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If you’ve ever travelled in, or around Iran, then you’ve experienced or heard the rumours about the Iranian people. Countless travellers rave about their hospitality and their generous, genuine nature. But are the Iranian people really as nice as travellers say? We spent 31 days travelling Iran and we’ve definitely formed our own opinion.

iranian people travelling in iran

From the moment we entered Iran, a few things were clear. The Iranian people are very curious about foreigners. Almost immediately after crossing the border from Turkmenistan, we were greeted warmly by local people on the street yelling: “Welcome to Iran!”. People in Iran have three main questions that they want to ask visitors right away, and they usually go in this order:

1. Where are you from?

2. What is your religion?

3. What do you think about Iran?

If the conversation carries on, Iranian people will be genuinely interested in your family, your education, your beliefs and your stance on Iranian politics, customs and ceremonies. People who approach you on the street in Iran are very rarely hoping for business and almost always sincerely interested in you and your perspective on their country.

what are iranian people like?
Iranian people always want to talk to you!

“You don’t even need to book a hotel in Iran, just stand on the street with a perplexed look on your face and a local family will invite you into their home.” – Danish traveller we met In Uzbekistan

While I wouldn’t rely on this, it would probably happen in Iran. The minute you pull out a map, someone is there to help you. Often if you look thirsty, someone will invite you in for tea and it only takes about 3 minutes of honest conversation before your new Iranian friend will offer up their home, their table, and their life in hopes of making you feel welcome. Granting hospitality to foreigners is deeply ingrained in the Iranian culture and they feel very embarrassed about how they are portrayed in the global media.

iranian people that you meet when travelling iran
Hanging out with our new Iranian friends

Do you believe the news that says that Iranian people are all terrorists and extremists?” – Iranian man we met at Persepolis

 

Many foreigners think Iranians are Arabs. They’re not.

People think that bombs go off in Iran. They never do.

People think that Iranians are terrorists. You’d be hard pressed to find a terrorist outside of sketchy border areas.

People think that Iranians hate the West. They don’t. Some hate Americans and if you look at their history, you’ll maybe understand why.

Iranian people are well aware of the media coverage they receive abroad and they are appalled by it. They know who they are and it is pure discrimination of press that causes westerners to gasp when you mention travelling Iran. Iranians are a proud people, who stand for what they believe in and have made great changes in government and human rights throughout their history.

The current state of the country is still a work in progress, and the locals often express their pride for their nation and in the same breath, disapproval of certain government policies.

iranian people in esfahan travel
We loved hanging out with these people during our stay in Esfahan

“You’ll never get ripped off in Iran” – Traveller

It is true, there is less petty crime and bad business deals done here, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Iranian people are humans, living in a developing nation and the same precautions should be taken while travelling here as anywhere else in the world. While the regular local population is completely genuine, loving and trustworthy, Taxi drivers, tour guides and business owners are still out to make a buck.

“Always confirm your price 3 times in Iran or you may have discrepancies when it comes to payment time” -Goats On The Road

If there is one flaw in the impeccable character and hospitality in Iran, it is the shortcomings in making an honest deal. This isn’t to say that everyone is going to try to get a little extra, but beware that people in businesses sometimes give you a price and then expect more at the end. Be sure that you make your price VERY clear and never give in and pay more than originally agreed upon.

Iranian Taxi Driver: “You are such a nice man, no need to pay”

Spanish Traveller: “Okay, thanks!”

This is a huge mistake in Iran. There is a rule here called Taroof which is a very complex system of saving face. Taroof dictates that gifts and services are offered even if the person offering can’t afford it. One should deny an offer 3 times, which gives the person who’s offering ample time to back out. This helps to make the generosity seem truly genuine, even if the person can’t afford it in the first place.

Sound confusing? It is!

