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Moving to Iran

The mostly arid to semiarid mountainous country of Iran, situated in the Middle East, sits to the south of the Caspian Sea and to the North of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Along with its many mountain ranges and peaks, the highest of which is the Volcanic Mount Damavand, Iran contains a vast central plateau, in which two salt deserts are located. 

Expats moving to Iran will find a country born out of a rich and tumultuous history, that became a unique Islamic republic in 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown by religious clerics.

Living in Iran as an expat

Most expats in Iran come from other Middle Eastern states, and many can be found working as senior management professionals in the abundant state-owned oil and natural gas sectors. Expats tend to be located in Iran’s capital, Tehran, which is also the political, cultural, industrial and commercial centre of the country.

While Persian, know locally as Farsi, is the official language of Iran, English is commonly spoken in business circles. Expats should always bear in mind that Iran is a culturally-strict Islamic country. Women should dress modestly both as a sign of respect to the local culture and to avoid unwanted attention.

There are lots of exciting activities available to entertain expats living in Iran. Popular activities are hiking and skiing in the Alborz mountains and relaxing by the Persian Sea. Expats can also delve into Iran's rich history, culture and architecture.

Cost of living in Iran

The cost of living in Iran is rather low, with the biggest expense for expats typically being accommodation. Expats with children will also need to factor in the expense of international school fees, and health insurance plans can also be costly depending on the policy chosen. That said, transport, groceries and other everyday expenses tend to be cheap in Iran, therefore bringing down the general cost of living.  

Expat families and children

There are a number of international schools in Iran to serve expat populations. There are also some good private hospitals in Tehran. The general standard of healthcare in Iran may not meet the standards that most expats are accustomed to. It's paramount that those moving to Iran have a comprehensive health insurance package.

Safety in Iran

Iran is much safer than most expats assume. That said, safety and security are concerns for expats travelling to and living in Iran. Due to strained relations between Iran and the West, and regular spates of protest in Tehran, Iran can feel politically volatile for many expats.

The British Foreign Office and the US Department of State warn their citizens against travel to Iran as there have been incidences of foreigners being kidnapped. Expats in Iran are advised to maintain a low profile and to stay well away from any mass gatherings or political protests.

Ultimately, while expats might be enticed to move to Iran for career progression, it's not a decision to be taken lightly. Considering the volatility in the region and Iran's international standing, expats living in Iran are likely to feel more restricted than they would in their home countries, so they would have to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.


Fast facts

Population: Around 83 million

Capital city: Tehran

Neighbouring countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Geography: Located in the Middle East, Iran lies to the south of the Caspian Sea and north of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The country's mountains enclose several broad basins, or plateaus, on which major agricultural and urban settlements are located. 

Political system: A hybrid system guided by Islamic ideologies that features an elected president and parliament with an assembly of experts, who appoint a supreme leader. 

Major religion: Islam

Main languages: Persian (Farsi) is the official language of Iran but English is widely spoken in business circles.

Money: Iranian Rial (IRR)

Tipping: Tips are not expected, but a small tip is always appreciated, as wages in the service industries in Iran are low. 

Time: GMT+3.5

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. Plug types C and F are used. Plug type C has two round pins, while plug type F has two round pins with two earth clips on the side. 

Internet domain: .ir

International dialling code: +98

Emergency numbers: Ambulance 115, fire brigade 125, police 110  

Transport and driving: Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.

Weather in Iran

Expats living in Iran will have to contend with a semi-arid climate. While the north of Iran is a subtropical region, the rest of the country has long hot summers and short cool winters. 

Iran is typically hot and dry, but it also has subfreezing temperatures and heavy snowfall during winters, especially in the northwest. The Caspian Coast experiences steady rainfall throughout the year.

Spring in Iran coincides with Norwuz, the Persian New Year, and lasts from March to May. This time of year is cool, with temperatures rapidly rising towards summer. Spring is a relatively short season and expats can expect fluctuating weather patterns with some rain too.

Summer in Iran is the longest season and lasts from late May to September. It is hot and dry except on the Caspian Coast where rainfall starts as early as mid-summer and lasts through to winter’s end. Summer temperatures rarely exceed 84°F (29°C) in most of the country, but can rise as high as 100°F (38°C) in the east and desert areas.

Autumn in Iran is short, lasting only for October to November. Temperatures begin to drop and rainfall arrives in most parts of the country by November.

