The mostly arid to semiarid mountainous country of Iran, situated in the Middle East, sits to the south of the Caspian Sea and to the North of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Along with its many mountain ranges and peaks, the highest of which is the Volcanic Mount Damavand, Iran contains a vast central plateau, in which two salt deserts are located. 

Expats moving to Iran will find a country born out of a rich and tumultuous history, that became a unique Islamic republic in 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown by religious clerics.

Living in Iran as an expat

Most expats in Iran come from other Middle Eastern states, and many can be found working as senior management professionals in the abundant state-owned oil and natural gas sectors. Expats tend to be located in Iran’s capital, Tehran, which is also the political, cultural, industrial and commercial centre of the country.

While Persian, know locally as Farsi, is the official language of Iran, English is commonly spoken in business circles. Expats should always bear in mind that Iran is a culturally-strict Islamic country. Women should dress modestly both as a sign of respect to the local culture and to avoid unwanted attention.

There are lots of exciting activities available to entertain expats living in Iran. Popular activities are hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains and relaxing by the Persian Sea. Expats can also delve into Iran's rich history, culture and architecture.

Cost of living in Iran

The cost of living in Iran is rather low, with the biggest expense for expats typically being accommodation. Expats with children will also need to factor in the expense of international school fees, and health insurance plans can also be costly depending on the policy chosen. That said, transport, groceries and other everyday expenses tend to be cheap in Iran, therefore bringing down the general cost of living.  

Expat families and children

There are a number of international schools in Iran to serve expat populations. There are also some good private hospitals in Tehran. The general standard of healthcare in Iran may not meet the standards that most expats are accustomed to. It's paramount that those moving to Iran have a comprehensive health insurance package.

Safety in Iran

Iran is much safer than most expats assume. That said, safety and security are concerns for expats travelling to and living in Iran. Due to strained relations between Iran and the West, and regular spates of protest in Tehran, Iran can feel politically volatile for many expats.

The British Foreign Office and the US Department of State warn their citizens against travel to Iran as there have been incidences of foreigners being kidnapped. Expats in Iran are advised to maintain a low profile and to stay well away from any mass gatherings or political protests.

Ultimately, while expats might be enticed to move to Iran for career progression, it's not a decision to be taken lightly. Considering the volatility in the region and Iran's international standing, expats living in Iran are likely to feel more restricted than they would in their home countries, so they would have to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.


Fast facts

Population: Around 83 million

Capital city: Tehran

Neighbouring countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Geography: Located in the Middle East, Iran lies to the south of the Caspian Sea and north of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The country's mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and urban settlements are located. 

Political system: A hybrid system guided by Islamic ideologies that features an elected president and parliament with an assembly of experts, who appoint a supreme leader. 

Major religion: Islam

Main languages: Persian (Farsi) is the official language of Iran but English is widely spoken in business circles.

Money: Iranian Rial (IRR)

Tipping: Tips are not expected, but a small tip is always appreciated, as wages in the service industries in Iran are low. 

Time: GMT+3.5

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. Plug types C and F are used. Plug type C has two round pins, while plug type F has two round pins with two earth clips on the side. 

Internet domain: .ir

International dialling code: +98

Emergency numbers: Ambulance 115, fire brigade 125, police 110  

Transport and driving: Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.

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