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Iran

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Summary

  • Exercise a high degree of caution in Iran. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the local and international media for information on developments which may affect your security.
  • Do not travel within 20 kilometres of the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders, to Sistan and Baluchestan province or to areas in Kerman province east of the city of Bam due to the dangerous security situation. See Safety and security.
  • Do not travel to areas within 10 kilometres of the border with Iraq because of the volatile security situation. Iranian security forces are active in these areas. See Safety and security.
  • Local and regional political developments can prompt large demonstrations. In late 2017, political protests took place in several cities across Iran. Some protests turned violent and there were reports of deaths and injuries. Avoid protests and large crowds. See Safety and security.
  • Terrorism is a threat, including in Tehran. On 7 June 2017, simultaneous terrorist attacks targeted the Iranian Majlis (parliament) in central Tehran and Imam Khomeini's Shrine on the southern outskirts of Tehran. See Safety and security.
  • Acts of political violence targeting foreign interests have occurred in Iran in recent years. See Safety and security.
  • Iran experiences regular, sometimes major, earthquakes. In November 2017, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Kermanshah province, causing numerous deaths and extensive damage to buildings and other infrastructure. See Natural disasters.
  • Iran doesn't recognise dual nationality. If you're a dual Australian/Iranian national, it is highly unlikely the Australian Government would be allowed to assist you're arrested or detained.
  • Take sufficient cash to convert to local currency (Iranian Rials) to cover all costs for the duration of your stay in Iran. International debit/credit cards are not accepted. It's not possible to transfer funds to Iran using the commercial banking system or money transfer companies. See Entry and exit.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.

Entry and exit

Visas

You'll need a visa to enter Iran.

You can apply for a 30 day tourist visa-on-arrival if:

  • you enter via an international airport and
  • your travel to Iran is for tourism and
  • you'll stay for 30 days or less.

The visa-on-arrival must be paid for in cash. Additional requirements may apply. If you plan to get a visa on arrival, contact the Embassy of Iran for detailed information on requirements before you travel.

In all other circumstances, you'll need to apply to the Embassy of Iran for a visa before you travel.  

Visas and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the Embassy of Iran for up-to-date information.

Iranian visas are a matter for the Government of Iran. The Australian Embassy is unable to intervene in visa issues, including visas on arrival.

Other formalities

If your passport has evidence of travel to Israel, including an Israeli exit or entry stamp, you'll be refused entry to Iran.

Strict import restrictions apply. See Laws.

If you're a dual national, you may be prevented from exiting Iran unless certain conditions are met. See Laws.

Passport

Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to get access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact an Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The local currency is the Iran Rial (IRR). Declare any foreign currency you have on arrival in Iran. If you don't, it may be confiscated on departure. You can exchange major currencies in all major cities, although a recent government clamp down on exchange offices can make it challenging.

You can’t use international credit or bank cards, or transfer funds into Iran using the commercial banking system or money transfer companies. Make sure you have enough cash to cover all expenses for the duration of your stay.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Tensions in the region have increased with the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria and rising hostility between Iran and Israel. Iranian authorities closely monitor and are active in areas bordering Iraq. The security situation within 10 kilometres of the Iran-Iraq border is extremely dangerous.

Protests and demonstrations throughout Iran can be triggered by political developments in the region, as well as local political tensions. Protests, demonstrations and other large public gatherings can turn violent.

Attacks on diplomatic premises in Tehran have occurred in recent years. The missions of the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia were attacked in November 2011 and January 2016 respectively. Periodic protests against some Western and Middle East embassies and UN missions continue.

  • Do not travel to within 10 kilometres of the Iraqi border.
  • Avoid all protests, demonstrations and other large public gatherings.
  • Monitor the news and other sources for information on planned and possible unrest. Avoid affected areas.
  • Plan your activities to avoid potential unrest on days of national or commemorative significance
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
  • If you're affected by transport disruptions, contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for assistance.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat in Iran, including in Tehran. An attack could happen anywhere, at any time.

In June 2017, simultaneous terrorist attacks targeted the Iranian Majlis (parliament) in central Tehran and Imam Khomeini's Shrine on the southern outskirts of Tehran. In recent years there have been bombings in the border areas of Sistan va Baluchestan and West Azerbaijan provinces.

Possible targets for attacks include embassies, hotels, places of worship, government interests and identifiably Western businesses and other interests.

  • Be alert to possible threats throughout the country.
  • In planning your activities, consider the types of places known to be terrorist targets and the level of security provided.
  • Monitor the media for any new or emerging threats.
  • Report any suspicious activity or items to police.
  • Take official warnings seriously.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it is safe to do so. 
  • Avoid the affected area in the aftermath of an attack because of the risk of secondary attacks.

More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Crime

Drug-traffickers and bandits are active in areas of Iran near Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Sistan va Baluchestan Province and Kerman province east of the city of Bam. Violent incidents occur regularly in these areas, including clashes between security forces and drug traffickers, bombings and shootings. Travel at night is particularly hazardous.

Outside these areas, the level of violent crime is relatively low but petty crime is common. Bags have been snatched by thieves in passing vehicles, with victims sometimes knocked down or dragged behind vehicles.

Women can experience unwanted attention and harassment.

Some scams target tourists. There have been reports of men in cars (purporting to be plain-clothes police officers) approaching foreigners and asking for wallets and identification, alleging they are looking for 'foreign drug dealers'.

