Traveling across Iran by train is not only a cost-effective option, but also a recommended mode of travel.
Iran is a large country, blessed with a variety of landscapes that can only be truly appreciated if you travel on land, and what better way to witness the transition of vistas from rolling green hills to sandy deserts than aboard a train traveling at just the right speed?
Furthermore, trains allow access to destinations that might not be accessible by planes; either because the town doesn’t have an airport or isn’t popular enough to merit frequent flights.
The use of trains in Iran goes back to the late 19th century but it wasn’t until 1939, when the Trans-Iranian Railway connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf was established, that train travel took off and propelled Iran into the 20th century, bringing about swift industrial advancements.
Iran uses a standard track gauge, facilitating connections westward toward Turkey, and by extension Europe.
This article aims to serve as a quick guide to train travel in Iran, and hopefully persuade you to give it a try.
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Railway network and map
The length of Iran’s railroad network, including sidetracks, double-tracks, and electric tracks, is over 13,300 kilometers. Nevertheless, Tehran is the main transport hub, with the vast majority of railroad routes extending from the sprawling metropolis, which is conveniently located in north-central Iran.
Thanks to the old Trans-Iranian Railway, southern and northern regions have been part of the national railway network for almost a century. However, western and eastern Iran are gradually gaining access to the network. Mashhad serves as the main hub in the east, but the west is quite a way behind in terms of railway development and is playing catch-up.
Thanks to the 2015 nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers, Iran’s transportation industry is open to foreign investment, and while the rail transport has taken a backseat to air travel, it’s not exactly ignored: Iran has signed deals with Italy and China for a combined $2.7 billion to develop and modernize the sector.
Train types and quality
The sector’s current capacity is unable to meet demand, with official reports suggesting that the country needs around 28,000 wagons to comfortably satisfy the demand.
The table outlines all type of trains in operation in Iran, complete with useful information such as class type.
Not all trains operate on every line, but you’re bound to find quality trains on most routes.
Prices and timetable
Train ticket prices in Iran vary depending on the type of train and route. The table below shows ticket prices and train frequency on some popular routes. Note that the prices have calculated based on market exchange rate of €1 = 48,400 rials.
If you can read Farsi and have a Tourist Card – a debit card offered by select banks to tourists only – you can book your train online at the official websites Raja and Safir Rail. A number of privately-owned travel companies also sell tickets online.However, the vast majority of foreign travelers don’t know any Farsi. In that case, you can either pop in to a travel agency (they’re everywhere!) or if ask you hotel reception desk to see if they can book your tickets.
Every country has its own rules and while most regulations are shared globally, some are unique. This section aims to provide key points to remember and rules to observe when it comes to traveling by train in Iran.
- Iran’s governed by Islamic laws, and while regulations aren’t as strict as most other countries in the region, they need to be respected. Men must avoid wearing sleeveless tops and shorts while women have to ensure their hair is at least partially covered and wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Keep your train ticket on you for the entire duration of the ride. Losing the ticket while you’re still on the train can cause unnecessary headache. Children under the age of 12 do not need tickets.
- You can carry up to 30 kilograms of carry-on without paying for excess baggage. Keep in mind each dimension (height, width, and length) of a bag must not exceed 40 centromeres. Larger have to be checked in.