Traveling to Iran as Americans: All You Need to Know

Staying Warm in Iranian Mountains - Masuleh, Iran
Audrey hanging with a group of Iranian women in Masouleh.

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 our visit to Iran just a few weeks ago.

Our aim in the following Q&A is to answer actual reader queries and to help demystify the process of traveling to Iran.

Are American citizens legally allowed to visit Iran?

It’s a common belief that Iran holds the same status as Cuba for American citizens (i.e., that it’s illegal to visit without special permission from the U.S. government). Although the United States has imposed sanctions against Iran, there are currently no restrictions on American citizens visiting Iran as tourists. Currently, about 1,000-1,500 Americans visit Iran each year.

Audrey in the Pink Mosque - Shiraz, Iran
Audrey enjoys a peaceful moment at the Pink Mosque in Shiraz, Iran.

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 authorized to guide American citizens 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 both circumstances, 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 fortunate enough to accept a couple invitations to people’s homes.

How does an American citizen obtain an Iranian tourist visa?

Obtaining an Iranian visa is roughly a two-step process: 1) a travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affairs, and 2) the actual tourist visa issued by an Iranian consulate.

The tour company you work with will help 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 where you’ll pick up the visa, then summon some patience.

The difficult part of the process is the authorization number; this usually takes 30-40 business days for American citizens. Once you have that number, getting your visa from the Iranian consulate is almost a sure thing (2-3 days).

Iranian visa in hand. #thankgoodness  #dna2iran
Dan, content with his newly acquired Iranian tourist visa.

Our advice is to get the visa process started as early as you can so that you don’t have a heart attack waiting for your visa to arrive on the same morning as your flight (true story from a member of our tour group).

But there is no Iranian Embassy in the United States. How will I get my visa?

Although Iran doesn’t have an official embassy in Washington, DC, there is 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 can pick up your visa at an Iranian consulate abroad. You just need to specify which consulate location when you apply for the authorization number. We collected our Iranian tourist visa in Istanbul, Turkey. The process was relatively easy and painless. We highly recommend it. Just 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, how will Iranians treat me?

Iranian people were often shocked to discover that we were American and that we were able to get a visa to their country. Once this fact set in, they often went over the top in welcoming us — everything from cordial greetings, to smiles, hugs, gifts and invitations to homes — especially when our guide was out of sight. We joke that it’s the closest we’ve felt to being rock stars.

Iranian Men with Dan - Fuman, Iran
Iranian Men with Dan

Iran: Group Tour or Private Guide?

Whether you choose to travel 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 two weeks, then concluded with a private guide for a third week. We enjoyed both experiences, but each comes with its own benefits and potential drawbacks.

One of the things we loved about our G Adventures tour was our group. There were seven of us – four from the United States, two from Australia and one from Denmark –and we all hit it off immediately.

Iranian University Students - Esfahan, Iran
Our G Adventures group adopted by some Iranian university students in Esfahan

During our private tour, we had a bit more freedom to determine 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) can be intense, and at times almost stifling.

Regardless, in both circumstances it’s best to continually express your wishes and find creative ways to help 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 mix and match tour companies in assembling your itinerary.

Did you ever have problems with Iranian authorities? Were you ever tracked or followed during your trip?

We encountered only one incident in three 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 yelled at him and told him that he had no right to ask for our papers. The guard backed down and left us alone, but 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 impossible for us to know whether or not we were being tracked, but it certainly didn’t feel like it. We walked the streets and engaged with local people. It all felt very safe and normal; we were never concerned for our personal safety.

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 Tehran airport, but 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 uneventful. Iranian border officials aboard our train were jovial and interested in what we saw, where we went and how our experience was.

All aboard the Midnight Express (Tehran to Istanbul)
Our non-traditional exit from Iran, the midnight express from Tehran to Istanbul

What should I expect in terms of immigrations 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 similarly uneventful. Agents waved us on without asking us to open our bags.

What about American sanctions? Can I buy Iranian souvenirs?

Americans are technically only allowed to bring $100 of Iranian goods per person into the U.S.

Does that mean you need to restrict your shopping? Well, not really. It’s up to you. Many businesses offer special receipts with “adjusted” amounts that are a bit lower than what was actually paid.

Buying Iranian Gifts - Shiraz, Iran
Shopping inside the old bazaar in Shiraz.

Iranian carpets are also subject to U.S. sanctions as well. So if your heart is set on a Persian carpet, you may want to find a shop that has a presence or partner in Dubai (or elsewhere in the Middle East) so that they can ship the carpet to you from their partner location.

Can I get money out of ATM machines in Iran? Can I use credit cards in Iran?

Iranian banks are also subject to international sanctions. So although Iran is full of banks and ATM machines, you won’t be able to get money out at any of them with your ATM card. So cash is the name of the game. Come armed with U.S. dollars (or Euros) and exchange them in major cities at currency exchange outlets where exchange rates are 20% higher than in Iranian banks.

Don’t count on using your credit card. Only some of the more sophisticated Iranian souvenir and carpet shops will accept credit cards and route transactions through a partner business in Dubai or elsewhere in the Middle East.

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Have other questions about traveling to Iran? Let us know in the comments.

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Disclosure: Our trip to Iran is in cooperation with G Adventures as Wanderers in Residence. We paid our own transport to and from Iran, some expenses on the ground and for an additional one week private tour. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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We traveled to Iran with the G Adventures Discover Persia Tour. If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on the ad below. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission that helps us to continue sharing stories like this. Thank you!

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Comments

  1. says

    Very informative and interesting post! Thanks for this.

    It’s awesome to hear that the Iranian people were so welcoming. That really made me smile. It just goes to show you that a lot of those stereotypes we are fed by the media are just that – stereotypes.

  2. says

    @Amanda: Thanks, glad you enjoyed this and hope the information is useful! We had heard beforehand that Iranian people are welcoming and hospitable, especially to Americans but the reality exceeded all those expectations. Just shows that travel is one of the best ways to turn stereotypes upside down.

    @Erik: Yes, it was a fascinating journey. Still so much to process.

  3. says

    Nice article! I definitely agree with Amanda about the stereotypes, great to hear. And that was interesting about the “custom” receipts hahaha, I’ve had unmentionables show up on my receipts with a price only, no description, but never had to worry about fake receipts.

    Travel and learn, right? Anyway, keep it up, best wishes!

  4. says

    Thank you for the Q&A. Iran is a place that I’ve honestly never even thought about visiting, so thank you for demystifying it a bit for me. I’ll definitely pass this information on to others.

  5. says

    What a great post! You become ambassadors for those wanting to visit Iran and the people that you made connections with will remember the friendly Americans. Thanks for sharing.

  6. says

    Yet another fascinating journey for the Uncornered Duo!
    Audrey- you and all the other women have headscarves on in all the photos. Is it required for all women, or just recommended?
    We were in Morocco recently and were surprised that even many Moroccan women don’t wear headscarves. Especially those under 30.

  7. John says

    @Margaret: Headscarves or more precisely ‘hijab’(covering, i.e. (what locals consider) moderate dress)) is required by law in public places. The key phrase here though is ‘public places’, as what that constitutes is completely cultural. In private many Iranian women dress very fashionably and similar to Europeans/Americans. I should also mention that men too are under similar constraints (no shorts, etc).

  8. John says

    @Audrey: Great writeup, with two small caveats:

    1.) Since it’s the tour operator who has to start visa the process rolling and it takes considerable time/patience on their end, almost all charge some sort of fee for this service. The fee may/may not be included in the cost of your tour and can vastly vary from $20 to $200. Since visa support is required for quite a number of nationalities, one can easily check on what your operator is charging you. (This is not unusual and is the norm is the CIS for example).

    2.) The special interests section in Washington might ask you not to include a return envelope and charge you an extra $16 to send it themselves (or at least that was the case for me). Very kind folks there.

  9. Sutapa Chattopadhyay says

    Very informative article and it did answer my questions. Were you guys afraid when the guy with the gun was following you?

  10. says

    Really informative post. We have heard nothing but great things from other travelers on the road who had traveled through Iran about the kindness of the people and how their time there truly captivated them. We never met any Americans, however, who had been so really glad to hear you were as warmly received. I am anxious to see more photos from your journey and here about some of the highlights. Glad to here the group tour still allowed an authentic experience. Our visit to Tibet was far more restrictive. Our every move seem monitored by our guides and cooped up with a group full time gave us little interaction with the locals. Glad to hear group travel in Iran isn’t as bad. Thanks for sharing.

  11. says

    I am quite curious about Iran and other “off limits” countries, but I won’t go somewhere that requires women to dress a certain way. I know there are many feelings on the subject (hello? breast feeding in public debate in the US?), and different people have different boundaries, which is fine, but that’s my personal limit. That being said, I’m glad you went and were able to experience the human side of a country whose people are so often demonized.

  12. says

    Im glad I came across your Iran travel blog! I first took a heaping of interest on Iran when I was researching Shiraz wines and the likes; I then met this guy in Istanbul who was staying in the same room as I from Croatia who met a girl while in Tehran. He told me nothing but wonderful things about Iran and ever since then I’ve been wanting to see this place for myself. As much as I travel solo, I do prefer to go with people/friends; unfortunately noone’s wanted to go with me. Hopefully I’ll still get to see the country! You guys did a wonderful job with informing fellow travelers about your experience! I hope to write about my own someday!

  13. says

    Thank you guys so much for this post! My (awesome) mom traveled to Iran back in the 60s, and it has always been some place I have longed to go. I remember hearing stirrings about people visiting a few years ago, but never saw anything detailed. I’m glad you had such a positive experience and thank you for the comprehensive post. I now know it is possible to go and am very excited for the day I can make it happen!

  14. says

    Great post! I was considering visiting a friend in Iran but got deterred by all the regulations. This clears things up for me.

    BTW I’ve been following your posts since we met in Sucre, Bolivia two years ago! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Amin says

      @Christy: Dear Christy, I`m from Shiraz,Iran. now you cant use credit cards by ATMs or Banks, so you have to keep enough cash. But if you have some paypal , webmoney or master cart credit account only a few shops in major cities may could help you to cash your credit. But its realy very risky!

  15. says

    @Derek: Thanks! In a vast majority of the cases regarding customs issues for tourists who visit Iran, there’s little to worry about. Having said that, it’s always wise to be aware and prepared.

    @Jenni: To be ambassadors of the ordinary, citizen diplomats — one of the aims of our travels. Things on the ground are quite different than they appear on TV. Iran proved to us that it’s difficult if not impossible to truly understand a place without actually going and spending time.

    @Margaret: Thank you! Excellent question, one that Audrey planned to address in a separate post regarding traveling as a woman in Iran…coming soon. The only thing I’ll add to John’s response to clarify: both Iranian and foreign women are required to wear a headscarf while in public.

    @John: Thanks for your comment.

    I didn’t realize that men were technically under similar constraints of moderate dress. Having said that, it would never occur to me to wear shorts in Iran, even if the temperatures were well into the 100s.

    One question for you that our reading can’t seem to definitively sort out: is the hijab the headscarf or the whole uniform of moderate dress. I ask because many refer to “the hijab” meaning the headscarf. However, we’ve also seen “wearing hijab” which seems to be referring to the entirety of dressing moderately (the uniform, if you like) including a rear-end covering jacket or sweater called a manteau plus the headscarf.

    Thanks also for the added details, re: visa support. Very, very helpful.

    Regarding paying extra for the visa support, ours was included in the price of the tour. However, your suggestion to specifically ask about this is a wise one.

    @Lauren: Glad this thread could be of use and support. Looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

    @Sutapa: I was concerned mainly because of the uncertainty — What was in his head? What was his intent? Where would all of this end up?

    Having said that, I wasn’t too worried because we’d played things more or less by the book. And there was no reason we shouldn’t be admiring pistachios in the bazaar while making our way with our guide to a kebab lunch. All pretty innocent.

    Also, I should mention that most other Iranian officials, police and military people we happened to interact with seemed pleasant, friendly.

    @Laura: More photos and highlights coming up. Normally, we reserve advice posts like this until last, but we were getting too many questions by email. It was just easier to write this and point readers to it.

    We are definitely looking forward to sharing photo essays from our time in Iran as well as some travel highlight pieces.

    As for Tibet, we understand. When we were in China (and Nepal), we decided to focus our time on Tibetan villages outside of Tibet for the reason you stated.

    @Katrina: Everyone has their boundaries and must make their own decisions. I’m happy to say that we don’t regret our decision in the least.

    @Antoinette: Perhaps this Iran segment of our around-the-world travels will indirectly provide you with some potential travel companions when you head to Iran yourself.

    @Susan: Glad we could add to the conversation. I imagine your mom must have terrific stories from her visit to Iran. Looking forward to hearing about yours should you decide to go!

    @Adam: Wow, Adam. So cool. Great to hear from you!

    @Christy: If you run out of cash while in Iran, I imagine your guide could put you in touch with someone (likely from a carpet shop) that could manage a cash advance from your credit card via a merchant partner in the Middle East. You’ll likely pay a hefty commission, though. Plan accordingly using your tour’s (or another tour’s) suggested meal/expense per diem.

    Of course, you could always ask to borrow money from someone you befriend on your tour.

    @Jack: That’s one for the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seriously, we have a call out to friends on the ground who can better answer this question. I’ll post a follow-up comment when we get a response.

  16. says

    Loved reading your Iran posts guys. Something different. Something very special. This Q&A was great. I am not surprised they were warm and welcoming. I have found people in the middle east to be the most hospitable. I can’t wait to go. Looks like G Adventures will be a good group and tour! :)

    • dearpesar says

      welcome. im iranian and if you like to come and visit iran i will help and be hospitable. my humble home is for you as long as you stay.

  17. says

    @Lisa: Hope you’re not tired of our Iran posts yet…still have a few more stories and posts to go! Iran was a fascinating place to visit for so many reasons, but especially because of the people. We hope we can encourage others to experience this themselves by taking away some of the fear of the place and process.

    And yes, G Adventures groups are usually pretty great from our experience (4 tours) – good mixture of people, ages, nationalities and interests. And, their tours are a nice mixture of group stuff with independent exploration time.

  18. John says

    @Dan: Good point, I was referring to the traditional definition (modest dress, which is how most Islamic legal systems define it) as opposed to a colloquial/cultural one. I got the feeling that in Iran most of the locals considered hijab to be only the head covering, even though the legal system defines it otherwise. This is due to the fact that the term “hijab” is an Arabic linguistic “loan word”, which have a habit of either slightly changing over time or having entirely different meanings. Take Lonely Planet’s British English language guide…..written in English. :-) Lots of French words in there with the exact same meaning (or German for that matter) as their root language. On the opposite side of the spectrum, modern Japanese is ~20% loan words (mostly English with some German/Dutch and Portugese). If a native speaker says “ice-sue” (my transliteration of the verbal sound), most English speakers would hear “ice” when the actual loan word import means “ice cream”. Perhaps a better example would be “machine” in Farsi (which is the Arabic word for Persian), which I was told meant car/automobile :-)

    While hijab did make it into the local Persian lexicon, abaya (“cloak” in Arabic) did not with chador (“tent” in Persian) being used instead. Manteau itself is a French language import.

  19. says

    @John: Thanks for the clarification. Am chuckling at the meaning of chador. Someone has a sense of humor.

    @Jack: Our contact on the ground in Iran says that he and the Iranian tour companies he’s worked with have managed to get visas for *retired* members of the U.S. military. No experience with active members of the military, however. That’s not to say you couldn’t try. We’d be interested to hear what you decide — and if you decide to apply for an Iranian visa, how it all works out.

  20. John says

    @Dan @Jack: If I were you, I’d check in with your local USO where you’re stationed (if possible). Most active duty servicemen/women also have travel restrictions placed on them and it’s best to start out with what is possible from that standpoint. In addition, they will more than likely run/work with a travel agency that can help you though the process and potentially get you a great discount as well. (We used Apple Tours @ Camp Kim in Seoul once for a Chinese visa (the local embassy doesn’t take them and you have to go through an agency). Apple charged $10 for the service vs $120 that every other agency was trying to get).

  21. says

    I love articles like this that dispel common and uneducated myths about country’s. Thanks for the post. It was a great read. Would like to get to Iran one day myself. If Ian Wright can go there then so can I. :)

  22. Alix says

    Maybe you should add something about money. I would love to travel to Iran. Second on my list of destinations, behind Bhutan, but like Bhutan (although not quite as spendy) the money keeps me from visiting.

  23. Robert Blohm says

    It seems as if things are getting a little scary in the middle east with a drone shot down and cia officers captured by iran. Is iran travel, in your opinion, still a good decision?
    Thanks!

  24. T says

    My boyfriend is Iranian, as in his parents were born there but hold American citizenship. He was born in the U.S. and has two passports – U.S. & Iran. I want to go with him to visit some family there – I read that if they submit an invitation letter on my behalf I can skip all the tour stuff? Do you know anything about this?

    He’s been there himself several times, speaks Farsi, etc, so otherwise shouldn’t be a difficult trip for me.

  25. John says

    @T: That is correct, if you have family who are Iranian citizens they can apply for you to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which is what a tour company does for you). I can’t say what is involved in the process, but from what I’ve heard from friends who are in similar situations it sometimes pays to have them go though a 3rd party due to the bureaucracy involved (i.e. some tour companies do this as well since they’re familiar with the process, etc). I’d have him call the Iranian Special Interests Section in Washington (mentioned by Dan and Audrey above) and ask them for the details. Good luck!

  26. says

    I don’t have any questions but just wanted to say how much I am loving all these posts about Iran. Tell us more about the food that you guys ate!

  27. says

    @T: One of my childhood friends is Iranian and she visited a couple of years ago with her American husband without a tour. As you and John mentioned, you’ll need to get a letter of invitation from the family for the visa and it will be a different sort of visa (i.e., not a tourist visa). It likely takes time to sort out all the paperwork, so make sure you start the visa process early.

    Being able to stay with your boyfriend’s family in Iran would be wonderful. Although, you may come back a few pounds heavier – they like to feed guests!!

    @Akila: Don’t worry, a food post is coming up soon!! So glad you’re enjoying all these Iran posts.

    @Samuel: We had also heard really good things about Iranians from other travelers, but we were surprised at how the reality even exceeded expectations regarding their hospitality towards Americans.

  28. kourosh says

    re-T: i am an iranian living in england.ten years ago i took my then girlfriend who is english, to iran by my family’s invitation who live there.it took about $100 and a month to arrange, all done in iran and her passport posted to our home address.the process should still be similar, even easier if anything.your boyfriend’s family need to find a good travel agent in iran, pay them, and the rest is pretty much done.ps.iran is a heaven if you like gold.my girlfriend was like a kid in a sweetshop when we were there;she loved it. good luck.

  29. says

    @Roger: I assume you are asking about the Tehran airport. Entry was a non-event. We exited Iran via train over the land border with Turkey. However, other American friends exited Iran through Tehran airport without immigrations or customs issues. For more detailed information about entering Iran by air, check out our Flight to Iran: The Full Story post.

    @kourosh: Good point about Iran…a goldmine, quite literally!

  30. Ray Doherty says

    I am an American who visited Iran last May with the Fellowship of Reconciliation, an NGO based in Nyack, NY. I had a wonderful time, although I was not able to travel independently from our group. I love the people and the culture. It’s unfortunate that our government and the mainstream media continually demonize Iran and the Iranian people.

    For those who are considering a visit, I would say definitely go and experience the friendliness, hospitality and warmth of the Iranian people.

  31. says

    @Ray: I’m familiar with FOR. Although you were not able to travel Iran independently (or travel from your group independently), it sounds like you had an experience which underscored the humanity of the Iranian people. Thank you for sharing you Iran experience with us!

  32. Robert Blohm says

    Hi. Just wanted to ask are you allowed to bring a Bible into Iran for personal use? I am a Christian.
    Thanks!

  33. says

    @Robert: If you bring a bible for personal use, that shouldn’t be a problem. I think the authorities would only have a problem if someone was bringing in lots of bibles with the intention to distribute them.

  34. kourosh says

    re:Robert,
    some of my cousins are iranian christians (all living in iran). they are free to practice their faith and i attended one of their weddings in a church number of years back. conditions are even better now. i also think audrey’s reply to your query is spot on. ps. you can always double-check with an iranian embassy, they ARE helpful.

  35. Roger says

    First off, I wanted to thank you for responding to my post and for posting this entire site. It gave me the courage to actually enter Iran with my wife shortly after you responded. I just returned.

    I must admit I was nervous, especially with the notion of the drone, the media, etc. My wife is Persian-American and I’m American and I was going in with a visa for family visit as opposed to the travel group visa. (My wife holds an Iranian Passport)

    I cannot say the entrance was a complete non-event as you had described – although it was probably the most feared part of the trip that I anticipated – and I was not going in with a visitor/tourist group. There was some questioning as to my visa status and purpose of travel (probably not unlike an Iranian trying to do the same in the US), but they were very polite.

    Once in the country, I couldn’t agree with you more about the people in the region. 99% of the people I encountered, family and non-family were about as friendly as any mid-westerner in the US or better. For no reason at all, they would step out of line, reverse on the highway, or do other crazy things just to help you out. Of course with an American Accent, or broken Farsi you will get overcharged just about everywhere — but that is expected. The country as a whole was VERY BRIGHT and colorful – even in the month of Muharram. The street lights changed colors, the bridges were all up-lit.. I cannot imagine what it would look like throughout the rest of the year.

    I hope and pray to enter Iran again at some point in the future. Hopefully by that time the tensions ease further. Until then, I have fond memories of Persian Tea 3-7 times a day, Aub Ghosht, Chelo Kabob and pictures of some of the finest architecture in the world…

  36. John says

    @Roger Great to hear you had a good time. Just curious if you arrived/left though IKA or one of the regional airports?

  37. says

    @Roger: I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to write about your experience — from reading on this site, to your visit in Iran. I’m even more grateful that you had such a good time. The words you choose to describe it all really resonate with us, down to the last one.

    I love this: “For no reason at all, they [Iranians] would step out of line, reverse on the highway, or do other crazy things just to help you out.”

    Here’s to better days, eased tensions and more people like you making the journey along the way.

  38. Regina Pellegrino says

    I’m an American, but hold an Iranian Passport also(not visa.) I was in Iran in 2008 and absolutely loved it. I have family there (from my husband’s side.) Yes, they are the warmest people and the most hospitable and welcoming than anywhere else I’ve traveled. (although while in Tehran I did see a negative comment on a wall about America.)I thought your experience with the gut with the gun was funny. Try yelling at a cop here in America! No don’t, because you’ll end up in jail. Please make sure you all get your experiences out there (as much as sharing on FB as possible.) Maybe some American’s will open their minds to Iran.

  39. says

    @Regina: That’s the idea. Ever since our trip to Iran, we have been sharing our positive experience on Facebook, Twitter, our website, and other websites as well.

    Regarding the negative comment you saw on the wall in Tehran…was it a mural or did it look like some random graffiti? I ask because there’s plenty of anti-American murals around Tehran (including just outside the old American embassy).

