There are spaces in the world most people don’t take any time to consider visiting – with it’s rocky relationship with the US, Iran is, to most people in the US, not on anyone’s list to visit. For those who are able to look past what you hear on the news, most find Iran to be full of inviting, hospitable people, gorgeous architecture and a truly authentic experience. Because tourism is generally very low compared to more conventional destinations, you can see Iran more purely, without much of the trappings created specifically to pander to tourists.
So can you just fly in and head to a hotel?
People from many countries around the world are offered visa on arrival in Iran, but if you are a resident of the US, Canada or the UK the answer is sadly no. You will need to give yourself 2-3 months planning in advance to go through the process of getting a tourist visa. To get the visa you will need to go through a travel agency who can facilitate getting a sponsorship, which sounds daunting but there are several tourism agencies and service providers who can help that process move forward smoothly.
Since there is no Iranian embassy in the US, you will need to work out ahead of time where you can pick up your visa. This part can also be facilitated by the tour company you use to get your visa.
Additionally, Americans traveling in Iran must be accompanied by a guide throughout their trip. Most people opt to go on a larger tour as a way of keeping within the law regarding guides, but it means touring with a larger group of people. You can also hire private guides, just know that those will be more expensive than a larger tour
What to wear in Iran
Women have a harder time when it comes to clothing in Iran, most importantly is the need to wear a head scarf from arrival in Iran as long as you are traveling. Loose fitting clothing is also highly encouraged, with 3/4 length skirts permitted. Men should not wear shorts, and instead wear long pants.
- Bring cash! Euros are preferred, but your debit/credit card will not function in Iran
- You will need a VPN installed on your phone or computer in order to browse the internet freely. There are restrictions on where you can go online in Iran, so set up your VPN before you leave for your trip.
- No booze! While you could find liquor in Iran if you are clever, it could come with a stiff penalty, so plan on not drinking while you travel through Iran
It’s important to remember that the people of Iran are not the Government of Iran, and that you should expect a warm, welcoming greeting from the people there, and even in some cases to be treated as a celebrity with people wanting pictures with you. If you are able to make the trip, Iran is truly a one of a kind experience that you will be thrilled you were able to have.