Iran for Westerners?
Iran for Westerners?
I have the opportunity of going on an organised tour of Iran - to Tehran, Shiraz, Mashhad and Kish Island - later in the year.
I am a British Citizen, and the official website with information on the risks etc does not fill you with confidence.
Does anyone have any advice on what the situation is really like over there presently - particularly towards British/Western tourists?
Any stories or tips?
Anyone relying on official government websites for travel info. would hastily cross Iran off their list of places to visit. The facts don't support the official warnings.
Please search this branch and you'll find many reassuring comments from westerners who have travelled to Iran.
Barring a calamitous turn of events, things are unlikely to change. If there were to be such a turn of events, your tour would be cancelled, anyway.
All my stories from Iran are positive.
My tip: go!
"Providence has under its special care children, idiots and the United States of America." --Lord Bryce
>>the official website with information on the risks etc does not fill you with confidence.
...bearing in mind these are the same folks who allegedly discussed painting "UN" on the side of a plane and fly it over Iraqi airspace in the hopes that Saddam would shoot it down and start the war himself.
I spent the month of February in Iran. On the last day of ashura I was in a room with 20 highly charged Shia Muslims preparing to perform their holiest act of the year, "ghameh zani". They all had swords, the door was closed and everyone knew I was an American.
They served me cocoa and proceeded into the street, whereby they cut the tops of their heads open. They were some of the nicest guys I've ever met and repeatedly told me how proud they were to have me there.
Of course we assume some risk no matter where we travel - I was once told in the bathroom of Bar Rhumba in London that no one liked me because I was from the States - but I'd have to say Iran was one of the safest, friendliest places I've ever been. Iranians don't get out of their country much and they don't get a lot of visitors, so when presented with the opportunity they like to show off their legendary hospitality. In Kashan alone, I was given several free rides, a free after-hours tour of one Qajari house and a free pass to another as well as Tappeh Sialk simply because I was American.
It should be noted that as an American I had to have a guide. On the way out of the Esfahan bazaar I sheepishly asked him if the people would be as nice to me if he wasn't by my side. He looked at me perfectly befuddled and said, "Yeah. They *really* like you."
One of my favorite moments was near Hasht Behesht in Esfahan. Some kids were horsing around, asking me whether I favored Esteghlal or Persepolis, wanting me to tell them American jokes. A fully-fatigued soldier arrived with a very serious countenance. He dispersed the kids and interrogated my guide, demanding to know why our hotel hadn't registered me with the Foreign Police office. After sorting that out he turned to me and asked,
"You're an American?"
"I know American... literature. Beat Generation. Kerouac. Ginsburg."
My guide informed me that the three stars on his uniform indicated he had a master's degree. I told him I didn't think anyone in the American military had read Kerouac or Ginsburg. The soldier shook my hand, apologized profusely, impressing upon me that it was his duty to make sure I had a safe trip in Iran.
just another vote for go! u ll have a great time and the warmth and hospitality of the people is amazing no matter where u come from.-and u might be even more welcomed since they would love to speak with a british subject! dont see too many around! and dont worry the images of the fanatics we see in the west , its just what makes it in the news , not everyday life in the streets.
and just to add to steves comment.. despite the popular western image about them iranians are well educated people and value their culture a lot. think u ll have a great trip!
So then, Americans can get a visa for Iran? I was under the impression that we couldn't.
Really amazing. What a place to go!
Yes its possible, but as you can imagine its also a major pain in the butt for an Iranian visa facilitator to get an American into the country right now. Quid pro quo, its virtually impossible for an Iranian to visit the US at the present time.
As I said, under Iranian law, an American is required to have a guide or be on a tour to enter the Islamic Republic. My visa process started in September and by late December I received approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even then, I had to wait an extra week in Istanbul to get the authorization code.
A couple years ago the US State Department re-issued its travel warning concerning Iran. The next day the Iranian Foreign Minister released a press statement saying "Americans are safer in Iran than they are in America." On my second day we went to a Persepolis FC match. There I was with 40,000 screaming Iranian men surrounded by dozens of guards with semi-automatic weapons and a big picture of Ayatollah Khomeini looking down over the stadium. It was a blast!
The "Official" briefings are ALWAYS conservative, almost everywhere. I believe they are (1) prepared by people who maybe focus on the risks and negatives, their job is to deal with problems. (2) They may rarely leave their sheltered housing compound or fortress-like embassy office, except by chouferred car. (3) They frankly would rather you didn't complicate their life by getting lost or damaged. They also have official protocols they must follow.
