When it comes to getting around in Iran, the vast majority of travelers choose to get on plane or hop on a train because they’re both fast and reasonably-priced.
However, traveling by bus is not only convenient, but sometimes it is the only available option to travel to far-flung towns since they’re not connected to the country’s railroad or aviation network. It is also the preferred mode of travel for those on a budget.
Furthermore, traveling by bus is very cheap, flexible and convenient. Iran’s extensive bus network allows access to the smallest, most remote places in the country. Bus tickets are more readily available and trips are hardly ever subject to delays.
It is also good to note that there are 20,000 active intercity buses in Iran, which combined with the good conditions of major highways, make bus travel in Iran a viable alternative to other means of transportation. The only thing that might deter you from traveling by bus is the high rate of road accidents.
Bus Operating Companies
There are approximately 30 bus operating companies in Iran, such as Seirosafar, Ham Safar, and Iran Peyma. Most companies offer several daily departures on popular routes aboard standard and VIP-class buses.
Larger companies cover almost all major routes and have offices in most provincial capitals. Smaller companies are only active in one or several provinces. The service quality is about the same across different companies, with the only difference between large and small firms being their fleet size.
In big terminals and larger cities, buses usually stick to their timetable but a 15-minute delay is not out of the ordinary. The delay is usually deliberate to allow passengers running late to make their trip.
Buses travel frequently to neighboring cities and between metropolises. Up-to-date timetables can be found on each company’s website and details of every trip can be acquired with a phone call. However, the websites are not in English and most sales representatives cannot speak English, so this may be a challenge if you don’t know anyone who speaks Farsi.
Booking directly with companies and through their websites saves time and may even let you enjoy purchase tickets at a discount. Sadly, though, as the websites are not bilingual and the companies do not accept international debit or credit cards, this is not an option for now!
Even popular third-party ticket booking websites, such as www.payaneh.ir and www.safar724.com, are not available in English, highlighting a major deficiency in the sector.
Ask an Iranian friend to book a ticket for you. Alternatively, you can fill out PersiaPort’s online transportation form to book your ticket hassle-free.
Bus fares in Iran are low and very reasonably priced. For example, traveling on a VIP bus from Tehran to Isfahan, which is 451 kilometers and lasts 6 hours, is approximately € 8. In Nowruz (Iranian New Year) the prices go up a little.
Bus prices are set at the beginning of every year (around March 21) and remain constant throughout the year.
Quality of Buses
Most companies offer two types of buses: Standard and VIP. The main differences between the two are that VIP-class buses have larger and more comfortable seats, offer more amenities, and carry fewer passengers.
Depending on make and model, buses of the same class may offer different amenities. Of course, the amenities do not include restrooms!
The most common means of transport between smaller cities is minibus, which are old and not very safe.
On the Bus
Almost all buses have an entertainment system that will usually play popular Iranian movies during the journey—without English subtitles.
In addition, all buses have air-conditioning and heating systems which is controlled by the driver. With that said, cabin temperature will most probably be to your liking.
Seats in standard buses recline slightly, which is unlikely to be comfortable for sleeping. However, VIP seats offer better sleeping experience as there is more room for the seats to recline.
You will mostly likely be offered cold bottles of water aboard buses but don’t expect to find English-language magazines.
There is also no Wi-Fi available on buses so in case you need an internet connection, you should invest in a pay-as-you-go SIM card before the trip.
Every passenger is welcomed aboard the bus with fruit juice and cookies. Depending on the distance of the journey, the bust may stop once or several times at a roadside facility (usually a diner) for around 15 minutes. Food prices are comparatively high at diners and the quality is acceptable. However, many opt to bring food from home.
Larger cities, such as Tehran, have multiple intercity bus terminals, so find out beforehand which terminal your bus leaves from. If your destination has more than one terminal, it’s a good idea to ask the bus company or the driver which terminal it’ll stop at.
The staff at every terminal can help you find your bus, which is tricky business since there are no English signs on buses that help travelers identify their ride. When you are seated the operator will check your ticket, so don’t worry if you get on the wrong bus.
Buses will stop in small cities on the way and every terminal has a 24-hour taxi service.
Some companies offer international services, taking passengers from Tehran or border cities to neighboring countries. However, you need to organize those trips with a travel agency.
Pets are not allowed on buses, but that’s about it; anything that can legally be carried can be taken on the bus. Also, there are no weight limits on luggage and they can fit easily in a compartment under the floor of the bus.
I highly suggest traveling by bus in Iran at least once. Aside from its convenience, you’ll get to see Iran’s scenic routes.
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