Thank you for booking your holiday with Travel The Unknown. We love Iran and we are confident that you will go away with fantastic memories of your tour in this incredible country. Please read the Money Exchange section below under the Money Matters heading, so you don't get caught out and also pay particular attention to the Cultural Sensitivity (dress code) section under the Responsible Travel heading. Please contact us if there's anything else you need to know before your trip.
Your final itinerary will include the day-by-day details of your trip, meal plan, accommodation and relevant contacts. If you do not have your final itinerary, or are unsure about it, please contact us by one of the methods below:
Phone (UK): 020 7183 6371
Phone (US): 1 800 604 6024
Phone (IRL): 01 254 8657
Itineraries are correct at the time of printing and are updated throughout the year to incorporate suggestions from past travellers, our own research and information from our guides and local operators. Itineraries are also subject to change as a result of local and individual trip circumstances, and are to be treated as a guide rather than a definitive plan. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about this. Please ensure that you have read and reviewed the final copy of your final Trip Notes and itinerary at least a week prior to travel in case there have been changes that may affect you.
Health & Safety
It is important to keep a high standard of hygiene when travelling, just as you would at home. Wash your hands with soap and water or antibacterial gel before eating or drinking and after using the toilet.
We recommend that you stick to drinking bottled water and even use it to brush your teeth as tap water may be unsafe to drink. When dining, avoid food which has been left out (especially in the heat), salads and raw vegetables (as they may have been washed in local water) and ice creams (which may have been made with local water or allowed to thaw and re-freeze). Decline ice cubes in cold drinks and remove them when provided, as they may also be made with local untreated water.
When organising your own meals, be selective where you eat. Choose places that seem quite clean and where you see many locals eating. A high turnover usually means food is not left lying around and is made fresh.
All Travel The Unknown travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in the group travel experience. If, in the opinion of our ground handler, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Travel The Unknown reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. Please read the itinerary for this tour thoroughly and pay close attention to the Activity Ratings shown on our website and then realistically self-assess your physical ability to complete the trip as described. Please consult with your doctor if you have any doubts or give us a call with any queries you may have.
An excellent resource for up-to-date travel medicinal requirements is www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk. We recommend that you consult your doctor or a travel clinic at least 45 days prior to your departure for up-to-date medical travel information. You should also carry a first aid kit, as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that in some more remote areas you could be some distance away from medical facilities. For legal reasons, our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drugs, including headache tablets and antibiotics.
At the time of writing the following vaccinations were recommended for travel to Iran: Hepatitis A and Tetanus. Others to consider included: Hepatitis B, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Cholera, Rabies.
Travellers should vigilantly protect themselves against mosquito bites from Spring until Autumn by wearing long-sleeved tops and long trousers, and using a mosquito repellent with a high quantity of DEET.
There is rarely any trouble in the areas our tours cover. We closely monitor the safety situation on a continuous basis, using both government sources and our own network of contacts on the ground, and will amend the itinerary if safety concerns require us to. Please check www.fco.gov.uk for the latest government advice on travel to the region and please contact us if you have any further questions or concerns about safety issues.
When travelling, you are subject to the same dangers that you may find at home, such as theft or pick pocketing in busy places. Travelling with an experienced group leader will help protect your trip from such dangers, but do not let your guard down completely. You are still responsible for your own belongings. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities; however during your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. Any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Travel The Unknown itinerary, and Travel The Unknown makes no guarantees about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement. Travel The Unknown cannot be held responsible for any injuries or losses that may occur during any such optional activity. Please also note that Travel The Unknown retains the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
To ensure the safety of your documents and other valuables, we strongly recommend that you use a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, whilst a lock is recommended for securing your luggage. It is not advisable to bring valuable jewellery when travelling.
