[IRAN] Tehran - Travel Recommendation

22:30 Travel Bunny 0 Comments

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Tehran is situated at the foot of the Alborz mountain range and has been the capital of Iran since 1776. I spent 3 nights in Tehran and let me summarize my visit to this vibrant city.


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For decades, Iran has suffered from unfavorable view of the country due to negative publicity. My friends were surprised when I told them I will be going to Iran for my holidays. Some of the general response were “What is there to see?” or “Be careful.” or “Is it safe to go there?”. Let me clarify that the last war in Iran ended in 1988 and so far there are no terrorist attack in Iran since 2008. So, what brought me to Iran? Iran’s rich cultural legacy especially the Persian Empire of course.   


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From Qatar it’s only a 2 hours flight to the main international airport of Tehran which is Imam Khomeini International Airport. Air Asia is once again flying from Kuala Lumpur to Tehran at an affordable price. The flight from Malaysia to Iran takes about 8 hours. If you are expecting someone to pick you up, make sure to let them know which gate you will be at. It is either Gate A or B. The gates are just about 200m apart.


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Most visitors to Iran can apply for a visa on arrival at the airport at a fee ranging from 30 to 90 USD. If you hold a US or UK passport, too bad, you have to apply a visa before arriving to Iran. Malaysians gets a free visa on arrival. A proof of health insurance valid in Iran is necessary before you apply for the visa on arrival. If you don’t have one, you can always purchase it at a booth near the visa booth. I paid about 10 USD per person for the health insurance.
Exchange of Iranian Rial can be done at banks or at the hotel and alcohol is strictly forbidden in Iran.

Accommodation in Tehran.
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There are a few hotels near the Imam Khomeni Square. This location is strategic if you want to visit some of the main attractions in Tehran within walking distance such as Golestan Palace, Grand Bazaar and museums (National Museum of Iran, Post Museum, Tehran Peace Museum and Glass and Ceramic Museum).


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I stayed at the Khayyam Hotel for my first night in Tehran. It is located in an back alley branching from the main street, Amir Kabir Street which leads to Imam Khomeni Square. And it took the taxi driver some time to ask for the exact location. Further information can be access through their website at www.hotelkhayyam.com.


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It is more like a family run motel than a hotel. Of course, it is also much cheaper, around 1.4million Iranian Rial or USD45  per night including breakfast. Airport transfer to hotel cost USD 25.


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This is the reception counter.


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The lobby of Khayyam Hotel.


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A talking parrot at the lobby.


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My son had fun jumping on the bed. The room is basic but clean. Simple breakfast is also included.


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For the 2nd and 3rd night, I transferred to the Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel. This hotel is the only five star hotel in Tehran and it is already included in my tour package. It cost USD 168 per night and there is a swimming pool in the hotel.


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The lobby area of the hotel.


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Our room is a double bed room and it is quite spacious. It has all the facilities and amenities like most 5 star hotel do.


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Buffet breakfast at the Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel most definitely is the best you can have in Tehran.


Transportation in Tehran.
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The metro in Tehran is well connected. The locals usually commute with metro.


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As for me, I hired a taxi to take me to the places of interest of my choice in Tehran. It’s more time saving and convenient for my family this way. But make sure you have negotiated and agreed on the fare with the taxi driver before you enter the taxi. Rental of the taxi for the whole day cost me 50 USD and it was arranged by the hotel.


Places to eat.
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There are plenty of restaurants across Tehran and the prices are generally inexpensive, so no worries.


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You should however try out this restaurant located along the Naser Khoseow Street if you happen to pass by.


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I stumbled across this restaurant by chance and the aroma of the barbequed meat immediately drew me in. I wasn’t disappointed.


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It offers the best kebab I’ve tried during my stay in Tehran.


Places of interest:
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A statue of Ferdowsi in the middle of the Ferdowsi Square.


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Imam Khomeyni Square at night. There’s a metro station nearby (Imam Khomeyni Station) and most of the attractions are around Imam Khomeyni Square.


