First Time in Iran


  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past your arrival date.
  • Inform your debit-/creditcard company.
  • Arrange for appropriate travel insurance.
  • Check government travel warnings and make sure you’re not traveling to any areas that will void your insurance.
  • Check if you can use your mobile/cell phone.

What to Pack

  • Farsi phrasebook
  • Some pictures of your family to better communicate with your new Iranian friends
  • Sturdy walking shoes
  • Warm clothes in winter
  • Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Electrical adapter (European, two round-pin type)
  • Small gifts from home for new friends

Top Tips for Your Trip

  • Plan your trip (including visa application process) well in advance.
  • Don’t be too ambitious – Iran is big and trying to see everything can lead to frustration.
  • Learn some Farsi before you go – a sure way to make local friends.
  • Take some small gifts from home to repay the many small acts of kindness and hospitality you’re likely to receive while in Iran.

What to Wear

Few questions occupy the minds of first-time female visitors to Iran quite like the question of what to wear. Like all females aged nine and older, women travelers will need to wear hejab while in Iran. That means covering hair, arms and legs and wearing clothes that disguise your body shape when in public. Bring something long and loose from home and, if you want to look less like a tourist, shop for a manteau (an overcoat that covers your bottom, at least) once you arrive. Ditto for scarves, which will require constant attention lest you expose too much hair. As for men, the main dress restrictions are that you shouldn’t wear shorts or singlets that show your shoulders.


The choice is limited to fairly uninspiring hotels and basic local lodging houses away from the main tourist circuit and larger cities.

Hotels: Runs the full gamut from budget cheapies to top-end behemoths; the upmarket end of things is limited but improving all the time.
Ecolodges: are local accommodations built in the heart of nature and designed to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated. Ecolodges abide by the principles of sustainable development, a concept that has been receiving a lot of attention by major organizations all over the world, including the UN.
Guesthouse: Basic lodging houses or very basic hotels with dorm beds, shared bathrooms, and a predominantly local male clientele.
Camping With few official camping areas, camping is really appropriate in deserts like Shahdad Kaluts and etc.

In general prices in shops are fixed. But virtually all prices in the bazaar are negotiable, particularly for souvenirs and always for carpets. In heavily touristed areas, such as Imam Sq in Esfahan, bargaining is essential. Bargaining tips include not showing too much interest at first when you find something you like. And don’t buy the first one you see. Check out a few alternatives to get an idea of quality and price. Remember that bargaining is not a life and death battle. A good bargain is when both parties are happy and doesn’t require you to screw every last toman out of the vendor. As long as you’re happy, it was a good deal.

Money & Costs:

BUDGET (up to) US$ 50
  • One-way bus Tehran–Esfahan: US$9
  • Entrance fees to most sights: US$4
  • Dorm bed or basic room with bathroom: US$10–40
  • Meal in a local restaurant: US$5–10
  • One-way flight Shiraz–Tehran: US$70
  • A half-day trip from Shiraz to Persepolis by taxi/driver-cum-guide: US$40/50
  • Double room with bathroom: US$40–149
  • Meal in a midrange restaurant: US$8–15
TOP END (more than) US$ 200
  • Four-star hotel in Tehran or Esfahan: US$150 plus
  • Main meal in top Tehran restaurant: US$25–50
  • Guide and/or driver for day: US$70–100

Bring cash in enough US dollars or euro for the duration of your trip – cash is king. You cannot use credit or debit cards, travelers cheques or ATMs. Repeat, bring all you’ll need in cash.

Tipping is not a big deal in Iran. In upmarket restaurants (mainly in Tehran) a 10% gratuity might be
expected – on top of the 10% service charge that’s often built into the bill. But in most other places any money you leave will be a pleasant surprise. It’s normal to offer a small tip to anyone who guides you or opens a building that is normally closed. If your offer is initially refused, persist. There is no culture of baksheesh (alms or tips) in Iran.

Iranians are generally quite forgiving of Westerners for any minor cultural transgressions – they don’t expect you to know all of the rules. Some useful things to remember:

  • When invited to dinner take a tin of the local sweets (eg Gaz in Esfahan).
  • Never use the thumbs-up sign, which is the equivalent of the middle finger ‘up yours’.
  • Men should not offer to shake a woman’s hand unless she offers first.
  • Take off your shoes when entering a home or a mosque.

Iran is an excellent place to eat out (or in, if you’re lucky enough to be invited to a meal in a local family home).
Teahouses: Traditionally where Iranians would go to socialize and eat, with tea, Qalyan (water pipe) and food.
Kebabis: Simple kababis tend to be found around major squares and serve, yes, kababs. Eat where the locals eat.
Take-away  Fast food is popular and begins (and often ends) with bread-roll ‘sandwiches’.
Restaurants Found across the country; most serve ash-e jo (pearly-barley soup) and salad as standard starters