I have to admit crossing the street in Iran is even more insane than in India or any other place I have been. Of course there is no traffic lights, cars going like crazy and there are numerous. On the wide streets it is impossible to find a moment with no car coming. So the only solution is to GO! Just go and hope that all cars coming straight towards you, will stop. Believe me, I was just closing my eyes because I couldn’t watch that crazy vehicles coming to kill me. Drivers in Iran are totally mad! Going by car was like in video games world. Unforgettable.
Above all the things I should know before coming to Iran, clothes were the most important as Iran is strict about that. We have learned quickly that people are really serious about the scarf covering girl’s head. For some reason I had hoped, that they will be more relaxed about it, especially in between tourists and young people, but I was wrong. We saw some police cars showing up that they arrested plenty of girls for showing too much of hair. Tight clothes are also not welcomed, specially jeans. We have seen people yelling at girls like that on the street or throwing small stones, so it is not only government policy but also society rule. What I couldn’t support is that girls have to wear long sleeves (even if it’s 45 degrees), long pants and scarf covering neck and head but men don’t have to do it. More, they can wear very tight t-shirts or jeans. The only thing – they must dress long pants.
Woman and man
We have learned also about woman and man relations and that the way I was holding our couch surfer on the motorbike afraid to fall, was way too intimate! Couples cannot show their intimate feelings, they have to stay in distance while they are in public. It wasn’t that bad – married couples sometimes were holding hands. Girls and boys which do not know each other cannot share the same sit in the bus. In public transport there is usually back of the bus reserved for women as well as separate parts of the metro.
Some houses still have 2 knockers on the main door, each for different sex. Hearing sound of man coming, woman inside has to dress because no man can see her hair, unless it is a member of the family. According to that rules houses in Iran surround high walls, so that they can do and wear whatever they want on their yard. Streets look more like tunnels in between those walls.
All entertainments known for young people in the western part of the world are forbidden in Iran. Alcohol, cinema, concerts, disco, TV exist with limit. People can see only Iranian or Arabic channels, films or music. Government controls strictly what citizen should watch. Basically contact with the world outside is illegal. Of course people got a way to do what they want. For instance, they gather in some houses for a disco, they make bands in the houses. Moreover, they use proxy to unblock forbidden sites like Facebook or You Tube. Government is still trying to block as much as possible and keep Iran closed from the influence of other countries, but people keep finding solutions.
Inside of Iranian house
What amazed me is that most of the people don’t use much of the furniture in their houses, except some wardrobes. All is happening on the floor, always covered with a Persian (or made in China) carpet: eating, sitting as well as sleeping. I think it is a very healthy lifestyle for our corp!
Toilet is a hole including extremely narrow pipe, sometimes camouflaged with funny plastic door. Entrance opens with the pee force and closes automatically, so that the bad smell is not getting out. Technology! By the way Persians are proud to invent first pipes system or canalization, which you can still see in the underground Museum of Yazd. Like in any other middle east country, in the restroom there is a tap water and bucket instead of toilet paper. Remember, don’t throw any papers inside, because it will all get stuck as it happened to me in the first day. Besides usually there is no trash bin, so be ready for that if you bring your own toilet paper…
Hitch-hiking in Iran is safe. I was traveling with a girl and no negative situation happened to us. Accept if you try to stop a car showing a thumb which means “fuck you” in their culture… Hitch-hiking it is very hard though, since the idea is unknown. There is, however, amazing unofficial system of transportation. Every city has its spots, where people wait for being taken to certain destination. It is like appointed place, which everybody knows about. There is no website controlling that, like we have car share sites.
Drivers seeing us on the road stopping, didn’t know what we are really doing. They were shocked that two girls stand alone. There were asking “Where is your owner?” “Where is your leader?”. When we prepared paper in Farsi language with the name of the city we are heading to, they thought we are using their car share system and expected us to pay. When we showed them another note in Farsi, that we use hitch-hiking and travel without money, they were starting to be even more worried, took us to the bus station and bought tickets.
All of our drivers were extremely kind and curious what the hell we are doing. They were calling family, friends yelling the amazing adventure, which is just happening to them. They were trying to find some friends speaking good English to talk to us, to make us explain why we are doing “this”, what is wrong with us.
As you see hitch-hiking in Iran is quite interesting experience but you need to have a lot of time! We didn’t have and drivers discussing for hour what we are doing here, were not really helpful. Still, in 90% of the cases we were finally taken to the bus station anyway and finished our trip with a ticket in out hand. We decided then to use buses and trains because hitch-hiking was just too time-consuming while our plan was strict.
Iranians are amazing. They are searching for contact with foreigners, they are curious and very hospitable. Pride of Persian culture is very evident. On the other hand, hate for the regime, politicians and Arabs. Throughout the stay we used couch-surfing and didn’t have any problems finding accommodation. Usually, I sent only one request and that was enough. People are eager to meet with tourists, invite home or show around.
Locals told me that educated people in the cities don’t like conservative government. On the other hand old, religious citizens, specially those in the countryside, support it plus receive some benefits.
In Iran, there is no tourist information for foreigners, because the need is too low. Once we found it, and there was no word of English, and none of the employees knew the language. However, we didn’t mind, because the whole country we visited with our hosts, who were always keen to show their city. It happened that people stopped us on the street, asking where we are from, who we are or even how we can help them get out of the country. Mostly residents wondered what two girls are doing on their own or as they said “without owner.” They couldn’t understand it.
Talking about the police there are 3 kinds: road traffic police, official police for security and hidden police – which look civil. People complain that they hate it because it can be pretty much everyone, even the best friend. Locals must be careful what and with whom they talk. They cannot offend the regime or do anything against the rules, because everywhere are spies.
Safety in Iran
If someone thinks Iran is dangerous place to travel is totally wrong. The same reputation has for example safety in Algeria. It is just closed to international cooperation with west and not known as much as other countries. Of course there are places which can be dangerous, for example close to the border with Pakistan. Although Iranians are so kind and will warn you where you shouldn’t go to stay safe. Remember that country is under the regime and various forces control it. They will make you feel safe as long as you respect local rules.