Tips in Iran

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Jun 9th, 2009, 05:44 AM
  #1
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Tips in Iran

I am leaving for my trip to Iran in 2 weeks and I have a question regarding tips.

What is the protocol for tipping there? For example, the guides, waiters, driver, etc., how much is usually customary?

Should one pay the tip in Rials or is USD acceptable?

As an aside, I will be getting in at 1:40am. I have a guide set to pick me up. However, just in case, are taxis available at that time of the night?

Thank you.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 07:19 AM
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Tipping is the order of the day in Iran, so take lots of small notes and be generous! The current exchange rate is approximately $1 = 10,000 Rials, £1=15,500 Rials & €1= 13000 Rials. The 10,000 and 20,000 Rial notes seem to be most commonly used for tipping, but USD small bills ($1) are also acceptable. For waiters in restaurants, leave small change.

People are choose-y about accepting USD bills, especially moneychangers, hotels and small shops. They may refuse any that are torn, stained, with pen or pencil markings, etc. Suggest you go to your bank and request new currency to take with you. $50 bills most useful for changing into Iranian rials.

In most shops in the larger cities, they are eager to accept your money, whether rials or dollars or pounds or euros. Just ask the price in whichever currency you have and they will grab their small calculators and work it out for you. In the more rural areas and villages, you will need rials at the shops and markets.

One important note: listen carefully to the prices you are given, to discern whether they are in rials or touman. Many people now quote touman - 10 rials equals 1 touman. If in doubt, ask 'Rials?'

Many flights arrive Tehran in the early hours. You will probably be surprised by how busy the arrivals area is at 1:40 a.m. Your guide will almost certainly be there waiting for you with a sign as you descend the escalator into the meeting area. However, if not, there is a small Information stand near the center. The women there will help you. If you have the guide's name and mobile telephone number printed out, they will attempt to contact him for you. Make sure you have this information easily accessible just in case. Or they will direct you to a taxi if necessary.

Best wishes for a wonderful trip. I was there in October and found Iran one of the most interesting places I've been - the country is beautiful, culturally and historically very interesting, and the people are very hospitable, warm and welcoming. Here are some photos from my trip, if you're interested: http://jmstudio.fotopic.net/c1606257.html
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Jun 9th, 2009, 09:49 AM
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Nimbus - Julia answered all your questions, but please post here when you return - I hope you have a wonderful trip and can't wait to hear about it.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 01:06 PM
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"Tipping is the order of the day in Iran". Lonely Planet seems to say the opposite. Says 10% in upmarket restaurants, mainly in Tehran, "might be expected". But elsewhere "any money you leave will be a pleasant surprise". And a "small tip" to anyone who guides you. Is this just a matter of what's small? (I live in the US where the standard tip has reached 15%.)

I always prefer to use local currency - did you find it made much difference where you changed money? (Bank, hotel, money changer, etc.)

Also looking forward to hearing about this trip - I'm starting to consider Iran for the fall, and there's not a lot of info here.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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Thursdaysd -

We did find that in very small / (or not upmarket) restaurants, people seemed surprised and very grateful when we left a tip (on our first day in Tehran we ate out alone and left a tip - the restaurant host saw that we left 15 percent and seemed very surprised and then insisted on arranging a lot of pictures for us). I will say that our food bills were so inexpensive, even leaving 15% did not amount to much extra, and we always tipped in rials (except when we tipped our guides).
We changed most of our money at the hotel, purely out of convenience. I recall we did check the exchange rates and it wasn't big enough for it to be worth the extra hassle of going elsewhere.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 03:30 PM
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Thursdaysd -

Maybe Lonely Planet hasn't been to Iran recently? Or their writers didn't fully understand the tradition of ta'arof as it plays out in Iran?

