Orientation Materials from Jerry Dekker:

Money, Time, Electricity and Shopping
Communications and Diplomatic Relations
What to Bring
Misc Info


Iranian food is excellent. It is not very highly spiced but uses large quantities of herbs such as mint, dill, parsley, coriander and chives. With its emphasis on the freshest ingredients, especially vegetables and fruit, and its relatively low levels of red meat and fat, it is also remarkably healthy.

Almost everything is served accompanied with rice. Rice can be served as “chelo” or “polo”. “Chelo” is plain cooked rice which is served with meats or stews while “polo” is rice mixed with other ingredients such as fruits (dried), meat or vegetables. The rice is grown in Iran and is superb. Saffron is frequently used to flavor and color the rice.


There are essentially five main varieties of Iranian bread which are either baked in cavernous clay furnaces or briefly plunged into the flames of a pit-oven. “Nun” is the most typical bread (similar to Indian “nan”) which is sold in every bakery. “Lavash” is a flat and very thin kind of bread which is folded twice into a square. “Sangak” is thicker bread, which is oval-shaped. , “taftun” is a crisp bread with a ribbed surface and finally “barbari” is the elite of Iranian breads which is crisp and salty with a glazed and finally latticed crust.

Meat and Fish

The most commonly served meat is chicken. The can be served grilled or in the form of a “kabab” which is usually served with vegetables such as onions and eggplants. Both chicken and lamb can be served in the form of a “kofteh kabab” which involves using minced chicken or lamb that has been marinated with other spices. Lamb is also often served. Depending on where you are in Iran, fish can be served including salmon-trout, perch and shrimp.

Other dishes include:

Fesenjan Khoresh - a chicken or duck stew made with pomegranate juice and walnuts. This combination of fruit and meat gives the dish a unique sweet and sour taste.

Dolmeh Bademjan - stuffed eggplants with a mixture of rice and vegetables.

Ghorme-ye Sabzi - a stew of lamb, spinach and dried lime.

Yoghurt - this is an essential part of Iranian cuisine and can be served on its own or mixed into rice with diced cucumber or other vegetables.


Dessert usually consists of fruit - watermelon, peaches and grapefruits are common. Iranians have quite a sweet tooth and deserts and pastries are often flavored with rose water, saffron, almonds or honey. There will be plenty of opportunities to sample these. Yazd is known for its “pashmak” a strongly perfumed candy floss, Isfahan is known for “gaz” a sort of nougat flavored with rose water and pistachios.

We will do all we can to provide a varied and interesting cuisine for you on this trip. However, whilst Iranian food is delicious, the hotels and restaurants we will be using do not offer as wide a range of foods as we would prefer.



Bottled mineral water is widely available as are Iranian soft drinks such as Iranian coca-cola and Iranian 7-up. It is also possible to buy American coca-cola (actually made and sold from Europe) which is considerably more expensive. Also, non-alcoholic beer is very popular and readily available. Tea is the most common drink in Iran and this is always available. It is usually served in a small glass cup with a detachable metal holder and a cube of sugar, which is traditionally held in one’s mouth while drinking the tea!

Do not count on having wonderful coffee at any point on this trip. Most hotels and restaurants serve Nescafe (instant coffee). If you would like anything else we recommend you bring your own “coffee-bags”.

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The basic monetary unit in Iran is the Rial (IRR) there are bank notes of 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Rials.

The current (February 16, 2008) exchange rate is 9,373 Rials to $1 US Dollar.

Please note that as a result of the trade embargo with Iran it is not possible to use American credit cards except for Persian carpet purchases in selected shops. It is also not easy to exchange American travelers checks so we strongly recommend bringing American dollars in cash which are easily exchanged. Your trip is all-inclusive except for lunches so $500 per person will be more than enough to cover any additional expenses assuming you are not planning to make any major purchases.

Electrical Appliances

The electric current in Iran is 220V and most outlets use either the British style 3-point plug or the European 2-point plug. If you are planning to bring American electrical goods you will need a converter (unless your appliance has dual-voltage) and an adapter.

Time Zone

Time in Iran is 8 hours 30 minutes ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 11 hours 30 minutes ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Opening Hours

The working day in offices and banks is usually from Monday to Wednesday 8.00am to 3.00pm and Thursday 8.00am -12.00pm. Most offices and stores are closed on Friday. Stores are usually open until 8.00pm Monday through Thursday and closed on Friday.


There are many things to buy in Iran, such as carpets, miniatures (old and new), brass and copper items (old and new), inlaid wood. Please note that the Trade Embargo on carpets, caviar, dates and pistachios has now been lifted so it is now legal to bring carpets, caviar, dates and pistachios from Iran back into the United States.

However, the U.S. Department of the Treasury allows you to bring in only $100 (or less) worth of goods purchased in Iran per traveler. Please note that carpets are now excluded from this figure (as of May of 2000), along with caviar, pistachios and dates. So you may purchase any of these four items and it will not be counted towards your $100 limit which continues to remain in effect.

In summary any purchases of gifts you make must not exceed the value of $100. However, you can purchase as many carpets and as much caviar, pistachios and dates as you wish and their cost will not be included in your $100 limit. Although your carpets, depending on age and value, may be subject to duty on arrival in the USA although this uncommon.

