by on 03 Feb 2017

Iran-shiraz-mosque

This misunderstood country is a melting pot of ancient history, modern flair and is home to 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites. But before travelling to one of the world's oldest continuous civilisations, visitors need to keep a few things in mind, such as respecting the Islamic code and key cultural differences.

So if you are planning a trip to this middle eastern country for the first time, here are four things you need to know to avoid misunderstandings and overcome cultural barriers.

1. Respect The Local Culture

As with any country you visit, it's wise to brush up on the customs to avoid trouble. While visiting Iran, it's important to respect the culture by adhering to the dress code. This means wearing jeans or leggings under a dress, tunic or manteau as well as a headscarf when entering places of religious significance like shrines or mosques.

2. Prepare to Experience Ta'arof

While you are in Iran, you might find yourself experiencing ta’arof. It's an Iranian form of civility mainly kept for strangers.

It can be quite confusing for travellers at first, but by having the right mindset for the situation, you can avoid any confusion.

When you are buying something or catching a taxi, the seller or driver might not accept your money and tell you that you can pay them next year. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't pay. In fact, you need to decline until you manage to pay.

3. Respect The Laws Between Sexes

If you want to avoid any misunderstandings while visiting Iran, it's important to observe the Islamic code of behaviour between the sexes:

  • Don't shake hands with a member of the opposite sex in public
  • Public displays of affection are strictly prohibited
  • Only unmarried foreign couples are allowed to sleep in the same hotel room.

4. Don't Believe Everything Your Hear About Safety in Iran

Despite what the mainstream media wants you to believe, Iran is not a dangerous country filled with people who want to kill you. Iranians are in fact some of the most friendly people you will ever come across. With tourists not as common as other countries around the world, locals are naturally inquisitive about where you have come from, why you are visiting Iran and want to make sure you feel as welcome as possible.

These are just some of the things to know about before travelling to Iran.Remember, no matter which country you visit, it never hurts to do your homework. You should brush up on basic customs, learn a little about the history and invest time studying the culture. Otherwise, you'll just be watching dusk rise over a wall instead of the magnificent ruins of Persepolis.