Iran Basics

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The Basics


Time: GMT +3.5 (+4.5 March to September)

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are standard (Plug types C and F).

Money: The unit of currency is the Iranian Rial (IRR) which is divided into 100 dinar, but the Toman is used by Iranians today as the equivalent of ten Rial. Most Iranians state the value of things in Toman instead of Rial. Prices are most often marked in Toman, with 1,000 or 1,000,000 Toman equivalent to 10,000 or 10,000,000 Rial respectively. It is best to travel with US Dollars, which can be exchanged upon arrival in the airport or banks in big cities or at street rate at street outlets. An increasing number of mid-range hotels and all top-end establishments accept Visa and MasterCard. Some of the more expensive Iranian hotels charge in US Dollars.

Currency Exchange Rates

IRR100.00 = USD 0.00GBP 0.00CAD 0.00AUD 0.00ZAR 0.03EUR 0.00NZD 0.00
Note: These rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Language: The official language of Iran is Persian, also known as Farsi. English is mostly spoken and understood by businessmen.

Entry requirements for Americans: United States nationals must have a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. All foreigners entering the country must report to the police within eight days.

Entry requirements for UK nationals: British nationals must have a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian nationals require a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals require a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. Passengers with a normal passport traveling on business can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days if holding an invitation letter issued by a government agency. The invitation letter must be issued at least 2 days before the arrival date. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. Passengers with a normal passport traveling on business can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days if holding an invitation letter issued by a government agency. The invitation letter must be issued at least 2 days before the arrival date. South African nationals have visa exemptions for 14 days if arriving at Kesh or Qeshm islands. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals require a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. Passengers with a normal passport traveling on business can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days if holding an invitation letter issued by a government agency. The invitation letter must be issued at least 2 days before the arrival date. New Zealanders are visa exempt for 14 days if travelling to Kish and Qeshm islands. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a passport that is valid six months beyond their intended stay. Visa required. Passengers with a normal passport traveling on business can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days if holding an invitation letter issued by a government agency. The invitation letter must be issued at least 2 days before the arrival date. All foreigners entering Iran must report to the police within 8 days after arrival.

Passport/Visa Note: Visitors require a passport (must be valid at least six months after period of intended stay). Visitors must hold return or onward ticket, all documents required for next destination and sufficient funds. Some nationalities requiring a visa can obtain it on arrival provided the visit is for tourist purposes, is for a maximum of 30 days, and that the passanger meets the specific requirements dictated by the Iranian government (the fee is between 50 - 150 EUR, subject to passenger nationality). 14 day visas for business travel (fee of 30 USD) are also available for purchase upon arrival, granted the passanger holds an invitation letter issued by a government agency that has been issued no more than two days prior to arrival. All visitors must report to the police within eight days of arrival. Visitors should be aware that if their passport contains an Israeli stamp, or any evidence of an intended or past visit to Israel, entry into Iran may be refused even if in possession of a valid visa. All non-Iranian reporters, journalists, photographers and cameramen require a visa. Admission will be refused to women not wearing Islamic head cover, scarf, long sleeves or stockings. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Travel Health: There are a few health risks to consider when travelling to Iran. Those intending to engage with animals or those going to rural areas should consider a rabies vaccine. Malaria is a risk in some parts of the country, and cholera outbreaks occur. Yellow fever certificates are required for those arriving from an infected country in Africa or the Americas. Do not drink tap water, including ice in drinks, and food precautions should be taken. Healthcare in the cities of Iran is good, but insufficient in rural areas. Travellers are advised to have full travel insurance and to consult with their medical practitioner prior to travel.

Tipping: Although there are many circumstances where small tips will do, waiters don't expect them. It's worth remembering that helpful Iranians probably deserve some extra appreciation to supplement their meagre wages. In most cases, tipping is an optional reward for good service. Fares in private taxis are always negotiable.

