It is now nearly a year and a half ago that we got our visas for Iran. We have had over 100 travellers contact us to ask how we did it and we have sent additional information to all these requests. Despite asking everyone to revisit this site and provide updated info we have had only one story back… another success!
We can only conclude that things may have change since we travelled in Iran in Sept 2016 and possibly the information on how we obtained our visa is no longer valid. However below we post the updated info (Feb 2018) from the friendly traveller who managed to get a visa whilst in Turkey:
I said at the time I would let you know the outcome of my application and I am writing to do so now as I believe I have some very useful information for any Brit in Turkey trying to get a visa to enter Iran.
The reason for the delay in giving you this information is I wished to have finished my visit. That aside I can honestly say that Iran is the most hospitable country I have ever visited and if I can help other Brits to get there and experience it for themselves then I will be very happy.
The Consulates in Istanbul and Trabzon, as well as the Embassy in Ankara effectively told me to go away. However what happened in the Consulate in Erzurum was totally different. They were friendly and helpful right from the start and gave me the details of a travel company to approach to get the required application number.
However I did not have to book a tour with them or have a 24/7 guide and their fee was only $30. I did have to go back to the Consulate a number of times, but on each occasion they could not have been more helpful.
It did take the better part of a month to be issued, but that was the fault of Tehran for it is them that approve it and that effectively gave me another months travel in Turkey visiting places I might otherwise not have seen. The cost of the visa itself was £165 and was for 30 days and I was free to travel by myself when and wherever I wanted.
Another piece of useful information was that in Isfahan I was able to extend it for a further 30 days for a cost of £7 and it only took two hours to do and once again the staff in the passport office there were very friendly and helpful.
I spent a total of two months hitching round Iran as and when I pleased and I hope it won’t be too long before I visit it again. Hope this will be of some help to fellow travellers.
We think this info proves it is definitely possible to obtain a visa for iran for independent travel. Don’t give up – trawl the forums and traveller sites, embassy websites, contact warm showers hosts and solo/individual agents in Iran etc – glean as much info as you can. It’s definitely worth it if you can find a way of getting the authentication code. Below is our original blog on this subject:
Hello. I am a British passport holder and I’ve just completed a wonderful month of independent travel in Iran.
In the past it was tricky for British and American citizens to obtain a visa for Iran and 99% of tour agents (who organise your authentication code needed to obtain a visa) still claim that British and American citizens need to book onto a fully guided tour package to travel in the country.
So you might wonder how it is that I travelled independently without a guide with me 24/7?
From our own experience and what we have researched, there are seen to be no official rules stated anywhere on official sites which say Brits need a guide 24/7. For example nothing is mentioned about it on the UK foreign office website or from any official Iranian sites.
We believe (and it’s only our informed opinion) that Internet forums and the tour agencies are responsible for helping to keep this myth alive. Tour agents because they want to sell their services and Internet forums because they are, more often that not, written by travellers who are regurgitating other forum posts or their conversations with tour agents (or other travellers) without possibly having had any experience of travelling in the country themselves…
It IS possible to get a visa for Iran if you are British (I have no direct experience if you are American but we have heard it’s possible). But you need to contact the right tour company and the total cost of the LOI and the visa may be prohibiting for many British travellers.
If this cost really puts you off we have spoken to a number of Iranians while travelling here and they (speaking from personal experience) claim it is possible for an Iranian to apply for foreigners’ Authentication code, even if the foreigner is British. This way you wouldn’t need to go through a tour company at all, significantly reducing the cost.
If we had know that this was an option when sorting out the codes and visas we would have simply contacted a number of couch surfing and warm shower hosts to see if any of them were willing to apply for us at their local foreign ministry office. Now that we know how helpful, hospitable and generous the average Iranian is, we are almost certain we’d have found someone who would have been willing to try for us.
We found travelling in Iran very safe. I was treated no differently to Paddy (Irish) at the border, no mention of my being British from any of the guards and I’ve had my passport checked many times subsequently without any problem. Rumours amongst the travelling community (especially on the Lonely Planet forum) tell of hotels handing British travellers into the police and British travellers getting arrested. From our experience this is just scaremongering. I’m not saying that these things haven’t happened in the past or might happen to an unlucky individual in the future, but from my personal experience the only likely problem a British person will encounter in Iran is being smothered to death my Iranians caring, loving and hospitable attitude towards you!
If you’d like to know more comment below this post with an email and we can send you all the help and info we know.
Similarly, if after reading this you are also successfully (or more useful: unsuccessful) in travelling independently in Iran please visit this page again and share your experiences via the comments below for the benefit of other travellers.
All we can tell you is what we experienced and it’s up to you how you manage ‘the risks’ when visiting foreign countries.