Iran, in my opinion not only the most beautiful country in the Middle East but also one of the most beautiful countries I have visited so far. The country has enormous diversity. Iran has amazed me at the beauty of the country and the hospitality of the people. Is backpacking in Iran possible and safe? Hell yes! As a woman, I decided to go backpacking alone in Iran. Despite all the negative and concerned reactions from my environment, I was determined to go. I’m going backpacking in Iran!
Squatting to the toilet
Backpacking in Iran is fantastic. Iran is a very hospitable country. It is easy, safe, and cheap. I only have good experiences and cannot think of anything that disappointed me. Well, maybe one thing: you don’t have a European toilet everywhere. Especially when you sleep in people’s homes, you have to take this into account. Furthermore, during my solo trip through Iran, I only had positive experiences. The country has a beautiful culture and an interesting history. From cities to beaches, from mountains to desert … Iran has it all.
As a backpacker to Iran
I understand that backpacking in Iran might be a little exciting. Yes, it is not a backpacker’s paradise like Thailand for example. That is exactly what makes it much more fun and special for me. Somehow I had a little more tension than usual for a trip. Especially all the negative reactions from my environment got me thinking. Is it really a good idea as a woman to backpack alone through Iran? I can imagine that you have this question. Even if you travel with your partner or with a friend. Iran is much more unknown in that sense. What can I say, don’t hesitate because backpacking in Iran is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. Before my backpacking adventure started I had a number of questions myself. Questions that every backpacker thinks about. In this article, I will give you information about the most important things you need to know about backpacking in Iran. Starting with the customs in Iran.
These are the customs in Iran
Traveling in Iran means you have to adapt to the customs of the country. You can agree or disagree, but I think it’s a sign of respect. It is part of it if you want to visit Iran. These are the most important things you need to know as a backpacker.
Giving a hand
In the Netherlands, we don’t even think about this, but it is not self-evident that this is the case in every culture. Men do not always shake hands with women. You can make a point of it, but this is simply one of the customs in Iran. I myself think you should accept the religion as it is. It is also good to know that no man will shake a woman first. As a woman, YOU have to reach out to them. So ladies, take the lead and shake hands with the gentlemen. All that can happen is that the man refuses. Well, fine, freedom, happiness.
Very important to take this into account when you pack your backpack. The men are allowed to walk in T-shirts and long pants. However, the T-shirt is not desirable for ladies. Ladies should wear long clothes (long pants and long sleeves). In addition, this clothing should not be too open from the front, not too tight so that you do not see feminine shapes and the outer clothing must fall over your buttocks. I myself have worn many dresses and tunics. You can also bring summer dresses that meet the criteria. Put a thin vest over it and you’re done.
Finally, the ladies must wear a headscarf, but this rule is quite flexible. Yes, you must have something on your head, but your hair may be very visible. See the photos for example. The rules are a lot stricter in Iran, but I think we should not forget that in the Netherlands we should not enter the church wearing shorts or women should wear a skirt or dress in certain functions. The Netherlands is a lot more tolerant, but no lawyer will ever go to work on flip flops. If you travel to Iran, you will have to accept the country’s dress code.
Shoes out inside
Perhaps self-evident, but I still think it worth mentioning. When you enter a house, it is normal not to walk in with your shoes on.
How do you get in touch with local people or other backpackers?
Don’t worry, it is very easy to meet both backpackers and local people in Iran. For me, backpacking also comes into contact with the local people, customs, and culture of the country. What better way to learn and experience the culture than to hang out with local people? Exactly, there is no better way!
In Iran, it is very easy to get in touch with locals. There are several options. People on the street often speak to you and ask you, for example, what you think of the country or why you have chosen Iran as a travel destination. Another common option is to use the Couchsurfing app. Many probably know this app. You can spend the night “free” with people through this app. If you don’t like this, you can also use the app as a hangout function. Leave a message to drink tea for example and you will receive many responses.
