US, UK Citizen’s Traveling to Iran Rules
Here is detailed information regarding United States citizen’s traveling to Islamic Republic of Iran rules (also the United Kingdom and Canadian citizens) whose traveling law is different from other nations
What is the Iran visa rule for USA citizens?
The Iranian government requires that all USA, UK and Canadian citizen’s travel with a private guide or group tour to Iran. Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) should approve your complete guided travel itinerary before issuing you a visa; guided travel itinerary means a travel guide must accompany you while you’re in the country. It can be traveling either as part of a group tour or on a custom-made individual one specially planned based on your interests. You must submit your itinerary in advance and adhere to that exactly. Regardless of you be a part of a group tour or travel as an independent traveler, you will have much time to explore around, walk the streets, browse the bazaars, making a connection with ordinary people, eat street food and…
Traveling to Iran as an American citizen may sound complicated and dangerous. It’s not!
We’re here to dispel the myths and answer the questions piling up in our inbox based on
two American’s visit to Iran.
Are Americans legally allowed to go to Iran?
It’s a common belief that Iran holds the same status as Cuba for Americans. (i.e., that it’s illegal to go to while not special permission from the U.S. government) although the united states have imposed sanctions against Iran, there are presently no restrictions on Americans visiting Iran as tourists. Currently, about 1,000-1,500 Americans visit Iran every year.
Can Americans travel independently in Iran?
The Iranian government requires that all American tourists travel with a private guide or group tour. Your Iranian guide will be specially licensed to guide Americans and should be aware of any relevant Iranian government regulations.
If you happen to be independent travelers like us, don’t be deterred by this requirement. We experienced both a group tour and a private guide in Iran. In each circumstance, we still had ample time to explore, walk the streets and browse the bazaars (markets) on our own. We made connections with ordinary people, we ate street food and we were even lucky enough to simply accept a few invitations to people’s homes.
Update: As of Feb 2014 it’s also required for the united kingdom and Canadian citizens to either be a part of a group tour or have a private guide to receive a visa to Iran.
How will an American citizen get an Iranian tourist visa?
Obtaining an Iranian visa is roughly a two-step process:
- A travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs, and
- The particular tourist visa issued by an Iranian consulate.
The tour company you work with can assist you with the paperwork you need for your visa. All you need to do is fill out an application form, inform them of the Iranian consulate wherever you’ll obtain the visa, then summon some patience.
The difficult part of the process is the authorization number; this sometimes takes 30-40 business days for American citizens. Once you have that number, obtaining your visa from the Iranian consulate is almost a sure thing (2-3 days).
We’ve been informed that some Iranian agencies are able to get the authorization numbers for USA citizens in about two weeks right now. However, for your planning purposes, we still recommend you assume 30 days, therefore, you’re not down to the last minute.
Our advice is to start the visa process as early as you can so you don’t have a heart attack waiting for your visa to arrive on a similar morning as your flight (true story from a member of our tour group).
But there is no Iranian Embassy in the US, how can I get my visa?
Although the Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have an official embassy in Washington, DC, there’s an Iranian “interest section” at the Pakistan Embassy that handles Iranian visa requests. If you don’t live in the DC area, you’ll need to send your passport, application form and passport photos by mail (e.g., DHL, FedEx, etc.) with a prepaid return envelope.
Or, if you’re traveling like us, you’ll be able to obtain your visa at an Iranian consulate abroad. You only need to specify that consulate location once you apply for the authorization number. We collected our Iranian tourist visa in Istanbul, Turkey. The process was comparatively simple and painless. We highly suggest it. Simply leave a few days cushion if you can and make sure you show up promptly at the time stamped on your visa application receipt. The cost was €70 for a 20-day Iranian tourist visa.
As an American, however, can Iranians treat me?
Iranian people were often shocked to discover that we were Americans and that we were able to get a visa to their country. Once this truth set in, they usually went over the top in welcoming us — everything from cordial greetings, to smiles, hugs, gifts, and invitations to homes — particularly when our guide was out of sight. we joke that it’s the closest we’ve felt to being rock stars.
