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Nowruz and its Origins

Persian New Year has a long history. It includes some traditional cultures and symbols. If you are going to plan an Iran journey, Iranian New year would be a great time so you can celebrate Nowruz in this beautiful country.

  • The beginning of the Persian New Year 1398 (Nowruz 2019) will be on Thursday, March 21st, 2019, 1:28:27 am
Nowruz and its Origins - alibabatrek - 11th Annual Celebration of Nowruz at UCLA's Royce Hall and Dickson Courts - Iran blog - Persian new year

11th Annual Celebration of Nowruz at UCLA’s Royce Hall and Dickson Courts

1.The dawn of Nowruz in history

Nowruz is the traditional Iranian New year which starts at the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring. The name comes from Avestan meaning “new day/daylight.” Iranians celebrate Nowruz on March 20/21 each year, at the time the sun enters Aries and spring begins. Some historical narratives attribute the beginning of Nowruz to Babylon. According to these narratives, the current trend of Nowruz in Iran dates back to 538 BC. When Cyrus the Great invaded Babylon. Also, some tales say that Zarathustra was the founder of Nowruz. Iranians have been celebrating New Year for at least 3,000 years. We deeply consider it rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrian religion. Many Asian cultures are now celebrating Nowruz such as Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

The tablecloth of 7 items

Haft-Sin هفت سین is somehow the most important part of the Iranian New Year. It is a table consist of 7 Items with a common feature in Persian literature. They all start with the consonant of S.

  • Garlic sign of health
  • Coin sign of prosperity
  • Sumac taste of life sign
  • Senjed (Russian olive) sign of love
  • Apple sign of beauty and kindness
  • Sabzeh (Sprouts) sign of newness
  • Samanu sign of blessing
  • Vinegar sign of patience and happiness
  • Symbol flower or Hyacinth sign of spring

The following items of our list don’t share that common feature.

  • Mirror (sign of light)
  • Hafez and the Quran (signs of faith and belief)
  • Candle (sign of intellectual light)
  • Fish (sign of life)
  • Egg sign of fertility

On New Year’s Day, Iranian families gather around their Haft-Sin and wait for the very moment. Some families keep their Haft-Sin during the thirteen days of Nowruz.

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The tablecloth of 7 items

3.Sabzeh and its origins

As I mentioned before Sabzeh or the Sprouts that we plant for our Haft-Sin is a sign of newness. Planting sprouts have been common among Iranian families for a long time. They usually start planting it in the last month of the year.

Sabzeh in the past:

In the past, twenty-five days before Nowruz, citizens used to build twelve pillars of raw clay in the square of cities. People used to plant 12 kinds of seeds on these pillars. On the sixth day of Farvardin, with a hymn and joy, they picked them and threw them in the air.

Some traditions:

In some cities, people consider the third Wednesday of the last month to plant their Sabzeh. They keep it till the 13th day of Farvardin to give it away to the water.

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Sabzeh

4.The man who used to protect fire

The Persian version of Santa in Iran is Hajji Firuz! He is a fictional folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz. A black face, bright red clothes, and a felt hat are his features. There are different theories about the origin of Hajji Firuz. One of them says: Fire is an important element in the Zoroastrian religion. According to that, there was a man who had to protect the fire in the fire temples. Now we know that the blackface is because of the soot. He used to preserve the fire all the winter. At the beginning of spring, he left the fire temple to give the massage of New Year’s arrival.

Hajji Firuz & Amoo Nowruz

5.What to eat on New Year’s Day

Till now you must know that we have a variety of foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts in Iran. Families pay a lot of attention to what to buy for the New Year. One of our traditions is to have fish and rice mixed with a specific vegetable for New Year’s Day meal. Iranian people spend some of their holidays to visit their relatives so if you live in Iran you need to be prepared for that. For that, we buy fruits and nuts to welcome our guests.

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Fish and rice mixed with a specific vegetable

6.Festival of fire

  • Chaharshanbe Suri is on March 19th, 2019

One of our oldest traditions is Chaharshanbe Suri. Iranian people welcome Nowruz by setting a fire and jumping over it on the last Tuesday of the solar year. On this day, people hold a ceremony to repel their evil desires and meet their aspirations. Chaharshanbe Suri dates back to centuries ago.

The appearance of fireworks in Chaharshanbe Suri:

At first, it was Nasser-al-Din Shah who brought fireworks to Iran with the help of French. First, they held it for the entertainment of Shah and after that people took part in it. In that time they held the ceremony in Toopkhaneh square, then time passed, and it became like what we can see today.

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Festival of fire

7.Sizdah Be-dar

  • Sizdah Be-dar is on April 2nd, 2019

As we know, Sizdah Be-dar is one of Nowruz traditions. People go out to camp in nature with their families. Iranians are entirely familiar with this day, and they make lots of memories on this day. This day is too crucial among us, and we make plans for it before it comes. Name of 13th of Farvardin in our calendar is nature day, and it’s a holiday.  Families spend time playing games, cooking food in nature and lots of other activities.

