Luxury train pulls into Teheran amid Western tourism push

A waiter serves lunch on board a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A waiter serves lunch on board a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Passengers enjoy piano music in the bar car of a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Passengers enjoy piano music in the bar car of a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The Hungarian countryside goes past the window in front of a table set for lunch on board a luxury Teheran-bound train on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The Hungarian countryside goes past the window in front of a table set for lunch on board a luxury Teheran-bound train on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 Passengers survey the offerings aboard a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 Passengers survey the offerings aboard a historic Teheran-bound train as it leaves Budapest on Oct 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A waiter prepares to serve lunch on board a luxury historic train bound for Teheran from Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A waiter prepares to serve lunch on board a luxury historic train bound for Teheran from Budapest on Oct 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A luxury train filled with Western tourists pulled into Teheran on Monday, after an almost two-week journey from Budapest taking in Iranian cities that reportedly cost up to US$31,000 (S$38,759) a head. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A luxury train filled with Western tourists pulled into Teheran on Monday, after an almost two-week journey from Budapest taking in Iranian cities that reportedly cost up to US$31,000 (S$38,759) a head. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TEHERAN (AFP) - A luxury train filled with Western tourists pulled into Tehran on Monday, after an almost two-week journey from Budapest taking in Iranian cities that reportedly cost up to US$31,000 (S$38,759) a head.

Around 70 passengers, mostly from Britain and Australia, visited the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Yazd before reaching the Iranian capital where the travellers will spend two days before flying home.

The "Jewels of Persia" tour left Budapest on October 15 with the organisers billing it a five-star experience in 13 lavishly decorated, wood-panelled 1950s carriages.

En route for Iran on the Golden-Eagle-Danube Express train, operated by Hungarian Railways, the passengers passed through Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Another 12 trips are scheduled for next year - eight leaving Budapest and four departing Teheran - with the price of the most expensive tickets jumping to US$37,000.

The number of foreign visitors to Iran has risen sharply since the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani whose government wants to boost tourism.

Official figures released in March showed tourist numbers were up 35 percent year-on-year to 4.5 million, bringing US$6 billion in revenue.

"In every city, every town we've seen people to be very friendly," said Bob, a retired pharmacist from Adelaide, who had made the trip to Teheran with his wife Janet.

"You get the wrong impression (of Iran) from newspapers," he said of media back home. "They give the wrong side."