Iran: group Tour or private Guide?
Whether you select to travel to Iran on a group tour or with a private guide will likely boil down to cost and travel style.
We traveled on a group tour for 2 weeks, then concluded with a private guide for a 3rd week. we enjoyed each experience, however, each comes with its own benefits and potential drawbacks.
One of the things we loved about our trip was our group.
There were seven of us – four from the united states, 2from Australia and one from Denmark –and we all hit it off immediately.
During our private tour, we had a bit more freedom to see the itinerary and schedule. However, having a private guide (possibly with you at all times, depending on the guide’s style and adherence to the rules) may be intense, and at times nearly stifling.
Regardless, in both circumstances, it’s best to continually express your wishes and find creative ways to assist facilitate your guide in meeting those wishes.
Keep in mind: the Iranian tour company who sponsors your visa is technically responsible for you during your entire stay in Iran. As a result, you can’t really combine and match tour companies in assembling your itinerary. However,r you can use the same tour company for both a group and a private tour.
Did you ever have issues with Iranian authorities? Were you ever tracked or followed during your trip?
We encountered just one incident in 3 weeks where a uniformed guy with a gun followed us for a bit through a market and asked to see our passports. Our Iranian guide shouted at him and told him that he had no right to ask for our papers. The guard backed down and left us alone, however, our guide insisted on calling him an“uneducated donkey” as we walked away. As unsettling as the episode was at first, it eventually made us laugh and left us with a good story.
It’s not possible for us to know whether or not that someone following us, however, it certainly didn’t want it. We walked the streets and engaged with local people. It all felt very safe and normal. We were never concerned regarding our personal safety.
Is there a dress code for ladies traveling in Iran?
Women visiting Iran must wear a headscarf that covers one’s head when in public. In addition, girls should plan to wear a long shirt, sweater or jacket over your trousers (jeans are OK) or a long skirt. As a foreign lady, you may get less scrutiny than local girls. However, it’s still best to dress modestly and respectfully
What I did during my visit to Iran was wearing a long, black cardigan sweater over whatever shirt I wanted to wear. The sweater covered my butt and thighs, and I could wear it simply over jeans and beneath my winter jacket. And, of course, I had my headscarf on an all times.
Just because Iran has a dress code for ladies, don’t expect Iranians to be unfashionable. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. Headscarves and outfits are perfectly matched, and many girls are pushing the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable by the authorities. This sophisticated sense of fashion crossed with a bit of rebelliousness is fascinating. Here you can read more about Iran dress code.
What should I expect in terms of immigration and security entering and exiting Iran?
For us and everyone else in our tour group, entry into Iran was a non-event. we were fingerprinted on our way into the country at the Teheran airport, however, we did not experience exceptional scrutiny of our camera and travel equipment.
Upon exiting Iran into Turkey (via the train from Tabriz to Istanbul), Iranian passport control was similarly quiet. Iranian border officers aboard our train were jovial and curious about what we saw, where we went and how our experience was.
What should I expect in terms of immigration and customs upon re-entry into the U.S. after a visit to Iran?
Stories circulating from other American visitors to Iran indicate that experiences vary. Again, ours was a non-event. We listed Iran on our inbound immigrations and customs form and the homeland security agent said, “Iran. I have to ask.”
We explained that we are travel bloggers and photographers. He asked where we went, mentioned that he’d seen a show about Iran on the Travel Channel and we were on our way.
Going through U.S. customs was equally quiet. Agents waved us on without asking us to open our luggage.
Can I get cash out of ATM machines in Iran? am I able to use credit cards in Iran?
Iranian banks also are subject to international sanctions. Therefore although Iran is full of banks and ATM machines, you won’t be able to get cash out at any of them with your ATM card. Thus money is the name of the game. Return armed with U.S. dollars (or Euros) and exchange them in major cities at currency exchange shops where exchange rates are two hundredth above in Iranian banks.
Don’t count on using your credit card. just some of the more sophisticated Iranian souvenir and carpet retailers can accept credit cards and route transactions through a partner business in Dubai or elsewhere in the Middle East.
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