At the end of my first taxi ride in Iran, at 1:30 a.m. from the airport to the center of Tehran, I offered a small tip to the driver, in addition to the fare. He smiled and shook his head and said 'No,' as I expected he would. I smiled and offered the money again, and again he refused, as I knew he would. The third time, he accepted, with much 'pleasant surprise' and smiles all around. This is ta'arof in action. In Persia, 'no thank you' means 'please make the offer again,' and it's customary to make it three times before it's accepted.

Another time I hired a taxi to take me from bridge to bridge along the river in Isfahan, and to wait for me while I spent time photographing. All in all, by the time I returned to my hotel, I had him for well over 2 hours. The fare was about 100,000 rials, as I remember, and I offered him another 20,000. He acted confused and said 'No, no, no' - and we went through the ta'arof ritual and finally parted as best of friends. Now I know that sounds like an awfully big tip, but remember, it was actually only about $2.

It's also customary to tip the guides and drivers in Iran: national guide around $5 per day per person. The local guides around $3 per day per person, and the drivers about $2 per day per person.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 04:20 PM
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LP has a clear explanation of ta'arof.
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Jun 9th, 2009, 04:47 PM
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Yes, but it's in the front on page 45 (in my edition), and written by the coordinating author and a contributing author, and doesn't address tipping at all. The information on tipping is in the back, on page 389, and it's not clear who wrote it, and it's not connected to the information on ta'arof. It appears the information in the two sections weren't coordinated when the book was organized.

I'm just writing about my own experience, and also about the information I was given before and during my trip by people native to Iran. I suggest that you conduct your own 'experiment' when you're there - don't tip and see what kind of reactions you get.
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Jun 10th, 2009, 05:40 AM
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Hey Maxwell and Julia1,

Any issues with stomach problems and other "unpleasant" (I think you know what that could be)G.I. effects of eating and drinking while there? Did you strictly use bottled water?

Have you guys started planning your next trip? As addicted to travel as I am, I haven't even gone on this trip yet, and I am already working on my October trip!

Thanks to everyone that responded for their great input. Honestly, I've traveled the world and know of very few places where a tip is not appreciated. I will submit a report when I return. Depending on the outcome of the June 12th elections, it might be an interesting time to go to Iran.
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Jun 10th, 2009, 09:03 AM
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Nimbus -

No stomach problems of any kind. I did use only bottled water.

Yes, it should be a very interesting time for you to be in Iran. From my experience, many of the people you encounter will have a lot to say about the election and the candidates.

I'm a travel junkie too! Where are you going in October? My fall trip is already set (Croatia, Slovenia) and I'm working on January (Cochin and Kerala state in southern India).

Have a wonderful trip! Can't wait to read all about it.
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Jun 10th, 2009, 10:16 AM
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Nimbus - Absolutely no problems for me either, but I also used only bottled water. Dateline did a fairly interesting (nothing earth shattering, but interesting) hour long piece on Iran and the upcoming election Sunday night - not sure if you caught it.)

Julia - I was in Slovenia the summer before last and loved it. Croatia is one of my folks' favorite vacation destinations but I have not yet been there.

I was hoping to do a West Africa backpacking trip late fall or early winter, however, since business is painfully slow I've started studying Arabic intensely with a tutor, so may end up back in the Middle East on my next trip...we shall see.
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Jun 10th, 2009, 11:24 AM
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Julia1 - I like your (and Maxwell's) way of travel; no ordinary places. I just can't do the typical vacation routes anymore. My choices are usually the places that illicit the response from people around me like, I'm crazy, insane, stupid, a spy, etc. You will love Croatia and I've heard good things about Slovenia.

Will the January trip be your first time India? I am doing a Silverseas cruise that starts in Mumbai then on to Cochin, Maldives and the Seychelles in December. I got the most incredible deal imaginable. The air is more expensive that the cruise. That says a lot because Silverseas is extremely expensive.

My October trip is up in the air. I'm torn between Mali or Argentina, Easter Island, Brazil and Uruguay or Laos and Burma.

