FAQ Iran

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Passport and visa
You will need a passport to visit Iran. This must be valid for at least 6 months after your departure date from Iran. The passport must not contain any mark of visiting Israel. A stamp from a trip to the United States is not a problem.
It is recommended to bring a photocopy of your passport (the page with personal data and your visa).

You will also need a visa to enter Iran. To obtain the visa an authorization number is needed. Our local cooperator and travel agent in Iran will provide an invitation letter and will prepare the necessary documents needed to fill out the final application.
A visa can be arranged with the authorization number from the Iranian embassy or via the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran http://e_visa.mfa.ir/en/ and choose the section ‘Travellers with invitation letter’. You can read: ‘ Individuals who have already received an official invitation letter by companies or government organizations to visit Iran, can complete the visa application process through the following link.’ 
However, you can also outsource this to a visa service, which will charge handling fees. This organization will visit the embassy in your place, stand in line to submit your application, and return again to pick up your passport with visa at the embassy. It saves you a lot of hassle.

For travel less than 30 days, you can also buy on the visa upon arrival in Iran (you will need to have the authorization number).
However: it is more secure to buy your visa on forehand to avoid any problem at the border.

These countries cannot visit Iran by visa on arrival and are obliged to get their visa beforehand: USA, Great Britain, Canada, Iraq, Colombia, Jordan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan.

These nationalities can visit Iran without any visa: Syria (90 day visa), Turkey (90 days), Lebanon (15 days), Azerbaijan (15 days), Georgia (45 days), Bolivia (30 days), Egypt (20 days)

Insurance
When booking a vacation, you assume that your time away will be carefree and generally that is the case. However, to cover damage to your luggage or health care expenses, you might want to have a travel insurance. Please make sure that your insurance is valid for this part of the world and check coverage. You will need to pay medical expenses in Armenia and will be able to claim expenses later.
There may be circumstances that cause cancellation of your vacation or a later departure or earlier return. You can take out additional insurance to cover the cost of cancellation in case of a personal emergency (e.g., cancellation costs of air ticket/ accommodations, etc.). We leave this choice to you. Several companies offer these kinds of insurance. Traveler agreed by registration that the organizer cannot be held responsible for any damages or personal injuries during the tour.

Luggage
We advise you to carry luggage in a backpack or in a big overnight bag, because this is more practical for this type of tour. The weight of your luggage is generally limited to 15 kg up to 20 kg per person. Remember when composing your luggage, for example: travel guide, camera, toiletries, clothes for warm weather (in the spring and in mountainous environment also clothing for colder nights), easy fitting (walking) shoes (with profile), alarm clock, medication, plasters, bandages, scissors and pocket knife for picnics during our travels.
Also take some pharmaceutical items such as iodine, bandages, anti-fever, diarrhea, constipation, insect bites, sunburn and possibly a cure for motion sickness. Consider also ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts to prevent dehydration). You might prefer to take disinfection gel or disinfecting wipes.

Money matters
The Iranian currency is called rial. In general, however, people us toman to count. To convert rial into toman, take away 1 zero of the price, so 10,000 Rials equals 1000 toman. The rate fluctuates, so look for a current rate of: http://www.oanda.com/
To avoid confusion: always check if you deal with rial or toman.
There are no ATM machines.
You cannot use a bank card, traveler checks or Creditcard because of an international boycott. We advise travelers to bring enough undamaged 20 or 50 euro banknotes. To bring undamaged banknotes in dollars is also an option.
Advised pocket money
€ 300 per person will certainly cover expenses. With this allowance, you can pay for meals, drinks and food. Souvenirs are not included in the advisory fee. We advise you to bring some extra cash for souvenirs and any emergencies.
Change money
Most practical is to change money – Euros or Dollars – at the airport where there is reasonable exchange rate.
Ferdowsi Square in Teheran is the central place for moneychangers and exchange offices. Sometimes you can also exchange money at tourist shops, for example in Isfahan or at exchange offices.

Customs
It is illegal to import alcohol, drugs, or ‘indecent images’ (films/pictures) into Iran, as well as all products contradictory to the religious and national ethics of Iran is prohibited. Import of tapes and publications is allowed if inspected and confirmed by the Ministry of Guidance representatives based at entrance gates.
Transfer of objects, which have historical and cultural value is prohibited. The export of carpets and antiques is only possible with the proper documents. It is convenient to buy such products in stores with an export license. Passengers who depart Iran by air can take only one hand knotted carpet not more than 6 Square meters.
afety
Iran is without doubt a safe travel destination. Street crime is rare, although there are an increasing number of thefts reported in big cities like Tehran and Isfahan. It is advisable to give your passport in custody of the reception of the hotel and keep a copy in your pocket. Do not show off with precious jewels or expensive film equipment

Time zone
There is a difference in time of 2 ½ -3 ½ hours with The Netherlands, depending on our summer or winter schedule.

