Driving Through Iran

As adventures go, this one was one for the books!

Let me start by saying, we know a lot of Iranians living in Dubai and we spoke to dozens of people who have traveled to Iran as tourists so we were under the impression that we were well informed… HA! Looking back at it now, it’s quite funny how clueless we actually were…

First things first, even though we knew a lot about traveling to Iran, no one really told us anything about driving through it… 

I know what comes to mind first, as you are reading this. They must be crazy drivers. Well yes, it’s a bit chaotic, but that is not what we are talking about here (although no one seems to indicate). The craziness that we are talking about is the inability to actually purchase fuel at any gas station. That’s right you read that right. Fuel (both diesel and petrol) are extremely cheap in Iran however if you are a foreigner (a tourist) and you do not posses one of their special magical cards that they use to buy the fuel with, you are absolutely screwed. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, no one will sell it to you…

Now you are wondering… How the hell did you two manage to drive across the country then?

I have one word for you – Begging! You think I might be joking, but the first time we ran out of fuel, we literally begged dozens of truck drivers (we are so big we could only fit in a truck gas stop) to let us use their card in exchange for fuel. We got extremely lucky that quite a few of them were generous enough to do just that. 

We took up one slot with a broken pump for hours and each truck that came and had a driver who was willing to let us use their card put some fuel in their tank and then gave us some. Most gave us 10L, some 20 and one sped up the process by putting 60L in our tank… Funny enough none of them would take any money for it. That’s right our first tank of fuel in Iran was absolutely FREE! It took 3h but we didn’t pay a cent for it….

Things got a little easier further down the line, once we figured out that we have to have the government provided card to buy fuel. Luckily Iran is full of welcoming people who are so open to host you and help you, that we had no issues meeting people who would then ask around and there was always someone that had a friend who owned a truck and had a fuel card. Yes it had to be a big vehicle as we can take up to 500L of fuel in our tank and the ones that just have cars do not get enough fuel to last them the whole month and give some to us as well…

The fuel prices are ridiculous btw. One time we hit the jackpot and a guy we met had a truck and a card he wasn’t using at the time. We were able to put 350L of fuel in our tank. Now, when I tell you the amount we paid for 350 liters worth of diesel, please don’t cry $3.5 TOTAL! No, it’s not a mistake, and we were just as shocked but the price was 1 cent per liter. Oh, how we wish that was the case everywhere we would drive to. Wishful thinking, I know!

Besides the fuel drama and always having to be hustling in order to get diesel, driving in Iran wasn’t too bad… The road conditions were not the best but also far from the worst. Even our 18ton beast managed to smoothly do 80-90 km/h on majority of the highways and 50-60 km/h on the smaller roads. The one problem we encountered however was height signs on the bridges and overpasses. Not a single one was right… They would read 3.6m and yet our 3.8m high bus would pass under with at least half a meter above us.

On our first day driving through Shiraz we got stuck on a super busy road next to a dried up river for almost 3h because as we drove, the upcoming bridge read 2.6m height. We had to pull into a tiny emergency slot and sit there like idiots trying to figure out what we are going to do, as we couldn’t go forward nor could we go back. Two hours into our panicking, Peter went out with an actual measuring tape and measured the bridge that turned out to be 4m high.

One thing we noticed while exploring this enormous beautiful country was the fact that they do not have many traffic lights but instead they place a ridiculous number of speed bumps on almost every road, in some spots even highways. Luckily, they are well painted and easy to spot… NOT! Have this in mind in case you are driving at night so you don’t end up in a flying caravan like we did. 

As we drove we also realized that we haven’t seen many road tolls. We passed 2 or 3 up north but they were very cheap, 50cents to $1 max. Speed cameras were mostly not operational if there were any at all, not that we are able to speed since we drive a monstrosity of a bus.

Last important thing to note is that Iranians are not allowed caravans so you will be the main attraction everywhere you go. This also means that you will get stopped by the police and military almost every time they spot you. The good news is, they are the friendliest law enforcement officers we have ever met. They will ask to check your passports but mainly they just wanna take a peak inside your magnificent home on wheels. 

One key thing we learned from other travelers AFTER leaving Iran is that we could have gotten a document at the border (or port) which would have allowed us to purchase fuel, for the tourist price but its still dirt cheap. (We don’t have all the details, but we will update you once we get back into Iran in a few weeks) 

Then we met a few more amazing people and they gifted us another crucial piece of advice: You can actually download 2 great apps that will show you where other travelers have parked, camped, gotten water, help or whatever for FREE. The first is ioverlander and the second is park4night. We survived traveling Iran without them as parking is fairly easy, however once we got our hands on the apps, finding parking especially for a big rig became a piece of cake.

Our journey started in Bandar Abbas (You can read how we got there in our previous blog – link here ). We drove 3300km in 7 weeks and left through the Bazargan border crossing into Turkey. Below are just a few friendly faces we met during our travels. We are really looking forward to exploring some of the places we missed last time and seeing this beautiful country outside of the summer months.

Just one of the exciting mountain roads!

So, if you ever thought about traveling to Iran do not let the media and people who have never been there scare you off pursuing your dream. The country is extremely safe for travelers and we felt nothing but welcomed. In fact we felt that they went the extra mile to look after us because we were tourists (And this includes everyone, the people, the police and military). That being said, this is just our personal experience.

We would love to hear about your time spent in Iran. And of course, as always, if you have any questions, let us know in the comments and we will do our best to help you out!

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