When you travel to Iran, you should know the basics about the transportation system in the country – such as how to get from city to city, and how to get around within cities. The good news is that travellers will have little problem with both. They do, however, have to consider their options and pick the mode of transportation that fits their needs.
Getting from City to City
The best and cheapest way to travel between cities in Iran is on buses. The popular routes in Iran are serviced by VIP buses which have comfortable wide seats and make fewer stops than normal buses.. Recommended VIP bus companies include Hamsafar and Royal Safar. If your route takes longer than 6 hours, we recommend you to take night buses so you can sleep along the journey and save on a night’s accommodation. Normally, you do not need to book in advance for such bus rides as there are plenty of companies that offer the same routes. However, for night buses and high season (spring and autumn), you can ask your hotel or an Iranian friend for help with advanced booking.
Here are some examples of the common routes and their prices:
Isfahan to Tehran: 5 to 7 hours, 7 Euros
Isfahan to Yazd: 4.5 hours, 4.5 Euros
Yazd to Shiraz: 7 hours, 7.5 Euros
Isfahan to Shiraz: 7 hours, 7.5 Euros
The train is another option for travelling between cities but the rail network in Iran is not extensive and trains do not run as frequently as buses. That said, a rail journey in Iran is an experience in itself, and rail lovers should definitely squeeze this into their itinerary. As a brief guide, Tehran is connected to Tabriz, Esfahan, Mashhad, Bandar Abbas and Kerman.
It is also possible to fly with carriers like Iran Air, Mahan Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, and Kish Air. The easiest booking method is through an Iranian travel agency like TAP Persia. Also, do take note that the domestic airport in Tehran is Mehrabad Airport, a good two hours away from Imam Khomeini International Airport.
There are a few different types of taxis in Iran.
Darbast means “closed door” or private taxis and they are available on the main streets and outside the airports and train/bus stations. Before getting on one, you should negotiate the price based on the distance. If you are unsure, check with a local how much it should cost to get from one place to another. You should also make it a habit to bargain down the price a little bit as tourists are usually quoted a higher-than-usual price.
Shared taxis, which are green or yellow, are more common for locals in Iran, but they can be confusing for travellers. Such taxis have fixed prices which are written on a sticker that’s plastered on the front window. Usually, these taxis move straight down the road and therefore, it may be necessary to take several taxis to get to one’s final destination.
Another alternative is to hail a taxi through the telephone (with the help of a local) but this will be more expensive.
Snapp is a ride-hauling company from Tehran and it’s basically Iran’s version of Uber or Grab. The language on the app can be set as Persian, English or French, which makes Snapp a viable option for travellers.
To use this app for a ride, you should indicate your pick-up location and drop-off destination on the map. Once this is fixed, you will see the price of the trip before you request for a ride. As soon as a driver accepts your request, you will have his name, the car model, and the plate number. As the map displays the driver’s location in real time, you’ll know when the driver is approaching.
Do note that sometimes, your driver will call you to confirm your location. If the driver does not speak English, you can approach a local nearby for assistance. For payment, cash is accepted.
There are buses servicing various cities in Iran and you can use either the normal buses or the BRT (bus rapid transit) system. The BRT buses, operational in cities like Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz, are usually red while the normal buses come in many colours. Most locals would pay by tapping their rechargeable transport card on the reader, but if there’s no gantry at the bus station, it’s possible to pass cash to the driver instead. In all buses, the female section is at the back and the male section is at the front.
The subway in Tehran is efficient and certainly value for money. You can purchase a metrocard in the train station and top it up with some money. The same card can also be used for buses and recently, for official taxis too. For your convenience, it’s good to save a copy of the Tehran subway map on your phone.
In Isfahan, the metro started operating within the city centre only recently. From Kaveh Terminal (the main bus station in the city) you can reach Kaveh Station by foot and travel to the city centre by dropping at Imam Hossein Station or Sioseh Pol Station. Line 1 of the metro system, which is most relevant to tourists, operates only until 4pm and the metro map can be viewed here.
Although subways are also available in Shiraz, Mashhad, Karaj, Tabriz and Ahvaz, some of them are still in construction, only have one or two lines working, or do not service the typical tourist areas.