Iran Cycling Information Iran The Granular Detail Expectations Shopping Visas What to wear Insurance Internet Donations Food Sleeping Packing Photography Money Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Arriving Cycling Vaccinations Iran The Granular Detail Expectations Visas Shopping What to wear Insurance Internet Donations Sleeping Food Money Packing Photography Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Arriving Cycling Vaccinations Your expectations.. From Brett & Hamed Brett is the founder of Social Cycles. It was his first independent cycle through Iran in 2012 that inspired him to make it more accessible to the rest of the world. Because people should be able to see the people of Iran for their beautiful selves, not what the media depicts them to be. Hamed is the Social cycles Iran tour manager. He’s the guy that will show you the true hospitality of this Persian paradise. The best way to tackle Iran is with a completely open mind. This is a country that has been virtually closed off from Western thinking since 1979. And it shows. Be it in the fashion, the cars or the buildings. but the first thing you need to do is try and forget everything you think you know about this part of the world. The media in the West often report on the actions of the Iranian government and major political disputes with the USA and other allies. And we in the West often attribute these words and ill feelings with the sentiment of the people. But nothing could be further from the truth. One of the biggest take aways I had from my first time cycling through Iran was that the people do not always reflect the government and should not be judged accordingly. Just as you don’t judge all Americans on the actions and rhetoric of Donald Trump, you shouldn’t judge the people of Iran on their government.I’ve never met a bad Iranian person throughout all my travels. I’m an obvious tourist and this has only attracted warmth, overwhelming hospitality and a little curiosity. I’ve had dealings with the police and the army and all of these government representatives have shown nothing but respect, kindness and generosity. I’ve never felt threatened or of any less value due to my cultural heritage (I’m Australian). I’ve also travelled with a British woman with the exact same experiences.So what should you expect? Well, you should expect to be treated with respect. You should expect some more remote villagers to have a curiosity about you. Where you’re from. What you’re doing here. And more importantly, what do you think of Iran? The amazing architecture, fascinating history, incredible scenery and delicious cuisine are all aspects that you can see in pictures, read in books or find on Google. And you might even read on the internet about how friendly the people are (like you are right now). But it is not until you experience Iran for yourself can you truly appreciate the depth and generosity of Persian hospitality. Expect to be overwhelmed. Insurance Travel and medical insurance is mandatory for all Social Cycles clients. It is one of the most important criteria foranyone who travels and in the very unlikely event that an emergency occurs your insurance must deliver. What having an insurance policy actually means in practise if someone does get sick:• You can get 24-hour medical support from the insurance company doctors• If treatment or a hospital visit is required, the insurance company will ensure that this is at the best local facility• We would provide all necessary assistance (for example, sending someone with you to the hospital to help with any language difficulties). • You must be adequately insured for medical and health cover – in case of a sudden illness or injury. Your insurance policy should also cover 24-hour emergency service and assistance, hospital fees, lost, damaged or stolen property (we are not responsible for any loss or damage to personal belongings while on tour). Your insurance policy must cover any necessary extra travel (rejoining tour or repatriation) as well as curtailment and cancellation.• Insurance provided by standard credit cards does not always provide adequate cover and I suggest that you check your policy. If you do travel with insurance provided through a credit card, we will need details of the participating insurer, the insurance policy number and emergency contact telephone number. The Bank’s name and the credit card number will not be enough information.• You must satisfy yourself that your policy covers medical emergencies resulting from any/all of the activities that you propose to undertake during the course of your trip and you should request a full policy document from your insurer if one is not automatically provided.