Iran: Wonders of Persia
Before You Go
This is a journey for experienced travelers only. Travelers on our expedition to Iran should be aware that the infrastructure is poorly developed and occasional delays and amendments to the program can occur. Accommodations will range from what Iran tourism might call “five-star elegance” (but what we might call “three-star comfortable and acceptable”) to cheerful and rustic in the more remote areas. Some days will be long, with bus rides over mostly paved roads that require sitting for long periods. Strict dress codes in public will be required, including head scarves and a robe-like covering for women; and alcohol is absolutely forbidden. More information on the specific customs and requirements will be sent to you five months prior to departure. For the experienced traveler with a sense of humor, a spirit of adventure, and the desire to journey where few have been before, occasional delays, limited food choices, or rustic hotels are a small price to pay for a journey that will take you to the very heart of Persia.
Note: We estimate you will be without your passport for one month while we work on procuring your Iranian visa. Visa kits will be mailed five months prior to departure.
Trip Preparation: Gear Up!
All of your travel essentials are within easy reach thanks to these six-pocket cargo safari pants. Slip your smart phone, a snack, and some sunscreen into one of the many pockets. Trek through Persia in stylized comfort, thanks to front pleats and elasticized waist panels—they’re great weekender wear back home, too!
Please pay close attention to the following sections: Passport and Visa Requirements, Health Information, and Baggage Allowance.
- Activity Level
- Arrivals & Departures
- Baggage Allowance
- Customs Information
- Extending Your Stay
- Flight Information
- Health Information
- Internet & Phone
- Local Time
- Packing Suggestions
- Passport & Visa Requirements
- Payments & Cancellations
- With Our Compliments
This is a journey for experienced travelers only. Travelers on our expedition to Iran should be aware that the infrastructure is poorly developed and occasional delays and amendments to the program can occur. Accommodations will range from what Iran tourism might call “five-star elegance” (but what we might call “three-star comfortable and acceptable”), to cheerful and rustic in the more remote areas. Some days will be long, with bus rides over mostly paved roads that require sitting for long periods. Strict dress codes in public will be required, including head scarves and a robe-like covering for women; and alcohol is absolutely forbidden. For the experienced traveler with a sense of humor, a spirit of adventure, and the desire to journey where few have been before, occasional delays, limited food choices, or rustic hotels are a small price to pay for a journey that will take you to the very heart of Persia.
Should you have any physical limitations, please notify us in advance of your departure.
Arrivals & Departures
Departure / Airport Check-In Procedures
Please arrive at the airport for your international flight at least two hours prior to departure and have access to your passport and airline E-ticket confirmation. Do not pack your passport or other travel documents in your checked luggage. Be certain the check-in agent properly tags your bags through to the final destination allowed, and that you have all baggage and E-ticket receipts.
Please contact Zegrahm at 1.800.628.8747 or 206.285.4000 should you encounter significant delays or problems en route. Proceed to your airline’s ticket counter or flight gate for immediate assistance. Advise Zegrahm of all changes to your arrival at Tehran so that we may inform our expedition staff.
Arrival / Departure Transfers
Transfers and assistance between airports and group hotels are arranged for participants arriving and departing on group dates only. If you are arriving prior to the group day and Zegrahm Expeditions has booked additional night(s) at our group hotel, an airport transfer will be provided.
Most international flight arrivals in Tehran are between midnight and 3:00AM. Due to these arrival times, combined with the often lengthy customs and immigration process, travelers are highly encouraged to arrive a day early in order to rest and recover. Touring options are limited in Tehran but arrangements can be made with our Iranian tour operator if you would be interested in sightseeing on your arrival day. Independent exploration is not permitted.
Airlines change flight times frequently and we will send you any updates from flights booked through Zegrahm as they are received from the carrier. Still, we recommend reconfirming the departure time of your flights with the airline directly within 24 hours of departure. This can be done easily online and will ensure you arrive at the airport with plenty of time to board your flight.
Notes on International Arrival Procedures in Tehran
There will be separate arrival lines for Iranian passport holders and foreigners. They are not always clearly identified and may be congested. After being stamped in by immigration and fingerprinted, an immigration officer will lead you to another desk where your passport data will be registered. Your passport will then be taken to a room for photocopying, etc., while you will be asked to wait in a lobby area. You may be without your passport for up to an hour while information is entered into the system and paperwork is filed. Few of the immigration officers will understand English and they may not explain very well, if at all, that they need your passport for a while. This is a normal procedure.
