Monday, April 2, 2018

Iran (Tehran, Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan, Yazd & Qavzin) - March 2018

" Whoever you are, whatever your race or religion, be sure you are eagerly welcomed here - the Holy Shrine of Shah-eCheragh, Shiraz"

" It is obligatory for all women to wear Chador (Islamic veil) " 

" Iran is also known as Persia prior to 1935. Persian New Year, Nowruz falls on 21 March 2018 - the first day of Spring " 

Image result for map of iran with cities
Map of Iran

Iran generally has a poor image overseas. There were unfavorable views of Iran expressed by international media especially on issues relating to personal freedom, human rights & nuclear ambitions etc. 

As a consequence, my perception of Iran was very much influenced by these reportings hence  it took me quite awhile to decide to pluck up enough courage to undertake this free & easy visit to Iran. 

But upon my first arrival in Tehran, my perception of Iran has changed somewhat as people here were generally very friendly, approachable & helpful ! Streets were clean & public transport was efficient & orderly ! This brightened up the remaining of my travel days in Iran after visiting their major cities eg Shiraz, Isfahan, Persepolis, Yazd & Qazvin. 

Although I am a seasoned traveler but my first visit to Iran was really a blessing in disguise without realizing that the Air Asia ticket I bought coincided with the celebration of the Nowruz - Persian New Year starting from 21st March 2018 !. My main concern was buying bus tickets for my inter-city travels from Tehran to Shiraz, Isfahan & Yazd etc. But booking train tickets for outstation travels was a major issue unless you book weeks in advance prior to the New Year. So no luck for me to experience their local train rides for this trip ! Using a combination of public transport ie Metro, long distance buses & shared taxis, it was quite easy for me to get around the various places within each city & beyond. 

Though Tehran on the 1st Day of New Year was totally deserted but the sky was clear & blue; their Metro was fully operational; experiencing lesser crowds in major tourist sites and making my first 3 days in Tehran less stressful ! 

Due to the long holidays, there was a large exodus of Tehran people leaving the city driving their family cars to visit friends, relatives & popular tourist destinations in the outstation cities of Shiraz, Isfahan, Persepolis, Yazd and other nearby cities .... 

The early Spring weather in Iran was cool ie 6c to 17c so it was very pleasant to move around places especially in the evening ! Cities near the dessert area eg Yazd was hot & dry especially during the day ! 

The hostels I stayed in various cities were conveniently located near the old town & tourist attraction areas & ideal for backpackers like me and most were very helpful in providing local tourism information, arranging side tours & taxis to bus terminals for morning  departures etc. 

Iran currently has 22 UNESCO World Heritage sites. For this exploratory visit, I am glad that I was able to visit 5 of their UNESCO sites, but I yearn to see more hopefully in another visit in the near future ! I was very much impressed after seeing the major historical & religious sites in the 5 cities I visited for this trip. Cities like Kashan, Mashhad & Tabriz have UNESCO sites so you may like to consider visiting when in Iran ! 

1) Golestan Palace, Tehran
2) Naqsh-e-Johan Square, Isfahan
3) Persepolis
4) The Persian Garden
5) Historic City of Yazd

" My 13 days free & easy solo visit to Iran (Tehran, Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan, Yazd & Qavzin) from 20/3 - 2/4/2018 coinciding with the celebrations of the Persian New Year 2018 (Nowruz) starting from 21st March " 

