martes, 4 de abril de 2017

When to bargain and when not !

The general European conception about dealing with the middle eastern is that they should bargain or haggle for a better price. In Europe you have price labels, taxi meters and no-one argues with them they take it or leave it. In Iran like many other third world countries sometimes labels lack, there are no taxi meters and you could end up paying much more that what is due. So here are some useful tips. If you want to buy a rug, carpet, jajim or kilim then try not to buy it in Isfahan. Try the big bazaar in Tehran first and buy from a whole seller. Here you should bargain a little perhaps for a 20% reduction. If going through the labyrinth of hundreds of narrow alleys in the bazaar is unattractive for you then try Shiraz, Qom or Yazd. You are much less likely to be ripped off. If you have seen something you like and it happened to be in a shop in a touristy area of Isfahan then bargain hard and long. A family staying with us came across a rug they really liked. It happened to be in a shop in Isfahan. The seller quoted 6000 usd. The family had a friend abroad who was a carpet dealer so they took a picture and send it to him for consultation, the verdict was : 2000 usd maximum price ! They bargained hard and got it for 2200 usd! I AM NOT JOKING. Getting a taxi for a long ride: bargain a little, make a counter offer of some 10-15% less and if the car is in good nick then get into it, road safety in Iran is abysmal. When never to bargain (or at least almost never): when I quote a price :))) I work hard where no-one has ever done anything like it before and believe you me it takes a lot to organize things and make sure they run smoothly. This is not Austria where you can pick up the phone and get a guide who speaks Khalkha dialect! Many locals have had to be convinced that people do actually prefer to walk rather than sit in a crappy car and see the trash along the road. The latter is not called hill-walking or trekking! Thank you! Especially to Anje and Dino for prompting me to write this post. Happy trekking!!

Isfahan-Qazvin for the Valley of Alamut

There is a bus from Qazvin to Isfahan at 1300 hours and one from Isfahan to Qazvin at 22.00 hrs. Qazvin is the nearest city to the valley. Enjoy your trek!

viernes, 17 de marzo de 2017

More than a room with breakfast !

There are many hostels, motels, hotels, local homes open to tourists around the world and around Iran. They have their prices and it is reflected in what you get, travellers fora are the best place to look for the categorization of their services. As the Persian proverb goes; "you get as much soup you have paid for". And there is Khoonegeli! I am sure there are places similar or better than Khoonegeli perhaps not in northern Iran but I have heard there are in India, but when enquiring about your stay please bear these simple but important facts in mind;- The work is seasonal, from late November until late March there are very few visitors, perhaps just enough to feed the animals and pay for the man who looks after them. The structures being all made with wood, mud and hey (wattle and daub) require much more attention and maintenance than those made with bricks and cement. To place a misplaced roof tile which is causing a leaking roof it can cost up to 80 usd, why? Because there is simply no-one left close by to do it so the craftsman would need to come from 100km away and he would charge a full days work plus expenses. But these hand made tiles are pretty, they are hand made, they form part of the local architectural identity long lost to ugliness and chaos. The house only has two rooms and this limits the number of guests which it can accommodate, however, the garden now has a swimming pool for children which adults have also found enjoyable in the hot summer days, a 45 m yoga and meditation hall plus a swing as well as the bamboo hut for afternoon reads, tea and coffee in groups. Building more huts and increasing the number of rooms would certainly allow one to increase the number of guests at any one time and reduce the prices somewhat but this requires capital. I simply do not have capital. I live a bohemian lifestyle and am a believer in slow growth. Apart from the main house which was built in 2003 with savings from working as a doctor in London all the rest have been paid for with money earned here with hard labour, often sacrificing personal health and privacy to keep the standards as they are. As one Iranian American guest rightly put it " this is a labor of love", this may not be strictly true as the Oxford dictionary describes the phrase as I have a growing family I need to support and this is my only income but it does make a point. Finally, as someone who works hard to support a growing family I deeply appreciate that every one of our client also has to work hard and earn a living. There is no such thing as a free lunch! Thank you.

The North-South divide

Like many countries Iran has its expensive and not so expensive regions. Generally speaking the economy of Iran is dependent on oil and there is plenty of it so it tends not to be as cheap a destination as other central Asian countries. Inflation in Iran is high. Every Nowrooz many commodities rise 20% in price never to come down again. Western Mazandaran (this is where Khoonegeli is) in the north is the most expensive part of Iran outside the capital. Land prices, groceries and other amenities often surpass those in southern Europe. In contrast places like Qom and Yazd despite being large cities are among the cheapest in Iran. For those travelling north beware that these hyper-inflated prices are a direct result of two major factors. One is the proximity of Tehran, the richest, the most populated and by far the most expensive city in Iran and secondly the existance of lush green forests and the sea which most Iranians find extremely attractive as holiday destination. However, this narrow strip of land squeezed between the beautiful Alborz mountain range and the Caspian sea has a limited capacity for holiday homes. In recent years the government has been clamping down on illegal buildings but despite these holiday villas dot may mountain villages with road access. Land in these places can fetch over 100 euros per square meter. There is no shortage of buyers who push other prices like basic commodities up as a result.

lunes, 27 de febrero de 2017

Easy visa is here but a warning! An Australian couple recently applied on line for an e-visa. Half way through the application form they realized that it was only possible to get e-visas if they entered Iran via the Persian Gulf Island of Kish, not the commonest point of entry for foreign visitors and definitely not the easiest. Please contact the Iranian Consulate about the latest on Iran entry visa regulations before you apply. Visa on Arrivals are easy to get for many nationalities.

jueves, 23 de febrero de 2017

Live Music courtesy of Khoonegeli

Persian "Daf" is a mother percussion instrument. You may savour a private concert by one of the best Daf players in Persia, Suryadima. A 2 hour concert will cost 100 euros. Here is a sample of the master in India last summer.

domingo, 5 de febrero de 2017

Independent travel for UK citizens

At the moment and despite rumors all UK citizens still need to be accompanied by an official guide or join a group tour to visit Iran. The only exception is for those who can get a business visa which would allow them to roam freely for up to 15 days. Business visas can be applied for by companies.