How nice it would be if wars didn't exist and we could travel the world without getting into trouble! If there were no unsafe areas or if the media did not bombard us with news and create so many fears in us ...
I say all this because if I propose to travel to Iran, you will surely have a lot of doubts and fears. After all Iran does not have a good press, although its millenary history is still a magnet that is hard to resist. The adventure of your life? You can do it, but really It will be a much quieter and safer trip than you can imagine so in this first article I leave you the practical information to plan your trip:
Iran, ancient Persia
If it were up to me I would never have changed the name. Persia it's a great name. He had it until 1935 but it is understood that his people wanted to change it because it was an imposed name and not the native one. The native name is Iran so the international community recognized it although due to some controversies nowadays you can use both.
It is believed that at some point in history a people of Indo-European origin arrived who are the ancestors of today's Western Europeans, Iranians, and Indians. Already before the appearance of the great civilizations of Mesopotamia there were humans living here, but written history in Iran begins in 3200 BC. From then on, different dynasties followed, even Alexander the Great arrived, until the Arabs managed to conquer Iran and gradually the Iranians, followers of Zoroastrianism, were converting to Islam.
What was once a very large kingdom was losing territory. There was a revolution at the beginning of the XNUMXth century that marked the end of the Middle Ages in the country but things did not evolve democratically and the constant presence of European powers in the area did not help at all. The revolution of '79 at the hands of Ayatollah Khomeini ended with the founding of the modern Republic of Iran.
Today, despite the passage of so many conquering and usurping peoples, Iran retains its own identity and knowing it is a wonderful adventure.
The first thing to do is reassure family and friends if one decides to travel to Iran. That is why you have to be well informed. If your country maintains diplomatic relations with Iran, it is possible to get a visaIf this is not the case, you must travel to a country that does have an Iranian embassy. Before applying for the visa you must request an Authorization Coden, then it will be determined whether the visa is delivered to you or not. There you choose the embassy where you will carry out the procedure and once selected you will not be able to change it (that is why it is convenient to choose the embassy of the city from which you will take the flight).
Processing the authorization code if you do not go with a tour costs 35 euros. The cost of the visa already depends on your nationality, but calculate about 100 or more euros. What are the times? Code processing can take weeks and it may happen that it arrives just days before your trip. That is why the best advice is that you do not book or buy flights until you have the visa in your hands. Yes, it will be almost at the last minute. There is no other. A good option is to travel to Turkey beforehand, very close, and do everything from there.
The country maintains relations with 180 countries with which a visa can be processed upon arrival. It is not so advisable to trust because year after year the number of tourists arriving in Iran grows: 4, 7 million in 2013 and 5.2 in 2015. Since February 2016 the government has delivered visas upon arrival of 30 days to citizens of these 180 countries. Luckily Spain enters that list, not the United States, Canada or Colombia.
These visas on arrival are issued at Tehran Khomeini, Theran Mehrabad, Mashad, Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan airports. If you travel on a tour it will be easier because the agency gives you a letter to present at the airline and at passport control. Could your visa request be rejected? Yes, especially if you are a journalist, work in a media outlet or you traveled to Israel before.
By last, Should you go on a tour or go alone? This deppends on each one. There are good tourism agencies although you see a lot in a short time. 14 days, dozens of places to the bullfights. The advantage is that you still get to visit places that may only be difficult and in the hands of experts in Persian history and culture. The downside is that you have very little time to yourself.
It is possible to travel on your own, even in women's groups. Yes, you must follow the customs strictly. Wherever you go, do what you see, says the wise saying. Of course, there are no small hostels or guest houses, very few, so accommodation is concentrated in large and not very cheap hotels. You will read that women who travel alone are viewed badly or with suspicion but I have read many notes from female travelers who have returned in wonder from Iran and its hospitality.
Also, being a woman, wearing a scarf, you can converse with Iranian women and enter their homes, something that men will never be able to do. There is a Moral Police but neither are they the Hitler Youth and they are not chasing tourists. As long as you respect the dress rules, you will have no problems: headscarf, medium or long sleeves, loose pants (although some Iranians wear leggings, you'll see), sandals, slippers and not much else. If something is missing you go to the bazaar and that's it.
What currency is used in Iran? You can take euros and dollars and change them to the local currency, the Iranian rial. There are official exchange offices. One thing you should keep in mind is that there is only one currency but it has two names: the Rial and the Toman. It takes a bit of getting used to but in general the prices are said in Toman so all you have to do is add a zero to the price you see, if it is not in Rials, and you already have it.
Is there fast and secure internet in Iran? Will you be able to communicate with friends, upload photos, make calls on WhatsApp? It is not Japan, it is not Europe. Internet is slow and many of the social networks you use, Facebook, Snapchat, are blocked. Fortunately This is not the case with Instagram and WhatsApp. In general, the use of the service is paid by the hour. Traveling to Iran is like traveling thirty years ago, everyone being prepared for sporadic communications. And yes, for me that has its charm.
Do you want to leave open? Hahahahahaha. This is not Dublin. Here no bars, Islam bans alcohol or the discos so forget about that. You will enjoy tea and super tasty infusions of many fruits, even coffee, but there is no alcohol.
And we come to the end of our article on what to know before traveling to Iran with two more topics: here nobody runs so times are slow. Join them, otherwise you will end up angry with everyone. And regarding the option of finding cheap accommodation, I will tell you that Although couchsurfing is illegal, it is possible and very common. We follow it in another article where I will tell you all the tourist attractions that Iran has, a wonderful country.