Iran Tour FAQ
Hey there! You’re coming to Iran. Great! I look forward to meeting you.
On this page is almost everything you need to know. Probably. Of course, you may have other questions, and feel free to contact me at any time. But, please keep this in mind:
We’ll be looking after you – reminding you of your visa application, reminding to give me your flight arrival details, and anything else that needs doing. However, the intention of this page is to minimise the number of emails we receive – and to make things easier for you.
NOTE: the most important thing you need to do – get your visa application underway.
FLIGHTS – GO AHEAD AND BOOK THEM
You can book your flight whenever you like. Aim to arrive in Tehran on the first day of the tour, and the perfect arrival time is mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If you arrive too early, you may need to wait for your hotel room to be ready (check-in is normally around 12). If you arrive very early in the morning, or very late at night, you will need to pay for your own taxi (I’ll help you with this), and possibly an extra night at the hotel.
On the first afternoon/evening we’ll check out a few local sights, in a very relaxing way. If your flights are delayed or unforeseen delays occur, we’ll take-it-as-it-comes, don’t worry.
If you choose to arrive in Tehran the day before, or very early on day-one (or earlier):
- you will need to pay for your own taxi (approx 20 EUR).
- we will book extra night’s accommodation for you. Tehran hotel prices vary wildly but are typically 100-150 EUR per room.
- if you are a travelling on a passport from USA/Canada/UK, you may need to pay for a “guide” for any extra days (approximately 100 EUR per day, and may be shared with other tour guests).
- if you’re not from USA/Canada/UK, you can arrive whenever, and do whatever.
DEPARTING LATE / STAYING LONGER
- we’ll book all your hotels for staying longer when you arrive in Iran.
- if you need to book a flight back to Tehran, we will help you book this after you arrive in Iran. There are multiple flights from Shiraz to Tehran daily, all times of day and night, the price is typically less than 100 Euro.
- if you are a travelling on a passport from USA/Canada/UK, you may need to pay for a “guide” for any extra days (minimum of 100 EUR per day, may be shared with other tour guests – the costs may be higher if you’re leaving Shiraz during this time).
NOTE: it’s easier/cheaper to stay longer than to arrive earlier. Shiraz hotels are cheaper/better value than Tehran, and all of my partners in Iran are based in Shiraz – making it simple to organise everything.
NOTE: I know this guide thing seems sucky, but it’s a requirement. Don’t worry, your guides are not government employees – they’re cool people, chosen by me, English speaking, freelance guides – they’ll help you do/see whatever you wish.
AIRPORT PICKUP PROCEDURE
Unless I’ve advised otherwise – please locate the booth for “Lux Taxi”, and provide them the hotel details (the hotel booking is in your name, it’s highly likely I will already be at the hotel, and I’ll be sending you an email about a week before your trip with the hotel name and address). Pay Lux Taxi in USD/Euro/Iranian Rial), and I will reimburse you – if you are arriving during “normal” hours on the start date of the tour. Taxi’s will charge around 20 – 30 Euro, they’re safe and reliable.
A taxi to the airport in Shiraz is typically less than 10 Euro (available 24 hours a day), we will assist with arranging this.
VISA PROCESS – THE LETTER OF INVITATION CODE “LOI”
You need to fill out this form, as soon as possible: IRAN VISA – LOI APPLICATION FORM. All of the information you need to know regarding the simple visa process is contained on that page.
MONEY. HOW MUCH DO I NEED, WHAT SHOULD I BRING?
You will not be able to use your credit card, or any kind of bank card, anywhere in Iran. You won’t have any possible way to access any additional money. So, bring cash – clean, unmarked, US Dollars or Euro. I have had bills rejected in the past because they weren’t in good enough condition.
I recommend bringing $500 US per person. You will need to pay for your evening meal, other snacks/drinks you may require, and souvenir shopping. A cheap evening meal is a dollar, an expensive one is $30. Without “shopping” you will not spend $500, but, remember you have no way of getting any extra cash when you’re in Iran.
You can exchange currency at Tehran airport – perhaps just exchange $100 there to get you started. Most of the hotels we stay at, or local currency exchanges, will exchange for you at a better rate.
