2 Weeks In Iran: So Far Away From The Clichés!

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Jul 29th, 2014, 08:52 PM
  #1
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2 Weeks In Iran: So Far Away From The Clichés!

Hi,
we just spent two weeks in Iran. Here is our experience.
If you want more information: http://www.oneyearoff.net/countries-visited/asia/iran
A short Video about this trip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-jOyDJ54-wA
Cheers, Gilles
Itinerary And Time Of The Visit

We spent two weeks in Iran in April 2014, and covered the cultural heartland of Iran: Shiraz, Isfahan, Na’In, Yazd, Kashan, Qom & last but not least Teheran. Due to the lack of time, we did not travel the north of the country, nor did we go to the deserts.

Why Travel To Iran?
Iran is one of the cradles of our civilizations and this was our main focus, to meet one of the oldest cultures in the world. The Persian Empire shaped the early history of mankind. It is famous for its craftsmanship, its architecture, tile work, its unparalleled Persian carpets and literature to name a few areas. No wonder, that nowadays the level of education is so high.

Is It Safe & Is It Morally Justifiable To Travel To Iran?
Like so often when we talk about our travelling plans, the question “Isn’t it dangerous to travel there?” pops up. Iran was no exception, on the contrary! Iran has a reputation of supporting terrorism, the land of fanatic ayatollahs where women are forced under the chador, not to mention the endless media coverage about Iran’s nuclear program.
We did not believe a minute that it would be dangerous, just the opposite. And it proved to be one of the safest countries we have traveled so far. Like always, our minds are manipulated by our daily diet of western media. During a presentation by “Rückenwind” - Anita said, “If you have prejudices about a country, then travel it”. We couldn’t agree more!
Besides, several times we were confronted with the question whether it is morally justifiable to travel to “such countries”. Do not be mistaken - our enthusiasm for Iran does not mean we support (in any way) a brutal and suppressive regime. Human Rights abuses are wide spread in Iran, corruption also as described in our article on Esfahan’s dried river. Elections seem to have little relevance, since who can run is decided by a closed circle. The “Council of the Guardians of the Constitution” control the country’s legislation and most of the oil production.
In our opinion, one should make a difference between the (amazing) people and culture of Iran and its regime. While traveling independently, you can ensure that your money will mainly go to a middle class being wiped out by the embargo and who deserves better than what is currently happening.

Challenges In The Organization Of The Trip
All in all, this trip was fairly easy to organize, especially considering how few people travel to Iran individually. The vast majority of tourists travel with an organized tour.
Organizing the visa was straightforward.
The Iranian Embassy recommended an agency to get us the required Visa Reference Number. Once you have this number you can to apply for the visa. The agency recommended never replied, so we used Gashttour Travel & Tour Agency. The very responsive and flexible staff got us the Visa Reference Number within ten days (35 € per person). Getting the visa was then a straightforward, uncomplicated process at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna.
Besides, Iran is very easy to travel.
We never booked ahead although we traveled during Easter, when most European tourists arrive in Iran. Accommodation and transport is overcrowded when you travel during Norooz, the spring festivities, where literally all Iranians are on holiday, traveling their country.
We were told that traveling might be challenging during Ramadan, due to the fact that many shops and almost all restaurants are closed during the day.
The main question that arose before departure was what kind of clothes should Heidi take?
Actually, as it turned out we spent way too many thoughts on this subject. All the female tourists we talked to had worried about what to wear in Iran. Quite easy actually: baggy pants, a shirt that cover your hips and bum, very little cleavage, short scarf - otherwise most of it is wrapped around your neck and drives you crazy, especially in the heat. You are set, not matter where, in rural areas or in urban areas!

What Would We Have Wished To Know?
There are three things you should be aware of when traveling to Iran:
The sanctions imposed on Iran are tight. Once you entered the country, you will have no access to cash. Forget your credit card! You have to take all the money you need with you in cash. This affects individual travellers the most, since you need to pay hotels, restaurants, bus, train & plane tickets as you travel, and not beforehand when using a tour operator. On top of that, there are tons of things you might want to buy, beautiful souvenirs, and of course astonishing carpets (we traded our Camera for one of them). So bring enough cash! Some of the more tourist-orientated and more expensive carpet shops in major cities have bank accounts in Europe, which makes it possible to pay by credit card.
The currency is devaluating fast, so keep an eye on the exchange rate. We experienced a drop of 7,5% over a period of 2 weeks.
Toman, Rial / Rial, Toman… This is extremely confusing in the beginning. Always double check that the prices indicated or discussed are in Toman, and when looking at your bank notes, multiply the price by 10. Toman actually do not exist, but everyone quotes prices in Toman - 1 Toman is 10 Rials.

