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Travelling to Iran: What to Wear?

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Last updated Aug 4, 2019 @ 10:11 pm [clear h=10]

Having a clothing strategy for Iran is as important as having flights booked or some sort of accommodation pre-arranged.

It’s just one of the main parts of the planning process. Coming from a non-Islamic country, it can feel daunting to try to nail the right technique of covering yourself up in a proper way.

In this post I’m going to share the strategy that I used for my 2 week trip around Iran. I did quite a lot of research with books (like Lonely Planet – they always know), online resources and other female bloggers’ posts. And in the end, I tested it out!

TravelGeekery is no fashion blog. No pretty poses in the newest fashion trends. But when it comes to travel, we often know what we’re doing! The response to my post about What to Wear in Morocco has been tremendous. So I hope you’ll like this one too :)

Hijabs and chadors
Sale of hijabs and chadors – you don’t need to wear such clothing, though!

Main pieces of clothing for a summer trip to Iran

You might have noticed there’s no post about packing tips here on TravelGeekery. It’s for a reason! I’m still fighting with it myself. Unfortunately I’m hardwired with the mindset that If I don’t need it, I’ll pack it anyway, what if I’ll need it?

But getting there! And the trip to Iran was a great test to my skills.

I chose the following pieces to take on the trip with me:

Of these staples, I created over 10 different combinations. Enough to last 2 weeks. Not that you need a different outfit each day, though! I could have easily gotten by with removing (at least) the following items: 1 scarf, leggings, 1 tunic and perhaps even the knee-long dress.

iran-bound flight – how to dress?

You’re quite free to choose. But out of respect, you should be wearing Iran appropriate clothes already on the flight there. However, it’s enough to put the headscarf on only once you land in Iran.

In front of the Freedom Tower in Tehran
Loving the trip and posing in front of the Freedom Tower in Tehran
Jumping in a mosque in Shiraz, Iran
I’m not sure if you can jump in mosques, but I needed a jumping photo!
Beautiful gardens in Esfahan, iran
Some of the gardens we saw were beautiful! Like these in Esfahan
Beautiful colorful garden in Shiraz, Yazd
Another beautiful colorful garden, this time in Shiraz

What needs to be covered in Iran

Generally speaking: no hair, no cleavage, no shoulders or upper arms, no legs above the ankles.

Leggings are ok as long as you have a tunic/dress/shirt covering you up at least to your mid-thighs. If you follow these simple rules, you’ll be fine.

Men have it simpler – they just shouldn’t show their legs and upper arms.

There are, however, many subtle details when it comes to women’s clothing:

👩 Hair: In Tehran and in big cities in the North the rules are slightly more relaxed. You must have the scarf basically just on the top of the head. Your hair can get out in front.

💪 Arms: In most places it’s fine to have lower arms exposed. Just in the more conservative South I recommend that you opt for having your entire arms covered.

💃 Legs: It’s ok if your pants are a tiny bit above the ankles, but don’t let them travel more!

👣 Feet: Good news! You can have your feet exposed! Use this privilege to the fullest, as that’s the only body part that can fully breathe.

Overall, you as a foreigner, are doing enough just by trying. And don’t worry if you don’t get everything right. The friendly locals will most likely warn you before the moral police does.

Did locals stare at me? You bet! But not because I’d wear something inappropriate, more so just because I stood out. And who’s not curious about foreigners in less touristy places? I would be!

Feet can be exposed in Iran
Enjoy the freedom to have your feet exposed! I did tremendously (with a thick layer of sunblock, though)
With a local woman and her daughter in Esfahan, Iran
With a local woman and her daughter in Esfahan, Iran

Dealing with heat in Iran

Ok, it’s really hot in Iran in summer (except the mountain peaks). And you might not be used to wearing so much in such heat.

Your secret weapon? Airy fabrics! The baggier the better. Linen, cotton, … all the materials that can breathe are you friend. Stay away from polyester.

Still not enough? Bring with you a refreshing water spray. It works like charm.

Hot summer in Mobod, Iran
Battling the scorching heat in Mobod with a fresh water spray (photo by Slavo Herman)
On top of the Tower of Silence near Yazd
On top of the Tower of Silence near Yazd where our Iranian friend took us
Warm colored sunset on the rooftops of Yazd
Warm colored sunset on the rooftops of Yazd

How Iranians dress

Iranian ladies typically wear long pants and a tunic or a coat called ‘manteau’ reaching to mid-thighs or knees. And a scarf, of course.

They also usually rely on darker shades of clothing. Elderly ladies do pure black, younger generation throws in more colors. You can often see women with heavy makeup on, as if compensating for the inability to show their hair.

