The supreme guide To Backpacking Iran

Without a doubt, Iran is one of the most fascinating, friendly and exotic countries that you will ever visit. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about backpacking Iran and even share some secrets that you won’t find in your guide-book.

Iran is officially an Islamic Republic, so women travelling here will have to cover their hair with a head scarf (as well as the rest of their bodies), but don’t worry ladies, these days the head scarf laws are pretty unwinded and you’ll get away with it being practically around your neck.

IMPORTANT: Since February 2014, the guidelines for Americans have been extended to include British and Canadian passport holders. This implies that Canadians, British and Americans need to be accompanied by a guide while they are in Iran. contact a trip operator to talk about an itinerary. 

Jump To: Must-see places | must-have Experiences | Off The Beaten path | Pros | Cons | transport | Visas | health | weather | much more IRAN BLOGS

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How much will Iran Cost?


You will need to bring cash (US dollars Only) with you into Iran to cover the full cost of your trip. ATM’s will not work for foreign debit or credit report cards. 

Budget: $71/day for 2 people

Backpacking Iran is extremely inexpensive these days, with the street rate for the Iranian Rial being around 31,850 / $1 USD (Click here for official / street exchange rate history). Iran is a country that provides great value for money, even much more so these days.

The official rate of exchange is 26,827, so rather than exchanging your us dollars at an official bank, you’re much better off heading to a legal street stall and exchanging your money there (which is completely legitimate).

$71/day is a good budget for two people (around $40/day for a solo-traveller). This will afford a good double room in a budget hotel, good local meals, the occasional taxi and tour, and taking first class buses all over (1st class is only a couple of dollars much more than lower classes).

Budget Accommodation: (Average $36 / night with breakfast)

The hotels and guest houses we stayed at cost between $20 – $40 and many included breakfast, while some even included a delicious dinner. All were beautiful budget hotels and numerous were built out of old homes that have been standing for centuries. You won’t find too numerous dorms in Iran, but we were at one hotel in Yazd that provided single rates for solo-travellers. While we did stay in good double rooms, that’s the budget standard in Iran and you won’t find anything much cheaper.

Hotels We Stayed In









Hotel Meraj

Ateshoonie G.H

Koshan Hotel

Akhavan Hotel

Niyayesh hotel

Stayed With Friends

Morvarind Hotel

Golestan Hotel

$33 2bedroom apartment, wi-fi, kitchen

$35 per person w/breakfast, dinner, wi-fi, shared

$20 w/ breakfast, private restroom & wi-fi

$36 w/ breakfast, dinner, private bathroom, wi-fi

$25 w/ breakfast, wi-fi, private bathroom


$24 w/ breakfast, wi-fi, private bathroom

$36 w/ breakfast, wi-fi, private bathroom

Eating: ($2-$7 / meal)

There are some cheap street meals to be had for backpackers in Iran and in some cases (especially during Ashura), you’ll find totally free meals all over the place! but eating a good meal in your hotel restaurant or at a restaurant in town will likely cost between $5 – $10. Food in Iran is delicious and well worth every penny! Don’t miss the date milkshakes!

Entrance Fees: (Free – $10/person)

The entrance fee to Persepolis (one of Iran’s premier historical sites) is around $10. many people join a trip from Shiraz for around $20 – $25. Some mosques and mausoleums will charge around $3 – $5 for entrance, while parks and some museums are free.

Alcohol: (GOOD LUCK)

No reason to really put a budget for this here because alcohol is illegal for all Muslim Iranians, and you won’t likely see too much of it, let alone be able to purchase it. If you’re really desperate for a drink, you can find red wine in Shiraz. expect to pay around $10 / plastic bottle, but keep it low-key and remember, it’s illegal!


Tipping is not customary in Iran but services that accommodate tourists will expect a gratuity. If you’ve hired a guide, a porter or a driver, expect to give a suggestion at the end. A few dollars ought to be fine.

Some restaurants, particularly in larger hotels, will add a 10% service charge to the bill. In other places, away from traveler areas, servers will be pleasantly amazed by any change you leave.

If you stay with a local family in Iran (which you many likely will), it’s a good idea to leave a small gift. Something from your home country would be ideal, or you can purchase a good item from the market to thank your hosts (pottery, a vase, artwork, etc.) Stickers, pens and notepads from your home country are great to give to kids when you leave.


Current exchange Rate:

$1 = 31,850 Rial


You will need to bring cash (US dollars Only) with you into Iran to cover the full cost of your trip. ATM’s will not work for foreign debit or credit report cards. 

The exchange rate in Iran is always changing rapidly and has gone through some pretty unstable moments in recent years. In July 2013, after the Rial plummeted to its all-time low of around 40,000 to 1 us dollar, the central bank of Iran upgraded its official exchange rate from 12,284 to a much more sensible 20,750, and again in August to 24,500 to the USD, but this is still well below the street exchange rate (which is 31,850 Rial to 1 USD)

Basically, if you go into a bank to exchange your American dollars into Rial, you will be paying a lot much more than if you went into one of the numerous (legal) street stalls. The most affordable time to backpack Iran was certainly July 2013, but it is still a very cost effective place to travel.

Click here For current exchange rates (Street vs. Bank)

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Must-See places in Iran

There are far too numerous “must-see places” to list here. We spent a lot of time in this country and we still have much to see. While we do love seeing sites, the true charm of Iran is in its people (more about them below).

Jump To: must-have Experiences | Off The Beaten path | Pros | Cons | transport | Visas | health | weather | much more IRAN BLOGS

Mashhad & The Shrine of Imam Reza:

The city of Mashhad provides little for backpackers, but the immense labyrinth of the shrine complex including Imam Reza’s mausoleum, (read much more about Imam Reza on Wiki here), makes a trip to the city well worth while. It is the largest mosque in the world by dimension and the second largest by capacity (next to Mecca in Saudi Arabia).