• If you are from the US and do not usually travel with insurance, you may wish to look at either www.travelexinsurance.com or www.travelguard.com• There is a space for your insurance details on your online Social Cycles Booking Form. However, if you have yet to arrange your insurance it is essential that before you begin your SC adventure you email to me the details of your travel insurance documentation.This must include:• The name of your insurance company• The 24-hour emergency assistance number• The policy number Your NGO Donations Your money. Your decision. Based on your new learnings. Countries NGOs Riders $ your donations so far These numbers change lives. Not only the lives of the beneficiaries involved, but the lives of the riders who have witnessed and learned the complexity of community development in foreign countries. This is your chance to speak to local experts as part of your adventure, as you cycle across the country and gain a true understanding of life outside the tourist bubble.We ask for a A$200 minimum commitment from all riders. The money is given directly to the NGOs that are chosen by you. All of it. No bank fees, no commissions. The group from every tour engage in a ‘Donation Debate’ on our last night together. We’ll discuss what impressed us, confused us and inspired us. As a group, we’ll make a decision as to how we’ll divide the total money. It’s your money and your experience. It can, and will, go to whatever NGO touched you the most. Money, budgeting and tipping MoneyThere are no opportunities to get cash from an ATM in Iran. This means that you need to bring cash with you, and you cannot run out. Let me just say that again… ATMs are not available anywhere in Iran. This is the result of economic sanctions. There are no other opportunities to transfer money (Western Union, PayPal etc), or no opportunity for travellers cheques, so the cash you bring into Iran is all you have until you leave. Cash should be crisp clean notes, with tears. Cash that is scuffed, or older than 2006, can sometimes be difficult to change.BudgetingSo the obvious next question is, how much should you bring with you? It really depends on what your movements are outside of the tour. You’ll need to budget (US) $200 for your visa, another $150 for the NGO donation (optional), and about $100 for any hotels you might be staying in before or after the tour. Meals are anywhere from $5 to $20 and transport is cheap. For the actual tour itself, you should budget around $300 (plus visa, tip and donation). This will cover meals outside of the itinerary, souvenirs and other personal expenses. And you’ll have money left over to bring home. It’s much better to have too much than not enough.Changing MoneyYou can bring in all major currencies. This includes Australian & New Zealand dollars, Euros, British Pounds and of course, American dollars. There are money exchanges in all the major cities but the smaller towns might struggle to exchange anything other that US$. I’d advise to bring your local currency and change it in Tehran, Esfahan or Shiraz. Just change a bit as you go. There’s no need to change your AU$ into US$ just to change into IRR. CurrencyIt’s difficult to give an approximate exchange rate of the Iranian Rial as it is going through a state of influx as I write this page. It varies from US$1 to 40,000 IRR to 120,000 in a matter of days. The economy is expected to settle, but you should check the exchange before you travel. When you’re in Iran you’ll also hear the term ‘Toman’. This is a term used locally (in print and conversation) which is the Rial divided by 10. So, if something costs 10,000 IRR, it is referred to as 1,000 toman. The notes are exactly the same. There is not a dual currency system.TippingTipping in hotels and restaurants in Iran is not common. Sometimes there would be a small tip box at the front of some restaurants, should you choose to leave something for exceptional service. Hamed, Ali and his team work hard to make you’re experience a truly once in a lifetime adventure. If you would like to tip the team, it would be graciously accepted, but certainly not expected. The amount is always hard to suggest as it is always a personal gesture and different amounts mean different things to different people. Previous riders have tipped the team anywhere from US$50 to $150.Ta’roofSometimes you may be offered a service for free, such as a taxi or a meal at a restaurant. For example, if you get a short taxi ride and have made conversation with the driver, he may tell you that he cannot accept payment and the ride is a gift. This is known as ta’roof. It is a cultural gesture, almost a dance of words if you will, where the free offer is made out of politeness. It should then be refused out of politeness and you should insist on paying. He will inevitably insist it is free, whereas you should insist on paying. This can happen up to three times before you can be sure that the offer is genuine. Emergencies In case there is an emergency in Iran – it depends on the severity of the situation but this is a brief guide to our emergency plan that we put