Telephone and internet
The country code of Iran is +98. The area code of Tehran is 21.
Iran has its own mobile network. Mobile phones with subscriptions of foreign providers often work well, sometimes not. See also: www.countrycode.org.
It is possible to buy a SIM card at a very cheap price at Tehran airport – even in the middle of night. It has wide coverage with mobile data (often also GPRS). For 50,000 Rial (about 1 Euro) you can buy a prepaid card at local food stores to upgrade your credit.

Most hotels have Wi-Fi. Almost always there is Wi-Fi in the lobby, sometimes in the room. The Iranian government is blocking access to social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube but many Iranians managed to reach the sites through VPN connection.

Language
The official language of Iran is Persian (Farsi), an Indo-European language. Farsi is written in Arabic script, from right to left. The alphabet has thirty-two letters. In addition to Farsi in Iran there are many other languages spoken such as Kurdish, Azeri (Turkish) and Turkmen. In the big cities people also speak English, especially the younger generation.

Health care
Vaccination of DTP, hepatitis A and typhoid is recommended. Mumps, Measles and Rubella (MMR) vaccination (BMR vaccination in Dutch) is recommended for travelers to this country who are not protected against measles yet. In this country there is a risk of getting malaria. Protection against mosquito bites is necessary during day- and nighttime. Vaccination against hepatitis B and Typhoid fever depends on your personal situation. Check with your local health organizations on the internet. Medical care in all countries is of good quality.
Frequently you don’t notice that you lose a lot of moisture in the dry heat. Please make sure to drink a lot and sprinkle some extra salt on your food. Water from the tap cannot be drunken.
Medical care in all countries is of good quality.

Food and drinks – Ramadan
In 2019, from May 7th the fasting month of Ramadan will start which will end on June 5th. During this period, Muslims do not eat and drink between sunrise and sunset.
Ramadan will not affect the tour program or entrance to sightseeing sites. Restaurants at hotels are serving tourists for lunch and in the evening all restaurants in the cities will be open. Fast food outlets and restaurants are closed during daylight hours, but some restaurants especially in the hotels and grocery shops are not, and you would be able to have meals in hotels (all travelers are exempt from fasting). It is good manners to abstain from eating and drinking in public out of consideration for those observing the fast.

Restaurants are everywhere and meals are in Iran generally cheap. There is however no extensive ‘dining out’ culture in the country. Restaurants are often difficult to find.
In Tehran besides Iranian restaurants you can also find other cuisines such as Lebanese, Thai,
Indian, Chinese and Japanese. There are also many fast food restaurants in most cities and
pizzerias.
Iranian dishes are very mildly seasoned. Rice (chelo or polo) and bread (nan) are an integral part
every meal. Besides rice often an assortment of kebabs (barbecued meat) is on the menu. In addition is also common to have various stews (khoreshts) with rice.
Also aash, a full thick soup is eaten a lot. Fresh fish is mainly to get into the Caspian and Persian coastal regions.
Iranians drink tea all day. To drink Coffee is less common and only Nescafe is available. In big cities you can find trendy coffee shops. Popular with the meal is dough, a yogurt drink carbonated, salt and spices.
Mineral water is available almost everywhere. Do not drink water from the tap.

Alcohol is not available throughout the country. Alcohol can only be purchased on the black market and to get engaged in such a matter holds a risk.

Expenses for food/drinks
Most dinners and lunches are included in the tour program. In case you need to buy your own: prices are very low.
Tips
Giving a tip is in Iran common practice. Particularly in restaurants, cafés, with porters and guides is customary to give a tip of 5 to 10 percent.

Shopping
In the bazaars you will find the finest Persian carpets in all sizes, marquetry, copper, miniatures and beautiful fabrics. Bargaining is common at the bazaar and sellers often start far above the amount that they are willing to accept. When it comes to expensive items, like a carpet, it is wise to make you well informed and take the time with the merchant. Keep especially polite, disinterested or unkind behavior is counterproductive. If you are not from the price, you can always say ‘thank you’ and walk away.
On Friday all official bodies, banks and most shops (bazaars) are closed. Normally shops are open from 9:00 am until late at night. In the heat of the day between 13:00 and 16:00 almost all are closed.

Accommodation
For the selection of our hotels, we pay special attention to the location, cleanliness and atmosphere., but the quality of the hotels can be very different.
In big cities we can book standard hotels, but in small towns in rural areas, there is often little choice in hotels. Despite the fact that Iran is a developing country, accommodation standards can be different from your home country.
In hotels usually two small bottles of water will be at your disposal free of charge. In a hot country like Iran is of course important to drink a lot. Always carry a business card of the hotel with you when you go out so you can find back the hotel.

