Couchsurfing In Iran

12 Top Tips For An Unreal Backpacking Experience

In case you didn’t already know, Couchsurfing is absolutely massive in Iran. With more than 40,000 hosts in Tehran alone, the odds of getting an awesome host are pretty high. All you need are these 12 tips about Couchsurfing in Iran and you’ll be good to go!

Couchsurfing is a great way for independent backpackers to meet cool locals wherever you go. It’s a unique chance to peek into a new culture and maybe even get some once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences. On top of that, Iranians are known as the most hospitable people in the world. What we’re trying to say here is that if you go backpacking in Iran, you should definitely give Couchsurfing a go.

Wait – Isn’t Couchsurfing Illegal In Iran?

Officially? Yes, Couchsurfing is banned in Iran.

Now, take a deep breath and stay with me. In real life, things are nowhere near as scary as they may sound. Yes, Couchsurfing is forbidden in Iran, but so are many other things. Wearing a tie, women riding bicycles, singing in the streets, smoking weed. Does this mean that nobody gets high in Iran? No, it does not. It means that Iranians know how to be discreet about it.

Further Reading: 82 things to know before you travel to Iran

The same applies with Couchsurfing in Iran. Be cool and you won’t have any issues. There’s no need to be paranoid, but you also shouldn’t tell just anybody that you’re staying with a Couchsurfing host. If asked by the police, say you’re staying in a hostel. Mentioning your host by name can potentially mean trouble for your host, which is the last thing you want to happen. You won’t rot away in an Iranian prison if you do “get caught”, but you might face some unpleasant questioning.

Liam sleeping on the lawn couchsurfing in Esfahan

Tips For Couchsurfing In Iran

1. Get An Iranian SIM Card

The thing about fast Wi-Fi in Iran is that it’s not a thing. Almost all tourist cafes and hostels actually have Wi-Fi, but the connections are generally frustratingly slow. In terms of Couchsurfing in Iran, this means that communication with hosts can be difficult.

To avoid constantly hunting for decent Wi-Fi, buy an Iranian SIM card with data for your smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone, well… Carrier pigeons might still be faster than Iranian internet. These cards are inexpensive and will save you a lot of money and energy (and missed messages). We got one from Irancell for $8 which lasted throughout our time in Iran.

Related post: 17 tips to make backpacking in Iran cheap as chips

Another bonus of getting an Iranian SIM card is that many hosts prefer replying via WhatsApp, Telegram (Iranian WhatsApp), and similar messaging applications for smartphones.

Lady in traditional clothes of Abyaneh

2. Be Careful – Iranians Are Extremely Hospitable!

Careful? Isn’t hospitality a good thing?

As already mentioned, Iranians are world-famous for their hospitality. And for once, there’s something true about the fuss. Iranians are honestly some of the most welcoming and warm people we’ve ever met on our travels. The best part is that nothing but kindness is expected in return.

Now, while this is all nice and refreshing, it does have some consequences when you write Couchsurfing requests. Chances are you’ll be an Iranian Couchsurfing champion after reading this post. Heaps of hosts will accept you, so you might want to consider the amount of requests you send out. Start small – send out 3-4 and see how it goes.

3. Your Host Will Probably Want To Hang Out

Another result of this incredible hospitality is that many Iranian hosts like to hang out with their surfers – and they expect you to want to, too. Consider it a luxury to have a host that actually wants to get to know you and tell you about his life.

If possible, try not to lock yourself in on too many plans before meeting your host. Chances are he’s thought of things you can do together and will be surprised if you’re already booked out.

Further Reading: Couchsurfing under the stars in the Moroccan Sahara

Game of chess in a park of Tehran, Iran

4. Tell Your Host It’s Okay If He Has Other Stuff To Do

Now, there’s a fine line between hanging out because you’re being polite and hanging out because you actually have the time to do so. Hosting is a pleasure to many Iranians and they’ll do anything in their power to make sure their guests are happy. Did you mention you like pancakes? Let’s go to the best pancake place on the other end of town. Oh, you like biking? My cousin has a spare bike, I’ll call him so you can use it.

It’s your responsibility as a cool guest to make sure your host knows he’s not obliged to entertain you all the time. Tell him you don’t mind spending time alone. Otherwise, your Iranian Couchsurfing host will put you and your needs above his own.

