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Visa:

To enter Iran, a visa is required for the citizens of all countries except Lebanon, Turkey, Malaysia, UAE, Oman, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, Tansania, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Citizens of all countries except Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Somalia, UK and USA can obtain a tourism visa on arrival (VOA) for max. 90 days at the international airports of Gheshm Island, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Tehran. As per April 2017, VOA is not issued at the Airports in Bandar Abbas, Ahvaz or others, although wrongly claimed by some websites. A confirmed hotel booking for the first night is required (you need to fill in the address and the phone number in the application form).


Citizens from the US, Canada, US/American Samoa and U.K./B.O.T. are not allowed to travel to Iran independently and are required to travel on tours, either as part of a tour group or a tailor made individual tour. An exact itinerary, to which you must adhere, is compulsory.

To apply for a visa in advance, one must contact an approved Iranian travel agent who applies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Your visa will then be authorized by the MFA and faxed to the Iranian Consulate near you. Your travel agent gives you a visa authorization number with which you can refer to the consulate to get your visa. The visa authorization number, however, is valid only in the consulate you have asked them your visa to be issued in. The number they give you is just an "authorization". This reference number means that your visa has been authorized and approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but is not the visa itself. After your travel agent tells you your visa authorization number you should first get a visa application form from the consulate and follow the requirements of the application form (you may either personally go to the consulate to get the application forms or, if the service available, download it from the web site of the Iranian embassy in your country). Then, you should refer to the consulate to lodge your passports and application forms with the visa number they gave you (it can be either a physical presence or by post). Then it might take from 1-5 days for the consulate to issue your visa.

You may also need to provide a letter of recommendation from your embassy if you are applying outside your home country, a photocopy of your air tickets in and out of Iran and any student or press card.

Normally, all tourist visas issued by Iranian consulates have a 3-month validity. The visa allows you to stay in Iran for up to 30 days, although the duration of your visa is at the discretion of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. Rarely, you may be asked to provide a letter from your employer or proof of fund. Visas are generally valid for three months i.e. you must enter Iran within three months of issue. Depending on your nationality, issuing a visa may take 5 days or more. There are reports that it is possible to get a visa in 3 days in Istanbul consulate, especially for German nationalities.

Types of visa:

Entry, Transit, Business, Tourist and Journalist. Fee varies according to nationality of applicant, type of' visa and the existing regulation between countries. A visa cannot be issued for passports which have a validity of less than 6 months. Exit permits required by all (often included with visa).

Transit visas:

Transit visas are valid for a maximum of 10 days. Transit visas are usually easier to get than tourist visas (usually for one or two weeks) and very useful for people travelling between Europe and South Asia. Various travel agents inside Iran help you obtain visas, often through their home pages.

You can get an extension for your transit visa For foreign drivers carrying cargo to Iran or other countries, it is necessary to co-ordinate in advance with the Diplomatic Missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Tourist visas:

To obtain a tourist visa you require a passport, an application form, four passport-sized photos, and a special authorization in the form of a reference number issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran.

Extending a tourist visa is very easy and can be done in most cities. The process of extending a visa in Tehran can be done in just 1 hour. Extending a visa for a second time requires the passport to be sent to a department in Tehran (no matter where you extend your visa from) and thus takes longer time than extending for the first time.

Business visas:

To obtain a business visas you require a passport, an application form, 4 passport-sized photos, a special authorization in the form of a reference number issued by the Foreign Ministry in Tehran, and a business letter. Business visas are extendable once, sometimes twice up to two weeks without difficulty.

Get around:

By Plane:

For anyone on a tight deadline, affordable domestic air services are a blessing. The major national carrier Iran Air, and its semi-private competitors such as Mahan Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, and Kish Air link Tehran with most regional capitals and offer inter-regional flights for no more than USD 60.

Their services are frequent, reliable and are definitely worth considering to skip the large distances within Iran. Tickets can be bought at airports or travel agents dotted through the most major cities. Book early during the summer months of August and September since finding seats at short notice is difficult.

You can also find domestic tickets in some Iran Air offices abroad, such as in Dubai. Expect to pay a little more due to the exchange rate applied. Domestic tickets for other companies must be bought inside Iran.

By Bus:

The Iranian domestic bus network is extensive and thanks to the low cost of fuel, very cheap. In fact the only drawback is speed: the government has limited buses to 80 km/h.

Most Companies provide two Classes of buses: VIP and Normal, with the VIP having more spacious seats (a single seat and a pair in each row) as opposed to the normal buses (four seats per row). Almost all buses are air-conditioned. Naturally, VIP buses are more expensive, usually about double the price of a normal ticket.