Because of this very lengthy passport procedure, foreign visitors are often the last to the luggage carousel hall. There are free luggage carts for your use. After your luggage is scanned, our local guides and drivers will be waiting and watching for you behind a glass windowed security barrier with signs. They are fully aware of this sometimes lengthy process, and will be waiting from behind the glass walls to greet you as soon as you emerge from the luggage hall.
If you are handling your own travel arrangements, please forward a copy of your itinerary to Zegrahm Expeditions as well as contact information where you can be reached prior to and after the program.
International flights from North America to Tehran and return generally allow one free piece of luggage with a maximum weight of 50 pounds (23 kilograms), plus one carry-on per person, although this can vary depending on carrier and class of service. There will be a charge to check a second bag in economy class.
We recommend that you carry with you essential toiletries, prescription medications, and a change of clothing appropriate for the initial activities of our itinerary, so that you will be more comfortable in the unlikely event your baggage is delayed in transit or is slow to be delivered to your room upon arrival.
PLEASE NOTE: Most airlines strictly enforce their baggage regulations. Excess baggage charges, which can be substantial, are the personal responsibility of each participant.
Much of Iran has a very harsh climate with great extremes of heat and cold between summer and winter. Large portions of central, southern, and eastern Iran consist of desert and steppe with annual precipitation below 12 inches. Much of the interior of the country consists of a high plateau between 3,000-5,000 feet above sea level. Because this program stays in the central and southern regions of Iran, the temperatures should be moderate with cooler mornings and evenings.
If you wish to do your own research on the region’s climate, you may want to check local weather conditions on the Internet or the Weather Channel and Accuweather shortly before departure.
The following are average high/low temperatures in November for selected locations on our itinerary:
The currency of Iran is the rial. As of June 2015 the exchange rate for $1 US dollar (USD) is 29,010 Iranian Rial (IRR).
It is not possible to get Iranian rial in the US, but it may be possible to obtain the currency if you have a layover in Europe. It is highly recommended that you exchange money as soon as possible after entry into Iran. This may be done either at the airport in Tehran or at our hotel. It will be extremely difficult to exchange money further into the trip, especially in the more remote areas. US credit cards and traveler’s checks are not accepted.
Note also that any unused currency cannot be exchanged back into US dollars (USD) at the end of the trip.
Generally, you may not bring any merchandise from Iran into the United States due to the current trade embargo. However, an exception is made for information and informational materials—books, magazines, films, posters, photographs, microfilms, tapes, CDs, records, works of art, etc. Allowed merchandise from Iran includes food intended for human consumption, carpets, and other textile floor coverings, and gifts of up to 100 USD in value.
You will receive your Pre-Departure Packet—including a Personal Information Form that will need to be returned to Zegrahm, a complete packing list, reading list, and gift certificates—approximately five months prior to departure. Final documents—including a final itinerary, contact list, and staff biographies—will be sent approximately one month prior to your departure.
The electric current in Iran is 230V/50Hz. Electrical outlets are the European style round 2-prong plugs, though this varies throughout the country. It is advisable to bring a converter and a variety of adapters.
The manner in which a person publicly conducts him or herself is an extremely significant part of Iranian culture. Many of their social customs may be unfamiliar; please read the following guidelines carefully and always conduct yourself with extreme discretion.
• When someone enters the room, always stand.
• When you enter a room yourself, shake hands with both the men and women. However, if a man enters a room with only women, please wait for the women to initiate this contact. Do not shake her hand unless she offers first.
• The soles of your feet should never point at someone else. Take care when sitting not to let your soles show inadvertently.
• Do not use your left hand to give or receive any object.
• You will most likely be addressed by your given name plus Mr. or Mrs., rather than by your family name.
• Pictures of men, women, and children may be taken with their permission only.
• Do not take pictures or video of anything that could vaguely be considered related to the military. This includes airports.
• If you find yourself a guest in someone’s home, it is considered impolite to refuse any refreshment they might offer.
• Do not attempt to bring alcohol or pork into the country. These offenses are punishable by Iranian law and carry a minimum sentence of three months in jail.
• When prayer time is called, all commercial activities must stop. There are few exceptions to this rule.
