It’s almost a year since I made my first trip to the Middle east and that life-changing eyeopening trip to IRAN. Even though I was squeamish about making the journey at first as a solo female traveller, I finished the trip with no incident and Iran is actually my favorite of all the 26 countries I’ve been to! It tops the scale when it comes to culture, history, scenery, friendliness of the people and affordability. Even if you twist my arm, I only have beautiful things to say about the place and it’s something I will never regret visiting 🙂
My trip to Iran started with an US$100 one way planet ticket that I scored in an Air Asia seat sale (it was still flying to Tehran as of March 2018 and now, no more). I have heard only nice things online from people who went there, and if I didn’t make the trip, at least am just throwing away $100…. nothing substantial.
I was undecided up to the last minute about making the trip because I was a bit scared. But then, I had a foreign journalist guest in my house who said: “You should definitely go! It is very safe and if Filipinos are friendly, the Iranians are ten times more friendly.”
That made up my mind about pushing through with the trip.
So, without beating around the bush, here are my Top 5 myths about travelling to Iran….DEBUNKED!
1. Iran is a dangerous place to be.
Here is the irony: I felt safer in Iran than other major advanced cities of the world. I did not see any accidents or shootings or encountered petty theft. I saw the military police roaming around at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran and even giving me a strange look but nothing of significance to make me nervous. I even hitchhiked for a 20 minute ride in a private car and sat next to this old woman who spoke to me in their own strange tongue. There were people who spoke English in Iran so the language barrier was not really significant.
2. It is hard to travel to Iran as a woman.
The only difficulty for a tourist like me was wearing a veil and not showing any skin in my clothing but other than these, none!The women of Iran were beautiful, really friendly and made you feel at home. They were cosmopolitan actually…. they smoked, knew how to take a drink, loved heavy makeup and even wore their nose jobs with pride on the public trains. I was fascinated by them!
In photo: Iranian stewardess for Air Asia
3. Iran is a backward place.
For a country that has been crippled by a trade embargo, Iran was coping well the last time I visited. As a tourist, I did not suffer from transportation delays and was driven to town in a Peugeot car. Restaurant food and coffee were excellent. I saw lots of stuff for sale in the Grand Bazaar, even imported ones. No beggars were hustling me. The only challenge to be hurdled was that there were no ATMs and no credit card acceptance in 99% of establishments, but I was certainly glad there were no Western fast food chains like McDonald’s either.
In photo: Hostel life in Tehran with fellow travelers from Japan and Indonesia
Iranian cuisine is superb….and cheap!
4. Iran is a boring place.
Define boring. Iran had internet. There was so much culture to absorb. It is, after all, one of the ancient cradles of civilization. The landscapes were diverse: you can go skiing in the slopes or walk in the sand dunes. The old town of Varzaneh, southeast of Isfahan. Iran was quite memorable since I entered a pigeon house, explored an old citadel fortress, walked in the salt lake (you could float in here like you would in the Dead Sea), marveled at the huge expanse of desert and gazed at the volcanic mountain!
Having fun with Iranian friends I met at a house party –
5. It is hard to enter Iran as a tourist.
This might be true if you come from the Western world, like America or Europe. Best to read visa requirements before booking a trip. I did a lot of reading myself because I was not sure whether or not it’s a must to apply for a sticker visa in Manila. The good news for Filipinos is that we can apply for visa on arrival and pay for the needed insurance at the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. As of 2018, fee was 14 euros for one month stay.