Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Visit To Iran

 "So you're an American and you are going to go to Iran!?" 
"Yeah, is that a problem?"

     It was somewhere in the middle of two months in Italy last year that the thought sprang to me... Where to go next? I always have a loose idea of what's next on the list, and it seems that it always materializes while I'm traveling, so somewhere in central Italy I decided that the next year I was going to go to the Islamic Republic Of Iran.

     While many people told me I was crazy to go to Iran people have told me I am crazy to go just about anywhere I have ever been in my life outside of my border states... In 2005 I was crazy to want to move to Arizona, I was crazy before I moved here to visit Mexico, I was crazy to go to World Cup, to go to Israel, Turkey, I was crazy to go to Chernobyl (maybe this one I agree), crazy to go to Communa 13, so let's face it, I guess I'm crazy... But Iran was so worth being crazy.

In Front Of The Former American Embassy in Tehran
    It's unfortunate about the political climate in Iran with USA and some of the western world, and of course the middle east itself has had some rocky political climate points. But I didn't find any of this in Iran. I found some great people, great museums, great architecture, beautiful landscape, and unforgettable memories. I had read on forums over and over again how the Iranians are the most kind people, the nicest, the humblest etc. And I'm not going to negate this, some of them are, but my number one take of what the Iranians are, they are people. Just like everyone of us, I don't want to get over political as this is a travel blog, but all the people I met there were so unbelievably close to normal and like me. Religion and state are not separate so of course that's different. But I found people talking with me about American & foreign films, taking selfie pics, photo bombing me, hanging out in cafe's watching football with me, working out in the parks, and just living day to day life. I visited the former American Embassy, the anti-American paintings were still there, but absolutely no one bothered me as a tourist. That being said, should we all go to Iran? That's a personal decision. It sucks to talk about it, because there are political tensions, and you can't say without a doubt nothing will happen, but in the same breath you can die crossing the street, taking the train to work, etc.

    Anyway, here's my travel tips for going to Iran:

Walking down Azadi St, one of the main roads

  • Your entry visa will be a whole separate post I will do later, it's a bit complicated. 
  • You will need to bring a lot of cash, no credit cards will work in Iran, exchanging money is fairly easy, bring Dollars or Euros, of course I'd check on travel forums when it's closer to your stay to see if this info is up to date.
  • Hotels... This is going to be different, you will have to email your hotel and make the reservation with an emailed copy of your passport. You will pay the hotel in cash and they hold your passport as a security deposit. This part was super uncomfortable for me as my passport is on me at all times unless I'm in the ocean, but it is the way things are done there. 
  • Getting around Tehran is a breeze, the metro is very easy, but if you decide to walk there are countless gems to find along the way, parks, art exhibits etc.

  • In my opinion your must see and do's in Tehran are the Azadi Tower, catch some views from the Milad Tower, take a walk on the Tabliat Bridge, and you can really get immersive in the Grand Bazaar historical market.

  • Something I didn't read about and didn't expect was so much street art, I didn't write any addresses down but you will be delighted to find murals everywhere such as the horses and war mural below.

  • My favorite picks for Persian food: Bademjan, Ghormeh Sabzi, and of course Kebab. Surprisingly to me the coffee and coffee shops in Tehran were absolutely top notch!  
  • Interestingly while in some parts of the middle east I have literally been followed by store owners leaving their business behind to get tourist money out of me, in Iran, not a single person recognized me as a tourist. People routinely spoke to me in Farsi before realizing I was not from there.
  • Persepolis.... ughhh... sadly to say, I am a budget traveler, and I did not have enough time to get to Persepolis, next time!!!
     As I have now been to several "conflict" countries, I think about how similar we really are to each other out there and how travel breaks down these racist and xenophobic stereotypes that say otherwise. Three countries in particular I've thought about that I have been to: Italy, Japan, and Germany. 75 years ago, it would be thought to be insane for an American to go to these WWII places, but today no one would bat an eye, they most likely have been or know someone that have been and maybe even would give you an insider tip on a good restaurant there. I hope one day this is the same for everywhere in this world... in less than 75 years of course, I don't know if I'll still be traveling then!


Choose the continent!!!!

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