• When buying something in the souk, it is customary to bargain with the seller.
Extending Your Stay
Interested in extending your stay? Speak with one of our Expedition Advisors to find out how easy it is for you to stay an extra night or two. Or, our Private Travel department is available to design customized extended stays for individuals, families, and groups of friends—the same horizon-broadening adventures and life-changing experiences as our group expedition, but on a flexible, intimate, and personalized scale. Call 800.628.8747 or 206.285.4000 for more information.
No flights are included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights.
You will need to purchase airfare from your home city/Tehran and Tehran/home city. For more detailed information, please contact our in-house Air Department for fare quotes, reservations, or other air-related questions.
At this time no inoculations or prophylaxes are required in conjunction with this expedition.
Take precautions to avoid overexposure to the sun, which can be intense at higher altitudes. Bring a sun hat with a wide brim or scarf, sunglasses, and a high-SPF sunscreen. Drink plenty of fluids whenever you can, not just when you are thirsty. By preventing dehydration, you may prevent a range of medical problems associated with traveling.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of your personal medications, as pharmacies are not found in the remote areas of this expedition. In addition, please bring a signed and dated physician’s letter describing any medical conditions and/or medications.
In case of serious injury or illness while traveling, it is important to understand that satisfactory medical facilities may not exist nearby. Should you require emergency medical care, it may be necessary to depart the country by international medical evacuation services. The cost of your expedition includes $100,000 in emergency evacuation and $25,000 in medical expense. Details of this policy are available online at www.travelguard.com/zegrahm.
The information herein is a guideline and is subject to change without notice. Contact your physician or local health center for current and other information concerning health precautions, immunizations, and prescriptions based on your physical condition and medical history.
Internet & Phone
The Internet is a common part of Iranian life and Internet access is usually available in Tehran, Esfahan and Shiraz but becomes very unreliable, slow or nonexistent in other more remote areas
To help you in the event that you must be reached during our expedition, you will be provided with a complete list of our local offices, and group hotels with your final departure documents.
Following are local times that apply to this expedition when it is 7:00a.m. on the North American west coast:
|10:00a.m.||New York, NY|
Iranian food is some of the most delicious and fresh in the region. It is also quite healthy, using only small amounts of red meat (lamb or beef), emphasizing larger amounts of grains (especially rice), fruits, and vegetables. Although there are a variety of vegetable dishes, they may not necessarily be “vegetarian.” Please note that the most local restaurants have no vegetarian dishes on their main menu. Though most restaurants are happy to offer “vegetable” stew or other veggie options, do not be surprised if the dish contains meat in some form. Because of the abundance of meat-based dishes, we do not recommend this expedition for strict vegans/vegetarians. You are encouraged to bring a small amount of snacks from home (Gary always travels with a jar of peanut butter!).
It is essential to maximize the versatility of your travel wardrobe by packing clothing that can be layered. Wash-and-wear, lightweight, natural fabrics are recommended. As you pack, consider your own internal thermostat and personal taste and adjust accordingly.
The nights and early mornings can be quite chilly and a warm sweater and jacket, hat, scarf, and warm gloves (preferably polypropylene) are strongly advised. It is always a good idea to bring a light raincoat in case you are caught in a shower or for misty mornings.
Laundry service is available and by using it you can limit yourself to just three or four outfits and not be inconvenienced by an overabundance of clothing.
During this expedition, women must abide by a very strict dress code. When in public, women must wear a scarf covering their hair and neck, and a loose, opaque cloak or other covering that reaches below the knees and hides all curves. Iranian law states simply that only the hands and face may show. However, the few women in Iran who are not wearing a chador (full Islamic cover) when they venture outside wear what looks like a trench coat over pants or a full-length skirt. Anything other than this will stand out, and while it may meet the letter of the law, it will contradict the prevailing custom which is not to attract attention. Therefore, we ask all of our female travelers to comply with custom and wear a trench coat (or similar) from home. We will offer the opportunity to shop for inexpensive cotton coats and scarves on our first day in Tehran, and an Iranian coat can easily be purchased. Please remember that you must be wearing appropriate attire when you arrive at the airport.
Coats do not have to be black. They can be a lighter, neutral color such as khaki, beige, or gray. We recommend that women bring several scarves for variety. One of these should be a conservative, neutral color, but florals and other patterns are acceptable in most places.