    Here’s an example of something we saw on the streets of Tehran, which to us was clearly a bit of government-sponsored propaganda work:
    http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/photos/picture/6779519847/

  40. John says

    @Regina, @Dan,

    One thing to note may be the various murals’ age. From what I saw, most of the anti-western (not just American, plenty of British stuff too)/pro-Iranian/pro-republic stuff was quite dated (~30 years) and not that unexpected. Throughout history almost all new forms of government try and throw the last one under the proverbial bus. Almost 242 years later, Paul Revere’s depiction of the Boston Massacre (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boston_Massacre_high-res.jpg) still invokes what must have been fervent anti-British feelings at the time.

  41. says

    @John: The murals never bothered me, so I didn’t pay much attention to them except to photograph them. I never figured their age into the equation, but you make a good point. It’s likely those Tehran murals have been around for decades, getting a fresh coat of paint so often. In any event, they hardly seemed to accurately capture a grassroots, Iranian (wo)man-on-the-street sentiment towards America and American visitors. That’s what mattered to us.

  42. Lauren says

    Audrey and Daniel– Thank you again so much for the information. When planning my trip to Iran this spring, it always puts me at ease to know you two visited so recently and have such positive things to say about your trip. I have a question about your exit method– Were you two accompanied by a guide on the train? I am planning to exit Tehran via train to Turkey as well. The travel agency I am using (key2persia.com) says I do not need to be accompanied on the train, but friends and family and also others who have visited Iran question the wisdom to go unaccompanied on a train to the border.
    Also, if anyone is visiting soon and has emailed you with questions or info, put them in contact with me pretty please! I am dying to talk to others who don’t think this trip is (too) crazy and are planning to do it themselves. laurenmichellemoseley@gmail.com Best wishes on your current travels! -Lauren

  43. says

    @Lauren: You are welcome. Glad our travel information on Iran is useful. Regarding our exit from Iran by train and whether or not we needed a guide: If your tour company says you don’t need a guide, go with that. We departed from Tabriz (you will stop there on the way) which is several hours from the border. Our guide bid us goodbye at the Tabriz train station and that was it.

    Practically, there is no need for a guide. In fact, without a guide on the train, you’ll have more fun interacting with people on the train. That your travel agency says you don’t need to be accompanied by a guide just seals the deal. It really is a great journey, one of the great highlights of our trip. Not to mention, the train is really nice, pleasant, very clean, decent food. However, you should bring a lot of snacks with you, not only because you’ll want some variety from the train food, but it will be nice to have something to share with others!

    For more current on-the-ground information regarding the situation in Tehran and in Iran in general, we recommend following our friend Jason Rezaian on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrezaian. He lives, reports from, and helps coordinates tourist visits from Tehran.

  44. Cameron Anderson says

    This post is extremely informative! I have been interested in traveling to Iran for quite a while now. I am twenty years old and from the US as well. My family and friends all think I am absolutely crazy to even consider traveling to this country.. Unfortunately for me, it means I will have to visit Iran alone. I myself am a little scared of the country only because the things I have heard. I do not believe the media, but not knowing what to expect was scaring me. Your section about the customs just cleared up every worry I had. I was not worried about the citizens at all because I have also heard they are very kind and hospitable. My main worry was entering the country and government workers like custom officers, police, and roles similar to those. I am glad you had a great time during your visit. Thank you for posting. I was considering doing the Gap -Discover Persia tour as you guys did, but the dates they offer don’t quite mesh when Id like to go. So I am looking into the private tours. Thanks again for sharing this information.

  45. says

    @Cameron: There was another traveler in our group (the first two weeks) and he was so tired of the reaction to traveling to Iran as an American that he didn’t tell most of them including his family. When they asked him where he was going, he told them Italy. I’m glad to hear that this article has helped to ease your fears.

    We will be publishing one week from now a story about our exit from Iran by train. I think that will further help put Iranian borders, customs, police concerns in perspective.

    Thank you for your comment and let us know if you have any other questions regarding travel in Iran.

  46. Lauren says

    @Daniel: I can’t blame the guy! Almost wish I’d done that myself ;)

    Looking forward to the train post!!!

  47. Jan says

    Mu husband is Iranian but has also became an American Citizen years ago. He has not been to Iran in over 25 years. He is now planning to go as his mother is ill. Will he have a problem to return to the
    US? He is a doctor and is afraid they will not let him return.

  48. says

    @Jan: Twenty five years is a long time to have been away. I understand your husband’s fears about not being let out of Iran to return to the United States. I spoke with an American-Iranian journalist living in Tehran now and he said that the vast majority of American citizens who come to visit family in Iran have no trouble at all. Those that have made the headlines for being arrested have had backgrounds in military, journalism, technology. If your husband doesn’t have any connections like that then he should be fine. He should contact the Iranian special interests in Washington, DC to find out more information.

  49. jan says

    Audrey:
    Thank you for your response. My husband is a doctor. Do you think that would have any problem? He did call Washington and they thought there would be no problem, but I am still concerned.

  50. says

    @Jan: Being a doctor isn’t usually seen as a political or militarily oriented profession so I don’t think he would have any problems. Perhaps there is a way he can reach out to other Iranian-Americans who are doctors who have taken a similar trip recently to alleviate some fears? First hand advice is always best.

  51. kourosh says

    jan,
    I’m Iranian too and a number of years ago when I went back home to visit after twenty seven years, I was very nervous too but had no problem whatsoever. I ended up staying there for two years (too much good time!)and returned to England with no problem. The fact that your husband has dual nationality and hasn’t been to Iran for so long is not a problem, so long as he’s had no issues with the government in the past. Trust me, officials there are weary, but they aren’t lunatics as western press like to portray them!

  52. says

    @kourosh: Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Wow, a two year break in Iran really is a long time – you really must have had a great time! So glad to hear you didn’t have any trouble leaving Iran or entering England.

  53. maryam says

    i,m so glad to hear many people are knowing my country.as you said iran is so beautiful and people are so hospitable and kind. i,m living in Tehran right now, if you need any information about spectacular places,i proudly help.

  54. james says

    I want to marry an Iranian women whom I met in Philippines. Yet I want to go to Iran to do this so the family can take part in the event. I am an American. I do not wish to go with a tour group.So how do I go about this?

  55. says

    @Maryam: Thank you for your kind comment and for your offer to help with more information about Iran! As you can see, we had a really great visit and can say that people are so hospitable.

    @James: The best thing is to contact the Iranian special interest section at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, DC and see what your options are. I know that it’s possible for someone married to an Iranian to get a family visa that does not require a tour, but not sure what the regulations are if you are planning to marry in Iran. Good luck and congratulations!

  56. Marvin says

    @James,
    You are in luck my friend! I am an American who met an Iranian girl in Malaysia and we got married in Iran. I sent a copy of my passport via e-mail to my wife’s family in Iran. They then went to the Foreign Minister’s office in Tehran and applied for a visa for me. After about 10 working days, I was issiued a visa number, and my In-laws had my Visa pick up set up in Malaysia at the Iranian Embassy there. My first time to Iran I was only given a 15 day visa. But now every time I go, I am given a 30 Day Visa. I also recommend that you have your girl friend’s family get you a VIP at the airport to help you get into the country without any problems since you are not going in with a tour. I do this every time. I look at it as a little insurance.
    Now, not sure if your girlfriend is a Muslim or if you are a Muslim or not?
    Let’s just say she is and you are not, like in my case. I converted at the ceremony and we were given a Temporary Marriage Lic. This says that you can live together legally.
    It was good for 3 years. Your girlfriend will know what this is. We had the big celebration in Iran, but a couple of months later we got married again at the Islamic Center in Malaysia. Now we are good forever!
    I hope this info helps you out! I just got back from Iran, and I am going back in a couple of weeks! I love it more and more each time I go there.
    Good Luck! I wish you the best! Persian Girls are Great! Good Cooks too! LOL!!!!
    Let me know if you need anymore info!

  57. Marvin says

    @Daniel and everyone else thinking of traveling to Iran. They have now made it a requirement to buy travel insurance. I have been to Iran many times and this is the first time that it has been required. But don’t worry, I was able to buy it at the Iranian Embassy in Dubai where my visa was sent for pick up. It was a total cost of 485 dirhams for both my visa and my insurance.
    I hope you all get a chance to visit Iran if you have not already been able to do it. I will just continue to do my part and keep everyone updated!

  58. says

    @Marvin: Thanks so much for sharing this information and new requirement to get a visa to Iran. If you already have travel insurance, can you just show proof of this? Or, is there some sort of special travel insurance that the Iranian officials require?

    And yes, we also hope that people continue to visit Iran! Thanks for keeping all of us updated!

  59. John says

    @Marvin Do you remember what you used to pay for the visa in Dubai? (for some price comparison)

    @Audrey They might be going down the road of Belarus (which requires that you have Belarusian issued insurance regardless of the trip length … It’s a major pain for IT outsourcing out of there).

  60. Marvin says

    @Audrey Scott, I was asked at the Iranian Embassy in Dubai if I had insurance that would be accepted in Iran. I told them no, so he just wrote out a bill and then I was sent to the cashier to pay for both my visa and my travel insurance. The next day when I went back to pick up my passport, there was a guy there from another country (Not USA) and he was also told that he needed travel insurance.
    @John, I paid in the money of Dubai, which is called Dirhams. The visa cost me 100 Dirhams ($27.22 USD) and the Travel Insurance cost me 385 Dirhams (104.80 USD)
    I am in Iran right now!

  61. GregC says

    A great article and so true. I went to Iran in May 2012 as a tourist from California. I was amazed by how nice the people were and by how far the American Dollar went. I bought three wonderful rugs and had no problems getting them back home. The food was great and they have many markets… but, not much available as the UN Sanctions has really hit the “every day person” very hard. Many children were asking for hand-outs. They were so happy went we gave all the pre-teenagers a $20 to each one. I think I gave away about $7000 to various people in Tehran. I was only there for 10 days but wished I could buy a vacation house, but that is not possible right now. I just how the Iran Government changes… the people rock, the Govt’ is in a shell and still living in the stone ages. God Bless Iran

  62. says

    @Greg: Thanks so much for sharing your experiences of your visit to Iran in May 2012. Our visit was several months before, so it is heartening to hear that you had a similar experiences with hospitality and Iranian people. Was amazed by your generosity of handing out money to people!

    Very sad to hear that the UN sanctions are hitting ordinary people; we’ve heard stories of rampant inflation and shortages. Like you, we hope that politics change so that there is more open connections between our countries.

  63. Robert Blohm says

    Darn those sanctions! I really, really miss those pistachio nuts from Iran. They are sooo good!

  64. Neda says

    thanks for all i have read here and made me smlie. im persian from iran and God bless you too GregC :)

    actually i was roaming sites to find out what i can do for my american friend from California who wanna take a trip to Iran.im wondering whether or not i can be his guide.(despite the fact that im not a professional tourguider and even i’ve never been in connection with any tour agency except as a client.

  65. says

    @Neda: I’m not sure about that. As we understand it, Americans visiting Iran must have a guide and that guide is technically supposed to be licensed by the government to guide American visitors. However, based on our experience, I’m sure there are creative ways to work with that.

  66. Marvin says

    @Neda,
    Do you have family still in Iran? If so, I was thinking that you might be able to ask your family there to go to the Foreign Minister’s office in Tehran and see if your family can sponser him. As Daniel pointed out, most Americans who visit Iran need to go in on a tour, because some of these Americans do not know anybody in Iran. My only guess is if you do have family there and they check with Foreign Minister’s office and they agree to accept full responsibility for him. Then maybe just maybe, he can go as your family’s guest and not have to worry about a tour guide. If you are able to do this, please keep in mind that you still have to abide by all rules and laws of the Iranian government. Also, if you would decide to travel with your friend and take him to different parts of Iran where you would stay in a hotel, I would suggest that you stay in separate rooms. The only time that I ever had any problems in Iran was when my wife and I stay at a hotel. The hotel turned us in to the police saying that we were not married and staying in a room together. Thank God, my mother in law had a copy of our marriage certificate that was given to us from the Iranian Embassy. If we would have not had that, we would have probably both ended up in jail. So that is something to think about. I hope this info helps you!
    Also check with the Iranian Interests section in D. C. They are very nice and helpful with these types of questions!

  67. Neda says

    i think eventually im finding the appropriate way Daneil :P

    @Marvin,
    thank you for your advices. my friend has just asked them in the interests section of iran in pakistan embassy in washington D.C.they told him tourguide is for those who have nobody in iran.tomorrow i will go to the foreign ministry with the copy of his passport to invite him officially :P i wish every thing stay well!
    wish every thing stay well.

  68. Marvin says

    @Neda,
    You are welcome! One last thing that I forgot to tell you. Make sure that your friend has the address where he will be staying wrote down somewhere. Because this will be one of the first things that they will ask for upon arrival at the airport. Also, they will finger print him. I hope you and your friend have a Great Time there! I have been there twice in the last 5 months!

  69. Neda says

    @Marvin,
    ahh i forgot to give him the address if he needs it in the iranian interests in D.C. although,ill go to the airport for him ;)
    awe Marvin twice in 5 months is remarkable accourding to the distance!hence,maybe you accidentally find yourself in close seats in a flight to iran. lol.
    he’s planning to take his first trip to iran in october.

  70. Marvin says

    @Neda,
    I do not think it is too important now for the address. But when he arrives it will be. It seems like from reading your post that you are in Iran. Another thing that you can look into for your friend is the V.I.P. That is how I went in every time. We had an agent do all the passport stuff for us at the airport. My brother in law even figured out that you can pay a little more to the agent and they will give you a pass to where you can be waiting in a lounge for your friend when he arrives. That way he will have you as a translater if he does not speak Farsi. From my past expierences at the airport, english is very limited with the people that your friend will have to deal with. Please have the address handy when he arrives, because they will ask for it. More than likely they will ask him when they are finger printing him and you are not around. That has always been the case for me.
    I hope that I have been able to help you! Let me know if you need anymore info, like where and how to get the V.I.P.

  71. Neda says

    @marvin,
    i want to know more about what i will need to do in the foreign ministry or what they will ask me there.im a little anxious if they dont give him visa :|

  72. Marvin says

    @Neda,
    If you can give me a day or two, I can double check with my Brother in Law and find out better details. I wish there was a way that I could post his number for you, then he could just tell you from his expierence what you need to do and what to expect. Just don’t be nervous. The first time tht I went to Iran, I was not married to my wife yet and her brother was able to get me a visa. You are on the right path with getting a copy of your friends passport. I will get back to you asap.

  73. Neda says

    @marvin,
    i thought maybe every thing stay well but right now im come back of the ministry sad and im sure i need your brother in law’s help :| i need to ask him lots of question.Audrey will give you my email adress.
    thanks alot.

  74. says

    I’m curious to know how you went about finding your private travel guide, about how much it cost, and about how much money a person should plan on bringing with them for about a 2-week stay. Thanks

  75. Lauren says

    @Talon, I know that Dan and Audrey used a different agency, but I signed up for a tour with Pars Tourist Agency (key2persia.com) which ended up being just me, one other American, and our tour guide. The whole thing cost around $1000 for 12 days and included everything except the actual cost of the visa, the plane flight over, evening meals, souvenirs, and tip for the guide. That means if you did something like I did, you’d need to bring that 1k in cash with you, plus however much you might spend on souvenirs, plus money to cover evening meals (easily really cheap…but you could just say $10/day to be safe), plus I would suggest a 10% tip. There are a lot of travel agencies you can use to find a private travel guide- I found PTA to be perfectly adequate, but you should also read up at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=18&keywordid=72 for others’ experiences with other travel agencies. I’m sure Dan or Audrey will answer soon, and let me know if I can be of any more help.

  76. says

    @Talon: Because we started our trip in Iran with G Adventures, we had to use their local tour operator for our private guide since they had sponsored our visa (i.e., it wasn’t possible to switch companies halfway in the trip). We were able to negotiate a good deal of around $100/day, which included private transport and 3* hotels. We’re heard it’s possible to also negotiate a lower fee with public transport.

    Our costs are in line with Lauren’s experience with Pars Tourist Agency – we’ve heard good things about this tour company as well. And, we’ve hear that Iran Adventures is also good and has a lot of young guides.

    Often, we shared restaurant meals as they were usually large and full of meat (i.e., kebabs). Usually these cost $7-$10. Street food (i.e., sandwiches or falafel) were very cheap – $1-$2.

    @Lauren: Thanks for such a thorough response on this!

  77. James says

    Hey, I’m an independent blogger as well about to pursue a masters at AUB. I have many friends in Iran and I’m wondering if its possible that they could qualify as a private travel guide?

  78. John says

    @James: I think you need to clarify what you’re after as it’s possible that anyone, anywhere could be a ‘private travel guide’. In this context the answer is no, as tour guides that can take Americans are specially licensed by the Iranian govt for that purpose (e.g. only a few guides from the various Iranian based agencies can do this). Friends, etc, within Iran can offer to host you while you’re in the country, but they would have to deal with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran directly.

  79. Neda says

    yes John is right and if you are american,not only your friend cant be your private guide but also all professional tour guides are not acceptable.there will be a list of verified guides who can take Americans and you will have to choose one of them :)
    1.easier way is to register for a semi private tour.then you wont have to follow all tour’s plan on the other hand you will have a guide.
    2.your friend invites you from iran(individuals cant invite sole,your friend need to use a legal personality to invite you) i mean she/he should pay to a tour agency to invite you and they will show him/her the list and she will have to choose a guide for you :)

  80. Sean says

    Great article! Very informative. I am half-Persian/Iranian on my father’s side. I was born here in the States. My father holds both an American and Iranian passport. For a number of years I had considered applying for Iranian citizenship, which I am entitled to because of birthright. However, Iran does not recognize dual-citizenship and I have been told that upon entering the country I would be considered solely an Iranian citizen and could be subjected to mandatory military service otherwise I would have to pay a large fine or even go to prison for refusal. Your option seems to be the better option, though do you think I could face issues upon entry since I have an Iranian last name and a father who holds citizenship? Have you encountered tourists in a similar situation?

  81. says

    @Sean: We did meet Iranian-Americans who had traveled to Iran on American (or other nationalities) passports and didn’t have troubles in the country. But I would try to discuss with other Iranian-Americans to see what they usually do when they visit. Good luck!

  82. Sean says

    Thanks for the prompt feedback! I would like to travel there next summer when my father makes his annual trip. I would likely be part of a registered tour group and he would travel independently on his Iranian passport. However, I would like the freedom to spend time with my relatives who live there and my father without violating any regulations.

  83. chris says

    Hi I just wanted to know when this article was printed by you. I have a son possibly going to play basketball in Iran and am very concerned about him going there. I know there are sanctions against them but I don’t know if he will be safe. If you have any feedback on this, that would be great. Thank you

  84. says

    @Sean: You’ll need to talk with the tour company to make sure there are no issues with you spending time with your father and his family. It may be that his family will need to talk with the tour company to fulfill whatever requirements are necessary without being too bureaucratic. Our experience is that tour companies are good at this. Good luck!

    @Chris: We visited Iran in November 2011 and this article was published in December 2011. Since then we have been in touch with our tour guide in Iran as well as an Iranian-American friend who lives in Tehran and both of them have not reported any problems with Americans visiting there since the new sanctions.

    There is a move out called “The Iran Job” that is about an American basketball player living in Iran and his experiences. It’s a few years old, but maybe it’s possible for the Iranian team to put your son in touch with other American basketball players who have lived there.

  85. Joseph Dunn says

    when visiting the mirad and azadi towers is there an admission charge and can you take their metro subway to these towers?

  86. Mohammad says

    Joseph,

    There is at least one metro station in walking distance from the Azadi tower (the Ostan Moein station and also I think the Meydan-e Azadi station, both from Line 4 (yellow)). Both are either recently inaugurated and not quite finished, or still under construction. Last time I went to the Ostad Moein station, it was operational but it lacked escalators and I had to climb up/down hundreds of stairs!
    But the Milad Tower doesn’t have any metro stations nearby. You would probably have to take a taxi from e.g. Azadi square.

    You can perhaps find out more by taking a look at the various Tehran City websites:
    http://map.tehran.ir/en (which shows metro stations on Tehran map)
    http://metro.tehran.ir/Default.aspx?tabid=203 (the official metro map)

  87. says

    @Mohammad: Thanks for the thorough response and information about Azadi and Milad towers.

    @Joseph: I do not know if there are admission charges for these towers as we did not go inside. Even if there are, it’s unlikely they will cost very much – we found tickets to be very inexpensive in Iran, an that was before the recent devaluation of local currency. Tour guides in Tehran tend to be quite flexible – just be sure to let them know that you want to visit these places.

  88. Nima says

    thanks.im glad to see American friends had a good travel to Iran.i as an Iranian should add that we respect Americans and Europeans the most.cause the way they progressed is admireable for us.anyway Iran is very beautiful country with swiss styke and green highlands in the north west,duch style jungles in the north which are realy beautiful.also we have african style landscape in the west and so hot desert in center.on the other hand visiting beautiful historical place belongs to both islamic and non islamic periouds of Iran will be nice…

    sorry for poor english and again thanks to you for your great jobs!

  89. says

    @Nima: Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. And your English was great- we understood everything. You are right in that Iran is quite diverse in its landscapes and cultures – we felt this as we went from south to north and west to east through the country. And as we wrote, we felt very welcome in your country!

  90. says

    Iran is truly spectacular and the people are very hospitable. Traditional customs, known for being very good. Cities of Isfahan, Shiraz and Bandar …. very interesting, a lot of foreign tourists visiting each year from Shiraz., I would suggest you visit these cities.

  91. says

    @Adam: It would be interesting to go from India to Iran. Not sure if you know this, but India has a small population of Zoroastrians who migrated from Iran/Persia to India in the 10th century.

    As for your question about costs, it really depends on what style of trip you want. We paid $1,200 for the two of us for 10 days, but that took some negotiation and trying to get the cheapest hotels possible. Now that the Iranian rial is quite devalued, you might be able to get a good price as the dollar goes a lot further.

    @reyhaneh: We did not visit Bandar, but we did really enjoy visiting Isfahan and Shiraz. The architecture in these cities is really beautiful.

  92. Nima says

    @audrey:thanks for the kind comments sir.well im 17 years old and so young to discuss about politics.but i should say,the new generation is very educated,open-minded and secular.
    for sure you will feel even more comfortable if you visit Iran in the coming years.
    my friend’s father just died recently because there was no American drug (Iran produces 97% of her needed drug but that 3% is the case) in the store to cure his cancer so he died.on the other hand Iranian medicines have saved American lives in Afghanistan war as well.it shows how unfair the sanction and the US government’s treatment is.you can visit my country so easy.but about us….even i can not imagine a travel to US.not because my pocket is empty.because of the the unfair treatment of US government.but still Iranian people see Americans and Europeans visitors as their guests.and still we love you.

    sir,have you been to Karaj?my city?karaj is great.Karaj has access to the 4th most beautiful road of the world.also there is a ski-resort around the city(called dizin) that hosted world cup last summer.
    here you can enjoy watching thoso beautiful pictures of Iranian landscape.
    http://www.defence.pk/forums/iranian-defence/183765-paradise-called-iran.html

    again thanks.
    and wish you the best…

  93. says

    @Nima: No worries – many people are not familiar with my name and think it’s a man’s name. I don’t take any offense :)

    I’m very sorry to hear about the death of your father’s friend. We also hope that relations improve between the two country’s governments so that there is a more free exchange of ideas, people and goods. No, we didn’t visited Karaj on our last visit. Iran is a big country!

