Iran, also known as Persia until 1935, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran is a large country in the Middle East and West Asia, between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. Iran is an ancient country and for culturally inquisitive, Iran offers over 19 historic sites registered in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage. The Persian Kingdom was one of the great powers of the ancient world, and Palaces and rock carvings dating back 2500 years can still be seen. A Land full of ancient sights, a rich culture packed with exquisite mosques and wonderful Islamic architecture. The landscape of Iran is diverse, providing a unique experience; visit some of the greatest mosques and palaces, bazaars and enjoy the quiet contemplation of Persian gardens and ancient civilization of Persepolis.
This information has been compiled for your reference in good faith but please use this only as a general guide. We advise you to check with relevant authorities with regard to the latest requirement for passport, visa, travel advisory, entry restrictions, health requirements, local currency etc as these are subjected to change with without prior notice and our information given below may not be as updated.
Best time to go: Iran, due to its vast territory offers all sorts of climates and conditions. Weather in Iran can be humid, dry, hot or cold depending on where you are. The hottest month is July. During winter there is substantial snowfall in certain regions. Spring and autumn are quite short season in Iran. Winter temperatures often fall below freezing especially in the mountain, while summers can be hot. The best time to visit Iran is from mid April to early June and late September to early November.
Visa: All foreign visitors require a visa to enter Iran. These are issued by the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is located at 151 Te Anau Road, Roseneath, Wellington. The maximum duration of stay on a tourist visa is 30 days. Please allow 4-6 weeks to process the visa. It is your responsibility to make sure you have the correct documentation and all advice here is given in good faith.
Currency: Iranian Rial is the official currency of Iran. However, while all the notes state ‘Rail’ there is another currency that is used, which is called Toman. Iranians often talk in terms of Tomans, a unit equal to 10 rials. US Dollars and Euro’s are the most useful. Coins are available in denominations of 10, 50, 100 and 250 Rial, while banknotes in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10000 Rials. Iran is a cash society and credit cards are only accepted by selected stores for large purchases.
Health: Iran does not have any particular health risk. However, there are a few precautions recommended - avoid eating food exposed to natural elements and ensure that mineral water bottle is properly sealed when you buy it. Carry your general medication with your and consult your doctor well in advance to prepare for the trip.
Food and drinks: Since Iran is a diverse, there are ranges of culinary traditions across the Iranian provinces making food in Iran extremely diverse. Iranian food tends to be both healthy and nutritious. Iranian food includes wide variety from Chelow Kebab (rice served with roasted meat), Khoresht (stew served Iranian rice: Ghormeh Sabzi, Gheimeh, Fesenjān, and others), Āsh (a thick soup: for example Āsh-e anār), Kuku (vegetable soufflé), Polo (rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs, including Loobia Polo, Albaloo Polo, Sabzi Polo, Zereshk Polo, Baghali Polo and others), and a diverse variety of salads, pastries, and drinks specific to different parts of Iran. The list of Persian recipes, appetizers and desserts is extensive.
Hygienically food in Iran is safe and clean and almost everywhere plastic gloves are used to prepare the food. On the whole, food in Iran tends to be healthy, simple and colourful. Iranian meals are mostly eaten with a spoon and fork, but visitors may choose a Western dish and prefer to eat with a knife and fork.
It is recommended that tourists use bottled water for drinking and tap water for washing. Soft drinks in Iran are generally served in bottles and rarely in cartons. ‘Doug’, which is a yogurt drink and tea, are popular drinks.
Safety & security: Like in any other part of the world, a few precautions need to be taken to avoid any problems. Please do not leave your bags unattended at any times. Please use safe deposit in your hotel room or Reception to keep your money or valuables including passport. When you leave the room, it is recommended that you lock your suitcase. It is also recommended to carry a copy of your passport including the visa page. Also, take the usual precautions against pickpockets in crowded bazaars.
Clothing: The weather in spring and autumn is very comfortable throughout the country. It is recommended during summer months to wear lightweight and easily washable clothing. Hats and sunglasses are highly recommended for protection from the sun. Men are not allowed to wear shorts. Traditionally Iranian women wear Chador. This is a long cloak, usually made from dark colour fabric. Female tourists are not required to buy a chador, however when in public women are required to cover everything but their face, hands and feet. Warm clothing is recommended during winter months.
Language: Iran has a mixed population speaking a variety of Indo-Iranian, Semitic, and Turkic languages. The speakers of Indo-Iranian include speakers of Persian (Farsi), the official language of the country. Beside the official language of Iran, there are 5 other languages that are spoken throughout the country: Turkish, Kurdish, Baluchi, Armanian and Arabic. The local population does not understand English but the people working in the people working in the hospitality industry are able to converse in English although they may not be as fluent.
Gratuities: As service charges are almost always included in the bill, tipping is not always necessary in Iran. An additional 5% - 10% may be added if the service was very good.
