Traveling Luck for Iran

Iran is located in Middle East, bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, between Iraq and Pakistan.

Iran has borders with Afghanistan for 936km, Armenia for 35km, Azerbaijan for 611km, Iraq for 1458km, Pakistan for 909km, Turkmenistan for 992km and Turkey for 499km.

Land in Iran is rugged, mountainous rim; high, central basin with deserts, mountains; small, discontinuous plains along both coasts.

Iranian land covers an area of 1648000 square kilometers which is slightly larger than Alaska

As for the Iranian climate; mostly arid or semiarid, subtropical along Caspian coast.

Iranian(s) speak Persian and Persian dialects 58%, Turkic and Turkic dialects 26%, Kurdish 9%, Luri 2%, Balochi 1%, Arabic 1%, Turkish 1%, other 2%.

Iranian National Map

Iranian Map

Regions of Iran

Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling monarchy was overthrown and the shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces established a theocratic system of government with ultimate political authority nominally vested in a learned religious scholar. Iranian-US relations have been strained since a group of Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq that eventually expanded into the Persian Gulf and led to clashes between US Navy and Iranian military forces between 1987-1988. Iran has been designated a state sponsor of terrorism for its activities in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world and remains subject to US economic sanctions and export controls because of its continued involvement. Following the elections of a reformist president and Majlis in the late 1990s, attempts to foster political reform in response to popular dissatisfaction floundered as conservative politicians prevented reform measures from being enacted, increased repressive measures, and made electoral gains against reformers. Parliamentary elections in 2004 and the August 2005 inauguration of a conservative stalwart as president, completed the reconsolidation of conservative power in Iran's government.


Iran Country Profile

Iran's economy is marked by a bloated, inefficient state sector, over reliance on the oil sector, and statist policies that create major distortions throughout. Most economic activity is controlled by the state. Private sector activity is typically small-scale - workshops, farming, and services. President Mahmud AHMADI-NEJAD has continued to follow the market reform plans of former President RAFSANJANI, with limited progress. Relatively high oil prices in recent years have enabled Iran to amass some $40 billion in foreign exchange reserves, but have not eased economic hardships such as high unemployment and inflation. The proportion of the economy devoted to the development of weapons of mass destruction remains a contentious issue with leading Western nations.

Iranian natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, coal, chromium, copper, iron ore, lead, manganese, zinc, sulfur

strategic location on the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, which are vital maritime pathways for crude oil transport

Iranian religion is Shi'a Muslim 89%, Sunni Muslim 9%, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Baha'i 2%.

Natural hazards in Iran include periodic droughts, floods; dust storms, sandstorms; earthquakes.

Travel Advice on Iran

Iran

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments throughout.  The overall level of the advice has not changed.

SUMMARY

  • We strongly advise against all travel to within 100km of the entire Iran/Afghanistan border or within 10km of the entire Iran/Iraq border. The Pakistan border area is also insecure, and we advise against any travel east of the line running from Bam to Bandar Abbas.  Westerners have in the past, been the target of kidnaps by criminal gangs in south east Iran.  There have also been a number of violent incidents in the Sistan va Baluchestan province.  Please see the Local Travel section of this travel advice for more information.

  • There is increasing political tension between Iran and the international community.  The UK and other Western countries have come in for particular criticism in the Iranian media.  If you are planning to travel to Iran we advise that you keep a close eye on political developments and check the media and this travel advice regularly.

  • There is a threat from terrorism in Iran.  Explosions have killed a number of people in 2005 and 2006. Attacks could be directed at Western, including British interests.  Please see the Terrorism section of this travel advice for more information.

  • You should avoid demonstrations and similar large public gatherings.  In the last three years, there have been several violent attacks on, and violent demonstrations outside, British Embassy compounds in Tehran.  Further incidents are possible, and other protests may take place without warning. If you plan to visit the British Embassy, you may wish to telephone first. Please see the Political Violence section of this travel advice for more information.

  • Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited.  You may be detained and face serious criminal charges, including espionage, which can carry the death penalty.

  • Iran is prone to earthquakes. Many people have died in recent years in larger earthquakes.  Small tremors occur frequently.  Please see the Natural Disasters section of this travel advice for more information.

  • Credit cards and bankcards cannot generally be used in Iran and travellers’ cheques can be very difficult to exchange.  Please see the Money section of this travel advice for more information.

  • Islamic law is strictly enforced in Iran.  Alcohol is forbidden and all females over the age of 9 must observe the local Islamic dress code.  Please see the Local Laws and Customs section of this travel advice for more information.

  • You should carry some form of identification with you at all times.

  • The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Iran is for replacing lost or stolen passports.  Some dual UK/Iranian nationals have faced problems leaving Iran due to insufficient/incorrect documentation.  Please see the Entry/Exit Requirements section for more information.

  • We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.


SAFETY AND SECURITY

Terrorism/Security

There is a threat from terrorism in Iran.  Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets; and could be directed at Western, including British, interests.
In 2005-06 there were a series of bombs in cities in Iran, which resulted in some fatalities.  Two small bombs exploded in a car outside the Governor’s Office in Zahedan, eastern Iran, on 14 December 2006.  One member of the public was killed and one injured.  On 20 August 2006, there were reports that a car bomb was defused by police in Tehran.
In 2005-06 there were a series of bombs in the south western province of Khuzestan, killing a number of people.  Some Iranian officials and media reports have alleged a UK connection to terrorist attacks in Ahwaz; British travellers in the Ahwaz/Khuzestan region should therefore be particularly cautious.
In August and November 2005, a number of devices were set off outside the offices of British firms in Tehran.  There were no casualties but some damage was caused.
You should maintain an increased level of vigilance, review your security arrangements and exercise good security practice.  British institutions and businesses should also keep their security arrangements under review.
Please read: Security and General Tips and Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas pages on the FCO website for further information and advice.

Political Situation

Iran Country Profile.

Political demonstrations and public gatherings are regularly organised in Iran to protest against the policies of western governments, in particular those of the US, UK and Israel.  Anti-government demonstrations are also often broken up with violence.  You should follow news reports and be alert to local and regional developments that might trigger public disturbances.  You should take sensible precautions for your personal safety, especially around religious festivals, and avoid public gatherings and demonstrations.
Political unrest and violence have also affected other parts of Iran, in particular the peripheries e.g. the provinces of Kurdistan, western Azerbaijan, eastern Azerbaijan and Ardebil.
In the last three years, there have been sporadic violent attacks on, and violent demonstrations outside, the British Embassy compounds in Tehran, coinciding with moments of tension in political relations between the UK and Iran, and with events elsewhere in the region.  Most recently in August 2006, protestors threw stones and incendiary explosive devices into UK diplomatic premises.  There were no casualties in any of these incidents.
Crime

Although street crime in Tehran, as in other Iranian cities, is low, incidents of robbery against foreigners are not unknown. There have been a number of robberies by young men in unmarked cars, and young men on motorcycles have also snatched bags, including from open car windows/doors.  You are advised not to carry large amounts of hard currency with you.  Pre-booked taxis are safer than those hailed from the street.
There have been a number of attempted robberies by bogus policemen, usually in civilian clothing.  If you are approached by anyone who claims to be a policeman, you should insist on seeing the officer’s identity card and request the presence of a uniformed officer/marked patrol car.  You should not surrender any documents or cash.  If the policeman has a vehicle with him and you are not sure he or she is genuine, do not get in.

Local Travel

We strongly advise against all travel within 100km of the entire Iran/Afghanistan border or within 10 km of the entire Iran/Iraq border.  The Pakistan border area is also insecure, and we advise against any travel east of the line running from Bam to Bandar Abbas.
This area, which mainly covers the south eastern Iranian province of Sistan va Baluchistan province, is notorious for its banditry and is the main route for drug-traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The towns of Zahedan, Zabol and Mirjaveh are particularly insecure.  Local insurgent groups have also contributed to insecurity in the area, reportedly carrying out a series of violent attacks in 2006 which left a large number of civilians dead.
There have been incidents of kidnapping of foreigners by armed gangs in south eastern Iran, including that of 3 Turkish tourists in December 2005.  They were later released on 17 January 2006.

