This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)
Independent Travel in Iran
Independent Travel in Iran, Many travel to Iran to experience the delights of the ancient Persian Empire, yet are unaware of the limitations faced by the rules and regulations of what is now the strict Islamic Republic. As travel warnings persist and diplomatic relations with other countries continue with varying degrees of existence, many are confused by how to go about entering Iran and travelling in Iran safely, efficiently and within the boundaries set by the current regime.
Backpacking in Iran without a tour is becoming more and more popular and although many travelers are put off by the media portrayal of this country it’s actually incredibly safe and easy to travel Iran independently.
Unfortunately, if you have a UK, US or Canadian passport you still need to travel with an organized tour but many other nationalities including EU, New Zealand and Australian citizens can get a visa on arrival and stay for up to 30 days as well as extending their visa further (up to 90 days total).
There isn’t a lot of information about backpacking Iran online and guidebooks (even the most recent editions). But we had a great time and learnt a lot along the way. Independent travel in Iran is the best way to see the country and it’s very affordable compared with the overpriced tours offered by many foreign agencies who cash in on people’s safety concerns.
Independent Travel in Iran, Visa for Iran:
Getting a visa on arrival in Iran is very easy. You don’t need to do anything beforehand except book some accommodation or find a host and purchase some travel insurance. Then just turn up at the airport. It maybe takes 48 hours in Iran high seasons!
To get a visa on arrival in Iran you need:
Independent Travel in Iran:
- An address and contact number for your first night’s accommodation (they will call and check). This can be a local host or friend.
- Proof of travel insurance that’s valid in Iran (you can also purchase insurance at the airport for €15). It must clearly state Iran on it; your insurance company can send you this on request. We emailed our insurance company and had a copy within 12 hours.
- The fee in EUR or USD (€75 for most countries, €150 for Kiwis and Aussies)
If you’re not eligible for a visa on arrival or you’re travelling overland read this information about getting a visa for Iran.
Accommodation in Iran
Accommodation in Iran is very expensive relative to other costs such as food and transport. You can read the detailed article about Couch surfing experience here. We thoroughly recommend you spend at least some of your trip staying with locals, the Persian hospitality can’t be beaten and it’s a great way to see more of the real Iran.
There are hostels in Iran in most of the major cities and tourist locations. Many can book online but you need to pay when you arrive due to the credit card restrictions. There are some examples:
- Tehran: See You in Iran Hostel
- Kashan: Sana Historical Hostel
- Yazd: Yazd Rest-up Hostel – We can’t recommend this place enough. It’s worth going to Yazd just to stay here. Amazing hosts, stunning rooftop views and delicious breakfast!
- Qeshm: Assad’s Homestay Bandar-e-Doulab
You can also turn up in most places and people will guide you to the nearest hotel, hostel or guesthouse. That’s if they don’t invite you to stay at their house first!
Creating a public trip on Couch surfing also results in a lot of home stay and tour guide offers.
Independent Travel in Iran, Day Tours and Activities in Iran:
For those travelling solo or who want a local guide, Irandestination offer a range of tours and experiences from cooking classes and festivals to nature and historical tours. Iran destination is tourism website and acts as a link between travelers and local people with expertise in Iranian traditions, art, history and architecture. They focus on making sure experiences are environmentally and ethically sound with a focus on Eco lodges, traditional houses and employing local guides/hosts for Independent Travel in Iran.
Transport in Iran – Between Cities:
Budget travelers, you’re in luck! Getting around Iran by public transport is cheap, safe and easy.
BUSES IN IRAN
Independent Travel in Iran, The bus system in Iran is very comprehensive. You can book Most tickets online but only with an Iranian credit card. So, the website Irandestination offers a way around this by offering tickets that can book with international credit cards (only marginally more expensive than booking directly).
The tickets are in Farsi but people will help you find the right place. You are given a designated seat but often people will be moved around to ensure women don’t sit next to unrelated men.
The buses are very comfortable; especially the VIP buses and often provides snacks and drinks. An overnight bus costs around €10 and a shorter journey anywhere from €2. The buses don’t have toilets but stop at regular intervals.
There is a rail network in Iran but we were told it’s not as reliable or easy as the bus network. Although we heard good reports of the overnight trains and these can be a great option for long distance travel if you’re stretched for time. Again, it helps if you can find someone to book online as the sleeper trains often sell out in advance.
DOMESTIC FLIGHTS IN IRAN
Independent Travel in Iran, Almost every town in Iran has an airport and there are hundreds of domestic flights every day for really affordable prices. This is a great option for saving time if you’re going to places like Tabriz or Mashhad or for getting back to Tehran at the end of your trip.
It’s difficult to book domestic flights outside of the country and without access to an Iranian credit card you’ll need to book flights through one of the many travel agents.
There are often sharing taxis between cities. Also, any local can help you find these and tell you the cost. We found it comparable to bus prices but more flexible with timing. If you’re a group of 4 you can also hire a whole car. it works out to be very affordable. Talk to your accommodation to make arrangements.
Qeshm Island over two days and found it easy, safe and fun. Make sure you have a map that works offline, your destination written in Farsi and a few Farsi phrases. Many people will assume you want a taxi so be clear that you don’t want to pay.
Transport in Iran – Within Cities:
Most large cities in Iran (Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad) run a good public transport system. The metro in Tehran is easy to use and costs around 20c per ride. The bus systems in the cities cover most places but can be difficult to figure out if you don’t speak Farsi. If you want to take the bus the locals will be very helpful in pointing you in the right direction.
To use the public transport systems you’ll need a card. Moreover, This can purchas from metro stations and some bus stations. It comes reloaded for several trips and costs 50,000 IRR. So if you’re only using it once it may not be worth it.
TAXIS AND SNAPP
Independent Travel in Iran, Taxis are mostly very affordable but make sure you agree on a rate before you get in. We found that many taxi drivers agreed to take us and then spent half and hour driving around asking for directions so it helps if you have an offline map to show them the route.
Snapp is the Iranian equivalent of Uber. You’ll need an Iranian sim card to use it outside of WiFi areas. However, Once you put in your location and destination it will give you the price and the number plate of the driver. Once you arrive at your destination you pay the driver in cash. The prices are about half of the taxi prices and there’s no confusion about where you want to go.
This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)