Tehran

Tehran (also spelled Teheran) (Persian: تهران), is the capital city of Iran. A bustling metropolis of 14 million people, it is situated at the foot of the towering Alborz mountain range.

Tehran is a metropolis of 14 million situated at the foot of the towering Alborz range.

Understand

The Grand Tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini
Azadi Tower, Tehran

Tehran is a cosmopolitan city, with great museums, parks, restaurants, warm friendly people. It deserves at least a few days of your Iranian itinerary.

The city can be roughly divided into two different parts - north and south. The northern districts of Tehran are more prosperous, modern, cosmopolitan and expensive while southern parts is less attractive but cheaper.

At the time of the Zand dynasty, it was a little town that was significant from a strategic point of view. The first of the Qajar kings, Agha Mohammed Khan, named Tehran as the country's capital in 1778, and most of its growth started during the reign of a subsequent Qajar monarch, Fath-Ali Shah. The castle which Agha Mohammed Khan had built was to contain the new majestic buildings.

At the same time, the city's populace was redoubled. Due to the increasing significance of the city, gates, squares and mosques were built and it was at the time of Nassereddin Shah that the city's master sketch was prepared and modern streets were constructed. Later, huge central squares like Toopkhaneh square (now Imam Khomeini) and quite a few military buildings were built. Even though the Qajar dynasty was in a period of decline, Tehran soon took the shape of a modern city. The structure of large government buildings, new streets, recreation centres, urban service organizations, and academic and methodical centres were started, even as most of the old gates and buildings were destroyed and the city's old architectural fabric replaced by a contemporary one.

Tehran has also earned itself the rather unenviable reputation as a smog-filled, traffic-clogged and featureless sprawl of concrete bursting at the seams with 14 million residents. But you can also find an endless number of nice and cosy places in and around the city - if you know where to look. Tehran is also a city of parks and possesses more than 800 of them, all well-kept. The city is nearly a mile high above sea level and as a result is cooler than other cities in the middle east. Summer temperatures are around 32°C or about 90-95°F. The air tends to be very dry.

A combination of factors make Tehran a pleasant place to visit: The dry climate which is constantly cool (at least in the evenings), the proximity of the mountains, the parks and gardens where flowers blossom all through the year, the alleys of trees in the avenues or even smaller streets, and even the water that runs down from the upper city along deep and wide gutters which look like small rivers during spring. The Alborz range on the north of Tehran, which hosts the highest peak in Iran, provides fantastic conditions for ski lovers in the winter. In winter, the mountain hotels and ski-clubs at Shemshak, and Dizine are full several days a week. Some specialist skiers consider the snow value in northern Tehran to be one of the most excellent in the world.

Get in

By plane

  Imam Khomeini International Airport (IATA: IKA) (55km southwest of the city center, Robat Karim railway station (ایستگاه راه آهن رباط کریم) around 3.0km Norhwest. - Nearest Line 1 'Kahrizak' cca. 20.0km NE.). is the only airport in Tehran to which passenger flights operate.

To travel between the city center and the airport:

  Tehran's Mehrabad airport (IATA: THR). Mehrabad is only used for regional and cargo flights.

Despite the warnings in some travel guides, there is no exit fee for foreign travelers, neither in Mehrabad nor in Imam Khomeini Airport. The exit fee applies to foreign travellers only when leaving Iran on land or by sea.

Please check the page of Iran for information on visas.

By train

Domestic travel

If traveling within Iran, train tickets should be bought at the station, from travel agencies, or on the website of the Raja passenger train company .

There are at least one train each day to the Iranian cities of Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Kerman, Yazd, Sari, Gorgan, Ahvaz and Bandar Abbas.

International travel

There is a train that runs between Tehran and either Ankara (€45) or Istanbul (€50). The train departs Istanbul every Wednesday night at 23:55, and departs Ankara on Thursday morning at 10:25, arriving in Tehran on Friday evening at 20:20 (although delays are frequent). The service requires a 4-hour ferry ride and a change of trains at Lake Van. The trains are comfortable and clean and reasonably priced food is available.

By car

Traffic is very congested but has improved with the completion of several new tunnels and highways (referred to as autobahns by the locals) across the city. You can drive in from Turkey fairly easily as well as from the Southern parts of Iran. Driving is often dangerous and seat belts should be worn at all times.

