Iran is a country that instantly brings some preconceived notions to mind. It is often featured on Western news channels for negative reasons. What most people don't know, is that it's full of mesmerising ancient historical sites, varying landscapes and unique heritage. Paniz who is an Iranian native studying in the U.K shared some insights into her homeland.
Safety While Travelling in Iran
The main misconception which bothers me is that most people picture Iran as a country that is basically playing with nuclear bombs all the time and that we are involved war! Not only is this simply not true but, in fact, I have noticed Iran is a really safe country when it comes to being a tourist. Especially considering that it is located in the Middle East, where almost all the neighbouring countries are currently going through some form of conflict. I do consider Iran generally safe on both political and social grounds (even as a female solo traveller.)
The country is vast and varied
Being the biggest country in the region has made Iran extremely rich and diverse in terms of culture! I’m personally not even sure if there’s such a thing as Iranian/ Persian culture at all, as there are multiple cultures found in each province of the country. It wouldn’t be a lie to say the common culture, religion, ethnicity and language would be different and unique in every province, giving you a different experience of the country! In terms of the landscape, people may think Iran is a giant desert but that's not true. From mountains to seas, from forests to deserts they all exist here.
The climate varies from one side to the other
Iran is located roughly between Europe, Africa and Asia, this unique location means that multiple climates co-exist here. We’re famous for being a place that you can swim in the south and ski in the north at the exact same time- and yes, we do have the largest ski resorts in Western Asia as well!
Expectations vs Reality
It's much more modern than most people assume it is in the West.
Nope, we do not ride camels in the streets, and at one point in time, Iran had the record of being the fastest developing country in the world.
Local people are not always as strictly religious as they are often portrayed in the West. By comparing Iran with some other Muslim countries I’ve been to so far, I would say Iranians are generally relaxed people when comes to being "religiously religious," and in fact, many people in big cities don't practice religion as closely anymore, BUT does Iran have conservative state laws? YES!
Some compulsory religious rules are good to be familiar with before travelling to Iran. Such as the dress code for both men and women in public places (modest clothing.) Some things to avoid are alcohol and public displays of affection.
There are no international credit cards accepted
Now this one is definitely a huge negative point. Iran is a heavily economically embargoed country, and that means almost no international transaction can be done when in Iran- no credit cards. Only cash is accepted from non-Iranians. Also, there are very limited options when it comes to international brands (especially American ones.) So don't be surprised that there are no McDonald's or Burger King's in Iran!
Rules for American and British Tourists
Now, this one only applies to the U.S and U.K nationals. If you only hold a British or American passport, you may not be able to apply for an Iranian visa to travel with friends or solo instead, you must book a tour and have proof of this. It's best to check the rules and guidelines on your government websites.
As you can see, Iran is a lot more nuanced as a country than it's often presented in the West. It may not be a major tourist destination yet but, there is a lot to be seen!