5. Don’t Worry About The Language Barrier

If you’re worried about how in the world you’re going to explain all this to your Farsi-speaking host, don’t be. Time and time again, we were surprised at how well Iranians spoke English. In fact, we found it easier to communicate in Iran than in some countries in Europe. There’s always a decent English-speaker around to jump to the rescue when you’re not being understood.

Further Reading: Our Budget & Costs While Backpacking In Iran

Getting some Iranian street food in Kashan

6. Get A VPN

Many Western websites are blocked in Iran, including some of the fun ones like Facebook, Youtube, and most news portals. Luckily, Couchsurfing has been spared, but if you want to login to your CS account via Facebook, you’ll have a problem. But before you start hyperventilating, here’s the good news: there’s a way around this big bad firewall!

That way is called a VPN or virtual private network. With one of these bad boys on your phone or computer, you’ll be able to access Couchsurfing without any problems. We used PureVPN while we were backpacking in Iran and still use it to this day.

Further reading: How to access the internet in Iran – The best VPN for Iran

7. Say Yes!

Simple as that – whichever activity your host suggests, go for it. Iran is one of those rare countries where you can let down your guard and not worry about ulterior motives. Iranians talk to you because they want to get to know you (or practice their English), not because they want to persuade you to buy a souvenir. Sure, there are occasional exceptions, but generally speaking, Iran is a safe haven.

Go for tea at some distant relative’s house, take a scooter across town to see your host’s favorite mosque, cook together, anything – it’s worth it!

8. Creating A Public Trip Creates Mixed Results

When you create a public trip on Couchsurfing, you upload your travel itinerary so hosts can contact you with suggestions and couch offers. We’d heard this was a popular method to find hosts when Couchsurfing in Iran, so we thought: what the heck. We’d never done it before, but it’s a fun way to shake things up a bit.

We got plenty of answers, but none were useful. Some offered professional tours, some were renting out rooms for money, and some offered couches very far from the places we were actually going. In the end, we deleted the public trip and went back to writing individual requests like usual. We later met several backpackers that had the same experience. It can’t hurt to try, but be prepared to switch tactic.

Mariana in the Pink Mosque of Shiraz

9. Make Sure Your Profile Is Complete

Some Iranian hosts write they’ll only accept guests with complete Couchsurfing profiles. This basically means profiles that have detailed bios plus a few pictures and references. Take time to give your profile a facelift if you think it needs it. There’s plenty of hosts that are less strict, but again – it can’t hurt to make your profile topnotch.

10. You Might Not Sleep In A Bed

To make your Couchsurfing experience in Iran even more awesome, there’s a chance you won’t be sleeping in a bed. It’s not unusual to be offered a mattress on the floor which is not to say your host can’t afford a bed. Culturally, it’s just common to sit and sleep on mattresses instead of using chairs and beds. Best part? You finally get an excuse to eat in bed!

Golestan Palace in Tehran Iran

11. Bring A Gift

This is a fun thing to do no matter which country you’re in. Surprise this super nice person who has invited you into his home by showing up with some sort of present. It can be anything – chocolate, a unicorn, basically whatever you think your host might like. They won’t be expecting anything from you, which means your effort will be greatly appreciated.

Gifts are an extra good idea if you’re staying with a family. Iranians are family people with a capital F, so giving some candy or a little, inexpensive toy to the kids will be a big hit. The kids will love you for it and the adults will see that you’re trying to be a good guest.

When Couchsurfing in Iran, we gave our hosts some koala teddy bears from Australia. It wasn’t anything special, but those little fluffy guys are now a fun memory for our hosts.

12. Don’t Plan Long-Term

This was perhaps our biggest initial mistake. We sent our first couch requests about 3 weeks prior to our trip, and that didn’t work out particularly well. Nobody accepted and we were confused. When we Couchsurfed in Eastern Europe over the summer, writing our hosts a few weeks in advance had been an excellent tactic.

As it turns out, many Iranian hosts are not big on long-term planning. Giving 4-5 days’ notice is a more efficient method and should increase your chances considerably. We once wrote two hosts in Esfahan with 1 day’s notice and got a yes within an hour.

Time To Go Couchsurfing In Iran!

