A country of deserts, beautiful mosques, the ancient ruins of Persepolis, and a whole lot more awaits you in incredible Iran. Seriously, this is an amazing destination that’s made even more awesome by the strength of its extremely friendly people.
Not so friendly is the Iranian government itself. This country is basically run by an authoritarian government which is accused of human abuses. Iran has also had its own trouble with terrorists as well as border disputes, and most recently there are tensions with the West.
There are a whole lot of things about Iran that would understandably have you wondering, “Is Iran safe to visit?”
This is where we show you how Iran is accessible to almost all travelers. We’re all about smart travel – and so is this guide.
There are a whole lot of topics that we’re going to be dealing with. From whether or not it’s safe for solo female travelers to be visiting Iran, to whether or not you should be driving in Iran, we’ve got it covered. Throughout, we’ll give special consideration for whether Iran is safe to visit right now. So let’s have a look.
Table of Contents
- How Safe is Iran? (Our take)
- Is Iran Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Solo Travel v.s. Group Tours in Iran
- Insurance in Iran
- Bringing Money into Iran
- 22 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Iran
- Keeping your money safe in Iran
- Is Iran safe to travel alone?
- Is Iran safe for solo female travelers?
- Is Iran safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Iran?
- Is Uber safe in Iran?
- Are taxis safe in Iran?
- Is public transportation in Iran safe?
- Is the food in Iran safe?
- Can you drink the water in Iran?
- Is Iran safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Iran?
- Helpful Iran Travel Phrases
- Final thoughts on the safety of Iran
How Safe is Iran? (Our take)
Ancient civilizations to learn about, some pretty amazing food and friendly hospitable people. Iran probably isn’t what first springs to mind when you think of travel destinations, but it’s definitely a big one!
And as you knew before you landed on this guide, Iran isn’t without its problems
Tell people you’re going to Iran and you’ll be raising a few eyebrows.
Tourism took a nosedive after the Iranian Revolution. And then decreased EVEN MORE after the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. It’s now back on the rise though.
Surprisingly, Iran is very safe. The crime levels are very low.
There are things like earthquakes to watch out for, but that’s comparable to the risk in many parts of the world.
Most of all though it’s important to remember that Iran is a theocracy. It’s governed by Islamic laws. That means travelers have to possess cultural sensitivity for a lot of things… which we will address.
There are no-go areas in Iran. It borders Iraq. This area is wildly unsafe, but you won’t be going there anyway. The province of Sistan-Baluchistan is home to a conflict between Kurds and Sunni extremists, which fortunately remains much more contained than similar ethnic conflicts in the Middle East.
There were protests in June 2018 at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. Being near demonstrations is dangerous in any country, especially if it’s not your own. Don’t let your curiosity put you in danger.
Terrorist attacks have happened in recent years. However, these are less frequent than in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France.
Is Iran Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
We said tourism is on the rise, and we weren’t joking.
That’s 6 million tourists in 2017, up from 3.6 million in 2011. That’s a lot for a country that people are pretty paranoid about!
The most-cited issues for the country are human rights issues, drug trafficking, and human trafficking. We can’t say “all is well in Iran,” and we don’t want to diminish the situation of Iranian people who have to deal with national and day-to-day issues that tourists won’t experience.
We’re only going to speak about travelers, and as a traveler, you get to experience the country uniquely – its best side, if you will. It’s full of sights and food and history and tradition.
The Iranian government (despite its flaws) has taken steps to make sure tourists have this unique experience. There are very helpful tourist police who speak English, in cities such as Shiraz, Mashhad, and Esfahan. Tourism is growing and helping the country. Therefore crime against foreigners is also very rare.
The city of Bam and the area to the east of Bam and Jask is known for drug trafficking and bandits.
There are ethnic conflicts and border issues. Do not travel within 100 kilometres of the Iran-Aghanistan border and 10 kilometers of the Iran-Iraq border.
The most crime you’ll see is a bit of petty theft in a crowded bazaar.
So Iran is safe to visit.
People will be super happy to see you in their country. You’ll be invited to people’s houses. All that sort of stuff.
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 a while, 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 Dias. Pedro has been leading adventures in Iran for years and knows this magical country extremely well…
Want to find out more – you can read a full review of a guest’s experience in Pakistan here.
Whenever you hit the road and go traveling, 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.