into action when an event requires it:• Deal with the on the ground situationIn case of an accident that requires administering of first aid at the scene, our staff are trained in basic emergency response techniques, and all trips carry basic first aid kits checked. We check, replenish and/or replace our kits on a regular basis.For relatively minor injuries including cuts, sprains, dehydration, fractures etc., local hospitals (if needed) will usually be able to provide adequate medical provision. In most instances you will be within 0-4 hours’ drive of a local hospital. • If the incident requires it, we contact the travel insurance company of those affected and also the relevant embassy. Contact the emergency contact listed on the booking form. This is why it is imperative that you have travel insurance. In case of an emergency, it is YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY that puts into action your evacuation plan. We contact your insurance company on your behalf and they take over the situation. Flights The following cities have direct flights to Iran, and all are major international transit hubs providing connections to many countries• EUROPE – direct flights are available from Rome (Alitalia), Berlin (Germania), Istanbul (TurkishAir), Vienna (Austrian), Kiev (Ukraine Int).• MID EAST – direct flights available from Dubai (Emirates), Doha (Qatar Air), Muscat (Oman Air)If you’re coming in from Australia or New Zealand, you’ll need to go via the Middle East. Air Asia have stopped their flights for now, which used to go via KL. If you’re coming in from Canada, you’ll need to go via Europe Arrivals and Departures On Arrival• Once you exit the plane, you’ll find yourself at immigration control. If you are a US, Canadian or British passport holder, you should have your visa prior to arrival and you can go straight through the immigration line, marked for ‘foreign’. If you are getting a visa on arrival (AU, NZ, EU), the first thing you will need to do is go to the desk marked for “Insurance”. Show the official your travel insurance documents and passport, and he will direct you to the cashier with an amount to pay, based on your passport. Take the slip to the cashier and pay. Wait for your receipt. once you have paid and obtained your receipt, take your passport, visa authority letter, payment receipt to the ‘Visa’ line and hand them over. They will ask you to take a seat somewhere until they call your name. Could take 10 minutes, could take an hour depending how busy it is. As of late 2017, the stamps for the visa are electronic and won’t be in your passport. Proceed through immigration control.• Then proceed downstairs to collect your luggage (there is only 1 carousel) before exiting to the arrivals hall.• After collecting baggage, you may be asked by customs officials to screen your luggage in a machine before exiting and/or check your luggage tags against the corresponding labels that you were given when checking in, to make sure you have taken the correct bags.On Departure• Check-in 2 hrs prior to flight time is ample forall international flights• To avoid over-crowding, only passengers with a valid ticket are allowed into the check-in area.• There is no departure tax to pay (all taxes areincluded in ticket prices)• Fill in a departure card and hand in at passport control counters after going through security• There are shops and cafes in the departure area near the gates. Boarding announcements are made in English for all flights. Airport Transfer:On clearing customs and collecting your luggage, please look for a sign with your name on it. Please do not leave the arrivals hall. If it is crowded, it may take you time to locate the sign. You will be transferred to your Tehran accommodation. You can exchange money at the airport but it’s better to change a small amount as the exchange rates are better in the city. You can also get a sim card at the airport. This is probably the easiest and most convenient place to get a sim.If you booked a transfer and no-one is at the airport station to meet you it might be due to a delay in the traffic. Also, if your flight has arrived early then the transfer driver may not yet have arrived. In either circumstance, please just take a seat and wait a little while longer. You may be approached by someone offering you a taxi – don’t take it, just wait until you see someone with a sign. You will be provided with a phone number to call once you have booked. Obtaining a Visa The visa process can seem a little daunting, but we’re here to help you out, regardless of your nationality. Most countries are eligible for a visa on arrival, although there are a few that will need to obtain the visa prior to arrival.Visa Prior to Arrival• The US, the UK, Canada, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia and Pakistan. All passport holders from these countries will need to get a visa prior to entering Iran. We can assist with this by applying for a ‘pre authority grant’ to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran on your behalf. The process is as follows, and can take up to four months.