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São Luís City Tour and planned Travel to Iran

For today we had a city tour of São Luís planned and our local guide Bruno was supposed to pick us up at 9am. Actually he showed up at 10am because our leader Ross tried to re-schedule the tour to 10am. Since Ross didn’t receive any feedback on his email, we assumed that Bruno didn’t receive it in time and were ready at 9am.

The city tour started at a plaza where we saw a strange statue of a guy with a chopped off hand. When I understood the story behind correctly, his hand was chopped off because he didn’t agree to the closure of the school located at the plaza.

We continued our walking tour to a church, the sea front and a number of colonial buildings. The city very much reminds me of Lisbon. Especially the buildings with their colorful flagging are very similar but less well preserved. Therefore, the city center of São Luís was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site and owners of colonial buildings are taken into responsibility to restore the buildings. Actually this is a difficult task since the hot and humid weather is continuously washing off the paint.

São Luís is also said to be the center of Reggae music in Brazil and one of the major locations for Capoeira but I didn’t recognize it too much by walking along the streets. Bruno also took us into a local bar where we tried different kinds of home-made schnapps including flavours like passion fruit and ginger. The owner of the bar had hung up big posters asking guests to not spit on the floor and to not take pictures. So I only took a few sneaky pictures to capture the atmosphere. And of course I didn’t spit on the floor :-)

We ended the tour on the local market right next to the area where the locals hang out at night. I returned there in the evening and tasted some street food which was very good and with only three Real surprisingly cheap.

I also received an email from Dragoman today informing me about the travel situation in Iran where I’m planning to go in 3-4 months from now. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) does currently not advice British nationals to travel to Iran but Dragoman still assesses the places we travel to as save and will run the trip through Iran as planned. However, travelers have the option to fly over Iran but if the political situation stays stable in Iran I will trust the assessment of Dragoman and travel over land through Iran. I know that the company is very experienced in overland travel and that they wouldn’t hesitate to cancel a piece of a trip if there is serious danger in the country. As an example they have currently cancelled all trips through Syria.

Here is the letter:

Istanbul to Ashgabat / Ashgabat to Istanbul 2012 departures

It is important that you do keep updated with Government travel advice. Just in case you are unaware, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all but essential travel to Iran.

Your Istanbul to Ashgabat (and vice versa) trip is due to spend 16 days visiting Iran.

Is it important that we make you are aware of the current British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice, we have therefore reproduced the text below.

‘We advise against all but essential travel to Iran. All British nationals in Iran should keep a low profile. There has been a dramatic increase in anti-British rhetoric from parliamentarians and demonstrators. The Iranian parliament and Guardian Council voted on 25 and 28 November respectively to expel the British Ambassador to Iran. During a demonstration on 29 November the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked, entered and set on fire. British nationals have been arbitrarily detained in Iran in 2010 and 2011.’

Visit for the full advice on Iran.

‘The British Embassy in Tehran has closed and all UK-based staff have been evacuated. British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance can visit the Embassy of any EU Member state in Tehran, or in an emergency call the FCO in London on (+44) 20 7008 1500.’

Other governments differ in their advice. Below are links to some of the websites
New Zealand:
United States:

Dragoman has comprehensive passenger liability protection and tour operator insurance valid for travel in Iran. These policies have total indemnities of £5,000,000 and £10,000,000 respectively. This is in addition to local vehicle insurance and your personal travel insurance.

We are also in regular contact with our ground operator in Iran. Their in depth knowledge and understanding of the situation on the ground is vital and helps us make an informed decision. From all the advice given to us, Dragoman believes Iran remains safe to travel through and would like to continue running the Itinerary through Iran. However, because the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice is advising against all but essential travel it is important that you fully understand your options.

There are a couple of ways to proceed with the trip without totally disrupting your plans
a) Continue with the trip as planned crossing the border from Turkey to Iran and continue with the original itinerary.
b) Continue to travel with us but “sign off” the trip in Turkey and fly over Iran (at your own expense as per the booking conditions) meeting back up with the group in Ashgabat on the same date the group crosses into Turkmenistan.

If you are unhappy with either of these options please let us know.

If you are happy with option A, we ask you to sign the disclaimer below and send it back to us. If you would like to fax it to us please use +44 1728 861127.

If you would like more information about option ‘B’, please contact your sales agent who will be happy to discuss this option in more detail.

Dragoman, in the meantime will be looking at all the latest British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice and will remain in close contact with our ground operators in Iran. If there are any changes to the current situation, Dragoman will act accordingly.

Travel Insurance

If you have a travel insurance policy arranged by Campbell Irvine it is important to note that their underwriters have agreed to provide cover subject to each client being fully advised of the FCO warning advising against all but essential travel, acknowledging such warning and signing this letter (disclaimer). Cover will then be operative but excluding any claims arising out of or in connection with the reasons for which the FCO are advising against travel.

If you have a policy other than Campbell Irvine’s you should check whether or not the cover will be affected as some Insurance providers may not be able to offer cover due to the current FCO advise. If you wish to purchase a Campbell Irvine policy to cover the duration of your stay in Iran please see the details below:

Campbell Irvine
48, Earls Court Road
W8 6EJ
Telephone: 020 7937 6981

If you have any questions please call and speak to one of our sales team.

Charlie Hopkinson.  Director


I, …, on behalf of myself and … acknowledge receipt of details of the advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office against all but essential travel to Iran. I confirm that I/We are happy to continue with the trip to Iran and confirm that I/We are aware of the alternative options open to us.

signed …

dated …