  94. Fahimeh says

    It’s great to see there are people who can understand that governments don’t necessarily represent nations.
    I’m Iranian and live in Tehran. I’d be glad to provide information for tourists and visitors.
    By the way, entry to the country is not even that pleasant to me as an Iranian. I have butterflies in my stomach whenever I’m at the international airport. It’s not designed to welcome anybody I guess but once you are out of the airport it’s over.

  95. says

    @Fahimeh: This is one of goals of our travels is to highlight people, and how individuals quite often act independent of their governments’ rhetoric.

    We’re sorry to hear about your experiences at Tehran airport. That’s quite sad, particularly since it happens to you, as an actual citizen of Iran. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, after the initial and superficial questioning, we felt fine making our way around the airport, and eventually out the door with our guide.

    Thank you so much for your comment, your perspective and your offer to travelers wishing to visit Iran and Tehran.

  96. Aoun M.Jafarbagi says

    Hi, Thank you, it dealt honestly with the issue.I hope you all your pepole know that the Iranian people have no problem with any body.

  97. Afsaneh says

    Hello. Can an unmarried couple with non-Iranian nationality stay in the same room at a hotel in Iran? If being married is necessary in a situation like this, then would staying at different hotel rooms be the only option?

  98. says

    @Aoun: We always like to share what we have experienced first hand to show that perhaps there is another side to the story than what is shown on the news. During the whole time we were in Iran we had such great experiences with the people and were welcomed everywhere.

    @Afsaneh: Dan and I are married with different last names, but we were never asked for our marriage certificate (we had a copy with us, just in case) at any hotel where we stayed in Iran. I don’t know of other couples traveling around Iran having trouble staying in hotel rooms together, but perhaps it’s best to ask an Iranian tour company just in case.

  99. Marcus J says

    Afsaneh’s question is similar to mine. My girlfriend is Iranian-American (actually looks like she would be Indian). I am Euro-American, and look it.

    I am concerned about being hassled if we travel to Iran together, as we are not married and I am not Iranian.

    Any particular feedback on this?

    I have traveled and lived in other Muslim countries and know public affection is not accepted. But, it varies a lot from country to country. Indonesia, Egypt, and Lebanon was easy-going about my accompanying a girlfriend. But, there were differences in acceptable behavior between genders. In Egypt, some people did not like that I was with a Middle Eastern woman. It was rather sketchy at times.

  100. Ernest W. says

    I really enjoyed reading your information regarding travel in Iran. I have helped many Iranians with their English on the website Livemocha, and I have made many very close friends, and one who is even closer. The Iranian people are an especially warm and gracious people. I would love to travel to Iran to meet my friend(s). Here in the U.S. I have an Iranian student who I have helped a lot. Her family has adopted me even though many thousands of km separate Iran and the US. You mention having your visa mailed to you from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington D.C. Does that still hold true? I need to arrange this right now in fact and was asked this week by someone at an Iranian university which Embassy I want to pick up my visa at. On a more unhappy note, I have tried twice to get a visa to visit Iran to attend workshops or give lectures and have failed each time because of some political event that has occurred just as my application was being reviewed. What if you want to visit friends in Iran? How is that done? Is it possible without a guide? Is any independent travel allowed at all? I know that there are Americans living in Iran that are free to travel there, how do they do that? Thanks.

  101. Marvin says

    @Ernest,
    Yes! You can have your visa mailed to you. But you will have to mail your passport to the Pakistani Embassy Iranian Intrest Section along with you application.
    From what I have read on here and talking with others inside and outside of Iran, you will have to have a guide to travel to Iran.
    I am one of those few Americans that can travel freely through Iran. That is because my wife is Iranian. So when I am there, her family takes full responsibility for me.
    I wish you luck!

  102. Ernest W. says

    @ Marvin,

    That is interesting if her family can take responsibility for you. I wonder if my student’s family can take responsibility for me? Does that entail a formal invitation? An Iranian wife may be in the future for me as well.

  103. Marvin says

    @Ernest,
    My best guess would be that your student’s family “can not” take full responsibility for you. I know this from trying to help a young lady on here that was trying to get her friend to Iran. Come to find out, I was very lucky on my first trip to Iran. You also have to understand that I used a key word in my last post. I said that I can travel freely in Iran because my “wife” is Iranian! I am even in her Iranian ID as her husband. Every time that I have travel to Iran, I always had my wife by my side.
    Your best bet would be to contact an Iranian Travel Agency and talk with them. Your biggest challenge will be getting a visa. Once you get that, maybe you can ask if your student can join you while you are with a Tour Guide. Remember, Iran is not North Korea. So, you can still talk with every day Iranians once you are there. But keep in mind that they have their own sets of rules.
    I hope that this helps and I wish you luck!

  104. says

    @Marcus: Although we are married, we were never asked for a marriage certificate in order to share a room in Iran. Additionally, we do not share the same last name, so to many it looks like we are just boyfriend/girlfriend/partners. Anyhow, I can’t imagine you will be hassled about sharing a room. As for public displays of affection in Iran, best to avoid them (and anything that draws unnecessary attention) I’d say.

  105. Ernest W. says

    @Marvin,

    Thanks. I have worked in the Arab portion of the Middle East, but as my Iranian friends keep telling me, and as I am very aware of, Iranians are not Arabs. In fact, I have found Iranians to be very European in many respects. I have traveled a lot in Europe and have family there, and although there are very clear differences Iranians seem to view the world as we do. I have worked with Arabs for many decades, and just when I think I figured them out…boom they react to something in ways I did not expect. I have many Arab friends, but i will never pretend that I will ever understand them. But Iranians are different. When I talk to my friends, I could be talking to my friends here in the US. Thanks for your tips on travel in Iran. I had almost given up the idea of going to Iran. Cheers, Ernest

  106. Ernest W. says

    @Marcus

    My gf and I will be careful. As I said, I try to observe local customs. It shows respect for the customs and religion of the people that you are visiting. I guess that is the Anthropologist in me. Respect others and they will respect you. I have a lot of dear friends in the Middle East, and some of them are very conservative Muslims.

    Cheers

  107. Marvin says

    @Afsaneh,
    I know that Audry Scott said that she and her husband did not have any problems while they were in Iran from any hotels. But my wife and I did have a problem one time at a hotel in Isfahan. The hotel turned us in to the “Green Police”. Thank Goodness my mother in law happen to have a copy of our marriage certificate. We showed it to them and there were no more problems. Audry and Daniel were very smart to bring a copy of their Marriage Certificate just incase.
    Just something to think about.

  108. Afsaneh says

    Marvin, thanks for your comment. Have you seen the movie Offside (with Jafar Panahi)? A couple of girls dress up like men and try to attend a football match but they get caught and arrested. Then the whole point of the movie is why foreign women (women with non-Iranian nationality) are allowed to attend the football matches in Iran but not Iranian women. Now, as I can understand from your previous comment, your wife is an Iranian so I’m guessing she has an Iranian nationality as well. She might also holding other citizenships but in Iran, she is an Iranian citizen only. So what I hope for my boyfriend and I (we are Danish citizen) that we would be treated as different as the foreign women that are allowed to attend football matches. If anyone can confirm this thought I would be glad because I can not find any information about this anywhere or from anyone.

  109. kourosh says

    @Ernest W
    I know it’s a while ago but about fifteen years ago I took my then English girlfriend to Iran. I’m Iranian-British.the way we went about it was for my family in Iran to employ a good travel agency and invite her as friend of the family. It cost USD30 at the time and took three weeks to process. As far as the visa application was concerned I was not in the picture. We traveled together and at the airport in Tehran she faced the immigration officer on her own, and once she was through, I followed. Once we were settled after a few days, my mom took us to the local mosque and had a word with the local Imam that we had planned to marry but needed to avoid conflict with the police. My girlfriend had to repeat a couple of verses from koran,were given temporary marriage status (an old islamic rule) and a note to show the police if we needed to. It took half an hour and there was no charge although we donated a small amount toward their charity. We traveled to different cities and stayed at various hotels but was never bothered by anyone and never had to use the note.
    I would imagine that the authorities are even more lax now. I appreciate that the rules may be slightly different for US citizens but it’s one avenue worth inquiring about. My only concern is that you have already been refused visa twice, but if it was a while ago it may not be an issue.
    I hope that helps. Good luck and don’t give up!

  110. Allan says

    I am a Malaysian citizen with a US permanent residence. I am currently residing in Malaysia again for work reasons. I have an opportunity to do an engineering project in Iran but am worried that if I have an Iraniann stamp in my Malaysian passport, I will be challenged when I travel to the US. Any advice? Thanks. Allan

  111. zack hasheme says

    im Zack 21 years old that im in Iran 4 12 years that i was kidnapped by my dad that i need your help to get out of here help help help help

  112. kourosh says

    @zack hasheme

    I don’t know if you live in the same state as vivek (above) or watch the same fictional Hollywood films or even related, but as a 21 year old you are classed as an adult (yes even in Iran!).
    I suggest you contact the relevant embassy or their representatives if you want to leave the country. Iran is not like N.Korea, you can leave the country if you wish.
    I don’t normally bother replying to comments such as yours and vivek above, mainly as a respect to Daniel and Audrey but took exception on this occasion.
    Daniel and Audrey have done a marvelous job creating this site and it’s a shame that some people try to sabotage it in order to push their political and often misguided agendas.

  113. Afsaneh says

    Kourosh, you might need some updating or researching. Maybe you should start from Wikipedia. Here is part of what is written in Wikipedia under “Military service” and then Iran: “…Men reaching 19 years old who are not granted exemption from the military service are not able to apply for a driving license, passport, or leave the country without special permission…”

    zack hasheme, I am very sorry to hear about your situation. You might have dual citizenship, if that is the case you could apply for renunciation of your Iranian citizenship when you reach the age of 25. If the authorities approve your application, you would be more than welcome to leave Iran. Please feel free to write to me because I might be able to guide you with other alternatives. Here is my e-mail address: abbreviation.a.p@gmail.com
    (اگر مکالمه فارسی را ترجیح میدی برای من مشکلی نیست )

  114. zack's dad says

    hi i am Zack’s dad. pay me 10 dollar to let him go! in Iran it’s much money! kidding!
    zack , if you have access to internet ! (what a nice kidnapper!) i think you can make a call to police! it is 110 . سفه گده!!

  115. kourosh says

    @ zack’s dad

    Ha ha ..You must be the funniest kidnapper in the world.. I’m still laughing!!

    On serious(ish) note, zack can also get his information from either wikipedia (I’ve been told) or call the Danish embassy in Tel Aviv.

  116. Ernest W. says

    Hello Again,

    You know there is real irony in life. I have been helping a young Iranian woman obtain a visa to take an 8 week intensive English course in the U.S. Yesterday after her visa interview she was denied her visa despite the fact that everything was in order. The irony…I had a applied for a visa to visit Iran as well and I received my visa denial today. Tit for tat! This was her first visa denial, this was my third. I am an academic and my visa applications were for those reasons, and yet I have been denied three times now. I have resigned myself to the fact that the only way I will ever be able to visit Iran is for someone to take my ashes after I am dead and go upwind of Iran and scatter them to let the wind carry me to Iran. You know I am not political. I am a teacher, and a scientist. I have friends and colleagues in Iran and I will never be able to see them, or talk to them face to face. I am as heart-broken as the young woman that I have been helping to take some English classes in the US. Your column is interesting, but for some of us it will never be of help.

  117. says

    Daniel and Audrey , such generacity, clear vision ,free heart and nice complements about Iran and Iranians are much amazing to me.I utterly personally appreciate your attitudes toward us. No other person or institute or administration (for example Iranian department of tourism )has ever could be more helpful to show the true Iran and it’s culture to US citizens and rest of the world.
    It shows that you both have a heart and wisdom.
    I read most of the other people’s comments trying to seek the truth about Iran and you as true ambassadors of America let them to find facts and figures about a place mostly bombarded with rumors false information and terrorizing ideas.

    I live in the north section of the country named Mazandaran Province.
    In the next trip we will be so glad having you as real guests or better say real friends of ours.
    In our place the Caspian Sea is great.Maybe not greater than Santa Monica beach or riviera of France, but quite calm and fascinating.

    All I see in this blog : Very Nice people and generous in thoughts and believes about My country.

    Thank you for all you shared in this blog and also lots of nice people who commented positive thoughts about my country.

    As Chris Brown says:
    Every where everywhere I go , I see beautiful people.

    We will be so pleased to have you here again.

  118. Ernest W. says

    Dear Hossein,

    I know of your province, Mazandaran. The husband of my student is from Rostam Kola and I had hoped to visit his parents there. It is a very beautiful province and similar to the area where I have come from, Washington State. It is very wet, but very green. You see I think that Iran is one of the great nations of the world, and that Iranian people are one of the worlds great peoples. I have always wanted to visit Iran. Even as a child I was fascinated by the history and culture of Iran. But it seems that my childhood dream of visiting Iran will never come true. For that I am truly sorry. My mother was German, my father’s family was German and German’s have always had a great love of things Iranian. The last two years I have been working with Iranian students on a language learning website called Livemocha. I have over 150 Iranian students who I have come to know. They come from all over Iran, from Kerman to Shiraz, from Arak to Tehran, From Tabriz to Mashhad, and many places between these cities. I had hoped one day to conduct research in Iran, because I study global change, and Iran will be one of those nations, like the semi-arid West where I live, that will adversely effected by raised temperature, and lower rainfall. We will see changes in our environment here in the Great Basin where I live that cannot be imagined by the average person. I had hoped that the knowledge that I had gained here in the West might be of help in Iran. Many of my best friends are Iranian. My student is actually the hardest working student that I have ever had. She is not only hard-working, but very intelligent, and dedicated. She was one of the top Master’s students in Iran a couple of years ago. I am incredibly impressed by Iranian students. I have even tried to learn some Farsi…so that I don’t seem the complete idiot. At least I will be able to say, “Salam! Shoma chetur hastin?” And if they ask me, I will be able to say, “Man khoobam, Mamnoon!” And of course “Man gom shodam.” Which will happen often. I have learned other phrases as well, “Bebakhshid, aya shoma Engilisi harf mizanid” The most useful of all phrases. But the main point is that all this is for nothing. I will never get that visa. Hossein, your country IS a beautiful country from green shores of the Caspian to Maharlu Lake by Shiraz with nearby Persepolis, to Mashhad, a beautifully designed city lying at over 9,200 feet. Even Tehran with its air pollution problems lies in a beautiful broad valley surrounded by mountains. You see, so many Americans forget that because the US is so big they forget that there are other beautiful nations around the world. Iran with it’s 75+ million people has a diversity of landscape that is as dramatic as that of the US. One other thing that Americans are not aware of is that Iran has some of the most beautiful and diverse people in the world too. There are over 19 languages with 53 dialects spoken in Iran. In your province, for example, Mazanderani (مازِرونی) or Tabari (تبری) is spoken. As a trained anthropologist, I could spend the rest of my life exploring the wonders of Iran, but I never will have that chance.

  119. zahra says

    HI, I am an Iranian. thanks for your real expressions about Iran.I am happy that you enjoy visiting Iran.

  120. Ernest W. says

    Dear Zahra,

    Unfortunately I never have, and never will. The closest I will ever get to Iran is to look over the border into Iran from Turkey, Azerbaijan, or Kurdistan.

  121. says

    Come on Ernest ,what would you do when you’re supposed to be lost? Just kidding.I hope I’m not offending .You’ll get your visa if my application for green card works.Someday both of us reach our dreams.
    You’re quite an Iranian I suppose .You got a lot of information .You learned a lot.That’s fair enough.But what would I do if I were lost in the Washington forests? Maybe I would face a huge BIG FOOT.Definitely I would run for my life.
    I love to see huge trees of California . Canada is my dream.Every time I see a movie which is made in the jungles of Vancouver or Alberta I imagine myself in there camping & enjoying the pure nature.For instance the movie The Edge(Antony Hopkins & Alec Baldwin ) is one of my favorites .
    You said about a fact that rain falls are much lower than before.Here in my place we’ve got less rainfalls these years.Climate change is global.No place can be away from it.

    Washington And Oregon ,I believe very beautiful amazing and breath taking.I love to see Montana.Some quiet and endless landscapes .I remember one of the scenes of the movie Dances with wolves(Kevin Costner)in which large numbers of Buffaloes were grazing endlessly.(maybe that was CGI)

    You said very good things about Iran & Iranians .That shows you got the heart and good feelings about everything around you.
    I do hope someday you can come to my country and enjoy what you were waiting for.If there’s anything I could do to make it happen I would be so glad to do it.
    Sorry , Do it , do it , reminds me of a movie by Burt Reynolds always saying it.
    Actually Our family is quite an Iran by itself.I was born in Tehran.My wife was born in Khorasan . My daughter was in Isfahan .And finally my little son was born in Mazandaran. You see we’re strange enough to show you Iran!!! I believe Adventure is good for living.I try to show my kids the beauty of nature and respecting it.
    Don’t get me wrong , my website is about my fancies about Hollywood.I’m a family man.I love The Earth and all it’s people.
    Thanks . We listen and appreciate all you say about us even about our dark sides.It’s true.Nobody’s perfect.

    I’m sure you’ll get that chance.For me? Far far away.

  122. Ernest W. says

    Dear Hossein and Zahra,

    First of all, dear Zahra, when I travel I have traveled I have never worried about anything except meeting new people and become friends. I have traveled in many nations. I have cycled with a bicycle over 3,000 miles through Europe, I have traveled in Brazil, and Mexico and Canada. I have worked over 6 months in Egypt both in Cairo and the Western Desert. I have lectured in Syria at Damascus University, and at the Baath University in Hamah on global climate change. I was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Jordan and lived there for ten months, and taught in the Geology and Biology Departments at Yarmouk University. I was the only American in nothern Jordan at the time. I traveled all over Jordan by myself and was never concerned that something might happen to me. I have spent evenings in coffee houses drinking coffee and talking about every subject under the sun with the others who were there. On many of my trips I was alone, but I have never been concerned about my safety. Zahra I certainly would not be concerned about my safety in your beautiful country of Iran.

    I mentioned about climate change, it effects us all. My city of Reno depends upon the snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains to our west. This year the snowfall has only been 50% of the average. That means we will have drought for the seventh year in a row now!

    I mentioned part of the reason that I am interested in Iran is because two years ago in a hospital emergency room, it was a young Iranian volunteer in the hospital who saved my life! Her gentle demeanor and warm smile calmed me and brought me back from the verge of a heart attack. So I owe my life to a beautiful Iranian woman. This meeting renewed my desire to visit the country where she had come from. I had to see the country with such a wonderful people came from. That is how my desire to come to Iran was reawakened.

  123. Ron says

    Hello. Marvin or other. I’m from Canada. My son is getting married in a few weeks in Iran. None of us has any experience with Iran. We have gov’t approval for entry. Can I get a visa during a stopover in Istanbul? I need to have it for some other travel in the next 2 weeks, so I can’t send it to Washington.
    Also, apparently, the husband’s family is expected to pay for the celebration, but we have no idea or control over it. If so, is it not dangerous to take large amounts of cash for something like this? Is there no other way of transferring money to the family?

  124. Marvin says

    @Ron,
    Congrats on your son’s up coming wedding in Iran!I am not realy sure what you mean by you have Government approval for entry. I have picked up Visas for Iran in Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, and in Washington D.C. In order to pick up my visa in different places, I had my mother in law let the forien minister’s office in Iran know where I would go to pick up my visa. When I got married, as you know that the groom has to pay, I brought 5,000 USD. I would assume that you could bring as much as 10,000 USD. But do not quote me on that. Because I am not sure how much you can bring. What I do know, is that the price a wedding is a lot more expensive now than it was when I got married. Something else that you should look into before traveling to Iran is maybe have your son buy the wedding rings in Canada if he has not already done so. Also, I remember when I got married, I had to buy my wife a jewlery set. This included a necklace, braclet, and ear rings. That is also something that should be bought outside of Iran. I tell you this to where what money you do bring to Iran can be used better and help out more for the wedding.
    With all the sanctions, this is the only way that I know of to get money into the country is by bringing it with you. Just remember to not exchange money in the street. Your future daughter-in-law’s family should know where you can exchange your money.
    I hope that you have a great time in Iran! If the wedding is anything like mine was, it will be one for the books!
    I will be traveling back to Iran in June and August.

  125. Ron says

    Hi. It’s me again. By “it”, I meant my passport. If I send it to Washington, I won’t have it back in time for my trip to Europe before Iran.
    Can anybody help?

  126. says

    @Ernest: I’m really sorry to hear that your visa application was rejected. Have you tried to apply as a regular tourist instead of for academic reasons? Although as a tourist you wouldn’t be able to overtly do research in Iran, you could still travel around the country and have a good experience. Depending upon the Iranian tour company you work with you can also arrange to spend time with your friends. There is no guarantees, but it seems that it would be easier to get into Iran as a tourist rather than an academic.

    @Ron: We picked up our Iranian visa in Istanbul at the Iranian embassy. If you have the authorization number it is pretty straightforward process (2 photos, pay the fee at the bank across the street). But, I believe it took 2-3 working days so you’d have to factor that time when booking flights.

    As for receiving money in Iran or taking money out of a foreign account while in Iran, that would be tricky. It was tough when we were there (Nov. 11), but it’s even more difficult now with sanctions. I think Marvin is right on in his advice.

    @Marvin: Thanks so much for such thoughtful and helpful advice. I agree that it’s even more difficult than ever to get money into the country because of the recent sanctions.

  127. Ron says

    @Marvin
    The gov’t authorization, I believe, was obtained by the lady’s family, meaning it’s OK to apply for a visa.
    Thanks for the tips on rings and jewellery set. So jewellery is more expensive in Iran then? And I’ll tell him about the money exchange.
    Thanks again. I might have more questions later if it’s OK with you.
    @Audrey
    I really appreciate your suggestions. This is an amazing way of obtaining information on travel sites.

  128. Marvin says

    @Ron,
    Actually the gold and jewlery was cheaper in Iran for me and my wife in the past. I just suggested that you migt think about buying that stuff outside of Iran. That way you do not waste what limited money that you can bring into Iran on stuff that you can bring into the country plus the money.

    @Audrey it is always a pleasure to try and help out. I just love this site so much! I wish that I could have met you and your husband years ago when I traveled the world even more that I do now.

