According to the famous tourist guide that everyone who travels by Iran follows, as there are many more interesting alternatives for those traveling on their own, the city of Bandar Abbas, came not even mentioned in a older version of this book in addition to a point on the map. Although the latest version is dedicated a topic to Bandar Abbas where it is mentioned that nothing attracts a foreign visitor beside being the port to catch the boat to Qeshem and Hormoz islands, located in the Persian Gulf.
However, what brought me here was any of these options; I arrive here because Bandar Abbas is the port to catch the ferry towards the United Arab Emirates, a way out of Iran as an alternative to popular route requiring the return to Tehran to follow by plane.
But Bandar Abbas, although it lacks the famous tourist attractions such as mosques, palaces and gardens, not all devoid of interest, with a lively and diverse bazaar and fish market.
Historically this port was Portuguese in the sixteenth century when Portugal dominated the Strait of Hormuz. In 1622, Shah Abbas won this port, so called Cambarão, and the name changed to the name of the Iranian conqueror, where “bandar” means harbor.
The city itself, consisting of straight avenues and modern buildings, no particularly attractive, with a long sidewalk along the sea that without any tree or shading doesn’t seams appealing in this kind of climate. But as one of the main Iranian ports in the Persian Gulf, Bandar Abbas attracts many businesses in more or less legal activities, being famous for smuggling.
The city dominated by the warm and humid climate, which contrasts with the dry air of most of the Iranian territory, appears more relaxed, with the flowery clothes of Balochi women, ethnic group dispersed by Southeast region of Iran, in particular Kaluts Desert.
The bazaar, half asleep by the day’s heat which together with the moisture invite inertia, buzzing intensity after going sun-set, along the narrow streets where it sells a bit of everything, with as tobacco sold in leaves, dried seafood with the characteristic sickly smell, and the sweet dates, with soft and intense flavor, glow under the electric lights. In the streets around, is the fruits and vegetables market, with the goods on the ground or in improvised stalls. A small market selling fish and seafood unexpectedly appears at the end of one of these streets, dimly light by lamps hanging in a net of electrical wires within walking distance of our heads.
If the night is time to wander around the bazaar, but in the morning is time to visit the fish market, where both inside as outside is visible bustling activity, with many customers walking around, the calls of vendors, the rush of porters and… where fish smell growing in intensity as the temperature of the air raise. Women squatting at the curb, peel in automatic gesture small shrimps, while around under running water fish is flaky and free of viscera, which leaves a trail of bloody water down the street.
Bandar Abbas, with its tropical climate, relaxation and friendliness of the locals, the color of women’s clothing, the smell of the fish market, the animation of the bazaar, and the delicious dates was a pleasant surprise for the farewell of Iran!
Bandar Abbas, as Esfahan isn’t prepared with accommodation for backpackers, yet there are dozens of hotels in the city, most focus on business people, with a wide range of prices, but a bit higher than the values that are in other cities.
As the Hotel Darya, I was full was forwarded to another, less than two minutes walking, at the end of the same street, the Kowsar Hotel. After some negotiation a double room (but only for one person) with en-suite shared, wi-fi, fridge and air conditioning (which here makes even lack) stood at 500,000 rials… still one extravagance to say goodbye Iran!
The staff speaks English and is extremely helpful in providing information.
To show how Bandar Abbas is off the tourist circuit, the Kowsar Hotel business card is written only in Farsi, as well as phone numbers.
Where to eat:
Asking here and there for a falafel I was strongly advised to look for a small stall that at end of the day, around 5.00 pm starts the make this snack, which judging by the number of people waiting aroused the curiosity. It is a narrow street perpendicular to Imam Khomeini Street, next to the Velayat Square, with this narrow street to emerge between a goldsmith sequence of shops and a massive building belonging to a bank.
A good surprise was the halim, somewhere between soup and a poridge, that I was indicated by a group of men sitting on the street shared one of these meals. So, following their indication I found the restaurants that served one of the best halim, and that refused to get paid as much as I have insisted with… as happened many times over this trip by Iran. The shop is in a perpendicular to the Imam Khomeini Street, but in the opposite direction to the sea, probably at Shahid Beheshti Boulevard, but the best is to show the logo of the restaurant, printed on the bag and ask someone in the streets were it is situated, because is quite popular restaurant in the city center.
Being the last point in the Iranian route, it was time to change the past rials for dinars and dollars. It is essential to exchange rials before leaving Iran because outside the country can not … and who save notes for a next visit, we risk that the inflation that the economy is subject to the notes lose value or even go out of circulation.
The option was to Morvarin Exhange, situated in a commercial area in Imam Khomeini Street, next to the Velayat Square. As the service was friendly and the amount was small, I did not look for the best rates, but right in front, in the same shopping area there is another store.
Travel between Bam and Bandar Abbas, more than 400 kilometers can be done at night bus, coming out of Bam in the evening and arrive the next morning to Bandar Abbas. But on the advice of Akbar, who owns the guest house in Bam the trip was made during the day to enjoy the landscape, which really paid off because the route cross the mountains on south of Bam, and was one of the most interesting landscape in Iran.
But this day trip has the disadvantage of having to be made by savari (shared-taxis), that only make trps between cities and never go for far distances; so are need 3 savaris to reach Bandar Abbas, stopping at Jirot and Kahnooj. The system seems complex but it is a common practice among the local population that uses this system to travel in areas where buses are scarce, so the savaris, end the service in a kind of terminal, more or less improvised, where other taxi drivers wait until the vehicle is full.
The trip was more expensive than the bus, totaling 450,000 rials, compensated by the landscape and to avoid the hassle of a sleepless night on a bus.
Bam – Jirot: 140,000 rials
Jirot – Kahnooj: 110,000 rials
Kahnooj – Bandar Abbas: 200,000 rials
Ferry Boat to the Emirates
Buy the ferry ticket in advance to the UAE, whether for Sharaj or Dubai it is difficult if not impossible. Tried in several cities, Esfahan, Yazd, Shiraz, Bam… but it was almost impossible to take precise and reliable information.
However the best information on how to cross the Strait of Hormuz is in site below, with maximum detail and updated information, although more focused for those who make the trip with car or motorcycle and needs more complex legal procedures.
- To buy the ferry ticket at Bandar Abbas, just go to Bala Parvaz Travel Agency in Imam Khomeini Street.
- Ticket: 270,000 rials (not being charged commission). The amount has to be paid in rials and is required passport.
- The ferry depart from Bahonar Port.
- Taxi from the center of Bandar Abbas to Bahonar Port: 70,000 rials; approximately 20 minutes.
- The boat departs on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9:00 pm, but you must be in the departure lounge by 5:00 pm, it is not worth getting there before… it’s a long wait for formalities, stamps, customs… plus the time required to accommodate load and vehicles in the basement. On this day the boat left by midnight.
- Don’t need to buy the ticket in advance nor trying to book because the ferry was little more than 20% occupancy.