Almost all non-Iranian citizens would require a Visa to enter the country. Visas are generally issued by the Iranian consular officers and its best to consult them on the requirements and processing times, please prepare yourself for up to an 8 week wait. Citizens of most European countries are able obtain a two week visa on arrival (this can be extended for a further two weeks), however it is advisable to check this with the Consular officials ahead of your departure. We can help you with your application and advise on the nearest Iranian Consulate. Please be aware of unscrupulous operators who offer to process your Visa application for a fee, in all circumstance and in the first instance contact the consular officials.
Travelling to Iran
There are any number of hotels and guest houses in the country which predominantly serve internal tourists and the business community. We now have many 4-5 star and boutique hotels offering a variety of standards of service and comfort. We have visited many of these hotels and have checked their standards to select the best for our guests. We endeavor to continue with our inspections so that the standards are maintained and improved where necessary.
Fresh produce and ingredients are offered across the country with regional variations to cater for the Iranian love of food. The cuisine is rich with local and seasonal choices. There are any number of cookery books on the market introducing our ancient and sophisticated cuisine detailing ingredients and skills, these can be good introductions to first time visitors. However, it must be noted that the best food is prepared in private kitchens.
Generally Iranian restaurants and hotels offer well cooked, safe and tasty meals but with limited menus which are devised to appeal to travelling Iranians and business people.
We have structured our service to offer the best and most varied menus to reflect the cuisine of each province. We also encourage our travellers to sample independent restaurants, patisseries and bakeries to get a full flavour of the culinary spectrum.
Please note that the ownership and consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly forbidden. Please do not bring any into the country and if you are offered it whist in Iran you must refuse it.
Iran is a traditional Islamic country with its own ideas of dress sense and modesty, specially for women. For men, outlandish clothes, short trousers and sleeveless shirts are not commonplace and are to be avoided but other universal trends are everywhere to be seen.
Women must follow the modesty codes more vigorously. Generally, the clothing should be loose and covering and should avoid emphasizing the body shape or showing more of the skin than hands, feet and face. The wearing of a head scarf is compulsory. Iranian women have created great variations on the theme showing individuality and fashion flair. For the most part wearing a long, loose, light coat, raincoat or winter coat with a head scarf suffices. Your tour guide will help you, should you need any further guidance on this.
In addition to the dress code please note that Iran has extremes of weather and does not have a uniform climate. If you are visiting in winter ensure that you have warm clothes with you as it can get bitterly cold.
Iranians are polite, in their own way, and stand on ceremony . They think highly of guests and go out of their way to please them and expect to be treated the same in return. They are very proud of the country and their cities and customs and very importantly they are supremely reverent when it comes to holy sites and mosques. When visiting mosques and shrines ensure that you remove your shoes and dress appropriately.
Along with the Japanese, traditional families do not walk into the home wearing their outdoor shoes, if you visit such a household please observe this tradition and take your outdoor shoes off before entering.
Due to the great environmental and geographical variations one cannot pinpoint a specific period. The south, Persian Gulf – Amman Sea stretch, has the warmest climate with scorching summers and humid winters. Northern regions from Azarbaijan to Khorasan, western and mountainous regions have a more temperate climate with very cold winters, hot dry summers, beautiful springs and colourful autumns. It is perhaps advisable to visit Iran in Spring and Autumn to benefit from the milder weather in all regions.
The official currency of the country is Iranian Rials. At the moment this currency is not available from international exchange agents outside Iran so your best bet is to exchange money once you arrive. Most major currencies are traded in Iranian banks and licensed exchange agencies but US Dollars, Euros and British Pounds are the most commonly traded. The exchange rate varies daily according to world markets but you can get a general trend of the rates by checking good exchange rate websites. Clean and new bills are more readily exchanged. It is advisable to exchange your currency in a bank or a licensed agency. We advise that you avoid street operators even if they seem to offer a better rate.
For the time being non Iranian debit cards, credit cards and Travellers Cheques are not accepted in Iran. Very few places accept Master Card (subject to an additional 5% charge) and it is not possible to rely on the service.
As a safety measure and to avoid carrying large sums of cash it is possible to buy Iranian prepaid debit cards which are called “Bank Gift Cards” from banks. These are widely accepted and provide an easy and safe way for general shopping. We can help you with organising these.
Although we can provide our clients with local insurance coverage during their trip, it is advisable to secure an appropriate travel insurance with a comprehensive cover before you commence your journey.
Iran is a generally safe country to visit and there are very few health issues to concern the traveller. But a precautionary inoculation against malaria, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A is advisable. Your medical practitioner or travel health advisor should be able to guide you on the matter. On our side we will keep you informed of any further precautions as and when necessary.
Most large cities have good to excellent medical facilities and well equipped hospitals which can deal with most medical cases. Please check with your insurers as to their requirements when dealing with the Iranian health system as you may be asked to pay for any treatment at the hospital or clinic. Those travellers who are on medication or require specific occasional treatments should bring an adequate supply of their medicine with them as the local supplies may not be readily available or there may be variations in the makeup of the medicine. Most commonly used drugs and medicines are available in generic form.
International calls are available in all hotels and the rates are generally reasonable. Most mobile networks with roaming facilities can get reception in Iran where the coverage is generally good with some variations in geographically difficult or remote areas. You can if required obtain local SIM cards for your mobile. Your guide can help you with this.
There are no restrictions on personal computers, laptops and tablets with WIFI widely available with good connections in most hotels, internet cafés and general patisserie coffee shops.
The electricity supply is based on the 220 V and plugs are continental types with two round pins. It is advisable to bring an international adapter.
Iran offers a large variety of handicrafts and decorative objects. They range from competitively priced reproductions of ancient and antique artifacts to priceless carpets. These are offered in modern and traditional shops across the country. Styles, material and workmanship vary from province to province and even from town to town. Your guide will be able to give you hints and show you the best shops and outlets but for the most part you will be encouraged to seek out curios and bargains for yourself exploring bazaars and souks.
Today many craftsmen have evolved traditional styles and techniques to create contemporary looks appealing to the younger traveller.
When it comes to larger items such as carpets and various woven rugs there are certain export regulations which would need to be observed, these also vary from time to time and we would advise on the current regulations and updates.
Iranian dried agricultural produce such as nuts and fruits are extremely good, indeed they are world class. Iranian pistachios top the league and there are numerous varieties to choose from. Almost all cities offer their own distinct delicacies and sweets which are now conveniently and often attractively packaged.
Your guide will inform you of the best mementos and buys in each locality and offer a choice of tried and tested outlets.
Frequently asked questions and general advice
There has been any number of commentaries with regards to Iran in the past few years but few of these have focused on the Iranians, their lives, their costums and the way they view the world.
On the whole Iranians are hospitable and kind and have natural affinity with other nationalities and furthermore are extremely keen on gauging other peoples’perceptions of their country. They are very welcoming to tourists and like to engage with them if only to practice their foreign language! You are sure to receive a friendly welcome wherever you go.
The country is generally safe as far as the international traveller is concerned but like anywhere else in the world you need to keep your wits about you to avoid trouble.
Internal tourism is well established and as the number of foreign travellers increases the industry is gradually but assuredly preparing itself to cater for international standards and expectations.