How to Travel to Iran as an American

How to Travel to Iran as an American

Iran isn’t on most peoples travel radar but it should be. It is home to home to 19 UNESCO registered historical sites and has been one of my top travel goals to accomplish for years. We don’t often hear a lot of positive things about Iran in the news but everyone I know who has visited has nothing but wonderful things to say. Iran is a beautiful country with incredibly hospitable people. As sanctions are lifted you can expect tourism to start growing quickly in Iran over the next couple of years.

Are Americans legally allowed to Visit Iran?

Many people believe traveling to Iran is similar to traveling to Cuba as an American but that is not the case. Americans can travel to Iran freely but they do need to know a few things about tours and visas before planning their trip. The relationship with Iran is strained due to many political and economic reasons but it is perfectly legal to travel to Iran as an American citizen. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to carefully consider the risks of traveling to Iran but it is legal. Here is how to travel to Iran as an American.

How to to Apply for an Iranian Visa as an American

Americans will need to apply for a travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affair (MFA) before you can apply for a visa. The MFA must approve your itinerary and your tour operator should be able to help you with process.

My tour company, Uppersia, completed the authorization number process for me. Once I had this travel authorization number I could apply for a visa. When I applied for the visa I included this reference number along with the rest of my paperwork. Overall, the visa process is pretty straightforward and includes a couple of forms, itinerary, flight information, and standard visa application information.

My Visa Service of Choice: Travisa

When you are ready to submit your visa information send it to the he Iranian Interests section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. This information is provided by Travisa. My total turnaround time was around 10 days for the visa. The invitation letter took closer to 30 days so starting this process 2-3 months before your trip is a smart idea.

Step 1: Get your travel authorization number from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign affair (handled by your tour company)

Step 2: Apply for your visa for Iran

Can Americans Travel Solo in Iran?

How to Travel to Iran as an American

Unfortunately, American citizens must by accompanied by a guide at all times while they are in Iran. This doesn’t me you need to have an extremely structured itinerary (although the itinerary will need to be approved) but your guide must join you as you explore new cities and sites if you stray from the group. Work closely with your guide and tour company to plan your trip so you don’t miss anything while on your group tour.

I have a number of “free days” worked into my itinerary where I can do as I please. This allows me to have some flexibility and break away from my small group tour.

Alternatives to Group Tours in Iran

Private tours are an option but they will be more expensive than a group tour. Depending on your budget a private tour is the closest thing to traveling solo.

A private tour is handy for acting as a translator, local guide, and driver. Of course this isn’t the same as traveling solo but for Americans it is the closest option right now for trying to travel without a group.

Small group tours are another great alternative. I don’t like large group tours which is why I traveled with Uppersia, who offer small custom tours of Iran. It is the best of both worlds to save money and have a small group to travel with around Iran.

Refusal of Entry into Iran

Admission to Iran can be refused to anyone with a passport containing a visa/stamp from Israel. If you have a stamp from Israel you might want to apply for a brand new clean passport to avoid any problems. They can refuse to offer you a visa for Iran if your passport has a stamp from Israel.

If you have traveled to Israel since 2013 you might have noticed it is standard practice to issue your stamp on a separate piece of paper and this avoids the problem completely. But keep this in mind when applying for a visa for Iran if you have traveled to Israel.

How to Travel to Iran Without a Visa

How to Travel to Iran as an American

Kish Island is often called the Pearl of the Persian Gulf. It is a small 36 sq. mile resort island in the Persian Gulf and you do not need a visa to to travel there.

At Kish International Airport no entry visa is required. This means if you would like to travel to Iran without a visa Kish Island is your only option. While the people there are just as friendly as on the mainland you will not get a true taste of Iran’s culture. Kish Island is tailored towards international tourists and is a resort island.

Westerners will be asked to show proof of hotel reservations and contact information for their visit to the island. Women will also be asked to wear on headscarf on arrival. If you do not have one they will provide one immediately on arrival at the airport when passing through customs and immigration. Visitors are permitted to stay up to 14 days on Kish Island with no visa.