Iranian women are so beautiful! You’ll see also quite a few who’ll wear floral dresses with matching scarves. It’s the nomadic tribe members who wear colorful clothes like that.

Little girls do not have to have their hair covered. They start some time between the age of 9 and 14, so their outfits can vary greatly.

As for men, you’ll again see all kinds of outfits, but the most typical are long pants plus a T-shirt or a button down shirt. They are usually dressed very well. Most of the young Iranian men we met had PhD degrees and wore fitting button downs.

What local women wear in Iran
What locals wear: only little girls can wear short dresses, women usually wear big scarfs and tunics or manteaus. You’ll see some black chadors too.
Waterfalls in Ghallat, Iran
Enjoying views of waterfalls in Ghallat village, with our awesome guide Lili (photo by Slavo Herman)
Slovaks and Iranians happily chatting
My friends chatting to some educated Iranian gentlemen
An evening street scene in Shiraz, Iran
A normal evening street scene in Shiraz – see how even the taxi driver is well dressed?

[clear h=10]Don’t let the clothing rules bother you too much and just go explore this amazing country! You won’t believe how beautiful it is and how friendly the locals are. See my other post that I wrote about the country and its people. I was really mesmerized.

And here’s a link straight to the Iran edition of Lonely Planet guidebook for you to check out.

Another good resource I found is a local girl’s guide to dressing up for Iran – see it here.

You’ll have to get ready for a few more things than only clothing. See a full list of Iran tips here.

Have you been to Iran or are you planning to go? Have you already been to an Islamic country where you had to cover up? Let me know in the comments!

Lovely pinners, here are some pins for you :)

What to Wear When Travelling to Iran     What to Wear When Travelling to Iran (in Summer)

61 thoughts on “Travelling to Iran: What to Wear?”

  1. Fantastic post! Making sure I am modest enough would be one of my main concerns when planning a trip to Iran. Even if locals are friendly and helpful, you definitely don’t want to overstep the line and offend anybody. It’s so important to show respect.

  2. I am hoping to go to Iran this fall so need to mull my clothing needs. I’m getting ready to do a major closet purge and decided to keep some things I think are too loose and unflattering and then wear them in Iran and not have to bring them back. I have to admit that having to cover up so much in a hot country is not a plus. I’ll be the woman looking like she’s in a linen bag!

    • Hehe, nice, Kay! I’m sure you’ll rock your linen bag clothing :) Iran’s one of the few countries where such clothes come to a good use. Thanks for reading!

  3. hi dear
    I’m so glad that you enjoyed your travel to Iran.one of beautiful cities you can visit in Iran is Kerman and unfortunately you didn’t visit it.it’s ancient and has a lot of historical places with special stories. I hope you come again and this time visit Kerman too.

  4. I wish I had read this before my visit last summer! I packed clothes that were way too heavy and brought closed toe shoes that were too hot. I ended up finding a couple of Indian style cotton tunics in Tehran that I wore for most of the trip. Indian hippie import shops might be a good place to source clothes pre-trip.

    I agree that Iranian women are beautiful and look incredibly stylish despite the restrictions on their clothing.

  5. It seems so unfair that women are subjected to onerous clothing requirements, while guys can just show up to Iran without having to do anything with relation to their choice of clothing (with the notable exception of leaving their tank tops in the backpack). Excellent post!

    • Thanks, Larry. Well my male friends usually wear shorts on summer trips, so this time they had to search for loose pants to stay cool :) True they had it much easier, but then again it was not too troublesome for me.
      Happy travels!

  6. I heard that the younger generation is actually quite secular and is getting quite tired of having the “morality police”. I hope they’re one day able to have a secular government. The idea of having to clothe oneself just because some man who’s brain is no larger than anyone else’s said you have to dress as certain way…I would be with the secularists if I lived there.

  7. Thanks Veronika ,as you mentioned dress cod in Iran it is not as much as hard that poeple think about it.
    There is rule that they have to obey ,no expesor their body and hair, expect face ,hand and feet ( they can wear sandals with nail polish expect in holy shrines they have to cover them for entrance ),for turists there isn’t any rules to what they have to wear ;),or any rules for colors. You can wear any thing with rules concideration .
    More over in Iran there is no any obligation to wear Islamic formal hijab ” chador “; like Arabic countries.all thing about hijab ,They are Islamic rules and it doesn’t blong to Iran .

    • Hello Arma, yes! Thanks for your input :) It’s always nice to hear from a local. I kept asking some girls I met and who were very friendly and they would say the same thing :)
      Many greetings to Iran!

