by on 06 Sep 2017
Ever since Iran's historic nuclear deal and relaxed visa restrictions, the country has seen a boom in tourism. But despite the country's double digit growth, travellers are still wary about exploring this Middle Eastern country.
Is it safe to travel to Iran? Is it safe for women to travel to Iran alone? Is it safe for American citizens? These are some of the major concerns people have when thinking about going to Iran.
So how Safe is Iran?
With the rise of extremist groups in the Middle East, it's understandable that the question "is it safe to travel to Iran" is a hot topic.
But the good news is that Iran is one of the safest and most stable countries in the Middle East.
There have been no major terrorist attacks in almost a decade, and Iran's politics don't pose a threat to travellers. Countries like Australia and the UK have relaxed their travel warnings to Iran, and its famous nuclear deal has paved the way for an influx of tourism.
The internet is also full of travel bloggers describing Iran as one of the safest countries to travel to. The locals are friendly and hospitable, and violent crime against foreigners is almost unheard of.
Is it safe to travel to Iran as a solo female traveller?
Iran is one of the safest destinations in the world for solo female travellers.
Because of their culture.
Despite women having to adhere to social constraints like wearing a hijab, women are treated well. There is also gender segregation on public transport, and public displays of affection are not allowed.
Even in places where they don't have specific areas for women, people will make sure women are comfortable. If you travel alone on a bus, the driver will rearrange passengers to make sure no woman sits next to an unknown man.
This means solo female travellers don't need to worry about any unwanted groping or touching while travelling in Iran.
But don't let your guard down. As you would in any other foreign country take the following precautions to avoid any trouble:
- Avoid walking home alone at night.
- Always let someone know where you are.
- Take a picture of the taxis licence plate before you get in.
Is it safe to travel to Iran for American citizens?
Yes. Americans can travel to Iran but have to do so on a guided tour. The same restrictions apply to Canadians and British citizens.
As part of the visa conditions, citizens of those countries will need to stick to a pre-planned itinerary. This means that you won't be able to plan your own trip and you'll need a tour guide with you to avoid any problems.
The reason for this is because the Iranian government does not want any foreign involvement in its politics, especially from the United States.
But despite this, you will not be mistreated by the locals. Iranians will still invite you to have dinner and treat you with the same hospitality as with any foreign visitor.
What areas in Iran should you avoid?
Like any country in the world, some places are best to avoid. In Iran, areas close to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq are high risk and aren't recommended as travel destinations
Luckily, all Iran's top attractions are far away from any of its neighbour's problems. So you'll be able to explore the country without any worries.
Be careful if you plan to drive
Your only real danger while travelling in Iran is driving.
The locals have a reputation for ignoring basic traffic rules and driving at high speeds. If you are a nervous driver or your reflexes aren't the best, it's safer to use public transport or hire a driver to take you around.
For pedestrians, you'll need to be extra vigilant.
Western norms like drivers stopping at pedestrian crossings are not common in Iran. If you're having trouble crossing the roads, observe the locals. Cross the street in a group, and you'll learn how to navigate around the traffic without any problems.
Iranians will look after you during your stay
Iranians love tourists. It's not unusual for locals to come up to foreigners to find out where they are from and why they are visiting Iran.
There is also a huge Couchsurfing community thriving in Iran. It's a great way to connect with the locals and experience what day to day life is like around the country. Iranians will be more than happy to take you to their favourite coffee spot or point you in the right direction of a hidden gem.
Your hotel and tour guides will also go out of their way to make you feel safe:
- All tour guides will show their name and photo to prove they are official guides.
- Taxi drivers usually show travellers their registration number and introduce themselves.
- It's not uncommon for hotel staff to take a photo of the taxi drivers licence plate who is picking up their guests.
Practical safety and preparation tips for travelling in Iran
Now that you know Iran is safe, here are some basic etiquette rules you'll need to follow when travelling around the country:
- Women need to make sure their headscarf is secure and is worn when in public.
- Wear loose fitting outfits, long sleeves and pants as well as shirts that cover your bum.
- Don't give a thumbs up sign; it's considered a rude gesture.
- Don't show public displays of affection.
- Women enter buses in the middle and men in the front.
- Women are not allowed to ride bicycles.
- It is illegal to drink alcohol or eat pork in Iran.
The only major concern you need to have when travelling to Iran is money.
Foreigners cannot use the Iranian ATM's or banks to withdraw money due to sanctions. You'll need to make sure you arrive with enough cash for your entire trip. This is why it’s useful to book your accommodation online to avoid carrying large quantities of cash.
Hopefully, these sanctions will soon be a thing of the past. Iran is busy having negotiations with MasterCard and Visa about their cards being accepted for use in the country.
See you in Iran
If you're still having trouble deciding if Iran is safe, use social media. Hop onto Instagram and explore hashtags like #iran #richkidsoftehran #mustseeiran.
You'll get an idea of what life is like as a local as well as a foreigner travelling through the country. It will help deconstruct the unsafe image the media perpetuates, and you'll be able to form your own opinion.
Head on over to Facebook and join the group See You In Iran. Here you'll be able to connect with locals and ask the group any questions you might have about your trip to Iran. It's a great way to get authentic advice, practical tips and see for yourself what Iran is like before you arrive.
Who knows? You might even make a friend or two.
So is it safe to travel to Iran? Yes, it is!
Start planning a trip to this Middle Eastern country and discover it for yourself. Book your ticket to Iran, use InnIran to stay in an authentic place and explore Iran before it becomes the next hottest travel destination.