So you’ve decided to book that overdue ticket to Iran and have the time of your life! Congratulations on a decision well-made. Now all you need is some smartphone apps to make your trip to Iran as hassle-free as possible.
Before we list the apps, let’s get one thing straight: You’re going to need an internet connection to take full advantage of the apps. Well, you’re in luck! Iranian mobile operators MCI (or Hamrah-e-Avval, which is state-owned) and Irancell (partially owned by MTN) offer pre-paid tourist SIM cards.
The 3G and 4G SIMs are available at designated booths at international airports; so, you’ll have an internet connection pretty much upon arrival.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the most essential apps that may enhance your Iran trip experience.
It might surprise you to know that Foursquare is popular in Iran—well, it is!
Iranians are very active on Foursquare, as are foreign tourists traveling to Iran. This ensures that there are a decent number of reviews in English to help you choose a venue for a cup of coffee or traditional Iranian dishes.
From upscale restaurants to back-alley teahouses, Foursquare has a growing database of Iranian venues—from art galleries to cafes—that are constantly updated with user reviews and ratings.
This one surprised even me, but Iranian users are active on Trip.com’s smartphone app.
I would have instead liked to list Waze here but it was blocked months ago, leaving Google Maps unchallenged as the go-to navigation app in Iran.
The map is very detailed and shows both bus stops and metro stations in larger cities, such as Tehran. It is particularly handy when it comes to showing traffic congestion, which you absolutely need if you plan on traveling around Tehran by car.
Google Translate is the most easy-to-use translation app on the market. While its translation of complicated Persian sentences is not yet up to scratch, the translations are at least understandable.
While not applicable to Persian, the app allows the use of your phone’s camera to scan and translate text. However, Google Translate is pretty good at guessing Persian words that you draw with your fingers via the drawing function, so there’s that!
Furthermore, when you come across a non-English speaker, you can always have the app translate what you want to say in Persian and have the person read it. It’s not the easiest mode of communication, but at least it works!
There are dozens of third-party apps for Tehran’s expanding subway network, but Tehran Metro stands out for the wealth of information it provides users in an accessible way. Oh, and it’s (mostly) available in English!
Traveling around Tehran on the subway is fast, efficient and saves you the anguish the results from getting stuck Tehran’s merciless traffic.
Available on both iOS and Android, Tehran Metro provides accurate train schedules for Tehran’s five active subway lines (Lines 1, 2, 3, 4 cover most of Tehran, while Line 5 connects to Tehran to Karaj). Line 6 was partially opened last week, but at the time of writing the app was not updated to include line’s schedule.
A standout feature of the app is that it lists amenities found at each station, from newspaper stands to fast-food joints. It also tells you which stations have ATMs, which may be of interest to you if you got yourself a prepaid tourist credit card at the airport or at one of the branches of Bank Melli, Bank Sepah or Tourism Bank.
A lot of apps on Google Play aren’t available to users in Iran, which prompting some developers to provide an alternative app store to Iranians: Café Bazaar.
Most of the apps unavailable to Iranians due to region-restrictions can be found on Café Bazaar, which has a decent English version.
The app can only be downloaded from their official website.
Iran’s answer to Uber, Snapp’s reasonable prices and growing number of drivers has helped it become the most popular ridesharing app in Tehran. The app can be downloaded from Google Play or App Store.
Odds are your phone already has a weather app, but not many can rival AccuWeather’s spot-on forecasts and nifty extras.
Iran is a big country with vastly different climates. For instance, in late April when Tehran in central Iran was experiencing temperatures above 20°C, the mountainous regions of Ardabil in the northwest were being blanketed in snow!
AccuWeather has a very good coverage of Iran and can help you stay up to speed with weather changes.
A non-Arab Muslim country, Iran uses a solar (as opposed to lunar) calendar called “Shamsi”. Naturally, this may cause confusion for foreign travelers, who will most likely encounter dates written in the local calendar.
The Android-only app Date/Calendar Converter can therefore come in very handy when you need to quickly convert dates from Shamsi to Gregorian. What sets this app apart from the competition is that it provides a transliteration of the Farsi names for months and days, making their pronunciation easy for foreign travelers.
Iran’s travel app market is slowly but surely growing, and in time there will be more apps worthy of a mention in our future lists. The app isn’t available on iOS, but Calendar Converter is a decent alternative, though it’s not free ($1.99).
If you feel we missed an app or just want to let us know what you think about the list, drop us a comment below!