Iran has apps for everything! When it comes to booking domestic trains, flights, buses, hotels and more, almost everything can be done online in Iran. For travelling in Iran, I believe these apps are essential. Yet unfortunately, they don’t tend to be tourist friendly, with payment methods only accepting Iranian cards due to sanctions, and with little English information available. That’s why I’ve put together this article, to guide you through the process, and to help you find out what the essential apps are when visiting Iran.
It’s important to mention that in Iran, most Western websites such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram etc. are blocked, meaning you’ll need a VPN to access them. Many VPNs are also blocked, so I recommend downloading more than one just in case. For me, ExpressVPN (paid) worked well on Android and my laptop, but not on iPhone. Orbot, which is a free VPN, usually works if you use a “Bridge Server” in the settings of the app, but otherwise will not work.
Where can I download Iranian apps?
Because of sanctions and Iran’s isolation, most Iranian apps are not available on the App Store. That means that the easiest way to download Iranian apps is by downloading the Iranian app store, known as “Bazaar”. You can download it by clicking on this link. Once downloaded, just type in the desired app into the search bar and click download.
Taxi Hailing Apps (ESSENTIAL!)
Snapp (Persian: اسنپ!)
This is Iran’s most famous taxi hailing app, and it basically the country’s equivalent to Uber. It is one of the most essential apps when visiting Iran. Prices are much cheaper than hailing a taxi from the street and it is very convenient. Taxis are very cheap! When I say very cheap, I mean, you probably won’t spend more than 1 USD on a 45 minute taxi ride. And it’s also very safe! You can also book hotels, flights, buy travel insurance and access other services through the app.
Tapsi is an alternative to Snapp, but it’s got one feature which is really cool that Snapp doesn’t have, which is super convenient if you’re not travelling alone. You can book inter-city taxis. For example, we booked a ride with Tapsi from Tehran to Kashan, and as a group of 4 people, we paid the equivalent of 3 USD each for a ride of about 3 hours. This door to door service is super convenient, but if you’re travelling solo then it might be above your budget. 12 dollars for a 3 hour taxi ride is still much cheaper than in practically any other country, though!
Directions and Local Transportation Routes
In Iran, if you try to get public transport directions from Google Maps, it won’t work. That’s why you should download an Iranian app called Neshan (نشان). When you enter your starting point and destination, the app will show you how you can get there by public transport, which will help save you money on taxis!
Hotel Booking and AirBnb equivalent
There are so many websites and applications that you can book hotels through in Iran including Snapp (the taxi hailing app), Alibaba, and more. However, you will need to use an Iranian bank card to book due to sanctions. This isn’t an issue, as Iranian people are very friendly and you won’t have an issue asking someone to book for you and giving them cash. However, I often found it cheaper to find the hotel numbers on Google Maps, and then call the hotels directly and negotiate the price. This lead to much cheaper prices than could be found online.
If you’d prefer to stay in an apartment, you can easily book in a similar manner to AirBnb. We did this regularly in Iran, with many places offering very good prices! Here are some apps/websites that you could use to book these apartments:
This website specialises in villa rentals, but you’ll also be able to find rooms and apartments for rent. You’ll also have to pay online with an Iranian card, but the process is just as easy as Airbnb is.
Personally, this was one of my most common methods of booking accommodation in Iran. I found prices for apartments to be fantastic, especially if you’re travelling with one or more people.
Because of sanctions, it’s impossible to book flights with Iranian airlines using foreign cards, so you’ll also have to ask an Iranian friend to help you book here if you plan to fly with a local airline. This applies to both domestic and international flights with Iranian airlines, which can often be much cheaper than international ones.
Strangely, booking flights last minute tends to be much cheaper when booking Iranian airlines than it does in advance, which works on opposite logic to basically all international airlines. So, I recommend for most flights to book only two or three days in advance. So what app/website can you book with?
In my opinion, this is the best website for booking flights with Iranian airlines. You can easily see the prices and how they differ on different dates, and the booking form is simple to fill out. When I booked my flight with Zagros Airlines from Tehran to Tbilisi, it only took me about five minutes to do online. You can also book trains, hotels and buses with Alibaba, but I personally think that other websites are better for that. In general though, Alibaba is one of the most essential apps for travelling to Iran.
Many websites allow you to book intercity buses within Iran, including Alibaba, but I personally have my favourites, which I think are easy to use and show reliable schedules.
Payaneha (پایانه ها)
I regularly used this website when booking buses within Iran and I always found it to be reliable with the lowest prices and easy to use.
Safar 724 (سفر724)
This is a good alternative to Payaneha. While I didn’t use it whilst in Iran, I know many Iranian friends that use it.
For booking trains, make sure you book well in advance (at least 3 days in advance) as trains in Iran tend to get full very quickly! While there are many websites and apps that sell train tickets, I do not recommend using any of them except for the Iranian Railways official website! That is because they often sell train tickets which do not exist due to glitches and you will be refunded the money. To be more certain, make sure you book using the following website:
The website, however, doesn’t work from outside Iran, so you will have to wait until you arrive, or ask an Iranian friend to book for you.
Boat/ Ferry Booking
Last but not least, I have seen almost no information in English online that is up to date about booking international ferries from Iran. Iran has several international ferry routes, such as the ferry between Bandar Abbas and Sharjah, UAE, and from Bandar Lengeh to Dubai, UAE. There are also ferries to Kuwait from Khoramshahr. Actually you can easily buy the boat tickets online from many different websites. I personally bought my ferry ticket from Bandar Abbas to Sharjah from the following website:
It was very easy, I just needed to borrow my Iranian friend’s card, as usual. The ticket cost around 3.7 million toman (at the current exchange rate 74 USD).
If this all sounds too complicated, you can get a local Iranian tour company to book everything for you. Although they will probably take a hefty commission. In any case, we soon plan to run our own tours to Iran, so make sure to keep up to date by checking out our tour schedule (currently limited to Syria and Iraq).