Travelling in Iran – what you need to know / why go?
There are many people out there who would never even consider travelling to Iran. The image broadcast by all traditional media outlets only cover the negative stories, and the stock standard issues (nuclear progress etc). I dont blame you if you have subscribed to this and accepted it as gospel. In fact the whole reason I went to Iran in the first place was because of these stories, I wanted to see it for myself.
Lets stop for a minute and talk about the positive points about Iran, that nobody has heard of. Iran is a remarkable pillar of stability in the Middle East. Surrounded on all sides by terrorist groups and fighting in neighbouring countries, Iran has been for some time now a solid pillar of stability unmatched by any of its neighbours. Yes the political situation is repressive, but not nearly as bad as some of the other Muslim countries, and it seems change is on the cards if student demonstrations are anything to go by.
The people are incredible friendly. Seriously, every country on earth proclaims to have ‘friendly’ people. But of all of the countries on this planet, Iran stands at the top of the list when it comes to a friendly reception. You will feel like a rockstar. It might even overwhelm you.
The education standard is very high. School and education is available almost everyone. Higher educational facilities such as universities are a high standard and it is very difficult to get a place in one of them.
There are some incredible historic sights, restored to a high quality. The government dedicates alot of money to restoration. But you will still pass many ‘thousand year old’ ruins as common as a mcdonalds in America. They will get around to them eventually!
The economy is very robust. Because of all of the sanctions placed on Iran over the years, they have developed their own ways of manufacturing and producing everything. They even have their own brand of cars, fully produced in Iran. It has been said that Iran is the next Germany in terms of manufacturing and innovation. But lets not hope for the other reason too..
On the flip side, inflation is skyrocketing and jobless numbers increasing (because of the sanctions). These are examples of the decisions of a corrupted government undermining the public of whom they are meant to represent (pushing the nuclear issue and putting it above other needs). Change is on the cards for Iran and the next few years will see a major change for Iranians, whether it be good or bad, time will be the judge..
Should you go? And a few tips
Absolutely. It is safe for a traveller, public transport is convenient. It is very cheap because of the sanctions. If you are a woman, try to go with a man. Pretend you are married (wear a ring) to avoid questions. It is possible to travel alone as a woman but you may be hassled by men trying to marry you.. Take USD as currency, then change with street vendors for the best price (yeah thats a strange idea, but you get a much better rate). Haggle for everything. It is COLD in winter! No kissing in public or showing ‘affection’. Look out for the religious police (normal police are quite helpful and seem to go out of their way to help you). Not many people speak english, take a farsi translation book for the basics.