Entering Islamic Republic of Iran: Visa on Arrival

Entering Islamic Republic of Iran: Visa on Arrival

Iran has quite recently introduced visa on arrival, which is great news, however, just as with many bureaucracies, this one raises a whole bunch of questions, so here is my experience from 2017 February with EU passport. Note, that it differs from country to country and places you have been to (like Israel and Iran do not get along well).

Since making a visa in an embassy or consulate was too complicated (nearest consulate is in another country and the procedure is quite absurd), I had to take my chances with the visa on arrival. Spoiler alert – I got the visa, but frankly, I am still not completely sure what one needs in order to obtain it.

Before taking off

I made tones of research before going to Iran and my main concern was the visa. So here is the summary of what I’ve gathered before my trip and what actually happened at the border.

 

Iran has been my dream for years, so I was determined and equipped to enter: passport (valid for more than 6 month and with an empty page for the new visa), insurance claiming being valid in the whole world including Iran, yes, it is the same as with Russia, whole world concept does not include them, it must be specified separately (my insurance wouldn’t not do that, it stated simply Asia). I had fake-booked hotels to cover all my travel period in Iran, as without train tickets and specific plan I could not know for sure where & when I will be.



Accommodation

As booking.com has literally 3 options for accommodation and as you can’t really pay a deposit without an Iranian account, the booking confirmation is a simple e-mail (so obscure that one property kindly asked me to remind them a month before about my arrival, yes, remind them that I booked a room!).

 

I read on Trip Advisor that they might call up the property to verify your booking (one guy claimed it has actually happened to him), so if you book or fake book make sure the confirmation indicates dates, address and phone number.

 

And of course I had my outbound flight ticket and exactly 75 euro in cash.

Imam Khomeini International Airport

Imam Khomeini International Airport, almost midnight, we two and some 10 others are lining up at the visa on arrival window. An unpleasant guy is angrily shouting something through the window (he was the first and the most unpleasant guy I met throughout the whole trip!) and all the foreigners so lost and confused forming that instant desperate friendship with one another.

 

We are handed out forms, that we fill in while standing and moving with the line, and my turn comes before I’m done with mine. I start flashing all my homework, but the guy could not care less for all my papers. He grabs my passport, half-filled form and asks if we have insurance. From us two, he takes only one form, the half filled one with my name and my data, somehow it covers us both. Don’t ask. We are handed a piece of paper with hand written 2×75 (for nationals of Lithuania visa is 75 euro per person), we pay at a nearby window and that is it. I carefully ask the main guy what’s next, and he says ‘wait’ and smiles. And so we do.



Insurance

My friend took his insurance to the 3rd window to get it stamped, as advised. It was a world wide credit card insurance, so it did not state being valid in Iran, but it did indicate not being valid in Israel, which the official found pretty funny and he stamped it and added it being valid for both of us (or at least that’s what we think he wrote). Some 20 minutes and they start calling us by names and giving back our passports with the pretty fresh visas in them.

Be patient, it’s out of your control

It does somewhat feel like a no man’s land there, so my advice, keep polite, do not get irritated, do not question the system and you should be fine. And if you behave, a guard may give you saffron ice cream!

 

PS. At this point Visa on Arrival is available only at Imam Khomeini International airport.

 

PS2. One cannot enter Iran if in the past 12 months has been to Israel. I went to Iran a bit more than a year after I had been to Israel. However, I did not get my passport stamped in Israel, I was issued little cards upon arrival and upon departure, so judging by my passport there was no way to tell I had ever been to Israel. Nor I was asked about it or had to mark it in the form I was given at the airport, so am not sure how much it actually applies.