The truth is travel to Iran definitely has its quirks, and being in an Islamic country means there are a few things you need to know about the religion and culture before you go, so you can show absolute respect. Luckily these are easy enough to know before you go if you do a bit of research. We gather the most important and unique facts about Iran to let you have a better trip to this wonderful country.
YOU NEED A VISA FOR IRAN
In order to visit Iran, you’re going to need to get a tourist visa. This used to be a very difficult process, but luckily things have gotten easier with the introduction of visa on arrivals in 2016.
The Ministry of foreign affairs of Iran announced that citizens of most countries can now apply for Visa On Arrival (VOA) for 30-days travel at most international airports including Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad, Tabriz and Isfahan.
There’s an exception to this rule though, and if you are from Canada, the UK or the USA, you have some difficulties and you can only visit Iran if you join a guided tour, so no chance of getting a VOA and travelling independently. We will help you organize your visa. For further information, read our article about Iran Visa.
Dress Code in Iran
Women need to cover their arms, legs and head. This including a Hijab, loose long length shirt with long sleeves and pants. Have a headscarf in your carry-on luggage before arrival to Iran. The most common way to cover your head is with a scarf. The local women wear bright colors and are very stylish with their clothing, so don’t think you need to wear all black. Obviously, it is one important part of the fashionable dress in Iran to use the scarf correctly. You can wear sandals. Some guesthouses and hostels will allow you to take your headscarf off on their premises but do check first.
Men aren’t allowed to wear shorts in public, so bring long, lightweight pants as the best option. T-shirts are fine to wear in public. Men can wear sandals too. All tourists are subject to these customs. Actually, this issue is one of the most important facts about Iran.
Religious Etiquette in Iran
In order to visit a mosque or any holy shrine in Iran, women should wear a chador before entering the place. There is usually a kiosk at the entrance gate where you can take one. Also, men are expected to wear long-sleeved shirts when visiting a mosque or holy shrine. please note that you have to take off your shoes before entering a prayer area of a mosque. The fact is, all people who want to enter a holy place have to be clean.
Alcohol is illegal in Iran
Even though wine has played an important role in Persian ancient culture and literature throughout the history, since the establishment of the Islamic republic government in 1979 alcohol has been banned to be drunk in public places. You are also not allowed to bring alcohol with you to the country.
Therefore, it cannot be served in hotels, restaurants, and cafes. So if you are looking for bars in Iran, we’re sorry to let you down. Instead of traditional Iranian drinks, such as Sharbat, dough and different types of herbal tea which are so refreshing. This is one another rule among the important facts about Iran.
International Credit Cards – no Visa or Mastercard
Due to international banking sanctions, no credit cards work in Iran. Therefore, you have to bring cash to spend in Iran. However, the National Bank of Iran has taken a helpful step to resolve this problem by providing a Tourist Card to help tourists enjoy a safer and easier journey in Iran. Also, you can pay by Euro or US Dollar in most shops, they accept these currencies.
Rial Or Toman? Which one is the official currency?
The currency has two names. Toman and Rial. Get used to asking that question, because if you don’t do it, could end up being a costly mistake. The currency in Iran is officially known as Rial. That’s a lot of zeros if you use Rial, so what the locals have started doing is dropping a zero and calling the new value oneToman.
1 Toman = 10 Rial
In most local shops, the people will tell you the rate on Toman. So, don’t worry at all, It is one of the critical facts about Iran.
The people talk in Farsi or Persian
The majority of Iranians speaks Persian (Farsi) language, which is also the official language of the country.
There are also some other dialects spoken by people around Iran. Turkic, Luri, Lari, Kurdish, and Arabic are the languages people speak in a different parts of the country. Armenian, Georgian, and Neo-Aramaic are also minority languages spoken by some people.
Communication Tools in Iran
Telephone services within Iran are efficient and reliable. International calls can be made from public and private phones and fax services are available at most hotels. Internet access is widespread via Internet cafes and hotels. Mobile (cell phone) services are provided by three different large companies in Iran. You can check their websites to find out their services and tariffs. Also, you can find some stations at the airports to buy sim cards at the time of arrival to Iran.
Nowadays, you can access the Internet almost everywhere in Iran with some limitations. Basically, there are three ways to access the internet in Iran. First of all, you can buy a local Sim Card, so you can have 24-hour access to the Internet. You can also use free Wi-Fi at Hotels, Café’s, and public centers. In addition, you can buy a pocket Wi-Fi internet, a portable Wi-Fi hot-spot that gives you access to the internet.
