Persian called fÄrsi in Persian, ÙØ§Ø±Ø³Û, an Indo-European language, is Iran's national and official language. Although Persian is written with a modified Arabic alphabet, the two languages are not related but Persian does contain a very large number of Arabic loanwords, many of which form part of basic Persian vocabulary See "Iranian Nationality" under "Respect" .
Many young Iranians in major cities, and almost certainly those working in international travel agents and high-end hotels will speak conversational English but basic Persian phrases will definitely come in handy, particularly in rural areas.
Road signs are often double signed in English, but few other signs are. As an extra challenge, most Persian signage uses an ornate calligraphic script that bears little resemblance to its typed form. This can make comparing typed words in phrase books--such as 'bank' and 'hotel'--to signs on buildings quite difficult. However it is still worth memorising the Persian script for a few key words such as restaurant, guesthouse, and hotel see relevant sections below for the script.
Be aware that Kurdish and Azeri languages are also spoken in areas of large Kurdish and Azeri populations.
See also: Persian phrasebook
Iran has state-of-the-art medical facilities in all its major cities.
Apart from being up to date with your usual travel vaccinations tetanus, polio, etc no special preparation is needed for travel to Iran. For minor ailments, your hotel can contact an English-speaking doctor. In case of serious illness or accident, you can ask to be taken to a hospital with English-speaking staff such as Milad Hospital, Atiyeh Hospital, Mehrad Hospital, Day Hospital or Khatam ol-Anbia Hospital in Tehran. Make sure that your health insurance covers illness or accident on holidays since free medical service is not available in Iran.
Tap water is safe to drink in most of the country and especially the cities, although you may find the chalkiness and taste off-putting in some areas mainly Qom, Yazd, Hormozgan and Boushehr provinces. Bottled mineral water Äb ma'dani is widely available. Also, on many streets and sites, public water fridges are installed to provide drinking water.
Iran has WiFi and other wireless internet access from providers such as Irancell and Mobin net,parsonline,shuttle.The networks are widespread and often offer wire less high speed internet access. Conservative forces within the Iranian government have been wary of providing internet users in their country with the adult content and politically dissident views available on the Internet. After a clampdown on unlicensed internet cafes a few years ago, cafe-net Ú©Ø§ÙÛ ÙØª facilities have popped up across all major cities and tourist centres. Some, but not all, are double-signed in English, so you may want to memorise the Persian script. If in doubt, any young Iranian should be able to point you in the direction of the nearest coffee net. Iran is the fourth largest country of bloggers.
Some websites are blocked based on words appearing in their URL, however savvy coffee net users may be able to show you how to circumvent these restrictions. These include but are not limited to social networking websites. You can expect to pay between 3,000-15,000 rials/hr and speeds range from acceptable in major cities, to the infuriatingly slow in small towns and rural areas. More recently, some facilities in major cities use broadband wireless or DSL connections. Most coffee net places will also have a DVD burner for downloading photos from digital cameras.
You will also find internet connectivity in most middle-class Iranian homes but the acces speed of over 2mb/s is restricted for home users by the government.
Western music and dancing in public is banned . However, the visitors may notice that even shared taxis openly play the music of their choice. Still, customs may confiscate any music tapes or CDs brought in as some western music is considered un-Islamic, degrading towards women and corrupting for the minds of the youth. However, many Iranian youth have widespread access to all kinds of music. Women are not allowed to sing in public even the traditional music they may sing indoor for women only.
Iran is a publicly segregated society. Many facilities such as transport and mosques are segregated and extended social interaction between men and women who are not related or married is eyed with suspicion.
Greet people of the same sex with a handshake, three kisses or both, but avoid physical contact with people of the opposite sex in public. Wait for them to introduce themselves instead; or just introduce yourself normally. Bowing with a hand over your heart has been outdated since the 70s and is rarely done. In private, only shake hands with a member of the opposite sex when he/ she holds out his/her hand first.