Generally speaking, Iran is a safe place, crime rates are low and most Iranians are very honest. However, normal precautions against pick pockets and petty criminals should be taken and you should always know where your important belongings are. Drugs are something not tolerated by the Iranian regime and we strongly advise that you take this seriously.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some people spend a lot of money on drinks, whereas others may spend more on souvenirs or presents. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing money for drinks, shopping, participation in optional activities and tipping.
- a soft drink in bar/restaurant $2-4
- a meal in a mid-range restaurant $10-20
- 10km taxi ride in a big city $5-7
Tipping is completely voluntary and often not expected. It is, however, almost always appreciated. It is customary on tours to tip guides and drivers if you have been happy with their services.
If you would like to tip whilst in Iran, the following guidelines will give you an average tipping amount:
Suggested tip per person:
Guide for 1 Day $10
Guide for 3 Days $20
Guide for 1 Week $50
Guide for 2 Weeks $80
Driver for 1 Day $5
Driver for 3 Days $10
Driver for 1 Week $25
Driver for 2 Weeks $40
Restaurant 7-10% of total bill
Porter at hotel $1
Please note, departure tax for Iran is only levied on Nationals of Iran, residing in Iran.
Please make sure you have access to an additional £200 ($300), to be used if unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster or political strife) necessitate a change to our intended itinerary. This is not a common occurrence, but it is better to be prepared.
Iran is currently cut off from the international financial markets and it is NOT possible to get money from banks, ATMs or through travellers cheques. You must bring any money you will need for your trip IN CASH.
It is best to exchange your foreign currency (ideally US dollars, Euros or Sterling) in money exchange shops or in small amounts at your hotel. If bringing dollars, the only acceptable notes are ones that have been issued after 2006. If bringing Euros, the only acceptable notes are ones that have been issued after 2000. Money exchange shops may be found in all major towns and cities, as well as in almost all hotels (though the rate in some hotels is not particularly good). There are no money exchange shops at the Tehran airport, only banks, which will not give you a good exchange rate. It is best to ask your guide before exchanging anything other than a small amount of money.
At the time of writing the rate in money exchange shops was about 15-20% more than the official rate, but this can change quickly. A useful, though not always up-to-date, website is www.farsinet.com/toman/exchange.html, which shows both official and unofficial rates. Another that may be more up-to-date is www.bonbast.com, but this uses Tomans (see note below on denominations).
Some carpet sellers, in certain cities, have recently accepted credit cards for payments. Payments are usually processed over the phone with an agent elsewhere (often Dubai). If you opt to make payment via this method, you do so at your own risk, however we have not heard of any problems with such payments to date.
Iranian Currency Denominations
The Iranian unit of currency is Rial - Internationally abbreviated to IRR. Every 10 Rials is also know as 1 Toman and Tomans are the way Iranians most often express prices though written prices will most often be in Rials. It is best to ask your guide to explain Iranian money as it can be confusing.
Some meals are included in the price. Please refer to your itinerary for information on which meals are provided and budget accordingly for meals not included.
We recommend that you budget about £7-15 or $10-20 per meal, although it will often be substantially cheaper.
To minimise the footprint our tours leave - both on the environment and the local culture - we keep our group sizes limited to 12 people.
In your group, there may be large variations in age and a variety of nationalities. While this is mostly a good thing, it can occasionally cause some difficulties, so we ask you to be patient with your fellow passengers and realise that everyone likes to travel differently. Please also consider your fellow passengers by respecting scheduled meeting times. If any issues occur within the group please inform your guide who will do his / her best to help to resolve it.
We have gone to great lengths in securing the best guides and drivers available to ensure your trip runs smoothly and you have the best experiences possible in your chosen region.
However, please note, Iran has recently experienced a very significant surge in tourism and there are a very limited number of experienced guides and certainly not enough senior guides to meet the demand. Thus, whilst we endeavour to find the most experienced guides, many of the guides available to us are less experienced than we would ideally like to offer to our clients. In some cases, the guides we use may still be learning their trade and we ask you to show some understanding and patience with this. They are doing their best and are very eager to learn. We appreciate all of the feedback you can provide both to us and directly to our guides, as the only way they can improve is through experience and feedback. We thank you for your understanding.