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Sizdah Be-dar

*Tips for Travelling Iran during Nowruz

Now that you know about Nowruz and Iran’s atmosphere in this period, it might be a good time for you to book a Persia tour. Going on an Iran tour at this time has its own pros and cons.  Different cities of Iran have their own tradition for the New Year, and you get to see a lot at this time. Besides that in this period, most of our cities are crowded. Hotels and other places to stay are out of capacity, and it’s heavy traffic on the roads between cities. So for better management of time, we suggest you visit Iran after the holidays.

 

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10 tips for Iran travel and things to know before taking Iran tour

Iran is one of the most attractive tourist sites for travelers around the world. Recently, Iran travel is being suggested by many travelers. Iran has been wrongly assumed to be a country of terrorism and nuclear weapons. Actually, it is a safe, beautiful four-season country in the heart of the middle-east. Iran is the remaining region of the Great Persian Empire with an old and rich history. It is now an Islamic republic respecting people of all religions.

Iran has the most breathtaking natural landscapes. That includes the most desolate deserts with the highest temperature on earth to the humid, dense, north jungles. Magnificent historical castles and monuments are part of the glory of this magical country. All the above has made Iran travel and Iran tours an increasing trend among worldwide travelers. As a result, Iran tourism is a strongly developing Industry.

Rather than being a great excursion, Iran travel costs a very moderate amount. There are many Iran tours through which you can enjoy Persian group traveling. But, before making the trip you have to know your destination well. So here are some Iran traveling tips for travelers never been to Iran before.

1-Iran travel is safe!

Iran travel and tourism have been affected by the wrong image of western media of Iran. Actually, the crime and terrorism rates in Iran are very low and the people are helpful and friendly. Iran is among the safest countries according to international reports. Also, according to travelers experiencing Iran tours and trips.

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2-You can get a VISA and insurance easily for Iran tours!

You can get a VISA on arrival (VOA) at the airport. Citizens of the US, the UK, Canada, and a few other countries don’t have this option. However, if you’re traveling overland you should take your VISA in advance. The price for the process ranges according to your nationality. Remember you can’t get a VISA without travel insurance. Sadly most travel insurance companies don’t cover trips to Iran. So make sure your insurance covers Iran. Otherwise get one at the airport as well.

 

3-Iran travel is favorably economical!

Trips to Iran are among the most low-budget trips you can have. The official currency in Iran is Rial. It has a very low value compared to other currencies. Hence, however much you spend in Iran would not cost much in your currency. You can easily exchange your money for Rials at exchange offices. Remember Toman is 10 Rials. It is confusing for many foreigners who visit Iran. Since you may commonly hear people giving the prices in Toman during Iran travel. The total daily expense of an individual differs. I depend on how generously he/she wants to travel around.

Remember to assign enough money for buying gifts and souvenirs. Traditional clothes, Persian rug, handicrafts, and local sweets are suggested souvenirs of Persia trip.

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4-Took an Iran Tour, you’ve got to take an Iranian SIM card!

You can get an Iranian SIM card with 4G internet coverage from offices available. You’ll need that for better communication with your local friends. Also, you’ll need it for map availability during Iran travel. Famous SIM card operators are ‘Hamrah Aval’ and ‘Irancell’. Also, make sure to have a proper VPN on your cell phone. Unfortunately, some websites like Facebook are not accessible in Iran.

 

5-Take Iran Tour to learn the definition of hospitality!

Iranians are generally well educated, civilized, modern and hospitable people. Make most of your Iran travel by enjoying these great features. For instance, an Iranian family meets you on the bus or subway. They immediately ask you to stay with them. Just say yes. Persians are so warm that they welcome foreigners taking Iran tour from any country.

Iran is a vast country with different ethnicities including Turkish, Kurdish, Arabs and so on. Therefore, there are different cultures and customs there. Majority of the population of Iran are Muslims. They have Muslim Calendar. Weekend in Iran is Thursday and Friday when the whole family usually gets together. They also have a lot of religious holidays during the year.

 

6-Experience the best middle-eastern non-alcoholic foods in Iran!

Iranian foods and meals are extraordinarily delicious. Each part of the country has its local meals. The common foods served everywhere in Iran are Kebab, Ghormeh Sabzi, and Gheimeh.

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Gheimeh

 

These foods are traditionally cooked on Iranian holidays and occasions. It is so rare that you don’t like Iranian original food’s taste. If so, there are international restaurants on every corner. The only thing you may miss in your Iran tour is alcohol. As an Islamic country, using alcohol in beverages and foods is illegal. All the drinks you find in Iran are non-alcoholic.

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Ghormeh Sabzi

 

7-Don’t miss the historical places during Persia traveling!

Iran has a civilization that goes back to about 3000 years ago. As a result, there are a great number of ancient tourist sites in Iran. It contains castles of former kings to the mosques and temples. Therefore, it is strongly suggested to book Iran tours visiting such places whilst Iran traveling. Examples of these places are Takht-e-Jamshid or Persepolis, Arg-e-Bam, Dome of Soltaniyeh, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Zoroastrian Fire Temple, and many other honorable places.

8-You’ll regret if you don’t see architectural marvels of Iran!

There have always been so many great mathematicians and scientists in Persia. This has led to great architectural pieces located all over the country. The city of Isfahan is surely full of these places. Others are Azadi and Milad Towers in Tehran, Borujerdi House in Kashan and Tabriz Grand Bazaar to name a few. So take time to explore these masterpieces coupled with your Iran tour.