Also contained within the complex are the Goharshad Mosque, a museum, a library, four seminaries, a cemetery, the Razavi university of Islamic Sciences, a dining hall for pilgrims, large prayer halls, and other buildings.

A visit here is an immensely powerful experience as numerous people sob and cry out to their lost hero, Imam Reza. Travellers are required to have a guide with them in purchase to enter this massive complex. We went two times, once by ourselves and once with a guide. It really just depends on how the people at the entrance gates are feeling on that particular day. Also, tourists are not implied to enter the shrine itself, but if you are respectful you may be invited in. women should wear a chador (which will be offered to you at the entrance) and no cameras are allowed. Entrance is free.

We recommend a late evening stroll, as the shrine is open 24/7. Seeing the numerous mosaics and elaborate carvings on archways and walls, dimly lit by the late evening moon, is a certain highlight.


While you’re backpacking Iran, you’ll probably want to experience the desert, and there is no better place to do so than in Garmeh. stay at the Lonely planet recommended Ateshooni Guest house (they certainly got this one right), and meet Maxiar, a true desert man. explore this lush, palm shaded oasis with hikes up to lookouts, waterfalls and farmlands.

Maxiar can organize trips to the nearby salt flats, sand dunes and villages, but the true appeal to Garmeh is at Ateshooni itself, where Maxiar will play various unique instruments and treat you like a VIP family member.

The Lonely planet makes getting here sound a bit confusing, but call Ateshooni and they’ll clear everything up for you.

The phone number is: +98 324 443 2156 or +98 913 223 0874 and they have a website:

For our experience, check out: Delightful Desert Days: We love Iran!


With a population of nearly a half a million people, Yazd is an average-sized city for Iran and it’s the center of the Zoroastrian religion. This labyrinth town of mud and brick is one of the most interesting places in the country. get lost in narrow alleyways, where the golden walls seem to close in on you, just before opening up into a beautiful park or mosque courtyard.

Head to the roofing system for an unforgettable sunset, when the entire city becomes illuminated and the rooftop bagdirs (ancient Iranian air conditioning towers) glow and change colour with the falling sun.Make sure to do a day trip to the surrounding site of Chak-Chak, the abandoned mud village of Karnaq and the city of Meybod.

Some of the historical sites to see in Yazd:

Fort Mosque

Fortifications of Yazd

Haj Yousef Reservoir

House of Arab’ha

House of Larry

House of Malek al Tojjar

House of Mortaz

House of Rasoulian

Iran Shahr School

Jame Mosque of Yazd (Grand Mosque of Yazd)

Khan Bazaar

Mausoleum of Sahl Ibn Ali

Mausoleum of Seyed Rokn al Din

Mausoleum of Seyed Shams al Din

Mullah Ismail Mosque

Masoudi Reservoir

Rig Mosque

Sheikh Ahmad Fahadan Mausoleum

Shah Tahmasb Mosque

Zargari Bazzar

Ziaiah school


This fantastic, lesser-known city actually has quite a bit to see. check out the 1,200 meter long “end-to-end covered bazaar”, where you can sample spices and shop for pottery, hookah and textiles. Although Kerman is a good city, the main draw for coming here is the Kalut Desert (Dasht-e Lut) which is about 100 km northeast of Kerman (2 hour drive).

Stay with Mr. Akhavan at the Akhavan hotel and he’ll set up everything for you. At just $36 / night, including breakfast and dinner, this place is certainly a good deal!

Hire a taxi and guide (around $30) and head out to the towering sand formations of the Kalut Desert for sunset. some of these wind-forged sand castles are 10 stories high and their jagged formations take on an alluring golden shade at sunset. You can also organize to spend the night out in the desert.

Don’t come here in the summer or during the day as this is where the hottest temperature was ever recorded on earth (70.7 °C)

Goat Note: The political situation is always changing in eastern and southeastern Iran. Make sure to check that it is stable before planning a trip here.



The fifth many populous city of Iran and the capital of the Fars Province, Shiraz is another one of Iran’s prime cities for backpackers to visit. This place has been an essential trading stop for thousands of years and it is considered to be one of the oldest cities in ancient Persia.

Here you can stay in what is arguably the most beautiful ancient hotel in the country (the Niyayesh Hotel) and delight in all that this somewhat liberal city has to offer. Shiraz is known as the city of poets, literature, red wine and flowers. There are some beautiful parks, Unesco noted gardens and spectacular mosques. Don’t miss the Ali Ibn Hamza Shrine with its interior of glistening mirrored walls and ceilings.

Shiraz is also where Hafez (the well-known Iranian poet) was buried, so certainly check out his tomb and have your future read through one of his beautiful poetry books.


These outstanding ruins are located inside of a vast, city-like complex and were built over 2,500 years ago. They are found near the town of Marvadasht, but many people take day trips to visit them from Shiraz ($20-$25). This ancient city was once set on fire and looted by Alexander the Great, and even more destroyed by subsequent Arab invaders, but despite its rocky past, Persepolis remains one of the most evocative sites in the country and a symbol of the Iranian nationality.

Esfahan (Isfahan):

Esfahan is the third largest city in Iran with numerous interesting sights to see. Take your pick between parks, squares, palaces, bridges, mausoleums, churches, cathedrals, tombs, mosques, museums and bazaars!

Make sure to see the Khaju Bridge, the 17th century Shahi Bazaar, the Shah Mosque & Shah Square. going to the Armenian Quarter (New Julfa) is also recommended. There are some great restaurants, the beautiful Vank Cathedral and interesting streets to get lost in. There are so numerous sites to see in Esfahan that

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