When given the chance to visit any foreign destination, which would you choose? Many people would say Dubai, New Zealand, Canada or most East Asian and European countries.
Ever thought about giving Iran a try?
Recently, it has become comparatively easier for travelers to visit this country. But before your scheduled trip, as with any destination you will be heading to for the first time, make sure to equip yourself with the right information.
Use this guide so you can get the most out of your Iran trip.
How to Get a Visa
Depending on your passport, the requirements for getting a visa to enter Iran may differ. Things are a bit easier if you are from Japan, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany. You can easily apply for a tourist visa that is valid for 30 days (since January 2017), either upon your arrival or in your home country.
Tourists from the following countries can’t apply for a visa on arrival: Canada, UK, US, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. The easiest way to get a tourist visa is to join an official Iran tour. And if you wish to extend your stay, you can do so by going to one of the immigration offices in the major cities in Iran.
Requirements for getting an Iran visa include:
- A valid passport
- A photo that will be attached to your visa application form
- A return air ticket (must be within 30 days)
- A visa stamp fee
- An invitation letter that an Iranian travel agency should send to the Iran Ministry of Foreign Affairs at least two days before your arrival, or a hotel reservation voucher
- The mandatory printed travel insurance that is valid for Iran
How to Get Around Iran
Just like other countries, getting around Iran is possible with reliable modes of public transportation like buses, taxis, trains and airplanes.
If you want to use the bus, know that there are intercity buses that will bring you to different cities and inner city buses that will help you get to places within a city. Iranians call bus stations “terminals.” You can ask the front desk at the best hotels in Iran (wherever you choose to stay) or any taxi drivers about which terminal to use so you can get to your intended destination.
If you choose to ride a taxi, you can ride either a private or a shared one. Be aware that taxis in Iran don’t have meters. Basically, the price varies depending on the distance, so make sure to ask the driver how much it will cost you to reach your destination first.
The train system is the most recommended form of inner city transportation in Iran because this is the easiest and the most affordable option.
Facts You Must Know
Iran is not an Arab country
Iran is not one of the 22 countries that make up the Arab world, so Iranians (and Persians, who relate to a particular ethnicity) are not Arabs.
Iranians speak Farsi which, like a few other languages and dialects, is based on the Arabic script or alphabet. Still, this does not necessarily mean that Iranians fully understand the Arabic language, or vice versa, and the languages share little similarities.
You can safely explore Iran
Iranians can be very friendly to new faces, in such a way that they will ask things about you, your reasons for visiting their country, and how your experience has been so far. Remember that it can be refreshing for them to see tourists exploring their country, so they make sure that all the visitors they meet will feel welcome.
Exploring the streets is safe. In fact, you can see several money changers sitting on the sidewalks with their cases of cash openly displayed. Expect to see families in Iran enjoying a picnic even at night as well. Moreover, there is a strong culture of gift-giving that doesn’t require a special occasion and where the recipient won’t expect anything in return. Should you receive a present (or two) from locals, you may be surprised by how valuable it can be.
The only notable danger to watch out for is when crossing the road. If you want to go to the other side of a road, waiting for cars to stop before crossing is not a good option – you may end up waiting for years! Cars will typically only stop when you have crossed halfway through. َAs long as you use crossroads and keep an eye out on the road, you will be safe.
Iran currency can be confusing
International credit cards are not usable in Iran, so travelers will need to use local money. The official currency in Iran is Rial, but the prices of all their products and services are in Toman (equivalent to 10 Rials). An easy way to figure out the prices, as advised by travel guides, is to delete one zero from any amount in Rial to arrive at the price in Toman (and vice versa).
Always make sure to clarify what the prices really mean before sealing any deal.
A visit to Iran is sure to be a completely new and exciting travel experience. In fact, this could very well be one of your most remarkable travel experiences – right up there with discovering unique attractions and cultural experiences when you pay a visit to Dubai.
With these newfound facts and tips, why not make Iran your next exciting travel destination?
Mark Clift is the CEO of SnappTrip, which is part of the Snapp Group, the Middle East’s largest internet group. Having spent more than a decade in the corporate world in London, Mark is now based in Tehran, Iran, running the biggest and best travel startup in the Middle East.
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