Simplest way to get a visa for Iran?
January 8, 2007 6:05 AM   Subscribe

What's the quickest and least painful way for a citizen of the UK / Northern Ireland to obtain an Iranian tourist visa?

I'm a citizen of Belfast, Northern Ireland and wish to visit Iran this spring. I'm leaving for Turkey at the start of February and plan to travel overland, hopefully arriving at the Iranian border in late February or March.

As I live in Northern Ireland I'm eligible for dual British / Irish nationality, and am currently applying for an Irish passport in the hope that it will improve my chances of being granted a visa.

What's the current attitude towards independent travel within Iran? Will I still be required to plan and adhere to a strict itinerary?

Should I apply for a visa somewhere in Turkey, or through a tourist agency online?

Any other hints or tips about speeding up and simplifying the whole visa process would be much appreciated.
posted by Black Spring to Travel & Transportation around Iran (5 answers total)
I did the whole visa rigmarole last spring or so, and I found the consular staff where I applied (in Ankara, Turkey) to be accommodating and polite (like most other Iranians I met). I didn't have an invitation sorted out, so I had to wait for a few weeks, although I was allowed to pick up the visa in Erzurum (much closer to the border, and on the most direct route there). I'm told with a prearranged visa you can get it in a few days.

It was pretty expensive, around $100 IIRC, but there were no issues. If possible, you should apply in Istanbul though, as Ankara is best avoided by backpackers in my opinion.

And apart from language issues, Iranians of all stripes seemed to me to be very helpful, whether it concerned finding food, transport, touristy things or whatever. I had no issues with the authorities (except when I lost my customs declaration, which held me up a few hours on the way out). I think people realised that it was a bit difficult (I was alone) and I was shown nothing but kindness and helpfulness by ordinary people and those officials I came into contact with.

Regarding nationality, I'm Australian, so my experience might a little different from yours. I have heard that the authorities make things a bit more difficult for British citizens for whatever reason.

Oh, and it was maybe the best country I've visited so far. You're going to have a freakin' wonderful time.
posted by claudius at 8:00 AM on January 8, 2007

Forgot to mention itineraries:

I got an itinerary sorted out in my head, so that I could quote it to anyone who asked. I put the same one on all official forms and proceeded to completely ignore it.
posted by claudius at 8:02 AM on January 8, 2007

Would you think of applying for an Irish passport and travelling under that?

Anecdotally, Irish passports seem to get a warmer reception in that region.

I think you're entitled to one if you're a native of Northern Ireland

The passport office in Dublin would probably fast-track it for you - I've often heard good stories about them; they seem to go the extra mile.
posted by tiny crocodile at 9:56 AM on January 8, 2007

Ooops missed that bit of your post. I'd phone the passport office and explain you hope to travel quite soon.
posted by tiny crocodile at 9:58 AM on January 8, 2007

My friend (an American living in Oxford) got an Iranian visa from an agency that specialized in obtaining middle east visas for Brits. Their website is here. There may be a similar business in Belfast or Dublin or maybe you can work out something with them without traveling to London.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:27 AM on January 9, 2007

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