Before I started reading more into Iran, all I heard about this country were stories about its politics. In the media, Iran seemed like a place where no one would ever want to visit. Can you imagine solo female travel in Iran?
After my trip to Iran, I can tell you now that Iran has the most hospitable people and great architecture. Traveling to Iran as a solo female traveler has been safe, rewarding and fun.
Iran is safe, accessible and totally easy to navigate as a solo female traveler. Sure, you might experience some inconveniences, but for every annoying man you get 3 nice ones, just like anywhere else. Iran is a destination you must see for yourself to see what I mean.
While organized tours are still dominating Iran’s tourism, it’s not uncommon to find another person traveling solo. Backpackers and hostels can be found anywhere on a tourist route from Tehran to Shiraz and Yazd.
Plus, if you can’t find a hostel, a cheap guesthouse is also an option. No matter which way you travel in Iran, you can always find an affordable place to stay for less than $30 a night for a double room.
Iran in Western media
Traveling to Iran or anywhere in the Middle East independently, especially as a woman, isn’t perceived well these days. Some time ago an article about a woman cycling through the Middle East alone went viral. People were wondering whether it’s safe for a woman to cycle alone across the Middle East? The comments weren’t pleasant:
‘It’s foolish and she was very lucky not to get herself raped or killed or both. I hope this article won’t encourage other solo female travelers to visit these countries alone’ – 400 upvotes
‘Not impressed. Putting oneself in harm’s way, which then puts potential rescuers in harm’s way makes little sense.’ – 170 upvotes
But how can we talk about media coverage of safety in Iran when BBC, that published the article, doesn’t even bother to check the facts. The article states: ‘In Iran, I was given more freedom. Yet foreigners are not permitted to stay with locals without permission, and several of my hosts endured an intense grilling by police.’ None of the above is true.
Staying with locals is only forbidden for British, Canadian and American citizens. Anyone else can stay with locals wherever whenever and no police will come and check on you.
U.S. government currently warns against travel to Iran for obvious reasons, these two countries don’t get along. It says that U.S. citizens may be subject to harassment or arrest while traveling in the country.
Again, I’d say that this statement is very exaggerated. Especially after Argo – the film exaggerating the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
My Advice is: don’t believe what you hear on the news. Explore the place, talk to locals and come to your own conclusions. Come to Iran with an open mind and I guarantee you’ll make many great friends in Iran.
Is it safe to travel to Iran in 2020?
Many travelers, including myself, describe it as one of the ‘safest countries I’ve ever been to’. You’ll be much more likely to get mugged in Europe than in Iran.
Violent crimes against foreigners are extremely rare and, indeed, if you do your best to fit in with local customs (read more on the dress code and how local women fight it), you are unlikely to be treated with anything.
In fact, I’ll be returning to Iran in 2020 to explore even more of its natural beauty.
My experience of traveling solo in Iran
I traveled to Iran solo and later teamed up with another girl whom I met at the hostel. I traveled around the country, in the same way, I would anywhere else in the world.
Wandering around in the evening, taking the metro, using local taxis and buses, going to markets etc.
I met many women whose lives didn’t seem very different from the women I know at home. At the birthday party, it was actually men who had to clean after, not women.
Young girls told me they date the same way people date in the Western world, they just don’t announce it anywhere and keep it to themselves.
I only felt uncomfortable twice in Iran – once in Esfahan (Isfahan) and once in Kashan. In Esfahan a man in a car started driving next to me and my friend in the evening. Every time we moved, he moved. It scared my friend and me for a bit, but the moment we approached another traveler the car left.
Another unpleasant situation I encountered was while walking around the narrow streets of Kashan. I was filming with my DJI gimbal with my iPhone attached to it when I fell someone approaching me on a scooter.
To me, being uncomfortable once or twice doesn’t mean that the place is dangerous. I never once felt physically threatened, unsafe, or at risk, even when I was wandering the streets of Iran.
I felt safer in Iran than if I was walking around in NYC. Even the tap water was safe in Iran!
People believe that Iran is full of moral police watching your every step, ready to arrest Westerners at the slightest provocation. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While cases or reporting and arrests occur, it’s not as common as it’s being portrayed outside of the country.