Bringing Money into Iran
No debit or credit cards will work in the country and traveller’s cheques are usually not accepted. Don’t try your luck with changing money in-country either. The rates you get will be insane because of your minimal and questionably legal options. This time, it pays to go with a good company and Mah Card is the one that’s helped me get money in and out of Iran.
Mah Card is an Iranian prepaid debit card for travelers in Iran. It’s an equivalent of your usual international credit/debit card (i.e. Visa or MasterCard) with the one major difference that your card doesn’t work in Iran. Banks in-country either don’t issue cards to foreigners or require a big, thick list of documents that tourists normally don’t carry around!
Check around with exchange rates yourself online to be sure, but we’ve found Mah Card to be pretty trustworthy and they offered Broke Backpacker readers 40% off their commission fee when they use our code, which is (you guessed it): brokebackpacker. Check them out and get your card here.
So whilst crime levels are low in Iran, and people are friendly, there are some special considerations. It starts with devastating earthquakes and ends with security forces pulling you aside for doing something considered ‘not normal’. There are certain things all travelers can do to improve safety. To help you keep out of trouble in Iran altogether, here are our top travel tips for Iran… Ready?
- Don’t speak Arabic – Iranians are Persian and speak Farsi. So learn a few phrases! It will go down very well.
- Carry your ID at all times – you have to. Copies of your passport are ok.
- If asked, show photocopies of your passport – until you can ascertain that the police asking you are genuine police.
- Get an Iranian Bank Card – non-Iranian cards aren’t accepted at ATMs or anywhere. You can’t transfer money into the country, period. You can only The easiest and safest way to manage your money is to arrange a card in advance with Mah Card. You’ll get a 40% discount on the already-reasonable commission with the code brokebackpacker.
- Make sure you have enough cash – as before, plan ahead with your money. You’ll want cash for smaller transactions. Have a discreet place to keep it when you withdraw. You can keep money and your IDs hidden in a security belt.
- Protect yourself against street crime – there’s a hot trade in passports, for example, so keep that on lockdown. Be vigilant!
- Be extra careful in big bazaars – crowded places where pickpockets lurk. Watch your surroundings and once again, a money belt gives you a perfectly inaccessible cache of cash.
- Keep away from political demonstrations, big crowds, rallies – anywhere police have been deployed. You shouldn’t be part of it anyway.
- Protests can occur on Friday after prayers – if you find yourself out and about at this time, get off the streets.
- Earthquakes happen all the time – know what to do when one happens. It’s not Japan; things aren’t very earthquake-proof.
- During Ramadan, you can’t eat, drink or smoke in daylight hours in public – even foreigners.
- Dress appropriately – rules are for tourists here, too. Modest clothing for everyone. And women must cover their heads. This is beginning to lighten, but we don’t recommend bending the rules.
- Pretend you’re married – if you’re an unmarried couple. You won’t be able to share a room otherwise (sex outside marriage is illegal).
- And on the subject – no homosexual behavior in public. Iran is far from thinking about gay rights. Any homosexual act carries the death penalty.
- Any media depicting ‘sexual relations’ are forbidden – don’t bring any of that in, then.
- So is a lot of Western media – DVDs, CDs, books. Some of it is illegal. We bet there’s a black market for some of these items though.
- Alcohol is illegal – no bar crawls from your hostel here.
- Take care when snapping pics – even if you’re only near a military building, you might be seen as a spy. Even Tehran train station. Don’t argue if someone stops you and tells you to delete the picture(s). Just tell them you’re a tourist.
- And ask if you’re going to take a picture of anybody – just polite, isn’t it?
- Digital nomads, beware – using your laptop in public is spy-like behavior, apparently.
- No drugs – foreigners have been executed for drug offenses in Iran.
- If you get arrested – you may not be allowed access to consular assistance or legal representation. Don’t get arrested!
- No-go areas are no-go for a reason – off the beaten track is not only suspicious in Iran, but highly dangerous.
Islamic rule may have made Iran a generally safe place when it comes to crime – or the lack of it – but at the same time, some of those laws are super strict. You will have to make a big effort to be as ‘normal’ as possible when you’re traveling around Iran. So stick to well-trodden routes, take pictures of ancient ruins, not military installations, and be polite to officials. In the end, none of these concerns should keep you from having an incredible experience.