Road Safety

Iran has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world.  Most of the accidents are due to dilapidated vehicles and/or reckless driving.  Great care should be taken when driving.  Many pedestrians are killed on the roads, and you should exercise great care when crossing streets.  If you are involved in an accident, no matter how minor, do not leave the scene.  You should wait until the police arrive to make their report.
The Iranian authorities sometimes mount informal roadblocks both in cities and on main highways.  They are often suspicious of foreigners, and are often manned by young and inexperienced officers.  You should always carry your ID with you in case of such encounters, and avoid getting into disputes.
If you wish to drive your own vehicle into Iran you may be subject to Iranian customs and other regulations.  There are particular requirements for travellers wishing to bring motorcycles into the country.  We recommend that you contact the Iranian Embassy: for details well before you travel.

Air Safety

In the past, we have received reports questioning the suitability for use of the runway at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran.  The airport authorities are taking action to address potential concerns, and we understand the International Civil Aviation Organisation is satisfied with this.

You should be aware that many of the planes flown on domestic routes in Iran are ageing.  There have been a number of accidents in recent years.

Sea Safety

Many areas of the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf are highly sensitive politically.  The waters around the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Persian Gulf are particularly sensitive and are militarised.  Unaware of this, in 2005 a British couple who anchored at Abu Musa were apprehended and they and their vessel were detained.  Similarly, in 2005, a French and German national were arrested, put on trial and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for entering the waters near the island.
Mariners should not attempt to dock at all or sail into waters around these islands without express permission from the Iranian authorities.


LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS

Islamic law is strictly enforced in Iran. You should respect local customs and sensitivities at all times, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
Local Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are enforced by law.  In any public place e.g. hotels and restaurants.  Men should wear long trousers and long-sleeve shirts and women must cover their heads with a headscarf, wear trousers (or a long skirt), and a long-sleeved tunic or coat that reaches to mid-thigh or knee. There are occasional crackdowns on dress particularly in the summer months and during times of religious commemoration.  If you blatantly disregard these rules you may encounter difficulties or even face arrest.  There are additional dress requirements at certain religious sites, where e.g. women may be asked to put on a chador (a garment which covers the whole body except the face) before entering.
The import, sale, manufacture and consumption of alcohol in Iran is strictly forbidden on religious grounds, with exceptions only for certain recognised Iranian religious minorities (not foreigners).  Penalties can be severe.
Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited.  Many such places are often difficult to identify and great care should be taken with photography in areas away from tourist locations, including urban areas. You may be arrested and detained on serious criminal charges, including espionage, which can carry the death penalty.  In April 2006 two foreigners were tried for espionage for photographing military installations in the Southern Port of Qeshm.  It is better to ask before taking photographs of people.
Behaviour regarded as inoffensive elsewhere can lead to serious trouble in Iran, particularly with regard to sexual relations, alcohol and drugs.  In general, it is best to err on the side of caution.  Relationships between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal, and while few Westerners have been prosecuted since the late 1980s, as recently as the late 1990s a Western businessman was detained for two years on such charges.  Unmarried partners and friends of the opposite sex travelling together should be discreet at all times in public. Iranian hotel managers could insist on seeing a marriage certificate before allowing any couple to share a double hotel room.  During the holy month of Ramadan, you should in general observe the Muslim tradition of not eating, drinking or smoking in public from sunrise to sunset each day, though there are exemptions for travellers who will be able to eat in hotel restaurants.
You should also be aware that:
  • Homosexual behaviour, adultery and sex outside of marriage are illegal under Iranian law and can carry the death penalty.
  • Penalties for importing and possessing drugs are severe and enforced.  Large numbers of convicted drug traffickers have been executed in recent years.
  • The importation of all alcohol and pork products is banned.
  • Women's magazines and DVDs/ videos depicting sexual relations are also forbidden.  Although cultural restrictions have loosened, there are periodic clampdowns and satellite dishes and many Western CDs and films remain illegal.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS
British nationals require a visa to travel to Iran.  The Iranian Consulate in London is at 50 Kensington Court, London, W8 5DB; tel: 020 7937 5225; fax:  020 7938 1615; (website http://www.iran-embassy.org.uk).  Visa applications should be lodged well in advance of your date of travel.  Women should wear a headscarf in their visa application photos.  All passports must be valid for a minimum period of six months after arrival.  You should make sure that your travel documentation is in order and check the expiry date of your visa before travelling.  If you overstay your visa you may be required to remain in Iran until the situation has been resolved.
Iran does not recognise dual nationality. If you are regarded as an Iranian national under Iranian law, you will be required to enter and depart Iran using Iranian travel documents.  This may apply if your father is Iranian, or if you are married to an Iranian man, even if you do not consider yourself Iranian.  If you travel on your Iranian travel documents you should ensure that you have the appropriate UK Immigration re-entry/residence endorsement or alternatively your British passport with you when you enter and leave Iran.  If you are in any doubt you should check with the Iranian Representation in the UK before travelling.  For more information on Iranian dual nationality issues contact the Consular Section at the British Embassy, Tehran – email – tehran.Consular@fco.gov.uk
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country.  For further information on exactly what will be required at immigration please contact the Iranian Embassy or Consulate nearest you.


