Introduction to Iran
Iran is probably the most misunderstood country in the world right now. In spite of being a country with a glorious past, a rich culture, gorgeous landscapes, and beautiful friendly people, Iran is tainted by the not so pleasant reputation of some of its neighbors with unstable political conditions. The constant barrage of negative coverage by the Western media contributes to Iran’s undeserved negative reputation as well. But if one dares to look past the pervasive negative public perception, Iran has a lot to offer to the adventurous traveller. If you are a woman who wants to travel to Iran, rest assured that it’s a pretty safe destination, contrary to what most people think.
But every country has its own set of peculiarities when it comes to social expectations; Iran is no different. The following are some of the things women must know before travelling to Iran.
Be Mindful of the Cultural Differences
As Iran is an Islamic country, as a woman you have to follow certain restrictions. You shouldn’t behave in a way that offends the religious authorities or attract unwanted male attention. Although the odds of having to endure unwanted male attention is much lower than other Islamic countries like Pakistan and Egypt, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Despite their friendly and welcoming nature, Iranians are extremely unlikely to disrespect your personal space.
Making any physical contact with men is not advisable. Moreover, western-style eye contact with men may be misconstrued as an invitation. Therefore, put on a pair of sunglasses when you go out to avoid unintentionally making eye-contact with strangers.
Women travelers should adhere to the strict dress code of Iran by wearing the ‘Hijab’. You do should ensure that your dress is not too tight fitting, and that it’s long enough to cover your bottom. Moreover, use a headscarf to cover your hair. As long as you follow these two simple dressing rules, you are golden.
Say No to Alcohol
As alcohol is ‘haram’ in Islam, it’s illegal to consume alcohol in Iran. Always remember that. If you are invited by some friendly Iranian family to their home, they may offer you alcohol. Just gracefully decline the offer. The harsh penalties for drinking alcohol are too severe to risk for a glass of wine, no matter how tempting it may seem.
Things to Bring
Don’t forget to take enough tampons to last the whole trip if you use tampons. It’s very hard to find tampons in Iran, and even if you manage to find the odd shop that sells them, you’ll have to cough up a small fortune to buy them. Sanitary pads are widely available though. Also carry some sanitary napkin disposal bags or just plain plastic bags to carry your tampons, sanitary pads, and toilet paper from toilets that lack garbage bins.
Swimming is Pretty Much Off Limits
The swimming pools in most of the hotels in Iran are not segregated. So unfortunately you won’t be able to use them, or even sit by them. There are some segregated beaches with screened off female swimming sections though. But such beaches are quite rare. Therefore, you probably won’t get to swim while you are in Iran. You might get lucky, but don’t count on it.