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Is Iran Safe? Here’s What You Need To Know

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Nasir-al-Molk mosque in Shiraz

Nasir-al-Molk mosque in Shiraz

Think you can’t travel to Iran? Think again. Jessie on a Journey caught up with intrepid traveler Shara Johnson, editor of SKJ Travel, who recently returned from a trip through the country. For those interested in going themselves — or just curious about what the experience is actually like and want an answer to the question, ” Is Iran Safe ?” — Shara provides stories, essential tips and safety information for traveling through Iran based on her own experience. Note: Depending where you’re from you may be able to travel Iran without a guided tour (not US citizens). For those travelers, make sure to also check out The Broke Backpacker’s guide to Backpacking Iran. You can also learn more about why Iran is often considered one of the best places for solo female travel in the Middle East.

1. Iran isn’t a destination you hear many travelers talking about. What made you decide to go there and what type of traveler do you think would enjoy going to Iran?

I’ve actually always been interested in that region of the world because of my interest in ancient history. In more recent years, I also have taken more interest in architecture. Those two things were primarily what drew me there. The political climate back in February 2014 when I booked our trip seemed the best in decades, so I decided it was time to go. Frankly, I can’t imagine excluding any type of traveler from enjoying this country. You can travel on a budget or in a more luxury fashion; you can travel independently (if you’re not American) or with a group; the architecture is spectacular; if you like shopping, the bazaars are a delight; the citizens are incredibly friendly – Iranian hospitality is renowned; you can visit ancient cultures like the nomads or modern cities like Shiraz and Isfahan. These activities are combined with that fact Iran is a large country with widely varying ecosystems from the ocean to the mountains, deserts to lush forests. I think the only requirement is that you leave any fears behind — because they are unwarranted — and clear your mind of preconceptions, because they will only be disproved. If you can do this, you’re the type of traveler who would enjoy Iran. We actually saw tons of European travelers, so I think this applies more to Americans than to anyone else.
Eating hardened sheep yogurt balls with the Qashqaei nomads

Eating hardened sheep yogurt balls with the Qashqaei nomads

2. For those wanting to experience local culture in Iran, what do you recommend?

Well, naturally a tea house would be on the agenda, especially one with live traditional music — the locals will be clapping their hands and singing along. Iranians are champion tea drinkers and picnickers. So pack a thermos of tea and head out for a picnic! You should try a hooka — flavored tobacco to smoke — as well. The real “culture” of Iran is the Persian culture. Some people don’t realize Iranians are not Arabs, they’re Persians who were conquered by the Arabs in the 700s. So perhaps visiting some traditional cultures is my best recommendation. For example, we spent a night with a nomadic family in the Zagros Mountains. We just hung out with them in their camp — and drank lots of tea, of course. They fixed us dinner and we ate with them. It wasn’t a real touristy thing — no special tents set up for visitors or any kind of practiced demonstrations or whatnot. Our guide called them up on his cell phone (yes, everyone on the planet has cell phone … except me) and asked if they were stationed at one of their camps. We got in a jeep and drove there, set up a regular two-man camping tent for ourselves on a flat grassy spot, and just shot the breeze around their campfire for most of the evening. Other old villages such as Abyaneh give you a glimpse at pre-Arab culture as well.

3. For someone wanting a traditional meal in Iran, what would you recommend they try?

The obvious answer is kabobs and tea. Lamb and chicken kabobs with gobs of saffron rice and naan-type bread are really the mainstays. Eggplant (aubergine) is a very common dish, usually in some kind of stew or broth. And if you really want to be Iranian, you will eat a raw onion with your meal. Not onion slices, but an actual whole onion – bite into it like an apple. And have a plate of raw basil or other herbs, this is very common. I made little basil sandwiches by just folding over a piece of naan and stuffing in the leaves.

