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Traveling to Iran as An American, The Ultimate Guide

I just came back from Iran and I’m nonetheless digesting every thing I saw and experienced. What a rustic! A lot historical past, so many lovely monuments (and you already know me, nature being my jam, I don’t often do museums or monuments). Iran was my first Center East country I’ve visited and I feel I made the fitting selection in choosing Iran as my introduction to the region. Because of my US citizenship, I had to go together with a information – which is not often my type – but having a information and a automotive made the trip very clean and hassle-free.

On this submit, you can find all the required info for traveling to Iran as a US citizen. You’ll additionally discover my thoughts on security difficulty, touring to Iran as a vegetarian, and other brain-dump sort of commentaries.

However first, let’s get something out of the best way…

Pink mosque in Shiraz

Can People Journey to Iran?

Sure, People can legally travel to Iran, with the next restrictions:

  • People won’t be eligible for visa-on-arrival, so that you’ll need to get your Iran visa earlier than your journey. The process takes 2-Three months.
  • People (as nicely as UK and Canada residents) should apply for his or her visa by means of an Iranian journey agency. No exception.
  • People are additionally required to be accompanied with a guide with a pre-determined itinerary.

Which means you will need to travel following a hard and fast itinerary and also you’re not allowed to deviate from it. No spontaneous change of plan, no accepting invitations to individuals’s houses. You’ll have to be accompanied by a licensed guide throughout the period of your stay in Iran. Technically which means your guide is supposed to be with you the second you step out of your lodge.

As someone who thrives on solo journey, private time alone, and unstructured free time, I nervous that I’d find this constrictive. Thankfully I had an incredible guide that was prepared to be flexible and I do have some experience traveling with randos off the Internet.

You’ll be able to attempt discovering a licensed guide by means of on-line forum or referral (ask me!), but going by means of a travel agency will make most sense for first time guests to Iran. There’s no want to be a part of a gaggle tour although, as an alternative you may go on a personal, custom trip based mostly on your interests and schedule. Surprisingly, it’s not that rather more expensive than a gaggle tour.

beautiful details of mosque ceiling

Isfahan.

Isfahan.

Iran Visa for People

Step 1. Find a respected journey agency
Step 2. Work out your Iran itinerary
Step Three. Submit requested documentation to the journey agency. At this step, you additionally need to specify the place you’re going to decide up your visa. For me this was the Iranian curiosity in Pakistani Embassy in Washington DC.
Step 4. After 2-Three months, if authorised you will obtain a Visa Grant Code (also referred to as authorization code).
Step 5. Mail your Visa Grant Code + visa payment + passport to your pre-determined decide up level.
Step 6. Decide up/receive your passport with an hooked up Iran visa.

Security

Is it Protected to Visit Iran?

Safety is such a difficult query I virtually never speak about it. Safety is subjective (is it actual or perceived danger?), anecdotal (simply because nothing happens to you, it doesn’t imply it’s protected), and contextual (like when a 6’4″ tall, 200lbs man claims a country is “safe”).

But security is the very first thing that comes to thoughts to lots of people when the subject of journey to Iran comes up, so I really feel that I have to point out it here. So how protected is Iran? Ought to People travel in Iran?

Petty Crimes in Iran

I felt safer strolling the streets in Iran than I do back house here in San Francisco. Whereas in Iran, I didn’t really feel like somebody would snatch the telephone off my hand while I’m walking down the road. I by no means felt like I had to continuously control my belonging in public (I still do, as a result of it’s a sensible factor to do).

Usually speaking, no one in Iran is out to scam you. No tea house invites, no friendship bracelets, or such non-sense. My time in Iran was hassle-free. It was so nice not to have to be on my guard on a regular basis.

Rooftop meander in Kashan

Rooftop meander in Kashan

Female Safety in Iran

As a feminine, I discovered it refreshing not to get ogled or cat-called. As an alternative I used to be treated with deference by every male I interacted with even once I was on my own. I can’t converse for what it’s like to be a solo lady traveler in Iran coping with public transportation and such. Nevertheless from my research, solo ladies vacationers discover Iran to be one of many most secure nations to travel (as in anyplace else, widespread sense prevails).

