Iran is on a most deserving rise as a travel destination, thanks in part to a government that’s been perceived to be more liberal in recent years. While it’s still common to be thought of as mad for traveling there, people are discovering the many wonders of this Middle Eastern country in greater numbers. And there’s no shortage of these wonders – from the ancient ruins of Persepolis to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in cities like Esfahan, and of course the very friendly citizenry which makes traveling around Iran a true delight!
It’s been a few years since I visited Iran but until today, I am still getting a lot of questions on how to get a visa to enter the country. Here, I share my personal experience in obtaining a tourist visa to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Most nationalities require a visa to enter Iran. The only exceptions as of this writing are Malaysian, Sri Lankan, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Azeri, Syrian and Turkish nationals.
Most other nationalities can apply for a visa either at an Iran embassy in their home country or obtain a visa on arrival. There are notable exceptions to the granting of visa on arrival however and this includes Americans, British and Canadian passport holders. These nationalities can only get their visas at the embassy in their home country.
Singapore and Philippine passport holders can opt to get a visa-on-arrival. This facility is available only for those entering by air at key airports which include Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Tabriz and Mashhad. Compared to elsewhere however, a visa-on-arrival isn’t as straightforward as an approval code still needs to be procured before being eligible to enter! While there have been many reports of people successfully getting a visa-on-arrival without an appoval code, it’s still wise to get one just to play it safe.
I applied for my visa via Pars Tours Agency. Their website can be found here. There are other agencies that handle approval code applications
My approval code application process:
- Contacted Pars Tours Agency via the email address found on their website. Got the visa application form, filled it out and sent it back along with a copy of my passport
- They charged me EUR 30 for processing which I had to remit to their account in Germany. At that time, they also charged me for the visa cost itself. This is no longer practiced and the actual visa fees are collected only upon arrival at the airport
- Around 2 weeks later, I got the approval code
I chose Shiraz as my airport of entry in Iran. The departure process from Singapore was quite uneventful. I took Qatar Airways from Singapore to Shiraz via Doha and at no point did airport authorities ask me for my Iran visa.
The flight to Shiraz from Doha took a mere hour. I was only among a handful of foreigners on the Doha to Shiraz flight. I arrived at the airport in Shiraz at around 4AM and had to call someone to man the visa on arrival desk. They got my passport and approval code and processed my visa which took about an hour. Other than the long wait, it was quite painless. They visa they gave me was a 15-day single entry visa.
Although not particularly straightforward in that they required an approval code, Iran’s visa application process is relatively easy. Unlike in other countries, I never had to submit my bank or employment details. Aside from the application form, the only other thing they took from me was a copy of my passport photo page. That being said, the whole process is definitely worth it!