  • Do not travel to areas within 20 kilometres of the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders.
  • Do not travel to the province of Sistan and Baluchestan or to areas in Kerman province east of the city of Bam.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables in a secure location.
  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid wearing expensive watches, jewellery and cameras.
  • Be alert to your surroundings, particularly at night.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Carry any bags away from the roadside when walking.
  • If you're female, take extra care when travelling alone, particularly at night.
  • If you're asked to produce your wallet or identification, ask a uniformed police officer for assistance.

Local travel

Road travel

Iran has one of the highest rates of road accidents in the world. You are six times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Iran than in Australia.

  • Check you have adequate insurance cover and familiarise yourself with local traffic laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Don't drink and drive.

More information: Road travel

Driver's licence

You can drive in Iran with a valid Australian driver's licence and an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Public transport is limited. Consider hiring a car and driver for long-distance travel.

Sea Travel

Many areas in the Gulf are sensitive because of security issues and territorial disputes. There are reports of vessel inspections, detentions and arrest.

Piracy occurs in the Gulf. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website. More information: Piracy page

Air travel

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has not audited the bodies responsible for air safety oversight in Iran. The European Union has operational restrictions in place for some of the aircraft in the Iran Air fleet because the airline has been unable to demonstrate they meet international safety standards. There are serious safety concerns about ageing aeroplanes on many of Iran's domestic air services.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Iran.

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Drug laws

Penalties for importing and possessing drugs are severe and include the death penalty. Foreign citizens have been executed for drug-related offences, including recently. More information: Drugs

Other laws

If you're involved in local legal matters, particularly with regard to family law (divorce, child custody or child support), seek professional advice. Make sure you know your rights and responsibilities.

Penalties for serious offences, including homosexual acts, include the death penalty and corporal punishment.

There are strong Islamic codes of dress and behaviour in Iran. Women are legally required to wear loose-fitting clothing which covers the arms and legs, a coat and headscarf at all times when in public. Men shouldn't wear shorts or sleeveless T-shirts.

While perhaps legal in some countries, the following activities are illegal in Iran:

  • homosexual acts for both men and women - more information: LGBTI travellers
  • failing to adhere to required dress standards
  • close contact between unmarried men and women (especially non-Muslims and Muslims)
  • being in a de facto relationship
  • photography near military or government buildings and installations, critical civil infrastructure or public demonstrations
  • encouraging the conversion of Muslims to another religion
  • behaving in a way considered to offend Islam
  • importing alcohol, pornography, pork products or short wave radios
  • importing printed or recorded Western material (including that of a religious nature).

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Iran does not recognise dual nationality.

If you're a dual national and you're arrested or detained, it is highly unlikely that the Government of Iran would allow the Australian Government to provide consular assistance to you. Iranian officials are unlikely to notify the Australian Embassy that you've been arrested or detained.

Under Iranian law, Iranian dual nationals must enter and exit Iran on their Iranian passport. Iranian immigration officials routinely confiscate the foreign passports of dual nationals.

Male Australian/Iranian dual nationals who have not completed military service may be prohibited from leaving Iran.

Female Australian/Iranian dual nationals may require the permission of their husband or a senior male relative to leave Iran.

More information: Dual nationals

Local customs

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to occur between early May and early June 2019. Take care to respect religious and cultural sensitivities, rules and customs. In particular, avoid eating, drinking and smoking in the presence of people who are fasting.

More information: Ramadan

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Some specialised medicines are in short supply in Iran.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel.

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last for the duration of your stay so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria is common outside the major towns, particularly in the south and west. Other insect-borne diseases (such as leishmaniasis and tick-borne encephalitis) are common in Iran. Ticks are especially active from spring to autumn.

Protect yourself against insect-borne diseases:

  • ensure your accommodation is insect proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking malaria prevention medication
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.

More information: Infectious diseases

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a risk. Exercise appropriate precautions if engaging in activities that expose you to risk of infection.

Other infectious diseases

Water-borne, food-borne, parasitic and other infectious diseases (including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, and tuberculosis) are common with more serious outbreaks occuring from time to time.

  • Practice good hygiene including frequent handwashing.
  • Boil drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering diarrhoea.

Air pollution

Significant air pollution occurs in major cities in Iran. Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.

  • Seek medical advice if you suffer allergies or respiratory difficulties.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in Iran varies. Facilities in remote areas are extremely limited.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to a destination with appropriate facilities such as London or Dubai. Medical evacuation costs could exceed A$100,000.

Natural disasters

You could encounter earthquakes and severe weather in Iran.

If a natural disaster occurs:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag).
  • closely monitor local media and other sources such as the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts.

Earthquakes

Iran experiences frequent earthquakes, including several major earthquakes in recent years. 

In November 2017 a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck Kermanshah province (in western Iran) causing significant loss of life and extensive damage to buildings and other infrastructure.

Aftershocks are common following a major earthquake and can cause further damage to already weakened structures.

More information: Earthquakes

Severe weather

Iran often experiences extremely high temperatures. The temperature can exceed 50˚C in some areas during the hottest months of the year (July-August). Heavy snowfall can also occur in parts of the country during the winter months.

Sandstorms and dust storms occur regularly.

More information: Severe weather

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, travel agent, travel insurance provider, tour operator, employer or airline.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: phone 125
  • Medical emergencies: phone 115 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues: phone 110 or visit the nearest police station

English speakers are generally not available. Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Tehran.

Australian Embassy

No.2, 23rd Street
Khalid Islambuli Avenue
Tehran IRAN
Phone: (98 21) 8386 3666
Fax: (98 21) 8872 0484
Website: iran.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Australia in Iran
Instagram: @AustraliaInIran

The working week is from Sunday to Thursday, in accordance with local practice. Check the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources