Is Iran a safe country to travel to? Find out through the eyes of a female foreigner who spend the last nine months traveling and living in Iran. Having experienced both solo and group travel, she answers the question from her experiences on the road.
Telling people about going to Iran I got lots of warnings from friends and relatives. ‘Iran is not a safe county!’ they stated. ‘You are crazy?!’ they asked with eyes wide open. ‘What do you mean, you are going solo?’ and ‘Aren’t many terrorists there?’ they worryingly asked. Only one close friend was excited to hear about my plans and encouraged me in my choice.
Given the general image of Iran, I wasn’t completely surprised to get such comments. But having done my research well and reading up about the endless hospitality in Iran I was completely set. Ready to go on new adventures!
Different from most countries I did a lot of research before traveling solo to Iran. Not afraid about terrorism and such, I did have some other concerns before visiting the country;
After lots of research and preparation, it was finally time to go. Determined to make a good first impression I’d written down some Farsi to learn it on the way. Trying to memorize some phrases in the departure hall, a super friendly woman came to me ‘Are you studying Farsi?’ she said with a kind smile on her face. ‘Yes, indeed I’m trying’ I replied laughing. Immediately she sat down next to me and started to help me out. Taking and laughing with her for hours in both airport and plane leads to a surprise invitation to her home! read about Iranian hospitality before, but to encounter it before I even landed was much more than I could’ve ever asked for! What an amazing start of this journey!
To this, I can only answer YES! It was super safe! Not only was I offered a comfortable bed, but also got treated to some of the most delicious Persian dishes! I met her super friendly family and we went all over Tehran to see some fantastic sights together. I really gained a friend here, and we still keep in touch today. Not once did I worry about my safety at all. It was the best start I could wish for!
The rest of my trip people kept inviting me to their home and to drink tea. They gave me fruits on the bus, and even when I kept refusing them they’d just throw it in my seat! Walking around alone on the streets gave me endless attention from curious Iranians and I often changed my plans to team up with some newly made friends! Selecting my hosts wise I felt safe most of the time.
Same goes for couch-surfing in Iran. Looking for specific profiles I always ended up in super kind and generous families or with awesome individuals. Feeling highly valued as a guest I personally didn’t worry about my money or personal belongings. And again, I felt comfortable and safe most the journey.
Exploring the country by bus most of the time I didn’t experience any safety issues in terms of theft. My large backpack generally got tagged before they stored it. Carrying my valuables on the bus with me I was not afraid to sleep during long journeys. And even at night, I felt comfortable to travel solo.
Even when there was blind panic amongst my friends as the news reported about protests. I didn’t feel unsafe at all. Avoiding any political gathering and keeping away from any kind of unrest is obviously the way to go. Apart from the news and the dissatisfied voices of the Iranian people I didn’t experience anything of it. Making me feel safe, even during unstable times.
Traveling an extended amount of time in a country you can expect some things to happen. And although traveling in Iran was very safe most of the time, I did experience some incidents and area-specific unsafety;
– Experiencing a huge back-pain I didn’t expect any trouble when the husband of my host family offered to give me a medical massage. Working as a physiotherapist I didn’t see any harm in it initially. That was until we were alone in the room and he suddenly started to rub his body against mine. (WHAT?!)
– Hiking in a remote area once I completely forgot to take proper care of my backpack. Leaving it unsupervised in a remote shelter, unfortunately, it’s got stolen. Obviously, this had more to do with my inattentiveness than with Iran or Iranian people. And it basically could’ve happened anywhere.
– In addition, the most disturbing situations I faced solo in Chabahar. I guess being a more conservative part of Iran where foreign tourism is relatively new it was a big deal for me to walk around solo. Being the only chador-less lady didn’t only cause a lot of stares, but also ended in being touched, asked to have paid sex and getting marriage proposals. This basically happened every time I was alone. So if you want to go there, best to team up and travel as a group. (believe me, it’s worth it)
Lessons learned; be careful with your stuff and avoid being solo with men in remote places.
Compared to my first arrival in December 2017, the economy has changed drastically. Leading to huge inflations. The cost of living became much higher, while the value of money dropped to a dramatic low. In December people already told me about the economically hard times, but eleven months later people are really suffering. This situation actually doesn’t cause a safety issue for tourists and travelers, but any tourist with a genuine interest in Iranian people will hear their stories on the street.
So my first impression about Iran was that the situation wasn’t so bad at all! Experiencing traffic in other places in Asia it actually looked quite organized. That was until I spend more time on the road and saw the chaos appearing in front of my eyes! From speeding to pushing, to people walking and selling things on the road. From people stopping at the highway to drivers going back to catch a missed exit. People generally don’t care AT ALL about ANY traffic rule and just go where they can.
Because of the crazy and dangerous driving style loads of road-accidents happen in Iran. And it’s always advised to fasten your seatbelt. Whether you are in busses, private vehicles or taxi’s, please care about your safety in this one!
Are usually safe to consume! In nine months of traveling around Iran, I’ve eaten numerous street kebobs and falafels as well as delicious home-cooked meals and fancy restaurant dinners. Given that hygienic standards are relatively high in Iran, I didn’t experience any trouble with food at all! In terms of drinking, be sure to get some delicious fresh fruit juices and taste the juices with seeds as well. When it comes to water I prefer to drink the filtered water found in parks and public places or bottled water instead.
To wrap it all up I’ve listed some top safety tips for traveling to Iran;
Be sure to have an amazing time! But that being said; do try to team up when you go to remote places. And especially if you plan to visit Chabahar. In addition, trust your gut feeling when it comes to men. Really, most of them are super kind and good, but not all of them are innocent.
Concluding this story I can only say that Iran is generally a super safe country to travel to! Expect some of the most friendly people and get invited to more cups of tea you can drink! Just keep the safety tips in mind and you’re sure to have a wonderful time!
How did you experience safety in Iran? And what are your thoughts about safety in this country? Share your thoughts and experiences through the comment section below.
Interested to read more about safety in Iran? Be sure to check this blog post about safety in Iran from a cultural perspective.