Dress Code in Iran

It is important to respect the dress code when visiting Iran (or any country). Luckily, Iran does not have a strict dress code (when compared to many other countries in the Middle East) but there are still some important rules to follow.

Women’s Dress Code in Iran

Bring a headscarf and wear this the moment you step foot in Iran. When you are in public you need to have your head covered. Women should also stick to loose fitting clothing. Fashion is very important in Iran and contrary to what many believe, women are not wearing burkas but instead following fashion trends. Three-quarter length shirts are ok for women as well.

Men’s Dress Code in Iran

Men have it a lot easier in Iran. Stick to pants and don’t wear shorts. Long sleeves might be most appropriate in certain places but when it is hot a t-shirt is just fine.

Is Iran Safe to Visit

If you only watch Western media you might not thing so but Iran is a safe country to visit. Visitors, even Americans, will be welcomed by locals with open arms. Follow the local customs and culture and you should have a great time on your visit to Iran. Iran is a safe place to visit for Americans.

More Iran Resources

Visa Information at Travisa

Check out My Tour Company at Uppersia

I have been traveling to over 100 countries by using the methods I share on this site. My goal is to maximize every trip and make the most of my adventures. Join me on Instagram.

  • Jess Prima

    I’ve done Morocco and Turkey, but they’re pretty liberal for Muslim countries. What’s your insight on traveling to Iran as a solo female or with other females?

    • Iran is a a very welcoming country and when compared to many other countries in the Middle East women have a lot more freedom in their attire. Women still need to wear a hijab and tourists can stick to wearing that with loose fitting clothing and have no problems.

      And you won’t be able to travel as a solo American female in Iran anyway. You will have to be part of a group or with a private guide unless you can qualify for something besides a tourist visa. If you were traveling with a group of women on a tour I don’t think you would have any problems at all. I’ve heard nothing but good things about people who have traveled to Iran. There are some solo female European bloggers with trip reports out there as well. The ones I have read are very positive.

    • Mohammad

      Hi. Have you ever visited Iran?

    • Lulu Toes

      Look up my friend, Lois Pryce. She traveled solo, on her motorcycle through Iran, in 2013. This is just a sample of her wonderful experiences:

      Fingers crossed that she’ll write another book! good luck with your trip if you havent already been… Lulu

    • Rob Roy

      Actually, for those considering Turkey, it’s no longer the only Middle East democratic country. Erdogan has turned it into a restrictive place while he’s been in office, and he’s getting worse by the day. I love Turkey and had a wonderful experience there; people have the best personal service I’ve ever seen. The reason I’m on this site is I want to travel alone to Iran and will have to figure out how to go off by myself much of the time.

    • mediabrainwash

      Actually, I hear Iran is better. People do not constantly try to rip you off.

    • Rob Roy

      I went to Iran last October, just in the nick of time. Because of Trump, Americans aren’t getting in now (and by the way, if you have a passport with an Israeli stamp, you can’t get in either; but when I was in Palestine, through Israel, my passport wasn’t stamped so I got into Iran). Iranians (Persians) are simply wonderful. Men there told me Iranian women are higher in status than men, and the men around him laughed and told me it was true. I was welcomed every place I went, with people waving from down the block or across the street because they new I was American. They said they like Americans, just not our government. Heck, I don’t like our government either. Everyone I met wanted to talk to me. It’s a wonderful country. The fact that the USA will probably bomb it, because the Israelis want on it, makes me sick. Iran decided in 2003 to never have a nuclear weapon; their nuclear is for energy and medical isotopes. AND Iran has never attacked another country….unlike the US and Israel who feel free to attack anywhere they wish.

    • mediabrainwash

      Lucky you, you are in the chosen group Israel. I was going to voluteer in Palestine and never allowed past the border. Detained and questioned. The ban is lifted and i stopped in embassy in Armenia. They want 2000 usd per week for approved tour. So I will give my tourist money to Turkey and Iraqi kurdistan.