• Four months prior to travel- you will need to fill out the Social Cycles Iranian Visa application form. This is for internal purposes as we will take this information, translate it to Farsi and submit it to the MFA for you. Supporting documents for this application include:A copy of EVERY page of your passport, including blank pages.A passport style photograph (digital is acceptable)A resume, detailing all jobs you have had for the last ten years, including names of employers and contacts. If you have not worked for more than ten years, you will still need to outline your career.Screenshot of your your social media accounts profile pages (including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other active accounts)Once you have this information and have submitted it, we will apply for the visa authority for you. This service comes with a fee, that is added to your Social Cycles invoice (US$120). This is not the cost of the visa, just the agency fee for application. Once the authority is granted, you will receive a letter from the MFA. Then, you must take this letter, along with your passport and passport photo (physical copy) to your embassy and apply for your visa. If you are from the UK, there is an embassy in London. If you are from USA, you can use the Pakistan embassy and if you are from Canada, you can apply through the Oman embassy. The prices vary for the visa, depending on what passport you have. Expect it to be close to US$200. This process can take a couple of weeks, even though you have the pre-authority grant notice, so allow plenty of time. Visa On ArrivalThere are many countries that qualify for a visa on arrival. These include Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, EU passport holders and just about everybody else. However, we strongly recommend that you apply for the pre authority visa grant. With your Social Cycles booking, we’ll include it for no extra charge and the process is not as long as if you were from the UK, Canada etc. Social Cycles will send you a form to fill out (online) that doubles as your rider registration form and your visa application. We will then translate the required information to Farsi and send it off to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran for approval. Once this is received, we will send you the letter. Take this letter with you on arrival at the airport and follow the steps outlines above in the arrival section.No Visa Required• Countries from Syria, Lebanon, Georgia, Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Malaysia, Armenia and Venezuela are a part of the ‘visa waiver scheme’ and do not require a visa to enter Iran.Visa Service Companies Don’t engage with third party visa service agents (unless you’re not booking with Social Cycles). If you are eligible for a visa on arrival, then the fees for the pre-authority are close to $100. If you have a UK, USA or Canadian passport, then these agencies cannot get you the visa authority, regardless of what they say. However, they can take your money, never supply the authority and blame the MFA for delaying. I’ve heard of people waiting more than six months. Agencies such as IranianVisa.com are infamous for this.If you are wanting a visa for Iran and not booking with Social Cycles, then ensure you are going through a tour operator that can provide this service. Independent travel for USA, UK and Canadians is not possible in Iran. Travelers from these regions must be on an organised tour, with the leader authorized to host travellers from these nations. Sorry. You can blame Trump for not honoring the agreement and firing up those sanctions again. Internet and local sim cards Sim CardsThere are two main providers- IranCell and MCI. Both of which will have packages designed for tourists, so just choose the package that suits your needs (amount of data). You can get 3GB of data for US$10 or 5GB of data for US$15. If you get the choice, go with MCI as the coverage is slightly better outside the cities. Both companies have a stand at the airport (IKA in Tehran) and it is worth getting the sim card here. You’ll need to change your money and pay with IRR first though.After you get your sim, you’ll need to wait an hour or so for the internet to kick in, so don’t expect to be online straight away. InternetThere is not a lot of wifi around Iran and although it is available at almost all hotels, it is sketchy at best. If you want to be online, you will need a sim card. With this, you can call home or anywhere else in the world from virtually anywhere in Iran.There are a few websites which are blocked in Iran, such as Facebook, BBC News etc. There are ways around this by downloading a VPN app, but make sure you do it before you arrive in Iran, otherwise it is too late. Whatsapp, which we use for group communication is available. Food What’s the food like in Iran?In a word… delicious! Think brilliant barbecued meats, a huge array of spices, rice that can only be described as ‘buttery and tender’, stews, vegetables, fresh fruits and so much more! We generally dine in a ‘family style’ fashion, giving everybody the chance to try everything. Our advice… let Hamed order for the group and enjoy a culinary degustation of local delights as you travel across the country!Vegetarians and Vegans?That’s no problem. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian local specialties available and there will always be vegetarian dishes on the table at every meal. Speak to Hamed if you have any concerns about any of the dishes.Dietary requirements?If you have any dietary requirements or allergies, please indicate on the online form you will fill out once you have paid a deposit and booked your place. We’ll cater to all dietary requirements as best as possible. Please get in touch with us if you have life threatening allergies.What’s the deal with alcohol?Alcohol is a strict ‘no go’ in Iran with pretty severe penalties.The closest thing you’re going to get is a malt flavoured carbonated beverage known locally as a ‘beer’, but has 0% alcohol. Albeit missed after a big day on the bike, visiting a dry country is not without it’s cultural interest! Packing suggestions Everyone’s packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs so these are only ideas and there will be gaps! These are merely suggestions and not ‘compulsory’ items. See the ‘weather’ section for details about the time of your trip. CYCLEFull sleeve sports top (high breathability)Lightweight full length top and pantsWomen should wear a tunic over leggingsVisor/Caps for under your helmetClosed shoes (bikes do not have clip in pedals)GlovesHelmetSports water bottleLightweight backpack (optional)Removable padded seat for your bike (optional)Scarfs (for women)Sunscreen EXTRASCash (see notes on money)Passport & passport photo (women with head scarf)Insurance copyCamera, SD cards & chargersSmart phone & chargersSmall sleeping bagTropical strength insect repellantHand sanitizerGels & hydrolytes to stay hydratedAdequate prescription medicationWomens sanitary needsHat for sun protectionUsual toiletries Weather Due to the geographical location, and elevation of Iran, the country certainly does see it’s fair share of extreme temperatures. The Summer months (June & July) can be extremely hot, especially in the south towards the Persian Gulf (UAE). And in the Winter (January & December), temperatures drop below freezing, complimenting the incredible ski season north of Tehran.Social Cycles tours are based around the shoulder seasons, in both Spring and Autumn. For all of our tours, the temperatures are roughly the same. The days are mild and cool, with temperatures of low 20’s. It’s perfect riding weather, especially as you have to wear long sleeves (and legs). You will not be too hot. Women will also need to wear a headscarf under the helmet, but again, you will not be too hot for this additional piece of clothing.Nights can be a little cooler, especially in the Zagros mountain range. Temperatures may drop to 7-15 degrees in the evening. Rain is not common and it rarely pours down. In the event that it does, we will not ride through bad weather, particularly if the road is considered dangerous due to low visibility. Safety & First Aid SafetyIs it safe? This is the most common question we get when we talk about our Iran adventures. And we understand why. Despite what the Western media will have you believe, Persians are some of the most welcoming and friendly people on the planet. Locals know how they’re portrayed in the Western media, but instead of getting angry about it, the people consistently prove the perception wrong with overwhelming hospitality and kindness. Prepare to be overcome. What should I be cautious of?There are areas in which it is not recommended to travel within Iran (Baluchistan, some parts of the Iraq border), but these are well away from our tour route. Just be aware if you are planning independent travel before or after the tour. Other than that, use general common sense and cultural awareness. Dress conservatively and appropriately. Motorbike snatch and grab crime can happen in some parts of Tehran.How can I find out more?Due to the amount of positive experiences we have had in Iran, we can sometimes see it through rose coloured glasses. To keep us in check, we refer to the safety guide produced by the Australian government. It is based on fact, not hysteria. Iran is currently rated as amber. Which means exercise a high degree of caution. Other countries with the same level are France, Belgium, Jamaica, Bali, India, Thailand, Nepal, Philippines, the Bahamas. Check out the latest about what Australian Govt thinks