Keeping your money safe in Iran
Though crime is quite low in Iran, like anywhere in the world it doesn’t NOT exist. It’s important to remember that you’re not going to be walking around like some sort of untouchable just because you’re a tourist.
In fact, in crowded places like bazaars, you’re going to be MORE of a target. Foreigners are rich and have expensive things to sell. So keep your valuables at home and use one very important piece of kit instead… a travel money belt.
That’s right, people. And when it comes to a money belt, you can splash out a load of cash to buy one that looks like a holster for a gun more than something that’s actually practical and easy to wear. That’s why we recommend the Active Roots Security Belt.
Simple. It IS an actual belt, so it’s not uncomfortable or obvious. It’s sturdy and uncomplicated. Plus it’s AFFORDABLE.
A money belt is a good idea anyway, but this one just makes the whole experience of actually WEARING a money belt better. It’s just more comfortable. So when you’re in a busy area, with your valuables safely at your hotel or in your bag (kept close to your person), you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your cash is safe in your money belt. And would-be thieves will never know. A no-brainer every trip.
If you need a little more room for your passport and other travel valuables, have a look at a full-size money belt that tucks under your clothes instead.
If neither of those options appeals to your refined fashion sense, don’t compromise! Opt for an infinity scarf with a hidden zipper pocket.
Yes. Iran is safe to travel alone. And people do travel. In fact, the locals are so friendly that you won’t even feel alone. It’s not unusual to find other backpackers traveling solo through Iran. So those solo backpacking blues almost don’t apply.
Here are our tips to help you travel solo in Iran like a pro!
- Find yourself a well-reviewed hostel or guesthouse. These can be found along well-trodden tourist routes from Tehran to Shiraz and Yazd. It’s a great place to meet other solo travelers doing what you’re doing. Who knows, you might find yourself a travel buddy, too!
- If there are no hostels available where you are, an inexpensive local guesthouse can usually be found. They’re affordable and more often than not run by super friendly people.
- Join a tour! Not only will you be able to meet some fellow travelers, but you’ll get to properly learn about Iran – not just read what your guide book is telling you.
- Get a sim card for Iran. There are kiosks for just this at Imam Khomeini International Airport. You’ll be able to use maps and – more importantly – keeping in contact with your friends and family.
- You should definitely stay connected. Going off-grid isn’t cool or clever. So keep in touch with people back home, let them know where in Iran you are, what you’re doing. A good way to keep grounded, too.
- But forget about staying connected through Facebook or Twitter. Unless you download yourself a VPN service before you go. Do some research on the best ones before making the plunge and downloading something (potentially) shady. Or just use this as a chance to stop spending so much time scrolling and liking.
- As a solo traveler, you’ll be more of a target for petty thieves, so you’ll have to pay extra attention to your surroundings and what’s going on around you.
- And you should talk to the locals! The ones running your guesthouse or hostel will be more than happy to chat with you. This is also a good chance to ask for some tips on things to do in the vicinity. This could be anything from the best places to eat to general things to see and do. Great chance to learn more about actual Iranians, as well.
- Learning a bit of Farsi wouldn’t go amiss either. People will appreciate the effort – definitely.
Iran is safe for solo travelers. Crime is pretty low on the whole and you won’t even have to worry about having no one to talk to; other backpackers and super friendly locals make traveling around Iran a social experience. Still… travel smart. In Iran, this means watching out for suspicious characters and not being one yourself.
Is Iran safe for solo female travelers?
When you tell people that you’re going to Iran as a solo female traveller you’ll get one of two reactions: “you’re mad” or “you’re brave”. We think it’s just cool. For the most part, Iran IS safe for solo female travelers, but like most places in the world, being a woman means extra to worry about.
There will be annoyances, inconveniences and – of course – pesky men. But if you’re a world-traveling female with a few stamps in your passport, you’ll be used to this stuff anyway. Either way, we’ve got some tailor-made safety tips for solo female travelers in Iran.
- There are actual laws on so-called modest dress and have been in place ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. You’ll have to cover your head in public and wear loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t show off your body. It is officially called hijab.
- Watch out in certain places, such as religious sites, you might also have to wear a chador. This is extra coverage to make you even more shapeless.
