Iran Tourism FAQs - Financial Tribune
By Kian Sharifi
Published Date: Saturday, March 04, 2017
Since Iran's nuclear deal with the world powers in June 2015 and the lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran in January 2016, Iran has been constantly named by international tourism media and industry outlets as a must-see destination.
Isolation has rendered Iran an “exotic” holiday destination. While from a marketing perspective this bodes well for the ancient Middle Eastern country, it also makes Iran a little-known destination for many tourists, particularly young travelers.
Some of the common questions asked about Iran are addressed as follows:
Is Iran safe?
The short answer is "Yes." The long answer is "Yes, of course."
Iran boasts an excellent security record, especially when you take into account the fact that it is located in one of the world’s most volatile and unstable regions. The country is a safe haven in a sea of turmoil, and you would be hard-pressed to find a foreign tourist who felt unsafe during their visit.
Popular destinations such as Tehran and Isfahan have formed tourism law-enforcement units whose main purpose is to serve foreign travelers.
Furthermore, the legal arm of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization even helps foreign visitors pursue complaints after they have left the country, should they want the organization to follow up a complaint.
When is the best time to visit?
Thanks to its diverse climate, Iran has something to offer in every season.
That said, it might be best to avoid certain periods, such as the Iranian New Year holidays that typically begin on March 21 and last for two weeks.
The Persian month of Ordibehesht (April-May) is also when the country hosts a myriad of international conferences and exhibitions, but those who avoid Tehran, Isfahan and Kish during this period may not face the problem of hotel room shortage.
Those who visit Iran during the holy month of Ramadan should know that that's when people fast for hours, eating and drinking in public is forbidden and cafes and restaurants do not open until early evening.
Being a month on the lunar calendar, Ramadan shifts from year to year, so it would be a good idea to check the month on Gregorian calendar it coincides with before booking your trip.
Who can travel to Iran?
Citizens of every country recognized by the Iranian government can travel to Iran. The country offers 30-day visa-on-arrival to citizens of 190 countries at its international airports.
Iran has also waived visa requirements for citizens of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Bolivia.
Russians traveling to Iran as part of an organized tour also do not require a visa.
Are there exceptions?
Yes: Passport holders of Colombia, Somalia, Britain, Canada, USA, Bangladesh, Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan must acquire a visa before traveling to Iran.
Furthermore, Americans, Canadians, and the British can only visit Iran as part of an organized tour. In other words, they have to be accompanied by a state-certified tour guide at all times.
Iran has no diplomatic relations with the US and Canada. The Iranian interest's section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. handles visa applications for Americans. Iran has seen an 11.5% increase in American visitors year-on-year, as of September 2016, according to the US National Travel and Tourism Office's latest data.
The Embassy of Oman processes Iranian visas for Canadians. However, since Oman is represented in Canada by a non-resident ambassador in the Sultanate's office in Washington, D.C., Canadians have to travel south to the US to apply for a visa.
Can I use my credit card?
Due to banking sanctions, international credit cards do not work in Iran. To circumvent the problem, authorities have introduced the so-called Tourist Card, a prepaid credit card with a maximum balance of $5,000.
The card can be acquired at international airports and recharged at any of the branches of Bank Melli, Bank Sepah and Tourism Bank across the country.
Is there a dress code?
Women must wear a headscarf and loose-fitting clothes, while men should avoid wearing shorts. There are no color restrictions.
When visiting holy sites, women are obliged to wear a "chador" which is given to them at the sites. To gain a better understanding of the dress code in Iran, a simple image search on Google can be very helpful.
What are some useful apps?
There are a handful of apps that may help you make the best of your trip to Iran. Apps such as Snapp (think Uber but for Iran), Google Maps, Google Translate and Date/Calendar Converter are immensely helpful, regardless of what city you're visiting.
Moreover, popular apps such as Foursquare, Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor have very well-maintained sections on Iran, from what cafes to visit to which sites to see.
What are the emergency numbers?
It is always good to know the local emergency numbers. Unlike the European Union and North American countries, there is no single number for all emergencies in Iran.
It's 110 for police, 125 for fire department and 115 for ambulance. The telephone directory number is 118.
Source: Financial Tribune