Travel between destinations is by well-maintained and comfortable vehicles. If you need to get around town on your own in Iran, taxis are an inexpensive and easy way to do so. You can ask your guide or the reception at your hotel to call you a taxi and to help you arrange services. It can be useful to have your guide's number on hand when getting a taxi if language is a problem. The majority of taxi drivers in Iran are honest and helpful.
We can arrange additional tours, hotel nights and airport transfers before or after your chosen tour. Please let us know what you would like to do and we'll be happy to help.
Our tours typically include any in-country domestic flights. International flights from the UK can also be arranged if required. If you prefer however, you can book your own flights and our representative will meet you at the airport on arrival and take you to your hotel before your tour starts. Please let us know your preference when booking your trip.
Please note, for domestic flights, the typical baggage allowance, unless explicitly stated elsewhere, is 15kg.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. As a minimum, we require that your insurance covers you for medical expenses, including emergency repatriation. We also strongly recommend you are covered for personal liability, loss of luggage and personal effects. You will be required to give details of your insurance prior to departure.
Many insurers now cover Iran, but if you are having any problems finding an insurer, please contact Mike Berry at Campbell Irvine (020 7937 6981, email@example.com, www.campbellirvine.com) or Ian Hawes at Harrison Beaumont (firstname.lastname@example.org) for help with an Iran travel insurance policy.
Alternatively Ulle at IHI based in Denmark should be able to help with insurance to Iran for those based outside as well as in the UK. Webpage and contact details are below.
Phone: +45 70 23 84 48
We or our trusted ground handlers have personally vetted all accommodation. If any of our preferred first choice accommodations are not available, we will organise something of a similar standard. Please check your itinerary for a list of the accommodations on your trip.
Due to the unprecedented demand for hotels in Iran at the current time, it is not always possible to get our first choice accommodation. We will always do our best to get these and, where we cannot, to provide an adequate replacement. For Iran tours, it is usual that the final confirmed hotel list will not be provided until about a month before the trip starts.
Note also that we will generally use the best available accommodation, particularly when we are away from Iran's tourist trail, though in remote or less-visited places, this can often mean quite basic hotels and lodges with minimal services.
Joining and finishing points
Unless otherwise indicated on your itinerary, you will be greeted at your arrival airport by a Travel The Unknown representative and escorted to your accommodation. See itinerary for details. At the end of your trip, you will be escorted to the airport for your departing flight, unless otherwise specified in your itinerary.
Passports, Visas & Immigration
All travellers require a passport to travel. Your passport must have validity for 6 months beyond the intended length of your stay. Your passport must also have a minimum of two blank pages.
All travellers will require an Iranian visa to enter Iran. For all clients, we will arrange a visa authorisation code which will enable you to get an Iranian visa by going to your local embassy in person. In some countries, this can also be done by post. For more information on Iran visas and the latest information visit www.traveltheunknown.com/iranvisa
United Kingdom - Consulate Section of Iranian Embassy, London
USA/Canada - Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistan Embassy, Washington D.C
Australia - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Canberra
Ireland* - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dublin (*It may be possible for clients from NI to issue their visa here)
New Zealand - Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Wellington
Clients obtaining an Iranian visa on arrival in Iran are in theory required to pay a compulsory $20 health insurance fee though in practice this may not be enforced.
Electricity in Iran is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. If you travel to Iran with a device that does not accept 230 Volts at 50 Hertz, you will need a voltage converter.
There are three main types of voltage converter.
- Resistor-network converters will usually be advertised as supporting something like 50-1600 Watts. They are light-weight and support high-wattage electrical appliances like hair dryers and irons. However, they can only be used for short periods of time and are not ideal for digital devices.
