10 Tips for Women Traveling to IranMiddle East, Passports & Visas — By Mary on April 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm
I recently traveled to the Islamic Republic of Iran, alone, with the purpose of clearing my mind and finding my way again. I also wanted to buy some amazing handicrafts, indulge in the fantasy of being able to afford a Persian rug, and enjoy endless cups of tea with nabat (saffron sugar sticks). Americans are often under the impression that one cannot “go to Iran,” and to some extent this is true. You can’t just hope on a plane, and embark for Tehran if you’re an American. They won’t even let you on that plane unless you have a pre-approved by the Iranian embassy visa. So here are some things you should know about traveling to Iran, perhaps the safest destination in the Middle East or Central Asia for women travelers.
1. Iranians love Americans, and they will welcome you with open arms into their country and their homes.
2. The visa process isn’t as intimidating as they make it out to be, look around for a tour agency that will accommodate you and the rest will fall into place. The best part of the visa process for me was taking new passport photos in the hijaab.
3. It’s mandatory to wear a headscarf in public, but scarves are fashionable, and in most places in Iran “wearing the scarf” is a loose term, which means your hair is somewhat-kind-of-covered by cloth.
4. You don’t have to wear all black or loose-unattractive clothing in order to get by. Iranian women happen to be extremely fashionable, and if you buy clothes there, it’s super cheap.
5. You will not be harassed or suffer from unwanted attention the way it is in other places. Being a western tourist will immediately draw some attention to you, but it’s positive and will be followed with a cup of tea and an invitation to dinner.
6. The handicrafts available are one of a kind, and many are much more affordable than a Persian carpet. If you buy from the person who actually produces the craft it will be much more authentic and at a better price than if you try to find your way through the expansive Bazaar. Min-ah can be purchased in Isfahan, Ceramics and Termeh in Yazd.
7. Isfahan nefsujahan, Isfahan is half the world or so they say, and I would tend to agree. If you go to Iran, and don’t go to Isfahan, then you haven’t been to Iran. Handicrafts, a Bazaar, a river to sit by, what more could one want from a city filled with calm and hospitable people?
8. Picnics. If you can, go on a picnic with an Iranian family as you set out to explore. Maybe you won’t speak the same language, but the scenery, the food, and the laughter will be more important than the complication of words.
9. Sometimes you have to give yourself up to Iran. Let go, let things happen as they will, and you’ll find yourself falling in love with the country and it’s people.
10. You will have a guide with you for the entirety of your trip, view it as an amazing travel bonus. Learn Farsi, ask questions, and capitalize on having a new Iranian friend who can guide you through the complexities of one of the Middle East’s most polarizing nations.
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