Airport tax: Generally your international air ticket should include airport tax on international departure. Domestic taxes are also included in the air tickets
Internet: Almost all major hotels provide their guests with Internet facilities. Though, expect little to no access in rural and remote areas.
Telephone: Iran has a dialling code of +98 from New Zealand. Telephone numbers of Hotels arranged by us will be supplied to you in your itinerary. While calling New Zealand from Turkey, you will need to dial +64.
Time Difference: Iran is seven and half hour behind New Zealand from April to September and nine and half hour from October to March
Photography: Taking photos of airports, government buildings and military establishments are prohibited.
Electricity: The standard voltage is 230V/50 Hz. Both European and British style sockets are available, however it is recommended to carry adaptors.
Cities of Interest
Tehran at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, the once-fortified capital was a village near Rey. The Mongols demolished Rey and Tehran was later chosen as the capital of the country during the 18th century, when much of its finest architecture was built. The capital city has been relocated many times, throughout Iran’s history with Tehran being the 32nd national capital of Iran. Tehran has a wealth of cultural attractions. The Peacock Throne of the Persian Kings can be found in Tehran’s Golestan Palace. During the redevelopment and rebuilding in the 1920s and 1930s, Tehran has become subject to mass migration of people from all over Iran. Apart from many historic mosques, several churches, synagogues and Zoroastrain Fire temple, Adazi Tower and the Milad Tower have come to symbolize the city.
Located in the central Iran, south of Tehran - Isfahan or “Nesf-e-Jahan”as Persians call it, which means “Half the World” is considered to be one the most beautiful cities in the world. Isfahan has twice been the capital city of Persia. Today Isfahan is Iran’s number one tourist destination. Persian gardens, the significant Islamic buildings give it a visual appeal unmatched by any other Iranian city. The highlight of Isfahan would include walk through the historic bazaar, which is one of the oldest and the largest bazaars in the Middle East. The bazaar is a vaulted 2km street linking the old city with the new. Also, walk over the picturesque bridges and across the Central Square, which is World Heritage listed and view magnificent Persian handicrafts all around the square and bazaars.
Celebrates as the heartland of Persian culture for over 2000 years, Shiraz has become synonymous with nightingales, poetry and wine. Birthplace of the great Persian poets Saadi and Hafez, Shiraz is cherished throughout Iran as a city of Poets. Their resting places, known as the Saadieh and Hafezieh respectively are major pilgrimage sites for Iranians. Shiraz is also home to splendid gardens and beautiful mosques. Many of Shiraz best historic sites are within easy reach of one another. Visit nearby Persepolis and Necropolis that are world heritage listed and a major tourism attraction.
Capital of East Azerbaijan province, in the Azerbaijan region of Iran, Tabriz is an ancient city with a history going back about 4,500 years. The city is 1366m above sea level and situated on the northern slopes of Sahand Mountain. Many factories and industrial activities have changed Tabriz into one of the Industrial centres in the country. Apart from the Industrial productivity, Tabriz has very rich history and used to house many historical monuments. Unfortunately, many of these monuments were substantially damanged and destroyed during several invasions. Many monuments in the city date back to the Ilkhanid, Safavid, and Qajar periods, with the largest Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex being listed on World Heritage List in 2010.
Yazd city located in central Iran is one of the driest cities in Iran. Also known for the Zoroastrain culture, Yazd is an architecturally unique city. Famous for its ancient ventilation system of badgirs (windtowers), designed to catch even the faintest of breezes and channel to the building below. Yazd is also popular for high quality handicrafts, especially silk weaving and its sweets shops. The most famous sight in Yazd is the Jameh Mosque (Friday Mosque) with mosaic-decorated dome.
Hamedan province is situated in a mountainous area in the centre of western Iran. Hamedan’s appropriate climate for farming and grazing activities has been home to different ancient civilizations. Hamedan province is one of the most ancient parts of Iran. Many historical and cultural significant sites are located in Hamedan, making the province a rich in terms of historical attractions. Cultural diversity of different ethnic groups such as Lorish, Kurdish, Turkish, Lak and Persian has added value to this area. With history of more than 5000 years old Hamedan Province is among historical cities.
Second largest populated city after Tehran, Mashhad city is located in the northeast of Iran. Mashhad also referred to as ‘Holy Mashhad’ is home to one of the holiest pilgrim sites for Shia Muslims. There are number of shrines in Mashhad but the most prominent shrines is of Imam Raza, who is Shia-Muslims 8th Iman and he was buried in this city. The city has been built around the shrine of Imam Reza. Apart from its religious significance, the complex of Imam Reza Shrine is an architectural masterpiece decorated with intricate tiles, calligraphy, courtyard and beautiful porches. Other places to visit in Mashhad include Carpet museum, where you see handmade carpets with amazing designs and calligraphy.