4. For those wanting to partake in some adventure, what’s something in Iran they can do?

There are things like hiking, climbing and mountaineering as well as some ski resorts. I know that you can take horse-riding tours and travel for weeks through the country on horseback. Whitewater rafting is a pretty new adventure activity in Iran, so you could be one of the first people to do something like that. The most adventurous thing we did was camping with the nomads, as explained above in Question #2. Not exactly adrenaline-pumping, but definitely culturally adventurous and it did require sleeping on a very hard ground in a small tent.
The bazaar during siesta in Isfahan

The bazaar during siesta in Isfahan

5. What tip(s) would you give backpackers and extreme budget travelers heading to Iran?

I can’t speak to this very well since we had a relatively luxurious trip, as it’s the only kind of trip an American is allowed to have, staying in 3- and 4- star hotels, which were, incidentally, a very good value for the money. For anyone who is not American (see Question #10 for USA restrictions), I can tell you there is a huge Couchsurfing community thriving in Iran. Generally, items you buy in the bazaar are cheaper than in a shopping mall, so if you want clothes or other practical items — and of course souvenirs — go to the bazaars.

6. For those wanting to assimilate into local culture, what’s one etiquette rule they should remember to avoid offending locals in Iran?

Women have to be the most careful. For example, if your head scarf falls off or you’re walking around bare-headed – this can really upset some people. And follow the other dress codes of long sleeves and a shirt length that covers your butt. Don’t offer your hand to a man to shake it — only if he extends his first. Most men working in tourist areas are perfectly comfortable interacting with women in a Western fashion. But other people on the street may not be. For both sexes, don’t give a thumbs-up sign with your hand; it means the same as the middle finger does in America. Though, if a foreigner puts their thumb up, Iranians do seem to understand we are just ignorant of what it means.
Caravansary turned into a hotel, the “rooms” consist of a raised bed behind each curtain.

Caravansary turned into a hotel, the “rooms” consist of a raised bed behind each curtain.

7. Are there any local accommodations you would recommend in Iran that reflect the local culture or have a lot of character?

You can stay in old caravansaries — places where people, mostly merchants and traders, in antiquity stopped for food and accommodation. These will most likely be outside of cities kind of in the middle of nowhere along the ancient trade routes such as the Silk Road. But they’re quite an authentic experience of historical culture. Other cool accommodations are old homes of the elite converted into hotels. Yazd has several of these. This is a growing trend throughout Iran — as tourism increases they are running out of hotel space — and especially in smaller cities, they’re taking advantage of these old homes to convert them into hotels because they typically have many rooms and courtyards.
 Friday Mosque in Isfahan

Friday Mosque in Isfahan

8. What cities or regions in Iran would you recommend travelers to spend the most time in?

I can only speak of the central corridor of Iran, which is the main tourist circuit for anyone with limited time. We had only 15 days, so we stuck to that route. Of those cities, I would most recommend Yazd and Isfahan. Yazd is a city that has really preserved Persian tradition and innovation – it contains probably the best illustrations of Persian ingenuity when it comes to learning how to live comfortably in the desert (ancient cooling technologies, etc), as well as artifacts of the Zoastrian religion, the original religion of the Persians. Today it is kept alive by only a small number of people — about 20,000 — and a flame that has been burning for 700 years! In Yazd, they even practice a form of traditional athletics used to train for sword fighting. Isfahan is a beautiful city brimming with splendid architecture in its wealth of mosques and former palaces (Isfahan was once the capital of Iran). Its bazaar is also amazing and huge – so many side alleys and courtyards. There’s an Armenian quarter which has a lovely Christian church in it. One of my favorite activities was walking along the bridges at night, where locals sing underneath them. We stayed in Isfahan four days and nights. If you enjoy architecture and interior design, this is definitely a city for you.
The main ceremonial entryway to Persepolis

The main ceremonial entryway to Persepolis

9. For history buffs visiting Iran, what’s a recommended experience?

Oh boy, there’s a lot of good stuff. The piece de resistance, though, is certainly Persepolis — the ceremonial city of the ancient Persian empire, built in the 500s BC. Also check out the nearby associated necropolis. The Tomb of Cyrus the Great is also located near there. He was the founder of the Persian empire and probably the single most revered historical figure by all Iranians, who are immensely proud of their long cultural heritage.

