Political turmoil between Iran and the United States has understandably kept the Middle East country off most travel itineraries, but TravelCoterie contributor Claudia Peña thinks Iran is worth visiting. And for those of you interested in planning a trip, here are the five things Claudia thinks you should know.
1. Are Americans allowed to visit Iran?
Yes, it is legal to travel to Iran with a US passport. The US government allows it as does the Iranian government. The only hitch is that Iran requires US passport holders (and those from Canada and the UK) to be with a guide (aka baby-sitter) at all times because there are no embassies for those respective countries should something unfortunate happen. As an extra precaution, trained guides are instructed to ensure tourists are safe at all times.
Expert Tip: It also takes a bit to get a Visa approved by Iran so it requires a few months of planning.
2. The Art Of Negotiation — Or Not
“Taarof” is the “Iranian art of etiquette” where people often say one thing but expect another. I am terrible at these kinds of things because I like to say what I mean, and mean what I say. I circumvented this by always saying “No taarof. I am not taarofing,” and by paying for everything even when a vendor told me it was free.
Expert Tip: Read more on taarof here.
3. Iranians Love to Picnic
Let me say it again: “Iranians LOOOOVE to picnic!!!” They picnic everywhere … even by the side of the highway!! I finally understand Persians in the US who are always ready to throw a blanket on the grass and lounge. It was everywhere at all times. Tons of people out by the river, or park or anywhere there was a flat(ish) ground in nature(ish).
Expert Tip: Iranians put butter in everything!! Rice has a bunch and those grilled tomatoes everyone loves? Covered in layers of butter! Vegans beware!!
4. Hole In One
Though hotels that cater to foreigners will likely have what they refer to as “European toilets,” you should know that in most places, a toilet equals a squat hole in the floor.
Expert Tip: Some research has shown that hemorrhoids and constipation are a result of using toilets that are too tall, which tends to be true for many toilets in the US!
5. The Tap Water Is Safe
Water is potable all over the country! This was such a relief because it meant I could eat fresh salad and enjoy the BEST cucumbers and tomatoes I’ve ever had. Better even than Italy (sorry Italians). It was also nice being free of Giardia fears.
Expert Tip: Use water responsibly. Parts of Iran have faced droughts for the past 15 years so no 45-minute showers or leaving the sink running while brushing your teeth. Every bit of conservation helps alleviate strain.