Winters in Iran are cool, especially in the northwest where the temperature drops below freezing and it snows, often heavily. From December until mid-March, the weather will remain cool and tends to stay below 50°F (10°C), while occasionally dropping below 32°F (0°C). This is also the wettest time of year.

A major concern for expats in Iran is the combination of humidity and heat. Heat exhaustion is a threat to unprepared or sickly residents and can be fatal. In addition, sudden violent storms can cause property damage and injury, and dust storms can result in fatalities. There are also frequent earthquakes in Iran. These are often damaging and lethal, especially when occurring close to Tehran. 

Two final environmental considerations for expats in Iran to be aware of are pollution and water security. The level of pollution in cities such as Tehran will adversely affect those with sensitive respiratory systems. Water availability is also a pressing current and future problem. To mitigate these challenges, it's best to prepare as much as possible beforehand.

 

Embassy Contacts for Iran

Iranian embassies 

  • Embassy of Pakistan, Washington DC, USA (Iran Interest Section): +1 202 243 6500

  • Embassy of Iran, London, United Kingdom: + 44  207 225 4200

  • Embassy of Iran, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6290 7000

  • Embassy of Iran, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 87 945 1307 

  • Embassy of Iran, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 288 0252

  • Embassy of Iran, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 386 2976


Foreign embassies in Iran

  • Embassy of Switzerland, Tehran, Iran (US Interest Section): +98 21 2200 8333

  • British Embassy, Tehran, Iran: +98 21 6405 2000

  • Canadian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey (responsible for Iran): +90 312 409 2700

  • Australian Embassy, Tehran, Iran: +98 21 8872 4456

  • South African Embassy, Tehran, Iran: +98 21 2270 2866

  • Embassy of Ireland, Ankara, Turkey (assistance for Iran): +90 312 459 1000

  • New Zealand Embassy, Tehran, Iran: +98 21 2612 2175

Public Holidays in Iran

 

2021

2022

Martyrdom of Hazrat Fatemah

17 January

6 January

Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution

10 February

11 February

Birthday of Imam Ali

25 February

15 February

Mabaath

11 March

1 March

Oil Nationalisation Day

19 March

20 March

Novruz (Persian New Year)

21–24 March

21–24 March

Birthday of Imam Mahdi

29 March

18 March

Islamic Republic Day

1 April

1 April

Sidzah Bedhar

2 April

2 April

Martyrdom of Imam Ali

4 May

23 April

Eid al-Fitr

13–14 May

2–3 May

Demise of Imam Khomeini

4 June

4 June

Khordad National Uprising

5 June

5 June

Martyrdom of Imam Sadeq

6 June

26 May

Eid al-Adha

21 July

10 July

Eid al-Ghadir

29 July

18 July

Tassoua

18 August

7 August

Ashura

19 August

8 August

Arbaeen

27 September

17 September

Death of Prophet Muhammad

5 October

25 September

Martyrdom of Imam Hasan

5 October

25 September

Martyrdom of Imam Reeza

7 October

27 September

Martyrdom of Imam Hassan Asgari

15 October

5 October

The Prophet's Birthday

24 October

13 October

Birthday of Imam Sadeq

24 October

13 October

Islamic holidays are subject to the sighting of the moon, and dates can change on the Gregorian calendar.

Safety in Iran

Safety is a concern for expats relocating to Iran. There is political tension between Iran and many Western governments that causes locals to not always have a positive attitude towards foreigners. Expats should therefore avoid getting involved in any type of political demonstrations. Terrorism is also a general threat in Iran, and travel to border regions should be avoided.

On a day-to-day basis, expats should guard against petty theft. Foreigners in Iran, as in most countries, are easy targets for muggings because they are unfamiliar with their surroundings. Expats should also be careful when using Iranian roads because the accident tolls are notoriously high.

Finally, it's essential that expats realise they won't enjoy all the same freedoms that they would at home. For example, bringing alcohol into Iran or accessing popular websites that are banned by the Iranian government is illegal. 


Crime in Iran

While the crime rate in Iran is relatively low, it has increased in recent years. Foreigners are often the targets of non-violent petty crime. Men on motorcycles or in cars are known to snatch bags from individuals on the street or through open car windows. Expats are advised to take sensible precautions to protect themselves against such street crime. They should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and keep their passports safe at all times. It is also advisable to pre-book taxis rather than hailing one on the street.