  129. Ernest W. says

    Dear Zahra,

    Thank you! I pray for it. I am not Muslim, but my dearest friend in Iran is. Last Summer she was very ill, and could not fast during Ramazan. So instead I fasted for her, from before sunrise to after sunset every day of Ramazan. I never broke the fast. I did not eat or drink during the day throughout that whole time. I lost five kilos during that time, it was the hottest Summer here where I live, so it was not easy. She regained her health, and I was able to help an Iranian student who I didn’t think that I could as well. Maybe my fasting was rewarded. I have never seen my dear Iranian friend, I have talked to her on the mob, and chatted with her by typing. I have her picture, but I have never seen her with a cam, and yet she is the dearest person in my life. But I don’t know if I will ever see her smile in anything but a photo. That is why I am heart-broken that I cannot get a visa. She does not have enough money to travel outside of Iran either, and because of the sanctions, I cannot get money to her. I will die before I can see her.

  130. Ernest W. says

    Dear Audrey, I will try that. Thanks. Are there any businessmen out there? What is your experience with going to Iran?

  131. says

    @Ernest: We spent three weeks in Iran in November 2011 – two weeks with a G Adventures tour and one week on our own with a private guide. Although we were with a guide for a lot of the time, we also had a lot of independent time and met lots of people. As for businessmen, Iran is full of them! It’s a very entrepreneurial place even with sanctions and challenges.

  132. Ernest W. says

    Dear Zahra, Thank you. My friend is a miracle. She is unique, and I would fast as long as it would take to help her.

  133. Ron says

    @marvin or anyone else who knows.
    Are you able to tell me how much cash you can bring in to the country?
    Thanks, Ron

  134. Ernest W. says

    I guess that all I can do is to try again. I don’t have much hope though. You know what was strange is that in the visa rejection the introduction said…
    “Dear Sir or Madame” as if they didn’t even really know.

  135. Marvin says

    @Ron,
    You will probably need to call the Iranin Intrest Section in D.C. or another Iranian Embassy. I searched and searched for you on the internet and could not find anything. I also tried to call the Iranian Intrest Section in D.C. for you, but was on hold forever.

  136. Wigder Frota says

    What a fantastic post.
    I’ve been searching on the web for several days and now I got my answers.
    I am very excited about visiting Iran.

    Wigder Frota

  137. Wigder Frota says

    @Everyone:
    I hold dual citizenship (Brazilian and American) and live in the USA.
    Would you recommend to apply for a visa as an American although Brazil has great diplomatic relationship with Iran?

    Thanks in advance for any tips on that matter.

    Best,

    Wigder

  138. says

    @Wigder

    That is a tricky question, mostly because you plan on returning to the U.S. afterwards. In general Iran (and other countries in that region) either don’t recognize dual citizenship or frown on it (i.e. carrying two passports can get you into some serious ‘waiting time’ depending on use). If I was going to Iran, I would go on the Brazilian passport (less hassle, no required tour, etc) and you are eligible for a visa on arrival (though I personally wouldn’t bank on that; go through an embassy if you can or at least give the one in D.C. a call about the VOA). I would not bring your US passport with you and only travel through countries were your Brazilian passport does not require you getting a visa.

    Your comment reminded me of a time I crossed the Jordan/Syrian border in 2008 and as I waited for my visa ($16!) I started talking to a couple who were being held by the border guards. They were Iranians living in San Francisco who entered Jordan on their U.S. passport (‘great diplomatic relationship’) and wanted to enter Syria on their Iranian one (‘great diplomatic relationship’). When the Syrian border guards asked where their Jordanian visa stamps were it led to some serious wait time. Not saying it would be the same in Tehran, but something to consider.

  139. Wigder Frota says

    @John
    Thanks for your suggestion.
    I think I will do the whole trip using only the American passport (easier to enter other countries in the area.
    Best,

  140. says

    @Wigder: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. So glad that this article and the advice of other commenters helped you sort through your questions. Although getting a visa to Iran for your American passport is more of a pain, it’s not impossible and you’ll not have the problems that John mentioned above.

    @John: Thanks for giving your advice here. Spot on. Just yesterday we were talking with someone in Berlin whose wife had a similar problem in the Middle East by trying to use two passports. The border guards really do check those passport stamps.

  141. Babak says

    If travel to US was easy as Americans come Iran. I like to visit US but it’s hard to get VISA for Iranians.

  142. Steven says

    I was hesitant about visiting Iran before reading this article, not because of safety concerns but because of the fact that it is required to travel with an organized tour, but it really doesn’t seem that bad! Now I really wanna go! I experienced the same sort of “rock star” status traveling in the West Bank. However I do have a question, I have several Iranian American friends who hold dual citizenship with Iran and the United States. Is it possible to go with them as guests?

  143. Hossein says

    @Audrey: Please accept my special thanks for your really nice trip report. Through the full of bad news from Media of Iran, It was the first time which I could read a report with different point of view. Most of the Iranian People have friendly relations with the tourists like you from all around the world but because of the heavy sanctions over Iran by the United States and some other Western Countries, the number of tourists became so low during these years but there is no limit for any right tourist to visit the country. The most famous and beautiful cities are Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and somehow Tehran. They are specially famous for their ancient places and the nature. I kindly invite you and the other people from the United States to visit Iran and view the real subjects.

  144. Jules says

    I feel that you are siding with terrorists. Yes, the people may have been nice to you, but you are aware of what they stand for and what they believe in. We all know that it is NOT the typical greetings that American receive in this country. You are making this OK, and therefore siding with peole who commit terrible crimes against human beings. You are promoting crimes against women and the poor treatment of their own people. Shame on you.

  145. Ernest W. says

    Jules,
    I don’t understand what you are saying. Are you American or what? I am not going to get into a political argument here, but governments seldom represent their peoples. On a person to person level you or anyone else could be friends with most people from other countries, even those that our government has an ax to grind with. I know Iranians. I know Palestinians. And they are good people. They have been my students for years. I am an American of German ancestry. Part of my family has been here since the 1670s. How long has your family been here Jules? I have taught in the Middle East, and I never found hate. The only place that I have found hate and misunderstanding is here in the US. And in case you are wondering…I am a former Veteran. I did my thing…even though I was sick of the propaganda that I was fed on a daily bases by our Army Chaplin. Attitudes that were not Christian in the least. So look at your statement and clean it up…and if it is hate you are pitching…take it elsewhere.

  146. says

    @Babak: Yes, it it very difficult for Iranians to get visas to the United States. We met quite a few people on our train from Iran to Turkey who were applying at the American consulate in Ankara. It is perhaps a bit easier for students from what they told us.

    @Steven: Honestly, having a guide (either in a group or private tour) did not keep us from exploring and engaging with people. We also had lots more free time to explore on our own than we had expected (which we loved). As for your question about going with your dual-passport friends, I don’t know the answer. My suggestion would be to call the Iranian interest section in Washington DC and ask them. Otherwise, you can ask a tour company in Tehran as they should know the requirements.

    @Hossein: Thank you for your kind comment and we’re glad we could provide a first hand account of our experience over three weeks in Iran. You might be interested in reading some of our other stories from Iran: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/category/middle-east/iran/

    @Jules: In our group there were four Americans and we spoke to quite a few other Americans who traveled in Iran before and after us. We all had very similar experiences of being surprised by the welcome we received. What we found from talking with Iranian people is that many of them do not agree with their government and its views on many issues, including human rights issues. As we travel, we often find there is a big difference between the views and actions of a people vs. those of the government. And engagement and communication is usually the best way to understand to work together against human issues.

    @Ernest: I agree that often governments do not represent their people, yet this is often the view that is shown on the news. The challenge is having that opportunity to make that first connection as human to human.

  147. kourosh says

    @Steven

    It is very possible for you to get a visa to travel with your Iranian friends, sometimes even easier as you are being approved/invited by an Iranian national. I’m presuming that your friends have relatives in Iran. If so they can ask their relatives to make inquiries at a reputable travel agency in Iran the best way to go about it. These agencies often charge a small fee (insignificant amount when converted to $) and do all the work for you. That’s how I got a visa for my then English girlfriend about fifteen years ago.
    If they struggle to find a good travel agent, let me know and I’ll ask my cousin. He was a resident in LA for over thirty years and now travels with Iranian national Judo team as an interpreter, he may be able to help. Good luck.

  148. Nima says

    Thanks for the post. I’m an Iranian and as an Iranian it makes feel really good when foreigners visit our country an enjoy it (unlike the fake things most people say about us).
    20 days is not enough t visit Iran. Every part of it is full of landmarks. I’ve been to trips for 60 days and trust me, I’m no even halfway there.

  149. Ron says

    @Jules
    I’m really surprised that you associate these wonderful people with terrorism. Governments support terrorism, most people don’t. I’m Canadian and I totally disagree with our government’s approach to Iran. They do not speak for me, but I’m stuck with them for now.
    My son, who was is Christian and Canadian, found the love of his life in Iran. He just went there and got married. He was treated like a prince and welcomed with open arms. They are warm and friendly people.
    Both your country and mine harbour terrorists unknowingly, and many are home grown, but as Americans and Canadians, we’re not all labelled that way.
    Open your mind. Get to know them.
    Ron.

  150. says

    Very informative. It’s a dream of mine to go to Iran. Canadian and Iranian relations have been a bit complicated recently. Iran is also on the “Avoid at all costs” advisory list, but I don’t think it is at all dangerous. Too much politics is involved.

  151. says

    @Natalia: You are right that there are a lot politics involved, but I do say that it is easier for Canadians to get visas to Iran than Americans. You can also travel independently if you’d like – we met lots of people who couchsurfed in Iran with great fun. Good luck!

  152. Daniel Khaki says

    My father escaped during the time of Revolution. The goverment seized my Grandfathers Hotels in Shiraz. Since my father fled during the time of war and is most likely wanted (if records show) do you think it is possible for them to know IF I AM RELATED to him and if they would hold me for that reason. My uncle was a GOVERMENT ENGINEER AND WELL KNOWN FOR HIS GREAT WORKS. MOHAMMAD KHAKI. Unfortunately, SAVAK used him for a project to build an underground trail for SPYS TO EXCHANGE INFORMATION in SWEDEN and after his project, he became part of an experiment to clear all of his memory away. It failed. He slowly became Schizophrenic. My Father still says to this day he was one of the brightest people he has encountered. The same thing was said by numerous of my moms family which met him later in life when he was brought to the united states thru Mexico. Yes Mexico. My father had No fear after what THE REVOLUTION in Iran took away from our families hard work. There is so much more to this story. My Grandfather, his ties, My father’s travel to America while discovering the TRUTH of what happen to my INTELLIGENT UNCLE. In whom saved my life as a kid, putting out the fire on my head that would of killed me because no one else was around but HIM. He passed away 2 years ago but he loved me so much. Even though he was not fully himself all the time, he put the effort to be in Control sometimes, especially in my early years to share me a story or walk me to the store to buy me a candy. He was a good man out of Iran with an high IQ but was part of an failed experiment. So my reason to go to IRAN is to travel to FINALLY MEET my FAMILY in SHIRAZ and speak with them these stories of truth. They have been dying to see me and my DIRECT family, but the FEAR (planted by my father)has always been there for OUR family. The FEAR of finding out whose son I am and what they will do to me if they do know. I will go regardless because I need to see where MY BLOOD LINE STARTED.

  153. says

    @Daniel: Your family has a fascinating story. It must have been so difficult to leave Iran and all that they had after the revolution. As for your question about whether the Iranian government will figure out your family ties and if this will be a problem, I don’t have any first-hand experience in this. My advice would be to talk with a tour company in Iran as they may have better information on this and could advise you on whether you might have problems with a visa because of your family relations. Good luck and hope you have a chance to meet the rest of your family in Shiraz soon.

  154. S.Mehdi Hashemi says

    I am an Iranian travel agent . I like to guide you to come to my country where is a land of friendship& hospitality.I can give visa for you. I assure you will enjoy visiting Iran.test it.

  155. Adam says

    Hello. Great story.
    I am planning a trip to Iran and I was wondering if I would be able to take my cell phone? Would I need to delete music and certain pictures first?
    Thanks

  156. says

    @adam

    You’re mobile phone is fine in Iran and though I haven’t personally had mine searched by police/border guards there, it would be a good idea to remove any ‘sensitive’ (in their view) data beforehand. iDevices in particular are looked out/asked for in certain locales (Central Asia and China come to mind) and sometimes searched. Besides, it just means there’s more room for you to fill up your device with local music and photos! (both of which are stunning).

  157. Marvin says

    @John,
    Boy your are fast! I was going to answer Adam, but you beat me to it! LOL!
    @Adam, take John’s advice. Every time I travel to Iran, I take my cell phone. I do not use it there, I just take it so I have it when I arrive back to the USA or where ever I am going to from Iran. I have never had a problem with bringing my phone.

  158. Kourosh says

    @Adam
    Everyone in Iran has a cell-phone so you’re safe taking yours. It’s probably wise not to have pornographic images on your phone, but music downloads are fine. In Iran many things are illegal only on paper, and if you’re a foreign visitor authorities don’t normally bother you anyway.
    Just don’t turn up in public intoxicated and refrain from discussing sensitive political issues with people you don’t know well.
    Apart from those there isn’t really much to worry about.

  159. says

    @Marvin: :-)

    @Kourosh: “Just don’t turn up in public intoxicated and refrain from discussing sensitive political issues with people you don’t know well.” <== Good advice for anywhere, but you forgot to mention football as well ;-)

  160. Adam says

    Thanks for the info. I’m a dual citizen so I don’t know if that will change the way they view me entering and leaving the country. I really just wanted to take my phone to connect to Wi-Fi and take pictures… and use some Farsi apps since I don’t speak it very well.

  161. says

    @Adam: Your question was already thoroughly answered by our great commenters, but just wanted to add our experiences. We traveled with 2 iPhones and did not have any trouble. We used them for Wifi and they were never inspected or looked at coming into the country or exiting. Enjoy your trip!

  162. Roy H. says

    Kudos to Dan and Audrey for a balanced and “from their perspective” informative journey. As a US citizen who works with international B schools and SOE’s on international trade issues, I concur on the wonderful openness and nature of most Iranian citizens; it is a trip worth taking. I think however some are positing a “straw man” with regard to stereotypes; all US citizens I work with have realistic views on the Iranian gov but do not extend that to the citizenry.

    But to say as Ernest W. did that there is no hate there outside the gov is the height of naivete or bias, no matter his apparent belief that from his individual experience he can extrapolate universal axioms. To say that hate only resides in the US is something beyond naivete that should be obvious.

    I was less than a mile from a bomb explosion in 2001 that killed over a dozen women and children, and it was placed and denoted by extremist citizens, not the gov. Academics have been not only detained, but imprisoned and worse for completely spurious reasons. The risks are acceptable to me, but they are real, and in the rare event where things go bad, they tend to go very badly, and not always at the hand of the gov.

    I concur it is a trip worth taking, but one should be educated and aware, to which end I applaud Dan and Audrey for their contribution.

  163. Ernest W. says

    Hi, I am not ignorant of where hate resides in this world…especially after 65 years of life, and living in US and working in the Middle East and Europe for many years…hate resides in ignorance. It also resides in misrepresentation of statements such as Roy H. has of my statements. I have found that as a professor, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation regarding Iran among my American students. Much of their misinformation is due to the constant bombardment that we have on a daily bases from our media and our government.

    I have found that unfortunately, our ignorance of the people of Iran and of how things work in Iran have resulted in a very short-sighted policy in our relationship with Iran. In this case the sanctions that we have applied to Iran have impacted the the middle and lower classes of Iran, but not the rich who support the government there. It is manifest at all levels…have you tried to get a student visa for a middle or lower class Iranian! Compare what you have to do to get them here, as opposed to the ease with which you can get a student visa for a Japanese student. Have you listened to the questions that are asked of an Iranian when they pass through customs into the US or even Italy, as opposed to the ease with which other nationals are able to pass through customs? There is a woman in the US Embassy who is so abusive to Iranians trying to obtain visas to the US that she is described on a website as the “Don’t Talk, Don’t Talk Lady” because she doesn’t even let the young Iranian students being interviewed talk. I have found that in general, on a one to one level, people get along. As I said, I have numerous friends throughout the Middle East and Europe, and even though we may not agree on politics we do get along. But their are those people who are clearly filled with some kind of hate that twists the way they deal with other people. The families of many of my students have, because of the inflation of the Iranian Rial due to both the sanctions and internal mismanagement of the economy, resulted in a destruction of the middle class in Iran. The agents of change there have been stripped of any influence that they may have had.

    Regarding extremists…most whether they are officially sanctioned or not…operate with their own agenda. Most organized groups operate with greater or lesser governmental cooperation or at less non-interferance. The point is any extremists are a minority, but usually have an influence far beyond their numbers.

    What I have found is that as individuals, we cannot do much, but what we do can have a tremendous impact…you know light one candle…so I will sit here (today I am in southern Italy working with my Iranian students) and try to further international relations in the best way that I can.

    By the way, I had my third visa application to visit Iran rejected…and don’t expect that I will ever have one approved.

    Cheers

  164. Seyed Mohammad Mehdi Hashemi says

    Dear sir/Madam
    I am an Iranian Travel agent in Tehran, also tour guide.Having M.A in tourism planning , teaching tourism at the university.much interested to deal with American travel rs.agencies and tour operators.As a travel agent, have capability to get visa for Americans who are interested to visit Iran, the land of hospitality and kindness to all people of the world. we can be the host of Americans both individual or tour groups. however form of group of paks is better. I can send you the application form of visa if it,s necessary. your intimate friend , S.M.Hashemy

  165. says

    In the last 5 years,we have never had a visa problem! It’s about finding the right organization to work with in Tehran and that is what IranCustom Travel.com has been doing for over 100 American travelers Plus arrange for your trip; hotels,meals,guides,fees and tours focused on interests from antiques to ziggurats.Based in New we talk with every one with Iran on their wish list.

  166. Marvin says

    Just got back from Iran yesterday! Had another wonderful trip there!
    Can’t wait for my next trip there in August!

  167. Ernest W. says

    Hi Marvin, How do you handle your visa? Does a travel agency do it for you? Or do you go via the Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C.?

  168. Marvin says

    @Ernest,
    For me, my mother in law submits an invitation letter to the Foriegn Minister’s office. Then I apply for my visa.

  169. azra says

    hey guys,im an iranian.i read cament but i underestand a part of it.i like to teraveling American in iran.iran is verey nice for yours.my peopl love American tourists.i learn English becus I visit you.come to iran and enjoy in it

    tanks a lot

  170. Hamid says

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and as an Iranian, hope that our minorities with the majority of power (politicians) make it so that the sanctions will be lifted soon and that the two nations can do much more business together.

  171. Chris says

    Great, informative post! Not sure if you have information for my situation, but I thought I’d throw it out there because I can’t find any other info: I am an American man married to an Iranian woman. We’d like to go back for her brother’s wedding but never seriously considered it because we heard it was very hard for Americans to get visas. Your post tells me differently. Do you have any idea if someone in my situation can go without a tour guide (I’d be with her family the whole time – so it would be like a local sponsor)? We also have a baby together, and we are married under Islamic an American laws. Just wondering if you have come across anyone else in our situation.

  172. says

    To Chris:
    I suggest you contact the Iranian Interests Section in Washington directly.Or better, hve your wife call.
    It would be wise to have documentation of the wedding date and be certain to state you are married under Islamic law (You may have converted?)
    They are very helpful. good luck.let me know

  173. Marvin says

    @Chris,
    I am in the same sitation as you. My wife is Iranian and we were married under Islamic Law. You should have your wife contact that Iranian instrest section in D.C. and ask them to make sure what all you need to do in order to apply for a visa. I go to Iran at least once every year if not more. My wife and daughter are in Iran right now. I was with them there for a week and left them there for a couple of months. I will go back to get them next month and will fly in by myself. We do not use a Tour Group. Not sure if your In Laws are there in Iran or not? When I say In Laws, i am talking about your Mother in Law or Father in Law. What we do is have my Mother in Law go to the Foreign Minister’s office in Tehren and apply for me a Visa. Then they have it sent to where ever I plan to pick it up. Once they are issiued a case number which takes about 10 days, they tell me the case number then I apply with a Visa application using the case number. If I go through D.C., I send my passport along with the application, flight info and Passport photos. Also there is a charge, so I send a money order as well. It normally takes about a week on the turn around. This next time that I go to Iran in Aug, I will just fly into Dubai and pick up my Visa there at the Iranian Embassy. Since you are an American, you can not get a Mutiple Entry Visa. So each time that you choose to go to Iran, you will have to apply for a new one each time. I always get a 30 day visa even though I am never there more than a couple of weeks.
    You should not have a problem getting a Visa if you have proof that you have been married to your Iranian wife under Islamic Law. Also it would help if your wife has had your name put as her husband in her Iranian ID.
    I hope this helps! Let me know if you need more info.

  174. Chris says

    Marvin – Thanks so much! We have not found any advice about an American man entering with an Iranian wife, so this is very, very useful. Her parents and several siblings live in Iran, and they were planning to go to the Foreign Ministry on Saturday. The good news is that we were indeed married under Islamic law here in Denver (I converted, and we have the certificate) and I am listed as her husband in her Iranian ID. Do you have any idea of what her parents need to bring to apply for the visa for me in Tehran? Do they just give them my name?

    Her brother is getting married at the beginning of September, which means we’re on a tight deadline. As I mentioned before, we weren’t going to go at all – her parents thought the situation there might not be good for an American, and we thought the visa situation would be impossible. Now, however, I’d like to give it a shot, and it does sound doable. I essentially have about 7 weeks to get the visa. So I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    Thanks so much for the advice and help. Btw, we did call the Iranian Interests section, and the woman there said to just send them the form for a visa and that I’d probably get it. However, she did not even mention the fact that we’d need to have someone in Iran apply at the Foreign Ministry first. We found that later online. So, while helpful, the Iranian Interests section wasn’t exactly forthcoming/clear on the information. Thanks again in advance.

    I’ll let you all know how it turns out.

  175. Chris says

    To clarify, Marvin, my wife and I have made copies of our passports, marriage certificates (one in Farsi and one in English), the document showing I converted to Islam and her birth certificate with my name in it, as well as our infant daughter’s US birth certificate. Her parents are going to print it all out and bring them in tomorrow.

  176. Marvin says

    @Chris,
    Sounds like you are sending everything that is required. You need to also send a copy of your daughter’s passport along with passport photos of both you and your daughter. I am sure that you are doing that.
    Once your wife’s family gets a case number, then you send you and your daughter’s passport along with marriage certificates and birth certificates to the Iranian Intrest Section in D.C.
    You need to have your wife’s family contact the VIP section of the Tehran Airport. I will get that info for you asap. This will help you get into the country once you arrive. It cost a small fee and I use it every time that I go to Iran. I like to think of it as a little insurance.
    You will be finger printed more than likely when you arrive. They will not finger print your daughter.
    Iran is fine for Americans right now. In fact this last time that I was there, we landed on Election Day. We even went out to the streets after the election to watch everyone celebrating! We walked past several police and none of them even looked at us twice.
    I hope that you get your visa and that you have a wonderful time there in Iran!

