I've been trying to organise a trike tour to Iran for ages, but something always seems to get in the way. Then of course there's the mountains, the vast distances, the legendary awfulness of the traffic and so-on to consider as well. What to do?
A quick reconnoitre perhaps?
I spent an amazing week or so whizzing thru Isfahan, Kashan, Tehran & Shiraz with an eye to coming back later with the bike
I had a truly great time and have no hesitation in recommending Nasrin @ Persian Voyages to arrange a tour in Iran with really good local guides
Getting ready to go:
Visa: Everyone needs a visa. Tourist visas are valid for 15 days and must be used within one month of the date of issue but getting an extension is said to be reasonably easy
Getting the initial visa in Oz was easy, if relatively expensive, I paid $68 (Oz dollars)
Vaccinations: The list of recommended shots is scary. Hepatitis (both A and B), tetanus, typhoid, rabies and on and on it goes
I didn't bother...
Once you're there:
Accommodation: The hotels I stayed in were 3* and were pretty good - clean, comfortable (and all the plumbing worked as well... ) There are both cheaper and more expensive options available, tho the cheap cheapies - mosaferkhuneh - apparently don't always welcome foreigners
Cheap mosaferkhune start around 45, 000 Rials ( about $5 US dollars) but about $30 US dollars buys really nice 3* rooms
Food: While kebab is probably the most common thing you'll find, there's much more to Iranian food; you'd best like fruit & meat combinations and rice and yougurt too, cos they're all ubiquitous. In general, food is cheap, filling, very flavousome without being spicy
Bottled water is available, cheaply, everywhere. Tea (black) is abundant but not so much coffee seems to be drunk. As for beer and wine - forget it! Iran is 'dry'
Money: Iran is a cash ecomony and changing foreign notes into Irian rials isn't hard, but even a relatively modest amount of foreign currency will turn into a humungous heap of Iranian notes that probably won't fit into your wallet. Piles of notes abound, so much so that bank cheques (checks) for millions of rials are quite common alternative
Roads: Iranian roads were mostly pretty good tho often there were pretty rugged pavement edges
Signage was in Farsi and English but seemed fairly spotty
As for cars, the (infamous) Paykan - think Hillman Hunter circa 1960's - still abounds. A 'basic' vehicle if ever there was one that is reputed to gurgle 15 litres ( liters) of fuel for a hundred kilomteres all the while blowing a thick exhaust like you've never seen even from a badly maintained diesel...
Traffic: Roads are OK; traffic is just awful!
Even Cairo traffic seems mannered and polite compared to that in Iran. Red traffic lights - humbug! One-way streets - bah! The anarchy on the roads has to be seen to be believed, and the chaos isn't just confined to the roads, motorbikes (and cars) treat footpaths as an extra lane...
The bits I didn't like? Crossing a road, any road, is a gamble...
The most frequently asked questions:
By folk outside Iran: Is it safe for an - insert your nationality - to go to Iran?
The 'mad mullah' stereotype seems to be an over-fevered creation. I found warm and friendly people - plus a zillion non-western tourists, from Japan and Thailand for example, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying a peaceful holiday
By folk inside Iran: Tea? Would you like to drink some tea?
As I said, warm and friendly people...