Sheikh lotfollah mosque in isfahan, iran

A Basic Guide to Backpacking in Iran

Why Iran? Good question. It was asked by everyone who got to know about my travel plans, albeit with a lot more emotion and shock. Some went on to the extent of asking me if i booked a one way ticket. Anyway, having failed at executing the plan twice in the last 2 years, I was bent on just doing it this time.

let me give you a summary of my expenses and some important tips/ info on the basics…

Top things to do in Iran

  • Enjoy an evening in Isfahan’s Naqsh-e-jahan square, the world’s second largest after Vatican
  • The grand burial site of Naqsh-e-rustam
  • Persepolis
  • Stay in the Varzaneh desert
  • Bazaar hopping in Shiraz
  • Lose yourself in the alleys of Yazd
  • The mud city of Kharanaq

Summary of my trip: 

Duration: 16 days

Flights: INR 32,500

Visa+insurance: INR 7,300

Stay+Food+Sightseeing+Transport: INR 34,500

Total: INR 74,300 (EUR 980)

Important Tip: Carry CASH. International cards do not work except for a few carpet shops where they probably use vpn to bypass. So carry cash and don’t run out!

Visa

The process has now changed, you just need to apply for an e-visa code on their website and pay on arrival. The following ordeal is what I had gone through during my trip

Visa Code: First step started from obtaining the visa code, which is given by the foreign affairs ministry of Iran through a local travel agent. I chose key2persia (iranvisa@key2persia.com) for mine, they charged 27 EUR for the code and had it sent in 7 days from the time i requested, damn professional fellows.

Medical tests: Next step is to get the medical reports in place viz. HIV (both types), Hepatitis A & B and TB from one of the authorized medical centres. I got mine from Apollo hospital and spent a total of around INR 1,700. You can get these in a day’s time. 

Visa application: Then comes the visa application part, you fill in the form and take the medical docs to the consulate (mine was in Mumbai). They accept the application on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 to 3. It was a quick process there, not much of waiting. You pay INR 2460 for a 1 month single entry visa by paying at the bank outside the consulate and giving a receipt to the visa officer. He asked me basic questions about the trip and handed me an acknowledgment receipt stating that i have to collect my passport in a week’s time at a given time on the date mentioned. And so i did, with great anticipation i collected the passport and saw a gleaming ticket to Iran! 

Insurance

This is easy, i took the icici lombard policy that covers meds upto USD 100k for INR 1200

Total cost of Visa + reports + insurance : INR 7,300

Flights

There are multiple options:

  1. Iran Air: cheap and good i hear. They fly direct to Tehran from Bombay on Tuesdays and Fridays. No online booking, you have to call them. 
  2. Kuwait Air: cheap and cheap. You wait in Kuwait airport till you forget where you are headed
  3. Etihad/Jet: slightly expensive and good. I chose this for INR 32,500 with a pretty short stopover both ways and good landing time. Tough combo to get
     

Hotels

You can use wikitravel, it is easily one of the best resources out there. I booked only the first hostel in tehran (it is recommended since they may ask at the immigration) and left the rest to be chosen as my trip unfolded. You may want to get all confirmations in place if you are the apprehensive kind who worries about ‘what-if-the-immigration-guys-dont-let-me-in’ – simple, write to each one and they respond pretty quick.

Since i was traveling during off season, availability wasn’t a concern, so you can walk into one of these and check-in (at least for dorms, not sure about private rooms). I stayed in the following:

Tehran: 7 hostel

Kashan: Khan – e – ehsan

Varzaneh: yasna guest house

Isfahan: Amir kabir hostel

Yazd: kohan hostel

Shiraz: niayesh boutique hotel

Inter-city transport

Buses are the easiest way out. With cheap tickets that get you a business class seat + juice + snacks…it is a steal. I have mentioned in my day-wise blogs about the terminals and prices. On an average, tickets range between 2.5 eur to 8 eur. 

Well, that’s it. ready my accounts for the detailed info…feel free to buzz me in case any more info is needed, would be more than glad to help.

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