After almost 2 months together, I finally said goodbye to the MAdventure group and headed off on my own – catching the train from Yazd to Tehran. You can’t actually buy train tickets from outside of Iran, yet all the recommendations say to book it in advance, so I was very thankful that I managed to get a ticket, arranged through the hostel we stayed at in Esfahan.
Because it was an awesome experience! The train was meant to leave Yazd at 5am but was about 40 minutes late. Not to worry – when I finally got on – I was shown to a women’s compartment that had 6 beds in it (3 high in a bunk arrangement) – the bottom 2 of which could convert into seats. I was provided with sheets and a blanket and, given I’d had very little sleep due to farewells the night before and the early departure of the train, I made up the top bunk and promptly fell asleep for most of the 7-hour trip!
The compartment also had curtains, so we could ditch the headscarves for the journey, and they provided us with snacks and water as well!
Add in the fact that the train was air-conditioned – it was absolutely heaven! I did spare a thought of my MAdventure companions who were at that moment back in the un-airconditioned truck in the incredible heat overlanding it towards the border with Turkey.
Arrived in Tehran and decided to catch the Metro to the hostel. It was incredibly simple to do (Tehran’s Metro is very easy to figure out and very, very cheap) and an interesting experience to be sure!
For a start, as I waited on the platform of the station I was yet again confronted with the segregation of men and women in Iran. The front carriage and rear carriage of the train were reserved for women only, with plenty of signs around, and colour-coded seats on the platform making sure that this is clear.
For the first leg of the journey, I boarded the rear carriage but could see through to the internal barrier that separated the women’s section from the men’s.
Given I had to change lines 3 times, I eventually figured out that women actually were allowed in the men’s carriages (though men were not allowed in those reserved for women), however, few took up that opportunity. I actually joined a few women in the men’s carriages on the last leg of the journey, and so got to notice the obvious difference between what the “sellers” were offering the passengers. In the women’s carriage, they were selling wool for knitting, kids clothes and hair accessories. In the men’s section, they were offering electronics and super-glue. Not stereotypical at all!
The other cool thing about the Tehran metro is how each station is decorated. They are amazing!
I only had about a day and a half in Tehran, which turned out to be more than fine. To be honest, Tehran is kind of boring – with very little of interest to visitors. In the end, I couldn’t be arsed walking around in the heat, so I only visited City Park (Park-e Shahr) in the evening (which was close to the hostel and lovely) and explored the Grand Baazar during the next day.
Even with these two small outings, I have to admit, I was feared for my life. Not from any terrorist threat or anything like that – but oh my God the traffic! It is insane!! I have never seen so many motorbikes in my life (though I admit I’ve not been to SE Asia yet), obeying traffic lights (if they are working) seems to be optional – and Tehran is a city on the move! Here are my tips for how to cross the road in Tehran:
- If at all possible, wait for an Iranian to join you and cross with them
- Failing that:
- Wait for quarter of a gap in the traffic (there won’t be a gap or a half gap)
- Eyeball the oncoming traffic – really stare them down
- Screw up every ounce of courage you have and stride boldly out onto the road
- Whatever you do, don’t change direction or speed. That will confuse them and you WILL get run over. Let them swerve around you
And to be honest, you can probably skip Tehran (or get out of there as fast as possible) if you visit Iran 😊