The ancient mud-walled citadel of Rayen, near Kerman

10. What are some things travelers need to think about BEFORE leaving their home country for Iran?

Most importantly, Iran is a cash-only society. Owing to international sanctions, they can’t have associations with foreign banks and credit companies. So as a foreigner, you cannot access your personal funds from within Iran. You have to carry with you in cash enough money for all your foreseeable travel expenses. Fortunately, things like mugging, pickpocketing and robbery are rare, which helps ease a little of the anxiety of carrying around so much cash. Your ATM card will be utterly useless, your credit card will be useful only if you wish to buy a Persian carpet from a relatively large dealer, which will run you several hundred to several thousand dollars (they process payments through Dubai). For Americans only, know that you need a minimum of two months and up to two-and-a-half months to obtain your visa. It takes 45-60 days to get an approval number, then you have to mail your passport in to the Pakistan Embassy. You must have your flight booked before applying for the visa. Also, Americans can’t travel alone — they must travel with a tour group or with a private guide. You will have to give the name of the tour agency or guide that you are using when you apply for your visa, and it’s best to simply let the agency handle the application on your behalf. Don’t try to skirt this restriction. Even if you somehow manage to lie your way into the country, it’s actually illegal for Iranians to host Americans in their private homes (which is why Couchsurfing is impossible) and you could get your host into trouble. My husband and I hired a private guide through an Iranian agency and it turned out to be an awesome experience. Our guide was stellar and really made the trip for us.
Peacock dome inside the Imam Mosque in Isfahan.

Peacock dome inside the Imam Mosque in Isfahan

11. Were there any instances during your trip to Iran where you felt unsafe?

Yes! Every time I crossed a street in a city. The traffic is terrifying to a pedestrian. At first I thought I was just getting old and losing my nerve. I’ve crossed many crazy streets in other foreign countries. But then I read other guidebooks and websites that say traffic is the biggest danger to tourists. Driving on the highways was scary sometimes, too; twice we were almost run off the road by big trucks who didn’t see our little car. Everyone drives in the dead-middle of a road with two lanes. White lines painted on pavement are utterly pointless in Iran. However, other than around vehicles, no, I never once felt remotely unsafe in any way. So, is Iran safe ? You won’t meet people any more friendly than Iranians. They were even extra friendly if they found out we were American – they were so pleased that we weren’t afraid of them and were visiting their country.

12. For solo travelers heading to Iran what advice would you give? How can they stay safe?

I don’t really see any safety problems for solo travelers and traveling to Iran as a woman alone. As I said, things like theft are rare, and the locals are ridiculously hospitable. In the major cities, tourists are everywhere, so it’s not like you would stick out in any way as being alone. You can’t really rent a car, so you either have to use public transportation or hire a guide to drive you. Public transportation is very cheap, even domestic airfare.
Mirrored porch at Narenjestan in Shiraz

