You absolutely can travel to Iran as a solo female traveller! To prove it this is my experience of travelling in Iran as a solo female.
In the months before I visited Iran many of my family and friends worried about the dangers I would encounter as a solo female traveller in Iran. Some people would even tell me it simply wasn’t possible for a woman to travel alone in Iran, that I would need a male companion!
Their concerns are understandable given there are so many misconceptions about the misunderstood country that is Iran. The media has helped convince most of us in Western countries to think that Iran is filled with gun-toting terrorists, and that it’s home to nuclear weapons and suppressed women. Some people even mistakenly think Iran is where ISIS is!
I have to admit I was a little nervous about travelling to Iran as a solo female traveller. But my travels in Iran proved to me that these misconceptions are wrong and that you can travel to Iran as a solo female.
This is what I learnt about travelling in Iran as solo female traveller.
You do not need a male companion.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you differently. I travelled throughout Iran as a sole female for three weeks and was never stopped by the authorities.
However, please keep in mind if you are from the USA, Canada or the UK you most likely will need to join or take a tour to meet visa regulations.
The Iranian people really are some of the kindest, most welcoming, hospitable and curious I have ever met travelling (and I’ve travelled a lot!).
I was often stopped on the street and welcomed to the country. The Iranians were always extremely curious to know what I thought about their country and what the outside world thinks about them. They were also curious to learn about me, my family and my home.
I’ll never forget waiting for an overnight train from Mashhad to Yazd and a local woman, who couldn’t speak English, offering me a never-ending string of food – slices of apple, sunflower seeds, hot chocolate, it went on and on and on.
Or the Iranian woman on the bus from Shiraz to Esfahan approaching me asking if I needed anything and if I did to let her know.
Or the local family who invited me to join them for tea while they picnicked in the magnificent main square in Esfahan.
An important and not to be overlooked aspect of travelling to Iran as a woman – what to wear?
As a woman travelling to Iran you do need to wear hejab which means covering hair, arms and legs, and wearing clothes that generally disguise your body shape when in public.
I wore loose, cotton pants (trousers) or jeans with a lightweight loose top which went to my wrists and which also covered my backside and crotch.
A headscarf is a must and I would recommend a lightweight one (and perhaps not a blue one like mine! it did stand out!!).
Yes, I felt safe travelling in Iran as a solo female traveller.
I really did feel safe travelling in Iran as a solo female.
Unfortunately I did have a couple of instances where local men were on the irritating side. These were more annoying than worrying or scary, and I firmly believe these incidents can happen anywhere in the world, even my own hometown of Sydney. To read more about one of these incidents click here.
I even felt safe carrying a large amount of cash on me for my three week travels due to the sanctions imposed emanating international debit and credit care not being recognised.
Getting a visa isn’t as hard as it once was.
Getting a visa to Iran is notoriously tricky and sometimes difficult.
I found the process to be fiddly but not overly difficult.
As a I was trying to get my visa whilst on the road travelling in Central Asia I decided to get pre-approval with the assistance of Stantours. They were extremely helpful and professional, and I’m sure they made my visa process a lot easier. You can read about my visa experience at ‘How To Get an Iranian Visa in Uzbekistan’.
Also, women will need to have their hair covered with a scarf for visa photos.
Note: visa requirements are subject to change and I highly recommend you check with your local embassy for the latest information.
Transportation is comfortable, frequent and cheap making it incredible easy to travel the large distances in the country.
I usually travelled by bus but also took an overnight train from Mashhad to Yazd. I naturally was given a ticket for a women’s only compartment and shared with three lovely, kind local women.
Accommodation is on the whole relatively easy to find and again cheap.
Although I did have problems finding somewhere to stay in Esfahan where beds are in short supply and I had arrived after dark. You can read about more about that here.
You also have many opportunities to stay in some lovely traditional houses, particularly in Yazd, Shiraz and Kashan. My two recommendations are Khan-e Ehsan in Kashan and Niayesh Boutique Hotel in Shiraz.
Iran is one of the most fascinating countries to travel to!
From the incredible ruins of Persepolis, to the colourful bazaars throughout the country, the many delightful Persian gardens, the stunningly beautiful mosques and traditional houses, and atmospheric cities like Yazd, Iran is a country full of wonderful places to explore.
Travelling in Iran as a solo female really is an amazing and rewarding experience.
So what are you waiting for?
I travelled throughout Iran as a solo female for three weeks in October 2014 as part of a larger trip following the Silk Road overland from China into Central Asia.
If you have any questions about travelling to Iran as a solo female traveller drop me a line in the comments below I would be happy to help!