2019 marked itself with a chain of protests in France, Bolivia, Chile, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Iraq, Lebanon, and finally Iran. It was November 16 that public media broke the news of ongoing protests and turmoil in Iran triggered following a spike in the gas price. The protest went from gentle ways of signaling dissatisfaction like chanting against the government’s economic policies or blocking the highways to uncontrolled violence setting some banks and gas stations ablaze. Immediately, the government limited Internet access to prevent the protests getting viral.
The week-long Internet blackout made many travelers who were planning a trip to Iran wondering if it was still safe to travel to Iran. Here at 1stQuest, we did our best to provide honest advice to the inquiries made to our support team in order to make sure everyone enjoys their upcoming travel to Iran. Now that the protests are over, we decided to share with you what you need to know about the recent unrests and if there are safety precautions that might affect your next trip to Iran.
How did it begin?
Iran’s economy has become more vulnerable after Trump admiration’s unilateral exit from the multilateral nuclear deal signed between Iran, the US and five major powers. Iran’s economic power mostly relies on oil production and the newest US sanctions have plunged its economy into a deep recession and inflation. During the last two years, Iranian currency (Rial) has tremendously lost its value making it an insanely affordable destination for the foreign visitors, but very expensive for the locals whose purchase power has dropped. The government’s decision to triple the gas price (which is still significantly subsidized) was made in hopes of making up for the drop in its revenue following the drop in the country’s oil sales in 2019. However, the public’s response to this unprecedented change was furious and beyond authorities’ imagination. Anyone remembering how protesters reacted to a 16-percent increase in fuel prices in France early this year, however, should have seen this uproar coming.
A day after the news broke, tens of thousands in many provinces including Tehran, Alborz, Fars, Khuzestan, West Azerbaijan, etc. hit the streets against the government’s economic policies. Although the new eye-watering gas price was bitter news for most Iranians, majority of the protestors seemed to be the lower-income social class who were already crippled under the high inflation rate and unemployment, and couldn’t afford another economic shock. It didn’t take long that the protests turned into riot and the security forces implemented extreme force to control the rebellion which miserably left several casualties. Hassan Rouhani’s administration strained to alleviate the uproar by proposing a welfare package designed to help lower-income families using the savings made from the cuts in the gas subsidies. In less than a week, the country was still in shock when Hassan Rouhani claimed victory over the ongoing uproar and blamed the US and foreign enemies for the unrest.
Is it safe now to travel to Iran?
The short answer is: Yes, it is absolutely safe. The protests and chaos are over and life is back to routine in all the cities. Even during the unrest, it was basically safe for the tourists to get around. Despite being spread over the country, the protests were restricted to a few neighborhoods in each city which were, according to our records, far from the popular tourist attractions and accommodations. Also, majority of demonstrations were taking place in the late evenings when the streets were less crowded. Personally, despite my frequent commute from downtown to 1stQuest’s headquarter in North-West Tehran, I wouldn’t notice anything extraordinary if it wasn’t for the local news or the friends who had witnessed the violence. However, during that week our honest advice to the travelers was to be aware of any signs of disorder and to avoid public gatherings or filming them. We would also ask them to get guidance from the locals for the places to avoid and follow the guidelines given by the local authorities.
As things are now back to routine again, we are happy to assure you that Iran is still a very safe country to travel to and there are hundreds of wonders waiting here to awe you. If you still have any safety concerns about planning a trip to Iran, Alison’s excellent blog post will definitely help you out.