Transport and Driving in Iran
While transport infrastructure in Iran may not be up to the standards one would expect to find in Europe or North America, getting around Iran is fairly cheap and can be done comfortably.
The train network is limited, but rail travel is still faster and more comfortable than buses. However, when travelling to more remote destinations in Iran, buses may be the only viable option. Domestic flights are by far the fastest way of travelling long distances.
Although good road networks do exist in Iran, driving conditions are chaotic and road safety is a major concern. Expats are advised to avoid driving themselves if possible.
Public transport in Iran
All modes of public transport in Iran are affordable. So, the best choice often depends on a person's destination. The bus network covers a wider range of places, but trains are considerably faster.
Buses in Iran
The domestic bus network in Iran is extensive and, because of the low cost of fuel, travelling by bus is very cheap. The downside is that it's very slow, especially because of strictly enforced speed limits.
City buses are segregated by gender. Women and children are expected to sit at the back of buses. Inter-city buses are less likely to be segregated by gender.
There is little difference between bus companies. First-class buses tend to be air-conditioned, while second-class services lack this facility. They are, however, more frequent. There is very little difference in price between the services so there is little financial incentive to opt for second-class, especially in summer.
Expats can buy bus tickets at terminals and ticket offices. During peak season it's best to book ahead of time. However, in most instances, travellers can purchase a ticket at the terminal an hour before departure.
Metro in Iran
This often is the best means of avoiding congestion. Metro systems operate in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Esfahan and Tabriz. In Tehran one-way tickets and 'top-up' transport cards can be bought at metro stations.
Although not strictly enforced, trains are generally segregated by gender, with the first and last carriages being reserved for women.
Trains in Iran
The rail network in Iran is limited. However, trains are a more comfortable and faster mode of transport than the country’s speed-limited buses. Some routes offer sleeper cabins for overnight travel. Gender segregation is not strictly enforced and women travelling alone have the option of requesting a single-sleeper cabin.
Tickets can be bought from train stations or through travel agencies up to a month before the date of departure. It is wise to book at least a couple of days in advance during the peak domestic holiday months. First-class tickets cost roughly twice the comparable bus fare.
Expats should note that trains in Iran are frequently delayed.
Taxis in Iran
Within Iranian cities, travelling by taxi is a good option. Thanks to low fuel prices, fares are usually affordable.
Shared taxis, called savari taxis, operate between cities and can often be found close to bus terminals and train stations. These are usually faster than trains or buses. Prices are negotiable and depend on how many people are using the vehicle. Expats can hire one of these shared taxis privately, which is a good option for groups travelling to the same destination. Generally, people in shared taxis avoid sitting next to strangers of the opposite gender.
Domestic flights in Iran
Affordable domestic air services are available for those who need to travel long distances in Iran. The major national airline is Iran Air. It connects the Iranian capital, Tehran, with most major regional hubs.
Services are frequent, reliable and reasonably priced. This is definitely an option worth considering for those who want to save time. While some planes are old, flying still remains the safest way to get around in Iran especially considering the high rates of accidents on the country’s roads.
Tickets can be bought at the airport or through a travel agent. During the months of August and September flights are frequently booked up. It’s therefore best to make reservations ahead of time.
Driving in Iran
The country's road network and low fuel costs may make driving in Iran an attractive option. Though, the stresses of driving in Iran should be considered before expats buy or rent their own vehicle.
Traffic in Iranian cities can be chaotic and local drivers are known to ignore basic road rules. Drivers will often be seen breaking the speed limit and, despite laws requiring all passengers to wear seat belts, very few do. This partly accounts for the high death toll on Iranian roads.
Motorcycles are often overloaded with passengers without helmets, which proves to be another safety concern.