By bus

Almost every city and far-flung village in Iran has bus services to Tehran, as evidenced by the hundreds of buses that pour in and out of the capital each day. Most buses arrive to, or depart from one of four major bus terminals:

Get around

Congested traffic in front of Tehran's iconic Azadi (Freedom) Monument.

Getting around traffic-clogged, sprawling Tehran is a true test of patience. While taxis are your best bet, they are pricier here than the rest of the country. A large local bus network will also take you almost anywhere you need to go, as long you can make sense of the routes and Persian line numbers. The true star of Tehran's transport system however, is the brand new metro.

By bus

Tehran has an inexpansive but confusing bus network. Some require prepaid contactless card (min 5000 rials), which can be bought from booths beside the bus stops and Metro Stations used when you get off the bus, and some should be paid by cash (ranging from 1,000-4,000 rials). Note that the buses are partitioned in two sections, men-only (the front section) and women-only(the back section).

Note that in the BRT lines, the women-only section is at the front. Also, the fee is paid on the station, using the prepaid contactless card (shared with Metro), or paying to the guard.

Since bus numbers, route descriptions and other information is in Persian, your best bet is to look confused at a bus terminal; a local will surely stop to help. Each bus line has a certain and almost invariable path but only people know exactly which bus stations exist for a certain road. You shouldn't expect a map or guides even in Persian showing the bus network or bus stations. Even asking the bus driver wouldn't be a great help for you to find your way either. If you get in a bus and looking for a certain station to alight, ask one to help you - you will find many people wish to help you to find your way, most of the time.

BRT (Bus Rapid Transportation)

The BRT buses are colored in red. BRTs has special lines and travels very quickly from Azadi square (west of Tehran) directly to the East (Terminal-e-Shargh). Railway square (South of Tehran) directly to the North (Tajrish square). Azadi square to free university(northwest). Azadi square to south Terminal and parkway bridge(north of tehran) to jomhuri square. Costs between 1,000-3,000 rials. In high-traffic hours (7AM-9AM & 4PM-8PM) it is the best way to traveling . BRT has too many stations near main streets. Although you may not find an empty seat on the bus because of the crowds, people give their place to you if they know you are a tourist. The women's and men's seats and queues are separate.

By metro

Tehran Metro

Tehran's new metro system is composed of four lines that will whisk you quickly from one end of the city to the other without having to deal with the noise, pollution and chaos of Tehrani traffic. However, many residents decided to leave their cars and commute by metro, so expect huge crowds during rush hours.

There are five lines (numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) but the two most useful are lines 1 (north to south- currently from Qeytariyeh Station to Haram-e-Motahar Station) and 2 (east to west) which connect at the central Imam Khomeini station. All stations have signs in both Persian and English. Trains run every 10 minutes or less on rush hours (15 minutes on Fridays and holidays) from around 5:30AM-11PM every day.

line1 (red line) recently extended northward to   Tajrish station, L1. and southward to   Kahrizak station, L1.

line2 (blue line) Sadeghieh to   Sadeghieh (Tehran) Station, L2, L5. to   Farhagsara Station, L2.

line3 (azur line) from southwest   Azadegan Station, L3. to northeast   Shahid Beheshti Station, L3. (7 km ).

line4 (yellow line) recently extended eastward to   Shahid Kolahdooz station, L4. and westward to   Ekbatan Eram e Sabz Station, L4. transfer to L5.

line5 (green line) commuter train   Sadeghieh (Tehran) Station, L2, L5. to   Golshahr Station, L5.

Tickets are valid for 1 or 2 trips (including change of lines) and cost 6,000 or 10,000 rials respectively. There are ticket booths at every station. You can also buy a contactless fare card which is the best option if you are going to use metro a lot, or simply want to have less hassle by paying 20,000 rials for a card and use it on both metro and some city buses (note that if you use this card, you usually pay less than any other tickets, since they charge for the longest trip on the network). There are two dedicated women-only carriages at each end of the train. Women can anyway choose to travel aboard the other carriages.