You can buy tickets online, from the bus terminals, or ticket offices up to a week in advance, but you shouldn't have a problem finding a seat if you turn up to the terminal an hour or so before your intended departure time, although you might not be able to find a ticket this way in major cities such as Tehran, especially on holidays or other travel-prone times. It is best to book tickets online, where you can choose your seat.

By Train:

Travelling by train through Iran is generally more comfortable and faster than speed-limited buses. Sleeper berths in overnight trains are especially good value as they allow you to get a good night’s sleep while saving on a night’s accommodation.

The rail network comprises three main trunk lines. The first stretches east to west across the north of the country linking the Turkish and Turkmenistan borders via Tabriz, Tehran and Mashhad. The second and third extend south of Tehran but split at Qom. One line connects to the Persian Gulf via Ahvaz and Arak, while the other traverses the country's center linking Kashan, Yazd and Kerman.

Tickets can be bought from train stations up to one month before the date of departure, and it is wise to book at least a couple of days in advance during the peak domestic holiday months. First class tickets cost roughly twice the comparable bus fare.

By Metro:

Tehran has 6 underground rail lines.

Line 1 (red) runs from north to south.

Line 2 (blue) runs west to east.

Line 4 (yellow) runs from west to southeast.

Line 5 (yellow) runs from north to west.

Line 6 (white) runs from east to north.

1-journey tickets cost approximately 10000 Rials (about USD 0.27).

By Taxi:

Low fuel costs have made inter-city travel by taxi a great value option in Iran. When travelling between cities up to 250 km apart, you may be able to hire a taxi that loiter around bus terminals and train stations.

There are also two services like Uber in Iran. "Snapp" and "Tap30" are like Uber and they are cheaper than taxis. You can download their applications from GooglePlay for android and Appstore for IOS. 

If you're in a hurry, you can rent the taxi privately. Negotiate the price before departure, but since you are paying for all the empty seats expect to pay four times the normal shared taxi fare. You can also rent these taxis by the hour to visit a number of sites.

Currency:

The Iranian Rials, symbolized internationally as IRR is the currency of Iran; however prices are often quoted in Tomans. One Toman is equal to ten Rials. USD1 and €1 could get you about 37,000 and 44,000 Rials respectively.

Although Iranians often express amounts of money and prices of goods in "Tomans". Despite the usage of "Tomans" verbally, amounts of money and prices of goods and services are frequently written in Rials.

ATMs in Iran do not accept foreign (non-Iranian) cards except some which accept those from state banks, so bring all the money you might need in cash, preferably in US Dollars or Euros.

Latest Rial exchange rate in July 2017 is about 3778 Tomans for 1 USD.

Shopping:

While the shops offer a wide selection of quality goods, local items can be bought in many bazaars. Worthwhile purchases include hand-carved, inlaid woodwork, carpets, rugs, silks, leather goods, mats, tablecloths, gold, silver, glass and ceramics. Bargaining is customary. There are restrictions on which items may be taken out of the country.

What to eat?

The good news for travelers is that Iranian cuisine is superb. A wide range of influences from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Russia, Europe and the Middle East have created a diverse, relatively healthy range of dishes that focus on fresh produce and aromatic herbs.

Fragrant rice is the staple of Iranian food. Boiled and then steamed, it is often colored with saffron or flavored with a variety of spices. The two most common meat / rice combinations are kebab variations or rotisserie chicken. Flavoured rice is often served as a main course or as an accompaniment to a meat dish. Examples include shirin polo flavoured with orange zest, young cherries and honey glazed carrots, the broad-bean and herb heavy bāghli polo and sabzi polo laced with parsley, dill and mint.

At home people most often eat rice with a thick stew containing a modest amount of meat. There are dozens of khoresht variations such as the sweet and sour fessenjān made from ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup, ghormeh-sabzi based on fresh herbs, dried limes and kidney beans, and gheimeh flavoured with split-peas and often garnished with French fries.

Hearty Iranian soups are themselves great meals. The most popular is the vegetarian āsh reshteh made from herbs, chickpeas and thick noodles, and garnished with yoghurt and fried onions.

Flat bread is another pillar of Iranian food. It is served at breakfast with herbs, feta cheese and a variety of jams, or as an accompaniment to meals. Sangak is a dimpled variety cooked on a pebbled oven while lavāsh is a thin and bland staple.

There are several good international restaurants which offer Chinese, Japanese, Italian and French food as well as vegetarian menus in Tehran and other major cities.

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Iran Travel