Information & Facts
Most Iranian businessmen speak English and are polite and conservative in their manner. The same respect is expected in return. Exchanging business cards is normally restricted to senior business figures and it is advisable to have, in Farsi, a translation of details on the alternate side. Appointments should be made and punctuality is expected for business meetings. Dress is formal and conservative and though Iranians do not wear ties, it is not negative for foreigners to do so. Women should dress modestly and cover their hair. Business gifts are quite acceptable. Friday is the Muslim holy day when everything is closed, and most businesses also close on Thursday. During Ramadan business hours may be shortened.
Spring and autumn are the best times to travel to Iran as the weather is not as hot as in June and July when the country scorches with occasional heavy rains. July is the hottest month with temperatures soaring to between 95ºF - 133ºF (35ºC - 45ºC). Autumn starts in September and is usually sunny, turning cold and damp by November. Winter lasts from December through March and can include substantial snowfall depending on the region. January and February can be bitterly cold with temperatures plummeting to 5ºF to -4ºF (-5ºC to -20ºC) though days can be mild in the southern parts of the country.
The international dialling code for Iran is +98. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. +44 for the United Kingdom). Internet cafes are found in major cities and public telephones accept 5-10 and 50 Rial coins and/or telephone cards. Iranian mobile telephone systems are not compatible with those of other countries except for satellite phones.
Because Iran is predominantly Islamic, dress is extremely conservative and travellers should take care not to offend codes of dress, behaviour, drugs and alcohol, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. During this time foreigners are not expected to fast, but must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and chewing gum in public. It is always best to err on the side of caution. Behaviour that would be regarded as innocuous elsewhere can lead to serious trouble in Iran. The possession and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. In recent times a Western businessman was detained on charges of 'being a non-Muslim and having knowledge of a Muslim woman.' Female visitors from the age of nine years old and up should wear headscarves in public, cover arms and legs and wear loose fitting clothing. They should also avoid looking into men's eyes too much, as this could easily be interpreted as an attempt to seduce. The Revolutionary Guard (Pasdaran) continues to enforce Islamic law and has the power to stop pedestrians, check clothing, make sure couples walking together are married and enter people's homes to ensure Islamic standards are being upheld. Travellers should be aware that homosexuality and adultery are crimes in Islam and are punishable by flogging and even death. Unmarried couples of the opposite sex travelling together should be discreet in public. Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited. Travellers may be detained and face serious criminal charges, including espionage, which carries the death penalty.
Duty free allowances for visitors to Iran include 200 cigarettes (or the equivalent in tobacco products) and a reasonable amount of perfume/cologne for personal use. Alcohol is prohibited. All cameras and currency should be declared upon arrival.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European and British style plugs are standard.
There are a few health risks to consider when travelling to Iran. Travellers are recommended to be vaccinated against polio and typhoid. Malaria is a risk in some parts of the country, and cholera outbreaks also occur. Yellow fever certificates are required by those arriving from an infected country in Africa or the Americas. Tap water should not be drunk, including ice in drinks, and food precautions should be taken. Healthcare in the cities of Iran is good, but is generally insufficient in rural areas. Travellers are advised to have full medical insurance and to consult with their medical practitioner prior to travel.
The official language of Iran is Persian, also known as Farsi. English is mostly spoken and understood by businessmen.
The unit of currency is the Iranian Rial (IRR) which is divided into 100 dinar but the tomanis used by Iranians today as an amount of ten Rial. Most Iranians state the value of things in toman instead of Rial. Prices are most often marked in toman, with 1,000 or 1,000,000 toman equivalent to 10,000 or 10,000,000 Rial respectively. It is best to travel with US Dollars, which can be exchanged upon arrival in the airport or bank in big cities or at street rate in the streets. Travellers are not advised to take travellers cheques unless it is a necessity as they can only be exchanged at the Bank Melli branches at the international airport in Tehran and in central Tehran. An increasing number of mid-range hotels and all top-end establishments accept Visa and MasterCard. Some of the more expensive Iranian hotels charge in US Dollars.
Visitors require a passport (must be valid at least six months after period of intended stay). Visitors must hold return an onward ticket, all documents required for next destination and sufficient funds. Some nationalities requiring a visa can obtain it on arrival provided the visit is for tourist purposes and for a maximum of 15 days. Immigration requires a photo and US$50 for the holder of the passport and U$10 for each of the companions (if any) to cover visa fees. Otherwise a 72-hour visa can be issued upon arrival, if a passenger has been introduced by means of a letter from a valid organization or government at least two days prior to arrival. The fee is US$30. The passenger must report to the police within eight days of arrival. Visitors should be aware that if their passport contains an Israeli stamp, or any evidence of an intended or past visit to Israel, entry into Iran will be refused even if in possession of a valid visa. Reporters, journalists, photographers and cameramen of any nationality, other than Iranian, require a visa. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travellers should exercise safety precautions throughout Iran, recently there have been a number of bomb attacks in cities in Iran. In the south-eastern region, Westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. Crime is relatively low in the cities, but there have been an increasing number of robberies by young men on motorbikes who snatch items from pedestrians. Anti-Western sentiment among certain elements of the population has resulted in violent demonstrations outside foreign representations based in the country. Travellers are advised to avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings. Travel within 60 miles (100km) of the Afghanistan border, six miles (10km) of the Iraq border, and 30 miles (50km) of the border of Pakistan is considered unsafe. Increased tension between Iran and the West over the past several years is a cause of concern for American travellers, and the US State Department and British Foreign office have issued warnings against non-essential travel to Iran.
Although there are many circumstances where a small tip is expected, it is unlikely that a waiter will be hovering around expectantly after delivering the bill. It's worth remembering that helpful Iranians probably deserve some extra appreciation to supplement their meagre wages. In most cases, tipping is an optional reward for good service. Fares in private taxis are always negotiable.