9-Women should wear Hijab in Iran!

In an Islamic country like Iran, women should wear Hijab. That means to cover their body and to wear a headscarf for covering their hair in public. It may, at first, seem tough for western women. However, Former female travelers taking Iran tours claimed they got used to it easily. Besides, colorful Iranian “Roosari” is the loveliest. It is the commonest scarf in Iran. It can be a good souvenir from your trip to Iran, too.
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10-Consider “time’’ for taking an Iran tour to enjoy the best weather!

As a four-season country, during Iran travel you may experience different climates. You may encounter hot summers with a high temperature of 50 centigrade. Also, you may freeze at the low temperature of -20 centigrade in winter. So plan your excursion according to the destination weather. If you are heading to the magical south shores, travel in late winter or spring. The sky of deserts is mind-blowing in fall. The high lands of Azerbaijan are perfect for summer trips. The green north is always fresh and leafy but spring is the best for sure.

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For more information and detail for a memorable trip to the sunshine of middle-east, Iran, Contact us.

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Iran negotiating tips / the art of bargaining in Iran

In Iran people call some sellers “Kam Ensaf”, it means they have lacked in fairness, and its why you should know how to bargain for a fairer price especially in touristy areas, but it’s not as much as India or China, you should even bargain with taxi drivers too.
Clearly, there are some things you don’t need to bargain over, such as bus, plane, hotels and metro tickets, or even restaurants bills, because the government set the price and supervise it.
In this post, we tell you some Farsi expressions which can help you to deal with money-related stuff on your Iran tours.

Some general phrases you can use to bargain in Farsi

-How to ask the price.

Qaimat in Chand ast?
قیمت این چند است؟

SELLER: The price is 10000 tomans.
Qaimat in Dah hezar toman ast.
قیمت این ده هزار تومان است.

It is too expensive, give me a discount.
Kheily geraan ast, be man takhfif bede?
خیلی گران است, به من تخفیف بده.

SELLER: Okay for you it is 9000 tomans.
Bashe, baraye shoma Noh hezar toman.
باشه, برای شما نه هزار تومان.

It’s still too much, is it possible for 5000 toman?
Na kheily geran ast, Panj hezar toman chetor ast?
نه خیلی گران است, پنج هزار تومان چطور است؟

-Some more phrases that will come in handy:
Is that your last price?
Qaimate akharesh hamin ast?
قیمت آخرش همین است؟

Can you lower the price?
Kamtar raah daarad?
کمتر راه دارد؟

Is there any discount?
Takhfif daarad?
تخفیف دارد؟

-In addition to talking, you can use other strategies such as walking away to see if they call you.
Usually, they call and they will give you the last price because they know if the next shop is cheaper you will buy it there.

-It’s essential to know the Persian numbers for understanding the prices
Here is how to say and write the numbers:
1 _ Yek – ۱
2 _ Dow – ۲
3 _ Seh – ۳
4 _ Chahar – ۴
5 _ Panj – ۵
6 _ Shish _ ۶
7 _ Haft _ ۷
8 _ Hasht _ ۸
9 _ Noh _ ۹
10 _ Dah _ ۱۰
11 _ Yaazdah _ ۱۱
12 _ Davazdah _ ۱۲
13 _ Sizdah _ ۱۳
14 _ Chaharda _ ۱۴
15 _ Ponzdah _ ۱۵
16 _ Shanzdah _ ۱۶
17 _ Hifda _ ۱۷
18 _ Hizhdah _ ۱۸
19 _ Noozdah _ ۱۹
20 _ Bist _ ۲۰

-If you know from one to twenty, the rest of the Persian numbers are easier to learn.
30 _ Si _ ۳۰
40 _ Chehel _ ۴۰
50 _ Panjah _ ۵۰
60 _ Shast _ ۶۰
70 _ Haftad _ ۷۰
80 _ Hashtad _ ۸۰
90 _ Nawad _ ۹۰
100 _ Sad _ ۱۰۰

-Now you know the Farsi numbers from one to one hundred, to connect the numbers you use the word O. For example, to say 75, you say “Haftad O Panj”, 44 is “Chehel O Chahar”, 89 is “Hashtad O Noh”, and so on.
In the Farsi language, one thousand is “hezar”. Here are a few examples:

Yek Hezar = One thousand (۱۰۰۰)
Dow Hezar = Two thousand (۲۰۰۰)
Dah Hezar = Ten thousand (۱۰۰۰۰)
Beest Hezar = Twenty thousand (۲۰۰۰۰)
Seeh Hezar = Thirty thousand (۳۰۰۰۰)

Now let’s use O to connect the numbers

Seeh O Yek Hezar = Thirty-one thousand (۳۱۰۰۰)
Seeh O Panj Hezar = Thirty-five thousand (۳۵۰۰۰)


-Let’s move to one hundred thousand and above. It is very simple, just like how you say it in English.

Yek Sad Hezar = One hundred thousand (۱۰۰۰۰۰)
Dow Sad Hezar = Two hundred thousand (۲۰۰۰۰۰)

You also need to learn the Persian numbers from a million up. You might be modest and feel it won’t be necessary, but don’t be fooled by the flattering figures, as in Iran one million Rials are just around 15 USD.