While this social game is less in existence now than in the past, taxi drivers and bazaaris (shop-owners) will often still offer to give their services and products away for free. If a person accepts this offer without following the unspoken truce of Taroof, it is extremely bad form. Taroof is a landmine of social taboos for those who don’t understand it.

taroof in iran
If this vendor offers you his goods for free, make sure you decline his offer at least 3 times!
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“Travellers had raved so much about the people that we set the bar too high and let our guard down” – Our English friends who had $200 stolen by a taxi driver

We have had amazing experiences with the people here and they TRULY are the most friendly people we’ve encountered in travel. We feel safe 100% of the time because 99.9% of Iranians are always looking out for us and trying to make sure that nothing but good things happen to us while we’re in Iran.

We’ve been invited into numerous homes and we stayed with a local couple in Esfahan, but there are, like everywhere in the world, people who are desperate or corrupt and will try to steal from you. There are just a lot fewer here than in other places we visit.

“Iranians aren’t even religious. There’s booze in all of the shops. They party and drink and smoke pot” – Norwegian traveller hell-bent on smashing our misconceptions of Iran. His statement, of course, wasn’t true.

What this traveller was trying to tell us is that not everyone in Iran is a conservative Muslim, and this is absolutely true. We met people of all walks of life and all different religions. We met Bahá’í, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and even non-religious people with very similar views to us. One thing is for certain, the clothing worn outside is a government-forced facade in most cases and many Iranian people would dress differently if they were allowed.

When you enter an Iranian home in Iran, depending on the religion, you’ll probably see the women wearing a t-shirt and shorts. This happened to us on numerous occasions, and we were completely surprised!

iranian people what the women wear in iran
Even though women must dress like this in public, many wear completely different clothing at home

We love to explain to people how safe Iran is and how amazing the people here are, because it’s true. But as travellers, and bloggers, we also feel the need to tell people both sides.

Travellers we met before coming to Iran were so determined to make it known that Iranians were amazing people that they often put them at a super human level. The reality is, the majority of the population are conservative muslims, booze is illegal and not easy to find for travellers (locals tend to know where to get it, however), there still are con-artists here, and Iranian people won’t jump in front of a car to save your life.

One thing is for sure, the people in Iran are the most hospitable we’ve ever come across in our travels, rivalled only by eastern Turkey and western Egypt. But it is still important to follow your gut while travelling and always be a little cautious.

Never let your guard down completely and you will have a great time in Iran. It is one of the most underrated and misunderstood places on the planet, so let’s help people understand it by explaining it honestly. It’s such a phenomenal place, that there is no need to exaggerate.

Have you ever been to Iran? Please share your experiences you had with the local people! Comment below.

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Nick Wharton & Dariece Swift

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Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift are the owners and founders of Goats On The Road. Together they have been travelling and working abroad since 2008 and have more than 20 years of combined experience in online business, finance, travel and entrepreneurship. Their expert advice has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider,  WiseBread and Forbes and they also spoke at the World Tourism Forum in Istanbul about the business of travel blogging.

Learn more about Nick Wharton and Dariece Swift on their respective author archives on this site and on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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256 thoughts on “Iranian People: Are They Really As Nice As Travellers Say?

  1. Thanks for a balanced and nuanced answer to this question. Taroof sounds like a nightmare, and I think it could potentially really piss me off after a while, but otherwise, Iran sounds like a wonderful place to visit…though still not too sure how I’d feel as a gay man there.

  2. It’s good to know this things about Iranians. You know I still believe in the goodness of humanity. Iran is such a beautiful place I guess though, I haven’t gone there yet. I really enjoyed reading your post.

  3. hi
    i am ali from iran,you believe that iranian people are so friendly,hospitable and iran is safeeeeee.you can travel alone,and enjoy in amazing and beautiful iran.
    cheers
    ali

  4. Ya, taroof can be a bit of a hassle sometimes, but you get used to it pretty quickly. It is a wonderful place to visit and there are many gay Iranians, they use websites to get together and couch surfing actually 🙂 Unfortunately though, the meetings would have to be in private.