Road safety in Iran

The rate of road accidents in Iran is high. Care should be taken when travelling by road and when crossing the street. Foreigners should avoid driving if possible and instead hire a local driver who will be more familiar with road conditions and driving behaviour in Iran. Anyone involved in an accident, however minor, should remain at the scene until police arrive and a formal report has been made.

Iranian authorities will occasionally set up informal roadblocks in cities and along major highways. Expats should always carry some form of identification with them to avoid disputes. It is also advised that expats avoid driving at night. 


Political tensions in Iran

The political situation in Iran remains volatile. Demonstrations are heavily policed, and expats should avoid going anywhere near such rallies. International news events can sometimes trigger anti-Western demonstrations, and Western diplomatic missions have been the focus of such demonstrations in the past.


Safety at the border zones

Certain border zones are regarded as being particularly dangerous. Due to numerous safety concerns, many governments advise their citizens against travelling to areas close to Iran's borders with Iraq and Afghanistan. The area to the east of Bam and Jask, and the province of Sistan-Baluchestan serve as the main route for drug traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. This area is notorious for banditry.


Terrorism in Iran

There is a general threat of terrorism in Iran. While attacks are indiscriminate, they do often target places frequented by foreigners. In general, expats should be vigilant and keep security arrangements up to date. There is also a threat of kidnapping at border areas.


Natural disasters in Iran

Iran is prone to earthquakes. Expats should familiarise themselves with earthquake safety procedures. Flooding is also common in Iran and leads to many deaths annually.

Working in Iran

Expats will find that working in Iran comes with a variety of opportunities and challenges. Iran is home to one of the largest economies in the Middle East and North Africa region.

International sanctions imposed against Iran as a result of its nuclear programme have played a toll on the Iranian economy, and coronavirus has certainly not helped this. With both of these factors leading to the collapse of the oil markets, Iran's most lucrative industry, the economy in the country has undoubtedly taken a knock. 

The agriculture and manufacturing sectors have grown, however, and with the the recovery of the oil market and potential economic reforms, the Iranian economy may see some major improvement in years to come. 


Job market in Iran

Economic activity in Iran is fairly diverse. The country’s economy is characterised by a large hydrocarbon sector, small-scale agriculture and service sectors and a significant state presence in the manufacturing and financial sectors.

Oil and natural gas are its most vital natural resources. Iran ranks second in the world in terms of natural gas reserves and is the ninth largest oil producer, despite the fall of the industry. Prior to the introduction of sanctions against Iran, however, oil accounted for around 80 percent of the country’s export revenues. Many expats moving to Iran do so to take up lucrative employment packages in the oil and gas industries.

Beyond the oil and gas sector, other important industries in Iran include textiles, sugar refining, food processing, and the production of cement, building materials, iron, steel and machinery. With the growth of these industries, expats may find profitable work opportunities in Iran outside of oil production.  

As Iran is also one of the Middle Eastern countries that offers English teaching with ESL, TEFL and TOEFL certifications, this may also be an option for expats wishing to work in Iran. 


Finding a job in Iran

Most expats who relocate to Iran for work do so with a contract already in place. Reputable companies operating in Iran tend to headhunt their expat employees and entice them to move to Iran with the promise of a lucrative employment offer. Often people working for a company in their home country or elsewhere in the Middle East are transferred to Iran to work within the same company.

Expats intending on working in Iran will need to ensure they have a valid work permit. In most cases, this is arranged through the expat’s employer, which acts as their sponsor in Iran. The process should be started at least two months before an expat moves to Iran to accommodate any unexpected delays.

Expats without an employer who can to assist them through the process of obtaining a work permit should consider using the services of a recognised visa company. The Iranian authorities may request interviews with expats before a visa or work permit is granted.


Work culture in Iran

Those aiming to work or do business in Iran will need to make an effort to gain some objective understanding of the people, culture, etiquette and approach to business. It’s only by operating with a degree of cultural sensitivity that foreigners will be able to enhance their work life in Iran.

While Farsi, also known as Persian, is the official language of Iran, English is spoken in most business circles and higher levels of government. That said, it's still advisable to arrange an interpreter.

Success in Iran's job market is often defined by who you know rather than what you know. As business in Iran is personal, with many businesses being family owned, taking the time to get to know one’s colleagues and associates is vital to getting ahead in business. 

