15 Things Not to Do in Iran

Forbidden and not allowed things to do in Iran


Forbidden and not to do things in Iran

Iran, as all countries in the world, has its own laws, customs, social codes and rules. Some of them are important to know before traveling to the ancient kingdom of Persia.


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Getting close to protests

As you must know, the Islamic Republic of Iran is going through a period of widespread civil disobedience throughout the territory. Following the death of Mahsa Amini, protests have multiplied across the country. It is therefore very important to stay away from them and all types of gatherings under penalty of being suspected of complicity with the revolutionary movement or accused of espionage.

In Iran, the penalties can be severe. Several cases of Westerners detained without repatriation are known to date.

Photographing sensitive areas

Government buildings

It is strictly forbidden, and it will save you some trouble that you would do without. Especially with what we have just seen before.

Protest and rallies

Similarly, do not photograph or film protest and rallies in Iran. The use of cameras and cameras should be done with vigilance, especially in times of political conflict.

Can you use a drone in Iran?

The legal status of drone use in Iran is unclear. However, its use remains allowed. Be sure to stay away from all sensitive places such as: military zones, industrial zones or government places among others. Be extra vigilant about the current situation, where these devices can be perceived as spying tools. Several cases of Western travelers detained in prison have been reported for these reasons.


Cultural codes in Iran,
habits and customs


Thumbs up

It is an insult : the equivalent of the Western middle finger.

Although over time, Iranians have understood that it is used differently in the West, it can remain misinterpreted in certain circumstances. This tends to disappear with the new generations, especially through social networks. Despite the censorship of these, they still use them thanks to VPN servers.

In any case, some remote areas of the country are not used to seeing “likes” or Westerners. Imagine running into someone giving the middle finger on the side of a road in your country… I think you wouldn’t like to be this one in Iran!


To hitchhike, simply wave your hand from bottom to top, as if waving to slow down at a car.

Cycling (for women)

Cycling is forbidden to women in Iran. Contrary to popular belief, this is not enshrined in Sharia¹ but qualified as haram² by the Iranian government for various reasons.

Going inside with your shoes

Like almost everywhere in the Middle East, you take off your shoes before going home. The same is true, especially in mosques.

Being too close to your spouse

It is necessary to keep one’s distance from one’s spouse, something that can be frowned upon by Iranians who remain very modest in their emotional relations in public. Iran is a very conservative country and the codes relating to Islam must be respected.


Know that homosexuality is totally forbidden and severely punished. However, nothing prevents you from traveling to Iran if you do not display any external signs.

Shaking hands with someone of the opposite sex

It’s not a drama, but some habits are ingrained among Iranians. Therefore, shaking hands with an unknown person of the opposite sex are generally avoided. In some circumstances it still happens, especially if you already have some connection with the people concerned. But in public, with people you don’t know, you have to avoid them.

This is also tending to disappear in part of the new generation.

Staying alone with a person of the opposite sex in the same room

On the other hand, it is forbidden for two persons of the opposite sex to remain alone in the same room. This applies if they are not from the same family or if they are not married.

Again, this doesn’t apply every day, but in some circumstances, it may be good to remember it. Even if this rule is political and religious, for some people it is also ingrained habits. You will have to deal with this case in hotels for example, where you will not be accepted as a couple if you are not married.


In the same way, when you are invited to someone’s home and you have to get up to urinate, it is customary to be heard (coughing for example) in case a woman is around at that time. I have already applied it and noticed it several times, and not only in Iran.

Using your left hand

We were talking about hands before, it is also worth remembering that the left is impure. It should not be used to tender or receive something, to eat and greet. In other words, it is this hand that is used to clean oneself after doing one’s business.

Blowing your nose in public

Iranians hate to see or hear someone blowing their nose, this is something that is very frowned upon and repugnant in this culture. Be sure to do this discreetly. Double penalty if you do it at the table!

Do not wearing the veil

Rule that applies to women, who must not go out without the hijab³. More and more, the veil in Iran tends to lower itself, leaving the front hair widely visible. A priori, it is well tolerated but does not change the fact that the veil remains mandatory.

Singing and dancing

Yes, it’s a bit sad but that’s the way it is. This applies especially in cities and in public places. Nevertheless, during my stay, I saw a group of young people defying the laws and singing loudly in the main Naghch-e Djahan Square in Isfahan. I don’t know if they had any problems afterwards but it’s highly likely. I understand that you have not planned to do a choreography or a choir in the city but you still have to know it.

Urinating or spitting in public

These things can be punished harshly in Iran. Even along a road, Iranians hide very well to urinate and they make it very quickly see not at all, unless there is really no one and no toilets available.

Drinking alcohol

Red wine from Shiraz or artisanal spirits, there is indeed alcohol in the country. However, its consumption remains totally prohibited in the Islamic Republic of Iran. She is also severely punished. Nevertheless, it is possible to find them easily.

Not respecting these rules

There is no need to fear if Iranian laws are respected. Conversely, you will expose yourself to trouble or even penalties since the political regime is strict. They say walls have ears, it’s true. But in Iran, know that they also have eyes. By this you mean that even if you don’t see it, the places are monitored, and so are Western travelers.

Saying yes to the first invitation

An Iranian courtesy is called “taarof”. Many travelers who even forget it who don’t know it at all, and it can baffle Iranians just as much as you do. I talk about it in my article dedicated to things to know before visiting Iran.

Things to know before going to Iran

Find some cultural points, tips, and other practical and important tips before traveling to Iran:

🔎 What you need to know before traveling to Iran

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¹ Sharia: Islamic Law.( Back)
² Haram: Forbidden by Islam, contrary to halal.( Back)
³ Hijab : Islamic veil. ( Back)

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About the author

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Tom Spirit
Hey, it's Tom! Welcolme to Spirit Travelers. I'm a nomad traveler for several years and I share my experiences by publishing content and travel guides on this blog. Find some of the most popular countries to visit but also off the beaten track destinations.

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