There are a few apps for Android and iOS devices to assist passengers on using the metro. You can try downloading the Tehran Metro app which is made specially for foreign travelers. First you can find yourself on Google map (with stations marked on it) and your destination to decide which station you can get in and to which you want to arrive. After it you can select them on the stations map to get a textual explanation on taking directions and line changes along with a travel time estimation.

By taxi

Share taxis in Tehran

As with the rest of the country private and shared taxis are abound in Tehran, although you may find flagging down a shared taxi more difficult amid the traffic and chaos, while private taxis are more expensive than in the smaller cities. See the Get Around information on Iran for details on flagging a taxi. If you want to get around by shared taxi, your best bet is to hop from square to square, as drivers will be reluctant to pick you up if your shouted destination deviates too far from their route. In each square you will find certain places where the private taxis are lined up in a queue and drivers call for passengers to a destination. (mostly happening during the times when the number of waiting taxis exceeds the number of passengers). In this case, they would wait until the car gets full of passengers (mostly one people at front and 3 people at back, excluding the driver). Otherwise the people have to line up in a queue waiting for the taxis to come. This is the case during rush hours (approximately 7AM-8AM and 5PM-8PM). All these depend upon finding their regular station in the square. You can also ask them to alight sooner than your destination wherever you like but you have to pay their total fee up to destination. The cost of such a ride from Azadi square to Vanak Square is around 10,000 rials (1000 Tomans) for each person. Most drivers are very poor at English though.

Motorcycle taxis are a Tehran specialty and offer a way to weave quickly through the city's traffic-clogged streets. You'll see plenty of these drivers standing at the side of the road calling "motor" at all who pass by. Keep in mind motor taxi operators can seem even more suicidal than the average Tehran driver when driving. Agree on a price before you take off and expect to pay slightly less than chartering a private taxi.

See

Monuments

Museums

Golestan Palace
Saadabad Palace, Tehran

  Saadabad Palace, Vali Asr Ave,  +98 21 228 2031, fax: +98 21 228 2079. A palace built by the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran in the Shemiran area of Tehran.The complex was first inhabited by Qajar monarchs and royal family in the 19th century. Currently, parts of the Saadabad Palace compound are museums, in which visitors can roam through and look at the rich history of Iran. - The following museumms part of the Complex: Klara Abkar Painting Museum - Hossein Behzad (miniature) Paintings Museum, - Abkar Miniature Museum, - Fine Arts Museum (18th & 19th century European Paintings), - Kamaleddin Behzad Miniature Museum, - Mahmoud Farshchian Miniature Museum, - Mellat Palace Museum, - Military Museum (موزه نظامی), - Mir Emad Calligraphy Museum, - Ethnological Research Museum, - Iranian National Museum of War - Green Museum (Shah Reza Summer Palace), - Water Museum (Keeping, restoring and revenue operation of water in Iran). Rojat Palace, Ebrat Palace (Mother), Vessels Museum (Ashraf Palace), Dafineh Museum, Farideh Diba Palace, Natural History Museum - - Other buildings on complex area: Shahram Palace, Prince Palace, Leila Palace, Farahnaz Palace, Hamid Reza Palace, Gholamreza Palace, Nasiri Palace, Twin Ghajar Palace.

Parks

Jamshidieh Park, Tehran

Murals

A1one (aka Alonewriter, tanha) graffitis and street art works are a sort of interesting stuff in Tehran's Urban Space. A famous local graffiti artist is currently at the centre of controversy about whether his work is art or vandalism, and you can see his early works on the Tehran-Karaj Expressway, on the southern side walls UP in Ekbatan and Apadana districts. A more recent work of stencil art is located at the entrance of the Saba Art Institute. - Kolahstudio-an Art Basement, Iranian Underground Arts.

Recreational

Chitgar lake in snow.

Do

Learn

University of Tehran Entrance gate

It is easy to find work in Tehran, but you must have a university diploma to be applicable for good jobs. Although there is some inflation, many of the people in Tehran have good and well paying jobs. Like every other big developing world city, there's a big difference between poor and rich.

Buy

Money exchange

For information on Iranian currency see Iran#Buy.

