is that it is very low actually, as long as you stay within “Iranian Price Space” by what I mean avoiding being corralled into specific services for foreign tourists, at much higher prices.
So, let’s talk about money – and here the fun starts! There are 2 money units in practice and 2 parallel foreign exchanges! Isn’t it wonderful?
Important – because of long time USA sanctions, no foreign bank card of any kind works in Iran. You must take CASH (euro or dollars) with you.
Any online source indicates that the official money of IRI is RIAL, nevertheless, Iranians with strange determination keep using the old unit, TOMAN – that worth 10 Rials, and nearly all prices are indicated in this unit: in shops, bazaars, taxis, etc. So, it is very confusing at the beginning, especially as we use hundreds of thousands and millions (of Rials – as these are the notes) on a daily basis.
Another initial tourist trap is the exchange rate. As said, there are two, government one and the real one. The real one does not mean the black market, as you change legally in exchange shops – that pay you 3-4 times more than banks on the same street, (as the banks by law must follow the Central Bank rates)! Doesn’t look a bit strange?

Everything about Iran money (Rial)

Because of recent sanctions and a de facto economic blockade, Iran’s Rial has lost its value compared to euro and dollar. If 3 years ago 1 euro was about 40 000 Rials, in October 2019 it was around 120 000 and in mid–December 2019 it is around 150 000 Rials – or as Iranians would say 15 000 Tomans.
Depending on many domestic or international factors Rial’s exchange can jump up or down (usually up) and it is absolutely crucial to check the latest rates on
What about other, Central Bank of Iran rate – it is for local importers and for other legitimate cases. The government keeps this rate, so they can buy dollars or euros at an easier price. However, it has nothing to do with tourists; as today, this rate for 1 euro is around 46 000 Rials – so, simply do not use banks to exchange your money, go only to private exchange points.
Be careful, the trap can wait for you in first minutes of your stay in Iran – while in need to change some money in Tehran Emam Khomeini airport, and wandering around – I was approached by a nice smart looking guy offering me to exchange my euros, giving me “very good rate” some 5000 Rials over the “official bank exchange” – of course showing me on his smartphone the exchange table of Central Bank in English!
Fortunately, I knew the real rate. Take note, on the second floor of the Emam Khomeini airport there is a money exchange shop, giving you quite good rates, so go there to change for the first needs.
Very important – with this fast depreciation, nobody knows how will be Rial exchange rate in 1 or 2 weeks – so do not exchange all money at once, but little by little, following your needs.
In Tehran, most of the exchange points are located in Ferdowsi Square (also metro station) and around, mainly on Ferdowsi street. Avoid black market dealers, that hang around and will approach you – they pay LESS than exchange shops and the same can even cheat you with fake or outdated notes.
Actually, most used note it is 100 000 Rials; the next bigger (and the biggest until now) note is 500 000 Rial; 3 years ago it had a somehow serious value of quite 15 euro – and as today is worth a bit over 3 euro in free exchange… for these reasons the smallest notes of 1000 and 2000 Rial notes and especially the coins, are nowadays rarely used.

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.

Iran foods and drinks

Iran foods and drinks: 5 Iranian local foods I love and miss

In every region, every country you go to – you will find some special foods – that you love so much. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is hard, if not impossible, to catch sight of them abroad. It is the same case with Iranian local foods and drinks. Here are five Iranian foods I love, and I am sure I will miss them when I leave this country.


Does it sound a bit weird? A big plastic bottle of fully carbonated, salty, yogurt, and herbs-based beverage? I love it, and I could find it only in Iran! Dough is a cherished traditional yogurt-based Iranian drink that accompanies meals. Iranians also use it as an ingredient in many dishes, such as soup or various sauces. While in some European countries, it is possible to find sour milk beverages – typically just acid in taste as kefir or buttermilk – Iranian dough offers an entire symphony of taste and aroma.

They are lightly salted, then come as plain dough with mint, thyme, or several green herbs flavor. In every small shop or big supermarket, you will find an area with 1.5-liter bottles of this white drink; usually, there are several brands and varieties of taste. For example, there is classic dough (no gas – some 80% brands) and a carbonated one. Just be careful when opening the carbonated one; you will have several seconds of a champagne-like fountain, so do it carefully-otherwise your (and your neighbors’) clothes will suffer!