- Transformers will have a much lower maximum Watt rating, usually 50 or 100. Transformers can often be used continuously and provide better electricity for low wattage appliances like battery chargers, radios, laptop computers, cameras, mp3 players and camcorders. However, they are heavy because they contain large iron rods and lots of copper wire.
- Some companies sell combination converters that include both a resistor network and a transformer in the same package. This kind of converter will usually come with a switch that switches between the two modes. If you absolutely need both types of converter, then this is the type to buy.
Outlets in Iran generally accept 1 type of plug: Two round pins (as used in continental Europe).
If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter. Depending on how much you plan to travel in the future, it may be worthwhile to get a combination voltage converter and plug adapter.
There are internet cafés and call shops in most large Iranian towns. International calls are also reasonably simple. Many foreign mobile phones will not work in Iran though it is worth checking with your mobile phone provider prior to travel. Many hotels have internet, often including wi-fi, but connections can be spotty and many sites can be blocked, e.g. Facebook, BBC News, Virgin email.
TIP: If you think you will need to make or receive a lot of calls, then it would be worth investing in a prepaid SIM card on arrival at the airport or soon after. Ask your guide if you would like to buy a local SIM card. Do ensure that you have also purchased credit on your new SIM. You have to make sure your handset is unlocked prior to leaving your home country.
TIP 2: You can download VPN (virtual private network) software to your phone, tablet or laptop prior to travel to Iran to enable you to get around some of the blocks on accessing specific websites.
Iran is 3.5 hours ahead of the UK.
Laundry facilities are offered by some hotels for a charge. In addition, laundry services can be found outside our hotels in all major cities and many smaller ones.
We advise you not to leave doing your laundry to the last minute, as drying times may be required and laundry services will not be available at all stops.
Iran has a hot, dry climate characterized by long, hot, dry summers and short, cool winters. The climate is influenced by Iran's location between the subtropical aridity of the Arabian desert areas and the subtropical humidity of the eastern Mediterranean area. January is the coldest month, with temperatures from 5°C to 10°C, and August is the hottest month, with temperatures from 20°C to 30°C.
In most areas, summers are warm to hot with virtually continuous sunshine, but high humidity on the southern coastal areas of the Persian Gulf. Daily temperatures can be very hot; on some days temperatures can reach easily 40°C or more, especially along the Persian Gulf and Oman Sea, which causes a danger of heat exhaustion.
About 70% of the average rainfall in the country falls between November and March; June through August are often rainless. Rainfall varies from season-to-season and from year-to-year. Precipitation is sometimes concentrated in local, but violent storms, causing erosion and local flooding, especially in the winter months. A small area along the Caspian coast has a very different climate, where rainfall is heaviest from late summer to mid-winter but continues to fall throughout the year.
The most comfortable times to travel to most parts of Iran are April, May, September, October and November, when it is not excessively hot, but the days are long enough for sufficient sightseeing.
Lightweight cotton clothes are advised in the spring, summer and autumn, with a sweater for cooler evenings, especially in the inland areas. Waterproof gear is recommended for the winter, and warmer clothing for the mountainous areas of northern Iran. Please see the Cultural Sensitivity / Dress Code section under the Responsible Travel heading for more information on what to wear in Iran.
Thank you ------------------ Motshekeram
Hello ------------------------- Salam
Meat ------------------------- Gosht
Yes --------------------------- Bale
No ---------------------------- Na
Hot water ------------------- Abe Garm
I don’t understand -------- Man Nemifahmam
Please ----------------------- Lotfan
How are you? -------------- Che tor hastid?
I’m fine ----------------------- Khobam
How much? ----------------- Chand ast?
There is some -------------- Yek lami ast
There isn’t any ------------- Chizi nist
Toilet ------------------------- Toilet or WC
Where? ---------------------- Koja
Food -------------------------- Ghaza
Is there any food? --------- Ghaza hast?
