Backpacking Iran Travel Guide 2019

Salam! Backpacking Iran? I had wanted to travel to Iran for years, it’s a complicated land of ancient history and underground culture, a place where the girls are beautiful and the mountains bewitching.

It is incredibly easy to hitchhike in Iran and the Couchsurfing community enables broke backpackers to travel Iran on a budget of just ten dollars a day…  Actually, after Pakistan, Iran might be the best budget backpacking option in the world right now.

Iran backpacking guide

Backpacking across Iran is getting easier and easier. With visas on arrival now available for most countries, Iran is fast opening up to foreign travellers. I’ve spent a total of three months in Iran over two trips, I’ve hitchhiked across the whole country, explored mountains and islands, deserts and forests.

Whilst on my first trip in Iran, I met a girl and we travelled together across Pakistan and India before doing a U-turn and hitchhiking back to Iran. This guide was written with the help of several Iranian friends and is the most up to date backpacking Iran travel guide around.


backpacking iran

The Pink Mosque of Shiraz (Masjid Nasir ol-Molk)


Arriving into Iran

I arrived into Iran overland from Turkey, hitchhiking to the Iranian border and then catching a bus on the other side. There are long-distance bus services that will take you all the way from Tbilisi in Georgia to Tabriz in Iran and services via Armenia and Turkey as well. You can enter Iran by train or motorbike.

For backpackers without the luxury of time, the best way to get into Iran is to catch a cheap flight to Tehran. There are flights with Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Emirates (via Dubai) and a whole load of other airlines; the cheapest I’ve found online has been with Pegasus Airlines. Most flights land in Tehran but you can also fly to other parts of the country.

Most travelers arrive in Tehran at Imam Khomeini Airport.

Imam Khomeini International Airport: There are two airports in Tehran but Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) handles almost all the international flights. It’s located 30 kilometres southwest of Tehran and is the largest airport in the capital. It costs about 18 dollars to catch a taxi into town although a recent initiative has been launched to offer ride-shares for 10 dollars per person. There is a subway line planned but not yet completed.


Solo Travel v.s. Group Tours in Iran

Traveling solo in Iran is a truly rewarding experience, but for some people, the country seems like a challenge to tackle alone. Iran is a country with heaps to see and do, but experiencing the best, lesser-known about places and communities not found on the typical tourist trail requires some local knowledge and insider connections. 

In March 2020, we are planning to run a brand new Epic Backpacker Tours trip in Iran to help adventurers get the most out of this spectacular country in a short amount of time.

If you have been following my blog for awhile, you probably know that in 2016, I met my wife Nina in Iran, and have been exploring every corner of the country ever since. 

Nina and my love of Iran, as well as our unique insider knowledge and contacts within the country, came together to devise this EPIC Iranian adventure itinerary that connects foreign backpackers with authentic adventure and cultural experiences. This Iran adventure itinerary is the product of years of on the ground research and is led by our expert guide, Pedro Padinha. Pedro has been leading adventures in Iran for years and knows this magical country extremely well… 

check the EBT site for details.

Want to find out more – you can read a full review of a guest’s experience in Pakistan here. 

Come hang out with Qashghai Nomads in Iran!


Entry requirements for Iran

As of 2016, many visa restriction for Iran have been lifted and it is now possible for most backpackers to get a visa on arrival at the airport. There are mixed reports on getting visas on arrival at Iranian land borders; I chose to get my visa issued in advance in the Iranian embassy in Istanbul. To do this I need an authorisation code; more on how I sorted that in a moment.

Backpacking Iran

My Iranian visa in which I look about fourteen years old…

Officially British, Canadian and American tourists cannot get a visa on arrival and can only travel the country with a guide. You can get a visa ahead of time as long as  you have an authorisation code from a tour company. Officially, companies are not supposed to offer authorisation code’s unless you book a tour however, there are ways round that. You could book a cheap, one day tour, in order to get your authorisation code.

You could then apply for your visa and cancel the tour… Upon actually entering the country, it is unlikely that immigration personnel will ask you where your tour is; you could well be meeting them once out of the airport. Come up with a decent story, have a couple of back-up phone numbers and keep a straight face; I’ve heard of several people who have made it around the country this way on a British or American passport.

Visas are valid for thirty days and can be extended for two weeks a total of two times; it is relatively easy to backpack Iran for two months. If you want to sort your visa ahead of time, you will need an authorisation code.

1stQuest provide the cheapest, fastest, authorisation codes out of any company in Iran and these are the guys I used to sort my authorisation code on my first trip to Iran.

Backpacking Iran

Outside the visa extension office in Esfahan.


Getting an Iranian visa in advance

If you are crossing Iran overland or are travelling on a British, American or Canadian passport, you will need to get your Iranian visa in advance at an embassy. It’s fairly straightforward to sort out your Iranian visa before you arrive, you will need an authorisation code (get it here). I got my first Iranian visa at the embassy in Istanbul; it was a simple enough procedure – I turned up with a couple of passport photos and the authorisation code, more information below, and filled in some forms. I got my passport back the same day.


Getting an Iranian visa on arrival

It’s recommended to bring records of your trip details: this often includes the name of at least one hotel which you could feasibly be staying at. It is useful to have the telephone number and name of somebody within the country. The airport immigration may make a few phone calls to validate your local contact or they may let you sail through; reports are mixed.

To get an Iranian visa on arrival, follow these steps…

1) Iran Health Insurance Cover; either bring a printed copy of your health insurance or get one at the airport for around €15. The Passport and Visa Department will need it.

2) Submit the Form. The details will look something like this Visa Application Form, including the contact details for your address and telephone number in Iran (hotel booking, friend/ family, or travel agency).  You will need a hotel booking.

3) Receive Visa Approval and visa payment details.

4) Pay the Visa Charge at the next counter, it’s around €75 for Europeans or €50 if you have an MFA Code. Be careful with currencies other than Euros or USD otherwise it may cause delay.

5) Receive the Visa Stamp (Full Page).

6) Pass through Immigration Control (Entry Stamp). Patiently answer any questions about why you are visiting Iran.

Copies of your passport and a few passport sized photos are worth having to hand. The whole process can take between 1-4 hours depending on the airport and terminal passenger flux.


Travelling around Iran

The roads in Iran are top notch and long-distance transport is pretty comfortable. Iran has a good railway network and the trains are a better way to tackle some of the really long distances if you are short on time.

By bus: There are many domestic bus routes. The public buses are reliable and nice enough for backpackers. There are also VIP buses with huge padded seats and plenty of leg-room, for a long journey it might be worth the upgrade.

backpacking iran

Backpacking Iran: By bus from Tabriz to Tehran


By train: I caught a train from Bander Abbas up to Yazd and it was a pretty interesting experience. For longer distances, train is far preferable to buses. Train tickets are cheap and you can ask a Farsi speaking friend to check routes and fares at Ali Baba.

backpacking iran

Backpacking Iran: Catching an overnight train to Yazd

By domestic flight: I haven’t taken any flights in Iran but flight options are fairly cheap – about forty to sixty dollars from Tehran to most places within Iran. If you’re backpacking Iran with just a couple of weeks to spare, domestic flights are probably the best way to get around.

By car: The traffic in Iran is fairly crazy but if you’re an experienced driver, go for it. I’ve driven a lot in Iran; tackling the busy streets of Tehran and learning the hard way that Iran does indeed have traffic cameras. If you’re driving in the cities, keep your speed reasonable even if the locals don’t – they know where the cameras are and you don’t. Iran is a popular stop with overlanding backpackers travelling from Europe onwards to Pakistan or Afghanistan. An Iranian friend of mine lent me their car for a couple of weeks and I drove from Tehran up to Shomal and then across the top of Iran to Tabriz and into the mountains. Roadtripping in Iran is a lot of fun.

By metro: Tehran’s famous subway is a great way to get around on the cheap and is especially helpful during the truly hectic rush hour. Tehran Metro is a useful app to help with Metro Navigation.


Hitchhiking in Iran

Backpacking Iran can be made an even more unique experience if you hitchhike!

Hitchhiking in Iran is unbelievably easy and I hitched over 2000km whilst backpacking Iran. In the past, the thumbs up was seen as an obscene gesture in Iran however as more and more Iranians watch western movies people now understand that it’s a common ‘European thing’ … If you are hitching though, it’s best to avoid using your thumb and instead to simply flag down cars or make a kind of ‘pat the dog’ motion with your outstretched arm.

It never takes long to get a lift in Iran, many drivers are not familiar with the concept of hitchhiking but as soon as they see somebody by the side of the road they tend to stop; partly out of curiosity and partly out of the fact that everybody is just so damn nice. Backpackers in Iran are not a particularly common sight and hitchhikers in Iran are even rarer, although it is very easy to hitch, so plenty of friendly and curious Iranians will be bound to stop and pick you up.

About five percent of these guys will expect money but, if you explain your situation before you get in, it’s easy to avoid confusion. I learnt a few basic hitchhiking phrases in Farsi, below, and found that as long as I could explain ‘no money’ everything was usually fine – a few drivers did simply drive off when they realised I was hitchhiking without any money and wasn’t going to pay but this was never a problem; another lift was just a few minutes away!

Backpacking Iran – best done by thumb. Wrap up warm in the winter


Phrases you need when hitchhiking in Iran

Without money – majanee 

Do you go to …? – shoma be … mirid?

Can you do me a favour please? – Mishe ie lotfi be man bokonid?

Can you please give me a ride to …?  Momkene man ro be … beresonid lotfan?

I don’t want to pay – Man nemikham pul bedam

Backpacking Iran

Always carry a pen when hitchhiking in Iran

Backpacking Iran fashion tips

You might be surprised but fashion in Iran is a big part of daily life. Many young women colour their hair blue, purple, pink and gold. Headscarves are often only just in place and golden sandals showing off painted toenails are commonplace.

Backpacking Iran

You will see many elegant and approachable ladies when backpacking Iran Photo Credit:


What should you wear when backpacking Iran?

Legally, all women in Iran must cover their hair with a headscarf. Avoid showing off flesh and stick to long sleeved tops or a coat. Jeans are perfectly acceptable. Avoid clothes which show off your butt or boobs unless you’re on the hunt for an Iranian husband, you won’t have to hunt long.

Men in Iran should also keep skin covered although t-shirts are OK… just don’t wear shorts. If you have tattoos, keep them covered as tattoos are not permitted in Islamic culture and you may get some funny looks if you have them on show.


Accommodation in Iran

There are very few hostels throughout the country, the only one I know of is the Seven Hostel in Tehran. In general, your options are limited to cheap guesthouses, more expensive hotels, camping or couchsurfing. There are some hotels and guesthouses specifically set up for backpackers mentioned in The Lonely Planet; these tend to be much more expensive than they should be… because, you know, they are in the Lonely Planet. Iran is a truly great place to take a tent and I camped all over the country; Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking or pack your camping hammock instead!

Backpacking Iran

Backpacking Iran offers some awesome camping experiences

If you are a couple you will often be asked what your relationship is when checking into guesthouses or hotels. I recommend simply saying you are married. I travelled Iran with my Persian girlfriend and we encountered so many problems that we got a temporary marriage in Iran to get the damn certificate so we could get around this issue. We probably only encountered this problem because she had an Iranian, rather than a foreign, passport. Check out my favorite accommodation options when backpacking Iran below!


Where to Stay in Iran

LocationAccommodationWhy Stay Here?!
TehranIran HostelGreat location right near the metro and bus station. Clean facilities & very helpful staff!
KashanHostel Green HouseAwesome hostel for those wanting to experience the traditional Iranian way of living. Conveniently located in the Kashan city center.
YazdBadgir HostelVery chilled hostel with all the basic necessities.
ShriazGrandma GuesthouseGreat hostel with a family feel. Friendly staff, decent facilities & a pretty garden.
TabrizDarya GuesthouseWell located, close to the city center. The owner speaks great English & is very  helpful. If you're getting a taxi here, make sure you say Daraya Guesthouse, not the Hotel.
ZanjanSadi Traditional InnFree Wifi & breakfast. It's situated in a quiet area near Enqelab Square right near all the historical sites
QazvinTelighani Inn Ask your local taxi driver & they should know where it's located. Its not online, but there are not many places to stay around the area so they will know where it is.
Rasht Kenareh GuesthouseYour budget choice for accommodation in the area. It's simple, clean & has all the basics you need.
Farahzad Barandaz LodgeThe place is really magical! It's like a little oasis in the desert & has been run by the family for 2 or 3 generations. They're super helpful & cook amazing food!
MashadVali's HomestayStaying at Vali's place brings your Mashhad experience to an entirely new level. They will show you their carpet store, book your tours & cook you awesome food!
 SanandajKaj HotelThis is your budget option in the city centre of Sanandaj. Renovated wall moulded corridors & generally clean rooms. Walking distance to the main places
Kermanshah Hotel MerajBudget hotel with free breakfast, private bathrooms, air-conditioning, small kitchenette, TV and free WiFi.
Kerman Omid GuesthouseOmid is cleaner than most budget guesthouses. The rooms have a TV, fridge rock-hard beds & guests can use the kitchen.
Bam Akbar GuesthouseIt's not the cleanest hostel but it has a garden, free tea & a kitchen you can use.
Zahedan Hotel GilanHotel Gilan is one of the cheapest options in Zahedan. Close to the Sikh Temple, banks and restaurants. Plus it has a kitchen you can use.


Book Your Iran Hostel Here!


Money in Iran: Not as simple as it should be!

Before you go to Iran, be sure to stock up on cash. No debit or credit cards will work in the country and traveller’s cheques are usually not accepted. I recommend bringing either US dollars or Euros and changing your money into Rial at exchange offices; be careful with swapping money on the street as you sometimes get screwed with fake or low-value notes. Ferdowsi Square in Tehran has the exchange shops with the best rates.

Backpacking Iran

You will have millions of Rial when backpacking Iran.

The currency in Iran, the Rial, has a few too many zeros – 500,000 Rials is just 15 USD – and the local people have come up with a somewhat ingenious, somewhat confusing, often frustrating way to get around this.

