3 weeks in Iran: Tips & Budget

From Turkey, we passed through the border post of Bazargan in Iran, just after Dogubeyazit. After the paperwork and waiting in line, we crossed the Iranian soil, on foot, for a period of three weeks. In this article oriented "practice", we hope to answer the questions that can be asked before organizing such a trip.

1. Our itinerary in Iran over 3 weeks

3 weeks in Iran: Tips & Budget

  1. Tabriz, time to acclimatize
  2. Isfahan, discovery of the Iranian way of life and a jewel of Persia
  3. Kashan, the city on the edge of the desert
  4. Yazd, its alleys, badgirs and our favorite
  5. Shiraz, Persepolis and Necropolis
2. To move
Buses and trains
It is very easy to find a bus or a train to get around Iran and jump from city to city. At the bus station, we are quickly taken care of, just out of the taxi. Then just say where you want to go and take you to the right ticket office.

There are two kinds of buses: standards and VIPs. These are very comfortable with air conditioning, space for the legs (especially in version 2 + 1) and reclining seats to sleep well. A snack is always provided on the bus with a drink, all for free. When we took the night bus between Tabriz and Isfahan, a meal was included in the price of the ticket.

We also took a night train between Shiraz and Tehran. We paid for the meal in addition to the price of the ticket but a snack with biscuits is distributed free of charge, just like tea. Our compartment was composed of 4 berths, it was a very comfortable trip.

Summary of our travels in Iran:
  • Maku - Tabriz: bus (145,000 rials / person)
  • Tabriz - Isfahan: night bus (720,000 rials / person)
  • Isfahan - Kashan: bus (175,000 rials / person)
  • Kashan - Yazd: train (325,000 rials / person)
  • Yazd - Shiraz: bus (320 000 rials / person)
  • Shiraz - Tehran: night train 1,150,000 rials / person with meal)

Taxis and the Snapp app
In town, there are many taxis, yellows, whites, officials, unofficial. Generally, they all come to you before you know for yourself whether you are taking a taxi or not! If you walk quietly in town and are waiting to cross, a taxi will always be there to say "Taxi?". Many Iranians also offer driver and guide to get to the tourist spots (like Persepolis from Shiraz). Feel free to negotiate the price if you do not go through an agency. If your driver speaks English, he can also act as a guide. As a general rule, even for a small race, negotiate the price and fix it before getting into the car. When we had a good feeling with a driver, we left more than expected and there you will be entitled to the most beautiful smile!

There is also an Uber-style application in major Iranian cities called SNAPP. The price is fixed in advance via the app and is usually half as much as an official taxi. We pay the driver in cash at the end of the race. No ambiguity possible.To download the application must do a small manipulation because it has been removed from the stores because of sanctions. Follow the instructions in this article to have Snapp.

3 weeks in Iran: Tips & Budget
The Imam Square in Isfahan

3. Staying
The main cities offer many accommodations, from the luxury hotel to the hostel. There is therefore for all purses, for all desires. You can also stay with Iranians (even if it's not allowed) thanks to the Homestay website (a kind of Airbnb) or free thanks to the Couchsurfing network or Warmshowers (for the cyclo-travelers). Small note about Couchsurfing: many Iranians charge their guests, some are very explicit in their announcement as our host in Kashan, others are less so. They also often offer guide services, so we do not know if it's the money or the meeting that takes over. It's up to you to make your own opinion via the different ads, but Couchsurfing in Iran is not the same as in other countries.