about travelling in Iran by following this link. First AidMedical facilities in Iran are basic, outside of major cities (Zagros mountain range, days 8 & 9). There are international standard hospitals in all the major cities on route (Tehran, Qom, Kashan, Esfahan and Shiraz).We assume you are in good health and have a sufficient level of fitness to complete your chosen tour. It is very important that any illness, disability or medical condition that you suffer or are recovering from, have been brought to our attention at the time of booking. Please make sure you have informed your insurance company of any existing conditions to provide adequate cover.If you are taking medication, please bring your own adequate supply, as you will probably not be able to obtain suitable medication en-route.Each vehicle has a basic first aid kit but you may also like to bring your own small medical supply for minor wounds etc. We are not permitted to administer medicine or drugs so if you suffer from a bad back, travel sickness, hay fever or headaches etc please bring your own supply of medicine. You may also want to consider including a generic antibiotic such Amoxicillin.Is the cycling dangerous?The traffic and driving style is a cross between Asia and Europe. Put it this way, we wouldn’t recommend hiring a car! Crossing the street can feel like a risk at times, so follow the locals. We don’t ride on any of these roads. We transit out of the bigger places to quiet villages and start our cycling on remote (and sometimes dirt/gravel) roads. The biggest risk is cycling too fast downhill. But we’ll warn you about that on the day. We believe cycling in Iran is a lot safer than cycling in Australia, based on the route we follow. Cycling details Of our 12 days in Iran, we’re on the bikes for 6 of them. We generally start and finish outside the cities, so there is a certain amount of van time in order for us to get to the cycling destinations. The distances between one hotel to the next can be several hundred kilometers, and we have cherry picked the best part to cycle in between, but it may only be 40 to 60km of the route. Each Social Cycles tour is fully supported so there is an opportunity for riders to take a rest in the van. Our goal is to exhibit the beauty of travelling Iran by bicycle. It is not to rack up thousands of kilometers. Therefore, our style is recreational and casual. We aim to cater for beginner to intermediate recreational cyclists, not professionals or Strava enthusiasts. See our FAQ on Social Cycles tours for more info on whether this is the right tour for you in regards to cycling. Day Three: to Kashan This ride starts in a small village, about 50km out of Qom. It’s a bit of a tough climb to start on, but you can choose to skip this part and stay in the 4×4 that will follow us the whole way. There is a reasonable sized segment that is large loose gravel that might get a few riders walking certain parts. This 30km+ day is not without it’s challenges, but the scenery is superb. At over 2,800 m in elevation, the climb is worth the reward. The gravel continues for most of the downhill, so slow and steady is the way forward. This ride will either be your most favourite of the trip, or your least. Day Five: to Abyaneh This is an all bitumen ride. We drive out of Kashan via the highway to this quiet back road, headed towards the historical village of Abyaneh. The ride is an all up, 20km climb but with very gradual incline, gaining about 750m over the whole day. Along the way we’ll visit a couple of the tiny villages, one of which boasts ancient historical ruins that we can explore. More often than not, the interactions with the local villages has seen the team be invited to local homes for tea and dates. Just the energy and kindness required to climb up the hill. The beautiful red mud brick town of Abyaneh is a sweet reward for a fun day on the bike. Day Six: to Esfahan Just as we cycled all the way into Abyaneh, we start the day on the bikes and cycle out. This is an off road track, where only the 4×4 can follow (and even then there’s a few tricky bits). The 28km day is mostly on track (combination dirt and gravel). This ride goes through some of the most beautiful parts of Iran with just incredible scenery surrounding you. There’s not much in the way of local villages on route. This truly is as off the beaten track as you can get. Today is my favourite ride of the trip. Day Eight: Zagros Mountain range We drive out of Esfahan towards the Zagros mountains. It’s a long drive (2hrs) to get to our departure point, but well worth it. We start on top of a hill and enjoy a 16km downhill before embarking on a 16km climb. The very peak of this ride will test most riders, but then again, that is what the van is for. Feel free to jump in and take a rest and ride the downhills only if you like. The switchbacks on this ride are just breathtaking. A common favourite