Everyone I met was extremely helpful and treated me like I was an expensive piece of jewelry. Escorting from one place to the other, while feeling responsible for me. And that’s the people I met on the street for 5 minutes! So unless you’re planning on running around naked with a bottle of smuggled vodka in hand, don’t be afraid.
From our partner Tehran Times
Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City Reveals Five of the City’s Hidden Gems
The Concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City, members of the Les Clefs d’Or international association, invites you to an exhilarating exploration of one of the world’s most exciting hubs of art, architecture design and gastronomy. From the heart of the city to its surrounding areas, enrich your experience with its myriad offering of hidden treasures.
An Authentic Ancestral Culinary Experience in Xochimilco
Discover the secrets of the floating gardens of Xochimilco and learn about an ancient farming method handed down through generations from the pre-Hispanic era. Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City will guide you on this enriching experience and share the harvest of its chinampa in an exquisite lunch prepared especially for you by our Executive Chef Emiliano Rabia. Let a colourful trajinera lead you on this unique journey to the past, ready to conquer the present.
The Captivating Quietude of a Private Park: Parque Quetzalcoatl
Built by Mexico’s top exponent of organic architectur, Javier Senosiain, this 5000 square-metre (54,000 square foot) park located on the fringes of the capital is a sight to behold. Senosian’s reverence for nature and pride in Mexican culture inspired him to design this lost horizon exemplifying man’s complete communion with nature.
A Flight to Remember: Hot Air Balloon Ride at Teotihuacan Pyramids
Let a balloon take you high and see the Teotihuacan pyramids from the sk.! Get your day to an early start, and feel the thrill that will buck up your hear.! Combine your flight with a challenging climb to the top of the pyramids, and bask in the beauty and unsolved mysteries of these magnificent ancient temples.
Treasures in the Valley: Luís Barragán Masterpieces from the 20th Century
An enormous pink wall facing horses in a stable, nor a flight of stairs that seem to have no end. You just have to feel the way Luís Barragán did. That is what his architecture is all about: spirituality and emotion.
Muralism in a League All its Own: Rafael Cauduro at the Supreme Court of Justice
Within the walls of the Supreme Court of Justice are scintillating manifestations by various artists on justice in Mexico, and the most riveting of all are the murals painted by Rafael Cauduro. As beautiful as they are thought-provoking, Cauduro’s murals capture Mexico’s turbulent history in powerful images portraying the different faces of injustice on individuals – a stark contrast between the artist’s dazzling visuals and the disturbing situations they depict.
Top 10 Reasons to Come Back to Tokyo
Rediscover Japan’s captivating capital with these top 10 experiences, curated by the Concierge team at Four Seasons.
1. Stay at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi. Experience next-generation luxury at Four Seasons, soaring high above the financial heart of Tokyo. With its breathitaking array of views, inventive gastronomy and carefully-crafted aesthetic, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi takes guests on a sensory journey of discovery. Take in 360-degree panoramas of the Imperial Palace and its lush gardens, cityscapes punctuated by the Tokyo Skytree, and even Mount Fuji on clear days. Sky-high rooftop terraces offer the best seats in town to sublime seasonal landscapes, elevated by personalised service and a bevy of drinking and dining experiences. Tokyo’s modern energy and honoured traditions come together seamlessly at this highly-anticipated urban retreat.
2. Celebrate an iconic matsuri (festival). Join the festivities of Kanda Matsuri, a kaleidoscopic parade of floats, mini-shrines, dancers, musicians and priests on horseback. Held over a weekend in mid-May, the vibrant procession begins at Kanda-jinja Shrine located near Four Seasons, then winds its way to Otemachi – all the while accompanied by resounding chants to the beat of taiko drums. Dating back to 1600, Kanda Matsuri has its origins in Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victory in the Battle of Sekigahara, which cleared his path to the shogunate.
3. Watch a wondrous firework display. Marvel at a dramatic dance of light, colour and music at the Sumida River Fireworks Festival, a signature summer event in Tokyo. Join local residents for the revelry, many of whom come with loved ones to enjoy the “flowers in the sky.” Observed by nearly one million people gathered along the riverside, in boats and on rooftops, the spectacular display lights up the night sky for over an hour and a half. Tokyo’s pyrotechnic craftsmen are constantly experimenting with new shapes and colours – meaning you get to witness some truly creative fireworks.