Most prices are quoted in Toman; with one Toman being equal to ten Rial. This gets rid of one of the pesky zeros. To work out how much you actually owe, add a zero to the quoted price and you are back into the realm of Rial.

In theory, this leaves foreign backpackers very open to getting scammed by unscrupulous Iranians but this didn’t happen to me once in Iran. Iranians are, in general, very honest and hospitable people. Taxi drivers can prove the exception to this rule…

AR Security Belt

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.



Where to go in Iran

There are so many incredible places to go to in Iran and even after backpacking Iran for three months I feel like I’ve barely scraped the surface of this incredible country. Below are a few of my favourite places to check out when backpacking Iran. For detailed information on destinations, I recommend picking up a copy of the Iran Lonely Planet guide.

Backpacking Tabriz

If you’re crossing Iran overland from Europe, Tabriz is likely to be your first stop. With a fascinating labyrinthian bazaar and more carpets than people, Tabriz is freezing in the winter and often boiling in the summer. The Blue Mosque is an impressive first start to Iran and Tabriz is well worth stopping in for a night. It’s seven hours by bus from Tabriz to Tehran.

Backpacking Iran

Bazaar of Tabriz, One of Iran’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the first stop for many backpackers entering Iran from Turkey.

Backpacking Kandovan

Often referred to as Iran’s Cappadocia, Kandovan is famed for its troglodyte (cave people) dwellings and fairy chimneys. There are a few houses offering a basic place to sleep and a super posh hotel carved into the rocks complete with in-room jacuzzis. It might be possible to wild-camp or find an abandoned cave dwelling to crash in; I’ll be checking out Kandovan in the next month. More information coming soon.

Backpacking Iran Kandovan, Osku, East Azerbaijan

Kandovan, Osku, East Azerbaijan | source: Tappasan Phurisamrit (

Backpacking Zanjan

Home to Iran’s best pizza place (Liro Pizza) and with the fascinating Salt Men museum nearby (think shrunken mummies and unintelligible signs in Farsi), Zanjan is a good place to break up the trip between Tabriz and Tehran if you have plenty of time.

Backpacking Iran

Behestan Rock Castle, Zanjan

Backpacking Alamut Castle

Once upon a time there was a secretive sect of unstoppable assassins living within the mountains. They were known as the Hashshashin because of the rumour that they were pretty much permanently blazed and that hashish was used during their training rituals. The assassins built a fortress and reigned down terror across Persia as they descended to attack prominent figures in public. One day, they botched a job… failing to kill Ghengis Khan. Ghengis, being Ghengis, lead his Mongol horde into the mountains and killed every last one of the stoner assassins who may or may not have been fairly slow to react. Alamut Castle, the assassins’ HQ, is largely a ruin but it commands stunning views over the valley below and is a great place to camp. You will need to hire a car to explore the Alamut valley in one day. It’s a two hour drive from Tehran to Qazvin where you can start your Alamut adventure. Read more about Alamut Castle over at Lost with Purpose’s trip report.

Backpacking Iran

Ovan Lake, Alamut Valley, Qazvin. Photo Credit:

Backpacking Tehran

The capital of Iran and one of the best places for backpackers to party, Tehran is unlike anywhere else in Iran. A popular hub for the young and beautiful, this is a place of risky fashion statements, underground culture and fascinating history. The Golestan Palace is one of the most striking buildings in the world and should not be missed. If you can get hold of a car; driving in Tehran is a great experience. The Roof of Tehran is a unique place to kick back with a (none alcoholic) beer in the evening and meet local Tehranis. There is one hostel I know of in Tehran – Seven Hostel – but it is also very easy to find a local host who will show you around. Outside of Tehran, there are multiple ski slopes, Dizin is the best known, which offer some of the best value skiing in the world.

About a two hours drive from Tehran lies the city of Qom. A reader of the Broke Backpacker recently offered up this awesome travel tip regarding accommodation in Qom: “I found a newly opened hostel in Qom called Qom Hostel (appearantly the only hostel in the city). It’s owned by a young Iranian couple and is located a few minutes walk from the shrine – they have 11 nice rooms with all basics covered. The owners speak English and are incredibly helpful. It kinda feels like a couchsurf stay as they gladly invited us to their home for breakfast. My friend and I paid 30$ for a private room. They also have cheaper dorm options.” Sound’s like a good time to me! 

Additional reading – Check out Tehran’s 5 best neighborhoods to stay in!

Book Your Tehran Hostel Here!

Backpacking Iran

Golestan Palace, Tehran

Backpacking Shomal

Meaning simply ‘North’, Shomal is where most young Tehranis go for a weekend away. Shomal is blessed with a cool climate, lush forests and patches of unspoilt coastline along the Caspian Sea; it’s a good place to camp. I spent a few days hanging out in Ser Velat village, reachable from Ramsar. Shomal offers the best value accommodation in all of Iran and you can pick up super plush villas with soaring balcony views for as little as 50 – 100k a night. Whilst staying in Ser Velat, I ate in a small local restaurant – Khale Marzie Restaurant – which had some of the most incredible food I have ever tried. There are no shops in the village and this is the only restaurant, bring supplies. At the top of the village, there is virgin forest and pristine meadows where you can chill out and soak in the views. It normally takes about four to five hours to reach Shomal from Tehran.

Backpacking Iran

Soaking in the views from Shomal…

Backpacking Sanandaj

No backpacking adventure across Iran would be complete without a couple of days exploring the rolling hills, quaint villages and unbeatable hospitality of Iranian Kurdistan. Sanandaj is the capital of the region and, despite the heavier army presence, is one of the most friendly cities in Iran. Palangan is one of the most stunning hill-villages in all of The Middle East and it’s well worth hiking and camping around the area; The Kurds are fantastic people and will make sure you are well looked after. It’s an eight hour bus journey to Tehran from Sanandaj.

Backpacking Iran

Spices in the market of Sanandaj

Backpacking Esfahan

Filled with gorgeous Islamic architecture, tree-lined boulevards, Persian parks and some of the world’s most stunning bridges; Esfahan is a popular stop on the trail and most travelers backpacking Iran spend a couple of days here. The bridges are lit up at night and walking along the river is a chilled out experience. The Masjid-e Jameh is a truly stunning work of art where you can explore 800 years of Islamic history before taking to the fun-filled bazaar nearby and hunting for trinkets.

Backpacking Iran

Si-o-seh Pol (The bridge of thirty-three spans) of Esfahan

Backpacking Yazd

The desert city of Yazd springs out of the ground in defiance of its surroundings and wows tourists with it’s winding lanes, blue-tiled domes and soaring minarets. Most backpackers in Yazd congregate at The Silk Road Hotel but there are much cheaper options around. Couchsurfing in Yazd is not especially easy. Yazd is one of the best places in Iran to organise desert adventures and nomad homestays; I’ve heard good things from backpackers who have visited Garmeh.

Book Your Yazd Hostel Here!