    Marvin

  177. Marvin says

    @ Chris,
    Once you and your daughter get your visa’s, and you and your family book your flights. Your next step should be the VIP at the airport.
    Their numbers that your wife’s family can call in Iran are 55678558, 55678529, or 51007994. Their Website is http://www.irancipairport.ir
    The price for their service is 50 USD per adult, and 25 USD for your daughter. Also if someone in your wife’s family would like to meet you and your family in the VIP while you wait to be cleared through customs, then they can pay 17 USD. They can be waiting in the VIP or what they call the CIP lounge, when you arrive.
    This is what I do each time that I go to Iran and like I say it helps with the process. Last month when we arrived to Iran, as soon as we departed the plane, there was a guy waiting on the ramp with a sign with our names. They took us down a set of stairs and there was a van waiting for us. We took a short ride to the CIP lounge and never even step foot into the airport. While we were in the van, we gave them our baggage claim tags and we put a ribbon with a special design on each of our suit cases. We gave them a piece of the ribbon and this help them to find our bags. Once we arrived to the CIP lounge, we were greeted by my sister-in-law and her husband. The rest of the family waited outside the doors for us until we cleared. While we waited we were served Hot Tea and Cake. I heard latter that there was a buffet. I wish I had not missed that part, but you can believe that I will be looking for it when I return. LOL!!! Also while we waited, we were given the green light from an officer to go and be with the rest of the family while we waited for our suitcases. They are very friendly and even the officers that I have had to deal with have been very kind.
    One thinjg that you should have on you is the address written in Farsi where you will be staying. They will ask for this when you get finger printed. With me on the finger prints, it is a hit or miss each time that I go there. Only because I have been to Iran so many times. This last time was one of those times that they did not ask me to get finger printed!
    I hope that you and your wife will find this info helpful!

  178. Kourosh says

    @Marvin

    Christ Marvin, talking about details! Are you so meticulous in everything? Lol.
    As an Iranian I must say I’m well impressed with your advice.

  179. Kourosh says

    @Marvin

    You certainly display many of Iranian characteristics. We are glad to have you as part of our wider family. Shoma Irani(%) hastid.

  180. Chris says

    Thanks again Marvin. Yeah, my wife’s sister used that VIP service recently and highly recommended it. Great information and advice. I hope a lot of other people find this thread if they’re considering travel to Iran. My mother-in-law tried to call the Foreign Ministry over and over again today to get info on what to bring for the visa, but she could never actually get through to anyone. She’s going to head over tomorrow. They don’t actually have a passport photo of me – I have sent one via email that they will try to print out. Did you actually send your photo to your inlaws by mail? I hope the printout works so we don’t have to send it snail mail. I figured they’d only want my photo once I actually apply myself at the Pakistan Embassy in DC.

    Thanks again, will report back soon (hopefully!)

  181. Marvin says

    @Chris,
    Send only scanned copies of your passport, wife’s ID, marriage certificates, daughter’s birth certificate, etc…. to your mother-in-law via email. That is all I do.
    Thanks,
    Marvin

  182. Marvin says

    @Chris,
    Also, as you said, you only need to send photos of both you and your daughter along with your passports and other stuff that I have listed in past post to the Iranian Intrest Section in D.C. once you get the case number from your In-Laws in Iran. There is not a box or line on the application for the case number. I write the case number on the Application near the top of the page, and I lable it as the Case Number. We send our stuff to D.C. Fed-Ex. And as I told you before, it takes about a week on the turn around!

  183. says

    @Marvin: Thank you so much for all the help and support you have provided to Chris on and off this forum. Really is so wonderful to see people helping each other like this to make something that seemed impossible a reality.

    @Chris: So glad that thanks this comment thread helped you get the detailed information you needed – it’s thanks to the great knowledge and support from the people who are subscribed to the comments. Good luck with the paperwork and please let us know how it goes!

  184. Ron from Canada says

    @Marvin: You’re a saint, Marvin. Back in the spring your comments and suggestions were a godsend. My son is married and it all went great.
    Thanks again.

  185. Marvin says

    @Ron from Canada!
    I am glad that I was able to help you out and that all went well! You are very welcome! When I go back to Iran next month to get my wife and daughter, my wife’s sister is getting married! I can not wait! Persian Weddings are the Best!

  186. Chris says

    Just a quick update: Encouraged by this post, the above comments and Marvin’s advice, we had my in-laws apply for me at the Iranian foreign ministry. We just got the approval number back – it only took about 10 days! I sent my visa application out yesterday to the Iranian Interests section of the Pakistani Embassy, so our fingers are crossed. I think we’re actually going to risk it and book our tickets tonight because the prices are getting prohibitive. I’ll let you all know what happens, in the hopes someone else can find this useful. My in-laws are so excited, as it looks like we might be able to make my brother-in-law’s wedding. Needless to say, I’m excited too!

  187. Marvin says

    @Chris!
    Congrats Buddy! You got the approval number, so the hard part is done! I am so very excited for you and I can not wait to hear back from you about your trip to Iran! Have a Great Time!
    I am counting the days down myself, for my return trip to Iran.
    Keep us posted!

    Marvin

  188. Shahram says

    As an Iranian it’s excessively pleasant emotion when I see there are lots of people who are interested to visit our country after these hardships…
    believe it or not most of news in which show us as uncivilized population is NOT true!
    don’t be afraid if you just looking for visiting an ancient country with dating back over 2500 years.
    we are ready to give you a warm hug.
    I’m a mechanical engineer and I’m working in oil and gas field, it’s my pleasure to write me what you want to know about traveling to IRAN.
    YOURS SINCERELY
    shahramasc@gmail.com

  189. Thomas says

    I am a soon to be retiring English teacher,American living in Japan. I plan to visit Iran alone in March of 2014 for about 15 days. I want to spend all my time in Shiraz. One concern is theft of items. second concern is the changing prices of things, particularly services like taxis, food and even hotel accomodations. I have read several travelers blogs and they all mentioned sudden higher prices than what is/was printed in previous travel references.

  190. Neda says

    thomas I live in Iran.what others had mentioned about prices is right but its wrong if you think it effects tourists,its just making horrible finantial jam for IRANIANS.Surely you’re not gaining money in Rial,hence you’re gonna exchange to Rial in Iran.SO even if any price gets more expensive it means unfortunately our currency is plunding and loosing its value and it makes goods cheaper for anyone with other currencies….Imagine a bread is $1 and you gain about 30000 Rial to exchange $1,now if a bread gets more expensive,you will also get more Rial,exchanging $1…

  191. says

    @Thomas: Shiraz was one of our favorite cities in Iran. People are very friendly there and the market is wonderful. When we were in Iran we didn’t have any problems with theft (neither did anyone else in our group) and we felt it to be a very safe place. I wouldn’t leave your iPhone or laptop unattended at a cafe, but in terms of pickpocketing and such we didn’t find it all problematic.

    As for prices, what Neda mentioned is true. There is high inflation now as the currency has fallen tremendously against the US dollar (think it’s about 1/3 to 1/2 less than when we were there). So while the price in Rial might be higher, it will most likely be cheaper in hard currency. I’ve heard that now is a particularly cheap time to travel through Iran because of the currency problems.

    @Neda: Thanks for explaining the currency fluctuations happening right now. We’ve also read many reports on how the inflation and prices are really affecting middle and lower class Iranians. I do hope that things will stabilize soon.

  192. Neda says

    you’re welcome.
    I had been in Shiraz only 4 times but I do love the city.it’s my first favorite city in Iran and the Second one is Isfahan.@Thomas,if you have time I highly suggest you to visit Isfahan as well ;)
    (also sorry i always have too much typo! LOL! like plunging in the previous comment:P )

  193. Marisak Lunke says

    To Thomas,

    As I’m sure you are aware, you will need a guide..and since you want to stay in Shiraz, i’m assuming you are most interested in the poets and persopolis…so the most important factor will be to have the agency pick a guide with the relevant background.The other questions you asked have been answered. Everything else from your visa et al are no problems..as long as ou pick the right agency…one that will work with your time frame and costs. I suggest you google iran Custom Travel and get a conversation going… they were very helpful to our needs.I shoiuld add that you are perfectly safe but be sure to research for the agencyand be sure they are certified by the Ministry of Tourism.

  194. m.qaredaqi says

    hi
    Thomas,you can hang out with locals in Shiraz. use couchsurfers website to contact them. I’m sure Iranian will help you to have great time in Shiraz.

  195. says

    @Marisak: Depending upon Thomas’ nationality he may or may not need a guide. If he’s not an American citizen then he’ll have more flexibility. That said, I do recommend visiting Persepolis with a guide to understand the history and the significance of all the detailed engravings and art.

    @m.qaredaqi: Also, if one is not an American citizen you can actually stay with couchsurfers. Really impressed by what an active and engaged couchsurfing community Iran has. And yes, Shiraz is an easy place to meet people and have a good time!

  196. Marisak Lunke says

    Audrey. He did state he is an American..therefore must have a guide and cannot stay in a private home..FYI ..the same applies to Brits or Canadians at this time.

  197. says

    @Marisak: Thanks for the correction. I was focused on him being an English teacher and didn’t notice the nationality. Yes, then he will need to find a tour company to sponsor his visa and take care of hotel and guide arrangements.

    Thanks also for the update about Canadian and English citizens not being able to partake in couchsurfing at this time.

  198. Ernest W. says

    I’ve been watching the most recent exchange with Thomas with rye interest. It highlights the misconceptions that many Americans have about traveling in foreign countries. Through the years I have traveled extensively in Middle and South America, northern, central and southern Europe, and in Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the eastern Mediterranean. I have walked the streets of the cities of those countries at night and have never encountered what I have in downtown Reno, Nevada, when I took a young Iranian friend of mine on a walk there one evening last Fall. We found a gang fight on the main street of at 8 in the evening during which one young man was nearly beaten to death. You can walk any evening in Reno and run into drunks who are panhandling, prostitutes propositioning you, or young punks ready to extort you. I have never run into this in the streets of cities in other countries…Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Athens, Rome, or Munich. Just this weekend a bank was robbed in Reno, a man was shot, a dead body was identified. For the month of July in Reno a city of about 228,000, there were:
    57 commercial burglaries, 105 reports of destruction of property, 105 residential burglaries, 35 robberies 113 vehicles stolen, and 112 vehicle burglaries.
    So I think that shows that you might want to spend your time in Shiraz, Isfahan or Tehran rather than in Reno, Nevada! Regarding prices…oh God yes…the poorly thought out sanctions that the West has imposed upon Iran is destroying the middle class, and has made it incredibly difficult for young Iranians to travel abroad, or to go to school abroad. Many cannot even afford to take the exams that are required for entrance at universities in the US or Europe. I work with young Iranians everyday, and the economic and social cost of our sanctions upon the people of Iran is incalculable. As some of my students say, an American can live like a king in Iran at the current rate of inflation…Spring a year ago the Rial was worth 12,000 to the dollar (that is what is still quoted in the market), But in reality it is now closer to 31,500 to the dollar, and salaries and wages have not kept up with the inflation. So Thomas, travel in Iran without fear, and don’t worry about your pocket book…it will not be stollen or emptied by prices there. And definitely, see not only Shiraz, and Isfahan, but you might also check out Hamadan, and visit the Caspian Sea coast as well…Mazandaran is certainly worth a visit. And of course the town of Masuleh.

  199. Chris says

    Just wanted to update everyone on here that my attempts to secure an Iranian visa were successful! It only took about two weeks total.

    As a refresher, I am an American man married to an Iranian woman, and we both live in the US. I came to this site two months ago because I could not find ANY information for someone in my situation. I posted a comment on this thread and was encouraged by the response of the authors and another reader. I hope others in my situation find this thread!

    We honestly thought it was not possible for me to go, and here I am now, with an Iranian visa in my passport and airline tickets in hand. I will be attending a Persian wedding, exploring Tehran and hopefully going up north and also to Esfahan.

    Thanks to everyone who provided me with advice and encouragement (especially Marvin). Can’t wait to explore this wonderful country.

  200. kourosh says

    @ Chris
    Congratulations mate. I actually remember your first post and the follow ups, and it’s great to know it’s worked out well for you. I have no doubt you and your wife will have great time while there.
    It’s amazing what Dan and Audrey have already achieved where politicians at opposing end of the globe continually fail to do. Well done both; your objectives are taking shape nicely ;-)

  201. Neda says

    @Chris
    Your last comment made me really happy.Congratulations.My fiance will go the same way next year.Actually we never succeeded to be in my country Iran together but I’m hopeful we will finally make our wonderful persian wedding in Tehran :)

  202. Thomas says

    Thanks for all the comments and reassurances. I am a little nervous, as I will be alone, and my whole condition has changed since I was a univ. student hitchhiking in Europe. I wonder if anyone can recommend a book that has at least a good sized chapter about the history and culture of Shiraz. I am very familiar with the poet Rumi, but I don’t really know much about Saadi, though I have heard both are similar? yes? no?

    I was supposed to receive my text on Farsi for dummies, from Amazon.com but it hasn’t arrived. I do hope it will be easier than Japanese :-(

    Regarding the tour company, there are probably a huge number…should I just Google Shiraz and tour company?

  203. says

    @Thomas

    Having lived in Japan myself for years and being from NYC, I can tell you’ve been in Japan too long ;-) Reading Farsi (or Arabic for that matter) is far easier than Japanese, but more difficult to speak (Taarof (think Keigo) is rough) for native English speakers. Either way, you should be with a guide who will be handy for translation.

    As for tour companies based in Shiraz, I personally have used key2persia and found them to be great. Most tour companies will ask for compensation in hard currency (either Euros or USD), though some might accept credit cards/bank transfers via the UAE. If you’re in Tokyo and need USD from an American account (to avoid USD-JPY-USD scenarios), the New Sanno Hotel in Minato has an ATM that issues USD on the second floor. Bring your passport as the hotel used by the US Navy (hence the ATM). It’s about an 8 minute walk to there from the Iranian embassy (where I’m assuming you’re getting your visa…be great to get some feedback on that process!)

  204. Marvin says

    @Chris,
    Congrats on the Visa and you are very welcome! If you need anymore help, let me know.

    @Everybody else on this blog.
    If you go back and read some post that I made in the past (Post 67 & 71) you will see where I had said how much it cost to get a visa at the Iranian Embassy in Dubai. Last year it was 485 Dirham for the Visa and that they required you buy Travel Insurance. (132.02 USD for both visa and the Insurance)
    Well this year the price has gone up. It is now 525 Dirham (142.93 USD) for the Visa and the Travel Insurance.
    I also got a Visa earlier this year from the Iranian Interest Section in Washington D.C.
    In D.C. there is no requirement for you to buy Travel Insurance. However the Visa there will cost you approx $128 USD for just the visa, plus another $30 USD for return postage.
    I thought that I would throw that out there.

    Also, for those of you who are thinking about going to Iran and “DO NOT” have to use a tour group… I can not recommend enough using the VIP service at the airport in Tehran. They call it CIP. I met a couple in Dubai at the Iranian Embassy two weeks ago. The wife was Iranian and her husband was German. It was going to be the husbands first time to go to Iran. They really did not know what to expect upon arrival at the airport. I told them to use the CIP service and they did. I was able to meet up with them a couple of days ago here in Iran. They told me that they only used the CIP service for the husband and that the wife went in through the regular immigration process. They told me that the husband was processed and cleared in less than 5 minutes. They laughed about how he had to wait almost an hour for his wife to clear immigration and customs. They also thanked me for telling them about the CIP and said that they will both use it in the future.

    Marvin

  205. Marisak Lunke says

    Hi Thomas,
    There have not been many books written about Saadi. you will probably get your best info on his life by googling Saadi of Shiraz and following link.
    Suggest you contact IranCustomTravel, whwther you and start an e-mail dialogue with them. They were extremely thorough with many orientations before we left…and the guides were excellent. Whether you travel with them or not, they will be helpful.Great you’re learning Farsi,but you won’t be lost with English.All signs are in English,hotel staff and more people than you expect speak English.

  206. Thomas says

    I had an earlier question, not clearly expressed, that of Western (American/British) tourists who were told a significant higher price for the service/product than what they expected from their other information. They implied that they believed the prices were jacked up specifically for them and not for others.
    Comments here have assumed that the price is the same for everyone, however that was not my impression from reading those travelers blogs, but they couldn’t know for sure. The price in one case involved a hotel room at a “cheap” hotel. Cheap is a relative term, I can’t afford the higher priced hotels, but I am not going for the cheapest ones as I am thinking of staying at least a week so the jacked up rate in my case is multiplied by 7 or whatever. In the other case it was a taxi service, and a few have already commented here that you should not hail a (possibly unregistered?) taxi on the street.

    If the country is going through such a severe inflation rate as suggested by some of the comments here, then it seems that such turmoil will have a strong influence on how hard or how far some people aware of the tourists will go to get access to hard currency/ or as much as possible. I have a sympathy for hotels and restaurants that have to get supplies from outside Iran, so I can understand rate hikes that are associated with that kind of situation.

    What anyone like myself is asking for is justice, to be treated fairly, or equally (with any other visitor).

    I see there are a surprisingly large number of “learning Persian” blogs. Does anyone have any recommendations?

  207. says

    @Thomas: I’m not sure what sort of services/products that were being purchased by the western travelers that you read about. We didn’t find that the situation about charging higher prices for foreigners was bad in Iran (e.g., it’s worse in places like India, Turkey, Egypt, etc.). That said, it’s always good to take precautions to protect yourself from overcharging.

    Always ask the price in advance for a service or thing that you’re buying. Sometimes things that we think of as cheap might be expensive there because of import issues and things that we think of as expensive might be cheap there. What we always did was ask to see a menu or price list ourselves instead of trusting the information that our guide told us (because we realized after the first few meals he was taking a hefty commission for himself). The Persian numbers are different, but we learned them pretty quickly and we also downloaded an app for our iPhone that translated them. As for other services, we negotiated our guide in advance (before we got to Iran) and the hotels were part of the price of our tour/private guide so we didn’t have to negotiate those. As an American citizen, your tour company will likely need to make your accommodation arrangements for you as part of the visa & bureaucracy requirements. One thing to note is that tour companies will try to offer you first 4* hotels, but if you insist on it you can also negotiate accommodation at 2*-3* hotels. Or, what we did is we just told them our budget and they made accommodation arrangements accordingly. We took a few taxis, but the rates were negotiated for us by Iranians we trusted. Also, we paid for our tour in hard currency but everything else we paid in local currency.

    Good luck making all the arrangements and let us know if we can be of other help.

  208. Marisak Lunke says

    @Thomas, It’s unfortunate that you have heard such negative comments. There are “Uncertified” agencies swimming around the net , that went into” business ” and are not certified by the government. The Ministry of Tourism has strict controls on handling tourists and if you work with them, you will not experience the dishonest practices. Though as an Australian you do not need a guide, for just the reasons you noted,you are better off paying for a guide who cannot allow such fooling around, or they will loose their job.I strongly suggest you contact IranCustomTravel.com and ask their advice. As Audrey wrote, you can tell them your budget and they will eiither work with it or suggest a direction for you to take.Let me know.

  209. Thomas says

    I have just spent some time reading from this lengthy comment section! I have read them with a somewhat sinking heart, as I still feel the same way about Japan, as these Iranian/American couples feel about Iran, but I will be leaving in 2015. Iran is my first venture outside.

    I appreciate the responses to my worries, and the practical advice to anticipate these kinds of problems. Here among the Japanese I teach of my generation, all of them think I am almost crazy to choose to visit Iran, even though I understand there are some large Japanese companies doing work there. The reason for their fears is not so much political, I am pretty sure it is religious. Japanese I know are not prejudiced about religion, but there is a vast ignorance which can easily become fearful from the day’s news.
    I am still waiting for my Farsi language text.

  210. Ernest W. says

    @Thomas: I think that if you are able to get a visa to visit Iran you will have one of the most wonderful experiences of your life, even if you are as old as I am. I have so many friends there, but am not able to get a visa, perhaps because I am an environmental scientist, or perhaps because they think I must be a grumpy old man. You know from your experience teaching in Japan that visiting other countries and meeting the people and interacting with them is the most incredible experience you can ever have in your life. I just returned from working in southern Italy for two months. I was so stimulated that even on only four hours of sleep a night I was ready to go the next day, and I am ready to go back again. In fact, I find Reno, Nevada, an incredible let down. I would rather be somewhere in Puglia dancing the pizzica. Oh, and the Pimsleur language program actually is pretty good if you want to learn some basic phrases in Farsi. You can even load it onto your smart phone and practice anywhere. The cost is not too bad.

    I have a question for the rest of you. Have any of you heard of, or have you had experience with a program called “The Hospitality Club”? Is it worthwhile investigating? If someone knows please post here. Thanks.

  211. says

    @Ernest: I’ve heard of the Hospitality Club, but we’ve never used them. Looks rather similar to CouchSurfing (which we have used).

    Love “Humans of New York”! I assume you know about the portraits he took on his trip to Iran last year. Just fabulous photos and stories of ordinary people.

  212. Mehdi says

    Hello everyone
    I’m Mehdi and I’m from Iran
    I found you guys interested in Our beloved Iran :)
    so i’m gonna give you a useful link to Brandon’s (i guess this guy was born with no sure name! ) Famous Website , Humans Of NY , Brandon traveled to Iran last year , here you can find his astonishing photographs:
    http://www.humansofnewyork.com/tagged/iran

    and after all , if you decided to come to Iran , I Can Show You around as a guide in some provinces. have fun :)
    mhd.sdgh.mech@gmail.com
    http://www.facebook.com/mhd.sdgh

  213. Ernest W. says

    Thank you Audrey. I have been trying to get to Iran for the last year and a half now, but can’t get a visa. Three strikes and your out I guess. It is really discouraging for my gf and I. We are beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get together again. And on this end the US State Department is so tight with their visas that it is very difficult to get into the US. I have had one of my students turned down twice now. And another student who is finishing her BA and her mother has not been able to visit her the 4.5 years that she has been going to school here even to see her daughter graduate from the university. Anyway thanks to you and Dan for this website. It does give us some hope.

    Sincerely,

    Peter

  214. Mohsen says

    Well, all I can say is that your blog is as amusing and it is informative, and I truly enjoyed reading it. Not only because I am an Iranian myself – I actually found your blog when I was looking for some info regarding traveling to Turkmenistan and loved your article about the rules and regulations there. Then, as any good axis-of-evil-citizen would do, just found the Iran section and as a result, stopped working and started reading your blog. A couple of hours already and I have not yet covered all.
    I am very glad to see that you had enjoyed your trip. I am now an expat in Turkey, but when I was working in Iran I always had many business partners traveling over and they often left with satisfaction. There are pros and cons while considering traveling to Iran, and sure enough, the determining factor for enjoying your trip would be to set your expectations first. You should know what to expect and decide if achieving those expectations, as a result of your trip, would make you happy.
    Anyhow, as I said, I am an expat in Turkey now so I will be very glad to see you guys next time you come over to this part of the world. If you decided to visit my city, me and my wife would be honored to host you in our apartment.

  215. Chris says

    Hi all. We’re set to leave for Tehran in a few days. Very excited, but apprehensive at the same time. The Syria situation – and Iran’s potential response – has us concerned. So I’ll throw this out to Dan, Aubrey and other readers: Is this a valid concern in your estimation for an American traveling to Iran? It increasingly looks like the US and its allies will respond to the Syrian situation in some fashion – the latest news saying America might launch missles – and Iran has already warned that such action would be unacceptable. Not sure if that’s the best time for an American to be traveling around Iran… Thanks in advance.

