When traveling to a new country, it’s always advised to learn a thing or two about its history and local culture to avoid unpleasant experiences. In Iran, with its long history and ethnic diversity, there are plenty of customs that not even Iranians can confidently say they’re aware of them all.
You may already be aware of Iran’s dress code for men and women. In addition to the country’s rules on how to dress, there are a number of unwritten laws that you must comply with in five-star hotels. One such regulation applies to men, who cannot wear shorts, sandals or slippers in public spaces in quality hotels.
The rules are lax in smaller establishments, B&Bs and properties in forest and coastal regions.
Nonetheless, the rule of thumb is for men to avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts in public areas.
Alcoholic drinks are banned in most Islamic countries, and Iran is no exception. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is illegal in Iran and if hotels risk permanent closure if they are caught serving such drinks.
For a taste of the local cuisine, it’s fairly common practice for tourists to head for old neighborhoods in search of diners and restaurants. That practice would serve you well in Iranian cities as well.
Ditch the hotel restaurant in favor of those in the city if you want to try authentic local dishes. It’s best to avoid seafood in non-coastal regions unless you’re absolutely certain the fish and other ingredients are fresh.
Cities on Iran’s southern shores and those off the coasts of the Caspian Sea in the north offer some of the best seafood cuisine you’ll ever eat in Iran, thanks to fresh ingredients and diverse recipes.
Gift Shops & Commercial Centers
If you’re planning on buying souvenirs, avoid the hotel gift shop. Aside from being overpriced, they offer little variety and generally lack new products since they don’t get many customers.
Your best bet would be traditional bazaars and shopping centers around the city, where quality products at reasonable prices are found in abundance.
Using your hotel’s taxi service, particularly if you’re staying in a major city, could cost you a pretty penny. You may be able to rent a car via Europcar in five-star hotels, or if you don’t feel much like driving you can Snapp or Tap30, which are Iran’s answers to Uber and Lyft.
At the time of writing, Snapp’s mobile app is available in English, but Tap30 is only accessible in Farsi. However, the latter offers better prices.
If you’re the type that tips the hotel staff, it’s best to leave it for check-out time.
Public Displays of Affection
We get it: You love your significant other and you just have to let them know how you feel! That’s great, but don’t do it in public.
Iranians are generally conservative and believe certain things, such as displays of affection, should be kept private. But, holding hands or locking arms is not uncommon.
Staying in Desert Cities
If you’re staying at a hotel in desert cities in central Iran, such as Yazd, Isfahan, and Kerman, do your best to get a room anywhere but the ground floor. Many cities still lack a proper sewage system and this becomes quite a problem in desert cities, where soil permeability is high. This typically causes problem in restrooms, so save yourself a potential headache.
The guidelines listed here are clearly linked to Iranian culture, so you cannot be faulted for not knowing them. If you’re unsure about what you can and cannot do, you can always ask the hotel staff (or the concierge if you’re staying at a top establishment). They’ll be more than happy to help!