kami

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Visa to Iran (when you plan to travel solo there)

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Before I start writing properly about my latest trip I will tell you a little bit about getting a visa to Iran. What seemed like an easy and straightforward process turned out to be a really big hassle for me that cost me quite some nerves. But it was worth all the efforts as Iran was pretty incredible and I truly enjoyed traveling there!

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I knew I will be in Armenia at the end of April, for the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, and I figured I can take a bus from Yerevan to Tehran. It just seemed so easy in my mind, like the most obvious thing to do. Well, it probably is if you have an visa in your passport. I’ve read it can take a while to get a visa to Iran so I applied for the authorization code some 2 months before my planned arrival to Tehran to be on the safe side. I must admit I was slightly afraid the Iranian authorities will somehow find this blog and the fact I was in Israel but I got the code pretty fast and I was almost celebrating I’m going to Iran, feeling I’m already there and thinking things can go only easy from that moment and the hardest part is already achieved. Well, it turned out it wasn’t that easy…

I called the Embassy, asking if my code has arrived and one of the first questions I was asked by the nice lady working there was if I’m travelling alone. I explicitly confirmed – it turned out that wasn’t the answer she was waiting for. The second question – if I know anyone in Iran (no, I don’t) – destroyed my chances for getting visa to Iran even more. The nice lady said I should come with my documents and the consul might want to talk to me but I should better not pay the 50€ fee yet. I was still so sure I’d get a visa (because why shouldn’t I?), that I can easily prove the consul I’m a reliable traveler that I didn’t even consider things can go differently.

I happily headed to the Iranian Embassy in Warsaw (which happens to be few steps away from where I live), with the whole set of documents needed for the visa. Iran really isn’t the most popular travel destination – there were only 3 people in the queue before me (and I remember how much hassle it was to apply for the Chinese visa;)) The nice lady remembered me from the phone conversation earlier on that day, took a look at my documents which were fine but before taking my visa application she called the consul, telling him about my planned solo trip. He wasn’t so fond of me going there on my own and said I should get on the tour or have the support of the Iranian tour agency, only that way I can get a visa… And it was all because apparently he was just concerned about my safety as woman traveling solo are just asking for troubles…

I was emailing with the agency that got me the code but it wasn’t going well. They were claiming that by giving me the code they are supporting me and I can turn to them in case of the emergency. But that was not enough for the consul and the agency didn’t want to send the email to the Embassy saying they’re helping me out. At some point they just stopped answering to my emails altogether. I was constantly in touch with the nice lady from the Embassy and she was doing her best to talk the consul into giving me that visa (she perfectly understood why I want to travel solo and don’t want to join any tour and assured me that Iran is worth all the hassle) but the guy was just stubborn and kept saying no. I was slowly losing my faith in going to Iran and the time was really running out.

Finally the nice lady said that she really did her best but there’s nothing else she can do to change the consul’s mind. And so she came up with another plan for me. Since I officially didn’t apply for the visa I can still fly to Iran and get it at the airport. I already had a code, it’s valid for 3 months after issuing and it would be just a waste not to use it. The problem is each code is for a specific Embassy and so mine was for Warsaw. But the nice lady came up with the story that I just was sick and couldn’t get the visa on time in Warsaw so they sent me to get one at the arrival – that would explain my code.

I was fighting with my thought for a while. The time was running out, my departure to the Caucasus was getting closer and closer and I still had no idea about my plan after Yerevan, if I should go back to Poland, head to Iran anyway or go somewhere else. Eventually I started looking for flights – as that’s the only way one can get a visa on arrival – and it turned out I have to go back to Tbilisi to fly to Tehran (via Baku and Doha;)). This trip was getting more and more absurd but well, I’ve decided to go for it! After all I was so close to getting to Iran, one of my top places I was hoping to visit, that it’d be a shame to give up at the very end!

Yazd by night

So many people have told me I’m really brave (or stupid) to travel to Iran without a visa in my passport, I got so many question what I’ll do when they don’t let me in. But I simply didn’t think about this option, I was just focusing on the positive possibilities. At the airport in Tbilisi I was asked at the check in for my visa to Iran and when I said I will get one on the arrival the woman just asked if I have booked a flight back from there as they’ll ask me for sure about that and without any prove on the outward journey I might not be let in. Fortunately I had everything and she didn’t cause any more troubles, checked me in for my flights and I was free to travel to Iran. The moment I got my boarding pass with „Tehran” on it I started having some minor panic attacks and keep asking myself „what if…” but at that point there was no return!

