Internet Access

In Iran, internet caf├ęs are known as coffeenets, though you'll rarely find coffee on the menu. You can get online in all Iranian cities and big towns, and a growing number of smaller centres. Most coffeenets charge about IR10,000 an hour; more in hotels. Speeds are variable, but most cities now have ADSL connections. If you plan to use a messenger service, note that Yahoo! Messenger (www.yahoo.com) is used almost everywhere, but MSN Messenger (www .msn.com) is harder to find. Skype (www .skype.com) is growing in popularity, but many coffeenets don't have headsets.

Unfortunately, Iranian coffeenets are badly infected with viruses. During this research trip our USB memory stick picked up more than 50 viruses, worms, Trojan horses, key-loggers and other nasties. So be careful about doing internet banking unless the anti-virus software is up to date, and scan carefully before sticking anything into your own computer that has been in an Iranian machine.

One way to avoid viruses is bring your own computer and connect to dial-up from your hotel. In most cases you'll need an adaptor to plug into the phone line. Most are unusual two-pin types that your RJ-11 plugs into the back of; they're available in electronics stores.

Even with the adaptor, you'll still have work to do to get online. First, you need to find out if your hotel has a switchboard sophisticated enough to allow long local calls (many switchboards look like they've been around since Alexander Graham Bell's day). If they do, you'll then need to buy a pre-paid access card, which costs about IR10,000 for five hours. Unfortunately, most of these have access numbers for local areas only, so you'll need to buy a new one in each city - it won't break the bank. The cards are available at coffeenets and newsstands.

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