When you plan to travel to Iran as a tourist, you need to have a tourist visa before you can enter the country. In the past, you had to go to the Iranian embassy in your country or your region and apply for a visa. Since January 2016, Iranian government has changed the rules to apply for a visa and you can get your Iran visa on arrival at Tehran airport for 30 days. But how does it work?
My travel to Iran
In the Netherlands there is an Iranian embassy, but I decided to see how the visa on arrival at Tehran airport works, so I didn’t apply for a visa before I left. I’m a Dutch citizen en I travelled solo to Iran for 2 weeks in February 2017. I arrived to Tehran airport on a direct flight and had a return ticket for 2 weeks.
Read more: Is it safe to travel solo to Iran?
Please be aware, American, Canadian and British passport holders cannot travel Iran independently. You have to show evidence of a tour and you need to apply for a visa before your departure. Read about an experience from a British passport holder to apply for an Iranian visa in London here. A few other nationalities cannot get a VOA but need to go to the Iranian Embassy in their country. Please always check your local authorities and what rules apply for your nationality.
Most international flights will arrive at IKA – Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran. After you disembarked the plane, the route will lead you to the main hall. On the far left, there are booths for customs authorities. You can only go through direct if you already have a visa or don’t need one.
In the main hall, you’ll find:
- Insurance booth in the middle of the hall
- Office to apply for your visa on arrival on the right
- Booth to pay for your visa
What do you need to bring for your Iran visa on arrival?
Before you leave home, make sure to have the following things with you (in your carry on!).
- Valid passport that is still valid for 6 months after the duration of your intended visa
- CASH!! Either $ or € will do. I paid 75 euros but this seems to vary.
- Name and address + phone number of the location where you’re staying the first night. You do not need proof of your whole itinerary but authorities will check the first night.
- Proof of insurance coverage in Iran. If you do not have this, you can buy it at Tehran airport. Make sure your insurance company states: “valid in Iran” on the document. The words “world coverage” do not count. Obviously, the document needs to be in English.
Read more: Practical preparations for travel to Iran.
What do you need to do for a visa on arrival at Tehran Airport?
I arrived at 1.30 am on a Saturday morning. On my flight were various European nationalities. An African party and a few Asian travellers also applied for their Iran visa on arrival. None got declined.
Insurance for travel in Iran
First, you need to get your insurance paper stamped. Just wait in line at the insurance office for the guy to stamp your paper. If you do not have proof that your insurance covers you in Iran, you can buy insurance for €15. Or purchase it online before you go, for example via this company.
Read more: How travel to Iran ruined my future travel experiences
Iran Visa application forms
After this, you need to get to the main office and ask the man for the visa application papers. He will give you a white, blue and pink paper. You need to fill out all the details just like any other visa application form. I recommend not to mention you’re a blogger, journalist or photographer as your occupation. Just in case.
Pay for your Iran visa on arrival at the airport
Once you filled everything out, the guy at the office will give you a yellow post-it with an amount on it, which you can pay at the payment booth. Your credit card or debit card will not function, so you can pay in US Dollars or Euro. I paid € 75.
Read more: My 2 weeks in Iran Travel Budget – How much did I spent?
You’ll get a confirmation that you paid for your Iran visa on arrival and you’ll hand over all the papers and you passport to the main office.
Wait for your Iranian visa
Now you have to wait until they call your name. My hotel confirmed that the authorities called them to check if I had a reservation with them. A group of Belgium people confirmed their tour guide received a phone call too.
How long does it take to apply for a visa on arrival?
For me, it took a little over an hour. This was at 1.30 am and we were the 2nd plane at that time. We had to wait until the previous applications had been handled, before I could apply for my Iran visa on arrival.
It can take up 2 hours, depending on how busy it is at Tehran airport and how quick you are yourself! Make sure to calculate enough time if you arrange taxi or pick-up service before you leave home.
Final step for your visa on arrival at Tehran airport
As I was the last tourist standing, the guy didn’t have to call my name. I got my passport and inspected the visa.
Make sure your visa has all the correct information and check if you received the correct passport back!
Now, only one final step to take: go to the custom office and get that visa stamped! Welcome to Iran! You successfully applied for your Iran visa on arrival at Tehran airport!
Read more: 2 weeks travel in Iran itinerary
FAQ about Iran visa on arrival
Can you only apply for an Iran visa on arrival at Tehran airport?
