Travel Consideration: Iran

Contributed By RealAdventures

Iran is a constitutional Islamic republic, governed by executive and legislative branches that derive national leadership primarily through the Muslim clergy. Shia Islam is the official religion of Iran, and Islamic law is the basis of the authority by the state. Shia Islamic ideals and beliefs provide the conservative foundation of the country's customs, laws and practices. Iran is a developing country. The workweek in Iran is Sunday through Thursday; however, many government offices and private companies are closed on Thursdays. Friday is a public holiday for all establishments. Offices in Iran are generally open to the public during the morning hours only.

Should you decide to travel to Iran despite the Travel Warning, a passport and visa are required. The Iranian Interests Section of the Embassy of Pakistan is located at 2209 Wisconsin Ave. N.W, Washington, DC. 20007; tel 202-965-4990. U.S. passports are valid for travel to Iran. However, the authorities have often confiscated the U.S. passports of U.S.-Iranian dual nationals upon arrival. U.S.-Iranian dual nationals have been denied permission to depart Iran documented as U.S. citizens. To prevent the confiscation of U.S. passports, the Department of State suggests that dual nationals leave their U.S. passports at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate overseas for safekeeping before entering Iran, and to use their Iranian passports to enter the country. To facilitate their travel if their U.S. passports are confiscated, dual nationals may, prior to entering Iran, obtain in their Iranian passports the necessary visas for the country which they will transit on their return to the U.S., and where they may apply for a new U.S. passport.

If dual nationals fail to obtain in advance the necessary transit visas for their return trip to the U.S., the travelers can obtain a "Confirmation of Nationality" from the U.S. Interests Section of the Embassy of Switzerland, which is the U.S. protecting power. This statement, addressed to the relevant foreign embassies in Tehran, enables the travelers to apply for third-country visas in Tehran. Dual nationals finding themselves in this situation should note in advance that the Swiss Embassy will issue this statement only after the traveler's U.S. nationality is confirmed and after some processing delay. Dual nationals must enter and leave the United States on U.S. passports.

U.S. citizens should exercise caution throughout the country. In July 1999, foreigners were taken hostage in Kerman and Bam. Travelers should avoid travel to areas bordering Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iranian security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched. Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.

Major crime is not a problem for travelers in Iran, although foreigners occasionally have been victims of petty street crime. In view of possible thefts, passports and other important valuables should be kept in hotel safes or other secure locations. The loss or theft in Iran of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travel to the Middle East and North Africa for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. These pamphlets are available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, via the Internet at, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at

Basic medical care and medicines are available in the principal cities of Iran, but may not be available in outlying areas. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Medical facilities do not meet U.S. standards and frequently lack medicines and supplies. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Iran is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Drivers all over Iran tend to ignore traffic lights, traffic signs and lane markers. Urban streets are not well lit. Therefore, it is very dangerous to drive around, especially at night. Sidewalks in urban areas only exist on main roads and are usually obstructed by parked cars. In the residential areas, hardly any sidewalks exist. Drivers almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.

Iranian authorities may permit travelers to bring in or to take certain goods out of Iran. However, U.S. travelers should refer to the section of this Consular Information Sheet regarding U.S. Government economic sanctions and the importation and exportation of restricted items in order to avoid any violation of the Iranian transactions regulations.

All luggage is searched upon traveling into and departing from Iran. Tourists can bring in and take out the following non-commercial goods, if they are recorded on the tourist's goods slip upon arrival at customs: personal jewelry, one camera, an amateur video camera, one pair of binoculars, a portable tape recorder, a personal portable computer, first aid box, and a camping tent with its equipment. Iranian authorities allow the departing passenger to take an unlimited amount of Iranian goods and foreign goods up to $160 (US), and their personal non-commercial equipment. Air passengers may also take one carpet up to 6 square meters. However, the U.S. government only allows the importation of up to $100 worth of Iranian-origin goods. Iranian authorities prohibit the export of antique carpets and carpets portraying women not wearing the proper Islamic covering, antiques, original works of art, calligraphic pieces, miniature paintings, different kinds of coins, and precious stones. They likewise prohibit the export and import of alcoholic beverages, weapons, ammunitions, swords and sheaths, military devices, drugs and illegal goods.

In addition to the U.S. government economic sanctions on trade and investment restrictions, travelers should be aware that most hotels and restaurants do not accept credit cards. Cash-dollars (not traveler checks) are accepted as payment. In general, hotel rooms have to be paid with cash-dollars. ATM machines are not available. Foreign currency has to be declared at Customs upon entry into the country, and the amount is entered in the passport. This amount can then be changed at the bank.

On May 6, 1995, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12959, 60 Federal Register 24757 (May 9, 1995), which prohibits exporting goods or services to Iran, re-exporting certain goods to Iran, making new investments in Iran and dealing in property owned or controlled by the government of Iran. The importation of Iranian-origin goods or services into the United States has been prohibited since October 19, 1987. The Office of Foreign Assets Control, Department of Treasury, provides guidance to the public on the interpretation of the order. For additional information, consult the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. Department of Treasury at the OFAC home page on the Internet at or via OFAC's info-by fax at 202-622-0077 or 202-622-2500. For information regarding banking and compliance, contact OFAC's Compliance Programs Division at 202-622-2490.

Children of Iranian citizens, under the age of 18, must have the father's permission to depart Iran, even if the mother has been granted full custody by an Iranian court. Even the non-Iranian wife of an Iranian citizen (who obtains Iranian nationality through marriage and must convert to Islam) requires the consent of her husband to leave Iran. In case of marital problems, women in Iran are often subject to strict family controls. Because of Islamic law, compounded by the lack of diplomatic relationships between the United States and Iran, the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran can provide very limited assistance if an American woman encounters difficulty in leaving Iran.

For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at's_issues.html or telephone 202-736-7000.

As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Iranís Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Iranís air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at

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