You can exchange your currency in most banks after filling out between two and five forms, but the exchange rate in exchange offices (sarraafis) is always better than what is offered by banks. It is much advisable to go to one of these offices which are mostly (but not only) on Ferdosi St which begins at Imam Khomeini Square. Ask them to show you a copy of their license, issued by the Central Bank of the country and/or the local guild. A list of licensed sarraafis of the whole country, in Persian (Farsi), can be found here. This list includes phone numbers and addresses as well as license numbers and dates.

Also, most exchange offices in Tehran don't exchange before 9AM, when the daily rate gets fixed.

Do not exchange your money with one of the many individuals offering to exchange along Ferdosi St. It is much riskier and illegal. They might be criminals offering counterfeit money.

Bazaars and shopping malls

Visit the Bazaar, very appropriate for shopping. It ranges from cheap things to very expensive luxury things. You can find almost anything in the Bazaar, from clothing to carpets, kitchen accessories, decorations, jewellery....

When in the Bazaar, don't miss out the 'Sharafol-eslam' restaurant located in the Bazar. It is very famous for its kebabs and chickens, excellent food, excellent quality, you'll never have enough. It gets really crowded though, which requires some patience.

There are also numerous shopping malls in the city. Valiasr Street and Tajrish Square (also includes a traditional bazaar) are two of the many locations full of shopping centres in Tehran.

Computer software

Due to Iran's refusal to sign the Bern Convention, the sale of pirated software is legal in the country. However, bringing the software home is likely to be illegal and may carry large fines or jail sentences if caught. The software might also not include the correct ID keys and therefore might not work on your computer. Buyer beware!

Places where pirated software is for sale include the bazaar at the corner of Vali-e-Asr Avenue and Enghelab Avenue, Bazar-e-Reza, Bazar-e-Iran, and the "Paytakht Computer Complex", a modern complex of seven storeys filled with computer equipment, located at the intersection of Vali-e-Asr and Mirdamad. The prices at the "Bazaar Reza" (at Charrah-e-Vali-e-Asr) are usually cheaper. Some of the computer equipment that is sold in Iran are cheap knockoffs.

Jewelry & Gold

Jewellery & Gold boutiques located in Geisha, Milade Noor, Karim Khaan St. Golds, gems, and diamonds.

Bags & shoes

Designer bags and shoes such as Gucci, Versace,Dior, Armani in Golestan shopping centre & Milade noor.

Eat

Note that prices quoted on the menu may exclude an 8% tax, a 10-15% service charge, and a 10% tip. Be prepared to add as much as 1/3 to the prices quoted on the menu.

Budget

You'll find cheap & good enough abgoosht stew in any of the places they call ghahvekhuneh (قهوه‌خانه) which you can find in any non-strictly-residential area. Just ask for a ghahvekhuneh or get this قهوه‌خانه printed and show it. Nice traditional working class ambience as a rule.

You can find several food courts around Tehran with a variety of cuisines from Thailand, India, Italy, China and Turkey.

Mid-range

Splurge

Confectionaries

Drink

For information on popular drinks in Iran, see Iran#Drink

Coffee shops

Coffee shops are a great place for people watching as well as drinking.

Tea houses

Juice bars

Sleep

Amir Kabir Street a grubby street filled with car-repair shops near Imam Khomeini square offers accommodation options for the budget-minded.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

For information on mobile phone operators and using the internet in Iran, see Iran#Connect

You need to use a proxy server, VPN or a software like Freegate to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and some websites; otherwise, you might see this page which shows that the site you want to access is filtered and blocked by the judiciary system. You also need to use Freegate to check your bank account balance; otherwise, your account might get blocked due to the sanctions against Iran.

Internet Cafes

In addition to the above caffes, there are many others in all parts of the city.

3G and 4G internet connections

With a copy of the information page of your passport and a copy of the page with Iranian entrance seal and also, your visa, you can buy SIM cards and access the internet with GPRS, EDGE, 3G and 4G technologies. SIM cards are available in places like post and government e-services offices (Persian: singular: Daftar-e Pishkhan-e Khadamat-e Dowlat دفتر پیشخوان خدمات دولت; plural: Dafater-e Pishkhan-e Khadamat-e Dowlat دفاتر پیشخوان خدمات دولت) and also in big shops. You might also find them at the airport.