Nevertheless it doesn’t mean that my trip in Iran was worry-free. As an American, I did have some security concern.

Is Iran protected for People?

Once I was touring in Iran, the rhetoric towards Iran by the Trump administration was at its peak. The US plane carriers have been on their means to the Gulf. There was even speak about sending troops. In response, Iranian authorities increased their anti-American, anti-Israel counter-rhetoric again.

If conflict broke out, selfishly I questioned how it will have an effect on me, especially on my capacity to depart. My largest Iran security considerations was our governments’ hostility in the direction of one another, however never the Iranian individuals themselves.

Due to that, I by no means felt that I had to cover my nationality. When individuals ask, they usually do ask, where I’m from, I don’t hesitate to say “the US” or “America”. We frequently bonded instantly over our shared frustration at the present state of affairs and the emotions that our respective governments don’t symbolize our best interest.

Iranians are very aware of how they’re being being portrayed in the West – an Iranian I met literally stated “Please tell your friends we are not terrorists” – they exit of their method to prove just the other. Amongst avid vacationers, the hospitality of Iranian individuals are extensively recognized.

Warm smiles and colors of Iran.

Warm smiles and colours of Iran.

Greatest Time to Journey to Iran

Most first time travelers to Iran will comply with the “classic route” which includes the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Yazd, and Shiraz. For this basic Iran itinerary, Spring time (March – Might) and Fall (September – October) can be one of the best time to journey to Iran since temperature shall be milder. I used to be warned that desert cities such as Yazd gets searing scorching during summer time (> 40C). As a lady in Iran, having to cowl up, I can’t think about it will be snug in any respect.

Traveling in Iran throughout Ramadan

Purely by coincidence, I found myself traveling in Iran during Ramadan (which in 2019 fell on Might). Ramadan isn’t probably the most preferrred time to journey in Iran. Most outlets and eating places are closed through the day. Bazaars and the streets are quieter due to it. Monuments and museums do stay open, nevertheless.

Evenings is your prime individuals watching time during Ramadan in Iran. Outlets and eating places shift their opening hour to around 4-5pm, a couple of hours earlier than iftar (finish of fast). Our strategy was to get our sightseeing executed early and afterwards, we have been in a position to take pleasure in energetic iftar environment in public squares and bazaars.

Lunch time during Ramadan might be tough. Solely restaurants with special permit are allowed to be open in the course of the day in Ramadan and finding these restaurants shouldn’t be straightforward even with an skilled information. A restaurant that was open final yr isn’t essentially going to get a allow this yr. Not to point out that for sensitivity purpose, these restaurants do not look open from the surface.

Consuming and eating in public throughout Ramadan is discouraged. So if you find yourself traveling in Iran throughout Ramadan, just be discreet when you need to take sip of water or snack in public.

So yeah, it wasn’t ideally suited since I do love to snack and take a look at the road meals scene when traveling. As a matter of reality, I misplaced weight during this journey. First since Tibet!

What to Put on in Iran

Ladies

I really feel that being a tourist in Iran will get you lots of leeway when it comes to clothing. As lengthy as you make an effort, I wouldn’t stress too much about it. Additionally, as a lady, you will regulate your head cowl about 10 million occasions a day. You’ve been warned.

what to wear in Iran for women

I bought the green/blue manteau in Iran ($8) and the yellow scarf ($3). Plus a sleeveless prime beneath, and skinny legging from Uniqlo.

You will have to cover your hair as quickly as you land in Iran, so just remember to have a shawl in your carry-on bag. Arms, legs, cleavage, and hair must be coated. 3/Four sleeves seem to be acceptable. One among your layers will need to be long sufficient to cover your butt. For touring in hotter months, I’d go for long light-weight, unfastened tunics such a this.

I spent more time than than typical figuring out what to deliver to Iran however in the long run none of the stuff I brought with me worked out. The 3 scarfs I introduced have been either too slippery or too thick. My cardigans, appropriate for San Francisco delicate summer time temperature, have been too heat for springtime in Iran. I ended up shopping for pretty much an entire new ayatollah-approved wardrobe in Iran such as scarfs, lengthy shirts, and a light-weight manteau.

