Imagine venturing off on a smooth highway. You see a dusty turn-off signposted “adventure” and you decide to veer off to explore what’s ahead.  Well, that dusty path is none other than Iran! From the spectacular mountains, ancient ruins, exquisite religious sites, and friendly people, Iran is all shades of amazing!

Though still one of Asia’s lesser-known destinations, Iran is one of the safest destinations in the Middle East for tourists from all across the world. For more than 30 years now Iran has seen peace, in contrast to its chaotic neighbors – Afghanistan and Iraq. Also known as the jewel in Islam’s crown, the country combines world-class architecture with a friendly and hospitable atmosphere.

When you think about it, what is there not to love about Iran? Iran’s natural beauty will take you by surprise with its diversity. Imagine the sky-high peaks of Mount Damavand (the tallest mountain in the Middle East), the wild desert plains of the Lut Desert (the hottest place on planet Earth) and the thick forests and waterfalls of Iran’s northern provinces. Adventurous tourists can get off the beaten track and see some of Iran’s best-kept secrets.

Iran has built strong diplomatic relations with some countries, and as such, they grant free visa travel to citizens of these countries. But before we go into that, let’s take a look briefly at Iran’s profile.

Located on the Asian continent, Iran is bordered by Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. The country is home to more than 80 million people. This beautiful Middle Eastern country should be revered travel destinations, but due to the political instability that rocked the country several decades ago, most international travelers are skeptical about visiting Iran. Fortunately, modern Iran is safe and peaceful- things have changed for the better.

Milad Tower, Tehran, Iran. Photo by Mahyar Motebassem on Unsplash

Citizens of Which Countries Don’t Need an Iranian Visa?

Getting your Iran visa is quite easy and straightforward. As a visitor, you’ll get an authorization code from a recognized tour company. After that, visit the nearest Iranian embassy, and get a visa. While the passports of a few selected countries are visa free and many can get Iran visa on arrival at designated Iran international airports, getting your Iran visa has never been easier

Most likely, you can enter Iran without a visa unless of course, you’re a citizen of the countries on the visa travel list. Iran is considering visa free travel for 60 countries in no distant time, but until then only a few countries have been fortunate enough to make the list.

Citizens of the following countries can come to this lovely Islam nation without a visa

  • Armenia – 90 days within 180 days
  • Azerbaijan – 30 days
  • Bolivia – 30 days
  • Georgia – 45 days
  • Malaysia – 15 days
  • Syria – 90 days
  • Turkey – 3 months
  • Venezuela – 15 days
  • Egypt
  • Lebanon
  • Serbia

These are the lucky countries. If you are not a passport holder from any of the countries listed above, then you must pay for your visa. There are many options for getting a visa – it’s either you get your Iran visa on arrival at the airport or make sure you have your visa handy before booking your flight to the country.

However, there is one exception. If you enter via Kish Island, citizens of countries who are eligible for an Iran visa on arrival have access to a 14-day free Iran tourist visa, but there is one thing to keep in mind – you have to spend most of your time in Kish. Well, you may be thinking, with the awesome sites and great architecture scattered all over the country, why spend your entire Iran vacation in Kish? Well, the truth is that most European expats living in Dubai or Doha spend their weekend in Kish.

Tourists in Iran

Tourists in Isfahan, Iran

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Visa on Arrival v.s Visa-Free Entry

Visa free entry simply means that you can enter Iran without a visa for a specified period which is otherwise known as landing permission, while visa on arrival means that visitors to Iran require a visa before they can be granted access into the country, but you can easily apply for an Iran visa on getting to the country.

Visa free entry is a mutual agreement between two countries, as they allow each other’s citizens to enter and exit their country without a visa. It‘s a great way to improve bilateral relationship, tourism and economic value between the two countries. Keep in mind that visa free entry usually has a specified period of stay – usually 90 days. It is important to note that Iran visa free entry also has its own travel restrictions.

enter Iran without visa

Iran visa free countries

Iran Free Trade Zones

Visitors from different parts of the world with their country passport can enter Iran free zones without a visa. This means tourists can access the country without a visa and enjoy all the splendors the country has to offer. Iran free trade zones allow visitors to stay visa free for no more than 14 days.

Visitors are allowed to stay on Kish Island or Qeshm Island for no more than 2 weeks without a visa, except for citizens of the US, UK, Colombia, Jordan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Somalia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

The free trade zones, located on Iran borders, are amazing destinations with great sites worth seeing. So if you are in the region and don’t have much time for travel, then you should spend time exploring Iran free trade zones.

Kish Island was ranked among the most beautiful islands in the world by The New York Times in 2010 and has gained a reputation as the fourth most visited holiday destination in Southwest Asia after Dubai, UAE, and Sharm el-Sheikh.

Qeshm Island is the largest island in the country and a beautiful eco-tourist destination.

Access to the free zone areas is easy thanks to international airports and frequent flights. So if you’re looking to leave the free zones to explore further inland, you will require a visa. Visa application is easy and straightforward in the free trade zones. All you have to do is to locate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Representative Office. The Iran visa application process takes no more than 48 hours if you wish to apply in Kish Island Foreign Affairs office. If you don’t have much time and feel the Iran visa process is taking too much them, then veer off to resorts island to get pampered.

However, passport holders who are eligible for a visa free entry into Iran don’t need a passport to exit the free zones and enter into Iran.

Iran free zones

Free zones of Iran

Iranian Visa Fees

Visa fee varies, and it depends on your country of origin, but typically, prices would range from 40 to 150€. Visitors traveling to Iran could easily get a visa with a 30 day expiration period, regardless you enter by flight or overland.

Is Iran Safe for Tourists?

Contrary to what you hear about Iran, it might be the safest country you’ve ever visited. For everyone who had step foot into this country raves about the friendly atmosphere, peaceful environment and hospitality of locals. The only way to find out about their friendliness is meeting with the locals in person. Regardless of your nationality, Iranians are welcoming and friendly.

Iran is rich in history and culture. You’ll be blown away the country’s magnificent architecture, spectacular landscape, and exotic food. But, above all, you’ll be left astounded by the friendliness of the locals. This is indeed a country you can’t afford to miss.

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