Although all provinces have their own dishes and specialties, rice is the staple diet. It is normally eaten as an accompaniment to a variety of kebabs or stews, made with different vegetables, fruits, cereals, and meats. Apart from soft fizzy drinks, some like to drink “Doogh” with their food. It is made from yoghurt mixed in water or tonic water and a little salt.
Tea brewed for a few minutes, is served black and in small glasses, generally with sugar cubes. Coffee, served in less traditional places, is not as popular. Fresh fruits are plentiful and very tasty and an inseparable part of Iranian hospitality.
It is generally seen as inappropriate for men and women to display affection in public (even handshaking).
During Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, it is strongly recommended not to eat, drink, or smoke in public from sunrise to sunset. Hotels cater for travelers who can eat there as normal. Tipping in restaurants is quite customary, normally about 10% of the bill.
The Islamic dress code requires that ladies wear loose, medium-length coats, and headscarves. Legs must be covered by trousers or tights/stockings. Observing this dress code is necessary at all times in public areas. Men should bear in mind that wearing shorts and sleeveless tops in public is unacceptable.
Major currencies and travelers’ checks are accepted in hotels and most shops and can be exchanged in banks.
Credit cards are not widely used, except in some shops in Isfahan.
Bringing certain items into Iran is strictly prohibited. Alcoholic drinks, drugs, gambling equipment and X-rated films and publications are particularly proscribed.
On leaving Iran, please remember that taking out antiques and carpets of over 20 m2 is prohibited. There is no limit on export of handicrafts. Any amount of caviar bought from a duty free shop can be taken out.
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