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It is generally possible to telephone and fax from the large hotels in Iran. Likewise it is easy for friends and families to call or fax you in Iran. Internet access is rapidly increasing in Iran. Most hotels will have a computer for Internet access at reasonable fees.

Here is a suggestion from Rostam Pourzal:  There is a UK based phone service that for a very low rate assigns a LOCAL Tehran number that actually rings on your US home or cell number.  It is a good way to call home from Iran because you prepay for  it before you leave for Iran.  The company gives you 35 free minutes for trial before you have to pay.  It is all explained at http://www.telegom.com .  (Look for the "en" on the website
for English translation - Rostam says it was very convenient for him.

Diplomatic Relations

US Representation in Iran. Since the 1979 Revolution there has been no official US Embassy operating in Iran. However, there is an American Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran just as there is an Iranian Interests Section in Washington, DC. The American Interests Section in Tehran handles interests of US citizens in Iran.


It will be necessary to obtain a visa to visit Iran. You will be assisted  in obtaining your Iranian visa. Please note that your passport MUST be valid for 6 months beyond your return date of travel and you must have ONE completely blank page in your passport. The Iranian visa will be obtained in the USA and the visa will be placed in your passport.

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Men should plan on wearing trousers and either long or short-sleeved shirt. The dress code for men is quite relaxed and you should feel comfortable dressing as you would at home.
Clothing should be simple and consist of layers which can be added or removed as temperatures vary.
It is not appropriate to wear shorts.

There is no need to bring formal clothing.

It is NOT necessary for women to wear chadors (traditional clothing for women in Iran - a one piece cotton cloak covering the whole body) while they are in Iran. Each woman in the group will be given a chador (meaning tent in Persian) when necessary, as there are a few mosques that do request women to wear chadors while in the mosque.

Most women in Iran wear what is called a manteau, which is usually made of cotton and is designed to be worn over long pants. After arrival in Iran you may want to purchase a manteau which costs between $15-$20 and can be used throughout your travels in Iran. Some women buy 2 and use one while the other is being washed since laundry service will be available throughout the trip. You may choose not to wear the manteau. If this is the case then you must wear loose fitting clothes that reveal as little as possible of your body form. We have included a sketch of what this should look like at the end of these notes. Long baggy trousers with a baggy, long-sleeved, high cut jacket on top is recommended. The jacket should be long and should come down to at least six inches above the knee. T-shirts and regular blouses are not acceptable. Solid, dark colors are advisable. Black, brown, beige, navy blue dark green and gray are all acceptable colors. Red and yellow is not. Socks are also advisable.  For some very nice outfits that are perfectly acceptable in Iran, go on-line to the following web site:

At all times it is essential for the head to be covered with a head-scarf. We recommend a large scarf that can be easily wrapped around and tied underneath the chin. Again solid colors are advised but a muted pattern is certainly acceptable. It is important for the scarf not to have bright colors. The only parts of the body that it is appropriate to expose are hands and faces.

The above dress codes are in effect at all times. The only times that they do not need to be followed are when you are in your hotel room.

PLEASE DO NOT BE overly concerned about the dress-code. If you follow the above suggestions you will be fine. We feel it is appropriate to show respect for Iran and are thus advising the above policies. In essence you can opt for the “chador” look, the  “manteau” look, or the “baggy” look or alternate between the three. The choice is yours! Companies like Winter Silks  (1-800-648-7455) often have a good selection of baggy, silk clothing.

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Suggested Items For Travel in Iran
Comfortable walking shoes
Sandals if you use them (For both men and women)
Cotton clothes for heat during the day.
Sun hat or cap for men
Scarves for women
Socks for visiting mosques. You do have to take your shoes off in certain areas of mosques.
Sun glasses
Strong sun block
Body lotion
Your favorite sundries like shampoo, face soap, toothpaste, etc.
A water bottle (high quality bottled mineral water is available all over the country)
A small flashlight
A wash cloth
A small first aid kit
Wet Ones
A Swiss Army Knife (not in your carry on!)
A money pouch
Digital or video camera
All the photographic film you think you will need.
A calculator for money conversions.
A small amount of snack foods - the food in Iran is good but we all always miss certain items - granola bars, instant soups, candy, trail mix, anything you think you might crave.
Zip-Loc bags - it may seem like a strange item but they have proven to be extremely useful.
A list of addresses of family and friends.

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Luggage Allowance

Please do not bring more than one check-in piece of luggage and one carry-on bag. The space for storing luggage on buses in Iran is limited.

Getting Ready to Leave

Airlines require identification tags to be attached to all check-in luggage.  You may want to make a list of the contents of your luggage, and their cost, in case the information is needed for a claim.  

Our tour agency in Iran is Orient Star.

Pack a carry-on bag with your travel documents, medication, toiletries, a sweater, reading material and a change of clothes (in case your check-in luggage is delayed). For women, please remember to have your head-scarf and whatever you are planning to wear on arrival in Tehran. You will need to arrive in Tehran appropriately dressed.

Buses and Roads

Most of the buses used in Iran are Mercedes and Volvos which have been manufactured in Iran. They are air-conditioned and comfortable. The roads are usually paved, single-lane roads or multi-lane freeways.

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