Booking does not work in this country and very little hosting is referenced on Google. We have worked a lot by word of mouth or by searching blogs and forums. Now we have to give you our good addresses:

  1. Isfahan: Ragrug Hostel
  2. Yazd: Kalout Hostel
  3. Shiraz: Taha Hostel
Shiraz Bazaar
Shiraz Bazaar

4. Feeding themselves
This is the point where we had the most trouble. Coming from Turkey, where the country is teeming with restaurants, terraces, picnics and lahmacun, it is disenchantment when one wants to eat on the run, or even find a small restaurant. In some cities, we walked long enough to find a place to eat something other than ice. There is a lot of fast food with burgers and pizzas not very good and very fat. To eat more typical, we had more trouble. But all is explained: in Iran, we rarely go to the restaurant and even less family. Cooking is a mark of respect for its guests (especially when it comes to stepmom!). In youth hostels we sometimes cooked ourselves: pasta, tomato salad and cucumbers,

But do not be discouraged, we also ate very good food and made some great culinary discoveries: Dizi, Ghormeh Sabzi, Kabab, carrot jam. Jerome tested the national drink, the Doogh (a yoghurt drink) but he preferred the Turkish Ayran (difficult to compete with Turkish cuisine in this region of the world!).

We also like to sit on the terrace and have a drink. It was done in Yazd, on a roof and in Shiraz on the square of the Vakil mosque.

Our addresses (not very many):
  • Shiraz: Qavum for a good Dizi / Joulep for a drink
  • Yazd: Baam cafe / Tourist free library (for a tea on the roof of the terrace)
Sunset from the roof of the tourist library in Yazd
Sunset from the roof of the tourist library in Yazd

5. Buy a sim card in Iran
We bought our SIM cards in Tabriz. This was not necessarily obvious because not all phone stores sell SIM cards to tourists. First we went to Irancell who sent us to a shop next door. Anyway, there will always be a solution and we will direct you to the good shop. On the spot, the seller will activate the sim card and you can come out with your new package. You have the choice between several packages in a credit call + data internet package (2, 5 or 10 GB). We took a sim card with 10 GB of internet data (the eyes of the salesman when he knew it was a 20 days!) And another sim with 2 GB.

Rate of sim cards: 400 000 rials for 10 GB of internet and 250 000 rials for 2 GB.

Before you arrive in Iran, make sure you download a VPN on your smartphone. It will serve you to go to blocked sites: Facebook, twitter, Netflix etc ...

Roof of Kashan Bazaar
Roof of Kashan Bazaar

6. Dress
Let's start with men because it's faster, it will just put in pants. You can stay in a t-shirt (we still avoid the tank tops). For women, the list is longer, it will take:

  1. Cover your legs with pants or a long skirt. I had read several times that it needed something wide, but on the spot I realized that many Iranian women were wearing slims jeans. So, I had the impression of looking like a potato bag with my clothes wide. Sometimes I swapped my pants for leggings;
  2. Cover the buttocks with a tunic, a vest or other that comes to half of the thighs;
  3. Have long sleeves that cover at least half of the forearm. Under my long-sleeved tunic, I put on a merino t-shirt for less heat and to avoid sweating too much. Rather effective;
  4. Cover your hair with a veil. Think of a light and fine material so as not to be too hot. So that the veil does not fall at the slightest breeze, I made a high bun;
  5. For shoes, you can show your feet. I stayed in sandals the whole trip and I was able to polish my tan with beautiful zebra marks!

Once there, you will see that Iranian women perfectly combine fashion with their clothing restrictions. They are very tasteful, are very classy and also very pretty. Some also have the veil very far back and let a good part of their hair appear (I noticed that it was much the case in Shiraz).

7. The detailed budget
We were in Iran in the low season, from 4 to 24 July 2018. At that time, the exchange rate was 1 € = 90 000 - 92 000 rials. Since the new American sanctions, the rate has completely changed and is only changing (for the greatest misfortune of the Iranians). To keep you updated, you can consult this conversion site (price in toman, I explain you just after the difference), XE does not have the right rate.

Toman, rials, how to cope? The official currency is the rials but everyone speaks in Toman. Fortunately 1 toman = 10 rials, so conversion is easy. A little gymnastics to have when we announce a price (convert to rials, then euro!).

As it is impossible to withdraw from vending machines in Iran, we share our detailed budget, so as to have a rough idea of ​​the cash to be had. Do not change all your money at once, because you will come out with a 70 L bag of tickets! We had no problem changing money in banks, on the street (even if it's supposedly not recommended) or in a bazaar. Sometimes we paid directly in euros too.

