Arrival in TehranMarch 22 in Iran
A day full of travel today, but with an exciting destination: Tehran!
We got up at 5:15am to make our way to the tiny international airport in Vientiane, Laos. After a short flight we arrived in Bangkok from where we flew on to Tehran. We had a 6 hour layover in Bangkok, which we used to call home, enjoy one last Starbucks coffee (since nobody ever understands “Bertram” when we order coffee, we now went for a new name) and relax in the lounge (we were happy to realise that our airline (Thai Airways) is a Star Alliance member and we could use their lounge for free). Anna also used the time to test out new hair-covering outfits for Iran.
Finally, after the six hour wait we boarded our plane to Tehran, an 8 hour flight from Bangkok. The plane was almost empty - there were maybe 30-40 people on board. No idea why: could have to do with the holiday season in Iran that had already started 3 days ago, or the route from Bangkok to Tehran is just not popular. Anyway, it was all the better for us :-)
We were a bit apprehensive about the immigration procedure in Iran, having read a lot about it. In the past, one had to get a visa in advance, which we didn’t. For our passports, Iran recently introduced visa on arrival, which means - as the name suggests - that we should be able to get the visa at the airport. But there’s no guarantee, of course. In the end, everything was very easy. Nobody asked us about our planned itinerary, nobody wanted to know why we visit (I guess tourist was obvious ;-)), and nobody wanted to know how long we would stay. We did have to wait 45 minutes, but other than that no problem. (We did bring print outs of the required proof of medical insurance, and that was also readily accepted.)
While waiting, we already noticed the famed friendliness of the Iranian people. As other locals would walk past us (as we waited) they greeted us and welcomed us to Iran. A bank serviceman chatted with us about football (he even knew Toni Polster from Austria!) and our travel itinerary. The only awkward moment (for us) was when he pointed out that the Germans and the Iranians both share the Arian culture. We smiled politely and chose not to discuss that much further...
Finally, before heading to the hotel, we changed some money. Iran is cut off from the international banking system, so our credit and debit cards will not work in this country. For foreigners, everything is pretty much cash only and you cannot withdraw more at ATMs. A rare money exchange-related surprise for us was that the exchange rate to the Euro and USD was about 30% better(!) than what we read in the lonely planet guide and even what we checked live online. (We got about 59k rial for a Euro whereas if you check online now, www.xe.com will give the exchange rate at around 46k rial for one Euro.) It seems that the Iranian rial massively lost value, maybe due to fear over a reintroduction of further sanctions? But why doesn’t it show on the online exchange rate?
Anyway, we arrived in the hotel tired, but also excited for the coming days and weeks. Tomorrow we’ll explore Tehran’s bazaar and find some more outfits for us. :-)Read more