Who would have guessed that finding accommodation would be one of the most difficult parts of planning. The thing is that the major apps I normally use, such as booking.com or Airbnb simply don’t work in Iran. So I had to look for alternative ways.
First of all, don’t go with the tourist agencies, particularly the non-Iranian ones, as they will give you exorbitant prices. Instead, do your research and find accommodation independently. You will be glad you did not only because you will save money, but also because you will meet amazing people.
Based on my initial research, one suggestion was to find the hotels and their own websites (most hotels have well developed websites) and call them directly to book. But I don’t recommend this. I found out that many people had problems with this, as the phone booking didn’t ensure that the hotel would really keep a room for them. Apparently, many tourists just book and don’t show up. Besides, hotel prices are excessive, you are looking at 70-100 EUR per 2-3 people room, which is basically the rates of Paris.
My suggestion is to look at home stays. I used homestay.com, which is one of the few websites that works in Iran. We booked flats in 3 cities through them. I particularly recommend these:
- This was our host in Yazd. The family has a house and they rent out the downstairs apartment. We were 3 people and rented the whole apartment, but even if you rent a room, each room has a bathroom. The place was very clean. The breakfast was always great and they even packed the breakfast for us when we needed to leave very early in the morning. It is not in the city center, but the host will drive you in the morning and evening to and from the center free of charge or will get Uber for you, also free of charge. We also used his guide services to show us around the outskirts, etc. He has a nice car and is a reliable person.
- We stayed here in Isfahan. The family was very nice and welcoming. The apartment was private, spacious and clean. The family helped us when we needed to get Snap taxi. They prepared dinner for us. The host doesn’t speak English, but his daughter, brother and Google translate helped, so we had no problems communicating. There were a couple of markets close by and if you don’t mind walking, you can walk from here to some central areas in 20 or so minutes.
Another website you may want to look at is hostelworld.com, where you can find some guesthouses and B&Bs. We stayed in a guest house in Kashan at one of the traditional yard houses.
If you like using Couchsurfing, you can find many people in Iran, who are happy to let you stay. The hospitality is part of the Iranian culture, but, on the other hand, the website is officially blocked. However, you can still use it via VPN.
Remember some of the rules, when you are booking a room or an apartment or visiting Iranian family:
- They almost never wear shoes inside the house. So even when you book an entire apartment, you still have to take off your shoes, while entering it. So have the slippers and/or socks handy if, like me, you don’t like walking barefoot.
- You will still need to wear a headscarf inside the house, if there is a male present, unless you are fully sure that you are in an environment, where it’s OK to take your scarf off. In Islamic law, women can remove their scarves in the presence of other women as long as there are no men, either at the moment or later. Still you need to cover the rest of your body as you do outside.
- The toilets are sometimes the Western style, but you will find a lot of squat toilers in homes and otherwise, so keep this in mind.