Iranian transport is of high quality, and very affordable. There are only few places tthat the very cheap buses don’t travel to, the train network is limited but comfortable and reasonably priced and travel by air is relatively cheap as well, especially by international standards (in fact one of the cheapest in the world). The ticket prices are always fixed and you don’t have benefits of early bookings.
Low fuel costs have made intercity travel by taxi a great value option in Iran. When travelling between cities up to 250 km apart, you may be able to hire one of the shared taxis that loiter around bus terminals and train stations. Taxis are faster than buses and
and Taxis will only leave when four paying passengers have been found, so if you’re in a hurry you can offer to pay for an extra seat.
Official shared local taxis or Savari, identifiable by some kind of orange paint marking, also ply the major roads of most cities. Their usually run straight lines between major squares and landmarks, and their set rates are dictated by the local governments.
Hailing one of these taxis is an art you’ll soon master. Stand on the side of the road with traffic flowing in your intended direction and flag down a passing cab. It will slow down fractionally, giving you about one second to shout your destination–pick a major nearby landmark instead of the full address–through the open passenger window. If the driver is interested, he’ll slow down enough for you to negotiate the details.
If you’re in a hurry, you can rent the taxi privately. Just shout the destination followed by the phrase dar bast (literally ‘closed door’) and the driver will almost be sure to stop. Negotiate the price before departure, but since you are paying for all the empty seats expect to pay five times the normal shared taxi fare. You can also rent these taxis by the hour to visit a number of sites, but you can expect to pay a little more depending on your bargaining skills.
A large road network and low fuel costs of historically made Iran an attractive country for exploring with your own car. However a recent government fuel tax on foreigners entering Iran by private car has somewhat dimmed the allure.
Foreigners arriving in Iran with their own car will need to have a carnet de passage and a valid international drivers’ license. Petrol stations can be found on the outskirts of all cities and towns and in car-filled Iran, a mechanic is never far away.
The passenger rail system of Iran is Raja Passenger Trains. Travelling by train through Iran is generally more comfortable and faster than speed-limited buses. Sleeper berths in overnight trains are especially good value as they allow you to get a good night’s sleep while saving on a night’s accommodation.
The rail network is comprised of three main trunks. The first stretches east to west across the north of the country linking the Turkish and Turkmenistan borders via Tabriz, Tehran and Mashhad. The second and third extend south of Tehran but split at Qom. One line connects to the Persian Gulf via Ahvaz and Arak, while the other traverses the country’s centre linking Kashan, Yazd and Kerman.
Tickets can be bought from train stations up to one month before the date of departure, and 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.
Known as a “gatar” in Farsi, trains are probably the safest, most reliable and easiest way to travel around the country. As an added benefit, you’ll get to meet the people, sample food and see other tourists.
The Iranian domestic bus network is extensive and thanks to the low cost of fuel, very cheap. The government has limited buses to 80 km/h. There is little difference between the various bus companies, and most offer two classes: ‘lux’ or ‘Mercedes’ (2nd class) and
‘super’ or ‘Volvo’ (1st class). First class buses are air-conditioned and you will be provided with a small snack during your trip, while second class services are more frequent. Given the affordability of first class tickets, there’s little financial incentive to opt for the second class services, especially in summer.
You can buy tickets from the bus terminals or ticket offices up to a week in advance, but you shouldn’t have a problem finding a seat if you turn up to the terminal an hour or so before your intended departure time. Most cities operate comprehensive local bus services.
For anyone on a tight deadline, affordable domestic air services are a blessing. The major national carrier Iran Air, and its semi-private competitors ( Iran Aseman Airlines – Aseman meaning “sky” in Persian , Mahan Air, Kish Air, etc.) link Tehran with most regional
capitals and offer inter-regional flights for no more than US $60. Their services are frequent, reliable and safe definitely worth considering to skip the large distances within Iran.
Tickets can be bought at airports or travel agents dotted through the most major cities. Book early during the summer months of August and September since finding seats at short notice is virtually impossible. You can also find domestic tickets in some Iran Air offices abroad (Dubai for instance), but expect to pay a little more due to the change rate applied. Domestic tickets for other companies must be bought inside Iran.