Iranian Dough

Iran foods and drinks – Iranian dough offers an entire symphony of taste and aroma.


It is a soup – but a special one! You will usually know about approaching a kale-pache shop from far away because of the unmistakable smell it emits. Considered as a kind of Persian Red Bull and winter panacea, it is also a love-it/hate-it food, somehow like British Marmite. Kale Pache literally means Heads and Legs (of sheep, and sometimes goats). It is, in fact, the essence of these ingredients that boil for several hours on a small fire in a huge pot (hence the smell you can notice from a distance). It is believed that such powerful, caloric and tasty Persian food will make you healthy and strong in many aspects. I personally love it – but many Iranians, and seemingly the majority of local girls, do not like it, be it for the smell or the taste of its ingredients. This food is absolutely to try!

Iranian food

Iran foods and drinks – Considered a kind of Persian Red Bull and winter panacea, it Kale-Pache is a love-it/hate-it food!

Fermented Black Garlic

As a kind of pickle, a local specialty of Northern Iran, I never saw it outside the Caspian Sea areas. These regions were often under Russian influence, so I think this might be why the locals love to pickle near everything – as it is a custom in Russia, too. So, when I first walked across the food bazaar in Babolsar (a seaside city in Mazandaran province), seeing large quantities of black garlic and other vegetables pickled in barrels astonished me (as well as lots of smoked fish, not to find elsewhere in Iran). The local variety of garlic supposedly has anti-inflammatory effects and benefits against several illnesses. Fermented Black Garlic is among local Iranian foods offering an incredible taste, and altogether, I love it with local fish-based food.

Iranian foods

Iran foods and drinks – This is among the Iranian local foods that offer an incredible taste and I really love it, altogether with local fish-based food.

Fresh pomegranate juice

Well, fresh pomegranate juice is not limited to Iran. It is ubiquitous in all Iranian cities – street sellers with chromed metal pressers offering you a glass of the deliciously fresh (and very cheap, by the way) pomegranate juice. Also, if you want, you can buy a small or even bigger bottle from street vendors and shops. It has an incredible taste and is full of vitamins. It is interesting to know that every year during autumn when pomegranates are harvested, an Iranian festival known as the Pomegranate Festival is held in the northern region of Iran.

Iranian local foods

Iran foods and drinks – Fresh pomegranate juice: A drink you can find everywhere in Iran.

Saffron sugar sticks (rock candy)

Saffron is a rare and wonderful spice loved by Iranians. They have been using this product for millennia in the Persian kitchen. Saffron is not a cheap luxury and was even more precious than gold in some periods! In local bazaars of Iran, you will find different kinds of it in proudly exposed glass vases. But I discovered that there is a more wallet-friendly and favored use of this noble material. Looking like miniature zoorkhaneh sticks (if you have no idea of this ancient local sport – think about very fat baseball bats).

The rock sugar is mixed with a bit of saffron, giving it a beautiful dark yellow color, with a sweet taste and supposedly healthy qualities. Iranians serve it with tea, and it has become a tradition of the sort. Saffron rock sugar sticks could be a great gift or your souvenir from Iran. I love to use them when offering tea to most precious friends, astonished by such a sophisticated way of sweetening a hot drink.

Are you a fan of Iranian food? Maybe the Iran food tour is suitable for you.

rock candy

Saffron sugar sticks, known also as rock candy, are a delicate Iranian sweet served with tea.

Tehran taxi

Public transportation in Tehran: Metro, Bus, Taxi

Tehran is one of the biggest megapolises around the world, with about 15 million residents are living in it.

Tehran Metro

Fortunately, there is an efficient public transportation system, of which backbone constitutes Tehran Urban & Suburban Railway – or simply Tehran Subway. As of December 2019, this network is 230 km, 7 lines and some 125 urban and hinterland stations are in constant development. Obviously this is the easiest, fastest and cheapest way for traveling, with names of stations and maps written also in English, strategically connects 2 airports, 4 intercity bus terminals, and railway stations. Apart from local specificity – a couple of women-only wagons, usually the first and the last wagons of a train – everything else is the same as in every metro system worldwide. There are women-only wagons, as the name says are prohibited for men, and the rest of the train is for everyone.