- All that said, don’t worry too much in public. In cities, women wear jeans and heels. No one’s chasing after them because of how they’re dressed. But in more rural areas, more traditional dress applies. As ever, watch what the locals are wearing.
- As a Western woman, most likely you won’t be put under the same scrutiny as Iranian women. The main thing is to cover your hair. That’s the main rule – even for tourists.
- And also as a Western woman by yourself, you might be seen as free and easy in more ways than just one by some (not all) Iranian men. Be aware of this and you might avoid unwanted attention, i.e. overfriendly men. Have your radar on. To put it into perspective, Iranian women often travel with a male chaperone (usually a member of their family).
- If an Iranian man goes to shake your hand, that’s cool – reciprocate with your left hand over your heart. BUT if there’s not one going, just leave it – don’t initiate a handshake.
- If you need to ask for directions, find and ask a local woman. They’ll be happy to help you.
- Not only is there a women’s section at the back of buses in Iran, but there’s also a handy women’s entrance too because men cannot share the same door as women. Havoc and mayhem.
- In Iran, women and families areas exist in restaurants. Women don’t have to sit here, but you might find it more comfortable than the men’s area.
- And on a similar note, steer clear of teahouses. These are the male domains of Iran and you will most likely get some harassment for going there as a solo female traveler. Iranian women don’t frequent them.
- If an Iranian guy invites you round his house, that’s fine. But you shouldn’t go if there are none of his female relatives in the house.
- Violence against women isn’t common – or at least you don’t hear much about it – but you may get groped, touched on the bum, that sort of thing, in crowds. The only things to do are remove yourself and then tell someone if the harassment escalates.
- In some cities, such as Yazd there are women-only taxi services. This is a safe way to get around. You can even hire female guides in some places too.
- And make sure that the places you’re staying in Iran have good reviews from other solo female backpackers. Doing your research when it comes to accommodation is always important, but favorable reviews from other women is usually a good sign of a great place to stay.
- You can also meet other female travelers at hostels. Good for chatting, sharing tips, getting rid of solo traveling blues, or even making a travel buddy to explore Iran with.
- Don’t expect to have sanitary bins in the toilets. So go prepared with a little bag yourself and dispose of it elsewhere. That said, you can find sanitary pads if you need to buy them. Stock up on tampons though.
Women in Iran, especially in the cities, aren’t so different from Western women. That might surprise you. Often they’ll even DATE like Western people, but they don’t advertise it to the rest of the world. They’re much more private about their personal lives. Fair enough.
Surprisingly it IS safe to travel as a solo female traveler to Iran. It’s not without its annoyances, and you MAY find the separation of men and women a bit weird, but it’s just another way of doing things in this world.
One thing that will stick out to you is how nice Iranian people are. Women and men. They’re kind, personable, friendly, interested in you and your culture, proud of their country and eager to tell you about it. Don’t be put off by what other people think. Iran is truly amazing.
Is Iran safe to travel for families?
If you travel to Iran with your children, be prepared for everyone to literally fall in love with them.
Children are a big deal in Iran, and Western children are a huge novelty.
You’ll honestly have to get used to your kids getting showered with attention. Lots of people wanting to take pictures, your kid getting handed around and kissed a lot (even on the lips) to the point where you might be like, “ok guys, enough’s enough.”
That’s doesn’t mean it’s not safe. The opposite actually!
And Iran can be a great place to take children. Small children can be quite a challenge, though, as it’s not particularly set-up for babies or small children.
There are parks and things, but not a lot of family-friendly activities for you to be getting on with.
Parks are also where Iranians love to picnic. Families are always picnicking. So if you feel like doing this, definitely go for it. You’ll find yourself joined by other parents and their children, and a whole lot of food-sharing!
Older kids will love it though. Seriously, what an adventure!
If you’re traveling with your daughter over 9 years old, the rules about hijab (head covering and loose clothing) apply.
Eating big meals with family is normal. People will be more than happy to help you out at restaurants. They may even be happy to make you child-sized portions that are non-spicy, too! Staying at guesthouses and hotels mean that you’ll have a big breakfast included.
You’re not going to find baby food though. Even in Tehran, it’s going to be tricky to find baby food in jars or things like that.
Seatbelts in the back of cars and baby seats aren’t common either. Going on a roadtrip in Iran with children in tow can be really tricky. You’ll have to plan ahead well.