So read them for what they are worth; but read between the lines. In country, it is often good to register with your Embassy and get the travel briefing -- but again you've gotta take it all with a lot of salt. You can also talk with some of the less "official" less restricted members of the foreign community. As a traveler, with real experience and street-smarts, you should be able to read the situation enough to set your own limits.
Even in a really dicy situattion, travelers are often ignored, looked-after or protected by local people on the street. Set your own limits, proceeding step by step. At each check point, re-assess and either proceed or not. Obviously don't be doing stupid things like taking photos between a mob of rioters and the police. Always stay very aware of your situation, and have an alternate escape plan. If it ever starts to feel wrong; act immediately, turn and get out.
With some basic fundamental travel skills, you should be able to travel safely most places. Sure there are a few high risk countries and specific high risk areas areas or high risk activities. But if you do your research, you can make your own evaluation. And, asking local folks who live there, or travelers recently there, should give a more accurate picture than the "official" briefings alone.
Most places, you'll be fine. Best wishes.
To get travel warnings in perspective, here's some extracts from the Oz warning for UK-
We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in the United Kingdom because of the risk of terrorist attack. Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security threats. Security measures remain at heightened levels and British authorities have warned that further attacks cannot be ruled out.
You should avoid all rallies and public demonstrations given their potential to turn violent.
Street theft occurs at tourist destinations and on public transport, including the London Underground.
When you are in the United Kingdom be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you.
“Before you swallow a bone, you should measure your asshole” Pastun Proverb
The UK Home Office website just says to avoid certain areas (border of Iraq). It doesn't say to not go at all. It also says the same thing about Israel, the Phillipines and various other places.
I've done lots of reading about Iran and am going there if I can get a visa. Currently UK citizens are apparently only being granted visas on an organised tour which I suspect why my application was rejected. I'm a dual national so currently applying on another passport.
Read through the various Thorntree Iran threads for suggestions on places to go, etc.
I think you'll be safe, whether you're with a guide or not.
I have always been fascinated by Iran history and culture and I have booked a tour leaving for Tehran next week, Dec 28; 11 people have decided they trusted my choice and are going to join me, but some of them ask me lots of questions related to what they read in western papers or watch on tv, which is not always encouraging a visit, as you may probably imagine. Any suggestions?
I went to Iran last July, fantastic place, never once felt nervy and the people were nicer than people back home!!!
GO!!! youll love it !
Today is feb 15, 2007. I am wondering if travel to Iran by an American male ( me) is more dangerous now than it was 1 year ago?
Iran isn't a dangerous country at all. just go there and see the greatest unsung highlight of Iran: its people!
Matt, come and see yourself! I have experienced many tourism based countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Emirates, Cyprus etc. Iran is less dangerous than many of them! but do not forget:
in no condition travel to borders of South East, South West, West and North East. Kish Island is as safe as Dubai. also Tehran and Shiraz.
and at last, you will see Iranian people are so friendly with western people.
hope to see you, call me if you needed any further information on +98 912 149 6126
take a look at Iranian handcrafts here! contact me if you were interested.
emad @ irxp . com
Everything I have read on Iran assures me that it is indeed a very safe country to visit and travel in. The Thorn Tree blog on Lonely Planet is a great place to read and confirm this ! Every traveller that visits Iran raves about the hospitality and kindness of the people and all would happily return again. I've been looking forward to visiting Iran for years and have read up a lot of the history and culture in anticipation. I won't be happy now until I finally get there !!
Geoffrey S Nash
I am a 24 year old female with dual nationality (my father is iranian, my mother is English). I've never visited Iran before and my boyfriend and I are very interested in going.
I was wondering what sort of twist my national identity would put on things. I will be travelling on a british passport of course. But apart from visa's, letters of invitation etc, where do I stand with travelling with my boyfriend as we are not married, and the governments stance on dual nationalities?
I've heared alot of horror stories, and although I know the people are fantastic, its the governing powers im unsure of...
That's the question that requires answer from some real legal experts. Have you tried consulting proper authorities regarding your problem? good luck dear... i hope someone out there will give you clear answers on that.
iluvmorocco is in Morocco (like, where else?) check out her latest adventures H E R E ! thanks! :)
My husband and myself are considering driving across Iran later this year, entereing from Turkey, we have been to Iran before but have never driven our own vehicle.
I bow down hlumby in the presence of such greatness.
Iran is a safe country with few reported security incidents involving foreigners. However, as in any country, normal, common-sense security precautions should be taken with valuables and your personal safety. Visitors should keep their passports separate from other valuables and maintain personal security awareness.
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