Be respectful by keeping things formal initially, be patient, and don't be afraid to ask colleagues for favours. Expats may be frustrated by the slow pace of business in Iran, but making an effort to understand the work culture will assist any expat in adjusting to life in Iran. 

Doing Business in Iran

Iran’s tumultuous political history has meant that despite the country’s wealth of resources, it has been relatively isolated from the global economy.

International business partnerships with Iran have been tentative at best and are generally limited to the energy sector. Unfortunately, negative images and stereotypes of Iranian society have clouded the great warmth and hospitality of the Iranian people.

The country's business infrastructure and processes may not be on par with those of the Western world, but the Iranian economy offers plenty of potential for discerning expat entrepreneurs.

Iran ranked 127th out of 190 economies analysed in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. It scored highest in the areas of dealing with construction permits (73) and registering property (70), while performing badly in areas such as paying taxes (144), resolving insolvency (133) and starting a business (178).

While this doesn’t present an enticing picture for potential investors, there are still a fair number of foreign businesspeople who are looking to establish operations in the country. Those wishing to do business in Iran will need to make an effort to gain some objective understanding of the people, culture, etiquette and approach to business. It’s only by operating with a degree of cultural sensitivity that international businesspeople will be able to enhance their business experiences in Iran.


Fast facts

Business hours

Saturday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm.

Business language

Farsi, also known as Persian, is the official language of Iran. English is spoken in most business circles and higher levels of government, but it's still advisable to arrange an interpreter.

Dress

Business dress should be smart and conservative. Suits are standard but wearing a tie is not common. Women should dress conservatively. They should be particularly careful about covering up their arms, legs and hair in public.

Gifts

Gifts are not necessary for business proceedings. If invited to a colleague's home, flowers or chocolates are a good option. Do not give gifts that contain alcohol or pork.

Gender equality

While the number of women in business in Iran is increasing steadily, the country still has a long way to go in terms of achieving equality. Iran still has a very traditional view of gender roles which impacts how women are treated in business. Women rarely occupy the most senior positions. 


Business culture in Iran

Personal relationships and networking

Success in Iranian business circles is often defined by who you know rather than what you know. Taking the time to get to know one’s colleagues and business associates is vital to getting ahead in business.

Business in Iran is personal, and many businesses are family owned. Having a solid network of friends in Iran is important and one shouldn’t be afraid to ask for favours. That said, expats should also be prepared to go the extra mile for colleagues in the future. Reciprocal support is an integral part of business in Iran.

Meeting and greeting

Business associates typically greet with a formal handshake. Men must wait for a woman to extend her hand before making any gesture. If she doesn’t extend her hand, a simple nod of the head and a smile will suffice.

It is best to keep things formal when doing business in Iran. Once a relationship has been established and counterparts begin to address expats using their first name, it is acceptable to do likewise. Men are addressed with the title ‘agha’ followed by their surname. Women will be addressed using the title ‘khanoom’.

In Iran, the most common greeting is ‘salaam’ when meeting someone. Upon leaving a meeting, Iranians will generally say ‘khoda hafez’ which translates as ‘may God preserve you’.

Business etiquette

For new arrivals, business procedures in Iran may seem erratic. Those doing business in Iran should endeavour to make appointments four to six weeks in advance. They should also confirm appointments by telephone and in writing. Prior to arriving at a meeting, it is a good idea to call the day before to ensure that it is still going ahead.

Punctuality is rare in Iran, but expats should still arrive on time to create a good impression.

Doing business with government officials will test one’s patience and expats should prepare to be kept waiting. Administration and bureaucracy in Iran are sometimes chaotic and this will often cause delays. Always be courteous and avoid showing outward signs of frustration when kept waiting.

At the beginning of a business meeting, small talk is exchanged. Asking after a colleague’s health and family is expected. It’s best to wait for the Iranian business associate to begin talking about business.

Business negotiations

Getting to know Iranian colleagues on a personal level is critical. Initial business meetings will focus solely on becoming familiar with one another rather than discussing business matters. Formal proceedings only begin once relations have been established.

Haggling is a common element of Iranian business culture. So, expect long negotiations to take place. Decision making can be slow, and it is likely that expats will have to meet with several different people before a final outcome can be reached. Iranians will gather a number of opinions from their associates before they trust new business partners.

