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 also successfully travel 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.