Tehran Metro Map 2023

Tehran Metro Map 2023

Please search online for the most recent version of the metro map before using the metro in Tehran, since the new stations are opening (and stations’ names are often changed).

Tehran Buses (BRT & Regular)

There are vast areas of the capital which do not have access to the subway yet, so, you can use the public bus network. In fact, there is a double bus network in Tehran – normal buses often stuck in traffic, but connect many areas of the capital and BRT, bus rapid transit system, which is a very long double bus, connecting several large, important avenues. The most important BRT lines are the one transporting through west/east Tehran in about half an hour from Azadi Tower Square (Western Bus Terminal) to Eastern Bus Terminal on the opposite side; and the other one linking northern metro Tajrish with South Bus Terminal area. These lines are quite easy to use for travelers, with easy maps and English marked stops.

public transportation in Tehran

public transportation in Tehran: BRT

However, Different story goes with standard buses; unfortunately, it will be hard to use them without knowing Persian or having someone as your translator. The only information you will find in English is the line’s number plus the first and the last station. Usually, these places are absolutely unknown to a foreigner, there is no map of their route. However, if you have some spare time, taking a random bus line for a short “visual trip” of the city would be a good idea.
Even if you stay a few days, the best way is to buy rechargeable Tehran transport card, offered in any subway station ticket kiosk (it also works for buses), charge it (like the actual value of 1 $ or 1 euro in free exchange), you can now use it for several trips. Do not forget to touch sensors when leaving the subway station (as Iranians do), so you pay the real, not maximum, fare.
On BRT buses you pay while entering the station (there is a staff) and in ordinary buses touch sensor when leaving the bus (in these buses it is also possible to pay in cash). By the way, on the buses, there are also “women only” sections.

Tehran taxis

Of course, Tehran is full of taxis – as in every other metropolitan. There will be some risk to meet those trying to cheat, often playing with the Iranian double system of saying price – Toman /Rial. You should know that the price is always said in Toman in spoken language. Try to fix the price with the driver before you get in and specify that you agree on it in Toman. Do not forget to find out the details about Iran’s currency before your trip.

Tehran taxi

Tehran is full of taxis.

However, the best way to travel “taxi –style” – at least to try – is to use the Iran taxi apps, local versions of Uber.
First, you should ideally purchase a local sim card (with internet), then install the app. The app works fully in English, when you choose the start and destination points, the price will be shown, always in Rial – so, if you agree with this price touch order bottom, a driver will find you and there will be no further money discussions. However, it is good to know at least 1-10 Persian numbers, so you will be able to recognize “your” cab quickly when the car registration number and driver’s photo will appear on your screen. It is a really good alternative to public transportation particularly during rush hours in Tehran.

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.

Persian breakfast

Persian breakfast: What is served on Iranian breakfast?

For me, breakfast is of utmost importance – a way to turn on my organism, start a new day in a strong, energetic manner and to put it simply, not to feel hungry until at least lunchtime. I have traveled to many countries, experiencing a variety of local breakfasts, some of them close to my own country, Poland, a strong morning meal, that can include fried eggs with sausage or bacon, variety of sandwiches, often with cold meat, smoked fish or varieties of yellow Gouda- like cheese. This goes for Northern and Eastern Europe, while an average Italian or French man will consume just a couple of brioches or croissants with a cup of cappuccino. So, after I arrived in Tehran, I was very curious about the local Persian breakfast morning food, just hoping that my hostel would not serve a kind of “international breakfast”.

Indeed, there and also later, travelling across Iran, I discovered the local custom; I suppose it is the most popular, “mainstream” Persian breakfast – probably in some remote or nomadic communities it can be different. But while hopping several hostels in most visited cities and towns of Iran, I became familiar with this one, repeated with some small varieties.
First of all – “Chai”, meaning tea in Persian. The national drink for centuries, served during all the day, often from beautiful Russian-style old samovars. Since gas and electricity are quite cheap in Iran, you will notice everywhere in hostels and on streets, big traditional or modern samovars, always on fire and full of boiling water, ready to fill your cup of tea or (more rarely) coffee. Coffee is not yet very popular here.


Iranian breakfast: A healthy meal with great diversity.