You can also use the women-only carriages on the metro in Tehran with your children. Only mum, not dad though.
Be aware also that a lot of toilets are squat toilets and don’t come with toilet roll. Remember to carry enough hygienic paper for your entire party.
So whilst it’s safe to travel for families in Iran, it’s not the easiest place.
And you will have to be prepared for all that attention, especially if your child is of the light-haired, light-eyed variety.
Is it safe to drive in Iran?
Iran’s got big, beautiful landscapes that are ACE for exploring by car.
There are some AWESOME roadtrips along the scenic coastline, hidden villages to unearth, and mountainous routes to wind around.
That said… You’ll have to be pretty brave to get behind the wheel in Iran.
Drivers can be pretty erratic and aggressive. There’s not a lot of courtesy for other drivers and they often drive at high speeds.
Even if you’re being driven around by somebody, you might have to tell them to slow down sometimes!
Yes, it’s got a pretty high rate of road accidents.
It’s got one of the HIGHEST per capita number of road deaths on the planet. In 2015 it was 8th in the world (2nd in Asia).
There are other things to worry about too, like roadblocks. These can be set up in cities or on highways equally. The officers who staff these aren’t always the most experienced, so make sure you have your ID. And definitely DON’T get into any arguments. Just do what they say.
The cities can be hectic. They are traffic-laden and polluted. Intersections in cities can be super busy. No one really seems to know where they’re going. Crazy beeping horns, buses, and motorbikes that jump red lights and zip along the sidewalks to get ahead.
Outside of the cities, the main concern is the roads themselves. They’re not in great condition. They probably won’t be lit and wildlife makes for extra hazards.
If you go on a roadtrip, make sure you are well equipped with lots of drinking water and that you have the means to change a flat tire. Iran is vast (17th largest in the world) and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere would be dangerous.
As a side note: Women ARE allowed to drive – but not motorbikes, weirdly. Sorry about that.
So in general, unless you really want to, or you’ve got some experience driving in places like this, we would say just get the train. Even statistically speaking, it’s not really safe to drive in Iran.
Is Uber safe in Iran?
No Uber. Nope.
There IS another option but in Tehran. It’s called Snapp. This came to the market in 2014 but it’s the same.
You hail a taxi from your phone. Download the app, verify a number, and then… Use it like Uber.
You can only pay with cash (unless you’ve got an Iranian debit card).
The good thing about Snapp is that they do have female drivers for women and children. So that’s a plus. Other than that, all the other Uber-like benefits are there for Snapp, making it a pretty safe option.
Are taxis safe in Iran?
There are loads of taxis in Iran.
However, they’re not always going to be honest. A lot of the time, you’ll find yourself being ripped off. Don’t expect to see meters in the taxis.
There are a few types of taxis.
The safest of them all are agency taxis. Surprise surprise, they’re also the most expensive. But they are pretty safe. You can call these or get your hotel to arrange one for you. Sometimes the driver might even speak English, too.
In Tehran and Yazd you’ll find female taxi drivers for females and families, so you won’t have to worry about any dodgy taxi drivers.
You also won’t have to worry about the state of the cars. They’re usually new(ish).
Otherwise, there are just regular taxis that you can either hire privately or shared.
Any empty taxi can basically be ‘chartered’. When you get in the driver will probably ask you: Dar baste? This means, ‘Closed door?’
If you say Nah dar baste – then you’re up for sharing the taxi.
Not up for sharing? Then nod your head. Or say yes.
Then that taxi is yours! They’ll take you anywhere you want to go. Like a taxi should, obviously. But go by landmark rather than a specific address.
But make sure you don’t get ripped off on these. Do not agree on the first fare they give you. It’ll be astronomically high. Go low and meet somewhere in the middle.
Sharing a taxi is cheaper, but you’ll need to tell them where you’re going; also like a taxi. They can be uncomfortable, obviously, since there may be a few other passengers…
Avoid/ignore hawkers or taxi touts, whatever you want to call them.
Sometimes you really can’t avoid hiked up prices. Drivers know you’re from the West and are comparatively rich. And sometimes, the taxi will have a monopoly in a certain area since there’s no other taxi in sight. Bad luck. Pay up and get to your location or be stranded!
Taxis are safe in Iran but there IS a high chance of being ripped off. Be savvy and do your research on how much things should cost.