Backpacking Iran

It’s worth waking up for the sunrise when backpacking Iran. Photo Credit:

Backpacking Shiraz

The heartland of Persian culture for more than 2000 years, Shiraz is famed for its scholars, poets, nightingales and wine. Home to the impressive Arg-e Karim Khan fortress, this is a city that is best explored on foot. Shiraz is, actually, the reason I came to Iran in the first place. The masjid-e Nasir-al-Molk Mosque is one of the most stunning buildings in the world and, as a kid, I had a faded photograph torn from a National Geographic upon my wall. The mosque is filled with glittering stained glass windows and when the sun hits at the right angle the entire building is filled with multicoloured rainbows that dance across the floor and walls. The mosque opens at 8 am and I recommend arriving before that; it is the only place in Iran I visited that was crowded with tour groups… Despite the crowds, it should not be missed. The Pardis Hotel, near the Karandish Bus Station on Safar Street has bargain private rooms at 40k – about 12 dollars – if you don’t mind slumming it and are sick of camping.

Book Your Shiraz Hostel Here!

Backpacking Iran

Nasir ol Molk Mosque, Shiraz – one of my favourite places in Iran

Backpacking Persepolis

The ancient capital of the Persian Empire, Persepolis is simply awesome. This is my second favourite place in Iran and it’s a great place to explore for a few hours. The city was sacked by Alexander the Great and burnt to a crisp but many of its huge stone statues and buildings carved into the rock still stand. The ancient city was totally lost beneath the sands for over a thousand years and only rediscovered in the 1930s. The best part of the city is the hills housing the tombs of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III, it’s a poignant place to pause and soak in the sheer scale of the city stretching away from you. It’s easy to hitch a ride from Shiraz and takes under an hour to get to Persepolis; try to arrive before ten or eleven as it gets very hot.

Backpacking Iran

Takht-e-Jamshid (Persepolis), Fars – a highlight of any Iran backpacking adventure

Backpacking Ghalat

A small village a stone’s throw from Shiraz, Ghalat is said to be home to many fine flowers and herbs that grow wildly within the hills. This may be the perfect place to watch the sun go down with a cheeky smoke.

Backpacking Hormuz Island

This stunning volcanic island is my favourite place in all of Iran. There is nowhere quite like this anywhere else on earth and if you’re backpacking Iran in search of incredible landscapes this is where you should go… Check out my Hormuz travel guide for more info. Iran is a BIG country and there are lots more epic places to check out, try to get away from the traditional tourist trail of Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and Yazd, there’s a lot more to see

Backpacking Iran

The most incredible landscape in the world…

Must try experiences when backpacking Iran

Smoke some shisha:  Whilst in Iran be sure to track down a sofre khune, a traditional shisha bar where Iranians hang out, play backgammon and smoke Ghelyoon (shisha).

Crash a house party: underground parties are very common in Iran and there’s usually dozens happening in Tehran at the weekend. Drinks and other party enhancers are widely available and the atmosphere is chilled and casual with men and women chatting and sometime canoodling together.

Hitch a ride: Hitchhiking is not common in Iran but it’s an amazing experience, very easy and a great way to see the country.

Haggle for trinkets: Haggling is very common in Iran and you should be able to negotiate a discount of at least 10%.

Camp amongst nature: There are so many truly gorgeous places to camp in Iran and, assuming it’s not freezing, this is a fantastic way to escape the bustle of the cities and explore the best of Iran’s stunning nature. I recommend going on a multi-day trek with TasteIran or taking a tent and setting off on your own.

Try the food: Iran is famous for its kebabs and stews; street food here is some of the best in the world and Iranians take bread baking to the next level…

Backpacking Iran

Sofreh Khune, A place for Iranians to hang out, drink chai and smoke some shisha. 

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack.

Check out this post to read our full review!


Persian hospitality

Before I travelled to Iran, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. This is a country which has been depicted unfavourably in the international media and I half expected to be bundled into the back of a van by a bunch of bearded men; when I look back on that I realise just how totally ridiculous it was to even think about that. Iran is one of the safest countries to backpack around and there are many things I discovered about Iran during my travels in this amazing country.

Persian hospitality opened my eyes to just how damn fun Iran is to travel around. Thanks to a couple of networking groups on Facebook I was able to connect with plenty of local Iranians and arrange to hang out with people all over the country…

It was whilst hitchhiking that I first came across Tarof; a complex and confusing offshoot of Persian hospitality…

Backpacking Iran

With my Kurdish friends in Sanandaj, Kurdistan

Tarof in Iran

Tarof is an Iranians custom which you need to be aware of; basically, somebody will offer something for free even though it is not actually for free – when the offer is made, it is supposedly understood by both parties. Backpackers and even other Iranians can find this a bit frustrating as sometimes somebody will make a huge show of offering something for free only to expect payment at the end. The tradition comes from a warm and fuzzy place though; Iranians don’t like the idea of asking for money as the Persian culture dictates that you should be extremely hospitable to guests, especially us lucky backpacking vagabonds. When hitchhiking in Iran, it helps if you check the ride is not Tarof – simply say ‘Tarof Nist’ – it’s not Tarof. Assuming they answer no you can assume that the offer is indeed genuine.

Backpacking Iran

Hitchhiking to Iranian Kurdistan

Couchsurfing in Iran

Couchsurfing in IranCouchsurfing is technically illegal in Iran. You do not, however, need to use the (blocked) website to be able to find a place to crash; many Iranians will simply invite you into their home and the chance for this goes up dramatically if you are a backpacker hitchhiking across Iran… I had numerous drivers attempt to whisk me off for a week of adventuring in the desert, mountains or jungles. Iranians tend to get very excited when they meet a backpacker – it’s one of the many reasons Iranians are awesome people and this is one of the best countries in the world to backpack on a budget.

Backpacking Iran

Cooking a tasty meal on the beach after a day’s hitching…

Backpacking Iran travel costs

Backpacking Iran can be super cheap; I spent about twenty bucks a day on average not counting the occasional splurge on something to smoke.

If you are staying in basic guesthouses, catching long-distances buses and trains (rather than flights) and eating in simple restaurants you can expect to spend around fifty dollars a day.

Average room cost: $18 – $35

Average meal cost:  $3 – $6

Long distance VIP bus cost: $12 – $16

Entrance to a site cost: $6 for foreigners

Backpacking Iran

Backpacking Iran is like stepping back into the pages of history…

Budget tips for broke backpackers

To backpack Iran on the cheap I recommend sticking to the three basic rules of budget adventuring….

Hitchhike; In Iran, it is so so easy to thumb a ride that it really would be a crime not to give it a go… Hitchhiking is an ace way to keep your transport costs down.

Camp; With plenty of gorgeous natural places to camp, Iran is an excellent place to take a tent. When you’re in dire need of a shower and some company, jump on Couchsurfing. Check out this post for a ton of useful intel on backpacking tents. 

Eat local; Local Iranian food is cheap, tasty and everywhere – these guys are the king of kebabs!

Pack the backpacker bible: Nine years of travel tips, tricks and hacks plus intel on the best backpacking routes and practical advice to help you discover sustainable long term travel. Check it out here. 

Pack a travel water bottle  and save money every day! 

Backpacking Iran

Esme hanging out in our beaten up tent whilst camping in Hormuz.

What to Pack for Iran

On every adventure, there are six things I never go traveling without:

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.


 2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!


AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre TowelIt’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.


Headlamp4. HeadtorchI would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).