Electricity
Standard voltage is 220 volts. USA appliances designed for 110 volts require a voltage converter. Electric outlets use European/Dutch style plugs with two round pins. North American participants should bring a converter.

Climate and geography
Iran is a vast country with big climatic differences. In some parts of the country it is very cold in winter. In summer, temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius can be quite normal. It rains especially in the higher mountain areas and the areas around the Caspian Sea. The humidity is quite low throughout the country, except in the Persian Gulf region, where the summers are very humid and oppressively hot. In May the temperature normally can vary between 17-28 degrees Celsius.

Clothing
Islamic dress is compulsory in Iran, even for tourists.
Women need:
• A long-sleeve or a 3/4 sleeve tunic or blouse that cover your buttocks! Mind that it should never be tight or transparent.
• Pants need to be long, skinny jeans are OK, no bare ankles visible. Capris that come below your knees should be avoided.
• A headscarf to be worn loose on the head. Cotton is very comfortable.
Colored clothing is not a problem.
Maxi dresses or skirts in general are not common among Iranian women, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear them. Keep in mind: no bare legs, so cover your ankles!
This dress code is already required when approaching Iran during international flights
Men should not wear shorts.
(T-)Shirts or blouses with short sleeves are allowed, but not always appreciated in the major Islamic shrines.
Special dress code for Mashad and Qom
Visiting holy places as Mashad and Qom, the dress code is rigidly enforced. Yet wearing a chador is not necessarily outside the shrines.
Only for visiting the most important religious shrines (especially Imam Reza’s shrine in Mashad, and Fatima’s tomb in Ghom) is obligatory chador in Iran. A chador is a black and long piece of cloth which covers around the head and body (= chador literally means tent). A chador will be providedfor tourists on loan at the entrance.
We recommend to wear socks to visit the shrines in Mashad and Ghom.

Indoors these rules do not apply. In general: when you visit people in their homes, take notice how they behave and dress. And ask if you can take off the headscarf. In case the bus has dark tinted windows, you can also take off the headscarf.
Sandals and open toes are perfectly fine for both women and men. Whether you’ve got painted nails on your fingers or your toes, you’d be just fine.
We also encourage you to take practical clothes that combine easily (layer upon layer).

Behavior and customs
• take off your shoes in people’s homes and in mosques,
• do not walk in front of people praying along
• do not stand in front of a person with your back to that person
If you make a mistake, excuse yourself and not many people will blame you for it.

Iranian etiquette is very far from our culture. It is the opposite of directness. You do not say what you think, please do not assume what you are offered. Because it is a way to be both courteous and hospitable, it is sometimes difficult to assess how you should respond as foreigner.
Many Iranians will eat or drink offer or invite you to come to their home.
As a rule you always need to refuse at first if you are offered something, until you can accept after the 3rd time!

Photography
Photographing in Iran is commonly welcomed with openness and doesn’t raise any problem unless explicitly prohibited, such as in airports or close to government and military buildings. Also pictures are not allowed, of course, in the area of nuclear activities (f.e. at Natanz).
In general: : If you would like to take a picture of people, try to start a conversation ‘to break the ice’ and people often don’t mind to be in a picture.
In the shrines of Mashad, Ghom it is advised to operate in a more restrained and modest way.

Religion
Around 90–95% of Iranians associate themselves with the Shia branch of Islam, the official state religion, and about 5–10% with the Sunni and Sufi branches of Islam.
The remaining 0.6% associate themselves with non-Islamic religious minorities, including Bahá’ís, Mandeans, Yarsanis, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians. The latter three minority religions are officially recognized and protected, and have reserved seats in the Iran parliament. Zoroastrianism was once the majority religion, though today Zoroastrians number only in the tens of thousands. Iran is home to the second largest Jewish community in the Muslim World and the Middle East. The Bahá’í religion, historically the largest religious minority in Iran is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran. Christianity, the largest non-Muslim minority religion that is recognized by the Iranian government, has the largest annual growth rate of all religions in Iran.

The Iranian government does not officially recognize the existence of non-religious Iranians. This leaves the true representation of the religious split in Iran unknown as all non-religious, spiritual, atheist, agnostic and converts away from Islam are likely to be included within the government statistic of the 99% Muslim majority. Sunnism was the predominant form of Islam before the devastating Mongol conquest, but subsequently Shi’ism became eventually utterly dominant in all of Iran.

Cancellation policy
Details can be found in the registration form.