  8. You look much better than me in my winter outfit! As it was chilly, I was covering my feet too. Plus wearing an aweful coat…

    Anyway, Iran is lovely. Great people. I recommend everyone to go there.

    • Hehe Jenny, in the end it’s not about the looks ;) Winter is definitely more challenging! Happy to hear you’ve enjoyed as much as I did :)

  9. What a great post Veroninka!

    You’ve really made packing quite simple and easy to do. I’ve been to Egypt, Tunisia and Qatar. Both Egypt & Tunisia were easier to travel in, as I was mostly in a tourist-friendly area. However, we took a train out into a smaller town, spent the night there, and then rented a car so that we could drive to the Sahara Desert! Locals were extremely curious as my boyfriend (in the 90’s) then was blond and blue-eyed. so we didn’t hold hands, and told them that we were married!

    We went to Qatar two years ago, and this time I was travelling with my husband (green-eyed brunette) and son, so I wore a long sleeved print summer shirt and white (straight-legged) jeans, with a summer scarf! Unsurprisingly, the fact that my husband and son were travelling with me, impressed the locals, who treated me in a most respectful manner lol!

    • Hello Victoria, nice to hear from you! :) Thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds wonderful! Exploring smaller towns off the beaten path is fun in any country, let alone in Egypt or Tunisia! Great to hear you were treated well also in Qatar. Curiosity is good, I prefer it to ignorance!

  10. Hello dear Veronika. i’m so delighted to read and see your information and pictures about Iran.
    i appreciate you for sharing your experience with others to know more about my country, Iran.
    i’m a tour guide for foreign travelers for 9 years and have activity as a tour planner.
    i’ll become so happy to have services for you and every one that is interested to travel to Iran.
    this is my email: [email protected]
    i’m looking forward your response.

    Best Regards

  11. The closest I’ve been is Myanmar. I had to do a lot of research beforehand to make sure we were covered, but not in such a way that we would be unable to enjoy our time. Myanmar wasn’t as strict, but it was expected that you would remain covered (athough we had some leeway walking around the streets in our tshitrs, we had light jackets stowed in our day-packs for temples or other sacred places.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Katie! I haven’t been to Myanmar yet. But in all places where religion is important, it’s advisable to not walk around in tank tops and ultrashort skirts.. We need to show respect to the locals! :)

  12. i was looking a useful article about my country in english for send to a friend , she will travel to iran , your article was very useful for me,thank you, i am a archaeologist , i have very information about historical place in iran .if you and everyone need those , i can help

  13. Hi dear,
    I’m so glad you enjoyed your travel to Iran :))
    As you mentioned, the rules are not really strict in big cities like Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz. And the police almost never picks on tourists so you shouldn’t worry about that ;) As for your male friends, they don’t have to wear pants, knee-long shorts are ok too. In the northern cities of Iran you can almost wear anything! Because the northern part of Iran has a completely different culture compared to the central and southern parts.
    Thank you for saying Iranian women are beautiful :)) so are you. And you are right about the heavy make up some Iranian women use. It’s really a pity that they hide their faces behind such a mask.
    I hope you’ll travel here again and this time you know you don’t have to worry much about the dress code and I hope you’ll visit lots of new places ;)

    • Thanks a lot, Mary! I will definitely travel to Iran again and can’t wait to explore more of your beautiful country! Many greetings from Prague :)

  14. Hi !
    Really happy that u enjoyed ur travel to my lovely country!
    I want to make a point about the way we wear clothes in Iran:
    our official religion is ISLAM, (as in many countries may be christianity) .Human beings believe that “religion ” is an instruction our God has sent to us by the messengers, so what would be better than following our Creator’s instrunction in every aspect of our lives( if a religion is complete & perfect, it must have instructions for all aspects of life: from ” foreign policy” to ” how to have sex with ur lover”)
    As a result, we choose God’s Words as our constitution( 98.2 of iranian voted to “islamic republic of iran:yes , constitution will be ratificated by people” in march 30,31 1979 referendum. Voters were +16 .there was a referendum because u cannot oblige people to salvate) 1 of the islam rules confirmed in Holy Quran is to clothe all the body except hands from wrist & face ,in addition, not to make up.u can even find such instructions in Holy Bible & Turah ,besides, strict wearing norms were applied in christian societies at least until 200 years ago.
    To be honest , aren’t women naturally more beautiful & attractive than men?
    If so, won’t there be distractions or pleasure when a woman attends in the society to study, work,etc. with her natural beauty?
    In Islam there are certain relatives that there is no necessity to wear hijab before them who are called “maharem”(like father,brother,nephew,…).The thing is a woman can marry e.o except those relatives! It means:i won’t announce my beauty unless a man prooves he deserves it(&becomes my wife) .
    Does it limit women?
    Of course it is not easy to wear scarf while u are outdoors in public, but there are lots of stidents,doctors,housewives,correspondants, news reporters,engineers,marketers,….. living in this way.(did u know based on the statistics from 2006_2016, 49to 61 percent of university entrants are girls?)
    So,if s.o doesn’t apply mentioned way of clothing,is not muslim & just obliged to obey the rules? Come on! Every individual must try to become perfect, but who is now? Maybe she applies lots of other parts of Islam to her life, but not this one.
    Chador? How do u bare it?
    Well, when s.o chooses chador knowingly, it is not s.th to be tolerated. The name ,coloar & the style of chador is totally iranian.It refers to Achaemenian( reference:the story of civilization:will durant_ As this sort of women clothing has been strictly used in ancient Iran, he even believed that hijab is an Iranian subject, not Islamic at all.u know, this part isn’t true!).
    For more information, visit this page