    • Rob Roy

      I thought we were talking about Iran, but you mention Israel. I went to Palestine and went into the West Bank simply because my driver drove around the checkpoints. I probably would have gotten past anyway by not speaking about my support for the Palestinians. I went there to meet a family whose children I help support in Tal Karem, an Arab village in the West Bank, but if I told that to the Israelis, They wouldn’t have let me into the country. The IDF is a well-funded, highly trained terrorist group. I’ve seen them in action.

    • Joie

      for those considering Turkey …. Turkey is not in the fxn Middle East, its considered Near East, the majority of it is located in ASİA and it has never been colonized, so definitely doesnt give any rep for the small part thats located in Europe.

    • Rob Roy

      You are right. I was thinking too loosely of the area. Thanks for writing. I should have known better, having actually been there. Cheers.

  • Thanks for the tips and i will head to iran by following these steps.

  • great tips! i’ve been twice solo to iran, and i loved it. i’m glad you enjoy your trip! stay safe!

  • Lisa Solomine

    Hi, I am an American woman with Iranian step-family in Tehran. I am interested in visiting Iran as a solo female. Does anyone know if I would qualify for a VISA, or, would I have to sign-up with a tour? Thank you.

    • Dana Shahandeh-Stacy

      Did you get any responses on traveling alone vs. with a tour?

  • Amirhossein


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  • lee

    Whilst traveling (solo) in Pakistan back in 2005 I met several travellers who’d just come through Iran and raved about the experience. However when I tried to apply for travel visa at Iranian Consulate in Islamabad I was turned down not once but twice; I was basically told American’s were not allowed to travel through the country in the manner those travellers from Holland, Poland, and Norway had described. I will try again now and see if I can finesse a visit to what I’ve heard is a fascinating place to visit.

    • mediabrainwash

      They are not. Neither are people from the UK or Canada. The government of Norway and The Netherlands did not screw Iran in the past. We can thank politics and the capitalist, imperial for this. Now the minority of open-minded Americans will suffer. The one’s of us who wish to visit Iran are likely not stupid patriots.

  • Dana Shahandeh-Stacy

    I am an American planning to travel to Iran with UPPersia in September. I have ex-inlaws in Tehran and Shiraz. What is the likelihood that I will be able to visit with them once I am there??

  • Trying to break down the prejudice and show another face of Iran is a nice initiative, and you are right in most insights.
    However, writing that “Iran is a safe place to visit for Americans” is pretty misleading (regardless of group travel), and you, as a blogger with decent readership, should consider carefully if it is correct to make such a claim.

    I’ve been imprisoned in the country for six months and shared cells with some Americans that suffered bad torture and prolonged imprisonment. The only reason why they suffered their ordeal was their nationality. . . .

    Matej, author of the

  • Ali

    Hi guys I’m Ali and I’m Iranian.If anyone wants to travel here or has questions about coming here I can help guys can have contact with on Telegram.My Id is @Ahmad_ca.

  • Alexis Norambuena

    I am Chilean and I have traveled to Iran, it is an amazing country

  • Mags Ford

    is this information all still valid today? which uppersia tour did you do?

  • Alan

    We, two senior US citizens arrive in Tehran by plane at 5 AM on the 20th and are advised by our local guide we must be transferred to our hotel only by the guide service. Quite expensive. Is it correct that we may not hire a taxi? And we are not allowed to walk about to find evening restaurant? Thank you in advance.

  • Chuck Thomas

    Any estimation on the costs for a round trip ticket from NYC and then 6 weeks in county (is that an appropriate amount of time?)? what are the time frames of the visa’s that granted? Also what can I expect cost wise total? Also I talked to one person (American) that was denied a visa and they never found out why. Is this common? Is there a way to better your chances of being approved a visa.?

