OMG I’m In Iran!

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.

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

70 thoughts on “OMG I’m In Iran!

      1. Canadian. About as Anglo Saxon as one can be. It more to do with the issue of how religious minorities are treated and my connection with many people who had to leave their beloved country.

      2. While I totally understand that, it has been a long time since the revolution, and it really is an incredible place to visit and full of amazing people just waiting to welcome people with open arms.

  1. You have all my admiration and a bit of envy! I’m really looking forward to reading about your experiences in Iran. Safe travels! 🙂

  2. You are doing something that I, for the time being, can not do, owing to the present status of the Baha’i Faith in that country. Nonetheless, there is much about the Iranian people that is supremely beautiful. Shiraz is a timeless, sacred city. There are many other such places in Iran. I wish you the safest and most memorable of journeys.

  3. I’m really excited to read these posts, Ellen. It’s wonderful to see you fearlessly traveling to places deemed unsafe by Western media, and sharing these experiences with your readers. This is the kind of discourse we desperately need right now in our increasingly polarized world.

    1. That is wonderful to hear Britta. I hope that I can change a few peoples perceptions of the country, because it really doesn’t deserve the negative exposure that it gets!

  4. I love, love, love this post and this trip. I was born there but left as a toddler. I am very curious to what you will have to say. Hopefully one day I get to travel there as well, it is so tempting. Safe travels.

    1. I will have to say nothing but positive things! It was such an amazing country to visit, I would highly recommend that you travel there one day soon.

  5. Oh! I’ll stay tuned in for more on your Iran series.
    Thank you for taking this trip and dispelling so much of the false info we hear of over here in the Western world. Be safe, have fun and enjoy all that God has placed on earth for mankind to wander after! 🙂

  6. I’ve only seen good things about people that actually visited Iran. My in-laws who are in their late 70s arrived there last Thursday. It has an amazing history and culture. Visitors are treated like honoured guests no matter how poor the Iranians are. Looking forward to your posts but especially the pictures.

  7. right after i read the first sentence i was alreay intrigued! I think you’re so brave for going there despite that everbody else told you otherwise. I agree, though. News can skew our perception of a country and our imaginations can overexaggerate. It’s best to hear first hand experiences from people who have actually stepped foot in iran! Can’t wait for the next post.

    1. Totally agree! The media is so not an accurate depiction of what a place is like. Sometimes you just need to ignore what is constantly pushed under your nose.

  8. This should be an interesting series. FYI: I sent a link to your Iceland series to a fellow grad student traveling there this summer. You do provide a valuable service. Cheers!

  9. I enjoy reading of your travels and experiences. I have visited some dodgy places over the years, but I doff my hat to you and your travels through the middle east. My own travels in that region have been limited and even so I found it frustrating – the significant restrictions on what we see as acceptable in the Australian culture. Generally I can merge in to the culture of the interesting places I visit and have visited, but I seemed to be a square peg in a round hole in that region of the world. I have friends/colleagues in Iran, but we have only met outside of their country. We hpe to catch up again next year. Keep up the great writing.

  10. I can’t wait to read this. My boss actually lives in Iran and I remember my confusion and concern when the option of travelling with them there was brought up. I have not been and not sure I will get the chance to ( lets hope I do ) but I love reading articles like this.
    I’ll tell you what makes for interesting conversation: Watch Trumps press release about Iran with an entire family from Iran, who all studied in the states.

      1. 100%
        Disgusting !! I can not believe so many people hold his words highly. It’s beyond belief. Disaster indeed!

  11. Amazing amazing amazing!
    Great photos! Hope you had an amazing time! Iran is one of my favourite destinations and I can’t wait to get there sometime!
    Awesome post!

  12. I completely agree with you!! Western media paints foreign countries as dirty, unsafe, villainous and plays up such sentiments as often as they can (I recall the term ‘axis of evil’ in the media – so why is it that some countries gets to decide which countries can have nuclear weapons and which do not?), so good on you for setting the record straight. Can’t wait for your next post!

  13. Safe travels! I am an American who was lucky to have grown up in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia). While many of the western concerns are valid, much of them are skewed. You obviously educated yourself on respecting their laws and culture, which will enhance your experience for sure! I look forward to reading more about your adventure!

      1. Yeah, you will be hard pressed to get a visa there if you aren’t Muslim. We loved living there. It was a great life. We lived on the Aramco compound in Dhahran, so we had a lot if great amenities. We traveled a lot too, because my parents figured we should take advantage of the opportunity. Of course I knew if people being imprisoned and kicked out of the country, but as long as you followed their rules and respected the country you were fine. I wish I could bring my kids there!

  14. Hi Ellen,
    I read your post, it was nice.
    I’m an Iranian, and traveled many times around the country, I have to say Shiraz is a beautiful city specially in spring, we know it as city of flowers, and poetry.

    I like to read more of your travel

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