Iranian transportation is of excellent quality and reasonably priced. There are just a few locations where the very inexpensive buses do not go, the rail network is small but pleasant and fairly priced, and air travel is not costly. The ticket costs are constantly set, and there are no early booking discounts.
Train stations and bus terminals, on the other hand, are often situated on the outskirts of cities. Shiraz Station, for example, is situated farther away from the city center than Shiraz International Airport. Because city transportation is severely undeveloped, the expense of an intercity journey may consist mostly of taxi charges.
Affordable domestic flight services are a godsend for anybody on a tight schedule. Iran Air, as well as semi-private rivals such as Iran Aseman Airlines (Aseman means “sky” in Persian), Mahan Air, and Kish Air, connect Tehran with most regional cities and provide inter-regional flights for less than US$60.
Their services are regular and dependable, and they are well worth considering if you want to avoid long distances inside Iran. Planes are old, and maintenance and safety procedures are often far below Western norms, but considering the high mortality toll on the roads, flying remains the safest method to travel about Iran.
Some airlines do not utilize Tupolev Tu-154s or other Russian aircraft, instead opting for MD82 or 83s. However, you’re more likely to board a Shah-era B727 or a more contemporary Fokker, ATR, or even an Airbus A310 if you’re fortunate. Busy domestic routes are sometimes flown by B747SP, and the additional boarding and run-up time are worth the excitement of flying in one of the world’s last of these reduced Jumbos. Another domestic Iranian airline, Saha Air, is the last to operate the Boeing 707 in regular commercial passenger service. If you must travel, consider renting one of the new aircraft leased from Russia.
Tickets may be purchased at airports or travel agencies located across the main cities. During the warmer months of August and September, booking early is essential since obtaining seats on short notice is almost difficult. It is possible to pay more to get on a scheduled aircraft by persuading or paying someone to take their seat. The final few tickets on certain flights will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The conversion makes it simple for westerners to outbid everyone.
Domestic tickets are also available at certain Iran Air offices overseas, like as in Dubai. Because of the currency rate, expect to pay a bit extra. Domestic tickets for other airlines must be purchased inside Iran.
It’s worth noting that if you’re from a “western” nation, certain airlines will refuse to allow you book a domestic ticket.
The Iranian internal bus network is large and inexpensive due to the low cost of gasoline. The government has restricted buses to 80 km/h to prevent lead-footed bus drivers, thus long distance journeys like as Shiraz to Mashhad may take up to 20 hours.
There is minimal distinction between bus companies, and most have two classes: ‘lux’ or ‘Mercedes’ (2nd class) and’super’ or ‘Volvo’ (3rd class) (1st class). First-class buses are air-conditioned and offer a small snack during the journey, while second-class trips are more frequent. Given the low cost of first-class tickets (rials 70,000 from Esfehan to Shiraz, for example), there is little financial incentive to use second-class services, particularly during the summer.
Buses begin (and generally finish) their trips at large bus stops known as “terminals” () in Farsi. They do not stop along major roads like as Tehran–Esfahan except at toll booths and rest spots. This should not deter you from getting off a bus before it arrives at its destination since most passengers will take a cab from the terminal anyhow.
Tickets may be purchased at bus terminals or ticket offices up to a week in advance, but you should have no trouble obtaining a seat if you arrive at the terminal an hour or so before your scheduled departure time.
Most cities offer extensive local bus services, but given the cheap cost of cabs and the difficulty of understanding Persian-language signage (which, unlike road signs, do not have English equivalents) and route numbers, they are little use to casual visitors. If you’re short for cash and bold enough to attempt, keep in mind that the buses are segregated. Men board the bus via the front or back doors and give their ticket to the driver before taking a seat in the front section. Women and children should give their tickets to the driver via the front doors (without boarding) before entering through the back door to take a seat in the back. Ticket kiosks near most bus stations sell tickets for about 500 rials. Private buses take cash rather than tickets. Rechargeable credit card tickets are also accepted on buses and metro stations (in Tehran since 2012 paper tickets are no longer accepted in buses).
The passenger rail system is Raja Passenger Trains. Traveling across Iran by rail is usually more pleasant and quicker than using a speed-limited bus. Overnight railway sleeper beds are particularly excellent value since they enable you to enjoy a decent night’s sleep while saving money on a night’s lodging.
The rail network is divided into three major trunk lines. The first runs east to west through the country’s north, connecting the Turkish and Turkmen borders via Tabriz, Tehran, and Mashhad. The second and third run south of Tehran before splitting at Qom. One line links Ahvaz and Arak to the Persian Gulf, while the other runs across the country’s center, connecting Kashan, Yazd, Kerman, and Bandar Abbas.
