2 years ago on our overland trip, we heard wondrous things about travelling in Iran. Alas, we did not have the opportunity to go then by we made a vow we would go there. So 2 years later, we did.
Before we went, many of our coworkers , friends and family questioned our sanity for choosing such a vacation destination. Many thought we would be kidnapped by ISIS. (Except my mother and father who actually bought tickets to go a few years back but a family emergency prevented them from going so they were super chill with the idea of going much to the shock of my colleagues and many thanks to my mother for visiting the Iranian Embassy 6 times to fight beauraucracy and help M get his visa).
Let me vear off and talk about visa processing in HK. I originally went in late August to obtain both M and I visa. For mine, I handed $700 cash and was told to pick it up in 2 days. However they told me Swedish passports required a Letter of Invitation so I had to apply for one first. After a couple of weeks going through an online agency I got the LOI and asked my mother to go to the embassy. I handed her the $700 cash and thought everything would go smooth. Here is my poor mother experience:
Monday : go to embassy , was told it was only possible to pay by cheque for $700. My mother didn’t have any cheques at hand. I later confirmed with the embassy again via phone and wrote my mother a cheque for $700.
Tuesday: go to embassy. Was told it was $500 payable by cheque. My mother only had a $700 cheque. The lady then said if she paid an extra $50 cash along with $700 cheque , she could get a rush visa and pick it up the next day.
Wednesday : go to embassy, tell her it’s not ready, come back tomorrow.
Thursday: go to embassy, they tell her to com back in an hour. She comes back in an hour, they tell her to come back tomorrow.
Friday: I call the embassy, it’s finally ready. The visa is picked up.
So the rushed visa was a very slow visa. Later, my mother asked a friend who went to Iran how much they paid for their visa, it was $800 cash.
So I felt bad for my mother, and my mother demanded I buy her a vase in Iran.
Anyways back to Shiraz, so with our visa ready, off we went via Dubai to Shiraz, Iran. Getting out of customs was a breeze. The airport didn’t have any sin for currency changer so I just asked a random lady shopkeeper. Since I had no clue what the exchange rate was and figured she wouldn’t give me a great rate, I only changed 25 Euros. At any rate, she gave me 32000:1 euro which we accepted. (She did give us a crappy rate since we later got 33000: 1 USD). Then the taxi driver took us to the hotel for 200,000 rials.
Iran currency system is kind of confusing because they talk in tomens but use rials. Tomens has one zero less than rials so when they say it’s 50,000 they really mean 500,000 rials.
Anyways we went to the hotel which was a really nice traditional Iranian hotel called Parhami Traditional Hotel ($40usd/night) which had amazing service and breakfasts, and started exploring Shiraz. Around midday we were in dire need of money so we went to the money exchangers but as they were closed we just changed in the middle of the street at 1USD to 33,000rials. Counting $16million rials in the middle of the street is pretty funny. Then we did some sightseeing:
The next day we booked a tour with Pars to Persepolis and Necropolis for $30USD each. This was a half day tour and it was well run. Originally we were thinking of taking public transport there but it sounded far too complicated. Perhaps Peresepolis is so hyped up and famous, I was a bit let down when I saw the site. Maybe because it my mind it should have been bigger and more structures standing. The Necropolis however, becuase the structures were carved into the mountains and therefore didn’t topple over impressed me a lot.
Early next morning, we left for the bus on a 7 hour journey to Yazd. Though we almost missed it because the hotel lady said it was a 30 min walk but it most definitely wasn’t. Luckily we managed to flag a taxi down with 5 mins to spare and he rushed us to the terminal. He didn’t even want to charge us money but we gave him $3USD.
The people of Shiraz is very nice. We wanted to buy a small piece of traditional Iranian flat bread, and when we tried to buy it the worker just gave a piece to us. And the hotel worker drove us to a restaurant to eat after she was done her shift.
Note about Iran:
Everything in Iran closes from 1-4pm due to Siesta time. Also dinner starts at 8pm.
Everyone picnics everywhere as long as there is shade.
With no drinking, everyone drinks fresh fruit juice and eats ice cream. Grown men, young children all buy ice cream and eat it at all times.