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Tehran is the capital, largest city and central hub of Iran. A sprawling, modern city whose contemporary architecture belies its rich history, Tehran is home to nearly 8 million people, though unofficial estimates are almost 50% higher. Tehran lies at the base of the Alborz mountain range in northern Iran.
Thanks to the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah, who believed historical buildings had no place in a modern city, many of the symbols of Tehran's history were systematically destroyed over the past half-century. There are, however, a few notable exceptions, such as the Golestan Palace. There are also a number of modern buildings, such as the Maydun-e Azadi or Freedom Square which is the icon of the city.
Nowruz, the celebration of Iranian New Year, starts on March 20 and is considered the most important holiday in Iran. Festivities take place over 12 days and usually involve the cleaning of homes, the giving alms and the visiting of relatives. There are regional variations, with the Kurds celebrating using fire.
This Iranian festival takes place every two years and attracts leading puppeteers from all over the world to Tehran. Dating back to 1989, participants have included acts from Germany, Canada, Austria, and England. Although event dates vary, it usually takes place in June.
The Tehran Book Fair is one of the leading publishing events in the region. It takes place annually in May or June and attracts roughly five million visitors and thousands of domestic and international publishers. It is one of the pre-eminent book events in the Middle East and Asia, and usually takes place on the Grand Prayer Grounds in Tehran, a special venue for visitors to pick up rare and out-of-print literature.
The Tehran International Short Film Festival has been taking place every year in October or November since 1983. It is a wonderful opportunity to see contemporary Iranian artistic talent. Movies are screened at various venues in Tehran, usually in the Mellat Cinema Complex.
Tehran generally has warm to hot weather. Average summer temperatures (June to September) are between 32 °C and 37 °C, but highs of 43 °C have been recorded. Nights are still warm, around 20 °C. Winters are mostly mild during the day, between 7 °C and 11 °C from December to February, but drop below zero in January mainly. Nights of around -20 °C have been recorded. May to October is almost completely dry, while most of the rain (and some snow, but sparce) falls from November to April. Humidity is fairly low year round, somewhat higher in winter.
|Avg Max||7.2 °C||9.9 °C||15.4 °C||21.9 °C||28 °C||34.1 °C||36.8 °C||35.4 °C||31.5 °C||24 °C||16.5 °C||9.8 °C|
|Avg Min||-1.1 °C||0.7 °C||5.2 °C||10.9 °C||16.1 °C||20.9 °C||24 °C||23 °C||19.2 °C||12.9 °C||6.7 °C||1.3 °C|
|Rainfall||37.2 mm||34 mm||37.4 mm||27.8 mm||15.2 mm||2.9 mm||2.5 mm||1.4 mm||0.9 mm||13.7 mm||20.6 mm||36.3 mm|
Iran Air is the main national airline of Iran and is based at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) near Tehran. It flies to a significant number of cities in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and destinations include Bangkok, Rome, Amsterdam, Beijing, Istanbul, Paris, Moscow, London and Beirut. Dozens of other airlines serve the airport, for example with budget airline Air Arabia from Sharjah, Air Asia X from Kuala Lumpur, and Air France and KLM from Paris and Amsterdam. Most airines are within the region, serving cities like Damascus, Kuwait and Dubai and several cities in Central Asia.
Iran Air and Aseman Air among a few other airlines have an extensive network of domestic flights. The main destinations from Tehran include Tabriz, Mashad, Esfahan, Shiraz, Kish and Zahedan, but there are several more options that might come in handy. Prices are very low compared to many other countries and a one hour flight generally won't cost much more than around 40 USD.
To/from the airport
Although it's still the busiest airport in the country, the Mehrabad International Airport is now mostly used for domestic flights, cargo and special Haj and Umrah flights.
The Trans-Asia Express travels on a weekly schedule between the gateway to Asia, Istanbul, and the Tehran. Trains leave Istanbul Wednesdays at around 11:00pm and arrives in Tehran about 70 hours later. In the opposite directions, trains leave Tehran Thurdays around 6:30pm and take about the same time. The trainride is divided into two parts, one from Istanbul to Lake Van and one from Lake Van to Tehran and only one carriage actually is moved over the lake to make the entire journey.