amongst our riders and for good reason. Day nine: Zagros Mountain range Just as we rode all the way into the town we stay in (Sisakt), we ride out the following morning. There is a bit of downhill to enjoy with a couple of small climbs in there for good measure. The evening destination is a few hundred kilometers away, so this is a ride based more on time than distance. The last 15 km or so does not contain a lot of downhill, or even flat, so we ride until we don’t want to ride anymore. The finish of the ride wil depend a bit on weather and group response. It is an all bitumen ride. Day ten: Riding in to Persepolis This is an incredible ride that will take you from the home we stay in (tiny village) all the way to the steps of UNESCO heritage site, Persepolis. Along the way we’ll stop by Naqshe-e-Rustam (another UNESCO heritage site). We should arrive into Persepolis, for our guided tour in the early afternoon. This is the finale of the ride and a spectacular way to finish your time on the bikes! After Persepolis, the bikes will be loaded on the van and we’ll spend the evening in Shiraz. What to wear This is a really common concern for people in their apprehension into visiting Iran. Particularly, the head scarf for women. It is law for women to wear a head scarf in public at all times. And yes, you should wear it under your helmet too. It is a scarf, not a burka or a complete veil that covers your face. It cannot be replaced with a hat and the scarf should be tied under your chin. Just because everybody wears the scarf, doesn’t mean all Iranian women actually want to. The reality is though, they do. It is the law and you are expected to abide by local laws and customs.Saying that, our local Social Cycles team are very progressive. You will not have to wear the scarf inside the van whilst we are driving. In some remote areas, they will advise that you can take it off. Please respect their advice as to when to wear it. If you are caught not wearing it, the local team will get in more trouble than you. To not wear the scarf in public is the Western equivalent of a woman wearing a thong bikini in a supermarket. Men For men, we advise to wear the following:fully enclosed, sturdy shoes (clipped in or not is optional)long, light weight trousers (no shorts)a long sleeve, light weight sports top. T-shirts or short sleeve are OK, but be mindful of sunburn.Scarves are optional, but offer good protection from the sun on the back of the neck. And Andrew (pictured above) is rocking it!Sunglasses, gloves and helmet. Women For women, we advise to wear the following:fully enclosed, sturdy shoes (clipped in or not is optional)long, light weight trousers (no shorts). Leggings (above are OK, with padded shorts over the top).a long sleeve, light weight top. It should be quite long, to cover the bum. Especially if you are wearing lycra cycling shorts. Short sleeve are OK, but be mindful of sunburn.Scarves are compulsory, they also offer good protection from the sun on the back of the neck. Sunglasses, gloves and helmet. Shopping Bazaars are almost everywhere. There is plenty of time for shopping in all the major cities we visit, if that’s what you’re interested in. Remember that it is a cash economy, so if you want to pick up some souvenirs, ensure you bring enough cash. Needless to say, the big ticket item to purchase is the famous Persian rug. There are many places to buy them along the way. Our best advise is to tell Hamed that this is what you are looking for and he’ll ensure that you find the places to sell to locals more than tourists. There are many carpet sellers around Esfahan and other bazaars that are very cunning and clever to strike up conversations in the main square with the plan to lure you back to their shop. They are not trying to rip you off or steal your money, the only thing they may steal though is your time if you’re not interested in buying a carpet.Other great items to purchase are plates (in Esfahan) and potentially backgammon and chess boards. All beautifully crafted and locally made. When I travel to Iran, I often come back with a huge assortment of dried spices. There are no problem bringing back dried foods into Australia and they are super cheap in the markets.In Iran, there is very little bargaining as most prices are set – this includes local markets where you are unlikely to be charged very much more than the locals. However, in the more tourist locations and with more tourist based items (rugs, carpets, plates etc), you should bargain. Speak to Hamed and the local team for advise on what a good price would be. Sleeping The hotels.In most places throughout the adventure, we stay in hotels. The tour is based on twin share. If you’ve booked as a couple, then technically speaking you should be married in order to share a room together. However, throughout much travel, we have never been asked to provide proof of this. It is more for conversational