  216. kr says

    @Chris
    I understand your concern but you’ll have very little to worry about. Any response by Iran to attacks on Syria will be done through proxies and won’t be immediate anyway. Also Iranian politics and politicians have come a long way since the 70′s!

  217. Mohsen says

    If you ask me, this is not a legitimate concern. The issue with Syria is a governmental thing, and like all the other things of that nature, does not have much to do with the people. Even if it did, no one would blame it on Americans traveling inside their country.
    Go and enjoy your trip. The Syria issue will not change anything for you as a visitor.

  218. Ali says

    Hi sweet Americans!

    Of course, I hail from within your great and beautiful country as an international student ORIGINALLY from Iran.

    This article was pretty good and I am glad to see there is a steady increase in such eye-opening writings.

    I have had the fortune of meeting many American-European tourists (Americans with both citizenships). They were all such nice people.

    Unfortunately, a vast majority of American tourists who have visited Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have been seniors, mostly people in their early seventies. Not that that is bad really. In brings income and employment to my homeland and it is certainly better than no American tourists. But I would feel much better if there will be an increase in the number of younger American tourists in Iran.

    My dear Americans! Iranians are one of the most misrepresented (and, therefore, misunderstood) people in the world. The 1979 revolution and the international isolation that followed for two decades after that really damaged my country’s image in the eyes of Western minds, especially those of Americans. Prior to the revolution, Iran and the US had such close relations that it seemed that geographical distances mattered not. As my parents say, Iran was the only third-world ally of the US that was not viewed as a puppet.

    The people in Iran who have anti-American sentiment are undereducated fanatics who blindly support the Islamic regime’s detrimental foreign policies and sell themselves out to the authorities in exchange for a small financial compensation or a little status. An absolute majority of Iranians are xenophilics, they are especially curious toward Americans (as much as you guys are curious about them!) because Europeans have been around even after the revolution. So, Iranians are bored of Europeans!!! lol

    If you really love Iran, don’t hesitate! Get that visa, get that ticket and travel to the REAL cradle of civilization and the REAL ancient bridge between the east and the west. Ancient Persia! Iran! :)

  219. Ernest W. says

    Chris.
    You never know if there will be a response or not that might affect you. But don’t worry about your safety. I was all set to go to Iran last year when the Egyptian Copt and Jewish Car Dealer in Hollywood produced the anti-Mohammad video. The response of the Iranian government was to cancel visas for Americans at the time. It just shows you that a very few persons with sick minds can create havoc for the rest of us.

    Cheers

  220. Thomas says

    Time is ticking down.
    My current concern, Managing money;
    Adurey says to carry cash. Yikes! how much cash and in what denominations do you carry around with you? Do travelers checks work? Here in Japan we are used to doing almost all transactions in cash. So, compared to the US I carry around alot more money ($200.USD, say, compared to $20USD), BUT Japan is not Iran. How much cash are we considering? I know it depends on how much you want to shop….but I tell you
    1 I want to visit Shiraz and Persepolis.
    2. I want to visit Saadi’s memorial,
    3. I want to try to hang out with some high school math and English teachers at a local high school.
    4. Yes, I will have to buy half a suitcase full of cheap souvenirs for my students, but that’s it. Nothing fancy.
    5. all the time I want to eat good authentic,mostly cheap Persian food…
    6. I am thinking of 10 days. so the per day load of cash is what????

    Finally, you said the tour operator is the one who starts the process rolling. How do I make a choice on that?
    Thomas

  221. Marisak Lunke says

    Thomas.Your first step is to contact a company with which you can communicate. Without a tour operator you cannot even begin planning your trip,before you have their cooperation in getting your visa processed and they will give you all the answers you need.
    Forget about doing this on your own. Iran is unlike any country you may have visited. I recommend again you just send an mail to IranCustomTravel.com. They are based in NY. We tried many agencies and found them to bethe most knowledgable.

  222. says

    @Chris: Realize you have a difficult decision ahead of you but hopefully the perspective and advice here (and on email) helps with it. Good luck!

    @Thomas: Yes, finding a tour operator to work with to sponsor your visa, provide a guide and help you sort through your itinerary is probably the fist thing you should do. Marisak mentioned a tour company based in New York. We’ve also heard good things about Iran Adventures (https://www.facebook.com/IranAdventures/) based in Tehran from an Iranian-American journalist living there. Best thing is to send emails to 3-4 places with what you want to do with the style of accommodation you want and have them give you a suggested itinerary and price. Then you can choose the one that you feel most comfortable with and trust. Ideally, you can pay these tour fees in advance so you don’t have to worry about bringing this cash with you into the country.

    As for how much cash to bring this is another difficult question as we were in Iran before the last round of sanctions so prices have likely changed (higher in local currency, cheaper in US dollars). If I remember correctly, entry prices to everything were rather cheap. I believe Persepolis costs around $1-2 for the entrance fees. A big Persian dinner with kebabs and rice would be about $7-$9 (we often shared this between the two of us), but you can also get falafel sandwiches on the street for under $1. Local tea houses are usually not very expensive either. You can probably negotiate a good rate for a taxi to take you (and your guide) around for the day (tour company can tell you how much that would cost) to take you to Persepolis and Saadi’s Memorial. In Shiraz you can probably walk around or take public transport if you’re meeting with teachers or exploring the city. As for souvenirs, as long as you’re not buying a Persian rug or master miniaturist paintings these should probably be under $5-$10 for small things.

    Hope these prices help. My suggestion is to add up what you think you’ll need to spend and then add an extra 20%, just in case. Always better to have extra USD in your pocket than try to find a way to get money wired to you.

  223. Thomas says

    Thanks yet again.
    I have acted on your advice and sent an email to the two tour agencies mentioned recently. I am studying free Persian survival phrases online, and practicing Arabic writing.
    Persian sounds remind me of my French studies, is this accurate. Secondly, I cannot catch the final consonant sounds from the Persian 101 speaker….but Inthink if Iam close enough.
    Tashakor mikonam! Honto(a little Japanese )

  224. Amanda says

    Basically i would like to know when you said a private guide do you mean it can be just yourself and the personal guide or will there be others as well? And as a female is there cerain standards on how i should dress? Im intrested in going to Iran, to be specific Tehran since i have made an iranian friend and he lives there and i would like to visit him but that being the case would i be able to do so on my own or would the guide have to come along or would i have to contact my friend and get him to meet me at a designated area?

  225. says

    @Thomas: When we traveled to Iran we just learned a few Persian words on the go, so didn’t try to memorize words. Good luck with your language learning!

    @Amanda: Only US citizens are required to have a guide. You could either a private guide (only you) or you can have a guide with a group. It’s up to you in terms of what style of travel you prefer. As for meeting your friend, you may have to have your guide come with you or you might be able to meet privately. Just let the tour company know if the situation and they can provide some options for you.

    As for clothing, you will need to wear a head scarf and “manteau” on top (long shirt or jacket that goes almost to the knee and covers the bottom). You can wear jeans or other pants under the manteau.

    Enjoy your trip!

  226. Thomas says

    Hi folks,
    I am about to give up my plans to travel to Shiraz, etc. Since the posting you informed me about the tour company agent go-between as the most basic step. I have been in long email conversations with 1 in NYC.

    She enlightened me over my ignorance. Yes, in this blog all the info is here, but some aspects did not leap out at me. So I will tell you what I understand from my email communications.
    1. Iran is not N. Korea by any stretch…but for Americans, and someone like myself, the restrictions stretch my imagination to the extreme. For example Shiraz is a 2 night 3 day place. I cannot stay any longer in Shiraz because it is judged that there nothing else on the approved list to see. Yes, it is possible to add things, but there is a limit to the flexibility, hours, not days of extra time. If I wants to stay longer in Iran, I must go on to another city.

    2. the guide is with you where ever you go outside of your hotel I suppose. I was told NO public buses, NO walking on the streets to some interesting restaurant that is not a “reasonable distance” away. This means taxis and chartered tourist buses.

    3. I am preaching to the choir here, but some new folks may wander in and I would suggest that Audrey edit a little their initial presentation.

    The tour agency that hires the guides is THE representative for the tourist to the government. If anything happens, the hammer falls on the tour company not on the tourist. So, if audrey has a free wheeling tour guide, that person is gambling that such a cute, sexy-looking couple who have some Internet PR clout can be allowed to bend the rules. The corporate-like agency I emailed in NYC, knows the big picture of what is happening in Iran, but is not about to endanger its relationship to the gov. over a tourist like me.

    4. BIG US dollars speak LOUDLY, or in the case of Audrey Scott, the personal factors in #3 can compensate. But in the case of me, a single traveler of modest, not poor, but modest means, the rules are not as flexible. The tourist with alot of US dollars and spending, after the new devaluation, an imam’s 3 month salary just for a few days is TREATED royally. The money creates a leverage so that ALMOST any problem can be blamed on local authorities, and they will SINCERELY make an unusual effort to clean up the situation. I was given a few examples of this.

    5. Yes the ordinary citizens are super kind because think of the brush with the ideals and MONEY Westerners represent. In most cases our ordinary hotel meals cost a day’s salary. Our clothes and everything speak loudly of affluence and connote POWER.

    6. Under the surface, the tour guides…I could say more about what I have learned about their job, and their inclination, but it isn’t relevant to us. They are paid handsomely to do what they do. And they know it. How many of the young men and women who rush up to the US tourists to say hello, dream of being a tour guide? And how does one get that opportunity, and who are chosen?? I have learned alot from the tour agencies I have contacted, or am trying to contact.

    7. THE Biggest problem for me, in my desire to visit Iran is none of the above

    The biggest problem for me is that my visa might be disapproved and if I have already bought my airline tickets..This is what worries me the most…Of course if this were solved, I may grumble about all the points mentioned above (at night in my hotel room) I think I would still go. At this moment I am still studying Persian language for speaking. And I downloaded the PersianPod101 app for my iPad.
    regards,
    Thomas

  227. says

    @Thomas: I’m sorry for the frustration and disappointment you are experiencing. And that our blog post here might have contributed to this. We tried to be clear on the regulations and hoops that you have to go through to get the visa and have a guide.

    The tour companies do yield a lot of power when it comes to traveling to Iran for American citizens. That’s why it’s good to speak to a variety of companies as they can offer different types of services and perspective. Before we went to Iran we thought we would be escorted all the time. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise when we weren’t.

    Just to note, everyone (including 2 other Americans) in our group had similar experiences to us in terms of having flexibility to go to the market and wander the streets after the organized tour stuff. The flexibility wasn’t because we are bloggers (we didn’t advertise that). In fact, the knowledge that we were bloggers would have caused a tighter leash in the eyes of the government.

    When it came to our private tour we negotiated hard for almost two months because the first approach was to put us up in 4-5* hotels and include expensive restaurants. We ended up in 2* hotels and ate (and paid for) all our meals in markets/simple restaurants so we had control of our spending and where we ate. We also requested public transport and they agreed, but perhaps the regulations have changed since then. We almost gave up but a friend who had traveled to Iran before encouraged us to just keep asking for options and we came to a compromise.

    As in many countries, tour guides do make a good income compared to other people. And they do sometimes try to take advantage of the situation (see my note above about asking for menus and not relying on the guide to tell you the prices). But in terms of ordinary people who came up to us all along the way who were curious about us (and others in our group), hardly any of them were not involved in business or money. They wanted a chance to meet foreigners. Many also asked us to go back home and tell people what Iranians were really like compared to what Americans saw on the news. Many have relatives abroad and know what the reputation of their country is around the world. They want to change that.

    We did not buy our airline tickets until after we had our authorization number. So, my suggestion is to do the same – go through the visa process and when you get the authorization number then purchase your ticket. We picked up our visa in Istanbul, which was straightforward and easy.

    Good luck with navigating the process and hope you’re able to find a compromise or solution that still meets your needs.

  228. Lauren says

    @Thomas I have to chime in here. The companies have to say that you will always be accompanied by your tour guide. The reality will vary by tour company and especially by tour guide, but I was also tacitly “allowed” (as in, they turned their heads, but did not necessarily tell me I was allowed) to wander around by myself after tour activities were over. In my case, the tour guide would go to his/her own home in the afternoon after our activities, so I was alone at the hotel and often basically “free” to do as I pleased for the rest of the evening. It will also vary based on city, as one of my guides informed me the tourist police are more active in some cities than others and requested that I be back to the hotel by a certain hour.
    @Audrey/Thomas Unfortunately, I think that if you are an American you must buy your plane tickets in order to submit your visa application to the Iranian Consulate (Pakistani Embassy). At least this was true in my case as an American applying for the visa within America–and I wasn’t able to find any way around this other than to first leave the country and then apply for the visa at another embassy, such as an Istanbul like Audrey. I went ahead and bought the tickets without knowing if I would get the visa, and it was a big risk.

    Also, I took an “IranLife” tour, which had us taking public transportation and sleeping in lower quality hotels. I wasn’t chartered around on a bus; I was able to walk in the streets, talk to people, and get a feel for Iranian life, in my opinion. At least as good a feel as I can get as an American. It definitely stung when I saw Australians or European backpackers wandering around as they wanted, but I was still pleased with the experience that I had.

  229. says

    @Lauren: Thanks for your long and very helpful comment sharing your experiences. I remember being in touch with you guys in advance of our trip and you were both so helpful with your advice. Do know that feeling of envy seeing the European and Australian travelers couchsurfing their way across Iran :) But we both had a good experiences even with the restrictions.

    As for buying the ticket in advance of getting the authorization number, perhaps it differs consulate by consulate.

  230. says

    @Lauren, @Audrey

    My experiences with Pars mirrored that of Lauren’s, but tickets were not required at the US special interests section ( Aug. of 2011) and the price & service vary from consulate to consulate regardless of the visa in question ;-). We ended up buying very last minute as a result of not wanting to have tickets without a visa (open jawed JFK->SYZ, IKA -> JFK both via IST). In hindsight (and for Thomas), I would have the visa routed to Istanbul and buy long haul tickets to there. Picking up low cost carrier (Pegasus Air) tickets to Tehran is extremely inexpensive if done early enough (or even last minute; 40€ OW for tomorrow). Worse case scenario you get a great time in Turkey. :-)

  231. Thomas says

    hi again folks,
    Audrey, NO apologies needed here, Everything eventually works out, just sometimes not as we expect it to.
    So, I just learned that my future Peace Corps application would not be affected by a trip to Iran.
    I continue to study! The pendulum continues to sway from great hopes to lack of hope, and now turning back in the other direction.

    Another reason for me to visit Shiraz. How many great places can you think of visiting, anyone, during the end of Feb. and the first 2 weeks of March?
    Even my alternative dream, recently investigated, is Konya, Turkey, location of Rumi memorial, and maybe a nice place, is rather cold. In the part of Japan I live in, probably our summers over the last 5 years have gotten longer, and coldest days, reducing. So that I don’t a single HEAVY winter coat for severe cold, anymore.

  232. says

    @Thomas: Glad to hear that things are working out, one way or another. And, that a visit to Iran wouldn’t affect the Peace Corps application. A few years ago I met a former Peace Corps volunteer who was in Iran in the 70s. Fascinating to hear her experiences from that time.

  233. YM says

    Where can I find the travel agent to help initiate the paper work to get the visa? Or where can I start can I do the paperwork myself?

  234. Thomas says

    Hi again folks,
    Sorry to subject you to a blow by blow account of my process.

    1. I suggest Audrey/Dan, (whomever likes revising and clearing up details) that you say going to Iran is
    3 step process 1. decide on a tour agent
    2 and 3 you have already covered.

    2. Next, in the section choosing a tour company, you say that it is a question of cost and travel style. BUT, Dan, Audrey, you don’t tie in the “cost factor” in the above discussion. This leaves one to wonder which is bottom line cheaper for the same tour. “individual” or “group”?

    3. It seems to me that if I want to visit a second city,Tehran, for example, (not really,but I may be forced to by requirements…wait I know you will object, but this is how I see the situation at this moment) and as well as my mythical Shiraz, there may be not group tour choice to combine those 2 cities, or those two cities on the dates I want to go. So there is no choice but to go by individual tour.

    4. One of the individual tour companies IRAN BY NATIVES, the name may be correct, is on vacation during the last week of Feb. Why is that? What is the special holidays?

    5. I don’t know why this shopping for tour agents is so stressful, for me. I think the big factor is the visa approval schedule and the purchase of airline tickets. Right now by just an internet search of cost of tickets round trip it seems Turkish Airlines and 2000USD is my only choice. I did a search of most? the standard US huge airline ticket supermarkets online. double gulp. well I haven’t traveled anywhere except to the US.

  235. says

    @YM: If you are an American citizen then you will need a travel agent to start the visa paperwork process for you. If you’re interested in a group tour, we can recommend that we went on with G Adventures called Persian Design. Their local provider will take care of the paperwork.

    If you are interested in an individual tour, I’d recommend contacting a handful of tour operators in Iran to see which company is best suited for your desired style of travel and itinerary. A few of the ones mentioned here include Keys2Persia, Iran Adventures, Iran Custom Travel. It’s hard for me to recommend a company we haven’t used ourselves.

    @Thomas: As I’ve mentioned earlier, we also spent months trying to sort through the individual part of the tour. It’s definitely a back and forth.

    As for your questions:

    1) Thanks for the feedback. We’ll try to make things more clear above.

    2) What’s cheaper, a group of individual tour? There’s no definite answer here – it really depends on the itinerary and the style of travel you want. Our daily rate was about the same for our group and private tour because we wanted lower end hotels for the private tour.

    3) If you have a specific itinerary that doesn’t fit with a regular group tour (e.g., Tehran, Shiraz, Yazd, Esfahan) then you’ll need to go with an individual tour.

    4) Have no idea about holidays at the end of February. Nowruz is around Spring Equinox which is March 20. Just ask them what’s the situation.

    5) Not sure of the itinerary you’re after, but you might also want to check skyscanner.net or momondo.com as they tend to include more low cost airlines (e.g., Atlas Jet, Pegasus, etc.) than sites like Kayak or Expedia. I wouldn’t buy the ticket until you have some confirmation from the tour agent that things are looking good with your paperwork.

    Good luck!

  236. Farhang says

    As a iranian Skier who ski almost every week in dizin,
    You are all welcome here in iran! Dizin is a great place to blow some powder off!
    if you have any question to ask or problem, feel free to ask,
    Also my email address: Farhang.dezfouli@gmail.com

  237. says

    I want to visit Iran within the next two years (possibly as a reward for earning my master’s degree). Would there be any problems if I said part of my interest in going is to do firsthand research for some of my historical fiction? The cities I’d be visiting for research are Isfahan and Fereydan, but for the moment, any other cities would only be visited for the pleasure of travelling.

    Are there any items that would be dangerous or incriminating to bring? Is it safe to bring a computer even if I don’t use the Internet? Besides obviously not photographing military or government facilities, are there any other photography no-nos?

    When I renew my passport next June, I’ll request a second passport so I can visit Israel again within the next decade and not get in trouble with either Iranian or Israeli customs for having the stamp of the other country in the same passport. However, my ex is insistent that it’s unsafe for me to go there even with a dummy passport, since he claims authorities look up everyone’s name online and would link me to Jewish organisations and such. I’ve told him there are many Iranian Jews who love their country, and that minority religions aren’t forbidden. I also blog under my pen name, not my real name, so the odds are low that authorities would find anything personal by Googling my name. I find it hard to believe that the authorities have the time to do background checks on every tourist!

  238. Thomas says

    Supposing one is applying for a visa,I wondered about the information revealed on a passport. If one has the stamp of entering/leaving Israel, would the Iranian authorities know in advance?

    2. Would they check at the entry point and then refuse entry to the person with Israeli stamps?

    3. Regarding what the poster above mentions, getting a second passport. Is this commonly done? Is it legal?

  239. says

    Anna, Please contact me via my web-site and I’ll be happy to clear up your issues…all of which are non-issues,except for not having an Israeli visa in your passport, at least at this time.

  240. Kourosh says

    @Anna
    I would strongly advise you to refrain from mentioning carrying out any type of research in Iran however innocent the intentions. As for for your other concerns, travel to Israel is only forbidden for Iranian nationals and not foreign visitors. I also cannot see a problem with taking a Laptop or Tablet into the country as most Iranians own Smartphones anyway, although you can check this issue with an Iranian Embassy. The concerns about traveling to Iran is often exaggerated and with the current government in office in Iran for the next five years it would be the best time to travel there. As Audrey mentioned earlier, once you’ve obtained your visa and got through the airport the rest will be plain sailing.

  241. says

    @Anna: We traveled to Iran with our laptops, DSLR cameras and iPhones. We were a bit nervous before since we felt like we looked like journalists. So we backed everything up on external hard drives and left them with a friend in Germany before our trip. Our friend in Tehran told us that we might have to put our stuff through an X-Ray machine at the airport to be examined, but we just walked through without any issue. The tour company you go with should be able to advise you if anything has changed on that front since our visit.

    We also recently applied for a 2nd passport so we could travel to Israel (without the Iran stamp). My advice would be to use the main passport to travel to Iran as I believe that Israel is more use to Americans visiting with a 2nd passport. As for the background check, that will be done before your visa number is issued. So if you are accepted for the visa, then it’s unlikely there is any problem with you visiting the country.

    Like Karoush advised, I’d probably not list any research that you’d want to do as it might raise alarms. But, the tour company handling your visa will be able to advise best.

    I see that Norma has offered to help, but let us know if you have other questions.

    @Thomas: It is legal for American citizens to apply for a 2nd passport. It’s quite easy to do and just requires you to state why you want the 2nd passport (e.g., travel a lot and need 2 passports for visas, want to visit Israel, etc.). The authorities did look through our passport upon arrival so it would not be wise to have an Israeli stamp there as they might deny entry. We don’t have any firsthand experience with this, but better not to push things.

    @Norma: Thanks for providing help and advice here.

    @Karoush: Thanks for offering your advice here for Anna!

  242. bahman says

    I am 29 single Iranian man that I have lived in the USA since 2012.I came from most beautiful city of Iran called Shiraz. my city is number one for tourist. most people of Iran love American people but as you know in all of countries in the world the good people and bad people live together and no country in the world is paradise . most of the times in news you hear or see bad things and dangerous things about Iran but honestly my country is safe and full of welcoming peoples. I do not want to say my country is paradise but I want to say good people and bad people are in all of the world and you can not find only good people in a country that you want to visit that as tourist, even in the USA. Most of Iranian respect for other religions and other people and other culture but honestly you can find some crazy people everywhere even in the USA but you should not judge a country only with some crazy people but you should judge a country with the greatest part of people. as a result Iranian loves American and respect them.it is my pleasure to help or talk to people that like to visit my country or just want to know the truth about my country. you can contact me with my email address BAHMAN.R.62@HOTMAIL.COM

  243. says

    Travelling to Iran is really safe and the best place to visit, every foreign passenger believes that Iran is a real paradise, if you ever need any information on Iran and its attractions I`ll be happy to help you since my field is Tourism management and I work in a travel agency. I can show you the real Iran. My email is Behnaz@pardisantour.net

  244. mohsennajafi says

    Iran is a big country with many beautiful places for travel : In city of Shiraz we have Pasargad and Takhte-jamshid Palce from 300 yeasrs BC. In Isfahan city we have many ancent bridge and palace from 12th centery. Iran has long and beautiful beaches in north with meditranian weather.