Be careful of initiating political discussions. The relative political freedom of ex-President Mohammad Khatami's era is fading quickly and vocal opposition can be more trouble than it's worth, even if your Iranian companions get engaged in it. It's best not to discuss topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict or the role of Islam in society regardless of what opinion you hold.
In general, Iranians are warm, friendly and generous individuals with a strong interest in foreigners and other cultures. In dealing with Iranians, the following tips relating to customs and etiquette may prove useful:
Although its strict Islamic moral code is well known, Iranian laws are not as strict as other countries such as Saudi Arabia. Respecting the dozens of unspoken rules and regulations of Iranian life can be a daunting prospect for travellers, but don't be intimidated. As a foreigner you will be given leeway and it doesn't take long to acclimatise yourself.
The culture, like most others in the Middle East and Central Asia, has a strong tradition of hospitality. Guests are often treated extremely well. On the other hand, there is some insularity; any foreigner may be regarded with suspicion.
These are the area codes for major citiesTehran 021 - Kashan 0361 - Isfahan 0311 - Ahwaz 0611 - Shiraz 0711 - Tabriz 0411 - Mashad 0511 - Kerman 0341 - Gorgan 0171 - Na'in 0323
When making international calls from Iran, the prefix to be dialled prior to country code is 00.
The country code is 98, if dialing from a cellphone +98
Irancell (http://irancell.ir/en/) MTN, MCI, Iran Taliya and Rightel offer relatively cheap 60,000 rials pre-paid SIM cards for international travellers. It is possible to buy recharge cards from all newsstands and supermarkets for 20,000-10,000 rials. These networks specially MCI and Irancell, works quite well in all cities and rural areas. GPRS and MMS is also available at very low prices, specially at night, for surfing the web or checking your email. WiFi with your mobile phone or tablet is a good option in Iran.
MCI and Irancell are another popular operators that cover most Iranian territory. Even in villages or borders, MCI and Irancell have GPRS and MMS as well. The recharge cards are 50,000 rials or 10,000 rials in value. The Taliya operator network is a bit weak. Kishcell and Isfahancell are operating in some region/locally only.
Now Rightel has got broadband network [3G] and have very cheap voice video conference calls rates.
You can readily access WiFi internet services depending upon network availability in many areas, and in all provinces.
visiting holy sites
Although no trip to Iran would be complete without a glimpse at the stunning architecture and sombre environments of its mosques or holy shrines, many travellers are daunted by the prospect of walking into the foreign world of a mosque. Don't let these fears stop you; Iranians are welcoming and will understand any unintended breach of protocol.
Some mosques, and most holy shrines, require women to be wearing a chÄdor before entering the complex. If you don't have one, there are sometimes kiosks by the door that lend or hire chÄdors. It is better for men to wear long-sleeved shirts inside a mosque or shrine, though this is not mandatory.
Shoes are not worn within prayer areas of a mosque or shrine. Busier mosques have free shoe repositories where you trade your shoes for a token. Also try to avoid mosques on the holy day of Friday as they will be much busier and don't photograph a mosque while prayers are taking place.
Holy shrines, like those in Mashad and Qom, are usually off limits to non-Muslims, although the surrounding complexes are fine. Always ask first before you enter a room you are unsure of.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Post Company has 209 central post offices which supervise all the 275 urban and 1,153 rural post offices. The company provides many of the internationally available post services. Parcel sending is very cheap and reliable. Bring your items unpacked to the post office. International courier companies such as DHL (http://www.dhl.co.ir/publ...), Skypak etc have offices in Tehran and accept documents for foreign destinations.
Tarof Persian: ØªØ¹Ø§Ø±Ù is a genuine Persian form of civility emphasising both self-deference and social rank. The term encompasses a range of social behaviours, from a man displaying etiquette by opening the door for another person, to a group of colleagues standing on ceremony in front of a door that can permit the entry of only one at time, earnestly imploring the most senior to break the deadlock.
