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Iran is often in the news these days but rarely for its wonderful travel potential. While the political situation in Iran is unstable at times and the visa process can be tricky, Iran can safety be visited and navigated by backpackers of varying experience levels. Visas can be difficult to obtain for American citizens, who are required to make arrangements through one of the government’s organized tour companies. Travelers should also be advised that if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport, or an Israeli passport, you will be denied a visa.

Those of you backpacker on an RTW trip with some additional time should consider taking a train from Turkey to Iran. The rail service to Tehran goes from Ankara (easily accessible from all parts of Turkey) and stops in the eastern Turkish city of Van. The trains are comfortable, clean, have excellent meal service and are very affordable. From there the train crosses Lake Van by ferry, but we recommend rather than rolling right through this beautiful (and often neglected city) to spend a 2-3 days exploring it. Van is famous for its elaborate breakfasts and unique deserts and if you’re there during the summer months as opposed to the rougher winter months, having a traditional Van breakfast by the water of Lake Van is a memory you won’t be able to forget. From there the train makes its way into the Iranian city of Tabriz.

arge bam arad iran taken at jamkaran iran abbasi mosque iran

Backpacking In Tabriz

Tabriz is famous for the site of Kandovan, a series of homes carved into spiraling vertical rock, some of which have been inhabited for the past 700 years. It is quite a popular tourist attraction and one that many backpackers in Iran should consider, especially since it’s a cheap train ride from either Van or Tehran. Travelers can also book several nights in the luxury hotel built into the rocks as well, to get a feeling of what it’s like to live in the caves (albeit a very luxurious feeling).

Aside from the train system, a good less expensive alternative is the extensive Iranian bus network. There are several carriers that operate throughout the country. Backpackers might be enticed by the very low fares but for a few extra dollars per ride you can get meal and often Internet service on the inter-city buses. You can get a feel for these buses in a more limited setting by trying your hand at the local bus system, but be sure to have a good map of the city streets before attempting it.

Backpackers should also be sure to bring enough cash with them for the duration of their stay in Iran. Credit is rarely used and not an option in many places. Travelers are also advised not to exchange money anywhere other than the airport or one of the large, nationalized Iranian banks. Females traveling to Iran should be dressed modestly (arms and legs covered) and head scarfs covering the hair. For more information about dress in Iran, check out this guide for travelers.

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Backpacking In Tehran

golestan palace

Iran’s turbulent political past and present is often what foreigners focus on, and is what makes many travelers overlook visiting the country. Although it may require a bit more work and effort to go backpacking in Iran than to most other countries, it is well worth the extra bit of work. Visa Obtaining a visa […]

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