Implementing decisions can be just as slow in Iran. It often requires manoeuvering through the slow-moving Iranian bureaucracy. Applying pressure in a non-confrontational manner may speed things up. The best method is often to ask a favour from an influential colleague wherever possible.


Setting up a business in Iran

There are several stages and bureaucratic hurdles that expats contend with when setting up a business in Iran. These include obtaining criminal record clearances, registering for VAT, officially registering the company’s name, paying stamp duty and enrolling employees in the social security programme.

Expats should note that they should anticipate long waits for most of the necessary documentation. They should seek advice from Iranian business associates and fellow expats who have previously been through the process.

Cost of Living in Iran

Expats moving to Iran will find the country's cost of living is fairly low. The biggest expense for most people will be housing. International school fees, which are high, will be another major cost for expat parents. Transportation is generally cheap, as are many other everyday expenses.


Cost of accommodation

The cost of accommodation is low when compared to countries such as the US, but is considered average in comparison to other countries in the Middle East. That said, housing prices in Iran are rising.

Wherever possible, expats should negotiate with their employer for an accommodation allowance. If that isn’t possible, they should inquire whether the company has any relationships with landlords or agents that can assist in finding affordable housing. Additional costs when renting property in Iran typically include electricity and internet.


Cost of eating out and entertainment in Iran

Much of an expat’s lifestyle expenses in Iran will depend on individual choices. Eating out can be relatively affordable, although prices between restaurants can vary sharply. Generally, the cost of everyday groceries is fairly cheap, and expats who opt to cook at home will therefore save a fair amount of money.


Cost of transportation in Iran

The cost of travelling in Iran is generally inexpensive as public transport is affordable. Some expats opt to use taxis or hire a private driver to take them around. Buying, or even hiring, a car in Iran is expensive, but maintenance and fuel are both cheap.


Cost of healthcare in Iran

Generally, the standard of public healthcare in Iran is good and doctors are well trained. That said, most expats prefer going to private hospitals, which offer a higher standard of facilities and more expeditious treatment. It is important that expats ensure they have a fully comprehensive international health insurance policy. In most cases, this will be arranged by employers.


Cost of education in Iran

Expats relocating to Iran with children will need to factor in the cost of schooling. Most expats send their children to one of the international schools in Iran. Facilities and standards of teaching at these tend to be excellent.

Fees vary between schools and increase with each grade. Expats should contact the school directly to make enquiries, as fees fluctuate regularly.

Parents should note that fees usually don’t include the cost of uniforms, textbooks and school excursions, and these will therefore also need to be accounted for. Luckily for most expats, companies relocating expats to Iran usually offer allowances for children’s school fees.


Cost of living in Iran chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Tehran in March, 2021.

Accommodation 

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre 

IRR 20,020,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre 

IRR 12,850,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

IRR 44,420,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre 

IRR 27,820,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

IRR 82,600

Milk (1 litre)

IRR 51,800

Rice (1kg)

IRR 150,200

Loaf of white bread

IRR 26,200

Chicken breasts (1kg)

IRR 181,200

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

IRR 105,200

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

IRR 169,900

Coca-Cola (330ml)

IRR 30,000

Cappuccino

IRR 82,100

Bottle of non-alcoholic local beer

IRR 42,100

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant (for two)

IRR 1,010,500

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

IRR 790

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

IRR 900,300

Basic utilities per month for a small apartment

IRR 1,590,000

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

IRR 20,000

Monthly bus/train pass

IRR 4527,600

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

IRR 20,100

Culture Shock in Iran

Expats moving to Iran can expect to experience certain elements of culture shock. Religion plays an important role in everyday life in Iran, and expats will need to be sensitive to these cultural norms and adjust their lifestyle accordingly.

Those who take the time to learn about the local culture and engage with Iranians in a meaningful way will find their experience to be more rewarding.


Language barrier in Iran

Persian, or Farsi, is the official language of Iran. When in business and diplomatic circles, most people speak English well, but it is wise for expats doing business in Iran to arrange an interpreter.

Expats who learn basic phrases in the local language will find that their efforts will be appreciated and that they are more likely to be welcomed into Iranian society.


Religion in Iran

Islam is practised by the vast majority of the Iranian population, and permeates all aspects of political, economic and legal life in Iran. This is something expats will have to adapt to in their daily lives.

