Domestic travel inside Iran: you can do it independently
For the tourist, travel inside Iran is surprisingly inexpensive and efficient. You can get to almost any major destination by bus, train, airplane and private car hire. Because of the favorable currency exchange, the cost is very low compared to the neighboring countries and certainly much less than travel in Europe.
Travel by Train in Iran
On this trip – returning to our home in Mashhad from Tehran – Saeideh and I picked travel by train because we were hauling a lot of luggage on arrival from Europe.
We chose to ride the train in Iran to get some much needed rest. So we picked a private sleeper – which sleeps four passengers – on a train line known as Fadak. It bills itself as a “luxury” line to business travelers.
Other train services in Iran include the Zendegi train service, the Ghazaal Bonyad train, the Raja Green Ploor train and the Noor train.
Cost of domestic travel in Iran
For the tourists spending Euros and Dollars, travel inside Iran is inexpensive. Our private sleeper for four costs about $60 USD for the 10-hour trip. Wi-Fi, dinner and breakfast were included. We would have spent about the same amount for two plane tickets that would have taken about an hour and ten minutes to reach Mashhad from Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport.
Travel through Tehran Railway Station
Tehran Railway Station was built in 1930 by German engineers and heavily renovated since.
Getting to Tehran Railway Station from Tehran’s two airports
The station is about an hour’s trip by taxi from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in the south of Tehran (see map below) and Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport, which is used mostly for domestic travel.
Getting to the Tehran railway station by Metro
An excellent option for travel to Tehran’s railway station is by metro. Why? Because of Tehran’s horrendous pollution of traffic. Depending on the time of the day, you can save a lot of time and the injury to your lungs by travel via metro in Tehran. The railway station is immediately next to the Rah Ahan Metro Station.
Buying train tickets in Iran (not easy!)
In most of the civilized world, buying a train ticket online using the English language is relatively easy. I absolutely love Germany‘s excellent Bahn.de service.
This aspect of civilization, I am sorry to say, has not reached Iran as of 2023. Check back in a couple of centuries. We had a fortune of calling a friend who bought our tickets from a friend who owns a travel agency and then emailed us the pdf’s.
A search for the official Iranian railways website sent me to a bizarre link that is missing timetables and prices! You can’t even reach this website from outside of Iran. There is an unofficial website that has some useful tools like a dynamic map of the train routes.
Iranian friends say they had good luck buying train tickets at Raja.ir. It has an English version. However, this website might not be accessible from your location outside Iran, as is the case with many .ir websites.
Inside the Tehran train Station
The station is modern and comfortable. There are stores offering food, electronics, etc. The decorations – like the diorama above – include references to the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and the role of trains in transporting the troops to and from the front lines in the west of Iran.
The comforts of train tours in Iran
I found this train trip less stressful than travel by plane. For one thing, the security was lax. No body or luggage searches. No waiting in lines for security and the boarding of the train. Come to think of it, they didn’t even check for identification.
Help with luggage at Tehran Railway Station
There was plenty of help with the luggage. Friendly porters actively compete for your business. Tipping is negotiable, as is everything else in Iran. We paid 25,000 Tomans (about 50 cents USD) to the station to “register” with our porter. We tipped him another 50k (about $1 USD) after he hauled our luggage into our cabin.
Sleeper cabin of the “Fadak” train in Iran
The sleeper cabin was clean and comfortable. Came with two television monitors, clean blanket and pillow covers.
The food on Iran’s “Fadak” train line
We were served two meals, served by the same female host who greeted us at boarding.
Dinner was chicken and breakfast was a sandwich. I would say the quality was about the same as the food on Iranian domestic airlines – which unlike the rest of the world still serve free food on most domestic flights.
Seeing the sights during our train trip from Tehran
The train line between Tehran and Mashhad takes the much shorter desert route – unlike the much prettier northern route via the Caspian Sea region.
When there was light outside, we saw mostly arid flat land, occasionally flanked by mountains in the horizon.
I still found watching the scenery fascinating.
The WiFi situation on this Iranian train
Our Fadak train ticket to Mashhad came with 1 gig of WiFi data. The quality of the wireless connection was ok. I was able to watch videos online. Our host warned that the WiFi drops around Semnan region. To my dismay, I was NOT able to attend an important online meeting on Zoom. I suspect the train’s Internet system is filtering the Zoom connections.
Arrival (and a surprise) at Mashhad Railway Station
Our morning arrival in Mashhad came with a shock: we arrived an hour early! Early arrival for anything, much less public transportation, does NOT occur often in Iran! I’ve never ever arrived on time traveling by any means in Iran, even in my own car. So not sure how our early arrival occurred. Perhaps, I don’t know, some flying alien craft transported the train while we were sleeping? That kind of a miracle is what is needed to be ahead of schedule doing anything in Iran.