>> No, you also apply for a visa at the other international airports of Iran. I met Ellen from Australia, who applied for a visa on arrival at Shiraz airport and it took her 15 minutes to get one.
Can I apply for a visa on arrival for Iran for more than 30 days?
>> No, the standard visa on arrival is valid for 30 days. In case you need more time, you can apply for an extension of your visa in Tehran or Shiraz.
Do women need to have a passport photo with their hair covered?
>> No, at least my passport photo shows my hair and this wasn’t a problem. None of the other women I spoke to mentioned this being an issue.
Can I apply for a multi-entry visa for Iran on arrival?
>> No, you can only apply for a single-entry tourist visa for Iran.
Read more: Best places to see the desert in Iran.
Pros and Cons for Iran Visa on Arrival
I wanted to apply for the visa on arrival because I could and wanted to see what it is like and tell you people all about it. Some other things to keep in mind when you decide if you apply or not:
Pro’s for applying for your Iranian visa at the airport
- You do not have to travel to an embassy to apply for the visa
- You do not have to leave your passport for multiple days to get a visa
- You can spontaneously visit Iran on a last minute decision
Con’s to applying for your Iran visa on arrival
- It might be cheaper to apply for the visa at the embassy
- You will not know if you get your Iran visa until the very last moment
- If you’re declined (for whatever reason) you have to find a flight elsewhere at the airport.
For me, the cost and time to travel to my embassy and leave my passport there for a couple of days was more inconvenient than to apply for the Iran visa on arrival at the airport. I did worry a bit if I’d get my visa for Iran on arrival but I hope this post eases your mind about how you can apply for your Iran visa on arrival at the airport.
Use an agency to get your visa
If you’re still not sure if you want to take the risk to apply for a visa on arrival at the Iran airport, you can use an agency to get your Iranian visa before. They save you the time and hassle of going to an embassy to apply. You need to pay a fee, fill out a form and they handle the application for you.
Apply for your Iran Visa with 1stQuest
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The most informative and useful travel blog I’ve ever read and I have been travelling for 55 years. Thank you very much. Gerry
I am now 75 and take things more easily. I will fly into Isfahan and am thinking of spending all of my 3 weeks in Iran, there. From my reading there is plenty to see and do in Isfahan. What do you think? Should I visit Shiraz or Yazd? Thanks again.
I’m glad you liked my article Gerry and happy you found it useful. Depending on what your interests are, you can spend all your time in Isfahan or travel around. I found traveling in Iran very easy and loved Shiraz, so you might want to explore more once you get there. I found each city to have its own character and unique vibe but you can always decide once you get to Iran. I think you’ll have a great time!
Thanks Naomi. I will take your advice and go to Shiraz.
Great information! I can already see myself parting with the money for insurance as I don´t even have a proper contract (mine renews annually and automatically..). I wonder if you can apply for arrival visa on border crossings on ground? Not sure from which country we´ll be entering but after reading this I´ll definitely take more time to prepare!
Zo leuk om jouw verhalen en foto’s te lezen! Maakt me helemaal enthousiast voor mijn eigen trip naar Iran. Ik vroeg me af hoe jij van het vliegveld naar Tehran ben gegaan midden in de nacht. Wij komen zelf geloof ik ook rond 1.30 aan, en het is best wel ver nog naar het centrum. Ben jij met een taxi gegaan en zo ja, is dit een beetje te betalen?
Dank je Ingrid! Wat leuk dat je ook binnenkort gaat. Ik kwam ook om 1.30 am aan en heb een taxi vantevoren geboekt. Dit was 20 USD en ik werd voor mijn hotel afgezet. Je kunt ook kijken of je via jouw hotel of hostel iets kunt regelen.
This was really interesting and useful 🙂 Glad you went to Iran, Middle Eastern countries are awesome and more people should go there.
Oh man, I really want to go to Iran, but I am a German/US dual citizen and I emailed the embassy and they can’t tell me, whether I can just go with my German passport or if I need to follow the procedures for US citizens. Not sure if this is something I should hide???
I don’t know about that but I do know stories of people travelling on their other passport. Just not sure what the consequences will be if you want to go to the US again.
I am a US-Serbian dual national, and went with my Serb passport and no one gave me any trouble or asked. I didn’t hide it or lie about it, it’s just that no one cared.