  5. Thanks Kara. The people are very kind, hospitable and generous. We had great experiences there.

  6. Hello Ali!

    Yes it is safe and amazing! We really enjoyed our time in your country 🙂

  7. I LOVE Iran and I love your blog post!! It’s funny how in an effort to right the wrongs of the media, so many travellers tell warped stories of how liberal Iran is. While I think it’s fair to say that many Iranians wouldn’t dress or behave the way they do if they weren’t obliged to, I also think that they wouldn’t go to the other extreme, as many travellers takes would have us believe. And like any country, Iran still has its conservatives. It’s an awesome country to travel in, and people really are so hospitable- it’s been too long since I was last there 🙂

  8. True, Iran definitely has its conservatives. Based on who we met though, they all agreed that they wouldn’t cover up in public if they didn’t have to. However, there are many Muslims there who would still abide by these rules I think.

    Isn’t Iran such an intriguing country?!

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  9. I’m so glad I came to your site for a random read, and the first thing I saw was about Iran. I’ve become obsessed with going there for a while, and even more than ever the past week! I’m hoping I can somehow fit it in at the end of my Asia trip, if funds will allow me. Thanks for making me even more determined to go now! And for writing such a truthful account! 🙂

  10. Hey!

    If you make it to Iran, you will have a great time. We haven’t met anyone who would say otherwise. The people are friendly, the sites are stunning, the history is ancient, the food is delicious and the transport is comfortable! Glad you enjoyed the read.

    Happy Travels 🙂

  11. Thanks Goats!!!!!!!!!
    Really you have done a brave and great job with going other countries like Iran. Brave job because of all these fake news about Iranians in the media. Iranians are very kind to strangers from other countries more because of their rich ancient history and culture. If you read some of their ancient poetries for past 1000 years like Hafez, Omar Khayam and Rumi, you can find out why they love LOVE and hospitality to other human beings.
    All the best for you in your road,
    Sam

  12. Thank you Sam!

    It’s true, there is a lot of hype in the Western media about Iran being a scary place and the people being terrorists. The truth is, the people couldn’t be more friendly and welcoming. The citizens need to be considered separate from their Government when it comes to people making judgement calls about the country

    Thank you for commenting :).

  13. This made great reading, not least because we want to make our way to Iran one of these days. Maybe sooner than later. Glad I came across your Twitter account and looked up your site 🙂 Thanks.

  14. Thanks Pratibha! We’re glad you came across our Twitter account too 🙂 Hopefully you can get to Iran one day, it’s fascinating.

    All the best

  15. Is the government threatening to foreigners at all? It would be neat to visit, but the government really worries me.

  16. Hi,
    This is Yekta,an Iranian citizen !
    First of all I’ve never Thought about my country such as this ,I mean it was nice and True especially about Taroof! ( just kidding )
    How many persian words can you remember ? 😉
    What was your Best food that you’ve tried in Iran ? You can suggest the other.

  17. Hi JR,

    No, the government isn’t threatening to foreigners at all. We had no issues and were given nothing but smiles and treated with respect by people at immigration and police. We didn’t have to deal directly with the government though.

  18. Hi Yekta!

    We absolutely loved Iranian cuisine! We were lucky to stay in a few homes and were able to have some traditional food. We enjoyed ghormeh sabzi, fesenjān, Tah-chin and anything with pomegranates! haha. We tried many, many dishes and they were all fantastic 🙂

  19. hi . my name is ahmad. an Iranian citizen !

    Tanks for freedom in your eyes and your mind and your note
    my English language is very bad but:
    tanks
    so and
    I Love ghorme sabzi 🙂
    you do test koofte tabrizi and gheyme bademjan ooooooooooooooooof oh do test gheymeh nesa oooooooooooof :))

  20. Hello Ahmad,

    Thank you for your comment! We love Iran and the food 🙂

    ghorme sabzi is delicious and we did try koofte tabrizi. Everything we tasted, we loved!

