travel advice

Travel journal: Iran

So.. I went to Iran. First of all: put this one on your travel bucket list. I've never felt more safe, I've never felt more welcome. Okay, now that's done. Here's my short recap, more detailled blogs about specific places will follow!

Revise your fear
Everyone has an opinion about Iran. When I told people I was planning a trip there I heard so many fearful reactions. And till this day I just don't understand why. When you are respectful of the local manners and skip the problem areas near the borders, you are good to go. Really, this country is warm and heartfelt. 

1500 kilometers
The country is huge, so there's a lot to see and explore. I only had 10 days, so I had to choose wisely. The trip became a nice mixture of city and villages, architecture and nature. The best tip I could give you is to rent a car. This saves you a lot of time and makes it easier to travel to remote spots. We rented a Peugeot 405 for 34€ a day and drove around 1500 kilometers the entire trip. Gas cost almost nothing, so don't worry about that. Driving is an adventure itself, but for the thrill seekers that have driven around the world this won't be hard. 

After two nights in Tehran we drove the long haul to Taft, nearby Yazd. There we stayed for two nights in the wonderful Nartitee Ecolodge (blog will follow). After exploring Yazd, we continued offroad and parked our car in the desert village Varzaneh, staying at Varzaneh traditional guesthouse. With sand in our shoes, hair and car we drove to the city of Esfehan for one night, which was more than enough in my opinion. Last stop: Kashan. There we combined some much needed down time with bazaar shopping, sipping coffee and cultural sights. Luckily we could drop the car off at Tehran airport so we didn't have to drive into the mayhem that is Tehran again. 

Must know
As I said, rent a car! Other handy tips: make sure you have enough cash, you can't get money in Iran only with a local card. Learn some Farsi, English is not very well spread outside the cities. Bring something from your home country that you can give when you are welcomed in someone's home. Candy, cookies, anything. Iranians have a killer sweet tooth. Coffee lover? There wasn't always coffee at the guesthouses, so bring some yourself. There's always free tea and hot water! 

The Fezzzzjunnn
For women: buy some clothing you feel comfortable in that follow the regulations. I had three outfits that were a hit. First of all my cotton black headscarf, it's breathable and heavy enough so it doesn't fall from your head all day. A long over the knee loose grey dress with black leggings. A sort of vest slash coat that locally would be called a manteau. You can button it or not, depending on the rest of your outfit. And what I also wore a lot was a long black blazer with pearl buttons. It stopped my butt from showing off and also still had some flair, so I didn't look like a complete potato sack.  

I'll soon write a blog about the ecolodges and homestaying in Iran! 

What I always pack when I go hiking

Whether it's a weekend getaway or a full on thru hike, there are always a few things I pack. 

Pillow case
You can make a pillow from your down jacket, the clothes you want to wear the next day or even your backpack. But life is a lot easier when you bring a cotton pillow case. Stuff it all in and your new pillow will be as comfy as the one at home. No more gathering your pillow package in the middle of the night. 

Lightweight string
With 3 meters of lightweight string and an optional handful of pegs you can do your laundry and have them dry before the next day. Nothing beats the old fashioned drying rack, not even warm stones or weird looking branches. That piece of string will save you a lot of time and walking in wet socks. 


Good luck charm
Call me superstitious, but I always bring a good luck charm. Something given by someone you love. It doesn't have to be a good luck charm, it can be a mascotte or cute key chain. It makes your bag easier to spot and gives you a little reminder of home. 

Pen & paper
You don't have to be a poet to be in need of paper and pen. Drawing a map, making a to do list, writing your memoirs, playing tic tac toe. With some paper and a pen you're never bored. 

Oral rehydration solution
ORS has been a life saver a couple of times. You might get sick, have the worst hangover or are afraid of altitude sickness. ORS does wonders for your system. When things seem terrible and as prevention. 

What do you always pack when you go hiking no matter the duration and destination? Let me know!

My trip to Iran: preparations

Some destinations are easy to travel to. You book a ticket, find yourself a good hotel deal and bring your driver's license. Other destinations require a little bit more preparation. Visa's, invitations, safety measures and a day tot day plan. 

Why Iran?
Iran has been on my travel bucket list for quite a while. Why? Don't know exactly, but I guess it's the combinations of a different culture, mysterious ambiance, the poetic language, mountains and the fact that the country isn't over flooded with other tourists. My plan to go became more serious when I spoke to my friend of 26 years. About time for a trip to celebrate our friendship. We both had Iran on our wish list. My friend has almost visited all Middle Eastern countries and unfortunately had to change her Iran plans in the past. It all came together!

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Governmental travel advice
In the Netherlands you can check the governmental travel advice per country. Since there are many conflicts in the Iran area and a recent natural disaster (earthquake Nov 2017) the advice is not all green lights. The government is better safe than sorry, so don't let the advice effect you too much. In the past I've had negative travel advice for Israel and Thailand and I had no problems whatsoever. 

Decision: dodge the orange and red areas. 

When to go
One of the things that influence my decision in when to go is weather. You don't want it to be too cold or too wet. You also want to avoid higher chances on natural disasters. Then another important thing to keep in mind are national holidays. You rather don't travel in an islamic country during Ramadan, because you probably don't fast and crave local foods during the day. 

Decision: March and/or April.

Travel independent or with a group
It's easy and carefree to join a group. It will cost you a little bit more, but you're sure everything is arranged. Including transportation, guides and hotels. But it's not for everyone. For me personally it has more disadvantages than advantages. I don't like to be "stuck" with people I don't know, I like a change of plan when an area or city isn't what I thought it would be, I like to drive myself - or have a private chauffeur in places I'm not allowed to drive - so we can make plenty of stops for photography and other things we come across. 

Decision: Fly individually with a here and there a private driver. 

Next time in the blog: flight or train, health preparations, picking cities and using Instagram for inspo.

Do you have tips for my Iran trip? Let me know!