What To Wear In Iran As A Female Backpacker

In this post, we’ll walk you through what to wear in Iran as a female, give ideas for outfits and clear up in which situations you can avoid the dress code.

Trying to find an outfit for backpacking in Iran doesn’t need to be difficult. Heck, you probably have what you need in your wardrobe already. The rules might seem a bit daunting, but in reality, it’s all pretty straightforward.

By law, all women in Iran are required to cover their hair, arms, legs and body shape when in public. 

Although the dress code for tourists is slightly more flexible, there’s no way around covering up. The rules apply literally from the moment you step foot on Iranian soil to the moment you leave.

Get ready to meet your new best friend the hijab!

Mariana and anti US street art

How Iranian Women Dress

Iranian women themselves follow the official dress code in very different ways. The more conservative women wear black chadors and sometimes even gloves, but we personally never saw anyone wearing burkas.

Hijab: headscarf that covers neck and shoulders

Chador: long robe that covers the entire body but leaves the face exposed

Burka: long robe that covers the entire body and face, only leaving a slit to see through

On the other end of the scale, there’s plenty of Iranian women that just wear a hijab and a loose shirt or jacket. Their outfits are like anything you’d see in Western cities, except they have a little Iranian twist.

Mariana In a Chador

Tourists do need to wear chadors at some holy places, but they’re supplied at the entrance

How Female Tourists Should Dress In Iran

The difficulty level for tourists is pretty manageable, so there’s no need to start looking for your nearest chador store. All you have to do as a female tourist in Iran is cover your hair and body shape.

Covering Your Hair

The most common way to cover your hair is to wear a hijab, but don’t worry, it doesn’t need to stick to your head like a swimming cap. It’s okay to pull it back so it reveals 5-ish centimetres of your hair, just make sure it doesn’t slide off.

Make sure you try all of this glorious Persian food while backpacking through Iran

Choosing A Hijab

Here are a few factors to keep in mind for your first venture into the world of hijabs:

Fabric: light fabrics are better because they let in more air and look less clumsy than fluffy winter scarves. I can say from personal experience that it’s a fine line between looking like a local and looking like a Russian babushka all tucked in for the winter.

Top tip: use a few pins to keep your scarf in place

Print: it goes without saying that you should steer clear of prints that involve nudity or blasphemy. Profanity and religious symbols are probably not the best choice either.

Colour: go nuts! You’ve got free rein when it comes to colour, but you might want to factor in the time of year you’re going. Dark colours can turn that fancy outfit into a sweaty death trap under the summer sun.

Can you guess which is Mariana?

If you’re wearing the same as a local, your outfit can’t be that bad

Covering Your Body Shape

This means not showing cleavage, avoiding tight shirts and covering the shape of your bum. Tight pants and even leggings are actually fine, but they can’t go higher than your ankle. Showing your feet in open sandals is fine, too.

Best Way To Cover Your Body Shape

Here, the main challenge is to find a garment that will be comfortable in both hot and cold weather. The easiest option is to wear something thin and then add layers on top when necessary.

Planning a trip to Iran? Make sure you know how to get your Iranian visa on arrival

The garment itself should be loose, long-sleeved and without cleavage. As long as you’ve got that covered, anything will basically do. Most women wear tunics or plain dresses, but your boyfriend’s oversized lumberjack shirt will also do the trick.

Before our trip to Iran, I dropped by H&M and got myself a simple, black €20 tunic. I wore it everyday on top of my normal clothes and it worked like a charm. On hot days, I even just wore a bra underneath. Obviously, the key to success is to make sure the fabric isn’t transparent in the slightest.

I wore this wonderful outfit for 2 weeks straight!

Where Can You Take Off Your Iranian Outfit?

You can unleash your inner L’Oreal commercial and take off your hijab in three kinds of places.

Private Homes

At home, Iranian women take off their outfit when all the men present are close friends or relatives. If you’re the only woman in the house, you should always check with your host if it’s okay to remove your hijab. If there are local women, you should just follow their example.

ATMs don’t work for foreigners in Iran. Make sure you know how much to budget.

