As the questions “traveling by car in Iran” and “where to rent a car” were asked and discussed every so often, this is my – sorry, very detailed – report about my 2-week road trip with a rental car in March 2018.
For a long time I had Iran on my travel list, but I did not want to make a group trip, but get to know the country, the people and the culture on my own. When it became concrete in the summer of 2017, I did a lot of research regarding the possibilities of “on my own”. I’m not a classic backpacker, but I did most of my travel by motorcycle. Often the journey is the reward and I let myself be surprised by the things come across on the way and often I also deviate from the planned way. How could that work in Iran? Motorcycling (especially for women) is apparently not or only with difficulty possible, busses and trains mean a restriction to me and hiring a driver is not an alternative. (Even if I know that Iranians earn their living that way.) Car rental.
Oh dear! What did I have to read in travel blogs, here at SYI and in other travel forums: Dangerous, deadly, madness, do not do that, you won’t survive! The Iranians are the worst motorists in the world! The traffic is nowhere, really not anywhere as insane/dangerous) as in Iran! And the cars are not roadworthy at all! – Thank you, I really had nightmares. But there was no alternative and so I started the research. Europcar is actually in Iran, the cheapest car would have cost for 2 weeks about 1000 Euros. On the page of Tap Persia I found a comparable car for half … can this be serious and trustworthy? How do I pay and how will I get my deposit back? Finally, I contacted TAP Persia and some emails went back and forth between Rasool and me. Patiently, he answered all my questions, gave me additional information and so I became confidence by the friendly and supportive contact to make the booking on TAP Persia. Takeover of the car at the airport IKIA at 6 o’clock in the morning …
What should I say, it worked very well! The guy of Saadat Rent, in co-operation with TAP Persia, expected us on arrival, exchanged money with us first, then we did the rental formalities with a coffee and finally he supported me getting a SIM card. Then we took over our car, as booked a Peugeot 206, 22.xxx km, clean and tidy. The car has CD player, USB and AUX connection and air conditioning. Ok, later we realized that a bit more horsepower would have been an advantage in the mountains, but the car did its job well. On the road we had the speed and in some small streets we would have had a problem with a bigger car 😉 The return worked just as smoothly – the car was inspected briefly (dust and dirt were not an issue, the cleaning is probably included in the rental price) We got our deposit cash back and the friendly lady even wanted to give us back the price for “too much in the tank”.
We refused thankfully as the fuel prices really not worth mentioning 😉 A very big Merci to TAP Persia, in particular Rasool Zabihi, and Saadat Rent, that everything worked out so well. I also believe that we could have counted on the support of TAP Persia at any time in the event of a problem.
But now to the Iranian traffic, my nightmare. Seriously, I was really scared of that – and I’ve rarely driven a car as relaxed as in Iran. At our start early in the morning, of course, there was little traffic on the freeway. But then we came to the first city and directly into the rush hour. The first 10 minutes were tense, but you can quickly see how the traffic in the city and especially in the roundabouts works. Since everyone obviously looks after the others (before, behind, right and left) and everyone has both his own health and the integrity of his car in mind, traffic flows. Basically, in Iran: the space on the road is used as best as possible! That’s why it seems confusing or scary at first, when 4 cars and a motorcycle (with 3 people on it) drive on 2 lanes – but it works, also in the roundabout. I would give something for it, if roundabout in Germany would work only half as well!
Only on the motorcyclists you have to be careful, they are (and I say that as a motorcyclist) really a bit crazy and seemingly suicidal on the way. But also for that you get a look. On the highways it is totally relaxed. The major roads are usually two lanes in each direction and the opposite direction is sometimes a few hundred meters away, you have partially to recall that you have no oncoming traffic. Sometimes it gets surprisingly in single-lane with oncoming traffic, but then there is still enough space for everyone 😉 Generally, there is very little traffic cross country. There are many trucks on the main routes north-south and they sometimes overtake each other, but when they see a car in the rear-view mirror, they usually make room (and if that means simply that you’re driving next to each other in threes). It can be exhausting when you come into the twilight / darkness. Even in pitch-dark night cars and motorcycles go partly without light, if one comes from behind, you don’t see him. But that, too, seems to be less the case than I was told. Really dangerous, but rather for the car / the axles, are deep potholes that can occur at any time. So always be focused. And then there are always speed bumps at local crossings, so that the speed is throttled. Mostly with reference, but not always. And there are traffic rules in Iran! The maximum permitted speed of 110 km/h on highways / 120 km/h on the express way is the least, mostly we have overtaken the Iranian cars. In cities, 60 km/h is not necessarily respected, depending on traffic. There are only a few traffic lights, but if so, they stop at red. Ok, the motorcycles usually start off again in green. The police often sit at the roadside with radar (but you can see most of them already from far away ;-). For curves (which can be quite surprising on long straight roads through the desert), there are always signs. There are also regular police stations on the main lines, but we saw only trucks being stopped. The most vulnerable are the pedestrians in Iran, as there is no consideration for them and therefore they just have to start passing the street … but then you just make a dangling around it 😉 And there are traffic tickets! We got one for parking in the restricted area. Thankfully only 2 days before car return, so we were able to pass the fine to Saadat Rent (including money for the payment), because the completed form was only on Farsi, we were not able to read a word (and no value). It costs 200,000 Rial.
Fuel works like in the rest of the world – the gas station network is dense (ok, sometimes gas stations are advised which are not even built ;-)), but we have never driven to the last drop. There is always a gas station attendant and he lets the tank run (over) full. Since diesel is not common for cars, you can’t get wrong. We do not need to talk about fuel prices: 1 liter for 10,000 Rials. For nearly 3000 km we paid just € 30 for petrol – a dream!
Finally: The trip with the rental car was perfect for me. Although we drove the classic tour Kashan – Abyane – Yazd – Persepolis – Shiraz – Isfahan, we “went astray” from the main connections to villages and places we would otherwise have missed. We had the total freedom, where and how long we stay. If we had “lost” time on the way (because we were invited by Iranians for tea, sightseeing or lunch), we looked for a hotel when it got dark (e.g. we had a wonderful evening in Arak ). We decided in the morning, which direction and which road we want to take and were surprised by the varied nature. We discovered village ruins, got tea from worried construction workers and in a village our visit to the farmer market was obviously a huge event.
We were at the hotspots long before the tourist buses arrived and stayed in other places until the travel groups were gone. Oh, and meeting truck driver at roadhouses (with very good kebab) is also something I don’t want to miss!