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Posts Tagged ‘Iran travel’

Just past midnight
To my delight
The bus turns into the parking bay
Here comes the trip
Only hope I kip
While the night turns into day…………

Not exactly the exotic Night Boat to Cairo (Madness, 1979) but to me the upcoming journey was just as exciting. Apart from flying into and out of Tehran Airport I have never been to the city of Tehran and, as I had heard so much about the cheap and daily 5-hour overnight bus service from our home town of Khomeni Shah to Iran’s capital, I wanted to try it out.

Feri fetched the one-way tickets in advance which cost the equivalent of £5.50 each, and all we had to do was get to the bus station in time for the midnight departure. We arrived in good time and I was surprised to see that the bus station was still open and in full swing selling tickets, snacks and drinks and with the illuminated fountains in the surrounding gardens still spouting their plumes of water. Although it was approaching midnight, the place was so well lit it could have been the middle of the day and it is times like this when I realise that if only we had warmer weather here in the UK it doesn’t matter if it’s dark; you can still participate in a 24-hour outdoor society as long as the lighting allows. How I’d love to be picnicking by the river or doing my shopping instead of hunkering down at dusk and huddling around the fire and TV.

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The bus came into the station 15 minutes late. Late being quite normal here in Iran and only 15 minutes late considered a bonus. We were called forward to board and Feri and I joined our fellow passengers and prepared to alight. The bus itself was almost brand new and very clean. When on-board we looked for our seats and sat down ready for departure. Only then did I notice that there were only 3 seats in a row unlike the normal 4 which meant that every seat was a luxurious width with full recliner facility. Each seat also had a TV screen with headphones embedded into the rear and rubbish bags were available to prevent litter spoiling the cleanliness of the coach. I haven’t been on a long-distance coach journey in the UK for many a year, so I can’t compare but it is certainly an improvement on my student days when I used to travel on National Express. At last, when everyone was on board, we set off for the 5-hour journey to Tehran.

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The idea of an overnight service is that you sleep during the journey and although the seats were very comfortable I was too pre-occupied to nod off. I was still awake when, 20 minutes after departure, the attendant brought everyone a box full of biscuits (4 snack packets of various flavour treats) and a carton of juice. This was more than I expected for my £5.50 but very welcome all the same.
We stopped for a comfort break about half-way to Tehran then it was full-steam ahead. Sadly, one criticism I have about travelling in Iran is the state of some of their toilets. Obviously, I cannot comment on the gent’s facilities but, for the ladies, most of the older service station toilets are the squat type reminiscent of those found in France some years ago on their beach-side camping sites. This in itself is not an issue as, apparently, it is healthier to squat than sit and contemplate your navel on a throne but, due to the amount of water used to hose oneself down, you may need to hoik your trousers or long skirt up so the hems don’t get wet. I always carry wipes and paper just in case!As this rest-stop looked rather archaic, I passed on the toilet preferring to wait until we reached more up-to-date facilities.

We reached Tehran South bus station after the scheduled 5 hours just as dawn was breaking and then continued to Arjentine Square for the rest of us to get off the bus. Altogether it had been a very comfortable overnight journey for a bargain price leaving us the whole day ahead to explore the capital.

As we were staying with family for our visit to Tehran we firstly made our way to their apartment for breakfast. I admit that after our overnight trip we did have a sneaky snooze after eating and before we ventured into Tehran City on the Metro. After a quick discussion regarding which place I wanted to visit the most we selected Golestan Palace (see next episode). However, we first needed to tackle 13 stops on the underground to get there and thankfully Feri’s cousin Mannaz agreed to accompany us and help to navigate the Tehran Metro.

We were guided, via taxi, to the Tehran Pars station where Mannaz bought us a Metro Card which would last us for our 2 day stay. I was surprised by the modern, clean and easy-to-navigate underground system which is in stark contrast to the much older and crowded London Underground. Instead of paper tickets which need to be fed through a ticket reader (very awkward when carrying luggage or if you are left-handed) in London, everything is contactless on the Tehran Metro. Of course, being contactless doesn’t prevent people from “contacting” their ticket physically to the reader which I find quite amusing, but it seems a lot quicker than our system which requires you to feed your ticket into a narrow opening then wait for the ticket to reappear for onward travel. (Or be eaten by the machine if it’s life has expired).
Of course you can always get a Visitor Oyster Card for travel in London. This is a smart card and I would recommend that visitors to London investigate this before buying separate tickets.

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When we were through the initial gates and onto the platform I noticed how spacious and clean the platforms are. Not a single piece of litter in sight. I also noticed that, like the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), the train carriages stop in the same place. This means that people know where to stand and wait and, with the guidance of the arrows painted on the floor, know where to get on and off the train. The arrows dictate that to get off the train you dismount via the middle of the doorway; to get on the train, you enter via the sides. This avoids the body-slamming which I usually encounter when using the London Underground.
Simples! If only we could adopt such civilised methods.

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Another difference on the Tehran Metro are the “Women Only “carriages. When we caught our train home we got on the nearest carriage to stop near us not realising that this was a carriage for women only. Luckily, they didn’t seem too worried that Feri was amongst us so no harm done! I noted however that the women only area was marked by metal barriers so that there was no chance of men joining the women once boarded. I imagine that as tourists we were forgiven, and, as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed European, I was even asked to have my photograph taken with a lady in the same carriage. If however this had been rush hour, a persistent offender would have been ejected pronto.

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In less than 24 hours I had experienced travel in Iran which was very much the same/different to my experiences in England. Of course I look for the most efficient and comfortable mode of travel and if I had to vote now based on my encounters I would choose Iran for its cleanliness, efficiency and up-to-date technology and customer service.
We can learn a lot from our Iranian friends.

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