BTW… I strongly suggest not logging on to any of your online banking whilst in Iran. Due to economic sanctions, your bank probably won’t like it – they may lock your accounts, and you’ll have some explaining to do when you get home. I’ve been in this position, multiple times, it’s not fun.
NOTE: the price of Persian carpets is anywhere from $10 to tens-of-thousands of dollars.
INTERNET / PHONE ACCESS WITHIN IRAN… WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Facebook, Twitter, and many news sites are blocked. If you want to access “blocked” sites, you will need a VPN installed on your laptop and any mobile devices you use. I recommend “ExpressVPN” – use this link and we’ll get both 30 days usage for free: ExpressVPN. Right now, (it changes) you will need to pay for one month, and cancel within 30 days to get a 100% refund (total cost = zero).
(I’ve trialed many different VPN’s – free and paid – ExpressVPN is the only one that works consistently well. It’s available for Windows, Macs, iPhones, Android, and Linux for the neeerrrrds).
Make sure you install ExpressVPN BEFORE YOU COME TO IRAN – on your phone, laptop, tablet, test it, make sure everything is working for you. Indeed, I would strongly recommend installing ExpressVPN whether you think you need it or not.
We will have free wifi at almost every hotel we’re staying at. Many cafes also have free wifi, but I’d sum it up by saying – Iran certainly has the Internet, but it’s not always fast.
As for cell phones, your current provider may or may not offer service in Iran, you’ll need to check with them. I can arrange a local SIM card for you after you arrive. Getting mobile Internet data in Iran can be painful and time-consuming, if you really need it, we’ll try for you (no promises).
DRESS CODE – MEN
Simple – I strongly suggest against wearing shorts. You will feel very uncomfortable.
DRESS CODE – WOMEN
Two main things: cover your butt, and wear a scarf at all times in public. The scarf can be any size, any material, any colour, any pattern. It’s very common to see Iranian ladies wear really quite loud, bright, materials. The scarf is generally worn simply and loosely over your head. Phillipa will show you the typical method, as will any Iranian lady.
The “intention” is to hide your hair. The reality is that most Iranian women love showing a huge amount of their hair (even in public), with the scarf placed so far to the back, that they appear to be falling off. Scarfs are inexpensive, and widely available, everywhere in Iran – however – you will need to bring at least one scarf, IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE, for when you arrive at Tehran airport. You’ll need to wear it as you depart the plane – feel very free to ask anyone for assistance if you need it, they will love to help you.
In your hotel room, on our bus, and “private” places, the scarf will not be required. In “semi-public” places such as hotel courtyards, if you weren’t wearing a scarf you *may* be politely asked to wear one. Stories of “fashion police” are not true. Our female friend in Tehran says “tourists seem to be able to get away with anything”.
If your top is long and loose fitting, and you’re wearing a scarf, you’re 99% of the way there.
You are not meant to be showing any skin above your wrists or ankles, or below your neckline. In other words, wear long sleeves, pants, and no plunging necklines. Skirts are not common. As for shoes, anything goes, including sandals. You will commonly see tight jeans and leggings.
The most comfortable outfit would be a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, and pants/trousers/jeans. Really, the key is “length” of your top: tight pants aren’t a problem, but short tops are a problem. Shirts that don’t go all the way to the wrists are also OK these days.
Iranian ladies can be quite fashionable, they’re experts at looking good within these rules. They don’t look “frumpy”, the colours are often bright, and they commonly use makeup. Most of the time, they look more stylish than us tourists (there will be opportunities to shop).
I would sum up typical female dress in Iran as “stylish, contemporary, but reasonably conservative”.
Travel Insurance is mandatory in Iran. Print out your insurance policy, or you may be required to buy a policy when you arrive at the airport in Tehran. BTW, we have all the contacts we need in Iran – should anything unexpected occur I have a great, in-depth, professional, network of individuals and organisations. You’ll have all the support you need, and we will look after you.
I don’t have a recommended/preferred insurance company – the choice is yours.
No photos of banks, government buildings, subways, or the police. Additionally, there are some specific places you’re not allowed to take photos of, but we’ll let you know when and if that happens. In reality, photography is a dream in Iran and less restrictive than most Western countries. The locals, in general, love having their photo taken.