  • Transport (bus and train): 5,670,000 rials
  • Transport (taxi and snapp): 2,244,000 rials
  • Accommodation: 10 350 000 rials + 137 €
  • Outings / Visits: 7,210,000 rials + 20 €
  • Meals: 7,715,000 rials + 18 €
  • Various (races, souvenirs, sim cards ): 4,389,000 rials
Amounts are for two people over a period of 21 days.
Vang Vieng charmed us

Former stronghold of debauchery Australian backpackers, opinions are rather mixed on Vang Vieng. Today, the city has cleaned up the image of a giant nightclub where drugs and spirits reigned.

Our experience in Vang Vieng is very positive. Not for the rafting on the Nam Song River or the buggy rides that fizzle in the villages, yet quiet. However, we were attracted by the nature that surrounds the city and its karstic rock landscapes. As well as being direct, Vang Vieng offered us one of our most beautiful visual slaps.

It is also in this city that we met Krystel, from the blog Part Part Du Monde . The moments spent sweating together on our steps, getting completely wet from a shower, or just sitting in a hammock are memorable. In short, Vang Vieng has more and we even stayed one more day.

But what do we do in Vang Vieng?
Climb to the peaks of karstic peaks
The karst peaks around Vang Vieng are the undisputed charm of the region. We were captivated by this scenery, but especially the views offered by some hills on which we can climb: Pha Ngeun Viewpoint and Nam Xay Viewpoint.

We rent bikes with Krystel to go to the foot of the hill and climb on foot. We are still in the rainy season and the humidity in the air makes us perspire to have the clothes soaked. The ascent is not easy, but taking the time, it is easy to get there. Three views are offered and the panorama from the highest point is incredible. We take the time to go down in temperature, but especially to appreciate the sight, before beginning the descent on a muddy and thus slippery ground (I finish 4 times on the buttocks).

Vang Vieng charmed us

Admission fee: 10,000 kips

Nam Xay Viewpoint
We ride alone, Krystel and I to the Nam Xay point of view. Jerome being migraineux, he passes his turn for today. The ascent to the summit is faster than the day before (between 20 and 30 minutes) but also steeper and the ground is again muddy. Walking shoes are strongly recommended (we have however seen people in flip flops). We climb in this overwhelming heat that enkyloses our muscles but the arrival at the summit filled us with joy thanks to the beauty of the places. The view is one of the most incredible I've seen ( Ala Kul in Kyrgyzstanstill in top position) and just for this visual slap, you have to come to Vang Vieng. I was so excited that we went back Jerome and me the next day, so that he too could enjoy this panorama. We stayed more than 1:30 on the platform.

Vang Vieng charmed us

Vang Vieng charmed us

Admission fee: 10,000 kips

Ride a bike or scooter
It was by bike or scooter that we moved around Vang Vieng. By bike, we joined the two points of view, passing by the rice fields still green and sparkling.

For our last day in vang Vieng, we rent a scooter and go through the Laotian countryside. To cross the river, we did not take the paying bridge of Vang Vieng but another further south. We cross the bridge unhindered and the road turns into a perforated track where the goal of the game is to slalom around the holes. Some puddles suddenly flood our way and we splash when we roll in, as quickly as possible, to avoid putting a foot on the ground. We almost miss our face because of the mud. The road is painful, tiring but we can say that we were "off the beaten track". The return on the asphalt is a blessing, but this day to cross small villages, to meet young Laotian schoolchildren all smiles, bombarding us with "Sabaidee".

Vang Vieng charmed us

Chill in a hammock
We bask several times in the hammocks of Smile Beach, facing the Nam Song River. In the off-season, the place is quiet, only a few tubing fans finish their race around the fire concocted by the bar. Sometimes, we see nostalgic residues of the old Vang Vieng, those who stagger again and have not desaoulé since 2012.

