Iran has a reasonable choice of accommodation, from tiny cells in the guesthouse to luxury rooms in five-star hotels. Camping, however, is almost nonexistent. The Ministry of Culture & Islamic Guidance categorizes most hotels and decides what they can charge. Prices rise in April each year and the rates are displayed at reception.
While room (Otagh) prices are fixed, friendly negotiation might save you a bit during quieter times, especially between mid-October and early March. But don’t count on it. The reluctance to bargain is partly due to a lack of effective competition. For foreigners, midrange and top-end places will sometimes quote prices in US dollars or euros, though they accept (and are, in theory, required to be paid in) local currency. Hotels will almost always keep your passport overnight so carry a photocopy, and get the original back if you’re heading out of town. Check-in & Check-out time is usually at 12 and 2 pm respectively.
There are two clear tourist seasons in Iran. Low season starts in October and continues through winter until shortly before No Ruz (Iranian New Year, on 21 March) and the beginning of spring. From a few days before No Ruz, hotels in popular holiday destinations, such as Kish Island, Esfahan, the Caspian Sea coast, Shiraz and Yazd, are packed, and prices are at their highest.
No Ruz marks the beginning of daylight saving, longer opening hours and annual government-approved price increases across the economy, including hotels. After the 13-day holiday period is over you’ll find room prices usually rise by about 20% from the winter (low season) rate, and stay that way until October, when they fall back a bit or can be (slightly) more easily haggled down. The whole cycle then begins again next No Ruz. There are a few exceptions. In summer, prices along the Caspian Sea coast can skyrocket, while in hot places like Yazd and Kerman prices can fall with demand.
Iranians love tents, and there are few official camping grounds like Sia-Chador or nomad tent, camping can draw unwanted attention from the authorities. Trekkers and mountaineers who need to camp should discuss plans with the provincial tourist information office first if not accompanied by a recognized guide. The office may be able to write a letter of introduction. It is better doing this process through a certified travel agency.
- Prices vary across the country, with Tehran usually the most expensive, Esfahan, Shiraz and Mashhad in the middle, and less visited centers such as Kerman, Hamadan and Bandar Abbas the cheapest.
- CouchSurfing is technically illegal in Iran and not recommended!
So how to book accommodation in Iran?
Booking accommodation in Iran is actually fairly simple, but it can take up some time. Basically, there are five ways to book your accommodation;
1. Through the website, you’re booking with
This goes for the number of websites that offer direct online booking options. For example; some of the websites mentioned in this article provide online booking services. Because every website has their own policies it’s best to check the procedure with the website you’re using.
2. Through email
Most accommodations in Iran can be contacted by email. Simply send them an email with your reservation request. While most companies will reply within a day or two, it is a smart thing to catch up with them if you don’t hear back after a couple of days.
3. Directly at the accommodation provider
Additionally, some accommodations offer direct booking on their website; simply fill in the reservation form and wait for their confirmation by email.
4. By phone
If not all accommodations in Iran can be booked directly over the phone. This option is obviously most convenient if you’ve already arrived in Iran and your plans are flexible. Get yourself an Iranian sim-card and just call the provider to make your booking. If you’re in the unlucky situation that the provider doesn’t speak English be sure to ask help from your current hotel or newly made Iranians friends.
5. Through travel agencies
While some travel agencies take care of your whole trip, including accommodation, sightseeing, and visa procedures. There are also travel agencies who offer hotel booking as a separate service. They usually offer a wide selection of medium and luxury hotels, as well as guesthouses or Eco-lodges on request.