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Getting In

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A valid passport and visa are required for travel through Iran. Recently the rules for obtaining a tourist visa changed and it has become much easier for nationals of many countries to get in to Iran by obtaining a visa at the airport. Visa are issued at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran and also the airports at Mashad, Shiraz, Tabriz and Isfahan. The visa is valid for up to 15 days and costs approximately 50 Euro. You will receive the forms on arrival. You are advised to bring passport photos with you. However, in many cases they are not collected. Visas are only issued at the airport for holders of ordinary passports from the states below:

Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.

It is generally not possible to get an extension for the one week visa. There is a large stamp on it which specifically states "non-extendable". If you wish to stay for longer than two weeks, or you are not resident of one of the countries listed above, you will need to apply for a Tourist Visa before you arrive in Iran.

Although it has become easier to get a Tourist Visa in recent years, whether the process takes one day or one month depends largely on your nationality and the staff of the embassy you are applying to. Your best bet is to apply to the Iranian embassy in your own country at least 2-3 months before your departure, but it is possible in other countries. Women need to make sure they are the wearing the Hijab or a head scarf in their submitted passport-sized photos. US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. Transit visas are usually easier to get than tourist visas (usually for one or two weeks) and very useful for people traveling between Europe and South Asia.

Chances are your bags won't be searched for salacious material, but if found, it will be confiscated and will complicate your arrival. Don't try to bring in any magazines or books that might offend strict Islamic sensibilities or criticise the government. This has become much less restrictive in recent years.
By plane :
All international flights in and out of the capitol Tehran use the new Imam Khomeini International Airport based 57km southwest of Tehran. Domestic flights are still using Tehran Mehrabad which is located close to the city center. There are 70 smaller regional airports, for example those in Shiraz, Mashhad, and Isfahan, and these have daily flights to many international destinations.

Dubai has scheduled flights to many Iranian cities, including Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kerman, Lar, Mashhad, Tabriz, Kish Island, Bandar Abbas, Bushher, Zahedan, and is therefore worth considering travelling to Iran from. Flights are operated by Emirates (for Tehran), Iran Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air and other Iranian companies. Fares are relatively cheap on Iranian carriers, ranging from $100 to $250 for a return trip depending on your destination and time of booking.

Iran Air connects Tehran with some of the major European cities as well as destinations in Asia and Middle East. European companies landing in Tehran include British Midlands, Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia, Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines and Aeroflot. Some of the Middle East and Gulf airlines are Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Syrian Airlines and Air Arabia. 

There are no direct flights from USA at present, but you could travel via either Europe or the Gulf. Visitors from Australia or New Zealand should consider travelling via the Gulf.

By rail :
International passenger trains for Iran run weekly to/from Istanbul (Turkey) and Damascus (Syria).

- The Istanbul service runs via Ankara, includes a ferry over Lake Van, crosses the Iranian border then stops at Tabriz before arriving in Tehran. The journey takes 69 hours (3 nights travelling). Services leave Istanbul Wednesday evening (arriving Saturday evening) and Tehran Thursday evening (arriving Sunday evening). The train includes couchettes and a dining car.

- The Syria service does not cross Iraq, stopping at Aleppo before crossing the Turkish border, heading to Lake Van and running along a similar route to the Istanbul service. This journey takes 54 hours (2 nights travelling) leaving Damascus Monday mornings (arriving Tehran Wednesday evening) and leaving Tehran at the same time (Monday) with corresponding arrival in Damascus (Wednesday evening). Couchettes are available between Lake Van and Tehran, but the Syrian leg between Damascus and Lake Van contains only reclining seats. A dining car is only occasionally provided.

- The Quetta-Zahedan line connects Pakistan and Iran by rail. There is no connection of Zahedan railway with the rest of the Iranian Railway system, this means that you must take bus or other transportation from Zahedan to Bam which has a railway.

By car :
Many people drive to Iran via Turkey, in the absence of cheap flights.

By bus :
You can find Seir-o-Safar agencies in Istanbul, Antalya and Ankara to buy cheap bus tickets for Tehran.
You can also, depending on the political situation, enter from Pakistan via the border crossing between Taftan (on the Pakistani side) and Zahedan (on the Iranian side)as long as you have a valid visa for Iran. You can NOT get a visa on the border. Overnight buses leave from Quetta arriving in Taftan in the early morning, from there you can either hire a taxi to the border or walk a couple of kilometers. Once across the border, which can take some time on the Iranian side, you need to organise transport to Zahedan where buses depart for destinations in Eastern Iran such as Bam, Kerman and Yazd.
By boat :
There are some scheduled services from Baku to Bandar Anzali on the Caspian Sea and from cities on the Persian Gulf to cities on the Iranian coast. They are usually of low quality.

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