Traffic and transport
Although Iran is a child-loving place, there are some practical obstacles that you will have to think about and plan for when traveling with children in Iran. The first thing that comes to mind is transportation and traffic. Although it has improved a lot over the last years, traffic in Iran is still unpredictable and hectic, and city driving is especially crazy.
To keep your child safe when walking in cities, you must take care; always walk on sidewalks, avoid zebra crossings and instead use the pedestrian bridges when crossing big roads even if it means taking detours, and look both ways even on one-way roads. When walking on sidewalks, make sure that your child walks on the inside and that you walk on the outside close to the street so that your child does not face the cars. Be careful though, since sidewalks at times also are used by motorbikes that want to avoid congestion.
Although buses in Iran are great for solo travelers, I recommend traveling by air or train when traveling long distances with children. Our children easily get bored sitting in a bus for hours. Roadside service stations are scarce and not always up to expected standards, although new rest places are opening up every day. If you decide to travel by car, bring your own car-seat for your child and make sure the car has seatbelts for the back seats as well. The best option is of course to get your own private driver to take you around; it is relatively affordable, you can make as many stops as you like, and tourist drivers are oftentimes also tour leaders.
What to pack for your child
When planning what to pack for your child, remember that Iran is a vast country and that temperatures can vary greatly from season to season and from one place to another. During the hot summer months, I dress my children in light comfortable cotton clothes with long sleeves as well as a cap to protect against the strong sun. If we are planning on visiting mountains or the desert, I also bring a light jacket or sweater as it may get cold, especially in the night.
Another tip is to bring a travel neck pouch for your child to wear around her neck under her shirt wherein you can place the address and contact details to your hotel.
If you are traveling with a toddler, please bear in mind that diapers, baby formula and some medication may not be widely available so it is advisable that you bring your own, especially if you are keen on using a specific brand. Also, bring your own baby food when leaving big cities. Finally, do not bring a stroller, but rather a Baby Björn, since the latter is easier to move around with.
Socioeconomic and cultural differences
For someone who is only used to a Western way of living, traveling in Iran with children, especially in more rural areas, may evoke misunderstandings due to socioeconomic and cultural differences. Strangers may approach and compliment your child, pinch her cheek, touch her hair, give her a kiss on the cheek or offer her sweets. You may also be requested to pose in photos with strangers. People do this out of interest and as a way to be friendly and hospitable. It is of course up to you how you want to deal with these types of situations. It is however advisable to prepare yourself and your child for these types of situations as well as to always be polite yet firm if you feel uncomfortable and do not want strangers to come too close to you or your child.
In general, when my daughters were younger, I avoided places where there were crowds of people. As exciting as the Tehran Grand Bazaar atmosphere is, it can get a bit overwhelming with small children and I was always afraid that they would get separated from me. If you find yourself in a place packed with people, make sure to never let go of your child’s hand.
In the traumatic event of a missing child, ask people around for help and ask someone to call the police. As a precaution, always keep the name and contact details of your hotel written down on a piece of paper in your child’s pocket or written down directly on your child’s arm.
Traveling with toddlers
If you are traveling with toddlers, you will find public baby-changing facilities in shopping malls as well as in larger bus, metro and train terminals and stations. These facilities are however only for women; fathers who need to change their baby’s diapers are not allowed. Mothers can also use the ladies’ section of mosques and prayer rooms to breastfeed and change their toddlers. Breastfeeding in public is relatively uncommon and if you need to breastfeed your baby, it is advisable that you cover yourself when doing so.