Top tips

  • Think seriously about getting a package deal. English is not widely spoken and having someone take care of all your travel and accommodation arrangements can make life much easier.
  • Make sure you take enough cash to cover your entire stay as ATMs and credit cards are not useable.
  • Take all your ski kit with you. Many of the resorts lack the sort of facilities that might be taken for granted elsewhere.
  • If you’re going to Iran, take some interesting things to give to the locals – T-shirts, magazines, CDs etc. Iranian locals love this.
  • Learn some local phrases. People won’t expect you to speak their language, but they’ll be delighted that you bothered to try. A little effort goes a long way.

getting there

Iran's major international airport is Tehran. Carriers include British Airways (ba.com), Aeroflot (aeroflot.co.uk), Air France (airfrance.com), Gulf Air (gulfairco.com) and Lufthansa (lufthansa.com).

red tape

Visitors to Iran require visas, which are available from the Iranian Embassy. It's a good idea to apply well in advance. All passports must be valid for a minimum period of six months after arrival. If you overstay your visa you may be required to remain in Iran until the situation has been resolved. Women should wear a headscarf in visa application photos.

health

Comprehensive medical and travel insurance is recommended. In Iran, medical facilities are reasonable in the major cities but fairly poor in more remote areas.

eating

Iran is a huge country with an ancient and enormously diverse cuisine, but in Shemshak and Dizin it's pretty likely that you'll subsist on a diet of chelow kabab (literally 'rice and kebabs'). These are often served with a side dish of sliced raw onion and pieces of fresh orange. Iranians drink doogh with most main meals, a fermented, slightly fizzy yoghurt drink served with chopped mint, sometimes referred to as 'Iranian wine'. A typical Iranian breakfast will consist of various flatbreads (such as sangak, lavash or barbari), honey, boiled eggs, cucumber, milk and a cheese very similar to feta called panir. Iranians drink a lot of hot, fragrant tea – chai – throughout the day, typically immediately before and after every meal. Outside of meal times it's usually served with a selection of sweet pastries on the side. Iranian food is often very spicy and fragrant, with saffron, cinnamon, dried limes and parsley being particularly popular ingredients. The concept of vegetarianism is uncommon.

crime & safety

Alcohol is strictly off limits in Iran, with heavy penalties. Driving in Iran can be downright frightening – according to the Iranian News Agency, Iran has one of the highest rates of road accidents of any country in the world. Very few police and local authority officials will speak any English.

language

Farsi (also known as Persian) is the national language in Iran, and uses a form of the Arabic alphabet, so unless you're a native speaker or an Arabic scholar then you can forget about reading the road signs. A surprising number of people speak English in Iran, particularly in larger cities such as Tehran and Isfahan.

getting around

Thanks to the difficulties in reading road signs, getting around can present a whole new set of problems. Getting some sort of package deal with a native speaker to sort out your travel arrangements is by far the easiest option. In Iran, you drive on the right and you will require an International Driving Licence (IDP).

car hire

Europcar (europcar.com) have offices in central Tehran and Tehran airport. Usual age restrictions apply.

public transport

Taxis are cheap and easy in Iran, but make sure you use official ones and accept that you'll pay around three times as much as an Iranian. Also steer clear of internal flights here.

opening hours

If you're going to Iran, make sure you take enough cash to cover your entire stay as ATMs and credit cards are not useable. Of all the countries to ski in, it's Iran that's likely to prove the most different to foreign visitors, though it's fairly easy to steer clear of trouble. Take care not to offend Islamic codes of behaviour – both sexes should dress conservatively with long trousers and sleeves, and women should wear headscarves in public. Alcohol is strictly forbidden to all save some religious minorities (such as Armenian Christians). Foreigners are not exempt. Relationships between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal, as is adultery and homosexuality, the latter carrying a potential death sentence. Drugs are treated very seriously by the authorities in Iran and there are severe penalties for possession which are strictly enforced. It's not a good idea to take pictures in airports in Iran.

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