Yek Million=One million (۱۰۰۰۰۰۰)
Dow Million=Two million (۲۰۰۰۰۰۰)
Seh Million=Three million (۳۰۰۰۰۰۰)

-Now you are ready to bargain in Farsi, and while you might not be qualified enough to respond to some taarof, by knowing the numbers in Persian, you will still be able to understand and set your own prices.

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10 reasons why you should visit Iran now

Should I or should I not visit Iran? (All about Iran tours)

You’ve been pondering, mulling over, thinking about it, even planning, yet you still haven’t booked your trip to Iran. You don’t even know why, maybe holidays for you are synonymous with a beach so you head to Thailand, maybe you think spices are only available in India, or maybe you think ancient history can only be experienced in Rome.
Whatever has been keeping you from booking that flight, here are ten reasons why you should visit Iran as soon as possible and overcome all of your doubts.

1. Traveling to Iran is safe

Is Iran a safe country to visit? Whether you travel alone or in a group, whether you are a woman or a man, or whether you arrive day or night time, Iran is very safe. The Iranian government devotes plenty of resources to keep their border safe so terrorists and drug dealers from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq don’t threaten Iran’s security. It’s without hesitation that I can say that Iran is the safest country in the tormented region.

2. it’s hitting the headlines all over the world

Let’s face it, now it’s totally Iran moment. Listed by many publications as one of the most popular travel destinations for 2014, after soaking in tourist crowds for two weeks we can only say that this year is the beginning of what will finally be an era of never-ending tourism flow for this west Asian country.
Among the reasons people are flocking in Iran, curiosity is definitely a big draw. If you add the pride of saying you have traveled to the Islamic Republic, saw that things are not as mainstream media say, that you challenged all prejudices and warnings from family and friends, we say, book your ticket now.
If you ask us, one of the reasons why you should travel to Iran soon is to go before the crowd gets too big!

3. Hospitality

Iran is also the country of warm hospitality. According to the experience of one our tourists:
the kind I’ve only seen in Sardinia so far, and not just because “welcome” is possibly the most popular English word there, but because it’s an essential feature of their culture. From Tehran to Tabriz we took the night train, and one of our cabin mates was a woman from Tabriz who, within the first two minutes of the conversation, has managed not only to invite us to her house but also to insist. And if you think this degree of hospitality is reserved for foreigners only, you clearly haven’t come across any taarof moment, which is understandable as this is a very “between-Iranians” prerogative.
I had the chance to come to grips with taarof because I was traveling with an Iranian, and this is really the only reason why after each and every single ride the taxi drivers suggested we didn’t need to pay. I really doubt with foreigners they would try such a stunt, they probably know we would simply thank and leave, albeit pretty startled.
Whatever city or province you go, friendly locals will be a great part of your Iranian journey.

During a picnic in Iran, the best occasion for sharing each other’s food

4. A long history

Hardly in need of any introduction, Persepolis is one of Iran’s most famous ancient sites. From ancient Persia to modern Iran, from the Achaemenid Empire to the Sassanian era, from the Safavid period to the Qajar dynasty, to finally the Pahlavi family and the Islamic Revolution, Iranian history is as stormy as it gets.
With so many historical places to visit in Iran, traveling all around the country you can soak in every period and delve into the nation’s tangled past. After you enjoyed your Persepolis tour, don’t forget to add to the list also other Iran points of interest such as the Golestan Palace in Tehran, Ali Qapu Palace in Isfahan and the Fire Temple in Yazd, just to mention some.

5. Architecture

Be it a mosque, a palace or a bazaar, Iranian buildings are finely decorated and glow with ornamental elegance. Pastel colors gracefully interact with bright hues, tapering minarets and seemingly ubiquitous domes outline the landscape, symbols and traditional calligraphy coexist in a charming interplay.
Whether inside or outside a building, the sophisticated Persian architecture is always something tourists marvel at every time they visit Iran.
Also, the architectural styles and features evoke the dynasty they belong to. For example, Nasir al Mulk mosque in Shiraz is clearly Qajar dynasty with all its pink roses and small images of French churches, while the stunning Yazd Grand Mosque is all about overlapping styles, symbols and eras.
Getting enchanted by mesmerizing decorations, fine carvings, and elaborate paintings is one of the best reasons why you should visit Iran.

6. Handicraft

Each province, each city, each village has their own handicraft. In Yazd, you will certainly buy the beautiful Termeh, handwoven silk and wool fabric (and baklava sweets), in Isfahan tiles and blue chalices and plates to decorate your home or use to offer sweets to your guests with a Persian touch.
Different cities different handicraft. Visit Tabriz (and everywhere else) for their particular carpets of all sizes, colors, and patterns, or their nuts, get to Hamedan for their colorful pottery or spend a day or two in Nishapur for their turquoise stone jewelry.
Wherever you travel in Iran, rest assured that you’ll get back home with the loveliest of gifts and Iranian souvenirs.