Hammock for backpackers5.HammockTaking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colourful and tough.


Active roots Toiletry bag6. Toiletry Bag: I always travel with a hanging toiletry bag as it’s a super efficient way to organise your bathroom stuff. Well worth having, whether you are hanging it from a tree whilst camping, or a hook in a wall, it helps to have quick access to all your stuff.


For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full adventure packing list.

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My favourite phrases for backpacking Iran

Salaam – Hello

Chetori? – How are you?

Kheili Khube – Very good

Khoshkel – Beautiful

Koja mitunam chador bezanam? – Where can I camp?

Lotfan – Please

Salamati – Cheers

Kesafat – Trash (can be used as a light insult amongst mates).

Chi? – What?

Koja? – where?

Fandak darid? – Do you have a lighter?

Mishe Takhfif bedid? – Can you give me a discount?

Aab ashamidani kojas? – Where is the drinking water?

Esme Shoma chie? – What is your name?

Man az XXX Hastam – I am from XXX

Een cheghad Mishe? – How much does this cost?


Internet in Iran

Backpacking Iran is not without its challenges; for starters, you might have to live without Facebook for a bit… Shock, horror!

Unfortunately, it’s not just Facebook that is blocked; Couchsurfing, The BBC, Twitter, Youtube, Pornhub… a lot of your favourite sites have been blocked by the government for indecency reasons.

Backpacking Iran

The all too familiar ‘this site is blocked’ message I got to know well whilst backpacking Iran.

Luckily, it’s very easy to get around this. Almost all Iranians have VPNs installed on their phones and you can download a VPN from the app store or purchase one in the country. VPNs work by bouncing your location all around the world so that it appears that you are in, for example, Amsterdam rather than in Tehran. This means that the Iranian government cannot track or block you. Because surveillance levels are that bit higher in Iran, it makes sense to have your VPN switched on whenever you are on any public wifi, regardless of what you are doing.

I’ve tried a whole number of VPNs whilst backpacking Iran; at the time of writing, Hide Me works the best.

Universal Travel AdapterOne of the best investments you can make is a worldwide travel adapter that will work anywhere! The one featured here is tough, reliable and a solid buy – Don’t leave home without one.



Dating in Iran

Whether you are a man or a woman, you are likely to get plenty of sultry stares whilst backpacking in Iran. I had one girl stop me on the street so she could give me her phone number. Iranians like ‘rare’ things and right now, in Iran, backpackers are still pretty damn scarce!

You need to use your VPN to access tinder and it was using Tinder in Iran that I met a blue-haired beauty who I hitchhiked across the whole country with. If Tinder isn’t your thing; it’s easy to meet hot Iranian chicks simply by heading to local cafes or shisha bars.

Backpacking Iran

A Persian princess I met whilst backpacking Iran.

Many young Iranians take to the street and play a cat and mouse game where entire groups shout at each other, and exchange pre-written notes and numbers, from their cars as they zoom along the motorway.

The big problem with dating in Iran is finding a place to be intimate, this is even harder if you are a foreign-Iranian duo. It is pretty much impossible for a foreign-Iranian duo to check into a hotel without a marriage certificate, however if you can find an understanding mullah, it’s possible to get a temporary Iranian marriage; a sigheh. These can last for a minute to a lifetime and typically cost about thirty dollars to get sorted. Note that this is not easy to sort and takes perseverance.

Many young Iranians are not especially religious or conservative and are curious about foreign backpackers in Iran. Most Iranians lack the sexual experience of Europeans and it is important that you always treat women with respect whilst in Iran. If you go on a date with an Iranian, remember; you are an ambassador for your country – i.e. don’t be a dick. I was lucky enough to fall in love in Iran; it’s fair to say that backpacking in Iran changed my life.


Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Iran

Backpacking Iran

Look closer young padawan.

Backpacking Iran is full of surprises… Everything is possible in Iran and there is a lively underground scene of house parties and even full-on raves. Getting invited to one of these is fairly easy if you fall in with the right crowd; I attended a truly mental house party whilst in Tehran and another, more civilised, event down in Shiraz.

Alcohol is illegal in Iran although Shiraz is famed for its wine and it’s possible to find imported booze and homemade stuff throughout the country.

Drugs are also, of course, illegal but rumour has it that Iran boasts some of the finest herbs in The Middle East (available at approximately thirty dollars for ten grams). For tips on how to stay safe whilst getting fucked, check out Blazed Backpackers 101.


Best time to travel to Iran

Iran is famed for being a country with four very different seasons all being present at once!

The best time to visit Iran depends on what you want to do. Skiing is best in the winter and this is also a good time to visit the deserts and Hormuz; during the summer the desert can reach temperatures of seventy degrees!

The best time to backpack around Iran is, in my opinion, between March to May and September to December.


Border crossings in Iran

Backpacking Iran

Backpacking Iran leaves many opportunities for overlanding to other countries.

Iran shares borders with Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. When you’re finished backpacking Iran and ready to move on to a new adventure (I recommend Pakistan!!) check out Caravanistan for plenty of info on visas and crossing reports. If you want to arrange your visa in advance, get the authorisation code from 1stQuest.


A brief history of a world power

Iran, or Persia, had been an important global player for millennia and is home to one of the oldest civilisations in the world. The First Persian Empire stretched from one corner of the known world to the other and 40% of the world’s total population lived and died under the reign of The Persians during 480BC. Once a superpower of immense proportions, Iran has been invaded many times and suffered during the medieval ages as it was ravaged by the unstoppable Mongol hordes. Despite this, Persian culture refused to be diluted and Iran maintained a strong national psyche. Iran sided with Germany during World War II and was promptly invaded by British, American and Russian forces. After the war, Iran struggled with multiple local uprisings incited by Soviet forces who wanted cheap access to the country’s massive oil fields. A military coup orchestrated by the CIA in 1953 catapulted the young and enigmatic Shah Mohammed Reza to power.

Backpacking Iran

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Photo Credit:

The new Shah began rapid modernisation of Iran and entered into a contract with an international consortium of businesses to sell Iranian oil and split profits 50:50. Crucially, the consortium would not allow Iranians to be on the board or to audit the cash flow and Iran was taken for a ride as its oil fields were sucked dry with only a fraction of the profits making it back to the government for economic improvements. As the Shah pushed through land reforms and pro-Western policies, the Islamic right wing became alienated and restless and found leadership under Ayatollah Khomeini who was swiftly banished after defaming the Shah during a speech.

Backpacking Iran

This guy changed Iran forever… Photo Credit:

In 1973, the Shah returned the oil fields to national control and raised export prices to further fund the country’s development. The West, who had enjoyed dirt cheap Iranian oil until this point, responded by fanning the flames of discontent amongst the Islamic right wing in the hopes that a change in government would lead to cheaper oil. It was largely because of foreign powers meddling behind the scenes that Iran changed so abruptly.

In an attempt to avoid a civil war the Shah left Iran in January 1979. Just a couple of weeks later, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and received a heroes welcome. Iranian army forces, surrounded on all sides by rebel revolutionary forces, declared neutrality and Khomeini took control as the ‘Supreme Leader of Iran’. Many political activists fled during the Iranian revolution as revolutionary forces took a hardline approach on nationalistic groups in a bid to unite the country. Khomeini’s policies changed Iran drastically, something I cannot write about here.

