So the headline caught your attention? And why wouldn’t it? At first blush, the idea of spending an extenuated time working in the Islamic Republic of Iran sounds crazy.
Iran is an emerging travel destination with international visitors flocking to check out one of the most contentious nation-states in the world. Despite the anti-Iran rhetoric ramping up in the media this year, Iran has seen a 41% increase in their international visitors, with over 2 million international tourists visiting Iran in the three months between March and June 2019.
Many of Iran’s visitors come from neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. Muslim pilgrims come to pay homage to the shrines of important Imams like Imam Reza who rests in Mashhad, a city in Iran’s northeast. Iran is also a popular medical tourism hub. With world-class medical services at a fraction of the price, medical tourism in Iran is a rapidly growing industry. Oh, and plastic surgery is trending locally big time. Iran is sometimes jokingly dubbed the nose-job capital of the world.
Apart from this, millions of visitors from across the world (but predominantly Europe) travel to Iran every year to visit ancient sites, enjoy amazing Persian food, explore Silk Road bazaars and venture into some of the most pristine deserts on our planet. But more than these things, Iran is on so many traveler’s bucket lists because people want to make their own mind up about Iran.
So why not make your first trip to Iran a working holiday? For more details on visas, accommodation, cost of living and important tech considerations, read on.
I have been working remotely in Tehran for about six months. For me, an average day looks like this.
9 AM: I wake up and head to the gym. I meet my gym instructor, Mahtab, a beautiful Persian name meaning moonlight. She speaks perfect English and we laugh a lot together. I have my 1-hour personal training session which costs approximately €2 because the gym is government subsidised. The gym is for women only. This means women can work out and use the swimming pool without worrying about Islamic dress restrictions.
11 AM: I then head to a cafe near Tajrish Bazaar, in the north of the city. I catch a 15-minute taxi here, which costs €1. There is a Persian language school around the corner so the cafe staff are not surprised to see an Australian girl come in. I use my cellphone to hotspot 4G internet with average speeds of 35mbps. Although Islamic hijab is required by law in Iran, here most of the women in the cafe have let their headscarf slide off the back of their heads as they sip their lattes and cold-brews. Nobody looks twice at these “unveiled” women.
2 PM: For lunch, I have plans to meet my friend who is a fashion designer. We head to a traditional restaurant on Vali Asr Street for some ash (a delicious Iranian noodle soup with lentils, beans and herbs). She fills me in on her latest collection and invites me to her pop-up shop launch next week. Lunch is served with homemade bread and costs about €1.50.
3 PM: After lunch, I head back to the cafe to do a bit more work. I have to log onto Wix, a website development platform, but it is blocked because of US sanctions. I activate my VPN to circumnavigate the problem.
Fresh produce is easy to find all over Iran. One of my favourite spots with a tonne of variety is the Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran (photo credit: TripAdvisor.au)
7 PM: In the evening I walk to the Tajrish Bazaar to pick up some fresh produce. In this beautiful marketplace of winding hallways, there is every kind of food imaginable. In the Tajrish Bazaar, you can find a huge international supermarket, all kinds of fresh juices, herbalists, patisseries, cheesemakers, butchers and greengrocers. I gather the ingredients and head home on the metro (ticket cost: 10 cents).
9 PM: Although there aren’t any bars or clubs in Iran, Iranians still enjoy getting out and about at night. Tonight I am heading to see a performance at the University of Tehran’s theatre, it is a pantomime called DreamLand. The show costs €1.50 to see.
For most European, Asian, South American and Australasian citizens getting a tourist visa in Iran is easy as pie. Something like 98% of applicants are approved within a few days. The tourist visa is usually issued for 30 days and can be extended an additional 60 days – so you can stay up to 90 days. If you leave the country you can usually re-enter on a new tourist visa and do the whole process again.
For the UK, US and Canadian citizens, a tourism visa means you must have a guide with you at all times. This will be expensive and also annoying. Passport holders from these countries are better off applying for an Iranian student visa if they plan to live and work in Iran.
For more information on Visas – click here.
|Type of accommodation||Location||Price|
|Hostel dorm room||Anywhere in Iran||€2-6 per night|
|Mid-range hotel||Anywhere in Iran||€ 10 per night|
|5-star hotel||Anywhere in Iran||€40 per night|
|Private room in a share house||Nice neighbourhood in Tehran||€300 per month|
|2 bedroom house/ villa||A smaller city like Yazd or Northern Iran||€100 per month|
Read our hostel guide Hostels in Iran – An Ultimate Guide for Solo Travellers and Backpackers 2019 for all the details. Although Airbnb is not available in Iran, websites like expat.com, Housing Anywhere and Tehran Furnished are a good place to start looking for short-term rentals.
My advice would be to travel in Iran a bit first before committing to a short-term lease. You may meet some people who you want to share a flat with or find your on little slice of heaven by fluke. Iranian’s do the majority of their advertising on social media and in Farsi, so it can be a little difficult to find relevant, up to date information about rentals from afar.
At the moment, the cost of living in Iran is really low if you are earning euros or dollars. Last year the US tore up the trade agreement brokered by the Obama administration and sanctioned Iran. Subsequently, the Iranian Rial lost 3 times its value in 2018. Although the rial is slowly regaining value, things are still very cheap for international visitors. For more information on the cost of living in Iran, read: Calling all Digital Nomads – This is Why Iran is the Best Place to Work Remotely.
If you live paycheque to pay cheque you will need to be a bit organised when it comes to budgeting and finances in Iran. Due to sanctions, Iran is cut off from international money systems. This means that 99.9% of the time, you can’t use MasterCard and Visa cards in Iran. Travelers have the option of carrying cash or getting an Iranian travel debit card.
MahCard is Iran’s first temporary debit card provider. With a one-time service fee of 19 euros, you can order your Iranian debit card and off you go. MahCard gives you the flexibility and security to pay with card wherever you go. You can top-up your card online whenever you need.
For more details on how MahCard works, check out the website.
There is a misconception that Iran is very technologically behind and therefore remote work is impossible. Yes, there are some roadblocks but these can be easily overcome, especially for short term visitors.
In 2017 average national internet speeds increased by 36% to an average of 16.74mbps and in Tehran internet users will enjoy speeds up to 50mbps. Although public wifi is not that common in Iran, you can rent a pocket WiFi for Iran with unlimited data with MahCell, all for a reasonable price of €15 per week. You can apply online in advance and have your MahCell delivered to your hotel in Iran.
Another perceived barrier is restricted web browsing and access to the software. These are valid concerns but you can get around these issues by using a good VPN.
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