    • Chuck Thomas

      I was way overestimating my possible stay.. Change from 6 weeks to 2 or 3 in above question.. thx

    • Jim Y

      The cost of your ticket varies during the holidays and summer when a lot of American/Iranians are visiting home. Round trip tickets should be around $800 and your best arrangements are stops either in Turkey or any of the european cities. The best time to visit is either Spring or Fall, again, depending on where you would like to visit since the country is very diverse in terms of climate. Accommodation is around $100 per night in big cities for a 4-5 star hotel and a lot cheaper if you could rent places referred to as Suites or Villa. It would be best to travel with a tour or have a friend that can accompany you since English is not spoken widely

    • Chuck Thomas

      Hi, thx! Those are great tips! I am almost positive it will be this 2017 spring AND..

      I am the type of traveler that would prefer to save money and experience as much as possible as opposed to spending money on accommodations. AND…

      I would definitely want to use a tour company from the start including getting my visa…

      Any other suggestions given that description?

    • Jim Y

      Just an observation- Traveling with tours will be set as where you would stay and you won’t have a say. What your interests are will determine what tours you will end up selecting. Some are for nature and others for historical places. I don’t know the tour companies but once you narrowed down your selection let me know and I’ll look into them and give you my two cents

    • Chuck Thomas

      Again great tip… I am more interested in more cultural/historical sites vs. natural. But not against seeing some nature sites. I am a traveler that doesn’t mine roughing it but more into the people than the landscape.. I’ll look for some tour groups and let your know. thx -CT

    • Rob Roy

      Since Trump banned Muslims, Iran retaliated and now the borders are blocked to Americans (I don’t blame them), Even when I went, Americans had to have a contact there and could not travel alone after the tour was over, the other five on the tour could go on longer on their own. I don’t think you can go at this time at all. If you ever get to, remember you have to pick up your visa in Washington, D.C….no where else. But don’t book anything, such as a flight, because you won’t get your money back. Wait until Iran clears its borders to Americans.

  • Tehran is very rich in culture, we very little know about howz life style of Tehran is ? What are the places to visit in Tehran ? but some of places we identified as worth seeing in Tehran. Read the list

  • Andrea

    Thanks for this post,it is very helpful.By the way,do you know someone willing to travel,or study or even work in Australia?Here’s some tips

  • Rentacar

    The forbidden fruit is sweet. I wish I could travel to Iran with my friend to make exclusive articles for our blogs!

  • I remember the time when Iran was forbidden for visiting. It is incredible that you can come and enjoy this beautiful country now.

    • Rob Roy

      No longer, thanks to Trump’s ban.

  • Rebecca

    I’m looking to do the Mongol rally which is driving from the UK to Mongolia.I will be passing through the most northern part of Iran. My rally car will be decorated with all kinds of ridiculousness and American flags. Will I have problems going through Iran as an overly obvious American?

    • Mike

      Rebecca- I have the exact same plan. Thru Turkey, in at Doğubeyazıt, then out the other side thru Saraghs.
      Planning on 2018 not this year- would love to discuss details. if you would like to share info!

    • Saba

      There won’t be any problem

    • Rob Roy

      You can’t go there at all at the present moment, thanks to Trump’s ban on Muslims.

    • Mohammad

      No at all. You face no problem there. I promise. If you want to know more about Iran you can be in touch with me ,

  • Benji

    There’s now a reciprocal ban on Americans but does it apply to Americans visiting Kish Island? Anyone have experience?

  • Negar

    Hey guys im a persian, if you like to come to iran or know more about it you can massage me on telegram, @negoosf (i konw american dont have telegram but anyway)

  • I really like this post!

    I’d love to travel to Iran one of these days, but only with a small independent group. I’ve been to Egypt and Tunisia many times, and it’s a bit iffy at the moment, so a tour it is!

  • Samaneh Polo

    The rules for American, British and Canadian passport holders are a little bit different. These tourists should be joined in a guided tour package. It means that every single detail of their trip should be provided by a single travel agency while every single component has been fixed in advance. As a result, these tourists are not allowed to buy single services of the agencies.

    for ,get free Iran visa or more information you can read this