Expats in Iran will soon become familiar with the sound of the Muslim call to prayer – Muslims are expected to pray five times a day: at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and evening. In Iran, everything comes to a standstill on Friday, which is a holy day for Muslims. Almost all businesses will be closed on a Friday, and many companies also close on Thursday. This means the weekend in Iran falls on a Thursday and Friday.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and many businesses operate on a reduced schedule. Expats aren’t expected to fast, but they must not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public.


Family values in Iran

Family is central to social structures in Iran. The concept of family is more private in Iranian culture, and locals take special care to protect their female family members from outside influences.

Iranians take their family responsibilities very seriously. Most only have one or two children, but extended families remain large. It’s common for elderly relatives to be taken care of by the wider family circle at home.

Nepotism is quite apparent in business circles in Iran. That said, it is regarded positively in the sense that employers can be sure that they are hiring someone trustworthy.


Privacy in Iran

Iranians tend to see themselves as having two distinct identities – zaher (public) and batin (private). When they are in public they conform to accepted modes of behaviour and will refrain from showing their true personality. That said, among family and close friends, they will be more open and are more likely to share personal information, offer advice and provide support in general.  


Manners in Iran

Expats in Iran will soon get accustomed to the concept of taarof. This is a system of politeness that includes both verbal and non-verbal modes of communication. Iranians are reluctant to accept compliments, as humility is a highly valued attribute.

In adherence to taarof, expats should at least show some reluctance to accept gifts or invitations until the insistence becomes greater.


Dress in Iran 

The Iranian attitude to dress code is more casual than one might expect, but there are specific rules that need to be followed. Most important is the khimar (headscarf) for women, which needs to be worn at all times and must cover the neck and head. A little bit of hair showing isn’t a problem, and many local women wear their khimars perched far back. That said, when visiting a mosque or shrine, it must go right up to the forehead.

Another thing to consider is that Iranians often hide the shape of their bodies. This can be done by wearing baggy trousers and loose, cotton tops. Bare forearms are fine, but shoulders should be covered.

Accommodation in Iran

Most expats live in the capital city of Tehran, where accommodation is plentiful. In most cases, employers arrange accommodation for their expat employees prior to their arrival in Iran. Housing prices in Iran are rising despite the availability of properties, especially in Tehran.

It is possible for foreigners to own property if they have legal residence in Iran, but the process can be difficult. In most instances, expats prefer to rent rather than buy property in Iran.  


Types of housing in Iran

The standard of expat housing in Iran is excellent. Especially in Tehran, more and more upmarket homes are being built. Most expats in Iran live in newly built residential complexes. These complexes come with a range of additional facilities such as swimming pools, saunas and health clubs on site.

Expats can choose between furnished or unfurnished accommodation, but furnished housing tends to be for shorter stays. It is advisable that expats make a detailed list of all inclusions and photograph the contents for proof of the condition when moving in.


Finding accommodation in Iran

For those whose company does not arrange accommodation, property listings are available online. Exploring these listings will also help expats understand the differences between neighbourhoods, property types available and rental prices.

Apart from searching online, there is a good range of reputable rental agencies operating in Iran. Most rental agencies will provide services in English for expats. Some even offer their services in other languages such as French. Expats should ask their company for recommendations on trustworthy real-estate agents. Embassies should also be able to provide some assistance in this area.


Renting property in Iran

It is not difficult for expats to find accommodation to rent in Iran, especially if moving to Tehran. 

Making an application

Expats can apply for accommodation either by responding to a property listing online or through a real-estate agency, if an expat's company does not arrange accommodation themselves. 

Leases

Rental contracts in Iran vary quite dramatically. It is important that expats fully understand the terms of the lease they are signing. Most rental contracts will be set for a period of one year. That said, because of the availability of property in Iran, expats will likely be able to negotiate shorter leases if necessary.

Deposits

Renters are usually required to pay a sizeable security deposit to secure the property and compensate for any damage. The deposit is returned at the end of the lease, provided that the property is left in a suitable condition.

Utilities 

Frequently, electricity and water is included in the rent for furnished accommodation, but this also means that it is more expensive than unfurnished accommodation.

Healthcare in Iran

Despite years of Western-imposed sanctions that have caused problems in the medical field, Iran’s medical care is surprisingly modern.

Healthcare in Iran can be split into three sectors – the public governmental system, the private sector and NGOs. As a result of Iran’s growing population, there is a lot of pressure on the public healthcare system in Iran. The quality of hospitals varies according to location but, in the bigger cities such as Tehran, expats will find hospitals that meet international standards with well-trained medical staff.

