Narelle and I would like to invite you to follow our trip to the Middle East this March and April. We hope you enjoy the blogs we post as we travel around this beautiful part of the world.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Transport Iran Style

When we travel we try our hardest to experience exactly what the locals experience. That means using or trying to experience all forms of that country's ground transportation. The following is our first-hand experience of the roads in Iran.

The road system: one starts by holding their breath and diving head first into organised chaos, not as bad as India though. The roads are in beautiful condition with most major towns connected by magnificent 4 lane highways. The smaller roads are equally as good. Well done Iran!!

However, it appears as though the lanes and signs on these roads are just there for cosmetic reasons. After hours in the front seat my take is that most people drive in series of 5 minute intervals: they start with the majority of the car in the other lane a few honks at anything living or not then over the next few minutes they slowly veer right until lack of road or the bumps awake them...a further few honks, a raise of the big black eyebrows and the process is repeated.

Driving at night the common Iranian does indeed slow down, unlike India where the reverse is the case! However what sets the Iranian apart is their use of high beam. It appears as though the Iranian high beam switch once activated is on for night. One is blinded at every passing. This in turn severely limits the speed one can do before their burnt retinas repair themselves. Even at police check points one blinds the officer before greeting him with their best Salom!! No wonder the cops all wear dark glasses!!!

Seat-belts appear to be cosmetic too, well especially in the back seat. Unfortunately, this is a very common site on the roads:

City limit checkpoints were common and appeared to serve a good purpose: by limiting the on-road hours of drivers and by creating micro shopping centres. One could buy anything at these locations whilst having their credentials checked. Only buses and taxis need to stop.

Speed cameras are common and the police are out in force. Even fake police cars are part of the force...complete with flashing lights. Fantastic idea!!

Road direction and places of interest signs are all Farsi and English. Three exact signs in a row all within 500m saying the same thing is common. So depending where in the 5 min cycle the driver is if u miss the first you got another chance.

Types of car: Cars range from the latest French models to beat up 1960s English jobs that have not had a wash since the last rains. The most common car is indeed the 1960s 70s Peeco which is the automotive backbone of the society however the late 1990s early 2000s Pergot models appear to be taking the Peeco's reign.

Farsi...Number plates: I am sure it does not go like his but; "What was the number plate sir"? Officer i think it was; "A tent, an upside down tent, a bowl, a pitchfork, a 9, a backward 7 followed by an F and a upside-down heart"

Petrol is dirt cheap and priced according to your car type. Govt approved cars pay 4000R per litre while non approved vehicles pay 6000R. Like a few other countries motorists don't turn off their motors whilst the attendant fills the tank. Most petrol station have prayer areas or attached small mosques.

Long distance buses: Buses are mostly modern Volvos or Scandia's...Most have slogans plastered on them referring to god or the drivers favourite English or Spanish football team. It was not uncommon to also see stuffed toys hanging from the ceiling. The VIP buses are like travelling business class on an airplane. Massive leg room and extremely wide chairs with tray tables, tvs, an attendant, etc. Food is generally served, as is water...

Local buses: range from deluxe suburbans to crappy old things blowing more smoke than coal fired power station.

Motorbikes: are mostly 1980 and 90's Honda's. Of the bikes i saw 90% of are in perfect condition, the other 10% appear to be held together by duct tape or the like. A high proportion of bikes have a large semi transparent windshield with a tiny 'clear' viewing hole in the centre. One can only wonder why they like restricting/distorting their vision of the road ahead...?

Cycling: virtually non existent...well until we were smack in the middle of the desert: the same desert we drove 4 hours into. We met a guy who was cycling across Iran for fun and to promote the sport in Iran. He had some funny stories to tell about his experiences on Iranian roads; I won't include them as this blog is about our experiences.

Trucks: these lumbering beasts are undoubtably the lifeblood of Iran. All types of trucks cross-cross the country and they range from modern Volvos to old Indian Tatas that will probably be still running next century. For what we could see truck drivers obey the speed limits however, the slower speeds do not precluded from the 5 minute lane wander. Major truck stops are chaos and a sight to be seen. It appears as though they just pull over as close to the road they are travelling on as possible before making their dash to the kebab or tea stand. The trucks leave a guard of honour situation where the lanes are restricted to oncoming traffic as they slow to a crawl to avoid cleaning up some poor truckie holding his favourite roadside kebab.

Trains to come later...!



Anonymous said...

It's certainly an experience. Good to hear that it all seems pretty safe for Westerners. It will be interesting to hear how much things change when you hit the Big Smoke - Tehran.


Anonymous said...

The plate number:

87B362 45 :-)