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My flight arrived to Tehran at the calm time and as soon as I left it I could hear my heart beating like crazy. The moment of truth has came! I was afraid I will be the only one applying for the visa on arrival but it turned out there were some 5 more people. I got to the counter and well, the whole process took maybe 2 minutes (and then 10 more minutes of waiting). I was asked only 3 questions: if I have an authorization code (I explained why it is for Warsaw but they didn’t even want to look at it), what is my plan in Iran and if I have a hotel reservation (again didn’t even want to see the confirmation). That was it. I just had to go to the bank counter and pay the 50€ fee and few minutes later got my passport back with a shiny visa for 15 days! (That’s the downside of visa on arrival, in the consulate they usually give it for 30 days).

visa to Iran

There was just one more issue to solve – the insurance. Iran requires you to have one and even if I have an annual one, valid all over the world, the guy dealing with it said he doesn’t have this company in his list. But as soon as I said that I reconfirmed before coming that it really is valid in Iran too and I know people who have traveled to that country with that one and were fine and that was enough, I could enter the country. After few more minutes of waiting in the line for the passport control I entered Iran, for real! I was free to travel there and explore this incredible country. And as it turned out everyone was right, it really was worth of the hassle!

Citizens of all the countries but 11 (including USA, UK and Canada) can apply for the visa on arrival at 6 main Iranian airports. It is only a tourist visa, valid for 15 days. The whole process is easy and straightforward and depending on the number of people applying can take from few minutes to one hour. The authorization code is not needed for this kind of visa. You should have a reservation for the accommodation and an onward ticket (but you can always say you will take the bus to Armenia or train to Turkey afterwards). The fee depends on the nationality, for Poland it was 50€.
If you plan to cross the mainland border of Iran you need to have a visa before. You should get one at the consulate, it doesn’t need to be in your country. For that kind of visa you will need an authorization code – there’re some Iranian agencies who can get you one (just google them, they all reliable), I paid for mine 35€. The whole process might take some time so better start it around 2 months before your planned trip.
Citizens of USA, UK or Canada still can visit Iran, they just cannot go there independently and have to be a part of the tour group.
As for the solo female travelers: I think the issue I had in the embassy was only caused by the consul in Warsaw. Few months ago my Dutch friend easily got her visa in Amsterdam (and said it was one of the easiest visas she has ever applied for), I also know girls traveling solo who got their visas without any hassle in Trabzon (Turkey) or in Yerevan, Armenia.

You can also read Yomadic’s story about his visa to Iran.

What was the most difficult to obtain visa you got? Would you like to visit Iran?


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If you think of visiting Iran or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!

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14 maja '15

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There are 47 Comments.

  1. Really interesting and useful post. I think if I were to go to Iran (which I hope to do so somepoint in the future), I think I’ll use my Hungarian passport instead of my British one. I’m glad to see you had no hassle with travelling alone as a woman. We get such a distorted point of view in the Western media of the country.

    • kami
      13:40 16/06/2015

      You definitely should use your Hungarian passport! It will give you so much more flexibility and ease when traveling around! This trip just showed me how media create the reality we live in and how it often has nothing to do with how things really are…

  2. What a helpful lady that was! Although with lots of complications, I’m glad everything went well and you ended up visiting Iran. I look forward to reading more of your stories, Kami ;)
    Justyna | wAfryce.pl latest post…Meczet Narodowy Muammara Kadafiego: największy meczet w Afryce WschodniejMy Profile

    • kami
      13:40 16/06/2015

      thanks! I was really surprised at this lady too, you don’t experience this kind of nice people in embassies! ;)

  3. You made it , now you have to cover your head after landing . In Iran for women to cover their head is a must .

  4. Trochę miałaś przygody z tą wizą w Warszawie jak Artur Orzech :) kto wie, jak on napisał o tym książkę, to czemu Ty byś nie mogła? Super, że się udało! Dzięki Tobie mogę teraz rekomendować innym tą opcję! Pozdrawiam!
    Marcin Wesołowski latest post…Kim jest Wojażer? Historia prywatnaMy Profile

    • kami
      21:26 18/06/2015

      jakoś nie mam potrzeby pisania książek, pozostawię to innym osobom z lżejszym piórem, ale dzięki :) no ta warszawska ambasada jakaś pechowa. a na lotnisku naprawdę miło i przyjemnie! polecam bardzo!

  5. That is really great that everything went fine and you could see this amazing country. One week ago I met some people from Iran in Turkey. They made iranian food for me and told me a lot about their country. Last year I tried to get visa in Trabzon, but a new consul changed rules and now apparently it is not so easy to get visa there anymore.

    • kami
      21:44 18/06/2015

      I’ve heard that there’re some issues in Trabzon these days. Too bad as it was such a sure option! Now I really think the airport must be the best way to get an Iranian visa! And so nice of those people you’ve met! But Iranians are just like that!