Visiting Iran in spring/summer time? My suggestion is to get a lightweight manteau as quickly as you arrive in Iran. Then you’ll be able to wear any tops you need beneath. I paired the manteau with a pair of thin leggings from Uniqlo. I wore that combo most days in Iran.

Make up, jewellery, tight denims/leggings, and sporting sandals can also be utterly acceptable in Iran. The latter was the one salvation on hotter days.

Males

Men can get by with common clothes with the exception for shorts, muscle shirts, and sleeve-less shirts.

Food and Drink

You possibly can drink the tap water

Faucet water is drinkable in most cities in Iran and also you’ll see plenty of water fountains in public areas all throughout Iran. Double examine together with your guide or your lodge. Bottled water could be very low cost, however bringing a water bottle with built-in filter (like this) means much less plastic and fewer waste.

No alcohol

You gained’t find alcohol bought anyplace in Iran (at the least not publicly). Study to embrace it by ordering one of many many artistic mocktails and colourful herbal drinks.

Being a Vegetarian in Iran

Not to sugarcoat it, however being a vegetarian in Iran wasn’t straightforward. I do hope you’re keen on eggplant because you’ll be eating plenty of it. In restaurants, your greatest guess can be to look for Kashk-e Bademjan (typically listed on the menu as “eggplant with whey”), a vegetarian dish manufactured from eggplants, herbs, and yoghurt. There’s additionally Mirza Ghasemi made with eggplants, tomato, and eggs. Less typically seen is Kookoo Sabzi, some sort of crust-less quiche product of spinach and egg.

Restaurants in touristy places may serve vegetarian version of some of Iran’s common traditional dishes such as fesenjan, a pomegranate-walnut stew, but this was an exception slightly than the rule.

There are plenty of fast meals eating places selling falafels and samosas (and in addition spaghetti?). These are useful for quick snacks or whenever you’re uninterested in consuming eggplant.

What in the event you’re vegan? Oh man, it’s going to be so robust. You might want to deliver your personal food?

Iranian food

Day 4 in Iran, I begged my guide at a restaurant “Anything but eggplant, pleaaaase!” He talked to the restaurant owner and he agreed to make me one thing off menu. Unsure what that is, nevertheless it was scrumptious (and extra importantly, not eggplant!)

iranian food and drinks

Left: Zulbiya (fried dough soaked in syrup). Right: A mocktail – no alcohol, no drawback. Get one among these colorful, scrumptious mocktails in one of the many Iranian cafes.

Residence Cooked Meals

I really feel that Iran is a type of nations where the most effective food come from houses and not eating places. I feel many would agree? Attempt to embrace a cooking class or a dinner with an area family in your itinerary.

Desert

When you have sweet tooth, you’re in luck. Iran has a whole lot of several types of sweets and desert, many are region-specific. They typically incorporate rose water, saffron, and pistachios. Some regional Iranian sweets you have got to attempt are:

  • Koluche/Kolooche, a kind of bready cookie full of a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. The greatest recognized kolooche comes from the town of Fuman, where we stopped on our method to Masouleh.
  • Gaz, Iranian nougat from Yazd
  • Zulbiya & Bamiye – fried dough drenched in syrup, widespread throughout Ramadan.
  • Sohan from Qom. A kind of brittle toffee made from saffron, cardamom, and rose butter. And butter. Tons of butter.
  • Shiraz-faloudeh from Shiraz. A starch-based noodle served with ice cream, rose syrup, and elective lemon juice.
Pink lake near Shiraz

Pink lake close to Shiraz

Money Matter

Deliver Cash

Convey all the cash you assume you’ll need. You’ll be able to’t use debit or credit cards in Iran, and ATMs won’t work. Iran has its own banking system, separate from any international monetary network such as Visa or Mastercard.

How much cash do you need to deliver?

Your tour worth will a minimum of embrace lodge and transportation. It’d or won’t embrace entrance payment. On prime of the tour, I spent 120 USD for the 12 days I was Iran paying for my own meals, entrance fees, and different incidentals (SIM card, souvenirs, and so forth). Because of the weak trade price (particularly with the sanctions), your dollar or euro will go far.