Mirrored porch at Narenjestan in Shiraz

13. What are some misconceptions Westerners have about Iran?

Well, I think probably a whole book could be written on this topic. I don’t even know where to begin or end. One thing about having such a knowledgeable and fluent English-speaking guide for 15 days with whom we got along so well (just luck that we were so compatible with one another) is that he invited us to hang out with his friends and family, so we got pretty unparalleled insights (for foreigners) into the private lives of the average 20- and 30-year old citizen. Our guide, and therefore his friends, trusted us enough to talk very frankly about their personal lives. The thing is, Iranians must lead double lives – the public life, which is visible to government authorities who can dish out really unpleasant punishment if you aren’t a good and devoted Muslim abiding the ayatollah’s creeds, and the private life, which unfortunately, I can’t really discuss here (nor on my own blog). It’s prudent that I don’t reveal what all we did and talked about out of concern for the safety of those we met. Just consider one very public example of the conflicting behaviors and ideologies in Iran: the ayatollah is the supreme leader, he is the dictator of religious edicts which take precedence over all other forms of law; he has outlawed all social media in Iran. But not only do practically all the younger citizens have social media accounts anyway, through proxies, the democratically-elected president of the country has a Twitter account and Tweets to an international audience. The revolutionary guard is the ayatollah’s military arm, but everyone we spoke with said they consider the revolutionary guard an embarrassment and wish they would go away. They said it is full of uneducated zealots (most people used more derogatory terms than “uneducated”). People we just met on the streets, who came up to us as Westerners and asked where we were from, were so pleased we were visiting from America, and asked us, “Why does America hate us?” Or they would say, “See, we’re not such terrible people!” They were genuinely hurt that Americans think so poorly of them. One of our guide’s friends asked me, “Why do Americans think we are all such mindless religious radicals?.” You can imagine the long discussion that ensued. Young Iranians clamor after Western goods and entertainment as much as anyone. They can’t get a lot of it because of the sanctions, but they are very creative in finding ways around both sanctions and laws. There is a healthy black market for a number of illegal material items. Many people have also learned how to procure and hide illegal satellite dishes on their homes. I think many Americans picture Iranians at home building bombs, plotting attacks and chanting “Death to America” while they pour their tea. The average Iranian comes home from work, changes into more comfortable clothes (women often shedding head scarves and chadors), pops on the TV – likely tuned to an illegally accessed American sitcom — checks their illegal social media accounts, and maybe reads some Persian poetry. Or goes on a picnic with friends. Also because so very little actual information about the country and its citizens is broadcast or written in the West, we’re all still stuck in 1979 when Iranians took Americans hostage. That was a unique time of upheaval, the beginning of the revolution. A revolution that most citizens had no idea would lead to the current state of affairs, they were simply eager to overthrow the king (shah), and the ayatollah and his minions moved in and clutched the country in an iron fist before the rational people could really blink and grasp what was happening. Post-revolution Iran is like Maoist China and Soviet Russia. If the ayatollah were to be overthrown now, the majority of the population would breathe a sigh of relief. But nobody can say that in public. I recommend reading the book, “The Cypress Tree,” by Kamin Mohammadi for an insight into how the revolution affected many of the normal citizens and stripped away their freedoms.
Standing in front of the tomb of Cyrus the Great

Standing in front of the tomb of Cyrus the Great

14. For those wanting to experience Iran with a local guide, is there a guide or tour company you would recommend or not recommend?

Yes! We adored our guide, and the tour agency we used was very good, as well. It was just pure dumb luck we ended up with Reza, our guide for all 15 days, as most guides contract independently with the tourist agencies in Iran, so you could end up with anyone. We used Gasht Tours to obtain our visa approval, and we followed one of their itineraries — they booked all of our hotels and provided the guide. It’s definitely cheaper to use an Iranian agency than an American/Canadian/European touring company. I would love to recommend our guide, whom you can contact at Hamzeh.Rezaee [at] *All photos courtesy of the author, Shara Johnson
Recommended Reads: The Road to Oxiana Iran (Bradt Travel Guide) Inside Iran Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys In Iran Saraban: A Chef’s Journey through Persia
Have you traveled to Iran? Are you planning a trip to Iran? Please share in the comments below. *Please consider using the above links for book purchases, as I get a small affiliate link commission that helps keep this site running. Thank you! shara

About The Author

Shara Johnson plots her travels abroad from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where she also hosts other travelers as an Airbnb host. Visit her Iran archive to read more about her experiences in this country. You can follow all her adventures abroad at Friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Also Check Out:

6 Essential Jordan Travel Tips 10 Tips For Finding The Perfect Travel Souvenir
dream creator

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is a New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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  1. Sarah on at 4:53 pm

    Great tips! I’m going to Iran in a month so these are in perfect timing! I’m definitely going to try to stay in caravansaries, looks awesome! Thanks for this article!

    • Jessica Festa on at 7:17 pm

      @Sarah: Thank you for the kind words. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

    • skjtraveler on at 5:21 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad to know you’re going to check out Iran. You’re going to have a great time.

    • Sina on at 7:49 am

      I’m a Iranian man. I live in Tehran and I have at least a guest every month from other countries. My fiance and I like to explore in Iran with foreign people. She speaks English and French well and I can speak English.
      Traveling to Iran is safe, cheap and very interesting.
      Sina Nanosi is my facebook name to join us.

  2. Samantha on at 9:37 pm

    Thank you so much for this blog post! My husband and I are planning to take a trip to Iran and were a little nervous about all of the stigma and uneducated perceptions of this country.. We are now looking forward to it with less anxiety! 🙂 Beautiful insight to a wonderful country.

    • Shara on at 6:10 pm

      Have a great time! One of the things I have really enjoyed upon my returned is blowing all the misperceptions about Iranians out of the water. Yes our governments and ideologies have some problems with one another, but person-to-person, you could not meet friendlier more hospitable people to welcome you to their country.

  3. A.F Jahroumi on at 7:38 pm

    Although it was a pretty good article about a journey through Iran,but still Mrs.Johnson has not been quite fair and accurate about many things which are mentioned in her article,specially those parts which are about government and its popularity among people and the matter of private and public of Iranians.

    I am not sure she even had talked to 3 of each 10 Iranians whom she had met or not,since the biggest point which she has not mentioned in her article is that this type of government is still quite popular among most Iranians specially those who belong to below-average classes of the society.Sorry but I cannot convince myself that this article was completely unbiased.

    • Shara on at 7:36 pm

      Hi A.F. … I’m only writing an article about my experiences for travelers to find helpful in making them feel comfortable traveling to Iran. I have no agenda about which to be biased or unbiased other than to encourage travelers to see this amazing country by helping them shed some of the fears they may have. Before I left, all my friends and family were concerned that I would not be safe and that people would hate me because I’m American and throw rocks at me or something. I wrote in this article about what I found instead (no rocks, friendly people interested in Western culture). You’re right that I did not talk to 10 out of 10 Iranians I met on the streets … so I can only write about those to whom I did speak and I had many in-depth conversations. This isn’t a conscientious bias, this is me being able to tell only the experiences I personally had; I’ve faithfully relayed what the Iranians I met said and explained to me, but I make no claim to have spoken to everyone in the country. I was originally hesitant to voice my observance about the private vs. public faces of many Iranians … this was specifically pointed out to me by people I met who practice this duality themselves (and I witnessed it myself in some people). But after reading The Cypress Tree, an entire book about this aspect of Iranians written by one, I decided to go ahead and say it, knowing this is a common phenomenon as described in the book … the point being for people to realize that we have much more in common with each other than the surface might indicate. As a traveler, that is to say a short-term visitor in a foreign country, I observe and listen to what people say to me and write what I personally experience. I hope in this case that my experiences encourage Americans and other Westerners to feel confident that they will be treated awesomely inside Iran, and to go see the country themselves.

  4. A.F Jahroumi on at 7:44 pm

    Also would you please tell me how you realized that hosting Americans in their own private houses can be troublesome for Iranians?Because as long as I remember,there is no restriction on inviting foreign tourists (including Americans) to their private houses for Iranians.Because I know many have done this and hadn’t had any problem with the government after that…

    • jess2716 on at 5:32 pm

      @AF: Thank you for sharing your perspective. Unfortunately I cannot comment as I personally have never been, but I can ask Mrs. Johnson if she has a reply.

    • Shara on at 6:21 pm

      Hi A.F. … it is no problem having foreign tourists inside your home with the only exception of Americans. It is technically illegal … I know this from several tour guides inside the country. It is unlikely the police will knock on your door and arrest you, but it may get noticed by the government and they simply make a note of it somewhere in a file. Maybe you do something in the future that is troublesome/suspicious and now in your file there is information that you also associate with Americans. That’s all. I wanted to couch surf in Iran, but all the tour guides told me I could not and that it was forbidden. I looked up more information online at that time and found confirmation of this. Two people I contacted through couchsurfing originally invited me to their homes for dinner, after finding out I was American, one canceled the meeting altogether, the other one told me he was specifically advised by a tour-guide friend to meet me in a public place instead. So we ate at a restaurant.

      • judi on at 8:39 am

        What?? Having American guests is illegal? ? Why are you making up story? I am iranian and telling to all you that is not true at all. Nobody care who is your guest as long as the person is not involve with any anti iranian action. My western husband love his journey to iran.

