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Recommendations for reputable Travel Agent In Iran

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HI:

We are in the process of arranging a trip to Iran and Dubai. Any recommendations on places to visit, don't does, must see, any small gifts for hospitality,and for children.

We have been given the name of a travel agency (Gashttour Travel)does anyone have experience with this firm? If there are any other reputable agents, please provide them. Thank you in advance Ed & Gloria

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    Ed and Gloria,
    I think perhaps you got the Gashttour recommendation from my post!

    We found that gifts were very important as people are so hospitable...

    I brought perfume for the guide's wife and we brought some small very fancy looking small maglites (flashlights). I think a nice polo shirt with a logo would be a good gift. ...also because we flew through Europe I picked up some nice small chocolates which we gave out along the way...one to the bride at a nomadic wedding!

    Apparently something sweet is an excellent symbolic gift for a weddding. Because of the heat chocolates were alittle hard to cope with but I also brought small hard candies which were nice on the longer car journeys and were good to offer as a small gesture when people offered us tea in the parks or something similar.

    Because we had planned to stay with a nomadic group I went to the Salvation Army where I picked out about 10 outfits for children which they were very happy to get. We asked the guide whether such a gesture would be appropriate before we gave them. We also brought postcards of our local area (San Francisco) which people seemed to like.

    Hope that helps!

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    HI: MS Welltraveledbrit

    Thank you very much for your information and advice. Yes, we did find the travel agency's name from your post. We do have a few more questions.

    Did the travel agency live up to your expectations?
    We will not be visiting the nomads. Based on that information how many days should we plan on staying in Iran to get a good feel for the country?
    What impressed you the most; museums,architecture,natural beauty,culture,antiquties?

    Was the transportation provided by the tour company adequate and reliable?

    Did you have sufficient free time?

    I hope we have not taken advantage of your helpful nature. We are sorry for the typos!

    Many thanks!! Ed & Gloria

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    Ed and Gloria,
    I'll try to answe your questions in order!

    1)The agency exceeded our expectations! In fact I'm so enthusiastic that I don't want to sound like an advertisment!

    The reason we liked them was because we liked both the owner of the agency and the guide. I think they truly reflect the Iranian tradition of hospitality.

    Our guide Abass was wonderful...an ex airforce pilot under the Shah, in his mid 50's, he visited the US twice in 1968 and 1974 training with the US airforce. In fact he spent a year in Texas as part of his fighter pilot training. This meant he had a sense of America and Americans and in fact he had also visited London!

    Anyway he was so knowledgable and personable, somebody we'd be happy to call a friend at home. He's a very cultured and hospitable man.

    We liked Mr. Ghajar who owns the agency because he was so concerned that we we having a good time...he called every day to ask Abbass three questions; How are the guests? How is the car? and finally how are you!
    We couldn't believe how inclusive the whole thing was...they even provided cold mineral water in the car at all times!

    The fact is that since 9/11 hundreds of Iranian agencies have gone out of business and most have lost 80% of their overseas business...it means that everyone is just so happy that you chose to visit Iran.

    2)We spent 14 days in Iran which gave us enough time to visit the country. It's easy to travel around but this was enough time for us because it was tiring and rather hot in July! Plus, remember you don't have the option of relaxing by the pool or having a glass of wine to relax in the evening! I would definately suggest at least 3 or even 4 nights in Isfahan.

    3) All of the things you mentioned impressed us...the cultural heritage and antiquities are incredible...we loved the tile and mirror work at the shrines and mosques. However, one of the things that is most impressive is the friendliness and accessibility of the ordinary people.

    4)The transportation provided by the company was a small four door car...somthing like a small four door Hyundai. It was only a couple of years old and was more than adequate for us. Most importantly it had air conditioning! We also took domestic flights on Iran Air which were all included.

    5)The question of free time is a good one. We are not accustomed to tours and no matter how great the guide is it does make it difficult to have enough time on your own. Because it was so hot we toured in the morning 9am-12...stopped for lunch and then after a long siesta met up with the guide in the evening for some more touring...This gave us some time on our own.

    The difficulty is that there is a clash between Iranian hospitality and American/Western individuality. They are so helpful and so want you to see everything their country has to offer.

    There are several ways around this...make sure you don't put too much on your itinerary and build free time into the itinerary. We opted for all meals included but on some evening we ate alone and paid for ourselves... it was very, very, cheap.

    You could certainly opt to eat on your own...although I have to say the guide really helped us try some great things and brought us to interesting restaurants.
    You can also do a tour with different local guides in each city which may make it easier to build in free days etc.

    It's a difficult tension because you need a balance you want to see thing on your own and yet the guide also opens up the history, culture and the people for you. Some of the most interesting encouters we had were with people who didn't speak English with the guide translating.

    Hope that helps!

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    Terrific description. Some questions, please. Did you feel safe? Were people friendly, standoffish, etc.? How did you fly in, and was there any hassle with authorities? I'm assuming you're American - sorry if I'm wrong.
    What fallback would one have if things went awry and the travel agent were not available?

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    PCHsmiles,
    I'm from England. but living in California, and my husband's an American.
    Iran is probably the frindliest country I've ever visited people are very, very friendly not at all standoffish. Although it is hard to believe they love Americans although they're not so keen on our government! They constantly kept saying , "American very good." They like Americans even more than other foriegners.

    We were a littlle nervous at the airport, and I kept fiddling with the scarf which I had to put on to cover my hair, but our nervousness was misplaced.
    The passport control people were very gracious and welcomed us to Iran. We picked up our bags and the travel agency had a person waiting with our name on a sign. The airport was modern and orderly, easy to navigate with signs in English. We had read that we would have to declare our foriegn currency but it didn't seem necessary.

    When we left the country it seems we should have had two entry forms rather than filling out one form with all of our information...but they just smiles, shrugged their shoulders and waved us through.

    We felt very safe the whole time we were there, but we weren't making any waves.We felt free to talk politics which everyone seemed into. Everyone was down on the government.

    After we returned home we read that there was a Canadian-Iranian journalist who died in custody after reporting on a student protest. I know that as an American with no Embassy you are meant to go to the Swiss Embassy if anything, "goes awry". I think that as a tourist you are very safe in Iran. We felt free to walk anywhere and didn't feel concerned for our safety.

    Hope that answers your questions!

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    Thank you. I would love to travel to Iran and other parts of the Middle East, such as Beirut. We are on the eats coast. From what I've read, Iran seems the safest choice for us. Your experience really reminds me that other people are still able to differentiate between the person and his or her government. Bush seems bent on making every country edgy about the US, and with Iran, I feel he is overlooking changes, very powerful ones, that are going on. Again, thank you for your information - I know your trip was terrific. And I hope we may be able to follow your footsteps one year. Your post was one of the most interesting I've ever read on this website. Thanks!!!

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