There are few, if any, reciprocal medical arrangements between Iran and other countries. Expats will therefore need medical insurance whether they plan to use public or private healthcare services. In many cases, this expense will be covered by an expat’s employer in Iran.

Although there is a marginal difference between the quality of healthcare offered by private and public hospitals in Iran, private hospitals are known to have better facilities and speedier service. English-speaking staff should be available in both private and public hospitals.


Public healthcare in Iran

In line with the national constitution, Iranians are entitled to basic healthcare. Most also receive subsidised prescription drugs and vaccinations. This healthcare does not extend to expats, but Iran's extensive network of public clinics and hospitals are considerably cheaper than in Western countries.

Most public hospital facilities in Iran are operated by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education. Although waiting times are often long, public hospitals provide an acceptable standard of service. 


Private healthcare in Iran

Wealthier Iranians opt to use private clinics and hospitals which offer a slightly higher standard of care and better facilities. That said, the cost of treatment at such facilities can be quite high.

Despite the cost, private healthcare in Iran is still fairly cheap in comparison to other neighbouring countries. 


Health hazards in Iran

Malaria can be a risk in rural parts of Iran. Expats in these areas should take the necessary precautions such as keeping well covered and using an effective mosquito repellent. Cholera outbreaks also occur during the summer months. It’s therefore best to drink bottled water at all times.

The most common problem experienced by new arrivals is sunstroke and sunburn. Be careful about spending too much time outdoors. Always take precautionary measures such as wearing hats and sunblock. It’s also wise to keep well hydrated, especially during summer. 


Pharmacies

Iran has a fairly well-developed pharmaceutical industry. Pharmacies can easily be found in all major towns and cities in Iran. Pharmacies in Iran stock most types of medication and are able to order medication that isn't readily available.

Expats will need to pay for medication and then claim it back through their health insurance. Medication in Iran is generally affordable. If expats need to bring drugs and pharmaceuticals into the country, there are strict regulations to be followed. Expats should therefore ensure that they carry all the necessary paperwork when travelling with medication.


Emergency services in Iran

Emergency services in Iran are improving but remain limited, especially when outside of the main cities. The emergency medical system in Iran has a variety of ambulance vehicles, including vans and helicopters, but the system is occasionally constrained. This means that, in the event of an emergency, it may be faster to get oneself to the hospital via private transport or a taxi instead of waiting for an ambulance.


Emergency numbers

  • Ambulance: 115

  • Fire department: 125

  • Police: 110 

Education and Schools in Iran

A major challenge for expats moving to Iran with children will be finding a suitable school. Not least because choosing the appropriate school will have a significant impact on the child’s transition to expat life in Iran.

Education is highly valued in Iranian society and, consequently, the literacy rate throughout the country is high. That said, children do feel pressure to perform well academically.

While mainstream schooling begins at kindergarten and ends in grade 12, only primary school is compulsory. Although high school is not mandatory, students who wish to enter higher education need a high school diploma and must pass the Iranian University Entrance Exam. Schools in Iran are also generally single-sex, with boys and girls going to separate schools. 


Public schools in Iran

Public education in Iran is highly centralised and monitored by the Ministry of Education. While public primary education in Iran is free, Persian, or Farsi, is the language of instruction. The lack of English instruction therefore limits the viability of public schooling for most expat children.

Primary school (Dabestân) starts at grade one at the age of six and continues for five years. Middle school (Râhnamâyi) runs from grade six to eight. This is where English is introduced as a foreign language. High school (Dabirestân) is a further three years of study but is not compulsory in Iran.


Private schools in Iran

A number of small private schools operate in Iran. These schools charge high fees but offer a better standard of teaching. That said, they still follow the national curriculum as determined by the Iranian Ministry of Education. Typically, the language of instruction is also Persian/Farsi, but English and French are taught in most private schools. 


International schools in Iran

Most expats opt to send their children to international schools in Iran, most of which are found in Tehran. While there are a handful of local children that attend these schools, the student body overwhelmingly consists of international expat students.

International schools in Iran follow a variety of curricula. There are schools that follow models from the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan. There are also a number of schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. The language of instruction will depend on the curriculum followed. The major advantage of international schools for expat children is that these schools provide similar standards of schooling to those found at home, which makes for an easier transition. 

