If you want to travel around Iran with a degree of comfort, you can discover it on train or plane. It was during the 1930s and 1940s that most of Iran, from north to east and east to west was connected by trains. Currently close to 30 million passengers ride RAJA Rail Transportation Company’s trains every year and some 20 million passengers take domestic flights. Iran tourism scene has recently been lighted by the classic One Thousand and One Nights Train; in June, it carried a number of tourist from Istanbul to Tabriz and passed Qazvin and Yazd before heading for Tehran. The Iranian RAJA Rail Transportation Company offers a similar deal if you get on their Zendegi Luxury Train. That is one way to see Iran, yet not the most economical. For those visiting Iran on a tight budget and still craving a train ride, those trains are not the prime options.
Trains in Iran
Normally, it is hard to show up at the train station and expect an empty seat. You are thus advised to book ahead. Most long-distance trains in Iran are overnight and classify as sleeper trains. The compartments can host four or six passengers. It is very comfortable as a transportation/accommodation option. The price is often more expensive than buses and the rides are a bit longer, yet its relative comfort is a compensation for both.
Often a meal is included in the price of your train ticket; they might serve it in the compartment or you can enjoy it in the restaurant.
Read also: All you need to know about Iran visa
Reserve a Train Ticket
You can reserve and pay for your train ticket at one of the RAJA agents. These are often the same agencies that can provide you with plane tickets. The easiest way to spot them is to look for the logo of “Iran Air” or “Aseman.” There are 1600 such agents all over the country.
Don’t forget to bring your passport, as you need it to buy a train ticket. RAJA also offers online purchase; yet due to international sanctions, they are only obtainable with an Iranian debit card. Train tickets are usually sold out a week or two prior to the departure date. If you have no luck finding a ticket, it is possible to be put on a waiting list. You can go to the railway station and give your cell phone number; they shall text/call you once there is an opening. This option is best if your departure date is spontaneous and your plans flexible.
Read also: Iran Travel Guide: Currency and Cell-phone
Air Travel in Iran
Flights in Iran are fast booked. You can book a flight the same way you book a train ticket: through the numerous travel agencies all over the country. There is a national booking system to which all the 21 active Iranian airlines are connected. Highly trafficked cities like Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Tehran are connected to each other with several flights per day.
Reserving a Flight in Iran
Iran Air is currently the only company that offers online reservation services. Not surprisingly, it is only possible with an Iranian debit/credit card. In short, booking a flight, if available, is not really difficult when you are in Iran and pay in cash. Online booking, as you might imagine, is more complicated. Often, these services are in a burgeoning phase and with the addition of online banking difficulties, your best option to book a flight in advance is to have an agency do it for you.
If you are looking for plane tickets to go around Iran, book Iran domestic flights here at 1stQuest.
Discover the Persian Gulf on Ferry
There are a few islands in the Persian Gulf that attract many Iranian travelers. Foreigners who come to Iran often traverse them on their way to Dubai or Oman. You can visit the two larger ones, Kish and Qeshm and spend a day or two in the less discovered ones like Hormuz and the two Tonbs. Depending on the season, you can find several ferries that take you to these mesmerizing destinations at different times of days. They are more frequent during warmer seasons. Qeshm and Kish are easily accessible by plane from Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, etc. and by ferry from Bandar Abbas, Bandar Chark and Bandar Aftab. While Qeshm is famous for its natural beauty, Kish is reputed for its resorts, entertainment parks, and lavish restaurants. To both of these islands, one can ferry a car as well. There are a few travel agencies that offer online reservation for these ferries. Check Asaltour’s Website (in Persian) for a list of domestic ferries and Valfajr for international ones. Keep in mind, though, that similar to trains and flights, they do not accept international payment services; you can get a better deal on the price if you buy your ticket directly. From Bandar Abbas, you can also find ferries that take you to Dubai, Oman, or other destinations in the Persian Gulf. To learn more about them, take a look at the Middle East section of Willgoto.
Read also: Iran Travel Guide: Transportation by Bus
By Ali Jafari