4. Savour a starred epicurean adventure. Home to an astounding 226 Michelin-starred restaurants, Tokyo holds the title of Michelin capital of the world. Compared with its counterparts such as Paris and London, the city offers the chance to enjoy multiple award-winning meals without breaking the bank. Choose from an intriguing variety of venues and cuisines as you wine and dine your way across this foodies’ paradise, from intimate tucked-away gems to dining establishments that love being in the spotlight. Get in touch with the Concierge at Four Seasons to tailor the perfect gastronomic itinerary.
5. Drink coffee like it’s the 1920s. Long before Starbucks, Tokyoites got their caffeine fix at kissaten (old-school coffee shops). Born at a time when Japan was modernising, these social hubs welcomed everyone from salarymen to university students. Step into a world seeped with nostalgia at one of the many kissaten that still dot the city, from moody jazz cafés to literary establishments lined with books. At Café de l’Ambre in Ginza, you can sample single origin varieties aged for 10-20 years and brewed with a cloth filter, while Koffee Mameya in Omotesando stocks beans from great roasters around the world.
6. Soak in the spirit of Omotenashi. A quintessentially Japanese notion, Omotenashi refers to authentic local hospitality that anticipates the needs of others and values attention to detail. Notice the touches of Omotenashi sprinkled into everyday life in Tokyo – from the way staff bow their heads and greet you warmly when you enter a store, to how the taxi door opens automatically without you having to reach for it.
7. Zip through Japan in plush comfort. A ride on the Shinkansen bullet train is an adventure in itself. Famed for their smoothness and punctuality, these sleek marvels of Japanese engineering clock speeds of up to 200 miles (325 kilometres) per hour. Experience train travel like never before in the Gran Class, an exclusive car with ultra-spacious seating, gourmet meals and a dedicated host. Other luxury trains offer the feeling of a boutique hotel on wheels. Take in the majestic beauty of northern Japan from aboard the Royal Express by Tokyu Dentetsu, featuring observation decks, wood-panelled interiors and menus by a Michelin-starred chef.
8. Explore oh-so-Japanese stationery. For stationery connoisseurs, Tokyo is a land of endless delights. With every changing season, Japanese stationery companies release new line-ups of products – from sophisticated gadgets and writing instruments, to themed letter sets and journals. Stock up on your favourites at Maruzen Marunouchi bookstore, LoFT in Ginza or Shibuya, and Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku. A must-visit for artists, Pigment Tokyo in Shinagawa stocks an incredible range of art supplies, including pigments in 4,500 hues, 200 kinds of Sumi ink sticks, and 50 types of isinglass.
9. Immerse in inventive digital art. Discover a mind-bending world of artwork without borders, a museum without a map. Spread across 10,000 square feet (930 square metres), the teamLab Borderless Museum houses exhibits that transition through different spaces, intermingle with each other, and are influenced by the audience. Created by a group of ultra-technologists, these immersive pieces of art and music unlock new ways for the self to interact with the world. You are encouraged to participate through touch and movement, and create a new reality with others – no two visits are exactly the same.
10. Take a storied architectural journey. Experience Tokyo’s fascinating evolution through its iconic buildings. Travel back to 1931 at KITTE, occupying the former premises of the Central Post Office – an early 1900s structure that was set to be replaced with a skyscraper until the then-communications minister stepped in to preserve its historic façade. Fast-forward to Japan’s Metabolism movement at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and featuring a swooping roof that recalls both a shrine and an upturned boat. Return to the present with a tour of buildings designed by Kengo Kuma, one of today’s most influential Japanese architects, known for a fluid aesthetic that blends in with the surrounding environment.
7 Expert Tips for Wish List Travel without Breaking the Bank
Although most travelers were grounded since March 2020, their wanderlust continued to thrive. And now, as restrictions loosen in many areas, they are ready to embark on their dream excursions.
