The Iranian Visa Situation
1. Travelers who don’t need a visa: you don’t need to worry about a visa if you’re from Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Egypt, Georgia, Lebanon, Turkey or Syria. Iran allows the lucky citizens of these countries to stay in Iran for up to 90 days without a visa.
2. Travelers who need to get a visa at an embassy: if you’re from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Britain, Canada, Colombia, India, Jordan, Pakistan, the USA, or Somalia you’ll need to get your visa from an embassy before you go.
3. British, Canadian and American travelers need to have a guide: yep, strictly speaking, if you guys want to go to Iran you’ll need a guide to accompany on your entire trip. There are ways to get around this if you want to travel independently but do so at your own risk.
Graffiti near the former US embassy in Tehran
4. Travelers who can get a visa on arrival (VOA): if you’re from any of the remaining 180 countries in the world, you’re eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival. This is by far the easiest and cheapest option for getting into the country and the way we got our visa. If this sounds like what you want to do, read our guide for full instructions on how to get the Iranian visa on arrival.
5. Don’t worry about getting a letter of invitation (LOI): a few years ago it was all the rage in Iran for travel agents to have to get you a letter of invitation (LOI) before you could get a visa. You would still need to pick your visa up at an embassy or the airport and you would obviously have to pay the agents for the service. Nowadays, since Iran is trying to improve its tourism image, you don’t need a LOI to get a visa. Save your dollars my friends!
6. No travel to Israel: regardless of which visa you apply for, you’ll be turned down if you have any proof of travel to Israel. This includes passport stamps from Israel, stamps from neighbouring countries’ land borders with Israel and Israeli passports. As you can see, Iran and Israel are not the best of friends, and there really isn’t any way around this one.
7. You’ll need a visa to visit the US after going to Iran: as of 2016, if you’ve travelled to Iran since 2011 you’re no longer eligible for the US Visa Waiver Program and will need to apply for a regular visa through an American Embassy.
8. Iran is super safe: forget everything you’ve heard in the media. Iran is a stupidly safe place to travel and there’s little to no petty crime. Wait and see, you’ll soon find yourself letting down your guard much more than you would in most Western countries. As always though you should use travel insurance. We use World NOMADS while we travel and highly recommend them.
9. Iranians don’t hate Americans: we met several Americans travelling in Iran and none reported any issues with anti-Americanism. Sure, there are occasional protests and some interesting propaganda posters here and there, but this is fuelled by the government. The vast majority of Iranians are normal guys that drink Coca-Cola and watch Hollywood movies.
10. Crossing the road is terrifying: make sure you tell your family you love them before venturing into the Iranian streets.Traffic rules seem to be some sort of general guidelines and you can forget everything about pedestrian priority. Your best bet is to maintain eye contact and look like you know what you’re doing.