Don’t believe the sensational hype that says travel in Iran is dangerous – it’s not. 
Travel Iran - Street in Tehran

A street in Tehran

When I told people I was going to travel to Iran I had one of two reactions:

Reaction 1 – with wide eyed excitement “oh… you have to go here, here and here… and you’ll love it!”

Reaction 2 – with wide eyed horror … silence … a bit more silence … and then with a lot of trepidation “is it safe?”

I’m fairly certain some thought I was likely to be arrested and have my head cut off. Yes capital punishment is still on the books in Iran, the security service is brutal, and political activists don’t always fare very well. But political activism probably isn’t high on any tourist’s agenda I’m guessing (and I suggest you don’t get involved in).

The truth about Iran is that it is safe. In fact 98% of the time, I felt safer than I do walking around at home in Australia. (The other two per cent were moments that could have happened anywhere in the world, and I won’t attribute them to the notion that Iran is unsafe).

It is a place where people will say hello to you on the street, want to know where you are from and why you came to their country. They want to help, share their home, quite literally sometimes, and make sure you enjoy your stay.

As a journalist I understand the media tends to only share the bad stories. In the case of Iran, most recently that has been stories about former president Ahmadinejad and his nuclear posturing, his brutal crackdown on protesters during the Green Revolution in 2009, anything that is said against Israel and the plight of Iranian asylum seekers.

A curtain of sanctions have made trade and travel hard.

Look, I get it – none of these things make Iran look good. But keep in mind all of those stories relate to the actions of successive governments, and the people and the everyday life of a country isn’t the same as the government.

The colour, delicious food and life of Iran illustrate its history, and as for the people, they will go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.

The bus network is incredible, so easy to travel on with multiple buses a day running hundreds of routes, and they are cheap as chips, they’ll even feed you. There’s a train network and plenty of domestic flights, taxis galore and rental car companies if you decide you want to take your chances and drive yourself.

Travel Iran - Yellow taxis at an intersection in Shiraz

Shiraz traffic

Cities resemble other cities around the world, roads, buildings, restaurants, cafes, parks, statues, art galleries, theatres, shops and transport systems (including super efficient underground trains in some of the big cities).

Modern, educated, active, forward thinking sum up Iranian society (even if the government isn’t); there is always good espresso coffee around the corner (a very important thing for a fussy caffeine addict like myself); and no one will hassle you to buy things, something other parts of the Middle East are infamous for.

You can find at least a handful of parks in every city and town, which are a great place to sit and watch the world go by, one of my favourite past times when I travel. Lovers can be found sneaking time together (unless they’re married, they could be arrested for immoral behaviour); children run around; and lots of people cycle through. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening, especially in summer.

Travel Iran - A man taking a stroll in a park in Esfahan

A man taking a stroll in a park in Esfahan

Climate wise, Iran has deserts, humid sea, lush green forested mountains, which are covered in snow in winter (Iran apparently has some fantastic ski fields) and smoggy cities. It’s big, it’s diverse and you will surely find something there you’ll enjoy.

I’m not trying to ignore the less savoury things that happen – the beatings and whippings for dancing, not wearing the compulsory hijab, for interacting with the opposite sex, for drinking alcohol… and unfortunately the list does go on.

But remember, that it’s the government doing this. Yes, there are plenty of people in society who agree with the strict moral code, but I’d say the majority don’t.

Travel Iran - In Shahr Park, Tehran

In Shahr Park, Tehran

Hijabs, long skirts or trousers, and long sleeved, loose fitting opaque shirts are compulsory for women in Iran. For me, this was the worst thing about Iran.

It is stifling, particularly in the heat of summer, and I was probably never more conscious of being female. There is a slow push back against it (check out My Stealthy Freedom), but it will be a long time, and probably another revolution before it disappears.

But don’t let any of that stop you from visiting Iran. It’s a place you won’t forget in a hurry.

Iran is safe and you won’t have your head cut off (as long you don’t do anything egregiously illegal).

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  3. Rachel Story

    March 31, 2017 at 06:36

    This article is great! I’m American so all the political rhetoric coming out of my country says “Iran is bad. It’s dangerous. They people hate you. Don’t go there!” I’m quite certain this isn’t entirely true. I think Iranian people would welcome Americans into their country with open arms. No, our governments don’t get along but that certainly doesn’t mean the people have to dislike each other as well.

    Thank you for writing this and describing the country in such detail. It’s officially been added to my bucket list!

    1. Emma

      March 31, 2017 at 08:06

      I’m sure they would welcome you as well Rachel, and I’m sure you would enjoy it as much as I did.

      Every time I tell someone I went there, I usually still get the same response I got when I told people I was going – a look of horror and exactly what you’ve described “isn’t it dangerous??” I calmly explain “no, I felt more safe there than I do in Sydney sometimes.”

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