Key ---------------------------- Kelid
This is a generic checklist of things to remember before travelling. Not all may apply to you:
- Tell your bank you are travelling, so that they do not block your transactions when you are abroad
- Ensure you have the relevant visas and a valid passport
- Ensure you have any required vaccinations and medications for the trip
- Ensure you have adequate travel insurance and that you have sent the relevant details of your policy to Travel The Unknown
- Make a note of your passport number, take a photocopy with you and email a scanned version to yourself
- Email a copy of your itinerary and trip contacts to any family members who may want to contact you
- Bring some money to cover emergency situations
- Check with your mobile service provider to make sure your phone works abroad (enable roaming if required)
- Check the What To Bring section of these Trip Notes to see if there are any particular items you require
While travelling, please bear in mind the following:
- Think about what you are doing at all times and trust your instincts - don’t take risks that you wouldn’t at home
- Don’t openly display valuables such as mobile phones or digital cameras and consider using a padlock on suitcases or backpacks
- Find out about local customs and dress, behave accordingly and obey local laws - there may be serious penalties for breaking a law that might seem trivial at home
- Respect the environment – don’t buy wildlife souvenirs, conserve resources (like water) and don’t drop litter
Please note that some of our tours can be physically demanding. A basic level of fitness, mobility and decent health is assumed. Please contact us if you are unsure about your suitability for this trip.
Check the activity rating of your tour on our website and consult the chart below.
* Relaxation. There are no activities scheduled.
** This will typically include some short walking tours and some medium-length car/minibus journeys.
*** This is the standard for most of our cultural tours. It involves city walking, short walks in rural areas and some medium-to-long drives.
**** This typically involves some short hikes or the equivalent, as well as some long-ish drives and city walking.
***** This is typically a hiking or activity itinerary and can be quite strenuous. A good level of fitness is expected.
NOTE: Ratings are inherently subjective and are made using our best judgement. Also, different parts of an itinerary may merit different ratings, so the ratings assigned are an assumed average for the whole trip. In any case, please contact us if you are unsure of the level of fitness required for any given trip.
Please note that many sites in Iran have uneven steps, often with no banisters.
Please note that this trip involves long days of driving to get to remote sites and you may spend quite a few hours walking around some of the sites. Some of the sites, e.g. Chogha Zanbil, are quite exposed with little shelter from the sun.
What to bring
Below is a recommended list of items to bring. It does not claim to be exhaustive.
• Any required medicines
• Basic first aid kit, insect repellent and sunscreen (min. factor 15)
• Day pack (useful for carrying basic items)
• Basic toiletries and tissues
• Clothing for both hot and cold conditions (practical clothing is strongly advised, especially long-sleeved tops, long trousers and a sun hat)
• Sandals and walking shoes
• Binoculars, torch, sunglasses, small towel and electricity adapter
• Waterproof bag for documents and electronics
• Notepad, pen and book
• Watch (strict time-keeping is required at times)
• Money for meals, souvenirs and contingencies
• Drinking bottle
• Travel plug (for sinks without plugs)
• Travel pillow (can come in handy for longer journeys)
Most importantly, come with an open mind!
Please also read the 'money matters' section and don't forget to bring cash in foreign currency.
What can I not bring?
There is a lot of misinformation on this. Generally speaking there are not a lot of things you cannot bring into Iran. You cannot bring in alcohol or any illegal drugs (prescription medicines are not a problem. It is not necessary to carry prescriptions unless you have very large quantities). You also cannot bring in more than US$5000 without declaring it on arrival.
Cameras and camera equipment is not a problem on arrival but carrying a lot of specialist camera equipment/large lenses etc is may attract unwanted attention from the authorities during the trip. There are no restrictions or problems about which books you bring in.
What can I not leave Iran with?
You cannot leave Iran with any objects over a hundred years old. Furthermore it is a crime to buy or sell any pre-Islamic objects. You must declare any foreign currency amounts over US$10,000 you leave with.
