Is it Safe to Visit Iran and More Myths Debunked

Written By: The Planet D

Joseph Kiely is back to showcase the beauty of Iran and debunk the myths of Visiting Iran.

But more importantly, he answers the question, is it safe to visit Iran?

After reading this article, you too will want to visit.

Is it Safe to Visit Iran?

The first question people asked me when I told them I was visiting Iran was “why?”

The second was “Is it safe to visit Iran?”.

Let me tell you right from the start – yes, it is safe for Americans and women to visit Iran. (but bring your head scarf).

I spent fifteen days in Iran touring the main cultural sites of the country with a small group.

Our Iran Route

is it safe to visit Iran?
Pink clouds at sunset outlined bu the intricate blue patterned mosque of Masjid-ejameh in Yazd Iran

We started in Shiraz and worked our way back to Tehran.

We visited the ancient city of Persepolis, the desert town of Yazd, the shopping mecca of Esfahan and ended our road trip in Tehran.

The people were friendly, the food delicious, the country beautiful, and the mosques intoxicating. So don’t let friends or family stop you from visiting this beautiful country.

It is Safe to Visit Iran

Looking up at the intricate and ornate blue tiled entrance to the Masjed-e Jameh Mosque in Yazd Iran
Entrance to the Masjed-e Jameh Mosque in Yazd Iran

Iran is a wonderful country for all to visit, whether you’re interested in food, culture, history, shopping, religion, architecture or politics.

It all blends together to make for one incredible experience.

Major tourist sites to see in Iran

The must-see sites to visit are Shiraz, the cultural heart of the country known for its poets and gardens.

Shiraz

Colorful windows inside the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Visit Iran
Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz

Persepolis

Visit Iran Looking through columns at Persepolis
Persepolis

Persepolis (just outside of Shiraz), a world heritage site that was burned to the ground rumored to be by a drunken Alexander the Great.

Yazd

Joseph Kiely standing out front of the Kharanaq Village Iran, Near Yazd
In front of the mud-brick houses of Yazd Iran

The desert city of Yazd, with its unique architecture, mud cites, and ancient Zoroastrian religion and people.

Esfahan

Looking up through shafting sunlight at the inside dome design of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan Iran
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan Iran

Esfahan, the home of the majestic Naqsh-e Jahan Square with the blue-tiled Masjed-e Shah mosque and often photographed Khaju bridge. Of course, don’t miss out on the shopping.

Golestan Palace

Tiles at the Golestan Palace in Tehran, Iran
Tiled exterior of the Golestan Palace in Tehran

In Tehran, the tiled masterpiece of the Golestan Palace, the old U.S. embassy with it’s muraled walls and the many tea houses and coffee shops.

You should also plan on spending time with some local families or the Nomads of Zagros.

Visit the Mausoleum of Khomeini outside of Tehran to understand the scope of his influence even after death.

Around the fire smoking Hookah at a small farm house in Iran.
Around the fire smoking Hookah at a small farmhouse in Iran.

Also, make room in your stomach for the amazing food from herb stews to kebabs to die for.

Food from Iran the Dizi, Kebabs and Stews.
Food from Iran the Dizi, Kebabs and Stews.

You must also try the dizi, meat and bean stew that is served in a stone pot. Pour out the broth in a bowl then dip flatbread in it.

Then mash up the stew with a pestle in the pot and eat with the flatbread.

Do I need a Visa for Iran?

And how hard is it to get a Visa?

Cars and people on motorcycles on the streets of Iran
streets of Iran

Yes, you will need a visa and it is the most complicated for US and UK citizens. For most other countries, you can get a fifteen-day visa on arrival in Tehran.

It is still recommended for tourists to get the visa in advance through their local tour agency.

For U.S. citizens, you must obtain a visa in advance, this requires you to hire an Iranian authorized tour company or guide.

Mural at the former United States Embassy
Mural at the former United States Embassy

Once the trip is confirmed and booked, you will have to fill out a form to get a tourist travel code. This usually is processed and sent to you two months before departure.

That code is then sent to your local embassy – please note that in the US, it is via Pakistan’s embassy.

Once the code is sent, you can fill out the visa paperwork, attach your photo and send or hand deliver your passport. It will take about two weeks to process.

Is it safe to Visit Iran as a woman?

People shopping at a bazaar shop in Isfahan Iran
bazaar shop in Isfahan Iran

Yes, it is safe. Several of my travel mates were females and had a wonderful time. Not once were they harassed or stopped.

They enjoyed the new experience of shopping for head scarfs at the bazaars – but, still removed them the first chance they got.

Tips for Visiting Iran

Silver shop in a Bazaar in Isfahan Iran

If you do decide to go – you should be prepared for several things. Bring clothes that are loose and will cover your arms, legs, and ankles.

Bring your headscarf with you… it will need to be deployed on the plane upon landing in Tehran.

Lastly, bring an open mind.

The women of Tehran are more progressive than you may think. Tehran is one of the top cities in the world for plastic surgery and the consumption of beauty products.

It is not surprising to see females walking around with bandages on their noses!

Iran Politics and religion – What if I do not agree?

Looking through the brick entrance of a Mosque in Iran

These subjects are sensitive even with close family and friends – I can guarantee you if you are coming from a Western country you will not agree with the politics and laws.

Do not argue, do not share your opinion… it makes for a messy situation and rising tempers.

It is a great opportunity to learn about the culture, religion, and people.

I listened to people talk of the rules for adultery and why women are stoned. (I didn’t agree, but I didn’t share my opinion. I am a visitor to this country)

I listened to opinions on international relations and nuclear weapons.

