Solo female travel in Iran, is it a good idea? Is it safe for women to travel to Iran?
I decided to plan my Iran trip together with my friend Madi, an Iranian woman traveler whose family had no problems in letting her travel around Iran with the only company of another woman, to discover the wonders modern Persia was hiding and to bust the myth of Iran as a dangerous travel destination.
Brief, but due, introduction. Recently I’ve come across a rather misleading article published on Hostel Bookers website, where the writer, clearly one who has never traveled to Iran, speaks of it in these terms:
“One shock most women will find is that in countries like Iran, women don’t go anywhere alone, and are never seen alone in public, only out with their families or in groups of other women.”
While this is not the only inaccurate, if not downright false, information, it’s what most captured my attention in the article.
Not only are most women I know pretty independent, but solo female travel in Iran is a rather common reality.
During my two-week trip to Iran, in every city I saw women alone, in groups of women only or with other men, either family or friends, students or professionals, relaxing in parks, shopping, going to work or school, and busy pretty much in all routine activities you can think of.
In the span of two weeks we have visited many cities, and most trips involved buses and trains, both day and night ones. Obviously we were not the only women traveling alone, in fact, we met and chatted with many women traveling solo on night trains and buses because not only this is a very common practice in Iran, but it’s also very safe. This trend of giving a bad image to Iran without any kind of knowledge is becoming truly boring and tiresome, as well as old and too much of a cliché.
Moving onto something more interesting and useful, my recent trip to Iran saw two travel writers/bloggers/photographers (my friend Madi and myself) exploring some of the main cities and attractions, such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Persepolis and Yazd, and some more offbeat destinations, such as Lahijan and Talysh in northern Gilan province, from all of which I will be duly posting both words and images.
Needless to say, my personal experience of female travel in Iran was richer than traveling solo as being with an Iranian woman, all our steps were filled with those insights only a local can come up with. Each of those extra pieces of information made me realize how close and similar Iranians are to Italians, both in the good aspects such as warmth and genuine sense of hospitality, in the bad ones, such as confusion and delays, and in the odd ones, like the overall carefree attitude and very personal interpretation of rules and laws. It was probably these constant and repeated comparisons that made of laughing and giggling the main features of our journey.
My southern Italian/Sardinian look made everybody mistake me for an Iranian, asking me for directions or just striking a conversation with me, obviously until they understood that, apart for some three words, I don’t speak Persian. English is seldom spoken, this is why I would recommend booking a tour guide. All places we’ve been to are rather laid-back, with Shiraz being probably the most relaxed, maybe due to the fact that it’s considered the capital of poetry and romance in the country rather than its business hub, so it needs to live up to the expectations.
I started yearning for this trip long before departure. When I was planning my Iran trip, I was hoping to enjoy some much needed relax, a break from work and Rome, and couldn’t wait to start this carefree and laid-back journey.
Who was I kidding?
My preparation process revealed already some pretty serious resolutions, involving laptop, notepad, camera and four lenses (I know, heavy as hell, my back is still not talking to me).
Even though wishing for a relaxing Iran trip, deep down in my mind I knew it was just this, wishful thinking. Instead, overall, my Iran trip felt like a roller coaster, involving hectic jumping on and off buses, trains, taxis and even one Iranair flight, visiting as much as we could, barely stopping for lunch and dinner, tucking into sweets and nuts, drinking fruit juices, detoxing with local Khakeshir, hardly sleeping an average of four hours per night for two weeks, and laughing out loud all the way from day one, as Madi recalled in her post Chasing The Dream: Two Women Traveling in Iran.
This trip was exhausting and soothing at the same time, but most of all, it was inspiring, giving a new spark my own passion for history, culture and, not least, travel blogging. The tour was definitely one of a kind, and I’ll do my best to reproduce the same atmosphere and make you sense the same vibe we felt all along the way.