Foreign travel advice

Iran

Local laws and customs

Iran is a Muslim country in which Islamic law is strictly enforced. You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas. It is forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan.

In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June. See Travelling during Ramadan

Islamic codes of behaviour and dress are strictly enforced. In any public place women must cover their heads with a headscarf, wear trousers (or a floor length skirt), and a long-sleeved tunic or coat that reaches to mid-thigh or knee. Men should wear long trousers and long-sleeve shirts.

There are additional dress requirements at certain religious sites. Women may be asked to put on a chador (a garment that covers the whole body except the face) before entering.

Relationships between non-Muslim men and Muslim women are illegal, although few Westerners have been prosecuted. If a Muslim woman is found in a relationship with a non-Muslim man, she may be sentenced to be whipped.

Women should take extra care, particularly when travelling alone or with friends of the opposite sex. If you’re a woman travelling in Iran you should respect local dress codes and customs and avoid isolated areas. See these travel tips for women travellers.

Unmarried partners and friends of the opposite sex travelling together should be discreet at all times in public. Iranian hotel managers could insist on seeing a marriage certificate before allowing any couple to share a double hotel room. Homosexual behaviour, adultery and sex outside of marriage are illegal under Iranian law and can carry the death penalty.

Women’s magazines and DVDs or videos depicting sexual relations are forbidden. There are occasional clampdowns. Satellite dishes and many Western CDs and films remain illegal.

The import, sale, manufacture and consumption of alcohol in Iran is strictly forbidden on religious grounds, with exceptions only for certain recognised Iranian religious minorities (not foreigners). Penalties can be severe.

Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited. Sensitive government buildings and facilities are often difficult to identify. Take extreme care when taking photographs in any areas that are anything other than very obvious tourist attractions.

Using a laptop or other electronic equipment in public places can be misinterpreted, especially if it contains photographs. You may be arrested and detained on serious criminal charges, including espionage. It’s better to ask before taking photographs of people.

Penalties for importing and possessing drugs are severe and enforced. Many individuals convicted of drug offences, including foreign nationals, have been executed.

Importing pork products isn’t allowed.

The Iranian legal system differs in many ways from the UK. Suspects can be held without charge and aren’t always allowed quick access to legal representation. In the past, consular access has been very limited. The Iranian authorities don’t grant consular access to dual-nationals.

In some cases, we believe that individuals involved in commercial disputes with Iranian companies or individuals have been prevented from leaving the country pending resolution of the dispute.

As a representative of a British or western company, you may be subject to particular attention. British business people travelling to Iran should take appropriate steps to protect commercially sensitive information (including password protection of electronic devices (minimum 4 digits) and not taking unnecessary information with you). Electronic devices may be screened by customs officials on arrival and departure.

You should carry a photocopy of your passport for identification. Make sure you have included emergency contact details.