Getting into and out of Iran
Whenever I have gone, it has been via Dubai, because I use Emirates to fly to the Far East. Emirates arrive at Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA) – though other airlines may not do. If your airline arrives at Mehrabad note that this is the old airport and now generally used for domestic flights. This airport is closer to central Tehran than the international airport (IKA).
You can also enter Iran from smaller regional airports, the queues etc. at Shiraz airport will be much smaller than in Tehran. It is possible to get flights to Shiraz from Dubai (Terminal Two).
For direct flights to Mashhad, Gulf Air have a flight to Bahrain (twice a week) and Qatar airways also fly to Doha (3 times a week).
Imam Khomeini Airport
This is 35km south of Tehran and is used by most international flights. Mehrabad (for internal flights) is towards the west of the City, it is only possible to travel between the two by taxi. You should allow an hour to get to the airport from destinations within Tehran.
Buying internal air tickets in Iran
From Qom to Mashhad
You can then take the flight to Mashhad from the domestic airport which is in Tehran. The return flight should not cost more than £40 (approx US$60). But you will either be travelling in a Tupolev, or an old Boeing/Airbus. The train option is possible, takes about 12 hours and I’ve never done it.
Local travel in Mashhad
From Mashhad airport to your hotel
At Mashhad airport tell the taxi driver to take you to the Attrak Hotel (or whichever one you choose). He will ask if you have a reservation etc. say yes you do. He will try and take you somewhere else, but if you insist on where you want to go he will do as you say. The Attrak is very close to the harram and most importantly does not involve crossing any roads. The restaurant is nice, clean and relatively inexpensive. In 2007 we paid £67 / US$100 per night (in total), for a 2 bedroom apartment for 5 adults and 3 children. The most we ever paid for a meal at the hotel was £27/US$45 (for all of us). For one person a meal came to around 10000 which is about US$12, which was expensive for Iran, so you can definitely eat more cheaply outside.
The road trip option
The following website shows how people can head south from Tehran by car and then take the flight to Mashhad. This involves driving from Tehran to Qom, onto Isfahan and then to Shiraz. For some people this may seem to be easier than the endless waiting for aeroplanes, plus you can see the towns and cities en route.
Travel Times Between Key Destinations around Tehran
In order to work out when you'll visit the key locations, it can be useful to have an idea of where they are in relation to each other and also how long it takes to travel between them. I've drawn the following schematic, which I hope helps.