While transport infrastructure in Iran may not be up to the standards one would expect to find in Europe or North America, getting around Iran is fairly cheap and can be done comfortably.
The train network is limited, but rail travel is still faster and more comfortable than buses. That said, when travelling to more remote destinations in Iran, buses may be the only viable option. We recommend flying whenever possible.
Although adequate road networks do exist in Iran, driving conditions are chaotic and road safety is a major concern. Expats are advised to avoid driving themselves if possible.
Public transport in Iran
All modes of public transport in Iran are affordable, and the best choice therefore often depends on a person's destination. While the bus network covers a wider range of places, trains are considerably faster.
The domestic bus network in Iran is extensive and, because of the low cost of fuel, travelling by bus is cheap. The downside is that it's slow, especially because of strictly enforced speed limits.
City buses are typically segregated by gender, with women and children sitting at the back of buses, while men sit at the front. Intercity buses are less likely to be segregated by gender.
There are two different types of buses in Iran, namely first class and second class. That said, there is little difference between bus companies. First-class buses tend to be air-conditioned, while second-class buses lack this facility but are more frequent. There is also little difference in price between the services, so there isn't much financial incentive to opt for second class, especially in summer.
Expats can buy bus tickets at terminals and ticket offices, but during peak season it's best to book ahead of time.
The metro is often the best means of avoiding congestion. Metro systems operate in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Esfahan and Tabriz. In Tehran, one-way tickets and 'top-up' transport cards are available for purchase at metro stations.
Although not strictly enforced, trains are generally segregated by gender, with the first and last carriages reserved for women.
The rail network in Iran is limited, but trains are a more comfortable and faster mode of transport than the country’s slow buses. Some routes offer sleeper cabins for overnight travel. Gender segregation is not strictly enforced though women travelling alone have the option of requesting a single-sleeper cabin, or a women-only cabin.
Tickets can be bought from train stations or through travel agencies up to a month before the date of departure. It is wise to book at least a couple of days in advance during the peak domestic holiday months. First-class tickets cost roughly twice the comparable bus fare.
Expats should note that trains in Iran are also frequently delayed.
Taxis in Iran
Within Iranian cities, travelling by taxi is a good option. Thanks to low fuel prices, fares are usually affordable.
Shared taxis, called savari taxis, operate between cities and can often be found close to bus terminals and train stations. These are usually faster than trains or buses. Prices are negotiable and depend on how many people are using the vehicle. Expats can hire one of these shared taxis privately, which is a good option for groups travelling to the same destination. Generally, people in shared taxis avoid sitting next to strangers of the opposite gender.
There are also yellow and green private taxis in Iran, which are known as darbast. These can easily be found on the corner of most city streets and are available 24 hours a day. Expats are encouraged to negotiate the price and have cash on hand before beginning the journey, as most darbast do not have meters. While Uber is not available in Iran, major cities such as Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz boast ride-hailing applications that make travelling easier for expats who may have to contend with language barriers when using traditional taxi services. Snapp and TAP30 are the biggest ride-hailing services in Iran.
Domestic flights in Iran
Affordable domestic air services are available for those who need to travel long distances in Iran. The major national airline is Iran Air. It connects the Iranian capital, Tehran, with most major regional hubs.
Services are frequent, reliable and reasonably priced. This is definitely an option worth considering for those who want to save time. While some planes are old, flying still remains the safest way to get around in Iran, especially considering the high accident rates in the country.
Tickets can be bought at the airport or through a travel agent. During the months of August and September, flights are frequently booked up. It’s therefore best to make reservations ahead of time.
Driving in Iran
The country's road network and low fuel costs may make driving in Iran an attractive option, but the stresses of driving on its dangerous roads should be considered before expats buy or rent their own vehicles.
Traffic in Iranian cities can be chaotic and local drivers are known to ignore basic road rules. Drivers will often be seen breaking the speed limit and, despite laws requiring all passengers to wear seat belts, few do. This partly accounts for the high death toll on Iranian roads. Motorcycles are also often overloaded with passengers without helmets.
Expats who choose to drive in Iran can drive using their foreign driving licence and International Driving Permit for up to six months. Thereafter, expats will need to obtain an Iranian driving licence. Prospective licence holders will need to pass a health check, submit a range of documents and pay the licence card fees to secure their Iranian driving licence.
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