Backpacking Iran

Photo Credit:

The USA and her allies, keen to get its hands on some dirt-cheap oil again, encouraged an Iraqi invasion led by American ally Saddam Hussein. The eight year Iran-Iraq war raged as Khomeini continued to enforce anti-western policies and the country changed beyond recognition. Khomeini died in 1989 and control passed to Khamenei, a powerful figure with an almost identical name and beard.

Recently, the situation in Iran has been rapidly changing. Many trade embargoes have now been lifted and Iranians are hopeful that economic prosperity and a softening of attitudes is on the horizon. Iran has the potential to be a world power yet again and the country is opening up to the world. Inspired by a glorious past, many Iranians are now excited to see what the future holds for Iran and there are exciting political developments upon the horizon as politics slowly begins to move away from being totally intertwined with religion. Right now it is an exciting time to go backpacking around Iran; the sense of hope and excitement in the air is intoxicating and Iran is finally emerging, blinking into the light, as a global player yet again.

Backpacking Iran

Useful apps to download before backpacking Iran

Be warned, it’s often hard to download new apps without a VPN when backpacking Iran so I suggest downloading the following before you travel to Iran.

Telegram – Iranian’s favourite instant messaging app, similar to Whatsapp. – My favourite offline maps app.

Fast Dic – Dictionary for quickly translating specific words whilst backpacking Iran.

VPN – I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

Backpacking Iran

Surfing the web in private using


Books to read on Iran

Backpacking Iran can be a much more enlightening experience if you know a little bit about the countries history and customs, I strongly recommend throwing a couple of the below books into your backpack before travelling in Iran.

The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here. 

A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind – An in-depth look at how the country was formed, encompassing historical, cultural, social and religious factors.

Lonely Planet Iran (Travel Guide) – I rarely travel with a guide book, I was however impressed with the Lonely Planet for Iran; it’s well worth picking up a copy before you go backpacking across Iran.

Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know – An overview of regional history and involvement with the west from past to present and into the future.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World – Certainly one of the most popular recent publications on the region, a stark look at history from the other side of the coin.

Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalisation

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Graphic Novel) – Insights into daily Iranian life, culture and family through the experiences of  Marjane, a young girl living in Tehran.

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran

Iran: A Very Short Introduction

Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic

If you’re hitchhiking, I strongly recommend picking up a road map of Iran.


Staying safe in Iran

Backpacking Iran is a totally safe experience. Almost all of the negative media hype surrounding Iran is a decade out of date and was not particularly accurate in the first place. Iran is a very peaceful country and one of the most stable nations in The Middle East; just don’t get caught breaking the rules. If you do, bribes are an option; play it carefully. Iran really is a super safe place to travel and plenty of women travel solo in Iran without any issues.

We’ve put together an Iran Safety Guide with all the information that will get you through your Iran trip without any issues.

Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking anywhere.

Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.

Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when travelling.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Iran (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Want to save the world and stay hydrated? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to the oceans and planet – Be a part of the solution and invest in a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. We use it on our own adventures to purify often nasty looking water and it does a beautiful job – we have yet to get sick! This is what the whole Broke Backpacker team uses- in mountains, cities, jungles – we love it – it’s a total game changer


Insurance in Iran

Whenever you hit the road and go travelling, you need insurance. I have been backpacking for nine years and have had to claim a total of three times; if I didn’t have backpacker insurance I would have been utterly screwed on all three occasions.

Because of a pesky embargo, only a handful of travel insurance companies will cover travelers visiting Iran – We’ve traveled on First Allied, but they’ve recently discontinued insuring backpackers. We’d suggest IATI Seguros, but do your own research and see what travelers from your country like to use, if you can.

And so there you have it amigos, everything you need to know to hit the road and go backpacking in Iran…


Volunteer in Iran

Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Iran whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.

Worldpackers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. We’ve tried and approved them ourselves – check out our Worldpackers in-depth review here.

If you’re ready to create a life-changing travel experience and give back to the community, join the Worldpacker community now. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll get a special discount of $20. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $29.


Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Iran

Traveling in Iran? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring? 

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.


Being a Responsible Backpacker in Iran

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick. 

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

Backpacking Iran can be one hell of a party given the right moment (Yes! Even in Iran you can party!). Take it from me, it can be easy to get carried away at an underground rave. It is important to keep in mind that you are an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country.

If you visit conservative villages or small communities outside of the cities always ask before taking photos especially when it comes to taking photos of women (you should ask in the cities as well). The people who live in these villages are not exhibits in a museum. They are normal folks just living their lives.  Always show them the complete respect that they deserve.

When buying a local crafts or knick-knacks, do not haggle so low that the price is unfair to the person who spent countless hours crafting it. Pay people what they are worth and contribute to the local economies as much as possible.

I know it can be hard, but do your best to use the least amount of plastic water bottles that you can. Refill the ones that you do buy! Use a Grayl Geopress. Refill at your hostel/guest house! There are plenty of ways to reduce plastic!!!

Backpacking Iran or any region for that matter often illuminates some of the great socio-economic inequalities of the world. Never take it for granted that you are healthy and financially able to go traveling. Show the world around you some gratitude and help to make a positive impact on it. Most of all have the time of your life and spread the love in Iran!

Got anything to add? Tell me in the comments!


Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!

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Iran travel guide


  • Avatar yoldabirivar says:

    Yes I visited Iran with backpack 7-8 city I visited.’It is incredibly easy to hitchhike in Iran and to Couchsurfing” I agree I met nice people in Iran.

  • Avatar Carlies says:

    Very comprehensive information about Iran! I’ve traveled multiple times to the country and I loved it a lot, just like you describe it. The village of Kong near the Gulf was one of my favorites because of the colourful clothing, history and hospitality.

  • Avatar angelflight says:

    very useful Thank you.

  • Avatar WorldTraveller says:

    Remembering the extreme hospitality I received as a foreigner travelling through Iran, “thank you” being included amongst “My favourite phrases for backpacking Iran” would be a nice touch !

    • Art Art says:

      Truuuuueee! That’ll get put in as soon as I figure out the appropriate spelling! For anyone who’s interested, in Farsi it’s very similar to the French “Merci” but with the stress on the 1st syllable. 🙂

  • Avatar ????? ???? ???? ?? ?????? says:

    Iran has many cities and places of interest. Beautiful historic cities with rich culture.
    I live in tehran…

  • Avatar angelflight says:

    Very good, its very helpful.Thank you.

  • Avatar Maria says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
    That was so informative. Now Iran is in my bucket list.

  • Avatar Don says:

    A nice and complete guide about backpacking in Iran, Amazing!
    I wish others to come to Iran and experience what you have. Iran is one of the most misunderstood countries in the world.
    Good luck

  • Avatar ?????? ???? says:

    Hello I am Iranian
    I can speak a bit english

    i enjoyed this article very much

    Many sites hate Iran, but Iranian people are very loved

    Travel to Iran and the see Iranian people

    iranian people lovely people in the world


  • Avatar Katharine Spencer says:

    Hey mate, first allied do not cover Iran anymore, any recommendations on agencies that will cover Iran?