  6. Całe szczęście, że cię przepuścili na lotnisku i pozwolili polecieć bez wizy! Mnie cofnęli na lotnisku podczas lotu do Birmy, mimo tego, że mogłam zaaplikować o visa on arrival. Wszystko zależy od linii lotniczych chyba…

    • kami
      21:53 18/06/2015

      a to ciekawe! a jak się tłumaczyli? tutaj stres był, ale na szczęście się udało! chociaż nie wiem co bym zrobiła gdyby coś nie tak poszło ;)

  7. Lucky you! Great you did it.

    Could you tell us more about this insurance issue – the company list? Is it a „secret” thing, or it is widely known? Are there Polish companies too, or only the global ones, more expensive for us in Poland? Thx :-)
    Szymon | Znajkraj latest post…Przez Dolomity na rowerzeMy Profile

    • kami
      22:42 18/06/2015

      Sadly I don’t know much about it and it must be some kind of secret list, the guy just checked something on his computer and when I told him (in my most confident voice) that my insurance is valid too he was just ok with that

  8. Ale super! Wiza to coś :) Przywieź sobie jak najwięcej pamiątek, nigdy nic nie wiadomo. Ja mam mnóstwo pamiątek z Iraku z lat 80-tych po Tacie. Bajka!
    Dolnośląski Podróżnik latest post…Wieża mieszkalna BiestrzykówMy Profile

    • kami
      22:43 18/06/2015

      nie dałam rady nic przywieźć – uroki podróży na 3.5 tygodnia z bagażem podręcznym… tylko herbatę udało mi się jakoś przetransportować, rewelacyjna jest!

  9. Very interesting–I’ve never really thought about visiting Iran, but I think I’ll have to add it too my list–it really does sound like a great country! Glad everything went well and you were able to visit!
    Jenna latest post…Food and Ferrari Tour of the Emilia Romagna Region in ItalyMy Profile

    • kami
      22:49 18/06/2015

      It certainly is great and you should definitely consider it for one of your trips, you won’t regret it :)

  10. 18:54 15/05/2015

    This might be the first post I have read on Iran and very interesting it is. I guess I have never really thought about Iran as a destination of late but am happy to know the ins and outs of the visa process. Glad you made it in without a problem and look forward to reading about your thoughts on the country.
    Tim latest post…The Stories of KrugerMy Profile

    • kami
      22:51 18/06/2015

      Thanks! Unfortunately Iran isn’t on the radar for most people and the country is really incredible and so well worth a visit! I really hope you will decide to go there one day :)

  11. Jestem pełen podziwu, udanej podróży :)

  12. Dzięki! Zawsze jest fun z załatwianiem wiz i tłumaczeniem się przy przekraczaniu granic (-:,
    Łukasz | Kartka z Podróży latest post…Maroko 4×4 (film)My Profile

    • kami
      23:28 18/06/2015

      i zawsze są nerwy, nawet jeśli nie ma się nic na sumieniu ;)

  13. Najważniejsze, że się udało :D

  14. wizy nigdy nie są tak łatwe jak się na początku wydaje ;) ale ważne że jest!

  15. It’s interesting how totally different each embassy seems to be from what I’ve read. I got mine in Istanbul and on my first call to see if they had my authorization code they couldn’t find it but when i called the next day they had it. Then when I got there, they were super friendly but couldn’t find it again! Once they did, absolutely no questions whatsoever and I think I left half of the form blank accidentally. Bizarre. So definitely worth it though, as I write this from my hotels serene courtyard in Yazd!

  16. Niedługo też mnie to czeka :)

  17. so it looks like the consul at the embassy in Warsaw is a simple pain in the neck – why do people have to be like that??

  18. Grunt, że się udało! Ta historia z panią w konsulacie mnie zaskoczyła. W polskich realiach to bym się spodziewała bardziej odpowiedzi „Konsul mówi nie, to nie. Do widzenia”. A tu proszę :)

  19. Kami jak to mówią w „czepku urodzona” :D ważne, że się udało :)

  20. Are you sure UK citizens can only travel as part of a tour group? I don’t think that’s correct.

    • kami
      23:29 18/06/2015

      yes I’m sure. They’ve changed the rules for British citizens recently

  21. Interesting overview Kami – I totally understand the reasons why you prefer to travel solo and not with a tour, and I’m so glad you got into the country in the end. If I’m heading to Iran I might end up just doing it all at the airport as well and save what seems to be like a massive hassle going through the embassies – thanks for the great tip!
    Meg Jerrard latest post…Top Tips for Handling Sickness or Injuries on Your Summer VacationMy Profile

    • kami
      23:31 18/06/2015

      Thank you Meg! I really hope you’ll decide to go to Iran soon, it’s an incredible country but it’s changing and opening to the world pretty fast!

