Living in Iran
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A practical guide to the way of life in Iran
What do I need to know about the healthcare system or transportation in Iran? What is the safety situation like for expats in Iran? The InterNations GO! Guide to living in Iran has the answers to all these questions and many more.
Life in Iran
Healthcare in Iran
Healthcare in Iran is supported by the public-governmental system, the private sector and non-governmental organizations. Iranian people are entitled to public health insurance; however, this does not extend to expats, who will need to pay for their own healthcare. The country’s large network of public clinics offers basic healthcare, but the general and specialty hospitals run by the Ministry of Health and Medical Education provide better quality of care. In the larger cities, wealthy residents and expats favor expensive private clinics and hospitals.
Healthcare is cheap compared with other countries. The quality of care varies from hospital to hospital; it’s usually the major cities that will have international-quality hospitals and doctors. You can use the International Association for Medical Advice to Travellers’ website to find doctors with recognized training. Otherwise, your embassy should be able to help. The Iranian community is helpful and obliging too, and wherever you are, you will be given the information you need to obtain the care.
Outside the major cities, medical care is not readily accessible, and most Iranians will visit their local pharmacy to purchase essential medical supplies.
Usually, expats arrange for private health insurance to take care of their healthcare needs. It’s worth finding out in advance whether your insurance plan will pay providers directly, or reimburse you later for health costs, as it may not be possible for insurers to pay doctors directly in Iran.
Transportation in Iran
Iran has an extensive and robust paved road system that links the majority of its towns and all of its cities. Getting about in the country couldn’t be easier. Transport services are frequent, punctual and very cheap, and there are numerous travel options for expatriates in Iran.
Taxi is a popular mode of transport for both expats and locals, and there are three main types: shared taxi, private taxi, and agency taxi. The large cities boast mass transit systems that use buses; there are also private companies that provide bus services between cities. Bus ticket prices are comparatively cheap and tickets can be purchased at little booths along main streets or at local bus terminals. Buses can be crowded, however, so unless you know exactly where you’re going (difficult if you’re new to the country), you may wish to travel by Metro, or let Iran’s ambitious rail network take the strain.
Train travel is not expensive, and is an efficient means of escaping the country’s traffic-laden roads. Another option is to travel by plane, using Iran’s inexpensive domestic air services, notably Iran Air, the national airline, or its competitors: Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air and Kish Air.
You could also consider driving – though you’ll need to have an international driving license. Driving in Iran is not for the fainthearted, however: in theory, everyone drives on the right, but this cannot be guaranteed.
Safety and Security in Iran
The Iranian government does not make crime rate statistics publicly available, and international and local news only reports a fraction of crimes committed. Still, it is best to take the necessary safety and security precautions.
There is a thriving black market in stolen foreign passports, so keep yours with you everywhere you go – preferably strapped to your body. Beware of crowded bazaars, a hunting ground for pickpockets and general street crime. Areas such as Sistan-Baluchistan, Bam, and the area to the east of Bam and Jask are notorious hotspots for banditry and drug-trafficking, so it pays to avoid these areas.
Your safety is most likely to be compromised on the roads. Iran has one of the highest per capita numbers of road deaths in the world; locals tend not to pay too much attention to traffic rules. Contraflow bus lanes, speeding motorbikes and pedestrian crossings are danger zones, so be particularly careful around these. Should you need it, the emergency number for the police is 110 (112 from a cell phone will also get you through to the police). Crimes against foreigners are rare, though. Do your best to adapt to the Iranian lifestyle and you’ll be treated with courtesy and respect.