  • Avatar Mona says:

    Hey SEB,

    I’m Mona from 1stQuest. We really love to help British, American and Canadian travelers to travel to Iran without a guide as we do it for all other nationalities. But as I have explained above in another comment, ignoring this regulation will give our agency and travelers trouble.
    Here is what we do to ease the process and lower the cost for travelers. British/Canadian travelers can be accompanied by different guides in each city, so we offer them the lowest rates possible for hiring a local guide in each city without having to pay for their accommodation and extra meals.
    Also they can get a visa for a whole month (30 days) just like other nationalities if they have a guide for the whole trip. For trip durations above 15 days we offer discounts to lower the total cost.

    I hope that the Iranian government omit this regulation very soon.

  • Avatar Seb says:

    Hello Will! How did you manage to get the authorisation code with 1stquest for only booking one day tour? I’ve contacted them regarding it but they insisted that I book a full tour for the entire length of the visit! And they said the visa is only valid for the duration specified, not one month! But isn’t the tourist visa valid for one month? Quite a contradiction there! And do you know any other agency that’d let one book a one day tour in order to get the authorisation? Many thanks!

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey dude, so firstly – I DIDN’T get a one day authorisation code, we’ve just heard that it IS possible. I traveled to Iran on my Irish passport. Sorry but I don’t have any more info than that… it is pretty hard to visit Iran independently as a British, American or Canadian citizen.

  • hi very nice article

    im from iran too

    I am very glad you visited Iran, iran is a beautiful country in the world ,

    Believe me, travel iran

  • Avatar Kara Bui says:

    Is it save enough for Iran travelling in 2018?

  • Avatar Jacob says:

    Hey Will!

    Thanks for the comprehensive guide. Currently I’m hitchhiking and couchsurfing through Iran and suddenly ended up in Qom without a host. I noticed you have no hostel recommendations in Qom and wanted to tip about a newly opened hostel I found called Qom Hostel (appearantly the only hostel in the city). It’s owned by a young Iranian couple and is located a few minutes walk from the shrine – they have 11 nice rooms with all basics covered. The owners speak English and are incredibly helpful. It kinda feels like a couchsurf stay as they gladly invited us to their home for breakfast and spend a lot of the day with us etc. They also offer a free tour to the shrine, the mosque, the old and new bazaar which was absolutely amazing 🙂

    I thought it might be relevant to readers as I myself couldn’t find proper information about hostels in Qom. It can be found in Google maps. My friend and I paid 30$ for a private room. They also have cheaper dorm options.

  • Avatar Akbalina says:

    Wow!!! That’s really a fantastic and well researched guide – the most detailed one I’ve came across!
    Thank you for your effort and time to put all this information together!
    I will definitely recommend it to everyone who’s planning to visit Iran.
    There is nothing to ad!!
    I just came back from a 4 weeks backpacking trip to Iran.The only thing i have to offer (or would like to share) are the smiling faces of the most warmhearted and welcoming people of Iranian.
    The incredible hospitality blew my mind away!
    So don’t think twice! Go there and let yourself surprise! You will not regret it!!! I promise! 🙂

    I hope you enjoy these (for us and hopefully soon for you too) memorable impressions!

  • Avatar Rodillo Jerhen says:

    Hi, I will visit Iran very soon, but I did not find Iran in the lists of travel insurance in First Allied Insurance.

  • Avatar m-y-k-e says:

    Hi, This has got to be one of the best post I’d ever came across when it comes to Iran travel. I really enjoyed reading everything especially the tips. For other useful Iranian related topics I strongly recommend listening to Dr. Holakouee Persian radio program here: Thanks!

  • Avatar Caz says:

    Hey man, thanks for a great read. I was hoping to visit Iran this summer and hitch hike to Iraq after.

    I was just wondering would I need to present a return ticket to prove I’m leaving the country during my visa on arrival application?

    Kind regards,


  • Avatar Mona says:

    Hey Daniel,

    I’m a member of 1stQuest support team. I think you can always travel to Iran as an american traveler and there’s no risk for you.

    What you’re asking for (traveling in Iran without a guide) is indeed a desire for many US/UK travelers and there may be some agencies which take the risk to do it. But there’s always a slight chance that someone report you to police (report that some Americans are traveling around without a guide) and then you will be in trouble which happened to some of our customers. They were reported by a tour leader or maybe hotel owner when they were in an Eco lodge in Yazd, after which they had to hire a guide for rest of their trip and were so stressed out that police will arrest them in the airport which of course didn’t happen.

  • Avatar RMD says:

    That is because thecompany that applies for the visa is responsible for the visitor – if anything should happen they would be held responsible and all could face unpleasant consequences.

  • Avatar Ali says:

    I am a foreign student studying in Iran since the last few years and intend on backpacking, thanks for the lovely guide.

    Just wanted to make one clarification: It is perfectly fine to have tattoos in Iran – unless they are obscene or extremely out of place and it is okay if they can be seen. The link in the post is linking to a website discussing the opinion of the Sunni school of thought. Iran is a Shia Muslim country and their scholars see no problem with tattoos.

  • Avatar Ashlyn says:

    Hey just an update. World Nomads no longer covers Iran.

  • Avatar Daniel says:

    Hi Will. Great article, really well put together and super informative!

    I am planning a trip myself to Iran and have a question about the authorization code. I am a US citizen and am really not a tour or guide kind of guy. When you used 1st Quest, did you need to book a tour / guide for the entire duration? Did they make you do it before the authorization code? I am hoping to go with the book a one day tour route instead as I like you, much prefer the DIY approach when it comes to travel. Anyways, any suggestions would be awesome. Thanks.

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Hey buddy! You should be able to find a provider who will let you just book a one day tour… However, it’s worth noting that with relations between the US and Iran in their current states, I’m not sure now is a good time to try and game the system.

  • Avatar ramtin says:

    hello Will
    i am Ramtin
    me and my wife have a guest house so near to yazd
    nartitee or nartitee ecolodge
    we are the first rank of special lodge in yazd on tripadvisor and we recommended by lonely planet
    this is our website
    http://www.nartitee .ir
    its our pleasure to be host of you and if you want recommend us to your friend and others
    thanks alot

  • Avatar Keyvan says:

    Welcome to Iran.
    I’m Iranian and I’m living in Tehran.
    Don’t worry about your tattoos. Yes, it is true that generally Iranian people do not use tattoos on their bodies and they somehow do not like it, but nowadays many Iranian people also tattooed their bodies like arms, neck, back and etc. So, definitely there is not any problem for you because you are not Iranian and everyone completely know that your culture is different from us.
    Actually, the reason that Iranian people usually do not like tattoos is because in the past the vicious, villain and bad people first start to use tattoos on their bodies and this causes people dislike the tattoos. But, this thought become slowly wipe out from the society. So, be comfortable with your tattoos.
    Second, about money: the best way is provide a gift card (in persian: karte hadie) for your self by helping someone. This card is like your international cards but you can use it just in Iran, all over the country even in villages. It is easier and also safer. Iranian people also use widely these cards, they don’t keep much cash in their wallet. In every where they use their cards. Actually, almost all places like shops, markets, restaurant, Transport station, cinema, zoo, gas station, public places and etc. accept your card. Theses card are issued by different bank, no matter which bank. All of them are connected to one system which works all over the country.
    Third about currency: the official monetary unit of Iran is Rials. But, our people do not use it much, rather they use “Tomans” instead of “Rials”. Each Toman is equal to 10 Rials. For example, 100,000 Rials is equal to 10,000 Tomans. It is so easier to work with Tomans in Iran. If you see a cost to Rials, Just drop a zero, it becomes to Tomans. and if someone tells you a price in Tomans, you just need to add a zero in front of it in order to change it in Rilas.
    If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

