More Iran Travel Tips for Women
As Iran re-opens its doors to the world, travel security specialist and beTravelwise advisor, Justine Oliver, provides first-hand knowledge of the dos and don’ts for women visiting this fascinating destination in a two-part series. In the first part of the series, Justine shared her tips for basic safety and cultural differences including greetings, clothing, and behavior. In part two, she discusses food, alcohol, public transportation, gender separation and traffic safety.
Guest Author: Justine Oliver, beTravelwise Travel Security Advisor
With sanctions on Iran being relaxed and airlines including British Airways reintroducing direct flights to Tehran, Iran is once again attracting foreign businesses and travelers. Having just returned from a one-month self-drive tour of the country, I can assure you the destination has much to offer.
As a travel security consultant, specializing in women travelers, are my top tips to ensure visitors have a safe and fascinating trip to Iran.
EATING AND DRINKING
One of the things women dislike about traveling on their own is eating alone. Iranians are so friendly and joyful that it is unlikely that you will have to endure much solitary dining. Due to social constraints, men are unlikely to approach you but it is very likely that Iranian women, in groups or with their family, will invite you to dine with them. Don’t be surprised if they pay for your meal even if you have declined to join them!
Iranians are so friendly and joyful that it is unlikely that you will have to endure much solitary dining.
Alcohol is illegal in Iran, but if you are invited to an Iranian family’s house, you may well be offered it. Be prudent in your assessment of the situation. There are harsh penalties for drinking alcohol and there is always the possibility that your guide or another guest may report the fact you drank alcohol to the authorities.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT AND GENDER SEPARATION
Public transport is safe to use but aside from the Tehran Metro, it is probably not the ideal mode of transport for a business traveler.
The Tehran metro is cheap, clean, air-conditioned and easy to navigate. At the front and rear of each train are women-only carriages. These were implemented for gentlemanly reasons rather than being sexist or discriminatory and can provide a less crowded and more comfortable experience, particularly during the rush-hour crush in the central carriages. Women may enter other carriages alone or with male colleagues.
The Tehran metro is cheap, clean, air-conditioned and easy to navigate.
Other modes of public transport also feature women-only sections and separation may been forced on some buses.
Toilets are definitely a low point in what is otherwise a highly sophisticated society. Surprisingly, they are not always segregated. It is not uncommon to visit the bathroom in a restaurant to find that you have to walk through the men’s toilets to get to the women’s section. There is however always soap for which one is most grateful!
The majority of hotel pools are not segregated, so unfortunately women cannot use them or even sit by them even if wearing the hijab. There are some segregated beaches, where the female swimming section is screened off, but these are few and far between.
ROAD TRAFFIC INCIDENTS
The main roads in Iran are very good quality, but driving standards are poor. Always check that your vehicle has working seat belts and sit in the back. Drivers will attempt to drive as quickly as they can; ask them to slow down if you are concerned and feign motion sickness if you are making no headway.
Drivers will attempt to drive as quickly as they can; ask them to slow down if you are concerned.
Cities are safe to walk around and often you will be in the shade of trees, even in cities, however crossing roads can be daunting, even at official crossings. Always look both ways even on one-way streets, especially when you near the pavement again. You may find it easier to ‘tag’ onto a local and cross in time with them. Even while safely sticking to the pavement, be aware of scooters traveling from both directions.
Iran is a fantastic country to visit. Certain nationalities still have visa complications and journalists or those involved in human rights can face greater risks, but for the average traveler, a wonderful trip awaits.
See Related: Travel Tips for Women Traveling to Iran: Part 1
About Justine Oliver
Justine Oliver is an independent travel security specialist with extensive global expertise, who specialises in solo female travel. For the last 16 years she has advised multi-nationals, NGO’s, media organisations, educational establishments, companies and individuals how to operate safely abroad. From 2001 to 2015 Justine worked for Control Risks and then a joint venture between Control Risks and International SOS in London, providing all elements of travel security, incident and crisis management, business continuity and security solutions to clients around the globe. During this time, Justine delivered regular training to clients operating abroad or sending new travellers and ex-pats into foreign environments. She conducts training, both via webinar and face-to-face, to individuals and groups across Europe. Before specialising in travel security, Justine lived in Hong Kong for four years where she worked in development for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund. On leaving South East Asia, instead of flying home, Justine decided to spend 10 months sailing a 30-foot sailing boat back to London with her future husband. During this time, Justine honed her writing skills by documenting her trip and her resulting articles were serialised in Yachting Monthly. Justine has travelled to and worked in more than 58 countries and has just returned from a five-month trip with her husband and two children, self-driving a 1957 Land Rover to Iran and back. Justine holds a degree in Combined Studies from Newcastle University. She currently lives in South West France.
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