Buses in Iran are quite comfortable and efficient. The routes I took last between 6h to 12h of journey time. I came across a wide circle of characters, ranging from dodgy couriers with suspicious cargo to white robe-clad pilgrims. I manage to cover most of the eastern side of Iran, bordering Afganistan and Pakinstan.
It was a small bus station somewhere between Tehran and Mashhad. It is actually inside the shop where you could buy snacks, coke, fruit, and water, of course. It must have been a popular stop amongst international travellers as English was widely spoken and customer service was similar to any Western busy supermarket.
This is security check point between Sistan/Baluchestan Province and Kerman Province. It actually reminded me of Bosnian border. We had to exit the coach go through this security rooms, have our passport checked and get back on the coach. Quite simple and straightforward process. I as Caucasian was looked at with curiosity and slight suspicion. Probably my passsort helped. The ones who are under scrutiny and investigation are mostly locals trying to smuggle something or fugitives.
Mashhad Bus Station
Mashhad Bus Terminal was heavily secured and patrolled. You wouldnt just randomly walk around. The keeper would approach you and offer assistance. While taking this photos I was almost immediately surrounded by two gentlemen in uniform and asked ‘where are heading to?’, which was fine as I genuinely needed directions to the right bay.
Once inside the bus I should relax and get comfortable but for some reason I couldn’t. Our bus was actually circling the Terminal. It took time to exit and have our papers checked only to return and do it again, but this time we pulled over at the small parking lot and two big guys started to load huge boxes onto the back seats. I mean this was overnight journey from Mashhad to Zahedan, (near Pakistani and Afganistani border. What was the unexpected cargo next to me? I never knew. It appeared that this was a regular thing. The had calm faces, no sweat.
As you see, this bus was not packed. I used one of the logistically convenient and secure bus companies. It was ineed safe. I felt like a precious cargo they were tasked to safely transport to Zahedan bus terminal.
The seats were comfortable enough and legroom was more spacious than Ryanair.
In the middle of nowhere. Just me and five more passengers.
This road was going along Afgan border so high security alert was to be expected. It was advised never to use this road at night. Well, here I was.
Upon leaving Kerman, we were stopped and searched at this petrol station. Well, there were petrol pumps but further down there was a police guarded parking lot for buses and cars and a small makeshift waiting hall. The police dogs were doing their job sniffing the luggage storage compartments and underneath the vehicle. While I could understand the purpose of searching long distance coaches and vans I was left scratching my head when I saw a family car being almost disemboweled by two overzealous guards. There was this mutual respect and cooperation between coach drivers and police, I guess, for greater benefit.
Kerman Bus Terminal is big enough to find convenience stores, restaurants, fast food bars, or ticket vendors. My bus to Bandar Abbas was supposed to depart at 11.30pm. Here you have different bus companies offering various routes. I picked the direct, first class coach with drinks and blanket. Having brushed up my Persian I thought it would be a good opportunity to put into practice. I aporached the ticket counter and spoke the language to the lady. I have some notes, yes but the conversation ultimately resulted in me having a ticket I wanted. She smiled and appreciated the effort I made. Believe me these places are not always the friendliest ones when it comes to customer service. During those three hours waiting I witness abuses and threat being shouted at a few times by ‘ dissatisfied customers’.
That’s what most travellers need at every train or bus station. Charger spot. No reason to fret over your mobile being nicked. People would plug it and walk away only to return hours later. A few new acquaintances were made and food shared.