Is public transportation in Iran safe?
Like most other things in this country, the public transport in Iran is safe.
Tehran has a metro. Amazing!
It’s fairly easy to navigate. There are four lines. But like anywhere, watch your pockets in rush hour.
The metro is clean, not too hectic, and pretty cheap. It’s ideal if you’re on a budget.
Get yourself a metro card, which is handy. Just beep yourself in and out.
Fortunately, a lot of the signs are in English.
There are female-only sections on the metro. That’s just because that’s how it is here, not because of safety. Use them if you’re a woman, but you don’t have to.
City buses connect all over the place and make a lot of stops. Yes, they’re slow and they may not have English information. They can also be quite confusing for tourists. Women enter and sit at the back.
The BRT buses in Tehran are much better. They have English signage and information. They’re red and have their own lanes. They’re quick, newer, and women sit at the front.
When it comes to traveling intercity, buses are cheap, frequent, and easy to use to get around.
You can always get a VIP bus. These are more comfortable, quicker, and even come with a SNACK! That snack (and the rest of the perks) comes at a price though, but it’s not going to break the bank.
Intercity buses have arranged seating. Women sit next to women, men sit next to men; unless you’re traveling as a couple in Iran.
This is so serious that if you’re a woman and there’s only one spare seat left the entire bus will literally be moved around until something works out.
Train travel is a whole lot of fun in Iran! The Trans Iranian Railway connects the Caspian Sea with the Persian Gulf and dates back to the 1930s.
It’s got a lot going for it. It’s well connected. It’s budget friendly; choose between private cabins or mixed ones.
They’re definitely the option if you want to get chatting to locals. You’ll definitely meet some friendly people, and get given a lot of snacks!
The only problem is trains often arrive at their destinations in the middle of the night. No, not the easiest way to arrive at a new place. So you may prefer to take the bus.
But that’s pretty much it. The public transport is safe in Iran.
Is the food in Iran safe?
Food in Iran is wonderfully tasty. There are meat stews like the chicken fesenjen, with pomegranates and walnuts (delicious). There’s the dizi (slow cooked beef and vegetables). You can even try camel stew. If you really want to, that is. Basically, there’s a lot on offer.
And then there’s the ever faithful kebab. Always a good option. But a lot of travelers find it hard to get into Iran’s food. Not understanding what things are and being scared to try will mean you won’t discover anything new. So we’ve got some tips to help you out.
- Freshly prepared dishes are your best bet if you want to avoid a bad stomach. Going for something like the khoresh – the Farsi word for a stew – might give you some trouble, especially if you’ve got a fragile stomach anyway.
- Breakfast and dinner are pretty small affairs. Lunch fans, you’ll love this: lunch is the main event. Expect big portions and people sitting around for a LONG time enjoying it all. You’re going to have to adjust your eating habits accordingly.
- Find restaurants that are busy with locals. In Iran as in most places in the world, a restaurant is going to be pretty popular if it’s tasty. It will also be unlikely to be making anyone ill. So find busy places and go for it. If a place is empty, or people are walking past it to go to a different place, then don’t go there just because it’s not busy. Follow the locals!
- The bread is pretty tasty in Iran. It goes with most meals. This big flatbread cooked hot and fresh in a kiln. So if you’re struggling with food, go for some bread. Simple and delicious, as bread should be.
- There’s fruit galore in Iran. There’s a lot of it. If you’re worried about how they may affect your stomach, then you should steer clear of pretty much everything that you can’t peel yourself. You don’t know what the water was like that washed the fruit, or how clean the hands were that peeled it for you.
- Learn some Farsi. Even if you don’t learn the script – which would be impressive – just learning to recognize certain dishes will help you out. Doing some research on Iranian cuisine, learning how to order in Farsi, even just a bit, will help you get the most out of your time here.
- A lot of Iranians eat food at picnics. Grab something from the market (something freshly cooked), put it in your fridge (hotels pretty much always have one in each room) and head to the parks to join Iranians in their picnicking.
- But during Ramadan… You cannot eat in public during daylight hours. Plan in advance. This is the actual law and it applies to tourists as well.
- And WASH YOUR HANDS before you eat. The most simple thing and a very easy way to keep yourself healthy.