    There are english translations of some of MURTAZA MUTAHHARY’s books.2 of them are about womens’ right in Islam. He is an Iranian muslim clergyman who was murdered at May 2 1979. His thoughts & books are still fresh!
    Thnx 4 reading such a long …..
    U’ll be ensured & convinced if u, urself check the names, dates & statistics;)

  15. Hi
    nice post veronika
    I’m from Iran and ready to show you a better view from iran (this is not a post to make money just spreading love and making some good friends from all around the world)

    from north of Iran

    • Hello Shawn, thank you! Where from the North are you? I will one day travel to Iran again, I’m sure about that. Just don’t know when yet :)
      Many greetings from Prague!

  16. Thank you so much for the tips , im traveling to Iran in a few days and i was a little confused about what can i wear , what i cannot . but you made it easy for me .And specially about the linen or cotton , i thought if i took polyester ill be fine , but guess not . Thank again for the tips :* Have a lovely day , and im more then excited to go to Iran .

  17. Hi there!
    Loved this whole post! I’m heading to Iran late June this year and am having a really hard time finding what to wear! I’ll only be there for a week but am really worried about the heat as I suffer from heat stroke quite badly!
    I’ve spoken to a few of my Iranian friends about what I should wear. I’m planning on wearing leggings with super long button up 3/4 shirts and sandals. They said this should be fine but I would love your opinion. The shirt in particular that I own is this one https://www.prettylittlething.com.au/leni-nude-shirt-dress.html
    It comes to just above my knees on me and is very very loose fitting. Would this be okay to wear?

    • Hello Emily! I think the length is just on the border of being acceptable. Meaning you’ll be ok in Tehran if you wear non transparent leggings. But if you plan to travel e.g. to the South, I’d suggest a longer tunic.
      Also, if you have a spare pair of loose pants (actually black loose pants that are tight on the angles seem to be a trend now!), it would be even better.
      Enjoy Iran! :)

  18. Hi, I want to say that your post is incredibly accurate, I’m half iranian and have been visiting since I was 9months old (I’m 30 with 2 children and a husband now) and things have changed so much in the last 20years. The only thing I will mention is that Iranian women have been wearing heavy makeup for decades, and is nothing to do with compensating due to dress code (we just love makeup) during the Shahs time my Aunts also wore very heavy makeup along with their mini skirts :), we are visiting again this year with my children and you have given me a few extra places to add to my trip so thank you

    • Hello Maryam, thanks for the input! Ok, that’s interesting to hear how it’s with the makeup :) Do you wear heavy one too? I found the local women so beautiful!
      Enjoy all your upcoming trips to Iran!

  19. Thank you so much for your post
    Iam Iranian and I deeply love my country
    Unfortunately world knows Iran in different way which is not true but you are respect the difference.
    My country has a wonderful places to see, come here ❤️❤️❤️

    • Hello Minoo, glad to see all the patriotic feelings most Iranians have :) I can’t wait to return to Iran, hopefully in a few years!
      Many greetings from Prague.

  20. Great post Veronica, so helpful. I am going to Iran this October and plan to wear linen tunics. They are pink, blue and gold so hope that won’t be too bright. Love the idea of the harem pants, I have something similar I can take. From what I read, the temperature will be quite variable in October so I plan to layer under the tunics if I need more warmth rather than bring a heavy sweater. Does that sound reasonable? Also – I love the printed top you are wearing in the first photo, can you share your source? Thanks.

