Hi. I’m going to Iran with Atlas Obscura in April. Any tips about appropriate clothing for a (not young) woman. And will said woman be able to wander and dine alone?
Hi Ruth! Appropriate clothing would be pants or a skirt that extends to your ankles, and a top that covers your shoulders and arms—plus a scarf to wear loosely around your head in public places. Footwear such as sandals are totally fine. As for wandering and dining alone, technically foreigners are meant to be accompanied by a local guide, and it’s generally best practice not to go out alone as a foreigner, especially at night (and particularly as a woman—unfortunately, similar to many places).
The scarf is to cover your hair I assume… but what if you’re bold… do you need to cover your head also ?
I assume you mean bald. I would still use scarf to cover my head even if I had shaved head, just so I can avoid attracting unwanted attention and blend with the crowd.
Good point, thanks !
i was in iran in april 2000 and while a long time ago, i still remember that you couldn’t even get off the plane unless you were wearing a scarf or a headscarf or something covering your entire head. the airlines simply wouldn’t allow you to disembark and the area in customs in tehran was plastered with posters about women’s beauty being likened to pearls inside oysters, ie hidden from public view.
i would not plan on being in iran as a female traveler without at least a large scarf to cover your head and hair at all times. it may not be your culture, but it’s theirs and as a visitor, it’s my opinion that you should conform, however i’m not sure if rules have changed since 2000. maybe someone who’s been there more recently could speak to expectations for women’s attire? i also agree with another post that appropriate dress would be pants or skirts that are ankle length and modest in terms of cut and style.
Make sure to check whether you are allowed to travel alone on the basis of your nationality before visiting. Some nationalities must have a guide with them at all points in Iran.
Along with the headscarf, remember to bring a manteau. This can be a long, light jacket or sweater that goes over your butt.
From what I have heard, it might also vary a bit based on where you are. Tehran may be a little laxer than Qom.
Something I always forget is that you shouldn’t try to shake the hand of someone of the opposite sex. Instead, put your right hand over your heart and incline your head. This can also be used to express that you are being sincere.
Iranians are super friendly, though, and are kind about mistakes. I would read about taarof before visiting, since that can be fun and hard to get the hang of.