  22. Najważniejszy jest efekt!

  23. Great article! I’ve never apply for any visa, so I don’t really know what a hussle it can be… I only heard stories :) Going to Iran also never crossed my mind, but I met an Iranian girl last semester and she assured me that Iran is beautiful and worth visiting.

    • kami
      23:31 18/06/2015

      It surely is beautiful so I hope you will change your mind and consider a visit to Iran soon!

  24. 02:41 28/05/2015

    Hey:
    1. I just found your blog. As others before me have shared, it is pretty awesome. :)

    2. Are all concerns about female traveler’s in Iran cliched? I have been looking into going after traveling in Jordan and absolutely loving it. I have read Iran is extremely safe, but just wonder if men in rural areas were a little conservative and approached you in uncomfortable ways?
    Yok latest post…6 ข้อได้เปรียบดีๆที่ได้จากช่วงเวลาที่ไม่คาดคิดจากการเดินทางMy Profile

  25. I was wondering how did you got the accommodation reservation, considering Iran is now allowed in booking.com and alikes… also if you actually did use the booked accommodation and finally, if it’s necessary booked accommodation to the whole length of your stay…?

    • kami
      22:09 28/07/2015

      I’m sorry for a late answer Ricardo! I only booked the first night in Iran and used this website: http://hotelyar.com/ which is like a booking for Iran. And I indeed stayed in that hotel, especially that I had to pay for it when booking online. As for the rest I just asked in the hotel to call and book the next place for me (that happened when I was going to Shiraz and it looked like it will be busy over the weekend) or I just came from the street to the place I found in Lonely Planet (in Yazd and Kashan). I Esfahan I used CouchSurfing.

  26. Odnośnie info w żółtej ramce, spotkaliśmy sporo osób po drodze, które miały problemy z agencją spod adresu: http://www.iranianvisa.com co jest o tyle nieciekawe, że na pierwszy rzut oka i z uwagi na pozycjonowanie w guglu wygląda to jak oficjalna irańska strona do załatwiania authorization code. Tymczasem ostatnimi czasy najwyraźniej próbują dorobić i zdarza im się prosić o dodatkowe pieniądze „bo cośtam”, co nie dość, że czyni cały proces sporo droższym to jeszcze przedłuża oczekiwanie na kod. Wygląda na to, że na tę chwilę lepiej wybrać inną agencję. (My skorzystaliśmy ze stantours zarówno na Iran jak i na Uzbekistan i ze swojej roboty wywiązali się b sprawnie)
    pozdr:)
    Rafal | Nakreceni.in latest post…Karakol – turystyczne centrum KirgistanuMy Profile

    • kami
      22:12 03/09/2015

      Dzięki, że piszesz, zaraz dodam info, żeby ludzie wiedzieli! ja korzystałam z tourcośtam i w sumie było ok, chociaż pod koniec mnie zirytowali. a ostatnio parę osób mówiło, że też zaczęli wydziwiać. z kolei o tym stantours sporo dobrego słyszałam, dobrze wiedzieć, bo może kiedyś się przyda, Uzbekistan tez mi się marzy :)

  27. Emilia
    00:38 12/01/2016

    Pod koniec lutego wybieram się od Iranu z rodziną i chcielibyśmy skorzystać z wizy on arrival. Nie wiesz czy na lotnisku także trzeba wykupić kod?

    • kami
      11:41 15/01/2016

      Kod wykupuje sie wcześniej, nie można tego od ręki na lotnisku zrobić. Można dostać wizę bez kodu, ale wtedy będą musieli Was sprawdzić w swoich systemach, więc wszystko dłużej trwa. I niby jest ryzyko, że mogą nie wpuścić wtedy, chociaż nie słyszałam jeszcze o takim przypadku, a znam sporo osób, które wyrabiały wizę na lotnisku. Ja miałam niby ten kod dla Warszawy, spytali się mnie tylko czy mam kod, ale oglądać go już nie chcieli. Powodzenia! Iran jest fantastyczny dość :)

  28. marzieh
    10:29 15/03/2016

    Hi dear KAMI.i am Iranian and Live in Tehran. i read your travel story to Iran and i am so happy to visit your page and your idea about my country. as you said Iranian are so hospitable and kind.
    i hope the world knows more and more about Iran civilization.
    thanks for introduce real face of Iranian to your page readers.
    wish to see more tourist in future in Iran.

    • kami
      22:22 18/03/2016

      Thank you for your nice comment Marzieh! I also hope there’ll be more and more tourists visiting Iran, you definitely deserve the (positive) attention of the world!

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