HEALTH

You should ensure that you have comprehensive medical and travel insurance.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake.  Please see: Travel Insurance.
Medical facilities are reasonable in the major cities in Iran but poor in remote areas.
In 2006, there were reports of Crimean Congo Haemorrhagic Fever, mostly in the Sistan Baluchestan province.  At least three cases proved fatal.  Please see:  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs208/en/ for further information..
You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk.
Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
The Iranian authorities have confirmed that there have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in wild swans in Anzali Wetlands and in domestic poultry in the northern Iranian provinces of Azarbaiyan and Gilan.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) have also confirmed cases elsewhere in the region, although there have been no human infections or deaths reported.  There have been a number of confirmed human fatalities in Eastern Turkey, 45 kilometres from the border with Iran, which resulted in Iran closing this border for a short period of time.  The border has since re-opened. No human infections or deaths have been reported.
The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds; and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.
You should read this advice in conjunction with the Avian and Pandemic Influenza Factsheet, which gives more detailed advice and information.
NATURAL DISASTERS

Most of Iran is prone to earthquakes.  Small tremors occur frequently.  On 31 March 2006, several earthquakes occurred in the province of Lorestan, western Iran, killing around 100 people and injuring 1200. On 22 February 2005, an earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale struck Zarand in south-east Iran.  Official figures suggest at least 600 people died and hundreds were injured. On 26 December 2003, a large earthquake hit Bam, in south-eastern Iran, around 30,000 people died.  Hotels are now open again and independent travel to Bam is possible.
For advice on how to protect yourself in the event of being caught in an earthquake or tremor, please see: http://www.geologyuk.com/index.htm


GENERAL

If things go wrong when overseas, please see: What We Can Do To Help

We strongly advise you to register with the British Embassy in Tehran.  You can do this online prior to arrival at: British Embassy, Tehran.  Click on Services then Consular then Online Consular Registration.  Alternatively you can register in person at the British Embassy in Tehran, or by telephone +98 (0) 21 66705011-19.
You should carry some form of identification with you at all times.
Money
Credit cards are very rarely accepted and should not be relied upon as a means of payment.  There are no cash machines or ATMs in Iran that accept British bank cards.  It is also usually not possible to change travellers’ cheques.  You should bring sufficient hard currency with you (US$ or Euros are the most useful). Do not change money on the street, this is illegal.