Basically, the food in Iran is safe. Food hygiene isn’t much of an issue. A lot of dishes have been cooked hot – we’re talking stews that have been cooked for 12 hours straight. If you’re really worried, never go to a restaurant that looks dirty or is completely deserted.
And tuck into falafel and figs. Meat might not always be your stomach’s friend in Iran. To be on the safe side, you could always pack yourself some anti-diarrhea medication, and hand sanitizer won’t go amiss, either. In general, the food here is safe and delicious!
Can you drink the water in Iran?
Water in Iran is mainly safe to drink. That’s the case through most of the country.
A lot of people who DO visit Iran prefer to drink bottled water, but please don’t. It’s best to bring along a refillable water bottle and a purification system to save on all that plastic.
We use a filter bottle or a the GRAYL GEOPRESS to make sure our water is clean, but boiling for a few minutes works if you have the supplies and the time.
Don’t drink from rivers and lakes without treating; you can get really sick from doing that.
Is Iran safe to live?
There’s a lot of propaganda surrounding Iran. Many people in the West assume it’s hostile to foreigners.
To be fair, the Iranian government does have disagreements with various governments around the world.
However, Westerners DO live in Iran. Most of these are in Tehran. This is the obvious choice. It’s more developed and everything you’d expect of a capital city.
If you want to live in Tehran, the north of the city is the affluent area. We’re talking European style buildings, lower levels of pollution, mountain scenery, and a good selection of amenities.
Central Tehran, as well as the East and West, feature a mix of different people. You still get good infrastructure and services, but life in these parts of the capital is rougher around the edges.
It’s probably best to avoid South Tehran as it’s got high pollution levels and a bad reputation.
In terms of safety during daily life in Tehran, the most dangerous thing you’ll have to deal with is car-based. Crossing the road and heavy pollution are issues.
You’ll also have to get used to a new weekend.
Thursday afternoons and all of Friday will replace Saturdays and Sundays. This can take some getting used to.
Other things to get used to: covering your hair if you’re a female, not wearing shorts, not drinking alcohol, and not really being able to criticize the government.
But Iranian people are very friendly, social, family-oriented people. They’re welcoming and hospitable. You shouldn’t have any problem with your security and safety living in Iran.
How is healthcare in Iran?
Healthcare in Iran is basically split between urban and rural.
In cities, medical facilities are pretty good. They keep a reasonable standard.
Tehran, Esfahan, and Shiraz have an international standard actually. They’re well equipped with doctors who have trained abroad.
If you need to go to a hospital, or at least see a doctor, ask a local. They’ll point you in the right direction of the best place to go to nearby.
You won’t have to worry too much about the language barrier. A lot of staff will have some level of English so that you can both communicate.
In remote areas, don’t expect to be able to get access to a medical professional.
Even a local medical center won’t even have things like basic medicine or sterile dressing, and these places won’t have doctors either, just not-very-well-trained nurses.
You can get medicine and dressings from pharmacies in cities, so stock up on these before you head to more remote areas.
Though healthcare in Iran is acceptable, you’ll only find this in the cities. Ensure you have adequate health insurance!
Helpful Iran Travel Phrases
Final thoughts on the safety of Iran
Iran is in some respects unfairly vilified. It’s definitely enemy of the peace in the eyes of the West, but for the most part, this is to do entirely with governments; Governments not agreeing with each other on world issues. There are definitely some alarming things about Iran – the level of political freedom. But when it comes to visiting Iran: it’s safe.
Whether or not it’s a result of strict laws, crime levels are low. Surprisingly – unlike many other countries in the region – women fare quite well in Iran; in terms of safety, at least. Freedom-wise, we’re not so sure. It’s a pretty interesting place. Like many ‘no-go’ countries, it ends being a fascinating visit because many of us only ever knew it (quite incorrectly) as a demonic place under the crushing rule of Islam.
You may have to be modest in your dress. You can’t eat in public during Ramadan. You’ve got to be careful how you talk to police and government officials. But we haven’t disqualified countries like Singapore and Indonesia because of their strict rules. Iran is a different country. We mean, it has an actual different weekend! That’s pretty different. And when it comes to difference, we should embrace it as travelers. So go and see what all the fuss is about. But definitely also get travel insurance, to cover your ass.
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you purchase your insurance through this page. This costs you nothing extra and helps us keep the site going.
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