    Cheers

  21. HI! i’m from iran and i must say WOW! first foreigner to ever write something nice about us! the hate is so much that when i first saw your blog i thought i was hallusinating things! a big thanks and lots of love to you for the realistic image. and a bit of information on taarof: if you master it well you can absolutely manupolate any persian!!! ( not in a bad sense though! ), it’s actually an aciant culture. back in times it was used with honest intentions, now a days it’s used less geniounly by many people. but there are still many who really mean it! anyway, it was a delight to read your blog hope you return here for another trip!!!

  22. Thanks Bani! We had a wonderful time in Iran, the people of your country are warm and generous.

    I’m curious though, what do Iranians Google in order to get to this article of ours?!

    Have a great day 🙂

  23. Hi! I’m Amir and i’m from Iran
    Thank you for your post about our country
    Just let me say that: dear people of world, we are HUMANS! just like you!! We don’t drink blood =))
    AND we don’t BITE!
    😉
    AND of course
    Dear hollywood
    We are not TERRORISTS! I really felt bad when i watched Robocop ( the new version)

  24. Hi Amir!

    Well said! We love Iranians and we love your country…you’re not terrorists 🙂

    Cheers.

  25. hi!!!!!!!!
    I am an iranian girl!!
    i feel so happy because of your this report!!
    you know, most of poeple usually say bad things about iran and iranians,but i rhink iranian are not as bad as they say!!
    maybe they are thinking to 50 years ago.but at present time iran has lots of changes.iranian are not terrorists!!
    we are not bad people,we are human same other ones.maybe we are more kinder than some of people in all over the world.
    i am tooooooooooo happyyyyyyy because of you!!!!!!
    thanks because of your kindness
    taroof is this :تعارف
    at the end : بازم پیش ما بیاین!(come to our country,again)
    oh!did you eat Kalle pacheh?????????:)))))
    we love all foreigners!!
    thaaaaaaaankssssssss.

  26. Hi,
    I’m Aryan and I’m from Iran. Everything you said is true about Iranian people , and I really don’t have anything to add on to all you said I can just say thank you so much bruh for telling all these to other people, I hardly tried to tell people in America the truth about Iranian people but they didn’t believe me, perhaps because I’m Iranian myself, but I guess they believe you!

  27. Hi
    I m iranian, here is a few tips for you to deal with taroof
    1Every time s1 offer u a free thing say 3times :no thx its realy nice of u!!belive me u must say it 3times thats kinda like the code to alibaba cave!
    2 smile while u r saying this!
    3 dont be worry
    Thats it ! Btw take my advice: the prices of bazaar are varied from store to other stors, the same rule apllys 4 taxies!
    Have a nice time in iran

    Ps. Thx goat !u realy judged us not by the fake cover the west media have made 4us!

  28. hi!
    i do not know what to say, after reading your nice opinion of my race.
    it is hard for us to be known as terrorists . as you know there are many people who are afraid of us because of nothing but lies.
    this is something that makes me ashamed of myself even though i know we are good people.
    i just add please do not judge a book by it’s cover. ( as you can see in movies a great treasure is in an old and dirty chest :D)
    thanks for such a good comment that you put on PARS and PERSIAN people , we are really happy to have a good friend like you.♥

  29. hi!
    i do not know what to say, after reading your nice opinion of my race.
    it is hard for us to be known as terrorists . as you know there are many people who are afraid of us because of nothing but lies.
    this is something that makes me ashamed of myself even though i know we are good people.
    i just add please do not judge a book buy it’s cover. ( as you can see in movies a great treasure is in an old and dirty chest :D)
    thanks for such a good comment that you put on PARS and PERSIAN people , we are really happy to have a good friend like you.♥

  30. Thank you for your comment Sorena 🙂 We hope to spread the word that Iranians are kind and gentle people.

  31. HI

    I thank you for very good talk about Iran.
    Make sure your trip to Iran.
    Iranians are hospitable.
    We are waiting for you.