purposes only. If you’ve booked as a solo traveller, we will match you with a member of the same sex. You can upgrade to a have a private room throughout all hotels that we stay in for A$490. As much as possible we stay in historical hotels, with cultural relevance to the local area.Local homes.In some towns, as they are quite remote and off the beaten track, we will need to stay in local homes. This happens throughout the Zagros mountains on two occasions. In these instances, we rent the entire home. The family are sometimes around, but usually stay elsewhere for the evening. Think of it as an AirBnB experience, where we have the entire place. Often, these local homes do not have beds and we will need to sleep on the floor. The team will have foam mats for us to use, but it might be a good idea to bring a sleeping bag for your own comfort. Photography Iran is a beautiful place to photograph. And like anywhere else in the world, it should be carried out with respect to local culture. In essence, if you are going to take a photograph of a person, it is always polite to ask for their permission. They will tell you straight out if they do not want their photograph taken and it is important that you respect their decision. You may well find though that many locals will approach you and ask to have their photograph taken with you. In some places that we go, it feels like we are the attraction!Photographing children without the consent of the parents is against the Social Cycles Child Safety policy. As cute as local kids can be, don’t take photos of children without their parents around. It’s just creepy. Electricity & Charging ElectricityElectricity is 220V, 50Hz. Standard sockets throughout the country accommodate the Type C European-style 2-pin plugs Please bring your own adapter as we do not provide these – there are more details in the What to Pack section further on.Recharging BatteriesIf you can’t live without your devices (like me), it’s a good idea to bring a battery pack that you can re-charge when we’re out on the road. Each vehicle has a connector that plugs into the cigarette lighter, but it’s slow to charge and shouldn’t be relied on. And there’s only one! Bathrooms Toilets in Iran are generally Asian style squat toilets. However,all the hotel rooms we stay in have a Western style toilet and a private bathroom. Restaurants and local homes will all have squat toilets.If you’re not used to this style, it can be a little daunting at first. If you’re really not comfortable with this, or your knees just aren’t what they used to be, let us know in advance and we’ll bring along a bottomless chair to assist you.Toilets On The RoadWe provide a small trowel and plastic bags. You can either take the trowel and dig a small hole (in which you can leave the toilet paper and then re-cover with the soil) or place your toilet paper into the small bag and place the bag into the main rubbish. Do not burn the paper – arid conditions, a strong breeze and grassland do not make for a good mix! Water and soap will always be available for hand washing.Alternatively, it is common practice to use the facilities of a local house. Our local team will assist in finding a property and a family to assist. Be aware that it will be a squat style toilet and you will need to bring your own toilet paper.Toilet Paper The Asian style of toilet does not usually have toilet paper with it. The custom is to use water and your left hand to clean yourself. If this is the first time you’ve heard this, I’d imagine you might be squirming in your seat a little. However, it s commonly considered to be a cleaner method than the Western style. Think of it like this…. if you were sitting in a park and as you sat down on the grass, you put your hand in dog shit. Would you A) wash your hands with soap and water or B) wipe your hand clean with dry paper. It’s obvious, but just another way of thinking. If you’re not comfortable washing, then you’re welcome to bring toilet paper with you.LaundryWhen we have spare day in the city (Kashan, Esfahan & Shiraz) the hotels will get your laundry done for you provided you give them enough time (24 hours). In all other places, you might want to clean your items in the hotel sink. It’s worth bringing about 3 sets of cycling clothes to give you enough clothes for it to be not too much of an issue. Vaccinations Please consult your doctor or local travel clinic for any required vaccinations – although there are no compulsory vaccinations, typhoid/tetanus/infectious hepatitis and polio are recommended. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain proper and detailed medical advice prior to travel.Details of recommended health requirements for Iran are available on www.traveldoctor.info andwww.mdtravelhealth.com, as together they highlight vaccinations recommended according to length and type of trip. 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