7. Food

From pistachio to black tea, from saffron to kebab, from Mirza Ghasemi to Ghormeh Sabzi, the heavy presence of aromatic herbs makes Iranian cuisine appetizing and addictive
While there are national dishes that you can find everywhere, like herb stew Ghormeh Sabzi, there are others that are exclusive, or at least typical of a particular region. Among these are the aforementioned eggplant-based Mirza Ghasemi, typical from Gilan province, or Dizi, too meaty and heavy for me but still a national treat, typical from Ardabil.
If for food you consider also the single ingredients, Iran is famous for its saffron, much cheaper than in Europe in case you are thinking about some Persian gift shopping or their delicious pistachio.

8. Visit Iran because it’s still cheap

Be it for the sanctions or for the dropping of their currency, traveling to Iran right now will turn very cheap. With the cost of public transport ranging from the 8 euro (roughly 10$) of the night train from Tehran to Tabriz to less than 3 euro (4$) of the bus from Ardabil to Lahijan, and the accommodation, usually 4-star hotels, around the price of 30 euro (40$) per night per double room, you can spoil yourself with a royal treat without spending too much, saving enough for your inevitable shopping spree.
It mostly depends on the exchange rate, by since now euros, dollars and pounds are still strong compared to the rail, try to visit Iran as soon as possible before things change too much.

9. You will have a truly authentic experience

Probably due to sanctions that allow little commercial exchange with other countries, especially in the West, Iran can boast its own products on a variety of manufacturing areas, from food to textiles to ceramics. Apart from goods on sale, Iranians are very proud of their culture and traditions. This is why they will never miss the opportunity to illustrate what you might be seeing, eating, drinking, listening to, and so on and so forth.
This will give anyone who decides to visit Iran a great chance for a genuine local experience. This is also what allows you to better delve into the society and understand an ancient culture preserved with pride.
Iran tourism is living its boom season, and all Iranians are taking part in showing off their country that for too long has remained isolated from the travel industry.
Now that travel agencies are literally being created every day, you have a lot of Iran tours and packages to choose from. However, if these are too expensive or you are more into independent travel, locals will make you feel welcome and for sure will add to the value of your trip.

10. You will enjoy a relaxed atmosphere

Contrary to common belief, anyone who decided to visit Iran has talked about the laid-back atmosphere. Contrary to many places at least in Italy, you can take pictures pretty much everywhere. Obviously, when it comes to people it’s always better to ask for their permission, but often they will agree, sometimes they will also show up in front of your camera with a “V” pose even before you have the chance to ask.
Vital to complete the breezy and somehow devil-may-care scene is obviously the Iranian friendly attitude. People will always be up for a chat, seldom if ever worried about timetables, surprisingly happy to be the subject of your next photo, and always willing to have you as guests in their house.

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9 tips on how to plan a perfect trip to Iran

Even though ranking as one of the top travel destinations every year since 2014, many travelers are still unsure on how to plan a perfect trip to Iran. As this is a relatively new vacation spot, holidaymakers still feel unprepared, and a million questions arise even in the minds of more experienced travelers. This is mainly why many prefer to book an organized tour, even though more tourists are already starting to venture independently.

If you want to travel independently, planning a trip to Iran has finally become easy.
Through 1stQuest, the first Iranian agency to accept online payments, you can apply for your visa, book local buses (so handy for traveling around the country) and soon also domestic flights and hotels with your Visa or Mastercard.

At the moment, the best website to check for hotel deals in Iran is still Hotels Combined.
With more and more readers and travelers requiring tips and pieces of advice before traveling to Iran, We thought it was a good idea to gather the main questions in a single post so it can be a useful reference for future travelers to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
This article covers the “before-you-go” planning process, while next post will be devoted to our tips on how to enjoy your trip once you’re actually here.

So, if you are ready to start, here are best tips on how to plan a perfect trip to Iran. 

1. Nowruz might be a good time to visit Iran

As you know Nowruz is the beginning of the New Year in Iran. In many cities, you can see festivals and some people dressing like (Amoo Nowruz) and putting on some show for the people (especially in Shiraz). Although it might be too crowded you can feel the passion of this anniversary.

2. Plan ahead

The prices of flight tickets vary quite a lot, so planning ahead and checking often the flights through the many comparison websites and travel search engines will definitely help you save good cash. There are many airlines flying into Iran international airports.
There are also Iran airlines, such as Iran Air and Mahan Air. The agreements after the Iran deal are still being discussed and signed, so keep an eye on the news as both of them are resuming their direct flights to Tehran and other Iran airports from the main European capitals right in these days.
Iran is no easy destination, if you don’t feel confident enough to organize your trip by yourself you can rely on our experienced guide or book our 11-day Exclusive Culture of Persia tour to visit all the must-see places if you are traveling to Iran for the first time such as TehranShirazIsfahan, and Yazd. Highly recommended.

3. Check the visa requirements

In October 2015, Iran has granted visa upon arrival to 58 nations, and it’s recent news that they are starting to issue 30-day visas to 180 nationalities, so you are likely to be fine, but just to make sure you don’t have unpleasant surprises, get in touch with the Iranian embassy in your country to check their visa requirements. We have devoted a post to the process of getting Iran visa, the different requirements depending on your nationality and what papers you need should you apply at the embassy in your country or at the airport upon arrival.
If you want to travel with the visa already glued on your passport even if you are not joining an organized tour, there is the travel agency 1st Quest that offers the visa service. You will need to fill in an online form and they will send you the authorization code that you need to take to the embassy or consulate alongside the other documents mentioned above.
To apply for an Iran visa, you must submit also travel insurance. With World Nomads, you can buy, extend and claim your travel insurance online also after you left home and are already traveling.