One of the unique facts about Iran is having access to a number of websites is blocked by the government. At the time of writing, these included Facebook and Twitter and You tube as major social media platforms. However, Skype and Instagram are accessible. In addition to these social media platforms, BBC and most Western news services are also banned in Iran.
To get around blocked websites, you need to use a VPN service to freely search on the web. Although it can slow things down considerably, which can be particularly frustrating where the Wi-Fi is already slow.
Don’t travel with your dog
In many countries around the world, dogs are one of the most popular pets. However, according to Islamic rules, having a dog is illegal in Iran. Therefore, bringing dogs with you to Iran and walking the dogs in public places is forbidden. We know it is a strange law, but please pay attention.
Iranians are NOT Arabs
One of the most critical facts about Iran is that Iranians are NOT Arabs. Due to the location of Iran in the Middle East, and citizens who are Muslims, many people think of Ian as an Arabian Country. However, Iran means “land of the Aryans” and is excluded from the list of Arab League Nations in the Middle East and North Africa Region. Iranians are Persian, the only minority ethnic group in Iran which is Arab, the people who are living in the southern parts of the county.
The official language in Iran is also Farsi or Persian which is far from the Arabic language.
Is Iran a safe country?
When it comes to safety, Iran is one of the safest countries in the world and people are very friendly and helpful wherever you travel according to two recent international reports. According to 2019 Travel Risk Map, launched by global risk experts International SOS in collaboration with Control Risks, Iran has been deemed as safe as a majority of European countries when it comes to travel security. In another report, Safe Around has compiled and analyzed data from several public sources to make a safety index that allows ranking the world’s countries by safety. In this ranking list, Iran stands at the 95th row, which means that the country is a relatively low-crime one.
In general, Iran is much safer than many from the West might believe. Most people are genuinely friendly and interested to know about you and your country, so leave aside your preconceptions and come with an open mind to a country which is well known for its people’s hospitality.
The gracious hospitality of Iranians
One of the most wonderful facts about Iran and Iranians is the warmth and hospitality. When it comes to hospitality, generosity and kindness, the people of Iran rank at the top of the list. Iranian people hospitality is famous all around the world. To Iranians, hospitality has a much deeper meaning. They like to share part of their existence with you, part of their hearts and they are not satisfied until they fulfil that desire! People from Iran are some of the most genuinely hospitable people you’ve ever met. They never want anything in return, they just want to make you a good time and hope that you’ll spread the word back home that Iran is a safe place to visit. You have to be in Iran to feel this warmth by your heart.
Unmarried foreign couples can stay in the same hotel room
You may have heard that unmarried Iranians are not allowed to stay in the same room in the hotels in Iran according to the Islamic rules. Yes, it is a fact about Iran and its rules. However, this rule is not implied for foreign people and unmarried foreign couples can stay in the same hotel room. So, if you are planning to have a romantic trip to Iran with your partner, don’t worry at all. You can be together anywhere and anytime. If you need a help for booking hotels in Iran, we can help you too.
Taarof as a symbol of hospitality
Persian culture is characterized by Taarof (the art of excessive politeness and humility). The art of Taarof has its roots in the Persian tradition of treating your guests better than your own family and the insatiable desire to be the best hosts.
Taarof is best described as a play of words between the person who offers something and the recipient until one of them agrees. It is an Iranian cultural phenomenon in which you refuse something that is offered to you more out of politeness and not wanting to come across as greedy rather than accepting something even though you want it. As the offerer, you might be offering to give something that might be too expensive to give away just like that or for free. For instance, if you are invited to a Persian home for a meal, the food is delicious and you have eaten enough yet wouldn’t mind eating some more, Taarof demands that you say no even if your host offers you a second helping. The factors at play here are, your host wanting to be gracious and ensuring you eat more than your fill and you wanting to eat some more without appearing to be a glutton. In such a case you may refuse once but accept when the offer is made a third time so that you don’t appear greedy.
Taarof is a big part of the buying and selling that goes on in stores across Iran, particularly in small shops selling low priced items. When you enquire about the price of a certain product, the shopkeeper will tell you “it is nothing much” instead of quoting a figure. Taarof demands that he says this because while the shopkeeper wants you to buy the goods on offer they must tell you that you are worthy of much more. That is the reason why shopkeepers may say the price is nothing.
Generally, Iranians are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures and Taarof is was one of the surprising facts about Iran.