The prevalence of tarof often gives rise to different styles of negotiation than one would see in a European or North American culture. For example, a worker negotiating a salary might begin with a eulogy of the employer, followed by a lengthy bargaining session consisting entirely of indirect, polite language -- both parties are expected to understand the implied topic of discussion. It is quite common for an Iranian worker even one employed in an Iranian neighbourhood within Europe to work unpaid for a week or two before the issue of wages is finally broached. Likewise, a shopkeeper may initially refuse to quote a price for an item, suggesting that it is worthless. Tarof obliges the customer to insist on paying, possibly several times, before a shopkeeper finally quotes a price and real negotiation can begin.
Tarof also governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times before the host and guest finally determine whether the host's offer and the guest's refusal are real or simply polite. It is possible to ask someone not to tarof tarof nÃ¤konid, but that raises new difficulties, since the request itself might be a devious type of tarof. The best approach to handle Tarof is to be politely direct. Accept or reject as soon as you wish to, and be sure that Iranians will not be offended. Even though Tarof is purely about the art of civility, your engagement in Tarof might enter you into a vicious cycle of hypocrisy that may ruin your entire stay. The exception to this may be with food; as mentioned above, guests are expected to accept food they are offered at dinner, regardless of whether they intend to eat it.
The thumbs up gesture is extremely rude in Iran, roughly equivalent to raising the middle finger in Western countries.
Hitchhiking is rare in Iran, and the country has a good public transportation system. If you do hitchhike, do not use a thumbs up signal. Also, be aware that drivers will generally expect to be paid and, unless you are an expert haggler, hitchhiking will often be more expensive than taking a bus.
Perhaps the most visible mark of Iran's Islamic leanings is the conservative dress expected of its citizens. Although normal Western-style clothing is acceptable in private homes, when in public women are required to cover everything but their face, hands and feet.
The most common uniform consists of a head scarf roo-sari, Ø±ÙØ³Ø±Û to conceal the head and neck, a formless, knee-length coat known as a maanto Ù Ø§ÙØªÙ and a long dress or pair of pants. In holy sites, you will be expected to dress even more modestly in a chÄdor, a full-length swathe of black cloth designed to cloak everything but your face from view.
As a foreigner, a female traveller is officially expected to cover her hair and body excluding hands and feet. Usually more tolerance tends to be shown towards foreigners over the detail of the dress code than is the case for Iranian women. However, this does not include leaving oneâs hair fully uncovered under any circumstance. "Acceptable" outfits may include a long, loose dress or shirt worn over loose skirt or pants and a scarf in the summer, and a full-length woolen coat and scarf in the winter calf-length is acceptable if worn over pants. All colours and modest designs are acceptable. Even when undertaking sporting activity in public such as tennis or jogging, the dress code described above must be maintained.
Men are also required to abide by the following dress code: Short-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are acceptable for daily wear. Shorts and three-quarter length pants are only acceptable on the beach. Dress attire for men is similar to that in Europe. Neckties are better to be avoided if visiting one of the more conservative government bodies. Regarded by the authorities as a sign of Imperialism and a reminder of the pro-western kingdom era, wearing neckties by the authorities and office workers of state-run companies is forbidden. It is quite acceptable in the areas outside though it denotes indifference toward or opposition against state regulations and values. Jogging in tracksuits but not shorts is acceptable for men.
iranian perceptions of outsiders
Even though travellers may arrive with the image of a throng chanting "Death to America", this is a superficial media presentation of the Iranian people and your chances of facing anti-Western sentiment as a traveller are slim. Even hardline Iranians make a clear distinction between the Western governments they distrust and individual travelers who visit their country. Americans may receive the odd jibe about their government's policies, but usually nothing more serious than that. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution and avoid politically-oriented conversations, particularly in taxi cabs. In addition, a few Iranian-Americans have been detained recently and accused of espionage. These kind of incidents are rare, but still the broader implications are worth considering and bearing in mind.