There is a weekly train travelling from Damascus to Tehran, stopping in Aleppo in Syria and Tabriz in Iran along the way. Like the train from Istanbul to Tehran, the journey contains two stages, one to Lake Van and one from Lake Van onwards.
Raja Trains offers a number of comfortable, reliable and cheap rail links across the country, some of which are really spectactular like the Tehran to Mashad overnight train. The main routes include Tehran - Jolfa, Tehran - Gorgan, Tehran - Bandar-e-Abbas, Tehran - Mashhad and Tehran - Khorramshahr. Notable stops on the routes are Qom, Kashan, Shiraz, Esfahan and Yazd, which are all reachable by train.
Traffic is very congested but has improved with the completion of several new tunnels and highways (referred to as autobahns by the locals) across the city. You can drive in from Turkey fairly easily as well as from the Southern parts of Iran. Driving is often dangerous and seat belts should be worn at all times.
Almost every city and far-flung village in Iran has bus services to Tehran, as evidenced by the hundreds of buses that pour in and out of the capital each day. Most buses arrive to, or depart from one of four major bus terminals:
Getting around traffic-clogged, sprawling Tehran is a true test of patience. While taxis are your best bet, they are pricier here than the rest of the country. A large local bus network will also take you almost anywhere you need to go, as long you can make sense of the routes and Persian line numbers. The true star of Tehran's transport system however, is the brand new metro.
As with the rest of the country private and shared taxis are abound in Tehran, although you may find flagging down a shared taxi more difficult amid the traffic and chaos, while private taxis are more expensive than in the smaller cities. See the Get Around information on Iran for details on flagging a taxi. If you want to get around by shared taxi, your best bet is to hop from square to square, as drivers will be reluctant to pick you up if your shouted destination deviates too far from their route. In each square you will find certain places where the private taxis are lined up in a queue and drivers call for passengers to a destination. (mostly happening during the times when the number of waiting taxis exceeds the number of passengers). In this case, they would wait until the car gets full of passengers (mostly one people at front and 3 people at back, excluding the driver). Otherwise the people have to line up in a queue waiting for the taxis to come. This is the case during rush hours (approximately 7:00-8:00am and 5:00-8:00pm). All these depend upon finding their regular station in the square. You can also ask them to alight sooner than your destination wherever you like but you have to pay their total fee up to destination. The cost of such a ride from Azadi square to Vanak Square is around 10,000 rials for each person. Most drivers are very poor at English though.
Snapp is also the Iranian version of Uber in Tehran which is fairly cheap and the price is calculated in advance. The app can be downloaded from Google Play Store and Apple App Store and is available in English and French but a local SIM card is required to activate it. Although the drivers may not be good English speakers, the support line speaks English well and can handle the communication problems between you and the driver.
Motorcycle taxis are a Tehran specialty and offer a way to weave quickly through the city's traffic-clogged streets. You'll see plenty of these drivers standing at the side of the road calling "motor" at all who pass by. Keep in mind motor taxi operators can seem even more suicidal than the average Tehran driver when driving. Agree on a price before you take off and expect to pay slightly less than chartering a private taxi.
Tehran has an inexpansive but confusing bus network. Some require prepaid contactless card (min 5,000 rials), which can be bought from booths beside the bus stops and Metro Stations used when you get off the bus, and some should be paid by cash (ranging from 1,000-4,000 rials). Note that the buses are partitioned in two sections, men-only (the front section) and women-only(the back section).
Note that in the BRT lines, the women-only section is at the front. Also, the fee is paid on the station, using the prepaid contactless card (shared with Metro), or paying to the guard.
Since bus numbers, route descriptions and other information is in Persian, your best bet is to look confused at a bus terminal; a local will surely stop to help. Each bus line has a certain and almost invariable path but only people know exactly which bus stations exist for a certain road. You shouldn't expect a map or guides even in Persian showing the bus network or bus stations. Even asking the bus driver wouldn't be a great help for you to find your way either. If you get in a bus and looking for a certain station to alight, ask one to help you - you will find many people wish to help you to find your way, most of the time.
