In this post I will try to give some pointers in terms of what to bring with you to Qum if you have finally received your visa and are ready to travel. There are a few different ways of getting to Tehran (and subsequently Qum) from the West. A few well known routes are Turkish Airlines from Canada and UK, KLM from Canada, Lufthansa from UK, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Iran Air from the UK and maybe a few others. I am not sure about what airlines one can take from the US to get here.
In any case, depending on which airlines you travel in and the type of seat you are booking, your luggage carrying allowance (weight and amount per person) will vary. I believe the least you can pack in any given airline is around 23 KG. Some airlines on certain routes may also only allow one suitcase per person, and will let you take a second suitcase for an additional fees – it may be a worthwhile expense to incur if you run into that issue. While you can essentially purchase anything here, I have still summarized a few list of essential items that will be useful in order to help get you jump-started while you are still new to the city and its surroundings:
Clothes: Pack for the summer months and pack decently for the winter as well. Although the winters aren’t as severe or as long as in certain parts of Canada and USA, it can still get relatively cold and you will need to cover up. Also don’t forget to pack a good amount of socks and undergarments.
Bathroom Essentials: Bring your shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, trimmer, comb and anything else you feel is necessary.
Footwear: Besides your shoes, make sure you bring sandals that you can wear outside the house. Many people wear sandals and socks outside here and it is a common sight to see. You will be taking your shoes off and putting them on many times throughout the day (for example, you have to takes your shoes off when you enter the class – at Madrassah Al Mahdi anyways), so sandals seem like a better alternative since they are quick to take off and put on. If you want you can also bring indoor foot-wear to walk around in, inside the house.
Electronics: Try not to bring too many electronics as you can get decent stuff here (and relatively less expensive). Though if you want, you can bring your ironing machine with you – they seem to be a tad bit pricey here and is something you may need to make use of right away. Don’t forget your phone chargers and little things like that, but besides that I don’t think you need anything else (at least for men anyways).
Miscellaneous: If you are a husband and wife traveling, then you have more luggage room to play with and therefore if you wish, you should be able to comfortably pack at least 2 bed-sheets and pillow covers each. You may also want to bring a bag that you will be able to use when you start attending classes – some people carry normal school bags, while some have the single-strap bags (laptop styled ones). Other items people generally bring are food items, like chocolates, granola bars, coffee (Tim Hortons anyone?) or anything else that they may get a craving off while away from their homes. Many South Asians will bring their own boxes of spices (Shaan Masala or other brands) since you will not find them here in local stores.
Just a note: If you are bringing any electronics, make sure that they are able to handle at least up to 220 Volts (that is what you get out of the circuits here), otherwise you may want to purchase a voltage converter for it. The shape of the plugs here is also different, so buy one or two converters for those as well.
Money: There is absolutely no secure way to transfer money to Iran from Canada, USA and probably the UK as well (via Wire-Transfer, Western Union etc.), and the safest method is basically you having to carry cash with you when you come. You may want to check your country’s cross-border rulings in terms of carrying cash outside the country. Some countries have limits on the amount of cash you can carry on hand with you, or if you do happen to have a lot of cash with you, the airport customs may have the right to ask you to show proof that the money is yours (via a bank statement etc). What I have been told by various individuals is that if one person is carrying more than 10-thousand dollars outside of Canada, you will need to declare it while checking in. Likewise, I was told that if you are carrying around 5-thousand pounds outside of UK, you will also need to declare it. This is what I have heard, but haven’t checked on it to confirm it. Take a look into it – better to be safe than sorry.
I think that about covers most of the essential things that I could think of off the top of my head. Other than that, you don’t have to bring books that you may possess back home, or notebooks and massive stationary sets. You can purchase all those things here for a very low cost, and they will unnecessarily take up space in your luggage. All in all, try not to bring items that you will not need to make use of in an immediate sense and can alternatively also purchase here afterwards once you are settled a bit.