Myth Buster: I’m British, so I can’t travel independently in Iran

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.

Safe travels!

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52 thoughts on “Myth Buster: I’m British, so I can’t travel independently in Iran

      1. Hi Annie and Paddy,

        Thanks for replying. I meant your time in Iran. I’m interested to know more about how you organised it. Happy for you to email me directly if it is easier.

        Thanks very much.

        Tom

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      2. Yep if you send a reply here with an email and I can forward the email we have sent to others who have also asked. If you pit your email we won’t ‘approve’ the post so it won’t ever appear on our website. Annie x

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  1. Hi Annie and Paddy,

    Fab to read about your travels in Iran, my husband and i are interested in travelling to Iran alonwith our eight year old daughter, however we don’t want to be tied down with having to be with a tour or with a guide all the time. I have contacted some travel agents for visas last year and the response was we are unable to travel on our own or get visas as we are UK passport holders. I am actually Indian born with a British passport. Reading your blog has raised some hopes so would be really helpful you would be able to point us to how this was possible for you? Look forward to hearing from you.

    Many thanks
    Fatima

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    1. Hi Fatima, thanks for your message could you please reply here with an email address and we can send you what we have. We won’t publish your comment so your email won’t appear on our website.

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      1. Hi Annie and Paddy. Great post. I’m really interested in travelling to Iran – could you let me know more about how you sorted your visa! Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. hi guys
        me also interested in Cycling in Iran and other very off the beaten path destinations…
        good luck with your travels….
        I’m in the brecon beacons, merthyr
        if you need over nighting here sometime, if that ties in with your route to Ireland…
        see woodfired . cymru….
        ..
        cheers jamie

        Like

  2. Hi, this sounds like a great adventure. I would be interested to get info on how you obtained your visa to enable such independent travel in Iran.

    Good luck! Toby

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  3. Hey guys!! I’m SO glad my fiancé found your website. We’re leaving to cycle the world in 10 weeks and would love to talk to you about getting a visa for Iran and a bit about cycling the rest of the places you’ve gone. We’re kind of doing what you did in reverse. Please drop us an email and we can chat if that’s OK with you?
    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi guys! Great blog 🙂 I’m would also be very grateful for more details of how you organised your trip! Including my email here. Thanks!!

      Like

  4. Hi, great blog post, interesting read! I would like to talk to you about how you obtained your visa for Iran and your experience, could I message you directly?

    Like

  5. Hi! Great post, interesting read. I would love to know more about how you organised your visa for independent travel in Iran. Am planning to go there in May but running into the same issue of being British and only being able to organise an official tour. Could we email directly? Thanks so much!

    Like

  6. Hello,

    I’m an Iranian and my girlfriend is a British citizen, we are planning to go to Iran, We are living in Vietnam now, I looked around on internet and asks some agencies in Iran, all are talking about booked hotels and guide and this kind of things, I will be so happy to know how you did it, thanks a lot .

    Like

  7. Hello! I came across your page and i’d also like to find out which company you used if possible. Nice to see you had a great trip!

    Many thanks,

    Like

  8. Hi Annie and Paddy,
    I was hoping to take a few weeks off travelling around Iran maybe next month but then saw all this info about visas, guided tours, etc…as a Brit. Can you offer any advice about going their independently?

    Many thanks!
    brian

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      1. Hi, Thanks for sharing your trip! Me and my girlfriend are also looking to cycle through Iran as part of a much longer tour. Any info you’d be willing to provide regarding agencies to go through would be great and really appreciated 🙂

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  9. What a wonderful and epic journey! I would love to know more about your Iranian adventure and how you managed to receive your visa?!

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  10. Great post and what an amazing adevnture you’re on!

    I would love to travel to Iran later this summer with some friends from Italy and have been trying to find out about visa situation, but information is not forthcoming. I have some friends in Iran and not sure whether its easier for them to be my sponsor which can allow me to travel independantly? or whether its easier to go through an agency ( but hopefully not go on a tour, is that possible?) My Iranian friends would probably only want to join me for part of the trip, if that’s allowed? Any recommendations you have would be great! Thanks in advance.

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  11. Hi Annie and Paddy,

    We loved your blog and are hoping to travel independently in Iran as British citizens. Would be great to know how you managed it please.

    Many many thanks in advance.

    Luke

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  12. Hi

    I am Julian travelling solo by bike towards Turkey, Iran and the ‘stans.

    I am interested in travelling independantly in Iran and will appreciate any advice (particularly on how and where to get a visa) you can give me.

    Best regards

    Julian

    Like

  13. Hi

    Thanks for writing about your trip, it’s very interesting and useful! I am British and hoping to visit Iran independently in October. I would be useful to know how you arranged your visa.

    Thanks

    Tom

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi there! I really enjoyed reading about your travels, and you’ve piqued my interest in travelling to Iran. However, I’m a British citizen – with all the potential problems that entails. Would you please be able to send over the details on how you obtained your visa?

    All the very best, and thank you in advance!

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  15. Hi congrats on your travels and thank you for sharing. I would also love to know how you got your iranian visa. I’m Canadian and we appear to have the same restriction

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  16. Hello thank you for this website, just amazing amounts of useful information. Have travelled extensively around the Middle East and as a British citizen, Iran is the one place I haven’t been able to visit, and its my dream to do so. Would you be able to send me details of how you managed to do it?
    Thanks again for sharing and good luck with your future travels.

    Like

  17. Hi Guys,
    I am a British passport holder and have been hitching in Greece and Turkey for the past few months. I now would like to hitch hike through Iran, (for at least a month, longer if possible) to Pakistan and India. I already have visas for Pakistan and India.
    I would be extremely grateful for any information you could provide on how to get an Iranian visa so that I can continue my hitching trip.
    With many thanks.
    John

    Like

    1. Hi John, please send an email and we will send you the info we have – although it’s a year out of date now so you might want to reply to the comments above to and see if anyone has also been successful since us. We have never heard back from anyone re success or failure so are a bit out of touch with the situation now. We won’t post your email so it’ll remain private to just us.

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  18. Hi Annie & Paddy,

    I endeavour to cycle through Iran in a similar fashion to you guys, I’d be very grateful for any information regarding how you acquired your visas and organised your trip with all these restrictions in place for British citizens!

    Many thanks,

    Pete

    Like

  19. Hi Paddy and Annie,
    I am Iranian and I have a British friend who wants to visit Iran. I am also interested to know how you could travel to Iran without hotel booking and guide since I have asked several agencies and all of them say the same rules (Hotel+guide).It would be kind of you to forward the mentioned email for me too. Thanks! Touba

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Touba – it is great to hear from you!! Have you tried applying for a code for your friend directly with your local foreign office. As an Iranian our understanding is that you can apply for the code directly.

      If you would like the email too please send an email address here and we will send it to you.

      Annie

      Like

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