The BRT (Bus Rapid Transportation) buses are colored in red. BRTs has special lines and travels very quickly from Azadi square (west of Tehran) directly to the East (Terminal-e-Shargh). Railway square (South of Tehran) directly to the North (Tajrish square). Azadi square to free university(northwest). Azadi square to south Terminal and parkway bridge(north of tehran) to jomhuri square. Costs between 1,000-3,000 rials. In high-traffic hours (7:00-9:00am & 4:00-8:00pm) it is the best way to traveling . BRT has too many stations near main streets. Although you may not find an empty seat on the bus because of the crowds, people give their place to you if they know you are a tourist. The women's and men's seats and queues are separate.
Tehran's new metro system is composed of four lines that will whisk you quickly from one end of the city to the other without having to deal with the noise, pollution and chaos of Tehrani traffic. However, many residents decided to leave their cars and commute by metro, so expect huge crowds during rush hours.
There are five lines (numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) but the two most useful are lines 1 (north to south - currently from Qeytariyeh Station to Haram-e-Motahar Station) and 2 (east to west) which connect at the central Imam Khomeini station. All stations have signs in both Persian and English. Trains run every 10 minutes or less on rush hours (15 minutes on Fridays and holidays) from around 5:30am-11:00pm every day.
Tickets are valid for 1 or 2 trips (including change of lines) and cost 6,000 or 10,000 rials respectively. There are ticket booths at every station. You can also buy a contactless fare card which is the best option if you are going to use metro a lot, or simply want to have less hassle by paying 50,000 rials for a card and use it on both metro and some city buses (note that if you use this card, you usually pay less than any other tickets, since they charge for the longest trip on the network). There are two dedicated women-only carriages at each end of the train. Women can anyway choose to travel aboard the other carriages.
There are a few apps for Android and iOS devices to assist passengers on using the metro. You can try downloading the Tehran Metro app which is made specially for foreign travelers. First you can find yourself on Google map (with stations marked on it) and your destination to decide which station you can get in and to which you want to arrive. After it you can select them on the stations map to get a textual explanation on taking directions and line changes along with a travel time estimation.
You'll find cheap & good enough abgoosht stew in any of the places they call ghahvekhuneh (قهوهخانه) which you can find in any non-strictly-residential area. Just ask for a ghahvekhuneh or get this قهوهخانه printed and show it. Nice traditional working class ambience as a rule.
You can find several food courts around Tehran with a variety of cuisines from Thailand, India, Italy, China and Turkey.
Coffee shops are a great place for people watching as well as drinking.
In many places you can find fresh sickly-sweet carrot juice - as well as some other juices - for just 30,000 rials a cup.
|Pariz Hotel||17, Mina Blvd, Afrigha Ave. Tehran||Hotel||-|
You'll find internet cafes in most cities and even smaller towns now have access to the world wide web. Like other countries with a very strict censorship, the country has strict rules about using the internet and also has a very restricted domestic version, highly unlikely to be used by travellers. Connections are generally good and it's cheap to use as well.
See also International Telephone Calls
The international country calling code of Iran is +98. Special numbers include 110 for the Police, 115 for Ambulance, 125 for the Fire Department and 112 for calls from mobile phones. Iran Telecom is the main telecommunication company in the country and provides, together with Irancell, almost all mobile services as well.
You can find a complete list of telephone codes at Farsinet.com.
The I.R. Iran Post Service is the national postal service in Iran. Services are fairly reliable and cheap, but rather slow. It usually takes at least several weeks for your letter or postcard to arrive in European countries, longer for other Western areas. Post officies generally are open from around 7:30am to 3:00pm Saturday to Thursday, so the main offices in big cities tend to have somewhat longer hours. Your best bet is to visit in the morning if you need to use their services. Stamps can usually be bought at small shops and kiosks as well. Sending parcels is more expensive but also quicker and more reliable with international companies like FedEx, DHL, TNT and UPS.
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