      • Parsa on at 8:37 pm

        You had such a generous treatment that you didn’t want your host to get in trouble but you and those guys found the goverment’s warnings so serious 😀 Nothing would happened for the host. That dude could pretend to be one of your relatives or something (if the cops had knocked the door!) ^_~

      • yasamin on at 10:14 pm

        first of all I have to say I really enjoyed reading your article and I laughed a lot when I read about iranian driving (you are right)
        Byron here no body cares if you are hosting Americans or not as my family did host an American family on 2012 and nothing happened.

  5. Mike on at 1:56 am

    Good summary, but you missed the part of Iranian history where it was in fact the CIA and U.S. government that installed the Shah in the first place, after overthrowing the Iranian Prime Minister. Like all countries, the future is more important than the past. Hopefully we can make more diplomatic progress.

    • jess2716 on at 5:14 pm

      @Mike: I also hope we can. From what many travelers seem to (positively) experience in Iran, it seems sad that so many Americans are terrified to go over there.

    • Shara on at 6:33 pm

      I’m not unaware of the US government’s meddling and agendas in Iran, but the article would have been quite long indeed if I also included a modern history lecture. haha. 🙂 But my point in writing a travel article was simply that as travelers, the political engagements of our countrys’ governments seemed pretty irrelevant. My experience (which is the only experience I can write about) is that Iranian citizens treat American citizens in their country as warmly and respectfully as their own countrymen, at least in the tourist zones where I visited. So despite all the unfortunate past, there seems to be goodwill going forward. As you say … “hopefully.” Thanks for your comment.

  6. I’ve been to Iran twice and I absolutely love it! The people are easily the most hospitable I’ve encountered anywhere and I was constantly invited into homes for dinner or offered help to find somewhere to stay or a lift in a car. I’ll definitely be going back.

    • jess2716 on at 5:11 pm

      @Candice: Great to hear you also had a positive experience. It’s definitely on my bucket list!

    • Shara on at 6:37 pm

      So great to hear this. I personally don’t know anyone else who has traveled in Iran … it would be great to meet some others some day and trade stories. It was so much fun. Enjoy your return!!

  7. [email protected] on at 1:44 am

    I am travelling to Iran in May 15 and am not sure about how strict the dress code is for women do I need to have a matenau or are long tunic tops OK. I look forward to any feedback

    • Shara on at 7:54 pm

      Hi Robyn … the dress code is more relaxed than I first imagined it would be, but of course it’s best to be conservative. I wore long tunic tops. The most important things are that your top (a) extend below/completely cover your butt, (2) have long sleeves (though you can often push them up your forearm a little), (3) have a collar or high neckline … i.e. no v-neck lines or low backs and keep any buttons buttoned up to the top or maybe second-from-top. Since you will be there in May, you can actually wear light, open-toed shoes. As far as how loosely you can arrange your headscarf, just take your cues from the women around you. Some cities are more conservative than others. Hope this helps. 🙂 You can always buy clothes in the bazaars, as you know they will be culturally appropriate, typically really cheap. Another thing is that you can wear short dresses over your pants, even short-sleeve ones with a long-sleeve shirt underneath … I saw some really adorable fashionable ones in the bazaars.

      • Robyn on at 8:56 pm

        Thanks Shara that has really helped off to the dressmaker today . I hope it’s not too hot in May but even if it is I can’t wait to get there .

  8. Ann on at 10:10 pm

    Hi Shara – what tour company did you book with, and/or are there others you’d consider looking into? I’m overwhelmed by the options but, given that this is the only way for an American to visit Iran, I want to make sure I’m choosing the right one.

    • Robyn on at 9:42 pm

      Although I don’t leave for Iran until may I have done my booking through Gashttour they are in Shiraz and have been very helpful My brother in law used them last year and was very happy with them

  9. Soroosh on at 9:02 pm

    Hey Shara,
    I was really motivated to travel to Iran after reading this post… and Im Iranian!
    Just wanted to say great job on this post! 😀 and everything you mentioned here seems right to me

    • jess2716 on at 9:05 pm

      @Soroosh: Thank you for the kind words! 🙂

  10. Connie on at 7:02 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this interview about traveling to Iran. I just returned from a 12 day trip and loved it. I enjoyed seeing the historic sites and the beautiful architecture but most of all meeting the incredibly friendly Iranian people. As an American, I was greeted warmly everywhere I went. And on the issue of safety, Shara is right. The only time I felt uneasy was crossing the street! To anyone wanting a different travel experience, go to Iran, you won’t regret it.

