When it comes to planning a trip to Iran for many the first and most important issue is regarding safety. Things get more complicated when huge contradictions make it hard to know which side to believe. The always-negative anti-Iran media side or the overly happy and satisfied visitors who were obviously expecting a lot less than they thought? The line doesn’t even get thin.
Most of you who are reading this are probably quite aware that what is shown in the media can change overnight depending on new politics. Like the government of Britain suddenly changing their advice on travel to Iran after the nuclear deal, as if the country was filled with suicide bombers and they all decided to leave just as the deal was sealed! Ironic much?
But getting advice from other travelers is not that easy unless you have some Iran fans in your circle of friends or family and perhaps just hearing that Iran is pretty safe doesn’t really resolve your doubts.
So I thought I’d break it down for you. Explain things a bit more clearly and put what’s really out there, even if it happens very rarely.
Yes! Iran is safe. I would even dare to say that it’s one of the safest countries to travel and definitely the safest in the region and I doubt any traveler would tell you otherwise. But let’s dig in a little deeper:
If anything is going to harm your safety in Iran it’s this. Considering using a credit card is not an option in Iran, this means you’re all bringing a ton of cash with you and everyone knows that! Which makes you a guaranteed target. Sorry!
I’m not saying this happens often, it doesn’t. But I’ve heard it happen and who knows if you’re going to be next lucky Luke?
What can you do?
If you’re staying at a decent hotel, leaving your money in your room or in the safe box is not a problem. Nothing will happen. I personally do that all the time. But if you’re staying with locals or in cheap hostels then you’d probably want to carry it around with you. If you’re using a backpack, make sure you wear it in front of you so you’ll have full control. This is highly recommended if you’re going through busy areas such as the bazaar. But above all be conscious at all times.
I’ll be honest with you here; harassment of women in Iran is a thing! Unfortunately. It has gotten a lot less than before but it’s definitely an issue that needs to be resolved. It’s usually in the form of whispers and cars stopping at your feet while some overconfident driver tests his luck.
In the case of foreign female travelers this hardly ever happens. But what I’ve seen happen is this:
You will meet a ton of Iranians along your journey; they are a rather easy nation to make friends with. They’ll come up to you and say hello, take pictures and before you know it, it can get to numbers being exchanged. Here’s the thing: if you meet someone in a few minutes or even hours and he or she asks for your number, you don’t have to say yes. Many of them will not have any bad intentions but there’s really no need to keep in touch with every single stranger you meet. Save your number for those you get to spend more time with and want a lasting a friendship. If you do give your number to anyone, then have in mind that there’s a chance your next conversation can go a bit further than you thought.
An Iranian woman we had just met in a museum asked my friend’s number (she was a foreigner). She asked me whether she should give her number and I told her to do as she likes. Next morning she comes showing me messages from that women’s brother!! Whether he was trying to hit on her or just chat, we don’t know. But it was definitely not something normal! She stopped answering and blocked the number and it was done! If anything similar happens to you, just do the same.
This one you will witness nice and clear. Especially if you’re heading to lesser touristy parts of the country. To your surprise there will be more women and children staring than men! There’s nothing to worry about. All of this is out of curiosity and shows the fact that this country has been abandoned by tourists for way too long. Now that everyone’s suddenly changed route this way, it’s understandable that you’re a new thing that people are not used to see. Many of these children might even come up and say hello and put the few English words they know into good use or proudly pose for your photos.
I can understand that this can be uncomfortable for some but I’d say take it as a good sign and use it as an excuse to make a conversation with a local and make as many friends.
There’s really zero chance this could ever happen. But I mentioned it because I know it crosses some people’s mind.
There have been no reports on this ever happening concerning foreign travelers. If you’re couch surfing then you are fully aware of the risks and of ways you could avoid them. Anything that might happen elsewhere can happen here too. But I’ve seen many couch surfers and I haven’t heard of anything serious ever happening.
How can I read from other people’s experiences?
Fortunately there’s been a lot of travel bloggers lately who’ve made it to Iran and wrote all about it. If you’re looking for individual experiences that are honest and practical, then consider reading blogs. To make things even easier for you, I suggest joining a group on Facebook called See You In Iran. This group is dedicated to travelers sharing their photos and talking about their experiences in Iran. With its huge number of Iranian and foreign members, it’s a great place to ask your questions and even make some Iranian friends to meet once you arrive. It’s super active and questions are answered promptly.
If you’ve ever been to Iran I’d be happy to hear about your safety experience in the comment section. And if you have any questions, you can always shoot them down here. 😉