3G

Mobile Communications of Iran (IR-MCI) or Hamrahe Avval همراه اول is a cellular phone company that provides SIM cards with 3G technology. You need to activate special packages to access the internet with less cost. This company has the largest cellular phones network subscribers and its numbers begin with 091. IR-MCI SIM cards have better signal coverage on roads. Irancell is another company that provides 3G service along with the other cellular phone services. Its SIM card numbers begin with 093 and 090. RighTel (رایتل) is anothe company providing reliable 3G internet connections.

4G

Only Irancell has a 4G network, right now.

Wireless portable internet connection

Irancell Wimax is one of the wireless internet networks available. MobinNet ISP Company is another service provider which provides wireless portable internet connection.

Stay safe

Tehran is still relatively one of the safest cities to travel through, particularly considering its size and security. Common sense and the usual precautions against pickpockets in bazaars and crowds should ensure your visit is hassle free.

Even late at night it is safe in most parts of the city while you will find the city still crowded. It is advisable not to take a private taxi for instance at 2AM.

Traffic congestion is very acute in Tehran and driving habits are dangerous. Crossing the road is impossible.

The fake police that target Esfahan's tourists have also found their way to Tehran in recent years. These are usually uniformed men in unmarked cars flashing phoney IDs are requesting to see your passport or search your luggage. It goes without saying that you should just ignore such requests and head to the nearest police station if you feel unsafe. The trouble is that it can be a little hard for the untrained tourist eye to tell these from the real police.

The traffic in Tehran is very dangerous and should be considered some of the world's worst. Try to cross the street when the locals do. At first it looks impossible, but the drivers do a very good job to avoid pedestrians.

Exercising extreme caution in public is the key thing to remember, and in fact, it is mandatory to abstain from any kind of intimacy even for heterosexual couples, but it doesn't mean you cannot hold hands.

It is also required, even for non-Muslim women, to wear a head scarf or veil on their head, when exiting their apartment or hotel rooms.

If you decide to smoke the qalyan (waterpipe or hubble-bubble), make sure that you are not smoking opium or other kinds of drugs if you don't intend to. Although drugs and alcohol are illegal in Iran, it is not impossible to obtain them, especially in Tehran. Since the Iranian government decided to ban the qalyan and cigarettes in public places, it is a bit difficult to find a decent place for smoking, and if you really want to try the qalyan, you can expect to find this in dodgy places.

Money safety

You might want to have plastic money to prevent having your money stolen. Bank-e Melli-ye Iran (National Bank of Iran) which is a government-owned bank in Iran, provides an ATM debit card service (plastic magnetic card) for tourists who visit Iran. Tourists just need to head the nearest branch of this bank. Information on this service can be found here. Sepah Bank or Bank -e- Sepah is a governmental bank that has a current account service for foreigners which provides both ATM debit card and cheque writing option. Another way to prevent having your money stolen, is going to the nearest bank and getting a gift card (Kart-e Hadiyeh کارت هدیه). They are exactly like ordinary ATM debit cards, but once they get empty, they cannot be recharged. The two first ways are more recommended. A list of permitted Iranian banks can be found here. Large Iranian banks, like Bank-e Melli-ye Iran (BMI), Bank -e- Sepah, Bank Mellat, Bank-e Saaderaat-e Iran (BSI), Bank-e Paasaargad and Bank-e Saamaan (Saamaan Bank), and Beank-e Paarsiaan all have branches outside the country that can be found at their websites. You can open a bank account abroad before arrival. This might be possible even in some European countries.

Gay and lesbian travel

Iran is one of the strictest anti-gay countries in the world;

According to the law in Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death and sex by lesbians is punishable with lashes. These two punishments, in Iran's judiciary system, are only practiced if an act of gay or lesbian sex is proved by means of 4 or more witnesses.

It's not recommended for gay or lesbian couples to travel in Iran.

If you're a homosexual or lesbian couple and want to travel in Iran either way, you should be very careful. Public displays of platonic affection between homosexual or lesbian couples, such as holding hands, arms draped over shoulders and kissing on the cheek might make you experience harassment by security forces.

Emergency services phone numbers

Cope

The traffic in Tehran is horrendous. To get a break from it, head to the parks in the north of the city.

Embassies

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.