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A First-Timer's Tourism Guide to Iran

Everything you need to know about going on a visit to Iran

Considered the jewel in Islam’s crown, few countries rival the rich ancient history of Iran. Storied ruins and exquisite historical architecture echo the glory days of Ancient Persia.

For travelers seeking something off the beaten track, Iran brings with it unmissable, yet-to-be-discovered uniqueness. With tourism in Iran still slowly building, now is the time to explore the country’s many great wonders.

Iran is part of Asian region
The country of Iran, seen on the lower right above, is one of the oldest cultures in the world,
rich in history that dates back to the Ancient Persia.

Start exploring Iran with our first-timer’s tourism guide.

Getting a visa

Like most other travel destinations, you will need a visa to enter this historic country.

Certain countries such as Egypt, Georgia, Lebanon, and Turkey can visit Iran without a visa. For those requiring a visa, Iran provides most nationalities with a visa on arrival process.

The nationalities comprise of 65 nations, including many European countries, Central Asian countries, Australia, China, and South Korea. Those issued with an Iranian tourist visa on arrival are given 30 days to visit the country.

Be forewarned, British, Canadian, and American travelers cannot get a visa on arrival and must secure a visa prior to travel. To gain entry into the country, holders of these passports must obtain a visa in advance, through an organized, guided tour.

When to visit

Similar to other countries in the Middle East, travelers can best enjoy Iran during spring and autumn. Traveling during these seasons affords travelers escape from Iran’s blistering summer heat and bitter winter cold.

The best months to go are March to May and September and October. As these are the best times to visit, these are Iran’s high season, meaning prices will rise and crowds get bigger.

Mosque at Isfahan
If you travel to Isfahan, on your visit to Iran, you will encounter one of the masterpieces
of Persian architecture in the Islamic era, the Shah Mosque, also known as Royal Mosque.

Top sights in Iran

With its exotic landscapes, beautiful architecture, and rich culture, travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to sightseeing. Unless you plan an extended holiday to Iran, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see everything Iran has to offer.

To get the most out of your first trip, we highlight three must-visit locales below.

 Tehran

This will be the first destination most travelers visit.

As most travelers will land at Tehran Airport, visitors often traverse through Iran’s capital to other popular destinations. But, if you stay at the capital for a while, you’ll discover sociable locals, a contemporary art scene, and an exhilarating pace unmatched in any other city.

 Persepolis

If ancient ruins tug at your heartstrings, Persepolis is unmissable. The capital of ancient Persia, Persepolis boasts historical sites dating back over 7,000 years. The architecture in Persepolis is grand, imposing, and indicative of the former capital’s supremacy.

Sights of note in Persepolis include Tachara Palace and the Apadana Staircase.

 Yazd

A picturesque desert city, Yazd is a “must-visit” destination for any itinerary. Wedged between northern Dasht-e Kavir and southern Dasht-e Lut, Yazd features atmospheric alleyways, well-preserved mud-brick houses, and a forest of badgirs (wind towers).

Visitors to Yazd will be enchanted by the city’s magnificent tilework and the history of old Persia.

Ancient ruins at Persepolis
Located in Fars Province of Iran, the ancient ruins of Persepolis are more than
7 millenniums old and represent one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world.

Unmissable experiences

For those with a passion for active pursuits, Iran’s vast landscapes offer travelers a tempting invitation to trek, ski, dive, and numerous other activities. From Alamut Valley and the Alborz Mountains to desert oases like Kavir-e Lut and Dasht-e Kavir, many active pursuits are possible.

Travelers looking to explore off the beaten track should make it a point to hire a tour guide when exploring isolated areas as such environments are not suitable for independent travel.

Other things to consider

Bazaar scene from Iran
Don't forget to visit bazaar while in Iran, to explore local handcrafts.
As Iran continues to open its doors to more and more visitors, certain rules and regulations must be considered before travel. Despite travel warnings, Iran is a relatively safe country to visit.

However, do keep in mind that certain local customs exist that you may be unaware of. For example, it’s suggested that travelers dress modestly during their stay in the country. Other considerations are included below.

Currency exchange

There also two currencies to consider; Rial and Toman. While the official currency of the country is Rial, most locals and stores trade in Toman. The currency exchange is 1 Toman = 10 Rial.

You’ll also need to withdraw enough money for the extent of your trip as you cannot withdraw money from local ATMs or use your Visa and Mastercard in local Iranian banks. Exchange agencies are located in most tourist areas of Iran, and often offer better rates than exchanges at the airport’s bank.

Transport

In major cities like Tehran, travelers can use public transport to get around the city. The Tehran Metro is a great way to get around the city. Minibuses and VIP buses service roads that link larger cities to surrounding villages.

Other forms of transport include city taxis, private taxis, and car rentals. Note that Uber is not available in Iran; however, applications such as Snapp provide the same type of service for reasonable prices.

City traffic scene from Iran
Altought one of the oldest cultures in the world, Iran is also a modern country, with friendly
people, where it's relatively easy to get around the capital city with taxis or public transport.

Accomodations

Accomodations in Iran can cater to any price and budget. The country offers budget hotels, five-star accommodations, guesthouses, and the option to stay in traditional houses.

Internet access

Iran is a great place to take a (in)voluntary “digital detox.” Having limited internet access can be a welcome break, but if you do need to stay connected, consider buying a prepaid SIM card with data.

A local SIM card along with a VPN (virtual private network) will allow you to connect and browse your favorite social media channels and websites.

Ready to go?

There are many reasons one should visit Iran, but none more so than the Iranian people. Iranians redefine hospitality. They are some of the warmest and friendliest people in the world, and undoubtedly, a hidden gem of the country. You may just find an unforgettable experience waiting for you.

AUTHOR BIO

Hamid Habibollah is Head of Content and Social Media at Snapptrip, a full-service travel booking company based in Tehran, Iran with a mission to empower customers' choices in booking their whole travel online. Hamid is an experienced content marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the internet industry and a passion for new media.

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