Iran Travel Tips

Preface: Throw out any preconceived notion of Iran you might have. The way the media across the western world has painted the picture of Iran is not genuine Iran. Iran is a magnificent, mysterious country with a rich history and culture. Go to Iran with an open mind and heart. Iran is one of the safest countries in the world where major crime or terrorism is concerned.

People: One of the best things about Iran is its proud people. Depending on where you travel, there will be more or less educated people and more or fewer city folks which changes their understanding, beliefs, and behavior as in any part of the world. Iranians of all regions are kind, warm, friendly, helpful, proud, generous, and close. There is one thing that ties them all together, and that's Iran. Although they have only had a few tourists in most parts of Iran since 1979, they remain respectful and curious toward tourists. They will welcome you, thank you for visiting and ask you questions.

Pride: Iran has many different cultural groups, such as Azeri, Kurdish, Persian, etc., each proud of their culture and being Iranian. Due in significant part to the long history of Iran and its invasion by other countries over centuries, Iranians are very sensitive about certain things. Do not call Iranians "Arabs" or "Muslims". They are not Arab, and they are mostly Shia Muslims. Do not use the expressions "the Gulf" and "the Arabian Gulf". It is the Persian Gulf.

Sights: Iran has destinations to offer any interest. From mountains for skiing and hiking to beaches for swimming to cities for sightseeing, to history for uncovering.

Clothes: Iranians, especially Tehranis, are very fashion-conscious. Most young ladies around the country now wear form-fitting manteaus (raincoat type of item) with tight pants underneath. Open-toe shoes, makeup, nail polish, tiny scarves, and sunglasses are a staple of most Tehrani ladies. To go under the radar, don't use excessive makeup, nail polish, or shorter than ankle-length pants. Tourists get away with wearing long, loose shirts with pants and any scarf. Men can wear t-shirts and pants anywhere. Shorts are not appropriate for men except on the beach or at the gym.

Food: Iran has some of the best dishes in the world. Persian cuisine consists of a delicious array of stews and other rice, among many other words. And, of course, Persian bread. These used to be all made inside brick ovens () by hand, but machines have taken the place of many. Still, Persian bread is a part of any good meal and is simply delicious. Persian sweets and pastries are excellent, and you can find pastry shops on every corner of the main streets. If you get lucky enough to be invited to someone's house for lunch or dinner, pick up a box of fresh pastries at a local shop. Fast food stores abound, serving all sorts of creative sandwiches. Be bold and try different things, and most certainly, don't stay away from eating real Iranian food. Most people in Iran are conscious of properly cleaning fruits and vegetables and general cooking hygiene. Tap water is safe to drink in any part of the country, although you might not like the taste in some regions. Bottled water is readily available.

Taarof: This is a polite exchange that takes place in all aspects of life in Iran, in shops, in streets, in businesses, and at homes. Stated it is a form of one person making an offering and the other refusing it. This ritual may repeat itself several times before the individuals finally determine whether the offer and refusal are genuine or simply polite. Be very careful how and with whom you taarof so that it does not interfere with your stay. Use common sense as to when to do it and when not to.

Tipping: It is only expected to tip in Iran for certain things, such as bellboys in a hotel. At the airport, the luggage carts are free for anyone to use, but if you get assistance from someone with the coach, you should tip him. People generally leave a 10% tip in fancy restaurants.

Help: Feel free to ask any Iranian anything. If they speak English, they will endeavor to help you in the best way they can. They will not stray from you or your stories. If asking for directions, as in any other country, make sure to ask a few people as you go along until you reach your destination.