In Iran, there are many kinds of Persian bread, including European style ones. However, in most places I stayed, they usually served a soft bread, somehow similar to pita – as we call it in Europe, or my preferred crunchy bread – similar a bit to Italian ciabatta. Then, on Persian morning table I always found some staple elements – white, a bit salty cheese, (sometimes it was a local version of feta); to go with it, sliced tomatoes and fresh cucumbers. I was a bit astonished by this affection of Iranians towards crude cucumbers – I saw people eating them in parks as we do with apples!
And always there will be boiled eggs or (less often) fried eggs, butter, sometimes green olives – this is the salty part, that a tourist will find in most of Iran’s hostels. I heard that in some upper levels hotels or in some families a breakfast can include also soup, among them the famous (or infamous for some smell sensitive people) Kale-Pache, a hot essence created by slow fire boiling of heads and legs of goats and muttons – considered a traditional “Persian Red Bull” and winter panacea by many. You can find kale-pache in some restaurants, of course.

kale pache

kale-pache: A kind of Iranian dish usually served as breakfast.

There was obviously also a sweet part of my Persian breakfasts – usually a bowl of dates, a plate with halva, fruit jams and honey. There will be some cake or common biscuits, too. Another curiosity – Iranians love carrot jam, I found out seeing it in every hostel I stayed. In the cities, carrot juice is very popular, altogether with fresh pomegranate juice, you will see lots of sellers and kiosks offering it.

And to keep it healthy, Iranians finish the morning meal by some fruits – mainly apples and oranges.
So, while from time to time I miss a brown bread sandwich with smoked salmon or eggs and bacon dish, I consider a typical Persian breakfast very tasty and extremely healthy – unless you go wild on halva abuse, of course :)))

Are you planning to travel to Iran? You may be interested in reading Persian food article, Also check out our Iran food tour.

everything about Iran

Everything you need to know about Iran

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are” – Samuel Johnson
We all know expectations and reality are two different things, especially when we travel. And there’s pleasure in seeing how the two differ, to satisfy that need of discovery, to touch the world with your own hands. But as we build our hopes and expectations, sometimes, we feel some tricky instincts. What is reasonably safe to expect about Iran?
I almost missed seeing Iran because of this. And oh, what a loss it would have been! To be honest, while I am writing this, I just can’t wipe a funny smirk off my face because things are so different from what I imagined that I actually forgot what I expected! Funny that no?
I don’t want anyone to miss any good travel opportunity, so I set out calling my friends back home, back in Europe and asked them what they would expect Iran to be like. And in this article, for you, I am going to disprove or confirm the most common assumptions Westerners have of Iran.

Unfriendly people

Some of my friends mentioned the idea that due to the recent diplomatic tensions that Iran has been involved in, they would expect Iranians to be bitter and angry at Westerners.

everything about Iran

You will never experience hospitality until you travel to Iran!

Iranians have a huge heart and an impressive hospitality culture! As one of my French friends cycling through Iran puts it: “If I didn’t refuse some of the invitations, I would have to stay in every small village for a month”.
I myself have been cuddled and taken care of by these kind-hearted hosts at every step. In many cases just casually explaining that I had a problem prompted huge chain reactions: somebody would call a friend that would call his friends that would call others still until a solution to my problem would finally be found. Nuclear generosity! Lame pun intended…

Verdict: False expectation

No English

Most of my friends back in Italy tell me they would not expect the locals to speak any English.
This is entirely wrong! While of course, not everybody here speaks English, I could always find people that speak enough of it, or even some French, in a matter of less than a minute when I need it. Even street signs are in English, so I never got lost. As a matter of fact, this had troubled me a lot in Turkey, where meeting anyone speaking some English was like finding a needle in a haystack. Phew!
Oh, and expect some great conversations!
Verdict: False expectation

travel to Iran

You will hardly have any problem with language when you travel to Iran.