4. Get a tour guide for your Iran tours

This needs a bit of an explanation. You can travel independently around Iran, especially in the most popular cities as they are increasingly tourist-friendly, and it’s very safe, also for solo female travelers. This being said, we think a tour guide would be useful if you want to travel to less popular provinces such as Khuzestan, and of course if you don’t speak a word of Persian.
We would add that, with Iran being a very diverse and complicated country, traveling with a local will be more insightful if you want to delve a little deeper into its society instead of just visiting the historical buildings and main attractions. Obviously, if you have a friend there, that would work even better than booking a guide.

5. To book a room, call hotels directly

Especially due to the sanctions that are not entirely lifted yet, it’s still hard to book hotels online. It’s only recent news, in fact, that Booking.com has included two Tehran hotels on their website, but as for now the easiest way to book (if you are not on a tour package) is to call directly the hotel. Also, if you are going to apply for the visa on arrival, you will need confirmation of hotel booking, while if you are with an organized tour, the tour leader will have made the invitation letter for you so you will travel with your visa already glued to your passport.
To plan a perfect trip to Iran, you can find hotels in Tehran and other cities quite easily online or just checking your favorite guidebooks. The same Lonely Planet has compiled a list of accommodations in Iran from where you can just call them up and make your reservation.
Hopefully, Iranian banks will soon be reconnected to the international banking system and it will be easy to book hotels via the most popular travel sites like you do for most countries. For now, Hotels Combined can be your go-to resource to check deals and reviews of hotels in Iran.
Whatever place you visit, we would recommend you choose a hotel in the City Centre, or at least close to a metro station if in Tehran so that it’s easy to move around.

6. What to pack for a trip to Iran

A list of the main tips on how to plan a perfect trip to Iran couldn’t elude some packing guidance. In Iran, you can find pretty much everything, so in case you forget to pack something, there’s nothing to be worried about. The main news can be for clothing, especially with regards to the female dress code in Iran, as women need to pack some longer tunic or dress to wear with a pair of trousers, jeans, leggings or whatever you are used to. Most of all, don’t forget to carry a scarf in your hand luggage as you will need to wear it when you are getting off the plane. If you are going in winter, do pack some pretty warm clothes, especially if you are going to provinces such as Hamedan and Lorestan, or even Tehran.
If you take medicines, you should bring them with you. In Iran you find pretty much everything and by law, you need to have an insurance in order to get a visa, but in case what you are looking for is not available, you are better off arriving well equipped.

7. Money

Iran’s local currency is the Rial. To plan a perfect trip to Iran, what we suggest (and what people usually do) is to try to roughly guess how much money you will need considering the unavoidable travel expenses such as hotels, food, transport and entrance fees for the main Iran tourist attractions, and then add some more in case of some emergency or personal shopping you might want to do such as souvenir and traditional handicraft.

8. If you are married, some proof of your marriage won’t harm

Granted, this is a general rule and it mainly applies to Iranians only (even if you are an Iranian-born and living abroad, you are still an Iranian and subject to controls). For foreigners, it’s pretty loose and they are hardly asked about marriage proof when renting a flat or booking the same hotel room. However, this is still the Islamic Republic of Iran.

9. Join the Facebook page Alibabatrek

The Facebook page Alibabatrek and Tripadvisor is a great resource if you need any tip from locals on how to plan a perfect trip to Iran. As a matter of fact, this post has been concocted also keeping in mind the questions and issues raised by the members of the group as they asked locals for information about tourism in Iran and how to get by in their country. In the group, you can ask both Iranians and foreigners who have already traveled to the Islamic Republic for help on different issues such as visa inquiries, best restaurants, hotels and whatever you can think of.
As you might know, Facebook in Iran is blocked by government filters, so to access it you need a VPN.

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The points you should know before traveling to Iran

After providing you with useful tips to plan perfect Iran tours, since we assume you are getting ready to travel, we think there are also a couple of things you should know to have a perfect stay in the Islamic Republic. From respecting the local culture to haggling in the right places to the tipping etiquette and how to use social media, there are many things to know before you travel to Iran.

 

Among the things to know before you travel to Iran, when taking photos of people you might want to ask first.
Truth be told, Iran is a quiet country to visit, locals are friendly and very hospitable, plus, in tourist areas, you will now find more people speaking English than before, so you will hardly have problems. However, traveling prepared on what to expect and knowing what to do in different situations is always a good habit.
So, to avoid surprises and make the most of your trip, here are the things to know before you travel to Iran.