    • jess2716 on at 12:07 pm

      @Connie: Glad you had a great experience there. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  11. Jessica on at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for this post! I’m trying to plan a trip to Iran at the end of December, but I’m finding it very expensive for Americans because of the tour guide requirement. If I can find others to travel with it will be much cheaper, anybody want to go with me? 🙂

    • Reza on at 11:10 pm

      hello Jessica
      I have traveled to Iran before and I love it, sharah’s information was great for the great country. I will be traveling to Iran in a near future so if you are up for it let’s be co-traveler dear.
      [email protected]

  12. Anthony on at 8:34 pm

    Nice article and definitely some useful information. I can understand the confusion about some of the “rules”, laws, and etiquette. I recently came back to Canada from a month long trip to Iran. My partner is from there, and before we went I had a chance to get to know many of the local Iranians. They were all excited that I was travelling to their country, but even amongst them I received much conflicting information. For example we went there during the middle of summer, and one concern I had was if I could wear shorts while there. I was told its illegal, to its fine, and everything in-between. This issue caused much debate among the Iranian Canadians during get togethers. One must understand that if there is confusion even among people that have lived their the majority of their life, there may be conflicting reports from tourists spending a much shorter time there. All you can do is write about your experience, it may not be the one everyone has or the norm but at least it can give you an idea. Also while I was there I could see that things seemed to be changing quite rapidly in regards to culture and tradition, much like it is in the west. What may have been true 3 years ago may be completely different today.
    Anyway before my trip I didn’t base preparation from one website or person’s recommendations. It’s always good to have multiple sources of information, you will get a wider view and deep view of what to expect. For anyone that is interested, here is the link to my experience. 🙂 Happy travels everyone.

  13. reza on at 12:21 pm

    Having American guests is illegal?
    no its not right im iranin and its was firs time that i hear this!
    there is no law aboud havin a gust in iran…
    but at the end your text generally was very good.

  14. Deirdre on at 6:16 am

    This was very helpful. I’m going to Iran in June. I’m going as a tourist but since I’m an educator, I wanted to look in on some English classes at one of the universities. From what you know, do you think this would be possible?

    • Jessie Festa on at 1:53 pm

      @Deirdre: Thank you for the kind words. On this I’m not positive, but have you chosen your tour operator yet? They should be able to advise you on this. Have the best time!

  15. sufi_sadhu on at 6:11 pm

    Hello . Salaam
    Thank you for the awesome article

    I was wondering while in Iran if you heard any news of how much longer until Americans can travel Iran without a guide. I dream of traveling all through Iran, I love middle east culture, the architecture, music, mysticism, etc.. but I am low budget backpacker who if even had the $ could never travel with a guide I would go crazy haha.

    I will be in India in early february and will stay there and nepal, bangladesh for the next 9-12 months traveling by motorcycle Hero Impulse. Afterwards I really want to travel Pakistan and Iran and eventually back to to Turkey ..but with my motorcycle and without a guide.

    Any information is much appreciated
    Thank you 🙂

    • Iraj Ebrahimi on at 4:40 pm

      Hi Sufi_Sadhu, First of all, as an Iranian I thank Shara for this article and Jessie (with lovely smile) and others for their fair comments. Some points regarding traveling by motorcycle, the distance between fuel stations are more than usual in the southern cities (in desert areas). So make sure you use an update map with service stations marked on it for planing your ride. In case you face a mechanical problem with your motorcycle, lorry drivers are help full. in case you run out of fuel hold up a 2m long flexible hose and show to passing by cars and they will provide you with fuel. most accidents in Iran are by pedestrians, motorcycles and bikes are next. using GPS is advantageous.