  32. Hi
    I know it’s a bit late to leave a comment on this post but I thought I must thank you for it
    I’m iranian and I’m so happy you liked my country
    Western media shows us like some terrorist who attack foreigners in the streets and it makes me so unhappy. Your post made me crying thank you for being so good and sharing your experiences with others

  33. we will be happy if you come back again to Iran , i live in Tehran and if you want to come back just send me an email i will help you.

  34. Hi this is Behzad, I’m from Iran but live in the US. Yes Persian hospitality and warmness is unique in the world; it’s been famous for it for thousands of years not just recently. We love to laugh hard, be kind to others, and make everybody feel good. It’s just how we are. If you think people are friendly now, you should’ve seen what it was like before the revolution, war, and sanctions! We’re taught to treat others like family and give them the shirt off our back, from very early in life. Who else does that?

    It’s not what it used to be, alas. But there is a certain shine in people’s eyes and a certain warmness in their hearts there that’ll never go away. Have fun!

  35. Hi, I´ve always wanted to go to Iran.
    I´m just so curious about this country.
    Could you guys tell me how did you managed to communicate with people?
    I can only speak english and spanish

  36. Hi Behzad,

    Thank you for the wonderful comment. I can only imagine what Iran was like pre-revolution and war. It would have been even more incredible than it is now. We had great experiences with the people of Iran and always recommend your country.

    Cheers!

  37. Hi Jose,

    Many people in Iran speak English actually. And if not, you can get by on hand motions and charades! It was very simple actually.

  38. We found that many people were able to speak enough English to help us out, or to at least try 🙂

  39. Hi
    I am amin
    I am soooooooo happy right now because i think for the first time in my life i have read a really honest passage about iran
    Thank you Goats on the road
    P.S please share this with anyone that you know so they will realize that we are not what hollywood shows us
    We are not 300 , argo , robocop or any other things that they are showing us
    we are a truly peace loving people
    Thank you again Goats
    Good luck

  40. Well , as a Persian I don’t really tarof so much , and that’s why people used to get mad at me back in the days when I used to live there haha
    You’ll be fine as a gay person if you just don’t say it out loud there, we have so many gays back there but you’ll never notice cuz its crime so people keep it a secret
    I miss Iran so much 🙁
    Such an amazing place to be

  41. And BTW I’m so happy you traveled to Iran , I’m so glad to see you didn’t just believe the things you heard and actually got out there to really experience it yourself , Iran is so amazing , its so sad to see its getting this much ruined , its getting really hard to live there , people are suffering , and there is nothing to do really , Hopefully things will change

  42. I worked with many Iranian,nice,good looking,rich smart and super friendly.I meet and worked with them in Europe and USA and I am European myself.Ciao

  43. Thank you for the comment.

    We too agree that Iranians are great people.

    Cheers!

  44. Hi,
    I am an Iranian and while looking for Iran images on Google to find out what foreigners will find about Iran while searching in Google, by chance I found your lovely presentation about Iran and I have to say it was amazing. Happy to see that you enjoyed your time in Iran and additionally you are trying to inform others as well. It is so true that before traveling to a country, we cannot admit how the people will be there unless we spend some time with them. Previously I was working with some European countries while living in Iran and all of them were shocked after coming to Iran as they were thinking that our women cover their faces like Arabs and they can’t drive even, so I was explaining a lot about what we had been through and how we really are, trying to take them to different cities so they would be able to have a better image. Even outside Iran, I am trying to make things clear in people’s mind when it comes to my country. As you know better than me because of media, most of the people are getting annoyed when they hear word “Iran” and I cannot tell you how much this hurts. Anyway thank you very very much for all the information you shared with everybody, I do appreciate it a lot.
    Have a lovely day ahead
    Maryam

  45. Hello Maryam,

    Thank you for your comment. We had a wonderful time in Iran and found that the people were very friendly! The food was delicious and the sites were incredible. We always tell people they should travel to Iran.

    Have a great day 🙂

  46. hi every body
    i am from iran and i have to say that ianian people are normal like other nations
    they are not ver