CULTURAL CUSTOMS – INTERACTING WITH LOCAL IRANIANS
Feel free to talk to any Iranian, male or female. Occasionally, you will find that people of the opposite sex will not shake your hand or make body contact – it’s a religious custom. When this happens, it’s never awkward – they know that foreigners are not aware of this custom. You may hug and kiss the friendly ones.
Iranians love interacting with foreigners, from all nations. You will be treated like a rock-star. So many people will want to speak with you. People will offer you tea, food, gifts, I’ve been offered a car, to keep, twice.
INTERACTIONS WITH POLICE/AUTHORITIES
This is very unlikely to happen. I’ve never been approached by the police, nor has anyone on any previous tour. The Iranian government is very keen to increase the numbers of tourists, and police are there to help you if you need help. Their job is to provide any assistance you may need, with a smile.
CULTURAL CUSTOMS – “TAROF”
Pronounced “tarr-off”, this is a custom you should be aware of. Iranians will offer to pay for you, they’ll invite you to their homes, and make all kinds of generous offers, all the time. It happens at restaurants, in taxis, in shops, supermarkets, with strangers you meet. The thing is, they’re just being really polite. You should politely refuse, go back and forth a few times, and you’ll see whether it’s “tarof”, or genuine. Seemingly strange and complicated, you’ll find it quite interesting and easy to deal with in Iran.
FREEDOM – WHAT CAN YOU DO WITHOUT OUR GUIDE
If you’re *not* from the USA, Canada, or England, you can technically do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you are American, Canadian, or English, the rules are, you need a guide “at all times”. But, in reality, this is what will happen:
- at night, you have choices – you could join us for dinner, or go for a stroll and do your own thing alone, either way, it’s completely up to you.
- during the day, we’ve got a lot of things to show you – so, most of the time you’ll be with us, or near us. We don’t always stick together as a group – maybe we’ll say “go check out the bazaar, and meet back here at 4.30pm”. At those times, if you don’t want a guide, you won’t have a guide. If you want one, you’ll have one. Our guides are like magic – sure, you can wander off and do your own thing, but when you do need our guide, they never seem to be far away.
- there are some days where much of the day’s “activities” are completely optional. On those days, if you want a guide, you can have one. If you want to go it alone, you can.
Your “freedom” is almost the same as any other “tour”, in any other country.
And, you’re going to love our guide, and local friends/helpers. They will feel like family to you, and you’ll stay in contact with them long after you’ve left Iran. They’re independent, professional, authorised, fluent in English, friendly, knowledgeable – and fun. They don’t work for the government, they’re not employed by any one particular agency. I use freelance guides only, and I firmly call them my friends.
Sure, small things may happen – you might over-pay for a souvenir or a taxi. But, we’re talking about very small amounts of money. The great thing about Iran – when people approach you, 99% of the time their intention is to genuinely welcome you and just have a chat. With the number of free meals/drinks you are offered, you’ll feel like you’re scamming them. Summary – don’t worry about scams.
ALCOHOL / DRUGS / PORK
These are all very illegal in Iran. You will never see alcohol or pork in public, anywhere in the entire country. Don’t attempt to bring alcohol into Iran. “Recreational” drugs, as with every other country they are illegal, readily available, and you will get into trouble if you’re caught with them. Prescription drugs – no problem.
PICKING UP / SOCIALISING WITH LOCALS
If you meet someone in Iran, and sparks begin to fly, please talk to me in person and I’ll give you the “rules”. Please, just don’t do anything without speaking to me first – there are things you need to know from both a cultural and legal perspective.
Iran is safe – you will find Iran to be safer than most (if not all) places you have previously visited – including your own city/country. This applies to the big cities, the small towns, and everywhere else we will be visiting.
In general, any “issues” you think there will be in Iran, you’ll realise there was nothing to ever be concerned about. You’re going to love Iran – this will be a fun and exciting journey, and I can’t wait to meet you.
PS, if you’ve found this page but haven’t booked an Iran Untour – check out the tours on offer here.
PPS, get your visa application underway ASAP on this page.