  16. ayyob on at 2:31 pm

    everyone can have a nice and safe travel to Iran. its my country and im sure that you will like it.
    yes we have a lot of problem here and we are in middle east. but we have safe place to have a exiting journey.
    its my email and i will be glad to help you have a good time in iran.
    [email protected]

  17. Jackeline on at 9:05 am

    Hi, I’m an Iranian and I have to say having American guests is not illegal, you can Have American guests and no one’s gonna stop you unless you play music too loud or if you drink an alcoholic drink and the police finds out.

  18. kazem izadi on at 4:21 pm

    im an iranian 17 years- old boy,my name is kazem…it means a man who doesnt cry because of problems!!!!!!!
    u know…when i imagine that other people around the world think that we are those kinds of muslims live in Saudi Arabia who kill a lot of people, i really suffer….we are not Arabs!!we really hate them!!!
    we are not such a bad people….if u come to Iran ,see us,live with us,u will really experience a joyful life…
    and finally i wanna say that an ayatollah is not a bad guy!!!
    u should read more about our culture and religion to know that who shah was and what he did….
    and also about ayatollah….he is a person who helps people live better and have a better life up above…
    thank u so much Jessica Festa and other readers!
    if u want to know more about iran and its culture u can install telegram app on your smartphone and add me!!
    my id

  19. Iraj Ebrahimi on at 5:43 pm

    Hi everyone, Thanks Shara for this article. as it is mentioned above Iran is relatively a safe country. But it is logical to take normal precautions as in European countries or America. If you go to seaside for swimming, please note that ladies and gents can wear swim wear only in separated dedicated areas. Caspian sea is less salty with cool water with Caviar fish, but Persian Gulf is very salty with exotic marine life. travelers who visited Dizin ski resort they loved it. if you are interested in history of Iran before Islam, you can visit cities of Kermanshah, Hamedan, Shoosh, Yazd and Persepolis. Cities of Isfahan are Shiraz (near Persepolis)are most beautiful cities with many historical attractions. if you are short of time, these two cities are most interesting to visit. if you are a biologist you can rent a diving suit in kish island and see underwater life, or study vegetables and herbs in mountain areas and riversides. Enjoy your stay in Iran.

  20. Sima on at 1:25 am

    Hello dear Jessie,
    i’m so delighted to hear your comments about my country, Iran.
    i read your comments and other friends and it’s our proud to see more travelers in Iran. we have a lot of knowledgeble leaders in our country to help you. i’m a tour leader for 9 years so if everyone of your friends and of course you is interested to visit Iran i’m at your service and i can give you these services from my company that i work there. our travel agency has activity for 15 years in this field. we have different kinds of tour.
    i hope see you very soon in Iran.
    Best Regards

  21. An Iranian on at 6:25 am

    Iranian love their supreme leader Ayatollah. And they are proud of the revolutionary guards. i dont agree with the double life part at all. people are not hypocrites in Iran. People are free to act and behave here.

  22. Fatemeh Sareban on at 5:15 pm

    Hey guys! Thank you for this amazing article.
    Im Iranian, and I just want to recommend several places in iran which I belive are worth visitng. People usually visit Iran because they think that it has a rich culture, an important history, and friendly people (which is very true). But there are several more things that Iran has which I believe people are not yet aware of. Qeshm island located in the south of Iran, is one of the most becautiful desinations. If you just google the place, you will see the amazing uniqe nature it has that words cannot describe. Kish island, another island in the south is also amazing. Unlike all the other cities in iran where the traffic is a big nightmare, Kish one of the few places in the world with no traffic lights and motorcyles!!! There are also so many great water sports available including bannana rides, sky diving, parasels, and maaaany more. I also recommend skiing in the mountains in Winter. People think that Iran is a desert country, and you cannot belive your eyes when you see so much snow!! Its breathtaking.

  23. Arman on at 3:15 pm

    As an Iranian, you don’t have to eat onions whole. You can have them sliced too in any way. And you don’t have to eat them with all foods. Your choice with onions but I recommend them with any kabob.

  24. Zahra on at 3:11 am

    Hi I’m iranian too and thank you♡

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