1. When in Rome do as the Romans do the same in Iran

One of the most important things when traveling is to respect your hosting culture, so this aspect could not be left out of the things to know before you travel to Iran.
For example, it’s important to respect Iranian dress code, meaning wearing jeans or leggings under a dress, tunic or manteau, and a headscarf, or a chador when requested, such as entering the shrines or some mosques like Vakil Mosque in Shiraz, the only mosque where you are asked to wear it.
If you want to be extra thoughtful towards the religious sentiment, when you hear Azan (call for prayer), in more conservative and religious cities it will show respect if turn off your music, unless it’s already on headphone and you are the only one who can hear it.

2. Get ready for some taarof

Taarof is something you will understand better while there, and truthfully, it’s more common “between Iranians”, but it’s still good that you go with the right mindset, just in case you find yourself in a situation that you find hard to understand.
When you are buying something or paying the taxi, there is a chance the seller/driver won’t accept your money immediately but will start telling you that it’s not important, that you can pay him next year. While I understand your impulse to thank and leave, it might not be the case, so keep insisting and take part in the overmannered etiquette until when, eventually, you manage to pay.
Sometimes, mainly when buying bigger things such as carpets, especially in tourist places, right after taarof is finished and you are friendly enough that you can’t really negotiate the price anymore, there is a chance you hear a crazy price.
Taarof is a nice tradition and very much appreciated in Iran, but for sure it doesn’t mean you can just leave and don’t pay nor pay whatever price they ask after it.

When shopping, get ready for some ta’arof, definitely one of the things to know before you travel to Iran!

3. No handshake between sexes

One of the things to know before you travel to Iran and avoid misunderstandings while there if you are a man you shouldn’t shake hands with women and vice versa. Handshaking is only between men or between women, especially in public or public offices. If you are with friends, it all depends on how your friends are, usually, if you know they are religious, you can assume they are not likely to shake hands unless it’s between men or between women.
Obviously, if you meet clerics, don’t expect to shake hands if you are a woman, although, with the austere aura their turbans convey, I doubt you will even be inspired to try.

4. Alcoholic drinks are illegal

This is an absolute must among the things to know before you travel to Iran. If partying and heavy drinking is your idea of traveling, then Iran is not for you. Here, you can’t get drunk, even though it’s possible to find alcohol in Iran, it’s illegal and if you get caught you will face legal troubles, so I will totally recommend you wait until you are back home to get your booze.

5. be careful when taking photos of people

While taking pictures in Iran is pretty easy and welcome everywhere when you want to take photos of people you might want to ask first as sometimes it’s not appreciated. You might find a family or someone who likes to protect their privacy, it can happen that people don’t want to be photographed and maybe end up in social media. It has also happened that women got upset and demanded to delete the pictures where she appeared.
This is not much of a news to us as in Italy people usually don’t like to be photographed, but since in Iran this is rarely an issue, you might start feeling overconfident and forget that also here not everyone wants to be the subject of your artistic expression.

6. Every province is different

This is definitely one of the things to know before you travel to Iran and keep in mind when traveling to different cities and provinces. For example, you might want to adjust your dress code depending on where you are. In Tehran, you can see women wearing dresses with stockings underneath, albeit thick, while in more conservative places such as Qom or Kashan, this might not be the case. Apart from this aspect, be prepared to see many different faces of Iran, a plethora of cultures, traditions, landscapes and ethnic groups.

7. The weekend is Friday

As the Islamic Republic following Islamic rules and calendar, the weekend in Iran is Friday, meaning that some offices are open until Thursday evening or even until noon, like some government departments. Tehran Grand Bazaar is open until Thursday evening, on Friday some of the shops will open but not all, which can be better if you are into relaxed shopping and photography since during the week it’s just so crowded.
Exchange agencies in Ferdowsi Square are closed on Friday, keep that in mind if you are running out of local currency.

8. Exchange your cash at exchange agencies instead of banks

Iran’s local currency is the Rial (IRR) and since bank sanctions are not lifted yet, you need to carry enough cash for your stay. In most countries you won’t be able to buy IRR, so you will have to exchange your money in Iran. At the airport, you will find a bank for this and we suggest you exchange the necessary amount for the first day, including the first taxi from the airport, the fare of which ranges from 650.000 to 800.000 IRR.
Try to exchange the remaining that you need at exchange agencies, they have far better rates than banks. In Tehran, you can find exchange agencies in Ferdowsi Square, in Esfahan around Naqsh-e Jahan (Imam Square), and most cities will have agencies near the tourist attractions.
Tourists can also get a “tourist card” where you can put your money and use it like an ATM card, that will avoid carrying a lot of cash all the time.

9. Buy a local SIM Card

Way cheaper than using your own country’s SIM card, I suggest you buy an Iranian one. Usually, you need to be a resident, but phone stores have numbers already registered that can be used for tourists. The most famous ones are MCI, Irancell and Rightell.
10. Social media in Iran
In Iran Facebook and Twitter are filtered so if you can’t stay without, you need to install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in your smartphone (or laptop, tablet, or whatever device you are using). In Iran Psiphon is quite popular, which is a free software.
You can find many VPN services, a simple Google search is enough to find them, from free to cheap to more expensive. Often the paid versions start from one month, so if you are only staying a week a free version might be a better option for you.
Click here for more information on the different ExpressVPN packages and latest prices.
To chat with your Iranian friends download Telegram, it’s more common than Whatsapp and Viber.

