When I decided to backpack through Iran, people were vehemently against it. I had not received such backlash about a trip since I travelled through South Africa solo!
I had family, friends, colleagues and even readers express their concerns. These concerns ranged from the legitimate (“won’t you have to wear a headscarf?”) to the downright ridiculous (“I saw on the news that a woman was beheaded for walking outside alone, are you insane?”) but luckily, I have a pretty decent bullshit detector, and know that when it comes to Western media, you really need to take everything with a grain of salt.
I firmly believe that what we see in the news unfairly skews our perceptions about foreign places, and in reality, these “dangerous” countries are almost always completely different when you experience them firsthand.
From people who had actually travelled to Iran, I had heard only positivity and encouragement about the country, and in the end, I really didn’t have any unusually elevated concerns for my own safety before touching down in Shiraz. This may sound reckless, but as it turned out, Iran was every bit as wonderful, exciting and safe as I had expected.
However, as much as I wasn’t scared about travelling through Iran, I did have a few minor concerns – some quite silly and some legitimate.
Firstly, I had a completely ridiculous concern that I would put my headscarf on at the wrong time during my flight. I didn’t want to put it on too early – because then I would look like a complete idiot. But then I also didn’t want to leave it too late – because then I would potentially look disrespectful!
Ultimately, this concern was an unfounded one. Some people had hijabs on as soon as they boarded the aircraft, and others were throwing them on as they walked down the stairs of the plane after landing in Shiraz. Basically, there is no hard and fast rule, put yours on when you feel comfortable!
My more legitimate concerns were whether I would have any issues getting my Visa on Arrival (something which I will cover more in depth in a future post) and whether the airport currency exchange would be open at 2am – because getting your hands on Iranian Rial outside of Iran is no mean feat!
Luckily, both of these concerns amounted to no issues at all. Getting my VOA was a simple and seamless process, and the airport currency exchange was open, despite other information on the internet telling me that it wouldn’t be.
I changed a few US dollars to Iranian Rial, haggled a bit for a taxi to my hotel and in no time at all, was snoozing comfortably in a six bed dorm.
This post is just the beginning of many posts to come in the upcoming Iran Series, so stay tuned, I promise you, this is one series that will excite you, inspire you and completely change your perceptions of Iran.