I visited Iran in winter and there are few tourists, but I still met some very nice fellow travelers. In general, many people take the same route so it is very fun and easy to travel together. I met other backpackers myself in the hostels where I stayed. I believe this is the best place to meet other travelers. If you stay in one place longer, but you don’t have a match with the rest, simply switch hostels. Who knows who will meet you there.
TIP: Buy an Iranian SIM card at the airport, so you are always available and you can easily get in touch with locals and keep in touch with fellow backpackers and the home front.
Unless you can speak Farsi, in Iran you communicate in English or old-fashioned with hands and feet. The Google Translate app is handy to use. Younger people generally speak English rather than older people. The alphabet in Farsi is completely different from ours, so as a European you will at least understand little of it.
TIP: The letters are also in Farsi and not like in Europe. Download an image with the numbers 0 to 9 so that you can decipher what it says on the street. Very handy at, for example, a market or if you are eating somewhere very local.
How do I arrange my overnight stay in Iran?
The number of cheap hostels is growing strongly in Iran. However, booking a hostel is slightly different than, for example, in Thailand or Vietnam. You won’t find a single hostel on Booking.com. Don’t worry, you can just search for hostels on Google, or ask your current hostel for information.
I have used Apochi.com services. Here you will find several cheap hostels. You can book online and pay in advance so that you do not have to take too much cash with you. Do you travel with a lot of backpackers during a busy period? Then book one or two months in advance. In the offseason, you can take the gamble for a last-minute booking. As said, there aren’t a whole lot of hostels in Iran yet, so don’t be late.
My experience with hostels in Iran
In general, the hostels were good and clean. The staff is equally friendly everywhere. For a dorm, it costs €8 to €12 and for a double room €30 to €40 per night. The only drawback is that almost no hostel has lockers. Personally, I didn’t like that as you have quite a bit of cash in your pocket. I stayed overnight in the hostels below and I can definitely recommend them:
Tehran: Hi-Tehran hostel
Nice, clean, and centrally located. Delicious breakfast and unlimited coffee and tea.
Kashan: Sana Historical Hostel
Beautiful traditional hostel with good breakfast and very friendly host.
Varzaneh: Negative Varzaneh
A traditional and simple hostel with a helpful host.
Yazd: Yazd Hostel Oasis
A beautiful and traditional hostel. The rooms are clean and you get a delicious breakfast. Here too the host is very friendly and helpful. The hostel is right in the old town, perfect for exploring the city.
Shiraz: Golshan Traditional Hostel
Fine and attractive hotel and great location.
What 10 things should you definitely do as a backpacker during your trip in Iran?
1. Meet the locals: the people of Iran are the most friendly people I have ever come across. So hospitable. Have a chat with the people on the street or chat over a cup of tea. As mentioned, the Couchsurfing app can help you with this if you find it exciting to just go with someone on the street.
2. Enjoy Iranian food and drinks: Kebab, Iranian tea, and dough are an absolute must. You can easily combine this with an Iranian hookah in a tea house. Or how about a fresh smoothie, available at every bazaar.
Read more: TOP 10 Dishes You Must Try in Iran
3. If you want something different and not touristy, but something that has to do with Iran: visits a concert by an Iranian artist, great fun to experience.
4. On a cloudless day, visit the Milad tower for a beautiful view of Tehran.
5. Visit the Golestan Palace and stroll through the Grand Bazaar in Tehran.
6. Admire the Nasir al Molk and Shah Cheragh moksee in Shiraz is great. The sunlight through the colored windows in the Nasir al Molk mosque gives fantastic colors so you can stare for hours in this space.
7. Enjoy and go around the Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the bridges in Esfahan.
8. Wander the streets of the old desert city of Yazd and visit the Iranian desert.
9. Discover Persepolis, one of the most important ruins of the ancient Persian empire.
10. The historic houses in Kashan are beautiful and diverse to visit.