Useful information
Getting to Vang Vieng
We took a minivan from Luang Prabang with a pickup truck to our hotel. Price: 120,000 kips per person.

Chillao Hostel: Hostel more than average. Shabby room with a mattress on the floor as a bed, pool on the street (no barrier to hide), average breakfast. Yet it has potential, but I have a theory, an inn that has had its glory years during the Vang Vieng festive and mantenant indulges like the nostalgic of the city!

Happy Mango: great restaurant;
The sandwiches in the bui-bui of the main road: we enjoyed these sandwiches, very well supplied for a ridiculous price.

What we did
Pha Ngeun Viewpoint - 10,000 kips
Nam Xay Viewpoint - 10,000 kips
Bike ride and scooter

What can we do more?
Caves and lagoons: Tham Phu Kham Cave and Blue Lagoon, Tham Nam, Tham Chang Cave ...
A balloon ride. Tubing, buggy, all that, all that!
A day to visit Ulm

Signs along the highway to Munich, that's all we had seen in Ulm, a city in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Well away from the motorway, we reach Ulm by bike from the Donau Bodensee Radweg cycle route. First city where we take a whole day of rest after 9 days on our saddles and 565 kilometers. First city of our bike trip where we take the time to visit.

The heart of the city and its majestic cathedral
The cathedral of Ulm (or more precisely, the main church) dominates the city and the world thanks to its arrow, with a height of 161,53 meters. Impossible to miss the emblem of the city as its architecture is imposing. We sit for a moment on a bench facing her, watching her details and listening to the chime melody.

A day to visit Ulm

The cathedral that we see everywhere
Inside, we are surprised by a concert that resonates inside the building. The atmosphere is captivating, we let ourselves be seduced by the music.

Going up the 768 steps, you can have a view of the city and the surrounding area thanks to the platform located 150 meters high. In good weather, the Alps are also visible.

The fishing district, Fishviertel
That it is good to stroll in this district where the charm of half-timbered houses, small alleys, take us to another time, plunge us into a medieval atmosphere.

A day to visit Ulm

Beautiful half-timbered houses
We wander through the small streets, the bridges, without following a precise route. Only our instinct serves us as GPS. We pass next to the leaning house (Schiefes Haus), one of the curiosities of the city located at the edge of the Blau river. It would be today the most leaning hotel in the world with a slope of 9 to 10°. Even the rooms are tilted, but fortunately not the beds!

Along the Danube
If there is one thing we particularly like about a city, it's the shoreline for pedestrians and cyclists. In Ulm, you can easily walk along the Danube or on the ramparts that mark the entrance to the city. On weekends, friends and families meet on the grassy corners to picnic or play Mölki. In short, the frame invites relaxation.

A day to visit Ulm

To see the city from another angle, we crossed the Danube to walk to the side of Neu Ulm, his Bavarian little sister.

On the other bank of the Danube
The banks of the Danube are also the crossing point of Eurovelo 6, the European cycle route from Nantes to the Black Sea. It is one of the best-known cyclotourist routes and we have traveled to Bulgaria.
From Belgrade to Istanbul by bike

5 days in Novi Sad and Belgrade we are ready to hit the road, even in the rain. This morning, it's raining a little, but we go to the train station to take the train to Belgrade and leave on our bikes from the Serbian capital with the goal: Istanbul. But before you get there, the road is still long and the possibilities of numerous itineraries: the perfect wedding for the changes of plans!

The Belgrade exit is not the most fun. We cross a bridge with heavy traffic. Fortunately, the sidewalk allows us to roll on it to avoid some useless frights. To our surprise, the signs of the Eurovélo 6 are rather present and also offer alternative routes with always a short description or quote. To avoid the road, we take the track between the fields and small villages where the free dogs bark on cyclists who dare to enter their territory. A storm surprises us while we are in the middle of nowhere. At the first lightning a little close we go to take refuge in a hunter's cabin and abandon our bikes to a hundred meters from us. Sitting in the cabin, we wait for the storm to pass before we go to Pancevo.