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 traveller. Her family had no problems in letting her travel around Iran with the only company of another woman. So we set off to discover the wonders of modern Persia and to bust the myth of Iran as a dangerous travel destination for women.
Is Iran safe for solo female travellers?
I’ve often come across misleading articles stating that in Iran women don’t go anywhere alone, and are never seen alone in public but only accompanied by their families or in groups. If you travel to Iran you will quickly realize that this is not only inaccurate but downright false.
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.
Of course, traveling alone especially as a woman has its own risks, but this doesn’t apply to Iran only. Check out this article for the pros and cons of solo travelling.
Travelling in Iran as a woman, my personal experience
In the span of two weeks, we have visited many Iranian cities, and most trips involved buses and trains, both day and night ones. I quickly noticed we were not the only women travelling alone. In fact, we met and chatted with many women travelling 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.
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.
We also travelled to more offbeat destinations, such as Lahijan and Talysh in northern Gilan province, as well as provinces like Khuzestan, Lorestan and Kermanshah.
My personal experience of female travel in Iran was richer than travelling solo. In fact, being with an Iranian woman, all our steps were filled with those insights only a local can give you.
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 a genuine sense of hospitality and in the bad ones, such as confusion and delays. And also 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 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. All the places we’ve been to are rather laid-back, with Shiraz being probably the most relaxed. Maybe this is due to the fact that it’s considered the capital of poetry and romance rather than a business hub, so it needs to live up to the expectations.
How I prepared to travel to Iran – Practical tips
1. Learning about the dress code
The first thing you want to know as a woman travelling solo to Iran is what to wear. The Islamic dress code (hijab) is enforced, and tourists are not an exception. In Iran, it goes beyond the headscarf and involves tunics and manteau, so go prepared.
READ MORE: What to wear in Iran – a practical guide
2. Learning about Iranian culture and society
This should apply to any country you visit, especially for the first time. But in Iran is especially important as it’s likely to be different from most countries you visited. From a stiffer relation between men and women to places where men and women are separated, in Iran you need to know your place.
READ MORE: Things to know before travelling to Iran
3. Getting my visa in advance
I know getting a visa on arrival in Iran is pretty easy and doesn’t require much paper, but usually, my flights from Italy reached late at night and I didn’t really feel like spending more hours at the airport.
This is why I did it only once and I usually applied for my Iran visa beforehand from their consulate in Rome. Now you can easily do it online, and this is my recommendation as it’s fast and headache-free.
READ MORE: How to apply for Iran visa
4. Drawing my itinerary
To avoid surprises I couldn’t fix because I don’t speak Farsi, I prepared my Iran itinerary in advance before travelling. This included also hotels and flights. Now you can book hotels, domestic flights and local buses online using the website of the Iranian agency 1stQuest.
Tips for the solo female traveller in Iran
I have read several not-so-pleasant experiences from women travellers in Iran. Ranging from uncomfortable situations to downright sexual harassment, these things should never happen.
I admit that in all my Iran trips, I have never experienced any harassment, maybe because I can be easily mistaken for a local so men are warier? Whatever the reason, I feel compelled to give some tips to women travelling solo to Iran (that I usually follow wherever I go).
- Avoid walking alone at night. Out of my comfort zone, but also where I live, I avoid going out alone at night, especially in areas that are not busy or crowded.
- Prefer the women-only wagon in the metro. Those who embark on solo female travel in Iran should keep in mind that in the last wagon of each metro there are only women. So unless you are travelling with a male friend, jump on these wagons that are usually on the two edges of the train. On the bus, you can’t choose anyway, you have to get on the women part.
- Go to the police. In Iran, you will see police officers everywhere, especially in tourist areas. Don’t be afraid to go and tell them if someone is bothering you. Tell them a “mozahem” (harasser) is harassing you.
- Dress modestly. How can I not dress modestly in Iran, you might wonder. By this, I mean to be careful to cover your arms, to wear a long tunic especially if you have leggings and if you are in a more conservative city like Qom, Kashan, Khuzestan, etc.
- Choose your taxi wisely. When a driver insists on the ride, he’s probably a private providing lifts (darbast), so you might want to avoid it. Take either a licensed taxi, ajanse (I’m guessing from the French “agence”) or a shared one, khati. Khati does always the same road back and forth, usually the same street, and is very cheap. If you don’t want to feel uncomfortable on the khati, you can get on one where there is already a woman.
- Don’t get on the car with a stranger. This applies pretty much to any country, but in Iran, you can find men who stop near the sidewalk and offer you a ride. They stop with women alone or groups of only women, not if there are also men. Don’t accept.
My first Iran trip as a solo female traveller
Overall, my experience of female travel in Iran felt like a roller coaster, involving hectic jumping on and off buses, trains, taxis, and even one IranAir flight. We visited as much as we could, barely stopping for lunch and dinner, tucking into sweets and nuts, drinking fruit juices, detoxing with local Khakeshir. We hardly slept an average of four hours per night for two weeks and laughed all the way from day one.
This trip was exhausting and soothing at the same time, but most of all, it was inspiring, giving a new spark to 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.
READ MORE: How to plan a perfect trip to Iran
26 thoughts on “Female travel in Iran – My personal experience and what you need to know”
Quelle description interessante de ton voyage! Et que dire des photos?!
Che meraviglia l’Iran! Peccato non sia molto pubblicizzato dalla stampa italiana. Vedo che i giornali francesi ne parlano molto bene e danno spazio ai commenti dei turisti entusiasti della loro esperienza iraniana.
Non vedo l’ora di andarci!
La stampa italiana purtroppo è scritta in gran parte da ignoranti e corrotti, è ovvio che scrivano solo quello che i loro padroni ordino. E’ patetico.