  • Avatar Fateme says:

    The last time i went to imam khomeini airport i went back with subway
    But the subway was open only between 8 and 14
    And what was that about tattoo?!
    Most young people LOVE tattoo and so many have tattooes. There’s no need at all to cover your tattoos.
    Yes there are some people who will look at you strangely but no matter they look at me like that too!
    And about money i have a suggestion
    It’s hard to get an iranian an ATM card
    But you can do something. Find an Iranian friend and ask her/him to get you a gift card (in persian: karte hadie) and give him/her the money that you want in your card!
    This card works wherever the official cards work!

  • Awesome post cheers for sharing.

  • Avatar Matt says:

    Hey Will, amazing post, covers so much and has really got me wanting to visit. I especially love the addition of books to read, great idea.
    I was looking for some Iran content to share on my Travel Blogs platform, and have I have mapped out some of your destinations and linked to this. If you wanted to check what I mean, you can do so
    Keep up the amazing work. If your ever in Madrid feel free to hit me up, I’d love to buy you a beer and write an article about you!

  • Avatar Pandans says:

    Hi Will,
    Very useful information for me who’s going to visit Iran next year!

    By the way, there is a photo caption From Tabriz to Tehran with colourful mountain range, is that far from Tabriz?

    Thank you!

  • Avatar Nick says:

    Wow! what a detailed guide, awesome! Can’t you stay longer if you request a visa in your own country?

  • Avatar saeed says:

    hi, Im from IRAN, Shiraz city, i liked the comments and ur blog, i like to offer our Guesthouse in Shiraz, and also tour package, if its ok you can publish it in tour page,

  • Avatar J says:

    Thank you for the time and effort in sharing your travel experience there. I’ve been deliberating for the last few weeks on where to go next from my current location and this has convinced me that it will be Iran. Cheers dude.

  • Avatar reza says:

    great post very good 🙂

  • This is like the ULTIMATE guide to Iran! Great write up, Will! Thanks for including the Visa* section, this would totally help when we decide to go.

  • Hey Buddy,you wrote a Great article, almost covered all the tips. BTW I want to introduce our hostel to readers of your blog, HI Tehran Hostel offers excellent value budget accommodation in a convenient location of Tehran, stay with us and see what a difference a stay makes.

  • Avatar Minul says:

    Is there any possibility to mention the two facebook groups you were talking about? This guide is a bible man! much appreciated. I’ll backpack in Iran at the end of this year.

  • Avatar Ani says:

    Brilliant guide! You’ve opened my mind to travelling in Iran! Do you have any updates on how your brother got on with a UK passport? I’m currently trying to get an authorisation code but I’m getting nowhere, I’ve contacted many travel agencies but they insist that I must be part of an organised tour

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      It’s possible to get the authorisation code by booking a one day, short, inexpensive tour – getting the visa – and then cancelling the tour…

      • Avatar Matt says:

        Hi Will,

        Do you have one tour in mind that could provide us with an authorization code?

        My wife and I are Canadian, and we are not able to find any tour that will give us a code for 1 day. They insist that we have to stay the all time with them.

        Thanks so much for your help,

  • Avatar Ross says:

    How did your Brother do with the British Passport/Travelling without a guide?

  • Avatar Joan Torres says:

    Hey Will! Amazing guide! I think that this is the most detailed one I’ve seen out there! I also read your post about the Iranian girl! I have also heard similar stories from other travelers. The Iranian regime is just the make-up of the country. Behind all these conservative Sharia rules, you find the most liberal people in the Middle East. Except in Lebanon, having sex with a local Muslim woman is like an impossible mission. Nice story man!

    By the way, one thing to do I would also add to your guide is visiting the Qashqai Nomads from the Zagros mountains. The nomads living there still live like their ancestors used to, and for me, that was one of the highlights of my trip to Iran.

    Cheers mate,

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      I’ve heard of the nomads man! I’m heading back to Iran in May with Esme again so going to swing up that way andc camp out for a few nights! I read up on your posts in Iraq and got major travel envy – those are some quality adventures brother!

  • Avatar Jupiter says:

    Your hedonist dick

  • Avatar Katherine says:

    Amazing guide! Wish we had had more time to explore some of the off the beaten path places you suggested here. We will just have to go back I guess 🙂

  • Avatar Tulipan says:

    Yes,congratulations,but take into account what most travel bloggers and lonely planet guides forget – you are a MAN. things can be very different when travelling as a woman. everywhere in that region,while Iran is maybe has the least aggressive men,while it is getting worse now that more and more mainstream tourists go there. Girls,use your intellect and gut feeling! And enjoy that you can talk and chitchat with many women and girls 🙂

  • Avatar Jasmine says:

    Great article. Thank you. You educated me about my own country that I have not encountered for many decades.
    I do believe that you could have left out your plug for drugs and how to obtain them.
    As for “Shisheh” an Iranian friend of mine had mentioned that is “glass” which is meth?
    Other than the drug part, it was an awesome, intriguing account. Thank you.

  • Avatar Matt says:

    Fantastic work. A great guide to a lesser known area of the world. I have mapped your recommendations and linked to your article on The Travel Blogs, feel free to check it out:

    Happy Travels!

  • Avatar Liam says:

    Excellent guide Will! We’re going there in a few weeks and this is going to be our bible. Do you think Mariana and I will need to fake a marriage (get rings) to make life a bit easier travelling as a couple?

    • Avatar Will Hatton says:

      Nah, I think you will be fine – it’s just because she was an Iranian and I was not a Muslim. I met some other hitchhikers and they had encountered no issues as they were foreigners; just say you are married when they ask 🙂

  • Incredible article Will!!! I hope to visit Iran next year once I have my new passport (Israel stamp). Will definitely book mark this 😀

    • Avatar Faran says:

      Wow, I’m an Iranian and I’m so appreciated, thank you so much for visiting and trying to change people minds about Iran. News are killing our culture.

  • Avatar Ben says:

    Awesome write up dude. Now I really wanna go to Iran.

  • Avatar Dave says:

    Wow. What a guide. Thanks for all the info man. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty near impossible to get a visa or Iran as an American, but definitely going to be trying in the next few years. Awesome to hear you had such a good experience through the country.

  • Avatar Sali says:

    Very well written, but
    There is another recently opened hostel in Tehran, located in the city center
    named Denj Hostel in Tehran.

  • Avatar Josh Sedivy says:

    Wow, balls of steal, man. Thanks for the inspiration. 😉

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