| Part 1: Introduction
was not the conventional type of trip, as my friends noted when I first
told them I was going to Iran. The typical reaction was disbelief,
remarks such as '... Iran ... you go to Iran??...'. My wife even did
not talk to me for two days when I told her about the trip. She said
'you know, you have two small kids'. Office staff stated 'I would go to
Iran, but perhaps not right now'.
My brother instead surprised me
when, after hearing about the trip, he told me I should have informed
him about the trip earlier, because he would have liked to join me.
What can I say, I only decided at the end of June I would go to Iran
and planned the entire trip in a very short time. Besides, who would
that my brother wanted to follow me on this crazy trip?
I myself was
a bit hesitant as well, because I would be visiting Iran during the hot
summer months and - even worse - during the Ramadan month, when
everybody is fasting and restaurants are
closed from sunrise until sunset. My only previous trips to
Iran had been two very
short visits of Tehran and Isfahan.
Another thing which left me
wondering was that I would have had to carry large amounts of
cash with me, because credit and ATM cards cannot be used in Iran.
the end, also thanks to the very valuable support of some friends of
Tehran who helped plan the trip and arranged local bookings for me,
everything went incredibly smooth and according to the plan. I was able
to complete the
entire itinerary covering a large number of places and the very
challenging Mt Damavand climb in the two weeks I had available.
was impressed by the rich historical and cultural heritage of Iran and
by the friendliness of its people. In lots of places people
stop me on the streets to have a chat with me. A couple of Swiss
travellers I met in Kashan told me they had been in Iran for a week and
had been invited every evening for dinner by Iranian people they just
met on the street.
It is possible to travel across Iran on a tight budget, because except
for Tehran most cities offer cheap accomodation, meals in restaurants
are inexpensive and public transportation is inexpensive. I ended up spending
much less than I had budgeted for daily expenses and food. What is
expensive are private cars+drivers, which however are a very convenient
way to get around. See below for a detailed explanation of costs.
For some reason I ended up having Kebab with rice almost
day (even once when I ordered Chinese chicken+rice I got again chicken
kebab). Somehow the Iranian and Turkish cuisines seem to be related.
cost of a full meal was in the region of 50000-60000 Rial in
restaurants and 80000-100000 Rial in hotel restaurants. Eating
a bit a
challenge, because due to the Ramadan, most restaurants were closed
during the day. But restaurants in hotels were open, because
according to Islamic rules travellers are allowed to eat during the
Ramadan. When I could not be back in the hotel for lunch, I used to buy
some food in groceries and eat it in some not so visible place (you are
not supposed to eat in public during the day during Ramadan).
The hotels where I stayed cost between 270000 and 1000000 Rial (=18 to
60 Euro). Most were midrange hotels with A/C, attached bathroom etc. I
had advance bookings but these would probably not have been necessary
due to the low season, except perhaps for the one in Mashhad because
Mashhad is a pilgrimage site.
/ Exchange rate (August 2011)
1 Euro = 15000 Rial (but most hotels gave between 15000 and 16000 Rial
for one Euro). I changed money in hotels, not in banks, because the
exchange rate in hotels was better than the official rate.
1 Euro ~ USD 1.40
I had to bring cash with me, because due to the US embargo in
Iran (western) credit cards, ATM cards and traveller cheques cannot be
phones and prepaid cards
I bought a prepaid SIM card of MTN Irancell in a shop in Shiraz. A
passport was needed to purchase the SIM card and the shop staff
activated the SIM card for me.
remember the cost, but it must have been below 100000 Rial. Recharges
were available in amounts of 10000, 20000 and 50000 Rial. Local and
even international calls were inexpensive.
The card would have also
allowed to use the Internet, but the shop staff didn't manage to get
the Internet connection to work on my phone. I guess there was some
problem with the settings, or perhaps mobile phones purchased outside
Iran cannot be used to surf the Internet in Iran with an Iranian SIM
the Internet connection using the mobile phone as a modem didn't work,
I used the WLAN hotspots of the hotels where I was staying to
connect to the Internet. The quality of the connection was variable -
quite fast in some hotels and slow in other hotels.
Lots of websites were blocked in Iran.
I travelled across Iran during one of the hottest months
(August). The heat was bearable however because I avoided the coastal
areas of the Persian gulf and instead stayed all the times in places at
a certain altitude (1000-1500 metres) where the air was dry. The
temperature was ok in the morning and evening and it was only very hot
during the midday hours, during which I used rest in the
Needless to say, it never rained.
The weather was perfect for Mt Damavand, because of its very high
altitude. In fact, at 5000 metres it even snowed a bit.
Not an issue in Iran. I didn't have to get any vaccinations for the
A valid passport is necessary. Visa on arrival is available for
nationals of a number of countries, but it is advisable to get the visa
before travelling to Iran. I didn't have to go to the consulate to
apply for the visa, because friends in Tehran arranged one visa for me.
However I met a German national who told me that it was very easy to
get an Iranian visa at an Iranian consulate in Germany.
I used to walk around with large amounts of cash and
several thousands of Euro of camera equipment. I never felt unsafe or
threatened. Iranian people are very helpful and friendly with
Also, whenever I took a taxi, these were not
metered, but I never asked beforehand what the cost of the trip would
be. Taxi drivers never ripped me off and always asked moderate to
- Isfahan is breathtaking. Its architectural
highlights are on the same level as those of Rome and Paris.
- Persepolis, Shiraz and Yazd are very
interesting from a cultural/historic perspective.
- The traditional houses in Kashan.
- The Mt Damavand climb, if you are fit enough.
be afraid to get involved in discussions with the local people. Such
exchanges give you a deeper understanding of the local culture.
- Be careful not to take photos of military
government buildings. Probably because of the bombing threats of Israel
and the USA, the Iranians are quite sensitive towards anybody who takes
photos of military installations or government buildings.
- Shorts - nobody wears them in public
this trip I used mostly private cars with drivers to get from one place
to the next and flights to cover the longer distances. The cost of the
car+driver used to be 500000-1000000 Rial per day, depending
the distance covered.
I didn't try out other public transportation (i.e. buses, trains) but I
read that these are very cheap, comfortable and in a good state.
of Iranian airlines are on average in a less good
shape than those of foreign airlines, because Iranian airlines have
difficulties getting spare parts and servicing because of the embargo.