Scattered throughout this website is information that attempts to negate much of the false and/or inaccurate information that Americans have been exposed to when it comes to touring Iran.
In order to attempt to set the record straight I have written up a list of 10 “myths” on this subject. I apologize for picking 10 myths, as opposed to 8 or 9 or 11, but 10 of anything always seems the best way to get to attract attention.
Myth # 1 Americans are not allowed into Iran as tourists.
This is the “biggie”. There are absolutely NO restrictions on
Americans visiting Iran as tourists, neither from the American nor the Iranian side.
Myth # 2 Iran is not safe for Americans.
This too is not true. Iran is actually one of the safest countries in the world for Americans to travel. Compared to major tourist spots such as France, Spain or almost any city in the United States itself, Iran is incredibly safe. Also, there is virtually no street crime in Iran.
Myth # 3 Americans are not popular or not welcome in Iran.
Nothing could be more untrue. I myself, someone who has visited over 80 countries, have never felt more popular or liked as I was in Iran. I have never been anywhere where the local people were more hospitable and generous as they were in Iran. And more interested in conversing with Americans. In fact, once people hear that you are American, and not European, your stock goes way up.
Myth # 4 Iran does not have good hotels for tourists.
This is also a myth. Actually, Iran has some of the most beautiful hotels in the world today. I would say that the Shiraz Grand Hotel in Shiraz, near Persepolis, is probably the most beautiful hotel I have ever stayed at.
But it is also true that Iran does not have as many of these luxury hotels as other countries which are more fully developed for tourism. For that reason, we try to book people as far in advance as possible in order to get them into the best hotels, especially during the high tourist season of Spring and Fall.
Myth # 5 Iran makes women cover themselves up and gives them a hard time in general.
Woman (and men) must dress “modestly” – no shorts, short skirts, etc. And women must cover around half their hair when out in public. That’s all there is to it. So, maybe not as liberal a dressing code as Europe or U.S. but not really too onerous either. As far as women being hassled on the streets by men, it does not happen.
Myth # 6 Iran does not have good infrastructure.
Iran is a huge country, around 2 1/2 times the size of Texas. But it is linked by a large network of 4-lane divided highways with very little traffic once you are out of the cities (which can have lots of traffic).
In addition, there is a big domestic air network, which can get you to almost anywhere in the country within an hour or 2. For example, Tehran to Shiraz is around a 1-hour flight. Our tours often include a domestic flight and the cost of those flights is included in the price of the tour.
Myth # 7 Iran does not have very good food.
Iran has very good food, especially if you like fruits and vegetables. The meat choices can be slightly limited, especially in some of the more out-of-the-way places, but the food is generally fresh and well cooked. For some strange reason, Iran has the best ice cream I have had anywhere in the world. One place, a road stop on the main Tehran-Tabriz highway, had 62 flavors. They also have plenty of good tea if you are a tea drinker. But we do advise people to bring their own coffee since they may only get Nescafe in some places.
Myth # 8 The tourist season is very short.
While it is true that the most popular times to visit Iran are fall and spring, Iran can visited almost any month of the year. In round terms, if you compare it to Arizona in summer, it is going to be very hot (but dry) in the summer months. And the winter can be cold, especially in the North.
This can be a plus if you want to ski, however. The one time we advise people not to go is during Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, which runs for around 2 weeks beginning March 21 or thereabouts. During that period, because of big domestic travel, hotel rates go up around 40%.
Myth # 9 Aside from Persepolis there is not much to see in Iran.
This, of course, is completely untrue. Iran boasts 19 Unesco World Heritage Sites (including Persepolis) and there is a great deal to see. Most of our tour itineraries take in the most important of the World Heritage Sites, but since our tours are custom-made you can take in as many of them as you have time for. Iran is an ancient country and an ancient civilization and there is a great deal to see. Plus, there is good skiing, hiking, fishing and hunting available.
Myth # 10 Jewish people are not welcome in Iran and are not allowed to visit.
Iran does not grant a tourist visa to anyone with an Israeli stamp on their passport, but only in the 12 months before entry into Iran. Other than that, there are no restrictions. You will be able to visit synagogues, attend Friday night services and even visit the tombs of Esther and Mordechai in Hamadan (where the Rabbi collects fountain pens). Although it is small, Iran has the second largest Jewish population in the Middle East.
Some additional myths.
It’s hard to get a visa for Iran.
Not really. You do need to get a visa, but it’s just a question of filling out some simple forms. Not too onerous and easier than Russia or China, for example.
You can’t drink alcohol in Iran.
This is not a myth. We don’t advise it.