Foreign travel advice

Iran

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, you must stay at home. You must not leave home or travel, including internationally, unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so. Check the rules that apply to you in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you intend to travel to England, Scotland, or Wales from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure. If you do not comply (and you do not have a valid exemption) your airline or carrier may refuse you boarding and/or you may be fined on arrival.

Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details. You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

If you are legally permitted to travel abroad, check our advice on your country of destination. Some other countries have closed borders, and may further restrict movement or bring in new rules including testing requirements with little warning.

Safety and security

British nationals, in particular dual British-Iranian nationals but also persons only holding British nationality, face significantly greater risks of arrest, questioning by security services or arbitrary detention than nationals of many other countries. The security forces may be suspicious of people with British connections, whether through residency, family or employment. The risks are likely to be significantly higher for independent travellers than for people travelling as part of an organised tour. If you are involved in civil society, journalism or academia, or have links to any organisation perceived as being anti-Iranian, either within Iran or elsewhere, you will be at greater risk and should be cautious. These could include individuals with links to institutions based in the UK, or which receive public funds from, or which have perceived links to, the British government. Since reopening in 2015, the British Embassy is aware of approximately a dozen incidents of persons holding British nationality being arrested in Iran, with reports of others being subject to questioning.

There is a high risk that British-Iranian dual nationals could be arbitrarily detained in Iran. The Iranian authorities don’t recognise dual nationality for Iranian citizens and therefore don’t grant consular access for FCDO officials to visit them in detention. If you’re a British-Iranian dual national and you are subsequently detained in Iran, the FCDO’s ability to provide consular support is extremely limited, and the Iranian authorities won’t notify the Embassy as they view dual nationals as Iranian citizens. The FCDO’s ability to secure information from the Iranian authorities about the detention of a dual British-Iranian national will also be severely limited.

There is also a risk that British nationals, including those with a second nationality other than Iranian could be arrested without clear cause, questioned by the security services or arbitrarily detained. While the FCDO can provide consular support in these cases the Iranian authorities have in many cases failed to meet their international obligations to notify embassies when foreign nationals have been detained. You should therefore keep in close touch with family or friends back home. The Iranian authorities can be slow in allowing a consular welfare visit.

In all cases of detention in Iran, the FCDO has serious concerns that the subsequent judicial process falls below international standards.

Being present near protests, crowds or sensitive sites, having contact with Iranians who are of interest to the authorities for any reason or taking photographs (except in major tourist sites), may create suspicion. The importation and use of drones and satellite phones/equipment is illegal. British nationals in Iran should also remain culturally sensitive at all times during their visit. See Local laws and customs

The threat to British travellers - including of questioning, arrest or detention - is likely to be higher if there’s any national unrest, terrorist incident or an increase in tensions between Iran and the international community.

You should consider carefully the risks of travelling to Iran. If you choose to travel, you may wish to keep a low profile.

The Iranian authorities have in many cases failed to meet their international obligations to notify embassies when foreign nationals have been detained. If a dual-national is detained the Iranian authorities won’t notify the embassy as they view dual nationals as Iranian citizens. Even if requested, adequate consular access to foreign nationals isn’t always granted and is never granted for dual-nationals. You should therefore keep in close touch with family or friends back home.

Communications

The Iranian authorities have blocked or significantly slowed landline and mobile internet services without warning on a number of occasions. Such restrictions can be localised or nationwide, and can affect communication and location services on smartphones and other devices. You should keep an alternative means of communication and navigation with you at all times, and ensure that friends and family know your itinerary.

Local travel

Border areas

Border areas are particularly sensitive. The FCDO advise all British nationals against all travel within 100km of the Iran/Afghanistan border; within 10km of the entire Iran/Iraq border; to the province of Sistan-Baluchistan; to the area to the east of Bam and Jask, including Bam.

The area east of Bam and Jask and Sistan-Baluchistan are notorious for banditry and the main route for drug-traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The towns of Zahedan, Zabol and Mirjaveh are particularly insecure.

Some Iranian officials and media reports have falsely alleged a UK connection to separatist groups in Khuzestan and Sistan-Baluchistan. If you travel to these areas against our advice, stick to the main routes to avoid accidentally entering the numerous restricted or military zones.

A ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan was signed on 10 November 2020. However, tensions remain. You should monitor developments and local announcements closely, and keep contingency and departure options under regular review.

The Turkish authorities have now advised that their land border crossings with Iran are closed to private travellers. You will likely face severe difficulty in attempting to cross at these points, and should check in advance whether the situation has changed. You should not assume that the FCDO is able to offer assistance, since permission to cross is granted by the Turkish authorities.

Crime

There have been some attacks and robberies against foreigners. Young men on motorcycles or in cars have snatched bags from individuals either on the street or through open car windows/doors.

