Iran: What You Should Know Before You Go

MIR fields lots of questions about travel to Iran. Here we answer some of the ones we are most frequently asked by prospective travelers. The good news is: Traveling to Iran is much easier than you may think.

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1. Can Americans Travel to Iran?Yes, it is legal for U.S. citizens to travel to Iran. Although the U.S. has economic sanctions in place against Iran, tourists are not prohibited from traveling to the country, or from spending money there.

Please note: There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Iran. The Embassy of Switzerland serves as the protecting power for U.S. interests in Iran. You can check the current status of the U.S. State Department Travel Warning for Iran here.


2. Is it Safe to Travel to Iran?In spite of varying degrees of tension between the governments of Iran and the U.S., the people of Iran continue to be welcoming and hospitable to Americans. On the whole, MIR travelers are surprised and pleased with their warm reception and treasure their interactions with the ordinary people of Iran. “Citizen diplomacy” is again proving to be a quiet but effective way to knit the world more closely together.

That said, the safety of our guests is our number one concern and we always monitor events very closely through our network of sources including our partners in Tehran, a wide variety of media (from the U.S. and abroad), and other sources. Please familiarize yourself with the U.S. State Department Travel Warning for Iran here.


3. Do Americans Need a Visa to Travel to Iran? How do I get one?Yes, U.S. citizens require a passport and visa to enter Iran. (It should be noted that visa regulations are still evolving in Iran and are subject to change at any time.)

If you are traveling with MIR, we will send you an up-to-date visa kit. Please note that the visa application process requires physical submission of your passport, as the visa is issued as a stamp inside your passport. The visa kit will make it clear that women must wear a headscarf in the photos for their Iranian visa application.

If you are applying on your own, we suggest you do it through a dedicated visa service such as Passport Visa Express to simplify the process.

Issuance of an Iranian visa requires an invitation letter. If you travel with MIR, we will apply for it on your behalf. Whoever processes your visa will need a copy of your passport and other detailed information, which will be explained in MIR’s visa kit or by the visa service you choose.

If you have a visa or entry/exit stamp for Israel that is less than 12 months old in your passport, you will need to have a second passport issued in order to enter Iran. You will not be granted a visa nor allowed into the country with an Israeli visa or stamp in your passport that was issued within the past 12 months. If your visit to Israel was more than 12 months ago, however, it should not be a problem, according to the latest information.

An Iranian visa will list your entrance and departure dates. You will not be permitted to enter the country before the entrance date, or to leave after the departure date. The visa is pasted inside the passport one to a page, and therefore you must have several blank pages available in your passport, one for the visa and one for entrance and exit stamps. The pages in the back of the passport – marked amendments – cannot be used for visas.

The Iranian government does not recognize dual citizenship: people with both U.S. and Iranian citizenship will be treated as Iranian nationals, and must enter and exit the country on their Iranian passports. Please check the current status of the U.S. State Department Travel Warning for Iran here.

In addition, U.S. passport holders’ fingerprints will typically be taken at Passport Control and your passport may be taken temporarily to check against a database. This is routine for U.S. passport holders and does not indicate a problem. (Note: Fingerprinting is becoming the norm in some other countries as well, including the U.S., under certain circumstances.)

Possession of a valid Iranian visa does not guarantee entry into the country; travelers have been denied entry at the border for no discernible reason. (Note: This is technically the case in all countries, including the U.S., where border agents have the final say on allowing entry for visa holders.)

Please note that MIR can only arrange for visa invitations for travelers who book private and group tours with MIR. We cannot arrange for an invitation for you if you are traveling independently of MIR’s full-service travel arrangements.


4. Can I Enjoy a Glass of Wine with Dinner in Iran?Sorry, the answer is no. Alcohol of any sort is strictly forbidden in Iran, and the penalties for possession and/or consumption can be severe. Travelers are required to obey this law. Non-alcoholic beer is available and legal.