But I also talked with families about their lives, loves, and dreams.

One tip… Iranians consider it bad taste to make you feel unwelcome. If at any point you feel someone is being too harsh, mention how ashamed and upset you are.

Let them know you thought Iran was a hospitable country with warm and welcoming people.

That will usually change the conversation – deep down, they all want you to love their country and tell your friends about it.

Can I drink liquor and eat pork in Iran?

Vank Cathedral in Esfahan
Vank Cathedral in Esfahan

Basically no… It is a Muslim country and you cannot buy or import these items. If you are found at the airport with liquor you will be sent back on the next flight.

Now having said this, what happens in the privacy of homes or clubs can be different.

Many Iranians have their own liquor stashes that they either make or import on the black market.

I assume the government knows but decides not to enforce it.

Let’s just put it this way, on our last night we got a bottle of Italian red wine to celebrate the journey.

Is it safe to take pictures of mosques and people?

Overlooking the Mountains of Iran

Yes, you can take all kinds of photographs except for police, government buildings, airports, trains, and nuclear facilities.

A good guide will steer you clear of making any of these photo mistakes.

The worst thing that could happen is you would be pulled aside for questioning, disrupting your travel day.

Two woman sitting on steps in the city of Abaneh Iran
Traditional women of Abyaneh

If you want to photograph the locals it is always a good idea to ask permission.

Usually, they are very willing especially, if you have purchased something from them.

Can I buy souvenirs like Persian rugs or silver?

Carpet being made with the measuring stick in Isfahan Iran

For most everyone, yes, but there are severe limitations if you are a U.S. citizen.

You are only allowed to bring back about $100 worth of Iranian goods. You should retain your receipts after purchase.

If it is more than a $100, the merchant can give you a second receipt for less.

After all, they do want to help you make a wonderfully expensive purchase.

Where to Shop in Iran

block printed fabric in Isfahan Iran

If you are looking to shop, I would wait until you visit the city of Esfahan, the shopping capital of the country.

The Bazaar and local stores are filled with helpful salespeople that will educate you and drive a hard deal.

You can learn in detail about all of the beautiful souvenirs in my article “The Decorative Arts, Silver, and Rugs in the Bazaars of Iran”.

Now is the time to visit Iran

Mosque in Iran

Modern-day Iran is a country in transition, with the middle class in the large cities lusting after the freedoms of the West and the small town holding on to the conservative past.

Bring a sense of adventure, an open mind, a hungry stomach and lot’s of Euros or Dollars – your credit cards (especially for Americans) can be useless there!

travel iran

This post was originally written by Joseph Kiely who no longer blogs, but we left it on The Planet D as Iran is a fascinating destination.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

20 thoughts on “Is it Safe to Visit Iran and More Myths Debunked”

  1. Hi Dave & Deb,
    Thank you for the useful info and your interest in my beautiful country. I’m Zahra Mazaheri an English – Farsi translator and owner of Farsils.com. I would be more than happy to help the tourist to Iran having a pleasant journey.

    Reply
  2. We are moving down to New Zealand and Asia later this year and will be staying for at least 1 or 2 years to work and travel. My interest in Iran was piqued from a few articles from females who had visited but those posts were from a few years back. These days I’m conflicted as to whether we should venture out there because many countries have put out travel advisories warning against travel in the area. Especially when you travel with a significant other I feel that I am more protective and less adverse to risk. We don’t often take tours but in countries like Iran we definitely would feel more comfortable, what tour company did you go with?

    Reply
  3. Besides this helpful article . i invite all travelers visit Qazvin and its beautiful valley(Alamut)
    .i would be more than happy to help anyone.
    (irantaste)

    Reply
  4. I was told at the site about this new application called “IRAN AUDIO GUIDE” . Although Iran is really delightful to visit and of course safe to travel, but with this app it was much better and easier to learn about its different beautiful places and cities. I’d gladly recommend downloading the app to everybody. You’ll love it.
    http://iranaudioguide.com/
    I also wrote this on other beautiful locations of Shiraz; since I really found it useful.

    Reply
  5. Hamzeh,

    Thank you for the kind words – I loved your country and would like to return to learn more. Meeting the every day people, sleeping on the farm, sharing dinner, cooking bread and learning about our shared struggles in life really changed the way I look at Iran.

    It reminds me that the world is a much smaller place than we may think – and we have much more in common then our respective countries acknowledge.

    Reply
  6. Kiera,

    You should stop toying and go…!!! For a tour company there are many depending on how much you want to spend. I chose intrepidtravel.com for the trip – Even though I mostly travel solo, this was a country I wanted to visit with others so we could share our experiences.

    I was lucky and had a great group of people and an amazing guide – However I did meet the second group as I was leaving and they had some challenges.

    It is actually a very friendly country – it is very possible to find a local company and have them arrange everything for you. If you are a U.S. citizen be prepared for the last minute visa. I can dig around and see if I can get the direct contact for my guide – he was really awesome. Feel free to contact me directly through my blog in the bio.

    Reply
  7. I keep toying with the idea of visiting Iran. I wonder if Joseph has suggestions of tour companies to consider. The photos are beautiful!

    Reply
  8. I wanna thank Joseph about this great article of my beautiful country.i am so surprised when i read this great article. I’m living in Ahvaz in Khuzestan province in Iran. You all are in welcome in every cities in Iran.

    Reply
  9. Wow, I really thought it was not safe, but my opinion has changed now. Beautiful places and the food seems to be good. I liked the advice, thank you!

    Reply
  10. I returned from Iran just a month ago and I can easily say it was the safest country I’ve ever been to! Definitely a great place to visit!

    Reply