There have been attempted robberies by bogus policemen, usually in civilian clothing. If you are approached by anyone who claims to be a policeman, ask to see their ID and request the presence of a uniformed officer or marked patrol car. Don’t hand over any documents or cash, or get in to any vehicle.

There have been incidents of motorcycle taxis taking tourists to quiet locations where they are then robbed.

Take sensible precautions to protect yourself from street crime. Avoid carrying large amounts of money and keep your passport safe. Pre-booked taxis are safer than those hailed from the street.

Road travel

Visitors can drive in Iran on a foreign driving licence for up to 6 months, but it is advised to also carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). UK licence holders driving in Iran will need the 1968 version of the IDP. 1926 IDPs previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted for use in Iran. You can get IDPs over the counter from 2,500 UK Post Offices. You will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

If you’re planning to hire a car, check with your car hire company for information on their requirements before you travel.

Iran has a high rate of road accidents. Take great care when travelling by road, including by public transport and when crossing streets. If you’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor, don’t leave the scene. Wait until the police arrive to make their report.

The Iranian authorities sometimes set up informal roadblocks both in cities and on main highways. They are often staffed by young and inexperienced officers. You should always carry your identification with you and avoid getting into disputes.

If you wish to drive your own vehicle into Iran, you may be subject to Iranian customs and other regulations. There are special requirements for travellers wishing to bring motorcycles into the country. Women aren’t allowed to drive a motorcycle on public roads. Contact the Iranian authorities for details well before you travel.

Air travel

A number of airlines have announced a suspension of flights to and from Iran. Other commercial airlines are still operating. If you’re transiting a third country while travelling to or from Iran, you may wish to check their latest entry requirements.

On 8 January 2020, Iranian air defence systems mistakenly shot down Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 shortly after take-off from Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran. Investigations are ongoing. If you decide to travel by air, contact your airline or travel company for the latest information before travelling. Flight schedules may be subject to cancellation at short notice. There are alternative land and sea-based routes to enter or leave Iran.

In 2018, the International Civil Aviation Organisation carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Iran. You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

All aircraft operated by Iran Aseman Airlines and some aircraft operated by Iran Air have been refused permission to operate services to the EU.

Sea travel

Many areas of the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf are highly sensitive politically. The waters around the islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in the southern Persian Gulf are particularly sensitive and are militarised. In 2005, a British couple who anchored at Abu Musa were detained and French and German nationals were imprisoned for entering the waters near the island. In November 2009, a group of British sailors were detained for a week, along with their yacht, after accidentally sailing into Iranian waters in this area.

Mariners should not attempt to dock at all or sail into waters around these islands without express permission from the Iranian authorities.

You should maintain a high state of awareness and be alert to local and regional tensions which may affect your route. Vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, Northern Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab El Mandeb regions may be at increased risk of maritime attack.

In April 2015, a container ship with an international crew was detained by Iranian forces while transiting the Strait of Hormuz, following what the Iranian authorities said was a court order relating to a commercial dispute; the ship and crew were released 9 days later. Since May 2019, several commercial vessels have been attacked in and around the Gulf of Oman, and further vessels have also been seized in the Strait of Hormuz.

Political situation

There have been reports that protestors have previously been taken into custody. You should stay away from demonstrations, rallies, large crowds and areas where police and security forces are deployed. International news events can sometimes trigger anti-western demonstrations and western diplomatic missions have been the focus for previous protests.

There is the potential for protests or demonstrations to occur on Fridays after prayers. If you are unable to leave the immediate vicinity quickly, you should find a place of safety off the street, preferably indoors.

Consular assistance services

Consular support is limited in Iran. If you need consular assistance you should contact the British Embassy on telephone: +98 (0)21 6405 2000 to make an appointment.

In an emergency, including if you need an Emergency Travel Document, you should contact the FCDO in London on telephone: +44 20 7008 5000 (24 hours).

In the event of a sudden deterioration in the overall situation, there may be limits to the assistance the FCDO can provide, depending on the security and transport situation. You should not assume that the FCDO will be able to provide assistance to leave the country.

Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HM Passport Office) is the sole issuer of British passports. Since 2014, British passports are only issued in the UK and are no longer issued by Embassies or High Commissions overseas. At present, you can’t apply for a British passport from Iran.

HM Passport Office is working to provide a service for customers in Iran. In the meantime, if you’re in Iran and need to apply for a British passport, you should apply in a neighbouring country of your choice. You can find details of the application process on the GOV.UK website. If you need further information and advice, you should contact HM Passport Office.

If you’re a dual national and are arrested and detained, the British Embassy won’t be able to provide routine consular assistance as Iran doesn’t recognise dual nationality.