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There are a total of 21 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (as at 2016) in Iran and Golestan Palace is in the only World Heritage Site in Tehran. 


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Golestan Palace is located in the heart of Tehran and the architecture at the Golestan Palace is truly amazing! So don’t miss it.


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There also seemed to be a flea market during weekends near the Grand Bazaar.


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The Grand Bazaar of Tehran on a Friday early morning.


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The Grand Bazaar is busier during midday.


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The National Museum of Iran is a must visit destination while in Tehran if you would like to know the history of Iran. It has quite a few interesting artifacts such as the Salt Man and remains of the Persian Empire.


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Just a short walking distance from Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel is the National Garden.


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Glass and Ceramic Museum of Iran. If time is short, you can give this museum a miss.


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Azadi Tower is one the symbols of Tehran and therefore highly recommended to visit.


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If you have the time, head to Milad Tower which is located in Tehran’s northern district.


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Also located in Tehran’s northern district is the Sa’dabad Palace and Museum.


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During winter, Mount Tochal which is part of the Alborz Mountain range is where you want to head to. Even tough it was during autumn, I still went up to the mountain.


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There was nothing much to do at the Tochal Complex during other seasons besides winter. Still, it’s the best place to enjoy panoramic view of Tehran city.


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There are actually few other places that I missed while visiting Tehran. The Treasury of the National Jewels has one of the largest collection of jewels in the world which includes the world’s largest uncut ruby. I missed it as I didn’t know at that time that the opening hours is from 2pm till 4.30pm and from Saturday till Tuesday only.


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Located between the International Airport and Tehran city centre is the Holy Shrine of Emam Khomeini. I just pass by the shrine. 


What to buy:
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Iran is famous for its spices especially saffron. Try the pistachios as Iran is the 2nd largest producer of pistachios. 


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And of course the Persian carpets! Typically, a wool carpet is less expensive than a silk carpet. Some carpets are handwoven so that the two sides of the carpet have different designs! Most tourist don’t leave the country without a Persian carpet. You can purchase a Persian Carpet at the Tehran Grand Bazaar but the best place to buy a Persian carpet is in the city of Esfahan or Shiraz.


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If you like ceramics and pottery, there are shops in Tehran selling unique design pottery too, especially near the Glass and Ceramic Museum.


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Persian design vase, bowl and plates are quite popular among tourist. These are not ceramics. They are actually made of metal and they are mainly for decorative purpose only. You can still find these souvenirs in other parts of Iran.


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The Azadi Tower is quite iconic in Tehran and I would recommend to buy its souvenir inside the Azadi Tower.


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There is also a souvenir shop in the Golestan Palace and other main attractions.


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Just a short walk from Ferdowsi International Grand Hotel is the Berlan Bazaar. The Berlan Bazaar is smaller and a much better place to shop than the Grand Bazaar.


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International clothing brands are expensive in Iran and you won’t find many of it. However, there are plenty of shops and stalls selling clothes and they are cheap with relative good quality.


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Wearing a headscarf is mandatory for all women. Only your hands and face should be visible. You won’t go wrong if you dress up like the locals. But don’t worry too much. The young women in Iran dressed modernly and it’s okay to show the front part of your hair.


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The pedestrian path is wide on the main streets. I had no problem to explore the nearby attractions around Imam Khomeyni Square on foot.


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The streets are clean too although you might have a hard time finding a rubbish bin nearby.


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The locals might occasionally glance at you curiously as foreign tourists is quite a rare sight but they are generally friendly towards foreigners.


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To me, Tehran is relatively safe to visit. Even while walking at night, I did not experience any harassment. However, like most major cities in the world, Tehran suffers from traffic jams and air pollution. 3 nights in Tehran as part of my Iran itinerary is just nice. In comparison with other major cities in Iran, cities such as Shiraz and Esfahan are far better place to visit which will be in my future postings.   

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