Oui Domenico, et beaucoup de ces touristes affirment qu’une femme en Iran est plus en sécurité qu’à Paris quand elle sort. Ils inventent ?
Bien sur que non, les touristes français ont raison!
Thank you so much Angela for sharing your experience. It’s so easy to believe what an article says without not really know how true that might be, that’s why it’s great you told us you personal experience. I keep hearing beautiful things about Iran and how incredible it is, I should really pack and go to see it with my own eyes!
Exactly, and this is why people are always more relying on blogs rather than mainstream media. Traveling is easy now, potentially everybody is able to verify that media are just not telling the truth. Iran is an absolute must, great country, full of history, art and traditions, and great people who can really make you feel at home!
I’m fascinated with Iran! I really, REALLY want to make a trip to Iran in the near future. Of course this always shocks people when I mention it. I think it was really great that you were able to travel with an Iranian woman. I think when I go I’ll most likely book a tour as I also speak no Persian!
If you ever happen to come to Tehran I’d be more than happy to help you around. I’m an electrical engineer and a photographer and very very eager to help people around the globe know my country better. I was born and raised in the US and unfortunately I have first-handedly experienced what mass media feeds people in western countries about Iran and Iranian people.
Long story short, I’d be happy to help:-)
Thanks a lot Maysam, I’m actually planning another trip to Iran, and with the help of the locals I always understand the society better. Sadly, some media coverage can be very misleading, especially because most of the times it’s blatantly false. I hope I’ll manage to get some people understand that traveling to Iran not only is perfectly safe but also very pleasant :)
I recently met another woman who had traveled alone through Iran and she echoed your sentiment. I don’t know if I’d get to Iran anytime soon, but I definitely won’t rule it out.
Apart from being safe, it’s definitely a very interesting travel destination. The only reason to book a tour is the language, which is quite hard to grasp if you haven’t studied it before, but for the rest, people are very friendly and always available to help.
Hi dear Angela. I am Reza from Shiraz. I want to thank you for your comment. I hope I would meet you next time in Shiraz. Just email me before coming. :)
Thanks Reza, I hope I’ll be back to Shiraz soon, I loved the city :)
I am an Iranian working in France.
The french peapels saied me Iranian peopels are our eslave. And you what do you think ?
In all honesty, I think that what you are saying is not true. I’ve lived in Europe most of my life, traveled extensively around the Continent, especially France as half of my family is French, and I’ve never heard such absurdity anywhere, about Iranians nor about any other nationality.
Hi Angela. I can’t hide or deny my happiness and the joy I felt reading your posts about Iran and it’s cities. I’m originally Iranian but I was born and raised in the US so a lot of what you wrote made quite sense to me. Unfortunately due to the negative impact of mass media on people, most of them have no idea about how Iran and Iranian people really are. And more unfortunate thing is Iranian government not supporting tourism as it should. I hope you enjoyed your stay in this historical country. And I also hope to visit Italy soon. Just can’t wait to photograph beauties of Italy:))
I’m sure you’ll love Italy, Italians and Iranians are very much alike, maybe that’s why I felt comfortable in Iran! I’ve done quite a tour, so I’ll be posting a lot of photos and posts :) Do let me know if you happen in Rome, I’ll be happy to show you around!
So nice of you, I don’t expect it anytime soon but who knows what future will bring us?!:)) will do…thanks a lot:-)
Iran ha molti problemi ma l’immagine che ne danno i media sono di una disonestà terrificante e rispecchiano il desiderio di farlo apparire nel collettivo immaginario come qualcosa che non è neanche lontanamente. Chiunque visiti Iran rimane completamente spiazzato da una realtà che non si aspetterebbe e per molti, come me, quel viaggio genera un bisogno incontenibile di ritornarci. Ho incontrato molti turisti e le loro reazioni erano senza eccezione di incredulità e sdegno per una realtà completamente distolta, quella che ci serve il mainstream da anni. Io ci sono ritornata e già mi sto organizzando per un altro viaggio. Quel paese è come una droga benefica, ho visitato mezzo mondo ma non ho sentito per nessun altro paese questo bisogno di ritornare. Ci sono enormi quantità di meraviglie naturali storiche e culturali da scoprire ma la vera chiave di questa “dipendenza” sono gli iraniani, la loro umanità e fierezza nel senso più bello della parola. Il loro attaccamento ai valori basilari della vita e famiglia che il nostro mondo sembra stia smarrendo…
Concordo, l’Iran ha sicuramente problemi, che gli Iraniani sono i primi a riconoscere e come tra l’altro hanno tutti i paesi del mondo. Ho viaggiato molto e il paese perfetto ancora non l’ho visitato. Sono stata due volte in Iran e sto già programmando il terzo round. Sono d’accordo anche sulla gente, che comunque mi ricorda molto gli Italiani..
I work at Persiatravelmart.com and we have been trying to change the image people have of Iran to a more positive one. Every week we have a story Friday, in which visitors of Iran post their experiences about the country, bad or good. We hope this will create a more realistic view people have of Iran.
We would be honored if you would write a story about your travels through Iran for us, which you can submit here:
Iran is a good place to visit. I had my visit there also and here are some of the photos I have taken:
Thank you so much for your friendly comments about Iran. I’m Abbas from Jiroft city, Kerman province in Iran you can read more things about Jiroft civilization (the cradle of human civilization) if you would like to understand more about ancient cultures and traditions just come to Jiroft in south east of Iran. Please search “Jiroft civilization” in Google.com and if you want more information about Jiroft only send me an email to this address GMP.firstname.lastname@example.org