  245. mohsennajafi says

    Iran is a safe place to travel .the security in Iran for tourists is in high level.
    Iran has many ancient and beautiful places for travel.
    In north of Iran beautiful beaches and in central and south of Iran we have many ancient places for travel.
    Shiraz and Isfahan and Tehran are cities with many ancient places from 3000 years BC to Now.
    Thakhte-Jamshid Palace and Pasargad in Shiraz .
    Siosepol (33 bridge) – Naghshe-jahan Sq. and chehsoton (40 column) in Isfahan are ancient places.
    In tehran ghajar Palce and Pahlavi palace and Old-Iran musiume and old market are places for visiting tourist.

  246. Lauren says

    Hey Dan and Audrey, thanks as always for keeping this thread such a resource.
    Audrey, you mentioned that you applied for a second passport in order to travel to Israel without the Iran visa. I have an Iran visa, am an American, and am traveling to Israel on the same passport next month. I did a little research and I didn’t find any specific cases of this being a problem. Did you?

  247. Thomas says

    hi y’all,
    I am still actively searching for a trip to take place. Still studying spoken FarC on my daughter’s electric piano (5 octaves only). And now I’ mcrazy about Hawaiian music… (Well what do you expect of a expat living in Japan for 20 years?).

    Correct me please if is am wrong, but I have the impression that most of these posts are concerning into Iran. But hardly anyone writes about a story of being there…..Except Dan and Audrey. So why is this?

    Dan, Audrey, a tip of the hat to you in walking a line in this blog between letting tour guides take over with self promotion, and offering a space where we are free to express almost anything. As for my lengthy posts, I have had a criticism or two based on cherry-picking an exaggeration or two, but I have not been called a liar, only a pessimist. I have contacted 4 agents mostly inside Iran. ( I just now red your tiny blurb about G Adventures, and I regret I didn’t include them.) I am now waiting for a reply to my amended and restrained wish list from one agent. I am hoping that “no news is good news”….. I wonder if they have this proverb in Iran?

  248. kelly says

    Dear Behnaz, I`m glad you took my advice and wrote here, you were really helpful.
    I had to travel to Iran because of my friend,. At the time( in Sep 2013)I thought I was too brave and I`m taking a risk. My family were all worried so I told them that I am going to Dubai instead. When I step foot in Iran, I realized how stupid I was. Iran is certainly the best place I have visited. Its really hard to believe your eyes there. I booked a 15 days 14 nights tour with a famous travel agency (with Behnaz, Pardisan) and visited most places in Iran. I loved Shiraz and Yazd, so beautiful,and then Esfahan was amazing, I also loved the northern parts of Iran(Masouleh and Fuman), so green :) The people were friendly and really warm. Make sure to stay at Zeinnodinn Carvansaraei for a nigh(near Yazd). Moshir or Dad hotel in Yazd (4stars) and Abbasi (5 star) is Esfahan, were amazing.Make sure to fit Meibod and Kharanaq (around Yazd)in your itinerary, which totally worth visiting. If anyone has any question about my trip to Iran please ask here I`ll check and answer you :)

  249. says

    Hey guys!

    I’m thinking of traveling through Iran after completing the Trans-Siberian Railway, and of course was wondering what it’s like for an American. It’s nice to hear the good side of a country we only hear negative things about, which is a huge reason why I’d love to see it myself.

    (Loved your closing speech at TBEX, by the way!)

    Thanks!!

  250. says

    @Lauren: We applied for a second passport to travel to Israel just to avoid any trouble with entering/exiting the country. I have had various friends with “unusual” visas (e.g., from the Middle East and Central Asia) get questioned upon arrival in Israel. But, they were always let into the country. Let us know how it goes as our 2nd passport is about to expire and we haven’t yet visited Israel.

    @Thomas: We do try to keep this post and comments as useful and open as possible. Hope you receive a response soon from the agencies you contacted and they are able to come up with a solution that works. We did travel initially with G Adventures to Iran for the first two weeks, but it was a group tour that probably wouldn’t work for your desired trip.

    @Kelly: So great to hear that you had a good trip to Iran! We had a person in our group who also told his family he would be in Italy instead of telling them he would be in Iran because they wouldn’t understand. We also really enjoyed the time we spent in Massouleh & in the north. The area around Tabriz is very special. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    @Jen: One of the reasons we really wanted to visit Iran was that we knew there was another story than what we usually saw on the news. We had quite a few Iranian friends when we lived in Prague who would tell us about this other side. And we’re so glad that we went and spent the time there that we did. If there are any other questions we can help answer for your trip, just let us know!

    And thanks for your kind words about the TBEX speech! You might also enjoy our TEDx talk where we speak about our trip to Iran and the contrast between what we saw on the TV vs. our reality on one day in particular (anniversary of the taking of the US hostages): http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2013/05/story-filled-life-what-if-tedx-talk/

  251. says

    Hi, I’d like to know if you encountered any Americans living in Iran and how they were able to do if you did. I’m interested in the possibility so anything you know about it I’d appreciate it. Thanks and loved reading about your time in Iran.

  252. Thomas says

    Hi folks,
    Its me again.
    I am having a strange experience getting connected to a tour agent. Well, I didn’t know what to expect when I latched my heart onto the idea of visiting Iran. I received encouragement from this web site. And that is the only encouragement I have received. Family and friends here in Japan, (away from Tokyo)think I am totally crazy to waste money trying to enter a country that is so restrictive. Colleagues who travel much more than I can afford to, are definitely curious, as I have insisted that it “is safe”, (relatively speaking as all comparisons are made to Japanese social conditions) since I am not going to the border area near Afganistan, and the weather is somewhat pleasing in March.

    I will probably be able to tell you something definite in the next week, I hope. I can’t believe that other, nonIranian, not married to an Iranian Americans have gone through the same experience. So I will share what I have learned thus far.

  253. Lauren says

    @Mark – I never did, and I thought it was impossible for a while until I read in the Lonely Planet, of all places, about some universities in Iran that apparently accept Americans to study Farsi and allow them to get a student visa. I contacted the university in Tehran and confirmed this. I guess it all depends on if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will decide to grant the person the student visa or not. So maybe it’s possible, though I don’t know anybody who’s done it, but I might try myself ;) Here’s the website for the department from the university: http://icps.ut.ac.ir/registerinfo-e.html

  254. says

    @Mark: The only American citizen we encountered living in Iran was a journalist who had permission to be there as a foreign journalist. I also know that at some point (maybe now?) there were also American basketball players living and working in Iran. But, we didn’t meet (or hear of) any American business people working in Iran during our visit. Lauren’s response with a link to the program to study Farsi is a good option.

    @Lauren: Thanks for following up with your comment and link to the program. Sounds like it could be a fascinating way to study Farsi.

    @Thomas: It’s not unusual for people to think that an American traveling to Iran is crazy. We also received lots of strange responses when we told people of our plans. As mentioned, there are restrictions on itinerary and needing a guide for American citizens entering Iran on a tourist visa. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to give up some of your original plan in order to fit these restrictions for the visa or to wait until the situation changes (hopefully). Good luck!

  255. Lauren says

    @Dan and Audrey– Just to update you on my recent experience traveling to Israel (through the BG airport) with an Iranian visa in my passport–no problems whatsoever. Upon arrival, after receiving my temporary stay permit (the piece of paper they give you instead of a stamp) I was pulled aside for brief questioning about my time in Iran: why did you go? do you have any contact with Iranians? do you plan on going to Palestine, Egypt, etc after Israel? do you plan on staying in any private households while in Israel? I guess the answer to all these questions should be no, whether that’s true or not. The questioning was friendly and lasted about 3 minutes, after which I was free to enter Israel. I thought the security process would be a lot more intense when leaving through the airport, but I didn’t have any extra questioning whatsoever on my way out, just the normal stuff about who packed my bags and nothing about where I had gone in Israel or questions about Iran.

    I hope you guys go soon and I really have to suggest that you visit Palestine–the Palestinians’ friendliness and hospitality rivals that of the Iranians. Palestine took me by surprise and I will surely be back. I stayed in Hostel in Ramallah, which was a great homebase for exploring the West Bank. I would love to hear about the stories you guys find in this region–you are so good at drawing stories out of people, and the people here have many stories that need to be told.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  256. says

    @Lauren: Thank you SO much for following up with your experience. It’s quite a relief not only to hear that you were able to enter, but that the questioning was not horrible. The timing could not have been better as I just realized that I won’t be able to use my 2nd passport for Israel after all because it expires too soon. Now I don’t have to renew my passport as I can use my regular one. Thanks for the heads up regarding the questions. We do hope to visit Palestine during our trip to Israel, so I’m heartened to hear of your experiences there. Might be in touch by email to find out the name of the hostel and any other recommendations you have for the area. Thanks again!

  257. Kelly says

    Dear Thomas
    Please be careful about the agents you choose to organize your trip to Iran. There are lots of travel agencies in Iran providing trips for foreigners, but not all of them worth trusting because some of them may charge you very high, just barbecue you are Americna , and some may charge you very low and then while you are happy of the good offer you got, you`ll realize later that the services are really poor or they charge you with other stuff while you are in Iran. I myself found Pardisan Travel Agency, and Behnaz via one of my Iranian friends and totally enjoyed my trip and I`m thinking of going back to visit other cities. The price and services were all perfect but there were times I encountered different tourist groups at hotels or in different cities were totally unsatisfied with the tour services unlike me :) and the were blaming their agent the tour guide, everything!!! so be careful not to choose a agent from the Internet without knowing them . If you ave any questions about Iran or need any trip ideas or itineraries, you can email behnaz@pardisantour.com the agent who help me for my trip, and she is kind enough to answer and help you in every way possible, any time.

  258. Ernest W. says

    Hi Kelly,

    I am dealing with Behnaz at Pardisan Travel as well. You are quite right, she seems very good at her job. She has been very helpful and responsive to my questions, as well as enthusiastic. I think that the important point about Ms. Tanha is that she loves Iran and wants to show people from outside of Iran her country so that they understand it better. So my experience with Pardisan has been very positive.

  259. Amanda says

    I am a 26 year old female US citizen looking to travel into Iran to visit family. My father has lived in the US for over 30 years but has not become a US citizen. I will be traveling with him into Iran and staying with family. I have never traveled abroad so I have many questions! My first question being will I need a tour group or guide if I will be with my family?

  260. craig says

    Seasons Greetings! I had a couple of questions about Iran. I’m an American Male it seems most U.S. Citizens that travel there are women. I’m heading into Mashhad from Ashgabat Turkmenistan for New Year (Late March) did you travel to Mashhad? Is there anywhere in the area would you recommend (if you have traveled there)? I’m wondering if non-Muslims are allowed in courtyards of Iman Mosque ?? Was the private tour guide expensive? I would have to be met at the border then driven 4 hours to Mashhad. Thanks for any tips/answers you could provide me. Note: I’ve never been to Israel so that should work in my favor :>)

  261. says

    @Amanda: I am not an expert in your particular situation, but I believe that you can get a visa to travel to Iran for family reasons instead of tourist reasons where you would need a guide/tour. My suggestion would be to contact the Iranian Special Interests section in Washington, DC and explain your situation and what paperwork you would need from your family for your visit. Good luck and enjoy!

    @Craig: We did not travel to Mashhad, so unfortunately I have no first-hand experience on the area and whether non-Muslims are allowed in Iman Mosque. My suggestion would be to contact a handful of travel agents to get your questions answered about Mashhad and also get an estimate for the pickup at the border and private tour. Given that it’s quite a long distance, I imagine the pickup won’t be cheap but perhaps you could find other travelers to help with the costs.

    If you scroll through the comments, you can see recommendations for a few travel agents (Iran Adventures, Iran Custom Travel, Pars Tourist Agency, Pardisan Travel). But, of course, there are many more than this so just sample around and clear in your email on what you’re looking for in your private tour (e.g., style of travel, interests, budget, stars on hotels, etc.). Good luck!

  262. Masha says

    @Craig: non-muslims are allowed in Imam Reza complex courtyards. The only place they are not allowed to visit is inside the shrine itself. Everywhere else you can wonder. I’ve been to Mashhad number of times. My favourite time to visit Imam Reza complex is 2nd half of the day. Sunset over domes is stunning. And people gathering for namaz on the main square of the complex is a breathtaking sight.
    Mashhad bazaar is worth visiting too – it’s less touristy than the ones in Tehran and Esfahan. Enjoy your trip to Iran!

  263. m.qaredaqi says

    about visiting shrine inside, if you wear like a iranian, I think you can go inside. you must see inside of shrine. there is much beauty inside!!! if strongly suggest you visit there!

  264. Masha says

    @m.qaredaqi and @craig: foreigners can go everywhere inside the complex – courtyards, mosque, etc., but entrance into the holiest part of it is allowed to muslims only. Even if you wear clothes similar to what locals wear. Of course, visiting the shrine complex require dress code. For men it is – long trousers (no shorts) and preferably a shirt with long sleeves (everywhere else in the country they should wear long trousers, but on the top they can wear T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts). Women, in addition to scarf and long sleeved tunicas + trousers that are required everywhere on the territory of Iran (apart from the privacy of hotel room and/or someone’s home), are given a chador before entering Imam Reza complex.

  265. says

    @Masha: Thanks for sharing your experience and advice from Mashhad regarding the Imam Reza complex and what is not allowed for non-Muslim travelers. Mashhad was one of the places we missed during our trip to Iran. Hope we have a chance to return to see it…

  266. Amir says

    hi daniel
    such an good question that you answered
    i’m iranian and live in shiraz .
    it’s pleasure to me that you enjoyed from my old country and city
    it’s my pleasure to contact with you by Email
    thanks a lot

  267. yaser says

    hi D&A
    I’m very happy for came to my country to special my area gilan.i read this information of VOA news and really glad . i hope you had good time in hear.

  268. Abbas says

    hello to all Americans

    I am from Iran. I love all Americans. I love your country a lot. I am an English teacher due to my sincere love to the USA. I have only one wish in my life and that is living in the Unites States.

    I wanna say that all Iranians love the US and Americans a lot. we love to see Americans and all of you are welcomed to my country.

    Iran has the oldest history in the world.

    I love you, all Americans.

    this is my mail. abbas_business@yahoo.com
    if you come to Iran, you have to call me. I say you have to. You have to eat with me in restaurants.

    I love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  269. m.qaredaqi says

    Abbas you don’t need to talk like this! the way you talk reminds me of Comic series, when they want to make fun of middle easterners! I mean being kind like this is weird to Americans and Europeans!
    I mean I don’t hate them and when I see an American I meet them without considering the stereotypes. I know they have lots of stereotypes about iranians and middle easterners.
    Iranians are hospitable people ,not only to Americans, but to all of foreigners.

  270. ruhollah bayat says

    Hi, I think this information is from the perspective of an American couple, iranian and Easts nation in general, Americans and non-Americans, Does not matter.
    in Iranian culture, we have Proverb, that say guests are friend of God, so irnian are very hospitable.

  271. بامداد says

    I’m so glad that you visit my country and found there the peaceful people, but please note, the regime that thirty-five years ruling in our country under the name of Islam (a completely non-Persian religion) absolutely are not reliable.
    Be safe!
    بامداد

  272. Kamyar says

    Thanks for visiting Iran. You are always welcome to Persia. But! with out having “Chelo Kabob” and Persian foods,and persian desserts your travel has not finished!

    PLUS!just try to cross the streets and drive on Tehran streets!!!hahaha

    We hope to see Americans more in IRAN.
    We love you all.

    Cheers.

  273. hossein says

    If you want more pic from IRAN please send an email for me to tell you about iran.I’ve visited almost of this beautiful country and i want to help you guys.i wish best for all of you people :)

  274. says

    Hossein, Hamed, Kamyar, Ruhollah, Abbas, Yaser, Amir and Nawaz – Thank you for your kind comments and words to welcome visitors to Iran. We hope to have an opportunity to return to Iran one day.

  275. Christopher adams says

    I recently travelled to Iran, spending four days in Tehran, with my 24 year old daughter. Being Australian, it was not necessary for us to be part of a tour group or use the services of a guide. We were thus free to roam as we wished.
    It’s a shame that Americans have some degree of restraint when visiting.
    Iran does have an embassy in Australia, thus obtaining a visa merely involved making our passports there. They were mailed back to us a week later.
    Like many others, we found the Iranians to be very warm, friendly and helpful.

    Chris

  276. says

    @Chris: Thanks for your report. Hopefully, one of these day it will be as free and easy for Americans citizens to travel to Iran as it was for you. At the moment, a few more hoops to jump through. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  277. says

    Hi Daniel,
    I have sent hundreds of Americans to Iran..no hoops,no problems…It’s unfortunate that some bloggers post their opinions without ever actually ever been there. or gone through the certified agencies. try… Iran Custom Travel.

  278. says

    @Norma: Not sure if you’re referring to us when you mention “some bloggers”, but just to confirm we did visit Iran and we did go with a certified agent. We also tried two different variations of allowed travel in Iran – a group tour and a trip with a private guide. As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, if you find an authorized tour operator then they will take care of the paperwork and things will go smoothly before and during the trip.

    I believe that the “hoops and problems” are connected to the current requirement of US citizens needing a certified agent and tour/guide. Out of the 80+ countries we’ve visited only Iran and Turkmenistan required this. We wholeheartedly recommend that people still visit these countries. However, it’s important that people understand the legal and other requirements. This isn’t only to get the visa to enter the country, but also to not put the guide/tour company at risk or the person himself at risk.

  279. says

    Hi Audrey,
    I should have added the caveat. that I certainly didn’t mean you & Scott. Your input & experience is first-rate.
    It’s the posters who often write from reading other posters & blogs.
    I sent 4 passports 10 days ago..and just recived confirmations. The Guides are educated-almost all University graduates- and all must go through extensive training. They are there to guide not ” mind”,norn does Iran require the paperwork et all of many other countries. as all my travelers who have visited countries such as Russia & China et al..have confirmed. I have never had a ‘safety” issue”..quite the opposite. I fell at the tomb of Hafiz and my guide rushed to the office..telling them they must fix the path..her American tourist fell. They immediately asked if I needed a doctor and for 3 days called her to ask if I was alright.As long as anyone respects the culture they have no issues…as any traveler to any country should understand.
    Your Blog is great!

  280. says

    If you are NOT an American,Brit or Canadian you still need to download the application from the Embassy in the country you live. Fill it out, take it along with a fee,passport, and passport size pictures to the Embassy.Every Embassy works differently, so go at least 3 2eeks before your departure and bring your flight data.
    The Visa is NOT a slip of paper. It is stamped onto a clean page. If you are one of the 3 nationalities,you MUST have a guide and an invitation from a tourist agency.Send me a mail and I’ll help you out..either way.

  281. Rose says

    Thanks for this I’m half Persian half American nd I really want to take my kids and American husband to Iran !! Did you see Esfahan and Persepolis ??

  282. Alisande says

    I am interested in traveling to Iran and would like to visit and travel a little with friends who are professional biology colleagues there. They have offered to take me around, but I’m pretty sure none are certified tour guides. (They are just so friendly they want to show me their favorite places to see natural wonders in Iran!) Do you think there’s any way I could spend any time with them? Perhaps if a guide was willing to tailor my trip just for me, and come with us?

  283. says

    Alisande,

    Assuming you are an American, of course you must have a guide..and most likely..IF you take a private tour with a private guide..it would be possible, however more information is needed.
    Please contact me by googling IranCustomTravel and I will try to assist you.

  284. Philip Carpenter says

    Thank you all for this wonderful site. As a seasoned world traveler , I have always wanted to visit Iran with my wife. Up until now, she has refused to go. Although she has accompanied me to many little visited world destinations, the media distortions and general American paranoias about Iran have frightened her . ( she declined to come along with me on a recent visit to Pakistan.) This site has helped convince her that Iran is a welcoming place for us Yanks, so we are in the planning stages for a visit . Thanks again to all who have posted and especially to the bloggers who went to Iran.

  285. says

    @Joe: I don’t remember any special visa photo size requirements for our Iranian visa – we used a passport photo that was taken in Bangkok earlier in the year. We had heard that photos of women might need to have a headscarf, but the Iranian consulate accepted a photo of me without a headscarf. But, I want to note that we went to the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey so perhaps there are different requirements if you get your visa in the United States. Best thing to do is to call the Iranian Special Interest Section in DC or ask the tour operator who is arranging your paperwork and trip.

    When we picked up our visa in Istanbul (this is after waiting several weeks to get an authorization number that was coordinated by the Iranian tour operator) it took 2-3 business days to process. We paid for the visa when we submitted the application, authorization number and photos. Then we got a slip of paper with a number and time to return to pick it up. I don’t know if there was an expedited option. Best thing is to contact the Iranian consulate where you plan to get the visa and ask.

  286. says

    @Rose: It would be such a great trip to take your husband and kids to Iran. Yes, we visited both Persepolis and Esfahan. Both places are highly recommended and I’d suggest spending at least 2-3 days in Esfahan, and about the same time in Shiraz and Yazd. You can read about our visit to Persepolis here: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2011/11/persepolis/

    @Alisande: I believe that Norma kindly answered your question. Best thing to do is contact a couple of tour operators and explain your situation. They’ll be able to advise you on your best options. Good luck and hope it all works out for your friends to travel with you for at least part of the time!

    @Reza: Thank you for your kind welcome and offer. We really enjoyed the few days we spent in Tabriz. Great city.

    @Joe: I’m afraid that I can’t tell you too much about Kashan. We stopped there for a quick visit to Khan-e Borujerdi Traditional House and Fin Gardens (both highly recommended), but didn’t explore much of the town. The view of the town from the rooftop of the Khan-e Borujerdi made it look like a nice town. Wish we could have spent more time there.

    @Philip: Thank you so much for commenting and sharing this. I’m so glad that the articles here and sharing our experiences in Iran helped convince your wife to travel there with you to see for yourselves. If she still has any questions or concerns, please have her contact me. Safe travels and enjoy your trip!

  287. a boy from IRAN says

    @Audrey Scott: your welcome! merci beaucoup madame
    i have not been in Kashan,because of my university lessons,i did not have time to travel far cities
    recently i decided to start my tours inside and outside of Iran
    the first place that i am planing to go is Armenia.(45 day latter) :D
    as Ruhollah bayat said you can search about Kashan in google. all places in Iran is wonderful.

    if anybody has questions about Iran,i am here to answer!( specially East Azarbaijan, Tabriz my lovely state)
    and i can be your free translator in my free times in your travel.
    as usual my mail is reza.perfect100@gmail.com

  288. Joe KomaGawa says

    Ok, it is done. I spent the whole day getting to and from the embassy. They didn’t have my visa number as my guide said they would, but I expected that to happen. So I gave thenm my passport after filling out a comprehensive form. Paid them a lot of money. It is now preparations for the trip.. I am studying actively.