Total expenses incurred (13 days): Euro$549 = Rm2,679
Air Asia ticket (includes travel insurance) : Rm1,424 (Euro$292)
Flight details: Kuala Lumpur > Tehran 19.05 >23.15; Tehran > KL 01.05 >12.45
Travel Insurance for Foreign tourists on arrivals: Euro$14
Airport Taxi : 750,000 Rials (Euro$12.90)
Hostels (11 nights) : Euro$130
- Tehran Heritage Hostel (5 nights x Euro$10 dorm)
- Taha Hostel, Shiraz (2 nights x Euro10 dorm)
- Seven Hostels, Isfahan (2 nights x Euro$15 dorm)
- Badgir Hostel, Yazd (2 nights x Euro$10 dorm)
Long distance bus : 1,910,000 Rials (Euro$33)
-Tehran > Shiraz - 680,000 Rials
-Shiraz > Isfahan - 350,000 Rials
-Isfahan > Yazd - 220,000 Rials
-Yazd > Tehran - 500,000 Rials
-Tehran > Qazvin > Tehran - 160,000 Rials
Entrance fees : 1,750,000 Rials (Euro$30)
Shared Taxi : 640,000 Rials (Euro$11)
Metro: 205,000 Rials (Euro$3.50)
Day tour (Persepolis) : Euro$9 (shared taxis)
Food & groceries (own prepared meals) : 750,000 Rials (Euro$13)
Exchange rate : Euro$1 = Rm4.88

Iranian Currency (Rials) - Euro$1 = 58,000 Rials; Rm1=11,880 Rials

Travel Itinerary : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia > Tehran, Iran > Shiraz / Persepolis > Isfahan > Yazd > Tehran > Qazvin > Tehran > Kuala Lumpur

Tehran > Shiraz - 932km
Shiraz > Persepolis - 60km
Shiraz > Yazd - 323km
Yazd > Tehran - 622km
Tehran > Qazvin - 153km 

Travel Highlights : The Iranian cities I visited for this 13 days trip

1) Tehran

Azadi Tower, Tehran 

2) Shiraz

The Citadel of Arg of Karim Khan, Shiraz

3) Persepolis


The Tombs of Naqsh-e Rustam, Persepolis
4) Isfahan

Naghsh-e-Jahan Square, Isfahan

5) Yazd

Dowlat Abad Garden, Zard

6) Qazvin

D-1 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia & Tehran, Iran - March 2018

Day 1 - Tuesday 20th March 2018

1) Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA2) - Air Asia flight D7 776 departing Kuala Lumpur 19.05 arriving Tehran 23.15

 2) Arriving Iman Khomeini International Airport, Tehran & changing money at a  Currency Exchange Counter in the airport

3) Airport Yellow Cab Taxis to Tehran city center (50km) - 750,000 Rials (Euro$12.85)

4) My 5 nights (2 nights on arrival & 3 nights prior to departure for home) hostel accommodation in Tehran: Tehran Heritage Hostel, No 22 Kamal-ol-Molk street, Safi Alishan Street, Baharaestan Square, Tehran. Tel +982133988739 (Euro$10 dorm)

5) Metro Urban & Suburban Railway Map, Tehran - Metro train rides cost 9,000 Rials (Rm0.75) for a single trip ticket. If you are staying 2-3 days in Tehran, I suggest you buy a Metro Ezpay Card for ease of travelling besides enjoying some saving using the Card ! The Tehran Metro Tourist Map 2018 has a listing of tourist sites to guide tourists taking the appropriate Metro Lines (altogether 5 Lines) to the respective sites in and around Tehran. 

Metro Ezpay Card, Tehran

6) Metro trains in Tehran - run daily from 05.30 to 23.00 (but the airport train linking Shahad-Badher Shahr to Imam Khomeini Airport Line is still under trial runs & the last train ride is at 19.30); most train stations were clean & well maintained; each station has attractive d├ęcor and some stations looked elegant; waiting time is approx. 10 mins or less; the 1st & 2nd carriages of Metro trains are reserved for  women only, though they are free to travel in any other carriages ! It was interesting to see mobile vendors ie young & elderly men & women walking ups & downs the train carriages selling a host of cheap & saleable items ie chewing gums, toys, tissue papers etc trying to make a sale to passengers in the trains ....

7) Metro Stations in downtown Tehran

8) Petrol Pump Price - Iran is a major producer of oil & gas, the current price of petrol per liter in Iran is US$0.36 (Rm1.40) against Malaysia's Rm2.20 per liter. Hence public transport services ie Metro, buses & shared taxi fares are reasonably cheap in comparison with my home country !  Short distance shared taxi rides cost 100,000 to 150,000 Rials (Euro$1.72 - Euro$2.61)