    • Thank you, Laura! Yes, that sounds like a good idea to layer up under the tunics. In case the weather surprises you, you can always cheaply buy a manteau locally.
      About the printed top – you mean the one in front of the tower in Tehran, right? That’s a handpainted piece originally from Venezuela, I bought it on a private event in Prague. I just checked the label, but there’s no brand. Sorry!
      Enjoy Iran :)

  21. Great post!
    I’m so excited that you described everything so honestly and truthdully. I was thinking to myself my country is a real crap! But you made me think more real and at least be proud of the good things we have( included mostly in your other post about travelling to Iran ). We welcome all forigners to our homeland ( even the people from israel if it was not banned by our disrespectful regime ). We need tourism.(Just think about how we have survived since the revolution with a few tourists and not living way too bad!) And not only for economic reasons, nothing excites iranians more than meeting niceforigners( as you may have noticed). Maybe the lack of bars and clubs is a pain, but everything in Iran is underground. We listen to newest techno and house music and party well. But these parties take place at personal properties. We do alcohol and weed ( if you are into it though ) and party as hatd as it gets deep under the ground. Feel free to have another trip in Iran and this time explore Tehran more. (I can be there if ypu ever need help. I’m not a guide but I can help you as a translator and as a friend for free). At last I thank you again for telling the truth and I’m so happy that you had a nice time in our land.

    • Thank you, Dadgar. Next time I’ll visit I’ll need to spend more time in Tehran, I heard so much about what’s going on in parties and cafes and other places, but wasn’t able to experience that yet.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, many greetings from Prague!

  22. Hi im a iranian and i here to answer a question . I read your post and coments and i want explain why iranian have hijab its have a short answer : most of iranian beleif they beutifuly shuld just be for her husband and they dont let to other man see her body and enjoy . good luck

    • Dear Elia
      I’m Iranian myself and I have to say your comment is just your personal point of view and not necessarily correct.
      Iranian women have to have more coverage just because of the law, which everyone including Muslims and non-Muslims have to obey. It is basically so unfair and not right!

    • hi dear Elia. I should say that not “most of iranian” believe in what you said. Actually most of them are just obeying the law (as it is mandatory).

  23. For those who are going to visit amazing Iran:
    I’m a young woman living in Iran.You DON’T HAVE TO WORRY that much about wt to wear!I personally have always worn florals and realllly bright colors,but always modest and never faced problems!!That’s a matter of culture:in some cities people have a more conservative dress code but won’t force you to be like them!
    In Iran,we pick and choose religion!Maybe we can call it freedom.Islam is more strict with men than women!But unfortunately in Iran we do it the other way!
    Islam requires a woman to be modest and not show too much skin to show a man that she is such a precious creature he can’t even look at without marrying ,loving,taking responsibilities and providing her with financial rewards like Mihr and too many other ones that most men in Iran ignore! But requires a man to both cover his body and eyes.Men are not allowed to show too much skin!Men are not allowed to gaze at women and you know what a torture it is for a man!so it Is freedom:women cover cz they know men are amazed at their bodies and long to touch ,and men don’t look at women to leave them free bcz they know women long to show !So as you see, in Islam ,men and women should cooperate to provide freedom for each other.Just few people do it in the world that’s why we see discrimination and rape!We break the rules of the world ,yet we expect it to be a nice place!In Iran we ignore the idea of covering for a man and mostly focus on women!so that Is NOT Islam’s fault,that is our fault:we pick and choose!

  24. Hi Veronika – this is a useful and timely post for me! I head to Iran shortly for a two week tour. I’m so excited to go!! Dressing respectfully for the culture has been one of my main concerns, especially in the hot weather. I’m an Aussie, so I’m pretty used to the heat. Good to know that sandals are OK. I’m mainly thinking loose, flowing pants and long tops. Thanks!

  25. Hello Veronika,
    thank you for this article! It’s just great! I’ve got one question. How much money did you take with you per person for two weeks? I heard that it’s unpossible to use european credit cards there. We’d like to go to Iran in the begging of Semptember. Thank you very much for reply :)

    • Ahoj Žofi, I think I had like €500 with me, just to be safe. I think that’s definitely more than necessary, though. If you take some euros or dollars with you, you can exchange just half of that at the beginning of your trip and once you’re close to running out, you can exchange another amount that you’ll feel will be enough.

      Did you see my other article on the 2-week itinerary? It’s here: https://www.travelgeekery.com/iran-itinerary/ I spent €500 in total, but that includes even a domestic flight. The currency has devalued since I went to Iran 4 years ago, so I think things are even cheaper now.

      Good luck and enjoy your trip! ;)

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