Tehran, Iran: Sleeping in Airports

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
Trip End Feb 06, 2014

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Flag of Iran  , Tehran,
Thursday, October 24, 2013

Let the 22 hr journey commence.

At 11am we jumped in a taxi and headed out to Mashhad Airport, some 20 min drive away for which we were charged 50,000 (US$1.60). Certainly puts things in perspective when we were charged 100,000 (US$3.30) from the bus station to hotel (10 min drive) when we first arrived. Then we had the prick who charged us 200,000 (US$6.60) just to get stuck in traffic for 20 min. Live and learn.

Flight was painless and surprisingly big with seat configuration of 2 - 4 - 2. Not bad for a 1 hr 25 min flight. Sam said they were probably the planes Europe used 10 years ago. At least it stayed in the air, albeit at a rather low altitude. Made for impressive views of the mountains though. It was also incredibly cheap at US$23 each. I guess not paying an extortionate fuel levy makes a difference.

When we were in Tehran before I knew it was a big city but it was only when we were flying over it that I truly understood just how vast it was. My goodness it's massive!! No wonder it took so long to get anywhere. The outskirts begin at the base of a mountain range and spread out from there. With the domestic terminal located literally smack bang in the middle of the city it was like landing in a sea of tower blocks. Quite incredible.

Having read numerous reports on the internet about a shuttle bus from the domestic terminal to international we were surprised to find out it no longer operated. Great. The lady on Information then proceeded to tell us that the only way to get there was by taxi at a cost of between IRR 500,000 - 700,000 (US$16 - 23). WHAT?!?! That wasn't part of the plan. Funny to think we're outraged at having to spend US$20 on a 40 min taxi drive. You wouldn't get a block in Switzerland for that amount.

There was a taxi stand near arrivals offering 400,000 (US$13) so we accepted that but on checking our funds we saw we didn't have enough and none of the banks were opened to change money. A guy came over to help but would only change US$100 worth. Sod that, not when we can't change it back. Here we were thinking we had plenty of money to get us through a 10 hr slumber at the airport only to discover we didn't even have enough to get to the airport. Long story short the lady took us out to someone who would change US$20 (for a lesser rate) and we were eventually on our way.

Not long into the drive I was advised by Sam to "put on your seatbelt". Which I tried to do but it was locked. No dramas, I thought, been in plenty of cars before without a seatbelt on. Perhaps not cars being driven by a Formula One wanna be zigzagging in and out of traffic at 130km/hr and on numerous occasions squeezing between two cars in two lanes. It was when he tried to slip between a bus and a car that I had to hold my breath. All of course whilst either texting or talking on his phone. Then he missed our turn off, slammed on the breaks and reversed up the bloody motorway. We might not be religious but someone up there was looking after us.

As the flight isn't until 0430 we now have 5 hrs to kill until we can check in at 0130 and then 3 hrs until take off. With our extra cash we indulged in a dinner of pizza and fanta and have now set up camp on the only seats in the entire airport without armrests so we have 3 whole seats each to lounge over. Not the most luxurious but with our flight departing at such a stupid hour we didn't see the point of getting a hotel only to have to check out shortly after midnight. I'm amazed they have flights departing 24 hrs a day.

If nothing else, it has given me the chance to get this here blog up to date. Everyone keeps staring at us, have they never seen someone camped out at an airport before? They would get a right shock if they saw Dublin Airport after St Paddy's Day which looks more like a refugee camp than international airport. In order to check out the facilities Sam discovered a good website "sleepinginairports.net" and it's because of an informative man on that who recommended the seats in arrivals (over departures) that we've discovered the more superior slightly cushioned no armrest versions.

Goodnight everyone. Enjoy the comfort of your beds.... and work tomorrow.

Looking back on our time in Iran we've liked and disliked a lot of things. For the trip we did, 17 days was possibly slightly too long, two weeks would have been perfect. I would not like to visit in the heat of summer or dead of winter. Temperature wise this was the perfect time to go. A number of restaurants were closed however due to it being end of season. Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Iran and would highly recommend it. Why it's portrayed as a dangerous country I've no idea as it's been by far the safest place we've ever visited.

People - Extremely helpful, genuine and gentle by nature.
Mosques - The ornate coloured ceramic work is beautiful as are all the arches, domes and minarets.
Tabriz - Iran's most authentic and magical bazaar.
Kandovan - Nice to step out of a city and into somewhere different.
Esfahan - It's mosques and Naqsh-e Jahan Imam Square make it the perfect place to relax.
Icecream - Shops on near every corner selling cups of multi flavour soft serve. If you can't have beer it's the next best thing.
Yazd - It's enchanting Old City is a site to behold.
Bus Journeys - By far the best way to see the country. It would be a shame to fly over and miss the desert plains and sunsets dissolving into the mountains.
Mashhad - From what I saw the buildings of Haram-e Razavi Shine are beautiful.
Safety - Never before have I travelled somewhere where I've felt so safe. Being with my "husband" certainly helped but I imagine it would be equally fine as a solo female. As a note to those couples wishing to travel who aren't married - neither are we and we haven't had any trouble. I've worn a band on my wedding finger. Checking into hotels has been fine and we've never had a problem getting a double/twin room. The occasional times we've been asked, more out of interest than anything else, we've said we're engaged.

Food - There is a limit to how good meat on a skewer can taste. Saffron is pants.
Alcohol (or the lack thereof) - In the heat of day the last thing I want is hot tea, give me a beer any day.
Motorbikes - The street is there for a reason, use it and keep off the bloody footpath.
Crossing Roads - Getting better after spending more time here but crossing the road is still somewhat of a death wish.
Internet - What's the point when everything is blocked.
Clothing - I will be a happy girl when I can wear a short summer dress and have my hair blowing in the breeze. Being covered from head to toe is simply suffocating and doesn't bode well for sweat patches.
Tehran - Too busy, too big and too spread out.
Turkmenistan Embassy of Tehran: Their inability to process our VISA on receipt has resulted in us having to fly over the country due to being unable to wait a further week. 8 days to process a VISA we thought was long enough, 15 days is just taking the piss.
Nose Blowing - I tend to use a box of tissues a day blowing my nose so being told it's considered extremely rude has resulted in me walking around with a constantly dripping one instead. Most frustrating.
Iranian Money - No one wants it so unless you convert at a bank and keep the receipt you cannot change unspent money back to US$. It's also frustrating that you need to bring enough US$ with you to last the duration of your stay since you can't use ATM's.
Flights - Departing at 04:30 is a nuisance.
VISA cost - 180 EURO + GBP 60 for an application code is a lot per person for a 30 day tourist VISA.

Eyebrows - Word on the street is this season is all about the monobrow which the men and women of Iran appear to embrace wholeheartedly. Women are also partial to a Scouse Brow.
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