Departures from mainlines are common. Six to seven trains each day depart Tehran for Kerman and Yazd, with an extra three trains headed for Yazd and Bandar Abbas. There are eleven direct overnight trains between Mashhad and Tehran, without including services to Karaj, Qom, Kashan, and other cities. Direct services between major lines are uncommon, if at all. For example, Esfahan and Yazd are linked by a railway that runs every other day.
Pardis high-speed trains run from Tehran to Mashhad and Bandar Abbas. As of 2016, another high-speed line linking Tehran, Imam Khomeini Airport, Qom, and Esfahan is under development.
Tickets may be purchased at railway stations up to one month before the departure date, although it is best to reserve at least a couple of days ahead of time during busy domestic holiday months. First-class tickets are approximately double the price of a similar bus trip.
Trains, known as “ghatar” in Persian, are arguably the cheapest, safest, most dependable, and simplest method to travel throughout the nation. As an additional bonus, you’ll get to meet the locals, taste their cuisine, and interact with other visitors. You also dodge all of the checkpoints you may face while driving. Trains are often late, so allow plenty of time between locations.
By Metro (subway)
There are five Metro lines in Tehran. One of them is basically a suburban line that extends all the way to Karaj and beyond.
Mashhad has just one underground line. It connects Vakil Abad with Ghadir. Two more lines will be added in the near future.
Shiraz is served by a single metro line.
Isfahan has one metro line that links Terminal-e Kaveh to the city’s northern outskirts.
Because of the low cost of gasoline, intercity cab travel has become a very cost-effective alternative in Iran. When traveling between cities up to 250 kilometers apart, you may be able to rent one of the shared savri taxis that circulate near bus and rail terminals. Taxis are quicker than buses, and taxis will only depart if four paying customers are located, so if you’re in a rush, offer to pay for an additional seat.
Most cities also have official shared local taxis, known as Savari. The taxis have recently become yellow, and on popular routes, there are green vans with a capacity of 11 people. They charge a lower price for each passenger. They typically follow straight lines connecting important squares and monuments, with fixed tariffs ranging from 2,000 to 10,000 rials established by municipal governments.
You’ll quickly master the skill of hailing one of these cabs. Stand on the side of the road with traffic moving in the other way and hail a passing taxi. It will slow down slightly, allowing you approximately a second to scream your destination—choose a significant local landmark rather than the entire address—through the open passenger window. If the driver is interested, he will either slow down to allow you to discuss the specifics or just accept your route.
If you need a taxi quickly, you may hire one privately. Simply yell the location followed by the term dar bast (meaning ‘closed door’) and the driver will almost certainly come to a halt. Negotiate the amount before you leave, but since you are paying for all of the vacant seats, expect to spend four times the usual shared cab rate.
You may also hire these cabs by the hour to visit a variety of places, but expect to spend between 40,000 and 70,000 rials per hour, depending on your negotiating abilities.
The majority of taxis have “taximeters,” although only ‘closed door’ green cabs utilize them.
Iran has traditionally been an appealing nation to explore by automobile due to its extensive road network and cheap gasoline prices. However, a new government fuel levy on visitors entering Iran by vehicle has dampened the appeal slightly.
Foreigners coming in Iran with their own vehicle must have a Carnet de passage as well as a valid international driver’s license. Petrol stations can be found on the outskirts of all cities and towns, and a mechanic is never far away in car-crazy Iran.
Don’t underestimate the utter mayhem that is Iran’s traffic. The often-ignored road regulations require you to drive on the right unless overtaking and to yield to vehicles approaching a roundabout. On intercity roads, drivers regularly exceed 160 km/h (100 mph). Seat belt laws mandating rear passengers to wear seat belts are not frequently followed.
Be careful that motorbikes carrying up to five persons without helmets are sometimes observed.
Large boulders in the center of the road should be avoided. These are often put in an effort to rupture your tires. Following that, a bystander will offer to change your tire for $US50. This is, of course, a fraud that happens mainly at night but has decreased as a result of rigorous enforcement.
You may also hire a vehicle for $US20-50 per day. Insurance and legal responsibility may make you reconsider renting a vehicle, particularly because hiring a car with a driver typically costs the same.
People are not permitted to transport their pets in their own vehicles and will face driving fines if detected by the police.
Iranian highways and main streets are frequently equipped with traffic enforcement cameras.