Remote Areas With No Locals Around

As long as you’re sure you won’t be bumping into any locals, it’s okay to get comfortable while hiking. It’s a good idea to have your outfit handy just in case, though.

Hostels And Guesthouses

The last place, and the one you’ll probably be spending the most time in is hostels and guesthouses. Feel free to take off your hijab and tunic as long as there’s only foreigners or relaxed locals around (apart from the staff of course).

Mariana without hijab

Hijab-less hanging with one of our awesome couch hosts

What I Felt About Wearing The Hijab

Honestly, most of the time I didn’t even realise that I was wearing a hijab. I guess there was also a novelty factor to it, which made it fun for the first few days. As an added bonus, there’s no such thing as a bad hair day when you’re wearing a headscarf. Pretty nice!

Towards the end of our trip, though, I was getting a bit over having to deal with the hijab. It would come off when I bent down and it was in the way when I was wearing a backpack. I’d say this is a common feeling as other Western women were celebrating as they took off their hijabs in the queue for our flight out of Iran.

Further Reading

How To Get The Iranian Visa On Arrival (VOA) – It’s Easy As Pie! In this post, we'll go through the requirements for getting the Iranian visa on arrival. This includes who can get it and who can't, what you'll need ...
Our Budget and Costs For Backpacking In Iran This post is a rundown of how much backpackers should budget when they travel to Iran. It contains average prices for food, transport, "fun stuff", ac...
How To Access The Internet In Iran – Finding The Best VPN Internet in Iran is a little tricky. Find out what a VPN is, why it's a good idea to access the internet in Iran through a VPN and which VPN is best V...
Should I Travel To Iran? 82 Things To Know Before You Go Are you asking yourself: "should I travel to Iran?" Then look no further amigo - you've found the ultimate list of things to know before you go.Tr...
Abyaneh Village Iran – A Hillside Time Machine An Abyaneh village tour is one of the best things you can do in Kashan! Find everything you need to know about doing it independently or with a tour r...
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 aweso...
By | 2017-01-11T15:53:06+00:00 December 20th, 2016|Categories: Female Travel, Guide, Iran, Middle East|10 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.

10 Comments

  1. flying kebab January 4, 2017 at 8:20 am

    amazing as usual neniwis, Inshallah.

  2. TogetherInThailand January 4, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    If you fly Iran air (from a European airport for example), you will have to start wearing the hijab when you are about to get on the plane. I can’t agree with you that I didn’t realize that I was wearing the hijab, it was very noticeable in the summer heat at the time I visited! Admittedly, I had to be reminded by my family to wear it on several occasions, as I would start to walk outside forgetting this mandatory step!

  3. Mariana January 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

    Haha thanks a lot señor flying kebab, enshallah! 😉

  4. Mariana January 6, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Haha fair enough, we went during winter and the hijab was nice and warm back then. Summer might be slightly different 😳😉 Thanks so much for the Iran Air tip, that’s definitely important! 😊

  5. Dordaneh January 23, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    Interesting article about women’s outfit in Iran. So, do you miss Iranian outfit? 🙂

  6. Mariana February 6, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Glad you found the post interesting! As for the Iranian outfit I’ll be honest and say I’m not missing it too much haha 🙂

  7. clarissa ferreira July 3, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    That whats super usefull! Will travelling to Iran in August and am already thinking about what to take… Thanks!

  8. Sophie July 8, 2017 at 4:24 am

    Where did you find your oversized shirt….. ? It seems very light. Off to iran in a few weeks. Hot weather ahead…

  9. Mariana August 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Sophie! I got my shirt from H&M in November last year and it cost me less than $20. And your observation is spot on, it was nice and light which is exactly what you want when Iranian summer kicks in 🙂 We hope you have an awesome time in Iran!

  10. Mariana August 3, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Clarissa! We’re stoked you found our little guide useful – it can be a little tricky figuring out how to dress appropriately in Iran, so we’re more than happy to help out. If you have any further questions hit us up, and if not, have an awesome time in Iran! 🙂

Leave A Comment