Not enough tourist services

Since Iran is not often mentioned in the tourist forums and is not generally talked of as a travel destination in the Western world, many assume that the country is not prepared to offer basic services that travelers might need.
I remember reading that the international banking circuits do not work here, and my Mastercard would be useless. The idea of entering the country with hard cash on me was worrying, and not just a little. I relaxed as soon as I entered the country, though. I got myself a prepaid card that can be used in just about every shop, and I’m virtually safe from any theft. This is the only true annoyance for a traveler in Iran.
I had also heard that you cannot do online reservations because of the banking circuits, but the solutions to this are also being offered.
As for the rest, both the Iranian government and private investors have been consistently looking in these past years to attract more tourists. The benefits of this effort are already being reaped: Internet services can take care of your visa application; new hostels, traditional houses, and eco-lodges are being constantly opened, apps are now being used for transportation, you can find tours and activities for just about anything, and you can find tourist police in some cities. In just a few words, tourist services are aplenty and solutions are offered for any hard-cored inconveniences.
Verdict: False expectation

about Iran: tourists' services

Iranian restaurants are the best!

Dirty and polluted

I have never seen any dirt on the streets, and cities are very (!!!) clean. Walking the streets at any hour of day or night, you will find someone sweeping the roads. To be fair, though, I have been informed that in some remote and sparsely inhabited areas there are not efficient methods of waste disposal. This is, unfortunately, a problem I have encountered in many developing countries.
As for pollution, while other cities are within the norms, Tehran suffers from bad air quality. The reasons are to be found in the number of old cars and the sub-standard gasoline that is now being used in the country because of the international sanctions. This combines with the constant urbanization and influx of people migrating into the city, as is usually the case with capitals of big countries. The battle is not lost though, as the government is constantly devising new methods of fighting pollution as the city grows.
All in all, I have seen dirty cities and comparable pollution in south-eastern Europe, and have nothing to be surprised of.
Verdict: Partially true expectation

Iran's attractions: Tabatabae'i house

Iran is truly one of the cleanest countries you can travel to!

Religious law

The hint is in the name. “Islamic Republic of Iran”. It is the first country I visited with “Islamic” in its name, and before I arrived I was scared witless!
What if I was arrested for something I did not know? Is this Sharia? As with all other fears I had, I relaxed as soon as I entered the country. First of all, the Iranian legal system incorporates some elements of religious law. Granted, some rules might sound uncomfortable for Europeans, used to the most liberal legal systems in the world, but the truth is every country has its laws and adapting to these is the compromise every good citizen of the world makes when traveling. Among these rules, there is a Iran dress code, no blasphemy, no alcohol, no drugs and no intimate touching in public. It is also useful to know that it is not a good idea to criticize the Iranian government or to take pictures of military premises and personnel. These are easy enough rules to follow, and after the first few days, you will be doing that unconsciously.
Also, remember that I said that the government is trying to expand the tourism sector? Well, unofficially speaking, local police is encouraged to offer some leniency to tourists, so you are more likely to get a warning than real trouble. Just be responsible about it.
After you get these rules straight, you are free to enjoy the marvels of this land and its friendly people.
Verdict: True expectation
-Religious intolerance
The religiously inspired legal system does not mean there is any worrying level of religious intolerance. Iran is home to the very old Zoroastrian religion, which still lives here, and Shia Islam is simply the last of the many waves of religions that this land has experienced in its rich history. I found various active temples of fire and churches and mosques. More importantly, I found out quite happily that the contacts between these religions have resulted in some Iranians being self-educated about different faiths’ doctrines.
That being said, in some poor areas of the country, there are religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias.
There is a law prohibiting the conversion of Muslims to non-muslim faiths, so don’t go around spreading the Gospel.
Verdict: False expectation

Vank cathedral

All religions are respected in Iran.

Desert, ruins, and AK47

It is the literal answer of one of my European friends to the question “What does Iran make you think of?”.
I left this as the last point in my article as it is the most ludicrous and funny answer I had been given, although I must say many expressed similar opinions when I called from this cozy office in Tehran.
I and my Iranian colleagues laughed for a few good minutes when I told them.
Iran’s last war ended more than 30 years ago, the military’s rifle of choice is not the Kalashnikov, and the deserts in Iran is like nothing you might expect. It is important not to mix up countries just because of proximity. Iran is not Afghanistan, Iranians are not Arabs, and for God’s sake, Iran is not Iraq!
Iran is Persia, an ancient cradle of civilization, a multicultural country with a rich, diverse history, stunning landscapes, friendly people, good food and hidden treasures!
Expect the unexpected.

Iran deserts
Verdict: Go see the Iran deserts!

Are you planning to travel to Iran? Check out our Iran tours.