So Maxwell, very cool with leading arabic. I think you need to stick with the arab countries to test your language skills. Plus, the people will flip when they hear an American speaking Arabic.

So what would you both say was your scariest, "I might never make it home alive or with both arms and legs" story from any places that you have been?
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Jun 11th, 2009, 02:37 PM
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Nimbus -

I can't think of any scary stories off-hand. I guess it might be when I was hit by a motorcycle in France, Orleans, a few years ago. I went flying and so did he. I hit my head on the curb and was all bruised black and blue down one side for weeks after. He ended up with his very heavy motorcycle on top of him. Police and ambulance and emergency van came with horns blaring and lights flashing. A big crowd gathered, lots of people with lots to say about it. The police were acting very stern toward me, which I found hard to understand because he hit me. And then I realized they were asking me where my car was, and they thought I had hit him, and he was happy to let them think that. So I said, 'Non! Pieton! Moi!' etc, etc. And then they turned to him and let him know in no uncertain terms that, even though I was in the street, it's still not ok to hit pedestrians.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I meant to ask you to tell us a little about where you're going in Iran and how you're traveling around. I'm working on a multi-media presentation about Iran for a group on Saturday. I'm asked to do a lot of these, probably because Iran is a hot topic. Anyway, looking through my photos is really making me yearn to return. Now I'm thinking I'd like to go back in May for the rose harvest in the villages near Kashan.
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Jun 12th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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Nimbus -
The only time I really thought I had officially used up all of my nine lives was a few years ago when a cab driver in Bethlehem refused to drive me back to the checkpoint, where I need to cross back over to find a shared taxi back to Jerusalem. He kept driving me further into the west bank. After some shoving, an exchange of money, and several panic attacks later, he agreed to drive me back to the checkpoint, where I suddenly had a large group of very angry Palestinian men yelling at me. The runner in me kicked into gear and the outing ended with me running at full speed away from the group of men and back to the Israeli guards. Was a little more excitement than I was looking for that day.
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Jun 13th, 2009, 07:13 AM
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Nimbus,

I am expecting some good reports from you after your trip as to people's reaction to the (fraudulent) election! I would love to be over there right now, although I'd probably get too involved in protesting and land in the slammer.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 06:24 AM
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Hey Maxwell, I loved your story from Bethlehem. That would totally freak me out.

I can't believe all this is going on right now. I guess I'm the [email protected] for planning a trip there after an election. I learned never to do that when I've planned trips to africa. I totally forgot and planned the trip forgetting that they will be having an election 2 weeks before my trip. I just hope they don't revoke visas before I leave or have nationwide strikes / shutdowns when I'm there. I'm not worried about my safety, as I know they aren't directing this at tourists. I'm more concerned about how difficult it will be to move around, etc.

It's funny, every time I go on vacation there seems to be unrest in the country I'm going to before I leave. I guess chances of that happening are much higher given that I so often go to the more unstable parts of the world.

Hey Julia,

I am doing a short trip, as I don't have enough vacation time left to go much longer. I am doing Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, the usual introductory course in Iran. I too have had people request that I share with them my trip to Iran.
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Jul 10th, 2010, 05:01 AM
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I'm not sure why Thursday is disputing Julias detailed answer about tipping when she has not been to Iran. I enjoyed the information you gave Julie.
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Sep 4th, 2013, 12:23 PM
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I can say that when I've been in Iran I didn't tip at all. I was there with my boyfriend that is iranian, and most all the times he was dealing with people and paying, but I cannot actually remember about so many tips. I think I would remember, as for example here is Morocco is compulsory tipping, and even if I am not the one that pay, I notice when someone is tipping.

but as I said, I could be wrong.

About stomach problem, I didn't have any. I spend all my staying in Iran in people houses, and it happened to drink tap water to. And I had any kind of food, and the only thing I can say, is that everything was amazing.
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