Iran holds many surprises for visitors; like the climate which can fluctuate greatly, depending on the area and time of year, dispelling the long-held myth that Iran is nothing more than a vast, sweltering desert. While some surprises are nice when travelling, it's important to be as well prepared as possible.
Despite its tarnished reputation, Iran can offer a unique travel experience, especially for those with a love of ancient history. The people who live there are warm and eager to share their country and heritage with visitors and those who travel there are certain to leave a little richer from the experience.
Here are 5 things to consider when planning a trip to Iran:
Give yourself plenty of time and apply for your visa early.
If you're an independent traveler from the UK, Canada or USA, unfortunately you have to travel on a guided tour. Your tour company will organize visas for you.
Iran has a liberal interpretation of dual nationality. They techincally do not recognize dual citizenship, and recognize dual citizens of Iran as Iranian citizens.
Don't use the 'thumbs up' hand gesture when you have a language barrier and want to indicate 'good' or 'okay'. This gesture is the equivalent of the rude finger, or "up yours" in Iran.
If you're a woman, make sure to have a plain colored scarf or two to cover your hair at all times. Bring a long sleeve mid length jacket to maintain modesty in public.
In Iran you will be befriended by someone in the street, whose only wish is to show you his/her country (since hospitality to foreigners is ingrained in their culture), will often insist on paying for everything and/or inviting you to their house, and they ask for nothing in return. Be open to these experiences for the Iranian people are NOTHING like you would think from in the news!
No PDA (public displays of affection). Boyfriend/girlfriend, de facto couple, same-sex couple – it's important to know what's acceptable in Iran.