Using the public transport you will also enjoy the beautiful decoration of Tehran metro

11. Use public transport

When visiting Iran, you might find public transport, both extra- and intra-urban, really great. While for some off-the-beaten-path provinces and areas you might prefer hiring a taxi, traveling around the most popular tourist cities can be easily done by public transport, either bus or train, that you can book from a local travel agency or buy the ticket directly at the stations. If you take the bus, do book a VIP one, the difference in price is small and you will get very comfortable seats and even a meal. If you are traveling as a woman in Iran, you can take night buses and trains and ne sure that they are completely safe with frequent police checks.

On a related note, when you are in Tehran, we strongly advise using public transport, too. The first and last cabins of Tehran metro’s trains are for women only, while the cabins in the middle are mixed. I suggest you buy a metro card to swipe
when you enter and exit so that you don’t need to queue for a ticket every time, and to get yourself a map of the lines to find your way easily.
There are some apps for the smartphone to help you get by in the metro: one is Tehran Metro and informs you also about landmarks, services, restaurants and buses around each metro station, and Tehran Metro Map for a complete map of all the lines.

12. Renting a car in Iran

Traffic in Tehran is pretty mental, and Iranians’ driving style can be quite… adventurous, so rent a car only if you feel confident and brave enough. Depending on the provinces, highways and country roads are pretty quiet, even though you will find many trucks, so you should inquire what the best times to get on the road between cities and provinces are.
Apart from traffic, safety is an issue too, as Iran has one of the world’s highest rates of deaths by car accidents, so we would suggest relying either on public transport or local drivers.

13. Tips are welcome

While it’s not as mandatory as in India, where even who tells you where the toilet is wants a tip, also in Iran tipping is appreciated. Usually, tips are for hotels’ employees who help you carry your luggage to your room (especially when you are on the third floor and there is no elevator!), where you can leave around 50,000 IRR, and, when in a tour, for your guide and the driver. It will be up to you and depending on how long the tour was, usually, if you ask the tour guide, he will be able to help.

14. Haggling in Iran

Especially in tourist areas, haggling is fine. In tourist bazaars, especially the one around Imam Square in Isfahan, haggling is highly recommended. Like everywhere, the more you buy, the more they are inclined to give you a better price, so if there is a shop you like, you might gather there all your gift shopping.
You can bargain the price with taxi drivers too, even though it’s very likely they will overcharge you anyway. Fares range from 20.000 IRR (less than 1€/$/£) to 200.000 IRR (roughly 6€/7$/5£) depending on the city and obviously the distance. In Tehran, you can find also shared taxis that will pick up also other people during the journey and usually cover a street or a specific distance. With these, the fare ranges from 10.000 to 20.000 Rials and there is no haggling, also because you can hardly go lower than this.

15. Taking a taxi in Iran

Since the written Persian uses Arabic letters, when you take a taxi it won’t harm to have the destination written in Persian characters. Especially in non-tourist areas, English is seldom spoken among taxi drivers and they might not understand your pronunciation, so instead of wandering aimlessly looking for the right spot you can just show them your destination or ask the hotel reception to tell them directly.
16. Bring hand soap or sanitizer and wet wipes
In public toilets hand soap is not always present, be it in bus stations or tourist attractions, so among the things to know before you travel to Iran, we suggest you carry a liquid soap or sanitizer with you just in case. Ladies should better always carry tissue with them.
In most places toilets are Turkish/Asian style, meaning squat toilets.

17. Don’t travel with your dog

We know you love your pet, but one of the things to know before you travel to Iran is that it might not be a good idea to bring your dog. First of all, cats, dogs, and other pets are listed among the prohibited items to carry, unless permission has been previously granted after providing all required vet health certificates and a rabies certificate issued in the country of origin, and second, there are religious/cultural/social issues.
There have been proposals for laws to ban pets in Iran, either because dogs are not considered clean in Islam or because seen, mostly by the most conservative wing of the Parliament, in terms of “Western cultural invasion”. However, many Iranians do keep cats and dogs, and do walk them every day, but they know where to go and this is why they don’t have problems. As a tourist, you won’t, so better not to take your beloved pet with you.
Moreover, you might face other problems when traveling around Iran, for example when taking domestic flights, public transport, or entering hotels and restaurants. Since they are almost never allowed inside, especially in more conservative and religious cities, you will hardly enjoy your trip to Iran or visit places, and if the alternative option is to keep it in shelters, they are probably better off at home.

18. Before going do your homework, essential among the things to know before you travel to Iran!

While this can sound pretty obvious but we suggest you to do some research ahead! You should know in front of what you are standing and what the significance and importance of that particular place are. Not only religious places but also shrines, historical sights such as Persepolis or Bisotun and general Iran tourist attractions. It’s also a matter of respect: if you go to a country to have a good time you should invest a bit of your time studying the culture. What would be the difference between dusk on a random wall or Persepolis then? It is completely senseless visiting Saadi’s tomb if you don’t know who he was and what role he plays for Iranians and Persians.”

19. One thing for the ladies when using the bathrooms

1- ALWAYS have tissues with you and 2 most (99%) of places have Turkish toilets meaning you have to squat, keep your pockets empty as you may drop your stuff in the dark hole.