Three in four Americans plan to venture off to wish list locations on their next trip, according to a recent Hilton survey. Among their most desired destinations: the lush Hawaiian capital of Honolulu, the bright lights of Las Vegas and the bustling streets of New York City.
After a year of staying put, travelers are ready to splurge. Over half of the survey respondents (55%) said they plan to spend, on average, $2,100 more on their dream trip than they would have prior to the pandemic.
While the willingness is there, there is no need to break the bank. With a little budgeting and creativity, an affordable dream vacation is within reach. To help travelers plan the perfect trip for their wallet, Hilton has partnered with Patrice Washington, financial expert and author of “Redefine Wealth for Yourself.” Here are her top tips:
Set a Budget: A wish list trip shouldn’t send you into debt. Research costs associated with your dream vacation ahead of time — activities, meals, airfare, lodging and more — and from there, set and stick to a budget. Tracking your monthly expenses is a great way to determine where to cut back and how much money to set aside.
Join A Loyalty Program:
Tapping into a rewards program can also make travel more value-driven. Members of Hilton’s guest loyalty program, Hilton Honors, have access to instant benefits and rewards, as well as hundreds of ways to earn and redeem Points, like special global promotions and free nights. With the Points Explorer tool, members can explore wish list destinations to see where their Points can take them, and they can also choose from nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay. Additionally, elite members have the option to select a complimentary dining benefit during hotel stays at several Hilton brands, a Daily Food & Beverage Credit in the U.S. and Continental Breakfast elsewhere, allowing them to save — even if for one meal a day — on dining while traveling. Members can also take advantage of partnerships, including car rentals and ridesharing with Lyft to earn or redeem Hilton Honors Points.
Apply for a Travel Credit Card:
As travel rebounds, now is a great time to apply for a travel credit card to start earning on your trip expenses and everyday purchases. New card member incentives and offers for existing card members can earn you Hilton Honors Bonus Points on purchases that can help reach those dream destinations even faster.
For a limited time, eligible new Hilton Honors American Express Card Members who apply and are approved by August 25, 2021 can take advantage of two special offers. With the Hilton Honors American Express Card, new members can earn 100,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, plus up to $100 statement credits on purchases at Hilton in the first 12 months. With the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card, new members can earn 130,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 3 months, plus $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (thereafter the annual fee is $95). Plus, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card offers Gold status with Hilton Honors, Free Night Certificates when you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases on your Card in a calendar year, and valuable Points on everyday purchases that you can put toward your wish list vacation. Terms apply.
Be Flexible with Travel Dates:
Making your vacation more affordable doesn’t mean losing sight of your wish list destination. Being flexible with timing and open to off-peak seasons could inject added value into your trip. For the 20% of Americans who have Miami atop their wish lists, staying at Hilton Garden Inn Miami South Beach or nearby at Tru by Hilton Fort Lauderdale Downtown during the off-season still lets you enjoy the best of what South Florida has to offer without the crowds.
Think Beyond Resorts:
Accommodations are one of the biggest expenses on any vacation, but the money you save on lodging can be used toward memorable tours and excursions. With more than 2,200 hotels around the U.S., you’re never more than 30 minutes away from a Hampton, and with the dual-brand Hampton by Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center and Home2 Suites by Hilton Las Vegas Convention Center, you don’t have to look far to find the value-added amenities and hospitality Hilton is known for at a cost-conscious price point.
Go Big at Lunch:
Seeking out local cuisine is a great way to experience the flavor of a wish list destination. Prices at restaurants during the afternoon tend to be cheaper than dinner — and eating a substantial mid-day meal could fuel you up for an afternoon and evening of adventure.
Book a Room with a Kitchen:
Keeping it simple for a few meals is an easy way to cut back on spending. The spacious suites with fully-equipped kitchens at Homewood Suites by Hilton New Orleans French Quarter and kitchenettes at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego Bay Downtown give you the freedom to plan out and prepare meals or tropical cocktails in your room after a day of adventure.
At the end of the day, wish list travel is all about making unforgettable memories. As life begins to return to normal, following these budget-savvy tips will help prepare you for the trip you’ve always imagined. What are you waiting for? Start planning today!
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