Iranian men wear a garment called a thobe, similar to the chador, and are as moderately covered as the women. Western men are not required to wear a thobe but should instead wear short- or long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Men should not wear sleeveless shirts or shorts. In general, conservative dress is advised.
You will receive a complete Packing List with your Pre-Departure Packet, approximately five months prior to departure.
Passport & Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required for participation in this program. It must be valid for at least six (6) months after your return home, through May 22, 2016. If you do not have a passport, or if it is not valid for the correct length of time, you should apply for one as soon as possible. Please be sure you have at least one page for each country visited available in your passport for entry/exit stamps, and secure additional pages if necessary. We suggest that you carry a photocopy of your passport’s information page when you travel. Please note that your passport cannot show evidence of prior travel to Israel.
Note: We estimate you will be without your passport for 6-8 weeks while obtaining your Iranian visa.
Visas are required of US nationals for entry into Iran. There is a two-step process to obtain visas:
STEP 1 – PRE-AUTHORIZATION
Please submit the following items to Zegrahm Expeditions as soon as possible and please no later than July 12, 2015.
• A clean and clearly legible COLOR copy or PDF copy of the first two pages of your passport (picture and personal information pages). A scanned COLOR copy of these pages in .pdf format may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Your completed document entitled IRAN TRAVEL AUTHORITY – ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FORM which has been included with the pre-departure packet. This may be returned to us by mail, fax, or email.
It is imperative that we receive this information to provide to our local agent in Iran with the pertinent details for obtaining pre-authorization for the required visa for this program.
Visas will not be processed without the pre-authorization and all of the information for the entire group must be submitted at one time.
STEP 2 – VISA APPLICATION
A visa kit is included with the pre-departure packet to assist you in obtaining your visas. Please read the information carefully and complete and forward the Visa Application Forms along with necessary photographs to Pinnacle Travel Document Systems using the enclosed pre-paid FedEx Airbill. Please do not submit your visa application forms and passports prior to September 4, 2015.
IMPORTANT: Women’s hair must be covered in photographs submitted for the visa.
If you are traveling independently of the group or to any other countries prior to or after the expedition, check the entry and visa requirements with the local consulates of each country you plan on visiting.
Zegrahm Expeditions has operated seven expeditions to Iran in the last five years. We have found that confirmation of the Visa Authorization Number typically comes through approximately two months prior to the trip departure. Based on this, we recommend submitting your visa application no earlier than September 4, 2015. Please do note, however, that the latest date to submit your application without an expediting fee is October 4, 2015.
PLEASE NOTE: Nationals of other countries should check with the nearest consulates for specific visa and entry requirements for their entire itinerary, including both the group arrangements and any travel prior to or after the program.
The process for obtaining visas from Iran is determined by the government of Iran and their designated consular agents in the US. While the visa service will do everything possible to ensure smooth and timely processing, please understand that application rules, turnaround times, and fees are determined by the government of Iran and can change with no notice.
Payments & Cancellations
A deposit totaling 25% of the expedition fare will reserve a place for you on this Zegrahm program. The balance of the expedition fare is due 120 days prior to departure. Air fare is due at the time tickets are issued. All prices are quoted in US dollars and must be paid in U.S. dollars.
Cancellation & Refund Policy
Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by Zegrahm. At the time we receive your written cancellation, the following penalties will apply:
• 180 days or more prior to departure: $750 per person
• 120 through 179 days prior to departure: 25% of expedition fare
• 60 through 119 days prior to departure: 50% of expedition fare
• 1 through 59 days prior to departure: 100% of expedition fare
Please note, fees associated with cancelled airline tickets are in addition to this and will be clearly outlined for you on your flight itinerary.
Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance
We strongly advise that all travelers purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance to protect themselves from an unforeseen emergency that may force you to cancel or leave an expedition while it is in progress. Information describing coverage will be sent to you upon receipt of your deposit for the expedition.
With Our Compliments
We are pleased to offer complimentary amenities to our explorers so they can be fully prepared before departing on one of our expeditions. Gift certificates to our Zegrahm Store and Longitude Books will offer you the opportunity to purchase items from our store along with books or maps suggested in the highly recommended titles sent. The certificates will be sent in your Pre-Departure Packet approximately five months prior to departure. Please refer to the gift certificates for more details.