In the event you come to Iran wanting to purchase a Persian carpet (that can value up to hundreds of dollars), don’t really feel the need to deliver a duffel bag of money with you. Greater shops will truly settle for Visa/Mastercard. Some will charge a proportion for the comfort but you’ll find some that don’t. Having stated that, money is king and you’ll have a greater bargaining power when paying with money.

Iran Tourist Card

This can be a sort of reloadable debit card that’s very convenient because it’s accepted pretty much in all places in Iran. Everyone in Iran uses some sort of debit card for cost. So when utilizing cash, be ready to get panic seems to be each time a store owner realises he can’t offer you change.

Ask your travel company to assist arrange a pay as you go debit card for you or get it your self at MahCard (they deliver to your accommodation, arrange payment 20 Euros). I additionally heard which you can get an Iran debit card on the Melli Financial institution branch at Imam Khomeini Worldwide Airport.

Foreign money Change Fee

Remember that the “official” change fee, the type you’ll see on Xe.com shouldn’t be what you’ll get in Iran. The black market or the free market price may be 3x more that. Examine present market price right here. In most other nations, altering money within the non-official market means covert dealing in some quiet, darkish alley. In Iran, nevertheless, any foreign money trade office can be in a position to promote you Rials at the free market fee.

TLDR; Don’t change at the banks who will provide you with a lot lower price. Go as an alternative to one of the licensed trade outlets. In Tehran, these outlets might be discovered on Ferdowsi Road round Ferdowsi Sq..

Toman vs Rial

I’m unsure why precisely, but in Iran there are 2 totally different currencies generally used: Rial and Toman.

“Iranian Rial” is the officialy foreign money of Iran. The payments and coins that in Iran are in Rials. Nevertheless, prices all throughout the country are quoted in “Tomans” with 1 Toman = 10 Rials. For instance, you’ll see a scarf with the worth tag of 50.000. This is 50.000 Tomans. The precise worth is 500.000 Rials and that’s how much you’ll need to pay in bodily cash.

It can be very confusing. Within the first couple of days, I stored considering everybody was short-changing me, but I shortly received used to it. I’m positive you will too.

While in Iran, always look up

While in Iran, all the time lookup

Internet

I lately switched to Google Undertaking Fi, Google’s pay as you go network (get $20 credit) that has coverage in over 170 nations. In fact Iran isn’t certainly one of them. Ugh.

Local SIM Card

So whereas in Iran, I had to get a SIM card. It was straightforward to do and I highly advocate it – ask your travel agency to get you one. I used Irancell that has an English menu choice and rechargeable playing cards might be bought at any newspaper stand. 15.000 Tomans (about $1) will get me 2GB of knowledge. It’s so low cost that my journey companion used its cell knowledge to stream Recreation of Throne episodes!

VPN

Many social media apps are blocked such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Random web sites (some Wikipedia pages) are also blocked. VPN to the rescue! I exploit ExpressVPN myself, but simply to be on the protected aspect, get totally different VPN providers before you arrive because some may work higher than others.

PSA: I all the time use paid service from reputable VPN providers because there’s no such factor as a free lunch (how a lot is your private knowledge value to you?)

can americans visit iran

Advisable Pre-Trip Reading

  • Lipstick Jihad – a memoir by an Iranian-American. I read this for the primary time in school, this e-book and my Iranian roommate was how Iran entered my consciousness for the first time.
  • Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope – this is the story of an Iranian feminine lawyer preventing the regime on behalf of Canadian journalist – Zara Kazemi. This ebook was a troublesome learn due to the topic and it stayed with me for a long time.
  • I, Who Did Not Die – a true story set within the little recognized, however extraordinarily brutal Iran-Iraq warfare in 1980’s.
  • The Present: Poems by Hafiz, the Nice Sufi Master – you’ll be able to’t visit Iran and never hear about Hafez, a much-beloved Persian poet who hailed from Shiraz. Iranian youngsters study Hafiz in class and his works could be present in virtually each Iranian residence.


Anything you’d like to find out about traveling to Iran as a US citizen? Let me know within the comments or get in contact with me. I even have an incredible suggestion for a guide who speaks wonderful English and is licensed to take US, UK, and Canada residents.