  289. Brad says

    I am Australian, and have visited Iran maybe 5 times. I also lived there for a year. Just want everyone to know Iran is perfectly safe – just stay away from the borders. I visited the US last year and I was expecting some scrutiny given the 5 Iranian visas in my passport – but they didn’t even blink. I reccomend Iran to anyone.

  290. Alireza says

    Really good to see there are Americans who care about these stuff. I live in South Florida and guess what, no one absolutely give a s to not only me or my country but anyone else from any other country!!
    Sometimes when I see Americans in media or Internet that show passion like you or some of people commented, I ask myself “Am I really living in US or I just think so!!?? I do not see these people??”

  291. Mokhtar says

    Amazing article. I am Iranian and have tried to tell people about it. Literally the most dramatic thing people may witness is Iranian citizens fighting each other on WHO will get to entertain you for the evening and bring you into their home and feed you haha.
    People are so brain washed in the US to think Iranian (and many other cultures) are just war mongering, terrorist and ANTI-American. It could not be further from the truth. I wish people would get sent to Iran for educational purposes alone. Especially the ones who bash it and the people. Iranian people strive to do things for other people and take care of people. No matter color, race, religion appearance. The crime rate is non-existent almost, and homelessness is hard to come by because everyone in the neighborhood fights to take care of the people in need.
    And we talk about “bad kids” here in the US??? Kids are literally raised by the whole “village” or neighborhood. It is every day practice to reprimand a child or younger person by someone other than their parents if they area acting out in any way. And they kid listens and takes the punishment as if it WAS their father/mother.
    Glad to see you enjoyed your visit. There is SO much to see and experience in the country. Hopefully more people will wake up.

    Thanks,

  292. Ernest W. says

    Dear Mokhtar,
    Actually if Americans would simply invite some of the many Iranian students attending universities in their cities to a dinner sometime, they would get to know what the Iranian people are like. Where I live we have many Iranian students, and I actually celebrate Yalda, and Nouroz with them. A year ago we had not only Iranians and Americans celebrating Nouruz, but Japanese students were with us as well. Americans should spend more time connecting with the Iranians living in their own cities to see what the Iranian people are really like. I actually have two Iranian Goddaughters now. Khoda hafez

  293. elham says

    As an iranian I cannot say how much I appriciated your article. THANK YOU SO MUCH.
    I live in Switzerland (Geneva) and you are welcomed if you are traveling to europe…
    wish you the best

  294. ali says

    as iranian i have to say uniformed guy with gun is joke you said in this article
    who’s care you arrogant americans what think about iran and iranians
    america is rookie country in this world that these days try to play role of empire of world ?!?!?
    iranian were empire from the beginning of this world and act like royal
    i’m sorry for that loser guide for insulting others
    by the way you americans are terrorist and you learned lesson to taliban and al quade and support extremist in saudi arabia
    you can travel iran and see things are different contrary to what media feed you because jews control the media and iran is number one enemy of israel for surviving people of plastine

  295. Alireza says

    @ali [#349]
    You better shut the fk off.
    I live here in US and I know pros and cons of Americans.
    They have some son of b* just like you guys, that we have in Iran. But the majority of Americans are as harmless as regular Iranians that do not say Down with or Long live to anyone, and just live their lives and have their own personal problems to solve.
    Fortunately wrong Americans as in minority and almost in same quantity of Iranian brainwashed mf*.
    I hope you guys fight and kill each other, both nations will rest in peace.

  296. Joe KomaGawa says

    I just got the posting of the last few comments here. As I mentioned I am finally on my way to Iran in March. I wish I could give a small token of my appreciation to the counselor staff at the embassy here.

    Regarding the comments made. I think the point is already made that at least in the US we have the freedom to express ourideas..(well of course, gov. and Google is collecting these comments, and there could be consequences, and then you have to get your lawyer, :-) but comparatively, you can speak your mind without fear, though I wouldn’t suggest saying certain things in some places :-) compared to beloved Iran.
    Most Iranians know this, but there are some who are supported by their kind gov. with jobs, and there are well-intentioned mullas who really believe they are more pure than the USA currently is. However you folks in the US have to remember that according to Islam Christians are people “of the Book”, I think is the expression in the Holy Quran. (Yes, I’ve read it, but only once) You can all be forgiven.

    There are two other somewhat humorous thoughts I have to say before I return to looking for lost tax documents, which I have noticed in myself, when we move to another country,outside our native land, we tend to sound more “patriotic” than the natives!

    Secondly, it is all right for natives to criticize their own country, but not “visitors” who see the same problems. “Visitors” can only say positive things, or else keep quiet.

  297. Ali says

    We would love Americans to visit Iran or even stay and study/work. I totally agree, people are lovely, let politicians do the politics which hopefully is progressing everyday.

  298. says

    @Joe: Thanks for the updates with your visa process. So glad it worked out in the end. Although we didn’t have many complications connected to our visa, we also found that the staff at the Iranian consulate were very helpful and friendly.

    Good luck with your trip next month!

    @Brad: Great to hear of your experiences traveling through Iran. And, that you didn’t face any scrutiny at the US border. That’s certainly a relief. We’re with you – stay away from border areas :)

    @Alireza: Certainly there are parts of the United States where people are not curious about their neighbors from around the world. One of the strengths of the United States is its diversity. I’m sorry to hear that about your experience in South Florida. Hope you find more people – online or in other areas – who do share that curiosity and openness to learn.

    @Mokhtar: We joked in Shiraz that our biggest danger was having to turn away ice cream bought for us at the bizarre since we were so full. Yes, travel is perhaps one of the best educational tools and ways to break through stereotypes. It’s so different to read or see something than it is to experience it firsthand.

    @Ernest: You bring up a great idea here on how people in the States can learn about Iran (and other countries/cultures) by inviting people over or going out for a meal. Actually, coming together over food is always a great opportunity to learn :)

    @Elham: Thank you for your kind comment and invitation if ever find ourselves in Switzerland!

    @Ali: We shared our experiences as they happened and we’re sorry that you took offense to what we wrote. Even if we don’t always agree with the actions and words of a country’s governments we do have hope that people from different countries connecting with each other as people can bring understanding.

  299. says

    @Alireza: Yes, it is unfortunately the case that a few people can create difficulties and sound like the majority because they have the loudest voice. As you said, everywhere in the world has its share of different types of people.

    @Joe: Thanks for your thoughts and hope you found those tax papers :) I’ve also found that I have become more aware of my country’s strengths (as well as weaknesses) when I’ve been abroad and have been asked many questions about why it does this or how that works. And yes, always good to start a conversation with a local person anywhere in the world by saying something positive (and true) about that country. After trust is built you may move into a discussion that asks some difficult questions, but best to focus on the good things first. Have a great trip!

    @Ali: Very much agree!

  300. Joe KomaGawa says

    So, I Am in the home stretch of preparation. My flight is just after lunch. I live 2,5 hours by train and bus from entering the airport. The flight will put me into the 5tehran airport a few minutes after midnight. My tour guide said he would be there. And we would be off to Qom to catch the dawn prayers somewhere in the city. I am not usually an early rising person, but I told him I want as much as possible to experience the prayer cycle… I worry about jet lag, as I am 63 and not as physically strong as I used to be, esp. From an economy flight across Russia. We will see how well I am on the second dawn prayer cycle ;-). I am not Muslim, so I can’t enter any of the mosques. But just to say prayers in English for peace in Syria would be nice.

  301. says

    @Joe: By the time you read this you’ll already be in Iran. Hope your flight went well and everything worked out to meet you at the airport and take you to Qom before dawn. That’s quite a journey for one day, no matter what age you are!

    You have a beautiful prayer for Syria. Thank you.

  302. Ernest W. says

    Hi, I didn’t want to say anything until it happened, but I am in Iran, and having an incredible time. I have been giving talks, and the university students and professors here are treating me like a visiting movie star. I have been so warmly received by all. I have always know that the Iranian people were wonderful, now I have experienced it in their homeland. Anyone who is afraid to come here should forget there fears, and just come. The weather in the north is cool, but I just spent three wonderful days in Mazadran Province where it is warm except there is a cool breeze blowing off the Caspian Sea. I was in the market in Sari today, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are really something. The Elborz Mountains are snow-covered on the top, and very beautiful right now. If you have any doubts about traveling here, get rid of them. It is a once in a lifetime experience!

  303. Bob says

    I have been invited by Iranian acquaintances who live there to visit them and the country. I read about the necessity (?) for being with a tour group or private guide. Is is okay to use my friends as guides? What problems could it create? Does the gender of my friends create any problems? The are both male and female. I await your answers.

  304. says

    Bob…that’s a big NO..you can’t. Americans Must have a certified guide.That’s not a ? it’s a law..and if you try..you will get your friend in trouble. Also..folks do nOT use any of the “passport Services”they have no clue and will cost you money..their fee and possibly all your costs. The Interests Section does not take 3rd party applications. Getting a visa is in reality a very simple process..if you do it correctly.

  305. Alireza says

    @Ernest W.

    Before an Iranian immigrates/travels out of country, it is so proud of him/her to hear how foreigners are talking about Iranian hospitality.

    After s/he immigrate/travel to any of those countries who s/he warmly hosted its people, it just disgusts him/her to hear these compliments.

  306. says

    @Ernest: So happy to hear that everything worked out with your last visa application and you were able to finally visit Iran for yourself! And so glad that you’re having a great experience.

    The markets of Iran are pretty spectacular – this was something we tried to visit in every place we went in Iran. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    @Bob: Unless your friends are authorized guides for American travelers, it won’t be possible for them to be your official guides that you need to get your tourist visa. Hopefully, these regulations will change in the near future and there will be more flexibility for Americans visiting Iran. But, until they do you will need to go with an authorized tour operator/guide as Norma indicated.

    @Norma: Is it possible for a US citizen to get sponsored by Iranian citizens who are not relative and get a different type of visa than a tourist visa? There has been discussion here about family-oriented visas, but wasn’t sure if there were other types of visas available to US citizens. Thanks!

    @Alireza: Thanks for sharing your opinion, but I have to disagree based on my own experiences. My Iranian friends that I’ve met in Europe in the US are still proud and are happy to hear compliments about Iranian hospitality and kindness experienced in Iran.

  307. says

    Audrey, Americans MUST have a guide.There are no other Visas available for Americans. IF..and the critical word is IF..an American is married to an Iranian and travels on her/his valid Iranian passport and has proff of a Muslim marriage, the family can apply to host/sponsore them. But is must be a Mulsim marriage certificate. Just being a Muslim or not doesn’t matter.
    By the way,. the Visas I have recently applied for arrived within 10 days..so the process is getting better, but again it must come from a certified ,registered agency in Iran.

  308. says

    @Norma: Thanks for clarifying! I knew there was a non-tourist visa option for family-oriented visits, but wasn’t sure about other kinds of visits.

    Glad to hear that the visa processing is going smoothly and quickly these days.

  309. Joe KomaGawa says

    Well folks, the next time you hear from me, I will probably be in Moscow’s international airport on the way back. But if I have an earlier chance, I’ll take it. I have put in the time preparing for a “one week in and out”. Like going to the drive-in. Are any of you old enough to remember that;-)(outside of CALIF)? So we will see if what I have prepared flies or not. I have to leave my home at 5;45AM, and I will see the inside of the Tehran airport some time after midnight this coming Sunday.

  310. Drew Parsons says

    I am travelling to Iran in early April on my New Zealand Passport and have just obtained my Iranian visa with no problems. However, the friend I was to travel with is on a UK passport and his visa application has just been declined by the MFA in Tehran. It appears that a new regulation requires British and Canadian passport holders to follow the same process as US citizens – they can only get a visa if travelling in a group or if travelling privately with a private guide. The timescale looks too long to get his visa now so it looks like I will be making the trip on my own!!

    • Amin says

      Hi Drew, I`m so glad to hear you want to make a trip to my country. wishing you have an enjoyable trip and don`t hesitate to let me know anything you need. You can count on my full hospitality.

  311. says

    To Drew, This is not a new regulation. It has been necessary for Brits, Canadians & Americans to have a guide for at least the past 3 years. If a country does not have an Iranian Embassy..i.e diplomatic regulations…it should be obvious.

  312. Sean K says

    I’m looking to travel to Iran for a kidney transplant. (Iran is the only country where you can buy a kidney legally) my wife and Dad would travel with me. How would this work as far as a guide goes? How much American cash should a family of 3 bring for a two week stay?

  313. says

    Sean.I certainly care for your situation, however understand that transplants are under the Ministry of Health.who clearly state the kidneys must come from a donor of the same nationality.Are your family members willing & compatible?I admit not to know much about transplants, however I assume you must have a doctor in the US willing to follow you up.
    The fist thing you must do is call the Iranian Interests Section in Washington D.C and clarify your case & time frame.
    Perhaps before that you should google Kidney transplants in Iran..as well as Kidney transplants for Americans in Iran. I wish you luck.and certainly feel free to contact me at irancustomtravel@aol.comm.

  314. says

    @Sean: I’m very sorry for your medical situation and need for a kidney. Unfortunately, I can’t advise on anything connected to this situation. Please take Norma’s advice and call the Iranian Interest Section in Washington DC to get more information on what is possible for your situation. Good luck

    @Norma: Thanks for this advice and help. Really appreciate it.

  315. Joe KomaGawa says

    Now I am in Isfahan at the Iran hotel, using their WiFi, tomorrow I go to Shiraz. Yes the experience here Iis everything I expected and almost hoped for. This is an incredible. I will come again, but not too soon. Yes, all the worry and concern was worth it. Like eating a pomograte. And feeling rose water sprinkling from the sky instead of rain.
    Khoda hafez
    Joe

  316. fery says

    hi
    i’m iranian and livin since day1 in iran for over 40 years.
    let me tell 1 or 2 things
    almost 80% of iranians praise / envy americans and their life style.
    and 90% of iranians hate arabs/afghans/tajiks/…
    but worship almost all european/western/nordic/japanese/korean people.
    in other word, we have no sense of reality toward other nations, we are polarized one way or the other regarding our real place and the other nations in the world.
    however no harm woulda/shoulda happens to westerners in iran, they always will be greeted lovingly cuz iranians feel lesser in front of them.
    its not like we love all peoples/tourist from all nationalities, only a few selected ones i mentioned above will be treated with respect, the rest will suffer and are not welcome at all, and it is harsh reality of simple naked truth. for example all near/far neighbors like people from india/pakistan/afghanistan/iraq/all arabs/syrians/turks would be treated bad or normal at best, no fancy and heartwarming greetings and involvements and chitchat with them. thats how we r.
    and these are not our government policy, these are deeply rooted in iranians psyche from long time ago, not politically/religiously motivated, simply racially/culturally embedded in our minds.

  317. says

    @Joe: Really happy to hear that your trip is going so well and that what you’ve experienced in Iran is worth the effort in concern to get there. Hope you enjoy Shiraz – it was one of our favorite places in Iran.

    @fery: We understand how cultures and people can have deep rooted prejudices and stereotypes. Our hope is that as people begin go meet and get to know people from other cultures and places that those prejudices go away with the understanding that we are all people in the end.

  318. farzaneh says

    Im Iranian and i want to invite every body to visit Iran,the real one not the one that you have seen or heard in the media.you may have heard that Iranians love their guests and treat them like gods!
    Iran is a 4 season country,you can have sun bath in south or ski in west.
    here is full of historical places,art and culture.
    meanwhile as Rial is very chip comparing with $ or €, it will be a very cheap traveling.

  319. mehdi from isfahan says

    I’m not too fluent in English, that’s why I ‘ve used Google translate to SQL
    Iranians are very hospitable and kind, I am sure you will experience a great trip to Iran
    Iran has a lot of historical attractions ( more than seven thousand years of history and civilization of two thousand and six hundred years Hdd ‘s Empire ) and natural attractions and culture of Iran is a beast in his radicalization of certain groups Azmslmanan there. Between Americathey are not considered a good average poor . , with expressions of love and friendship from Isfahan , Iran

  320. Ron from Canada says

    Norooz Mobarak (Happy New year) to our Iranian friends and family!……Actually , it was yesterday.

  321. Semira Sanchez says

    My name is Semira and I am currently looking into going to Iran this summer for an internship. I was wondering if you could e-mail me. My parents are still on edge about me going to Iran, and there are not that many Americans that go to Iran daily, so I was wondering if you could contact me to tell us about your experience. I think that would make them feel better than reading it on a website.

  322. mohammad reza says

    Hi.

    Iam from IRAN, and I live in isfahan! your text was really good and i am so happy that you had a good journey in iran.

    Nowdays western country have a bad imagination about iran. for example: Have you seen Homeland? in s3 they show IRAN like i dont know Afghanistan or…
    in fact they wanna say that in iran we always have war and there is no freedom here!

    Now Iam so happy that you wrote this text and i hope other people have your idea about IRAN!
    (forgive me if I couldnt write english verry well!)

  323. says

    Mohammed: I agree that the news and TV shows usually do a very poor job in accurately representing a place and its ordinary people. That’s why it’s so important for people to connect and see for themselves. We’re very glad that we were able to travel to Iran and share our experiences with others.

    • Ray Doherty says

      I totally agree. For the most part, the U.S. mainstream media paints a bleak and distorted picture of Iran. I am American and visited Iran in 2011, receiving a warm welcome by Iranians everywhere I went.

  324. robert says

    thanks for sharing this, I’ve a friend who likes to go to Iran i think this could be useful for her.

  325. Ernest says

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I just spent five of the most incredible weeks of my life traveling around Iran. I visited the Caspian Sea coast by Sari, Spent two weeks in Tehran, a week around Ahwaz, another around Shiraz, and spent some time around Bushehr as well. Iran is a spectacular country, and its people are among the most wonderful in the world. I was welcomed everywhere I went. I was invited into private homes, and visited with my students. I even danced at a traditional wedding. The Iranian people are a warm,, sincere people, and nowhere did I feel unwelcome. The sights and food, the culture and the people all combine to make it one of the greatest nations of the earth. I actually left my heart in Iran. I hope to return soon.

    • kourosh says

      @Ernest
      I have been following and enjoying various comments made on this site for a while now and I must say that the one person’s comments that have always drawn my attention was yours’. I think I may have even replied to one of your comments. Anyway what I would like to say is that I am genuinely so pleased that you have finally visited Iran. I know it seemed at one point like a distant dream to do so and almost gave up, but I’m glad you didn’t, and most importantly your visit lived up to your expectations (although I’m not sure what fascinated you about Ahwaz that warranted a week stay there!).
      Now that you have been there, I think you would find it much easier to obtain visa for your future visits. Remember Ernest, it’s not just you that find Iranian people in Iran fascinating and interesting; people there are also equally fascinated by you and your opinions and those of your fellow Americans. Wishing you all the best in whatever you do.

      • Ernest says

        @Kourosh
        Regarding why I would spend a week in Ahwaz. There are two things….the archaeology. This area was the capital of the Elamite Kingdom. The earliest empire in Persia. It was also an important part of the Sassinad Empire. So there is the ziggurat, the water works at Shushtar, and Dezful along the Karoun and Dez rivers. There are Islamic monuments and of course the bridge dam built by captured Roman soldiers. It is the furtherest east example of Roman architecture. Tha land is rich agricultural land. But most of all are the people. They are really wonderful. It is the center of the Mandeaen people, a unique religious minority with roots that go back before 2000 years ago. You are also right against the foothills of the Zagros Mountains and the scenery is spectacular. The canyons east of Dezful are amazing. Sure there are other wonderful regions in Iran, but don’t sell the Ahwaz region short at all. In fact, Iran is filled with hidden treasures, that would take many lifetimes to explore…certainly more than I have.

    • Ernest says

      Jeremy, Is your comment directed at me? I didn’t use any travel agency at all. I traveled independently at the invitation of an Iranian agency. But my experience shows what other European travelers experience in Iran. I met some young people from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and they traveled everywhere freely. They picked up their visas at the airport as they entered, gave a hotel address and that was that. I wish our government would get its act together so that we could all travel like that. Our policy definitely needs reevaluation. Isolation of Iran does not make for better relations. Communication with the people of Iran does. The Iranian people think highly of Obama, and hope for changes toward the better in relations between the US and Iran. And I pray to God that will happen.

      • Jeremy says

        The thing is I am an American citizen. I believe the rules state that I must have at least a private guide. So I am looking for the right agency to use with a cool guide that will let me have some free time to explore and hang out with a few Iranian friends I have there.

        • says

          Jeremy, you are correct in that the current rules for U.S. citizens require an authorized private guide. Please see my comment below regarding the tour & agency we used. We were able to balance following the regulations for U.S. citizens and connect with local people as well.

        • says

          Jeremy, Yes, there are guides that give you free time, however,it is strongly recommended that you not “hang out” independently with your Iranian friends. It’s for their benefit. .You leave and they can be questioned . The only thing you may be able to do is invite them to meet you at your hotel. Please..for the benefit of your friends..don’t meet them outside.

    • Jack says

      I visited Iran on 2012-07-03 and quite independently. To be honest, i didn’t expect iran gave me a visa [ as I am a military man]. so if you wanna really go there, do it

    • says

      Jeremy, our trip to Iran had two parts. The first was with a G Adventures small group tour – http://www.gadventures.com/trips/iran-discover-persia/ARIR/2014/ – and the second part of the trip was with a private guide. The local tour operator who took care of our visa support & individual guide was AITO. If you decide to go with them be very clear with what you want and the style of travel that you want (e.g., we wanted budget).

      If you look at the comments above you will also find recommendations for other Iranian travel agencies and tour operators. Good luck!

      • Jeremy says

        Thanks for the feedback and responses. They are much appreciated. I am definitely going hopefully August 1st if I get the visa. Now it’s just a matter of finding the agency in Iran. I will go private guide.

        Thanks,
        Jeremy

  326. Abbas says

    hello Americans

    I am Abbas from Iran.

    I love the United States and Americans a lot. I have one goal in my life and that is visiting your country, I really love Americans.

    so I do apologize if you see that some stupid Iranians use dirty words. they actually don’t know that this is the governments’ words that cause this quarrel between Americans and Iranians.

    Dear Americans:

    99% of Iranians love Americans. we are really kind, friendly and hospitable. we really respect foreigners and the reason that we love the American people more than other nationalities can be stated like below:

    1- we love American movies

    2- in the past, our leaders used to have deep communication with Americans

    3- media. we believe that what governments say against the US is wrong.

    4- we love American singers. people listen to their music a lot.

    5- we love this language and we learn it like professors.

    Dear Americans:

    Iranians are really kind. we really welcome you to visit our country to get sure. seeing is believing. if you get here, you will definitely enjoy it.

    Iranians are calm and open- minded. we are not like Arabs who like to fight and have the hostile ideas.

    Pls, hope for me that I can get to the US and visit my favorite people.

    Love you all.

    Abbas

  327. Farshad says

    Hello,
    I think,you liked My country
    Im very happy to see here
    That People come here and sending message for knowing about iran:)

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