Admission procedures vary from school to school, but space is often limited. It is therefore always best to apply as far in advance as possible. Fees also tend to be expensive but standards of teaching are generally excellent, with small class sizes and first-rate facilities.


Special-needs education in Iran 

Despite Iran providing free education to special-needs students until the end of secondary school, these students often struggle in school, or don't attend at all. A lack of training for teachers to deal with the needs of these children, and physical inaccessibility means many disabled children don't attend school. The Iranian government, however, is trying to promote inclusive education by increasing the budget for special-needs education. The aim of this is to make all schools accessible and to train the teachers to adequately cater for differently-abled children. 

There are a number of special schools in Iran that offer education to children with special needs. 


Tutoring in Iran

Private home tutoring is definitely an option for children in Iran. There are many companies that represent private tutors, which can be found online. Tutors offer extra lessons for anything from English and Farsi to dancing, or for those preparing for big entrance exams.

Parents won't struggle for find a suitable tutor for their child, but they should pay attention to the reviews on the tutoring website, to avoid scams. 

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. That said, when travelling to more remote destinations in Iran, buses may be the only viable option. We recommend flying whenever possible.

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, and the best choice therefore often depends on a person's destination. While the bus network covers a wider range of places, 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 cheap. The downside is that it's slow, especially because of strictly enforced speed limits.

City buses are segregated by gender, with women and children sitting at the back of buses, while men sit at the front. Inter-city buses are less likely to be segregated by gender.

There are two different types of buses in Iran, namely first class and second class. That said, there is little difference between the bus companies. First-class buses tend to be air conditioned, while second-class buses lack this facility but are more frequent. There is also little difference in price between the services, however, so there isn't much financial incentive to opt for second class, especially in summer.

Expats can buy bus tickets at terminals and ticket offices, but during peak season it's best to book ahead of time.

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, but trains are a more comfortable and faster mode of transport than the country’s slow 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, or a women-only 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 also 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, but the stresses of driving on its dangerous roads 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, few do. This partly accounts for the high death toll on Iranian roads.

Motorcycles are also often overloaded with passengers without helmets.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Iran

The banking infrastructure in Iran is still developing. The number of private banks in the country is increasing, which provides customers with a greater number of choices. Banking, especially when using foreign bank accounts, has been made more difficult for expats as a result of international sanctions against Iran.


Money

The currency in Iran is the Iranian Rial (IRR), which is divided into the following denominations:

  • Coins: 50 IRR, 100 IRR,250 IRR, 500 IRR, 1,000 IRR, 2,000 IRR, 5,000 IRR

  • Notes: 1,000 IRR, 2,000 IRR, 5,000 IRR, 10,000 IRR, 20,000 IRR, 50,000 IRR, 100,000 IRR

Expats will find that locals often refer to 'tomans' when talking about currency. A toman is the equivalent of 10 rials. Despite this usage, prices are usually always written in rials. For example, the sign next to an item in a shop would state the price in rials, e.g. 100,000 IRR, but a shop assistant might say that the item costs 10,000 tomans. This may be confusing at first, but expats will soon get used to the terminology.


Banking

The Iranian banking system consists of a central bank, the Bank Markazi. This bank issues currency and oversees all the other state and private banks. Several commercial banks have branches located throughout Iran.

Some expats won't be able to access international banking services, and opening a local account may be the only option for those planning on staying in Iran for anything more than a few months.

Interest rates at banks in Iran as well as banking services offered vary greatly. It’s best to compare institutions when choosing where to bank. Factors to consider include fees, the availability of online banking, and the number of branches and ATMs available in the country.

Credit cards and ATMs

As a result of economic sanctions, it is very difficult to use foreign credit and debit cards in Iran. Those visiting Iran for a short business trip should bring enough cash to exchange for local currency. Bureaux de change can be found at the Tehran airport, most banks and hotels.

For those with a local bank account, ATMs are generally quite easy to find, but they can be limited outside the main urban centres.


Taxes

The tax system in Iran is complex and continually being updated and changed. For this reason, most foreigners working in Iran hire a tax expert to ensure that they pay their taxes correctly. An expat’s employer may also be able to help them establish their tax liabilities.

It is important that expats determine their tax liability, as the Iran government often taxes foreigners on rates based on their country of origin and business seniority. These assumed rates might overestimate an expat's salary, resulting in exorbitant tax rates.