Amidst the Corona Crisis in Iran

We were coming from Armenia to Iran and our further plan was to hitchhike to Pakistan. We wanted to show others that traveling is also possible without flying. And so far our ‘traveling around the world’ worked fine without any flights.

We had several problems getting our Pakistan Visa. After 3 weeks in Iran we had to travel 1000 km from the South of Iran back to Tehran to visit the Pakistani embassy in person. We had to wait more than a week – but in the end we were happy when we held the Visa in our hands. Later, after we had visited several places in Iran, met numerous friendly people and were prepared for Pakistan, the Pakistan-Iran border was closed exactly 3 days before we planned to cross. Within a few days all neighbour countries shut down their borders to Iran to protect themselves from the Corona virus.
We discussed, if it makes sense to sit out the situation and wait for the borders to reopen or if it’s better to take a flight to get out of Iran.

Sit out Corona or take a flight?

Both options didn’t ‘feel’ right to us but we think the Corona situation is just at the beginning and will get worse during the next 2-3 months. We definitely don’t want to stay in Iran for that long.
We found out that Azerbaijan didn’t close their border to Iran yet. So we decided to take a bus through the whole of Iran (from south-east to north-west) to reach Azerbaijan and then fly to India. We applied for the Indian Visa and got the confirmation quite fast.

Just some hours before reaching the Azerbaijan border a friend texts us that this border also just closed. We stop the bus on the highway and go back to Tehran.
We know the only option that is left now is to take a flight out of Iran. Therefore we go straight to the airport and ask for possible flights.

NO flights availible

At the airport we realise there are nearly no airlines even running a sales office. Lufthansa for example has no office at the airport. But we also get the information that Lufthansa isn’t offering any flights to/from Iran at the moment anyway.
There are 2 Iranian airlines, but both are telling us that they are booked for at least 3 weeks. One of them is only flying to Europe, the other one has eventually some flights going east, but the flights are all very expensive.

No international credit cards in Iran

There is also another problem we are facing. With the iranian airlines it’s only possible to pay with iranian money, whether it’s cash or online. Since Iran is not connected to the international banking system, our german credit card is useless and there is no way to get cash money in Iran. We only have left 200 USD, because we are already much longer in Iran since we have planned.
The cash money we have with us, we got from an Armenien ATM and we exchange USD and Rial as we need iranian money. But the remaining 200 USD are definitely not enough for a flight.

Instagram call for help

We call for help on our Instagram profile and ask for somebody to help us with this money exchange problem. At the end an iranian friend is helping us. He knows a service which normally helps iranien students who are studying abroad in Germany to get Euro. In our case he helped us to get iranian money and we sent him Euro from our German bank account. We have no clue how it works, but it worked.
We find flights to Bangkok, Thailand, but they are somewhat 1.400 US Dollar which is way too much. As a comparison – we needed 400 US Dollar per month during the last 7 months traveling. We are not prepared to spend the money of 3,5 months of traveling and living for one single flight. Then suddenly the price for the flight on one specific date drops to half, which we finally book then.

Leave Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar out?

Meanwhile India changed their entry requirements. All people who have visited Iran, can’t go to India. Even already permitted Visa are invalid now. So is ours. But if we can’t go to India, it implies that we also can’t go to Nepal and Sri Lanka, because we don’t want to fly to all these countries. For the next 6 months we planned to travel to all these countries. We are considering and reconsidering our options. Corona is changing our whole traveling (and of course much more in the whole world). The world health organisation WHO says it makes no sense to close any borders and refer to experiences like the spanish flu in the past, but governments deciding differently.

For us, it’s annoying and it changes the way of traveling, but in the end it only means we have to pay more as we originally planned. We become aware of how it must be for most of Iranian people, who mostly can’t go out of their country. Because
-Men aren’t allowed to go out of Iran until they completed their military service
-Women aren’t allowed to leave the country without a signed paper from their husbands
-In many regions of the world it’s not allowed for Iranians to travel or it’s hard to get a visa
-The worse exchange rate of iranian money makes it very expensive to travel outside Iran

My grandma and how we plan to continue

So on the day of our flight to Bangkok we head to the airport, which is nearly empty. There are only 2 flights going on this specific day.
While sitting in the airplane I can’t close my eyes for a minute, even though it’s in the middle of the night.
One reason could be that we are flying over all these regions which we will miss now.
Another reason for being anxious could be that my grandmother has an undiscovered stroke right now.
As soon as we are in Bangkok and I hear about my grandmother, I decide that I want to see her one last time.
24 hours later we’re sitting in a flight going back to Germany.
The situation couldn’t be weirder.
Especially because we never intended to fly, but then there are these unplanned circumstances.
Is this the end of our traveling? No, definitely not. But we will wait until the world reached the corona peak and after that we would like to continue our route where we stopped – the border of Pakistan.

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