5. Do Women Have to Wear Special Clothes?Women travelers must observe the Islamic dress code, hijab, at all times when in public (even on a tour bus or at a hotel breakfast). In brief, the point of hijab is to encourage modesty, and its basic (and unwritten) rules are that a woman must cover her hair and wear loose-fitting garments, only showing her hands and face. The reality is that there are no hard and fast written rules about what constitutes hijab, but the following guidelines will stand you in good stead. Please note many travelers plan to bring one complete appropriate outfit with them and then do some shopping after arrival after they’ve had a chance to see the locals and discuss with their local guide.

The headscarf is a compulsory item at all times for women in Iran. The only time it is acceptable for a woman to remove her scarf is when she closes her hotel room door behind her at the end of the day. The headscarf is worn on the head and should cover most of the hair and the back of the neck. It is acceptable to show a bit of hair in front and the scarf does not need to be tightly closed around the neck. Many women find it helpful to use barrettes, bobby pins or even claw-style clips to hold their scarves in place.

For tops/shirts, we recommend light and breathable long-sleeved tunics. No top should be tight-fitting, especially around the waist, and the top must reach at least mid-thigh. Most Iranian women wear a button-up tunic called a manteau, which is French for “coat.”

Pants are fine to wear, but they must be loose-fitting and full-length – no capri pants. Skirts and long-sleeved dresses are acceptable, but they must come down to the ankles.

Past travelers have also referred to the Internet for visual guidelines. We recommend that for more conservative examples, you look at a website such as Shukr. For a more modern example, we recommend you visit a site such as Al-Farah. As you’ll see, there is a wide variety of options for female travelers that fall within the acceptable range.


6. When is the Best Time to Travel to Iran?Spring and fall are the most pleasant times to visit Iran. The country enjoys a highly variable climate, ranging from very hot at the height of summer to quite cold during the relatively short winter months. By mid-March the cold season has generally passed, and the weather can be expected to range from the low 50s to the mid 60s. As summer progresses daytime temperatures can reach into the mid 90s or low 100s, with July and August generally being the hottest, sunniest, driest months; at night it doesn’t cool off much and can still be in the 70s.

Please remember, weather at all times of year has an element of the unpredictable. This information comes from and is based on data from previous temperatures on record. It is always advisable to check with a website such as closer to your departure date for current conditions and forecasts


7. Why Should I Travel to Iran?Ancient Persia, now called Iran, has been in existence for over 2,500 years. The powerful country of Cyrus the Great, Darius and Xerxes, Persia, clashed with ancient Greece and Rome. Arts, architecture, spiritual beliefs and culture have poured back and forth across political borders here, and history can be read clearly in UNESCO World Heritage sites like Cyrus’ ceremonial capital, Persepolis, and Isfahan’s sumptuous Imam Square.

A modern-day Islamic Republic, Iran is part of our shared heritage. Muslims, Christians and Jews, all “People of the Book,” have been historically connected since Adam and Eve, and nowhere is that connection more obvious than in Iran.

MIR’s Director of Sales, Joanna Millick, has led several tours to Iran, and she loves the amazing archaeological sites, the beautiful and diverse terrain, great food, great shopping, quality roads and hotels – but the biggest draw is the friendly people. She feels it’s one of those places that you should visit before you form an opinion.

“It’s a destination and a nation that wants to be understood and heard, and unlike in some countries, people will tell you honestly how they feel, and will discuss openly any topic you are interested in.”
  • Journey overland to the beautiful Caspian Sea coast.
  • Explore the perfectly preserved ancient village, Masuleh, where the alleyways serve as the roofs of the houses below.
  • Enjoy lunch in a restaurant converted from a traditional hamom.
  • Visit with members of the nomadic Qashqai tribe.
  • Discover Iran’s greatest lyric poet’s inspiration, the gardens of Shiraz.
  • Awaken to ancient history as you visit the incredible ruins of Persepolis.
  • Join the crowds of shoppers in the bazaars of Isfahan.
  • Visit local weavers in their workshops and learn about this ancient handicraft.
  • Join devout Muslims as they approach one of the holiest sites in the Islamic world, the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashad.
  • Wander graceful UNESCO-listed Imam Square in beautiful Isfahan.


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