That’s it! You now know everything there is to know about Couchsurfing in Iran. You’re officially ready to start tip-tapping away in search of awesome hosts and experiences!

What is your experience with using Couchsurfing on your travels? Did we forget something in the post? Or do you just want to say hola? Drop us a line – we love making new friends!

Disclosure: there are affiliate links in this article. This means we get a small commission from the company if you buy their product at no extra cost to youWe only use affiliate links for companies/products we have personally used. Just think of it as if you were buying us a beer to thank us for the work we’ve put into this post.

By |2017-06-11T12:37:17+00:00March 6th, 2017|Categories: Accommodation On The Road, Advice, Iran, Middle East|Tags: |13 Comments

About the Author:

Mid-twenties American Studies and Spanish major who hit the road in 2013. A Danish viking with an Argentinian lust for life who loves eating cake, learning languages and riding bikes in summer. Also has terrible hand-eye coordination and struggles with spicy food.

13 Comments

  1. Graham Askey March 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Buy beer or wine? Where did you manage to find shops selling alcohol?

  2. Liam & Mariana Ramblings March 12, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    Sorry, Graham that alcohol or beer gift suggestion is meant as a general idea when Couchsurfing. Sadly, the alcohol prospects in Iran are as you would imagine next to none. You can get it on the “black market”, but a local would need to point you in its direction.

  3. Graham March 12, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    That’s why I mentioned it. The only place I found to legally buy alcohol was a Christian Armenian restaurant in Tehran, where they have security to keep Muslims out and I doubt if they’d let you walk out with a bottle anyway. Not sure that suggesting to people to buy illegal drinks in a place like Iran is particularly appropriate either. I’d stick to cakes if I were you

  4. Ann-Christin Amberg April 3, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    The pictures look so awesome! Great post 🙂

  5. John Dillon April 5, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Great tips thanks! But your report leaves me somewhat puzzled: my CS host in Tehran whom I’m meeting this weekend for the 3rd time tells me today (5th April) that the CS website is now blocked! Have you heard of this?

  6. Liam & Mariana Ramblings April 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    No we hadn’t heard this!?!? While we were in Iran it wasn’t blocked and we checked with our Iranian friend a few weeks ago to double check it was still all good. That’s sad to hear it’s now blocked, but you can always get around the firewall if you get a VPN. Have a read of our guide to the best VPN for Iran we wrote earlier this year.

  7. Diana June 12, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    Hi! I will spend 2 weeks in Iran in October and I am planning to stay with CS hosts for the whole trip. I plan to apply for VOA at the airport. Now, I know I shouldn’t say “hi, I’m going to couchsurf” when at the border control, but do you think it’s OK if instead of a hostel reservation I present a list of the hosts (with names and phone numbers), saying they are my local friends? Maybe ask them to write a short letter in Farsi saying “I am going to host this person in this city for these days”? Also, I will arrive at around 3am, so maybe my hosts would not be very happy to receive a phone call in th middle of the night 🙂
    Thanks!
    Diana

  8. Liam & Mariana Ramblings June 13, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Hey Diana,
    I don’t think it would be advisable to give any indication that you’ll be couchsurfing. I would book a hostel/hotel for you first night and give that information when you’re getting the VOA. Write the cost off to save waking your hosts up at 3am, getting them in trouble or even worse not getting into the country!

  9. Tina Wardle December 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    I will be arriving at Isfahan Airport at around 3 o’clock in the morning on 27 December and will have a copy of an email from a friend in Isfahan inviting me to stay with his family for two weeks, with his name, mobile number, address, and identity card number. I will be traveling on an Italian passport. Should l be OK to get visa on arrival?

  10. Tina Wardle December 22, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    I would be really grateful for any information you can give me. Thanking everybody in advance.

  11. Tina Wardle December 22, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I found this website only a few minutes ago, and hope someone can help me.

  12. Amirhossein zargaran March 22, 2018 at 4:53 am

    I am an Iranian host and what you wrote is 100% true!

  13. Farzad Mehrpour June 4, 2018 at 3:12 am

    Your post describes hosting in Iran totally correctly. Btw, I can host whoever is planning to come to Tehran. You can find me by searching simply “Farzad Mehrpour” in cs. Best wishes to everyone who plans to come to my country!

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