Highlights Of The Trip
The people - Iranians simply redefine friendliness and hospitality!
Esfahan - with it great Islamic architecture, Maydan-e Imam, the string of leavy parks and Julfa, the Armenian Quarter, that invites for strolls, day and night
Qom, Iran’s (second) Vatican - Both Fatima’s Holy Shrine and Jamkaran Mosque are spectacular. And no, this city is not THAT conservative…
Persepolis and the tombs of the Achaemenidean Kings Cyrius, Darius & Xerxes
The diversity of highlights in and around Yazd, a place where you should plan enough time
Visiting traditional houses in Kashan
The Bazaar of Shiraz
Amazing opportunities for photographers: Iranians are eager to pose for photos, even with complete strangers; astonishing architecture; illuminated buildings in the evening…

How To Go Off The Beaten Track?
Read more on: http://www.oneyearoff.net/countries-...om-the-cliches

Budget:
http://www.oneyearoff.net/countries-...el-on-a-budget

Photography in Iran:
http://www.oneyearoff.net/countries-...graphers-dream
OneYearOff is offline  
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Jul 30th, 2014, 12:33 PM
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Yes. Would love to. I have heard a lot of positive things about Iran from my students. But what puts me off is that I have a passport from one country that doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran, and I live in another. No idea how I would get a visa. It seems like extra hassle at the moment and meanwhile I still have a list of easier places to travel in. Maybe I should move to Vienna?
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Jul 30th, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Iran is trying to develop tourism at high speed, so I think the hassle will be very low.
I am French and live in Austria, and it was not especially difficult to get a visa, on the contrary.
If you are a USA citizen though, I am not sure you can travel independently.
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Aug 3rd, 2014, 10:36 AM
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I have a Jewish name (since I am Jewish) and I have Israeli stamps in my passport (since I have visited Israel a couple times). It is my understanding that Iran will not allow me entry into their country. Can anyone confirm or negate my understanding? Please don't answer with assumptions. I'd really like to know the facts. Researching it on the web indicates the passport is a definite bar to entry and my name is dependent on the Iranian immigration officer's mood. Has anyone had a first hand experience?
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Aug 5th, 2014, 10:47 AM
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Hi,
sorry, no first hand experience, but... Actually, many countries would issue a new passport just for that reason (I asked for a new one in 2009 just because of that, and got it - I am French - without a single question).
So, not first hand, but... I would really consider getting a new passport.
Cheers
Gilles
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Aug 14th, 2014, 04:05 AM
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I would like to visit Israel with my husband in the near future, but I watched news at channel http://choose.tv/france24-en in this morning. I worry about what's happening in the Middle East right now. Militants firing rockets at Israel .Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL) seized Iraq's biggest dam, an oilfield and three more towns. I think traveling to Iran is dangerous too now.
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Aug 16th, 2014, 06:41 AM
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Hi Miranda,
There is no terrorist threats in Iran, neither are their fightings their.
Iran is extremely safe, much safer than all it's neighbors!
Cheers
Gilles
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Sep 15th, 2014, 12:25 AM
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Gilles,
It was great to see your trip report and to read your positive impressions of Iran. We went to Iran in 2003 and also used Gashttour. We had a wonderful time and found the Iranians very open and friendly. They were delighted when we told them we were from the US, though they are not so keen on the Brits!

WE were in Shiraz, Isfahan, Kerman and Perspolis, as well as Bam before the earthquake and Yadz but I was fascinated to see you were in Qom and Kashan, two places we would like to see. I agree strongly with you that travel is a way to address our inner prejudices, we deliberately went to Iran right after the US invaded Iraq because the news was beginning to distort our view of the Middle East. Of course everyone thought we were mad, even our "liberal" academic friends, but we had a great time.

We were mesmerized by the religious architecture and the historic sites. Overall we found Iran extremely safe, I have no doubt that barring traffic accidents in Tehran, the country is far safer than areas within ten miles of my home here in California.

Lovely2c - I can tell you that my American husband is Jewish and his name is recognizably so, Cohn. We had no difficulties getting a visa. Though we didn't have Isreali stamps in our passports, I agree with the suggestion above to request a replacement. As an American and a Brit living in the US we didn't use a visa service but applied directly to the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani Embassy - as Iran and the Us do not have diplomatic relations. Before we applied we needed the requisite paperwork from the travel agency in Ian, which they get through a ministry there. Because my husband is an American a guided tour was required (not sure if this is still the same? But it was very reasonably priced. Iran remains one of the most fascinating places we have visited.

Our guide was well aware my husband was jewish and told him to tell anyone that his God was the God of Hafez. The iranian revere the poet Hafez and here it is in his words, so beautifully...

“Every child has known God,
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don’ts,
Not the God who ever does Anything weird,
But the God who knows only 4 words.
And keeps repeating them, saying:
“Come Dance with Me , come dance.”
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Nov 1st, 2014, 08:25 AM
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That's a brilliant blog..thanks for sharing.
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Nov 4th, 2014, 11:16 PM
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Love your report. Thanks so much for posting your links. Spent three weeks in Iran several years ago and dying to return. So much more...
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