• Camera – don't forget your accessories: memory cards, battery and charger
• If you use a film camera, bring film, lenses, batteries, etc.
• Mobile phone and charger
• Plug adaptors
• Music player and charger
• Laptop or tablet and charger (useful if you want to keep a blog and upload photos)
A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind - Michael Axworthy
Iran Awakening: A memoir of revolution and hope - Shirin Ebadi
City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran - Ramita Navai
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs - Christopher de Bellaigue
More good books:
The Persians: Ancient, Mediaeval and Modern Iran - Homa Katouzian
Shah of Shahs - Ryszard Kapuscinski
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror - Stephen Kinzer
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - Azar Nafisi
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi
Persia through writers' eyes - edited by David Blow
The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay: An American Family in Iran - Hooman Majd
The Road To Oxiana: Robert Byron
Faces of Love - Hafez, Khatun (lady poet of same time) and Zakani (Cat and Mice) - translations by Dick Davis
Persian Poems - Everyman's Library, Pocket Poets
YouTube - The last Shah - Iran History BBC Documentary (Ben Kingsley Narration)
The Rough Guide to the Music of Iran
Please do suggest more if you have read/watched anything good. We do try to keep up and others are always welcome of new suggestions.
As regular travellers, one thing that never ceases to amaze and inspire us is the kindness and generosity of people, often people who have very little to their name. We firmly believe that the people who make these places special should also benefit from our visit. Therefore, as first preference, we use local guides and locally-owned lodges, shops and eateries. We do our best to ensure that the benefits of our tours reach as widely as possible into the communities where they operate. We also support a small portfolio of charities and local grassroots organisations which you can see on our website at www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible.
Please be mindful of the environment in which you travel. We ask you to be vigilant about disposing of your waste. Dispose of all rubbish correctly and do not leave litter or cigarette butts in natural environments.
Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/responsible for further information.
We go to great lengths to ensure our tours have minimal impact on the environment and the people who live there. We ask you to respect the culture of the people and to familiarise yourself with local laws and customs prior to travelling with us.
If you would like to photograph someone, ask their permission first to avoid causing offence. In some countries, photographing officials, the army, police, government buildings and borders may be illegal and may result in having your equipment confiscated.
Iranian law states that women should cover their hair, neck, arms and legs, so some type of head scarf is a necessity. Loose clothing and long garments should also be worn to cover the body. Jeans are acceptable when worn with a long shirt that covers the bottom. Men are not allowed to wear shorts, extreme short-sleeved shirts, or tight shirts. Sandals without socks are acceptable for both sexes. Generally, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to pick up some suitable clothing while in Iran. Do a Google search of 'Iran clothes' and look at the photo results to get an idea of the range of clothing worn in Iran. Check out our blog this blog post for more information on the female dress code: http://www.traveltheunknown.com/blog/?p=3089.
We typically include a visit to a small clothing market after the first day of sightseeing to allow people to pick some clothing suitable for the climate and the local styles but there may not always be a huge selection so it would be wise not to only rely on this.
Please note that the smaller towns are generally more conservative when it comes to dress code.
Stay in touch
If you would like to find out about new tours and all that is happening with Travel The Unknown, please sign up to our newsletter on our website, www.traveltheunknown.com, send us an email at email@example.com or call us on 020 7183 6371 (UK) or 1 347 329 5524 (US).
We have spent much time and effort to make your trip a memorable experience for all the right reasons. However, we are constantly looking to improve our tours and any feedback you can give us or suggestions you may have would be very much appreciated. Visit www.traveltheunknown.com/feedback to share your thoughts with us.
We prefer to use real photos taken on our tours on our website and in our print material, so we actively encourage you to send us your photos. Happy snapping!
If we use your pictures we will be happy to credit you as the photographer - just let us know you would like us to do so when you send in your photos. You can also share your photos on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/traveltheunknown
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