Safety Information: While there have been no major bombings since 2008, travellers should exercise safety precautions throughout Iran and pay attention to media warnings and cautions, especially while in the country. In the south-eastern region, Westerners have been victims of criminal gangs often involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband. Crime is relatively low in the cities, but there have been an increasing number of robberies by young men on motorbikes who snatch items from pedestrians. Anti-Western sentiment among certain elements of the population has resulted in violent demonstrations outside foreign representations based in the country, such as those against the British Embassy in 2011. However, in 2015 the British Foreign Office rescinded its warning against tourist travel in Iran and has since made efforts to reestablish a British Embassy in Iran. Travellers are advised to avoid demonstrations and large public gatherings. Travel within 60 miles (100km) of the Afghanistan border, six miles (10km) of the Iraq border, and 30 miles (50km) of the border of Pakistan is considered unsafe. Dual Citizens should carefully consider their journey to Iran because the government has been known to detain American-Iranian and British-Iranian citizens in particular, refusing to acknowledge dual citizenship. It is best to avoid all political activity and some travellers could be profiled because of their political affiliations in their home country.

Local Customs: Because Iran is predominately Islamic, dress is extremely conservative. Travellers should take care not to offend codes of dress and behaviour, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. During this time, foreigners aren't expected to fast, but should refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum in public. Behaviour that would be regarded as innocuous elsewhere can lead to serious trouble in Iran so it's always best to err on the side of caution. The possession and consumption of alcohol and drugs is strictly forbidden. Contact between non-familial members of the opposite sex is forbidden and punishable by law. It's best to follow the lead of locals and it's easy to remain respectful of these traditions with this in mind. Female visitors from the age of nine years old should wear headscarves in public, as well as dress modestly, cover arms and legs, and wear loose fitting clothing. They should also avoid looking into men's eyes too much, as this could easily be interpreted as an attempt to seduce. Iranians are incredibly hospitable and guests should expect to be offered plenty of food and drink when visiting. Although it is not necessary to keep eating food, it is important to accept some. It is customary for a guest to bring a small gift to their host; sweets, pastries, tea, or other such gifts are always appreciated. Travellers should be aware that homosexuality and adultery are crimes in Iran and are punishable by flogging and even death. Unmarried couples of the opposite sex travelling together should be discreet in public. Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited; if caught taking photos or with photos, travellers may be detained and face serious criminal charges, including espionage, which carries the death penalty.

Business: Many Iranian businesspersons speak English but translators can be hired if required. Business is based on the ability to effectively create personal relationships, as well as clear plans and presentation. Iranians are polite and conservative in their manner and the same respect is expected in return. Exchanging business cards is normally restricted to senior business figures and it is advisable to have a Farsi translation of details on the alternate side. Appointments should be made and punctuality is expected for business meetings, but visitors may be kept waiting by local businesspersons or government officials. Dress is formal and conservative and though Iranians do not wear ties, it is not negative for foreigners to do so. Women should dress modestly and cover their hair. Business gifts are quite acceptable and the same hospitality found in Iranian homes extends into the business environment. The concept of separating work and family is not rigid in Iran and in fact, many businesses are family run. Hence, familial value systems may enter the work place. In other words, it is important to consult your legal department as to the boundaries of your relationships with potential partners, including the giving and receiving of gifts and bureaucratic favours, a common currency in Iran. Friday is the Muslim holy day when everything is closed, and most businesses also close on Thursday; prayer times are also observed throughout the workday. During Ramadan, business hours may be shortened.

Communications: The international dialling code for Iran is +98. Although roaming is compatible with some international mobile service providers, it is far cheaper to buy a SIM card in Iran for the period of your stay.

Duty Free: Duty free allowances for visitors to Iran include 200 cigarettes (or the equivalent in tobacco products) and a reasonable amount of perfume/cologne for personal use. Alcohol is prohibited. All cameras and currency should be declared upon arrival. Medication should be in its original packaging with a signed letter from your doctor explaning your condition and the need for said medication.