dealchecker's guide to Tehran

Tehran, with a population of around 14 million, is the biggest city in Iran and one of the largest cities in the Middle East, comparable in size with London and New York. The city is very lively in days, and the population is very young. There are many quality museums to visit and plentiful of good restaurants to dine in. People are very friendly especially towards foreigners, and the majority of the young generation have a good command of English.

The best feature of the city is the magnificent Alborz mountain range on the northern side, covered with snow usually from November to May. The worst feature of the city is air pollution due to bad traffic jam and old and unefficient motor vehicles. If you're planning to stay for more than a few days, do not use your soft contact lenses, there is the possibility of eye infection. The air pollution becomes severe during very hot (July-August) or very cold (January-February) months. There are 4 distinct seasons in the city, with plenty of rain in early spring and autumn, and good snow in winters.

The architecture of the city is not particularly attractive, especially comparing to other Iranian cities such as Esfahan, Shiraz and Yazd. Tehran has over grown in the past decades due to mass immigration from rural areas. Most of the city has a very mid-60's industrialised look and feel. Only very little examples of the classical architecture of the city is still visible today, of which the Grand Bazaar and Golestan Palace and surrounding area are the best examples. The northern part of the city is the posh part, with bigger houses, villas and nice gardens.

Driving in Tehran is extremely hectic, only hire a car if you are sure you will manage it!

There are plenty of good parks in Tehran, especially in the northern and more posh parts of the city, including Jamshidiyeh, Mellat, and Gheytariyeh. Apart from restaurants, thousands of fast food shops could be found all over the city, but only buy from them after asking a local.

One of the best things about Tehran is that it is easy to escape to the countryside. Towns such as Lavasan and Fasham located over the mountains with clear fresh air are less than an hour drive. Three major ski pistes, Shemshak, Dizin and Darbandsar are just two hours drive from the capital. There are hotels and challets that would accommodate tourists all the year.

Tehran is very lively during day time. People socialise in cafés, parks, indoor and outdoor tea houses and restaurants. Unfortunately Tehran has got no night life as such, the city shuts down after midnight, although there is still traffic in major streets and motorways.

The official and most popular language in Tehran is Persian (which is called Farsi or Parsi in Persian). Many people especially the younger ones are able to communicate in English. Iran has its own calendar system, the Iranian/Persian calendar system which is also called 'Jalali'. This is the calendar used in daily life and business. Iranians are familiar with the western calendar system, but it is not used except when doing business with the west.