Travel to Iran: The Ultimate Guide

Samuel Clennett

Iran is a fascinating country with beautiful cultural sites, pristine nature and a traditionally warm welcome. Tourism was starting to pick up again in the country¹ - but as tensions between Iran, its neighbours and the US have begun to rise again recently, visitors have become more wary and government advice suggests extreme caution if you’re considering a trip to the region.

All that said, some independent travellers and tours are still making the journey to Iran, and there’s a wealth of ideas online about how to make a visit both rewarding and as safe as possible. We’ll take a look at this, and also touch on how a Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard may help you manage your finances as you travel if you’re covering Iran as part of a broader trip.

Do your research

It’s important to start by reiterating - the Australian government warns of escalating threats to travellers in Iran. At the time of writing, the advice is to reconsider travel in the region, with some border regions absolute no-go areas for foreigners.

Before you even consider a trip to Iran, you’ll need to do your own research and check the most up to date advice available online. Check out the Iran page on the Smart Traveller website - an Australian government supported resource for travellers².

How to get the most for your money

If you decide to head to Iran for your holiday, you’ll have a few logistics to figure out. Managing your money will be one of them. International debit and credit cards are not usually accepted in Iran - which means you’ll need to rely on cash or a local solution. Here are some thoughts on making that work - without it costing the earth.

What currency should I use?

When travelling to Iran it’s inevitable that you’ll need to carry some cash to convert once there - but what currency is best? Recent visitors suggest exchanging Australian dollars is possible in the larger cities - but large denomination euro notes, and US dollars printed since 1996 are more commonly converted elsewhere³. Make sure your notes are in pristine condition or local services are unlikely to accept them.

Know your exchange rate

If you’re reliant on carrying and exchanging cash, you’ll need to be able to quickly calculate if a currency service is offering a good deal or not. Knowing your exchange rates is essential.

A smart way to keep up with the exchange rate as it moves, is to get an online currency converter or app. You can then use this to compare the rates you’re given at local currency exchange offices against the mid-market exchange rate. It’s common to find there’s a markup added to this rate, which is an extra fee used to boost providers’ profits. Look for the rate closest to the mid-market rate you’ve found on your app, and then take a look at any upfront fees to check the overall cost.

Iran specific travel cards

As we’ve mentioned, you won’t be able to use your regular credit or debit card in Iran because of international sanctions⁴. Naturally, though, local entrepreneurs have stepped in to provide alternatives to suit travellers and visitors. You can therefore pick up Iran specific travel cards, which work similar to other pre-paid cards elsewhere in the world⁵,⁶.

Check out the options online before you travel, and balance the pros and cons of using one. Be aware that these cards are unlikely to have the same sorts of protection and insurance that pre-paid cards issued at home would have - but you may still decide you’re more comfortable with this risk compared to the alternative of relying solely on cash and carrying large amounts of dollars around with you during your visit.

Headed on after Iran? Get a specialist account for your travels

Accessing your money in Iran is a little different to in the rest of the world. However, if your visit to Iran is part of a broader trip, you may benefit from getting a specialist travel account to make it easier to manage your money as you travel.

Try a Wise borderless account to hold, send and spend your foreign currency all over the globe. You can keep dozens of currencies, and spend easily using the Wise borderless Mastercard, with no foreign transaction fees. All currency conversion is done using the mid-market exchange rate and there are no hidden fees.

Things to be aware of

Here are a few of the precautions to consider when in Iran, as advised by the Australian government at the time of writing.

  • Check with your airline to confirm your flight is still scheduled, as connections are subject to change based on the security situation
  • If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport you will be denied entry to Iran
  • Avoid protests, demonstrations and large gatherings as these can become violent
  • Take local advice and follow media reports to learn of changes to the security situation
  • Avoid potential terrorist targets, especially those with low security in place
  • Keep a low profile as foreigners may face arbitrary arrest
  • Women may face unwanted attention and harassment
  • Learn about local cultural norms and follow them as far as possible to avoid offence
  • Be wary about importing anything into Iran - there are many bans on items you may not expect, including printed or recorded Western materials

Take time to read the full list of advice online before you travel.

In the case of an emergency overseas, the Australian consular service may be able to offer support. To find out more about what they can - and can’t - do, check out the Smart Traveller website⁷.

Get to know the Visa situation

You can apply for a visa on arrival in Iran, if you’re there as a tourist and will stay for under 30 days.

Accommodation in Iran

You’ll be able to book a range of hotels in Iran, but the usual online booking options may not be available, or work as smoothly as you’re used to. You may be asked for your accommodation details - and proof of your booking - when you apply for your visa on arrival, so you will need to sort out something in advance of arrival, nonetheless.

Online advice is to be persistent, and use as many different methods as needed to secure your bookings⁸. If a hotel offers an online booking process that’s great - but if not, try emailing them or calling them instead. There are hotel booking desks you can visit in the airport upon arrival, but these are not 24 hour operations, and so relying on this option could be a risk.

Getting around in Iran

If you’re travelling independently you can expect getting around in Iran to be a somewhat colourful experience - but that’s what you’re there for, right?

The easiest options include hiring a driver and private car - which can be arranged through a hotel, at a price. Alternatively in some cities you can take a metro which can be easier than figuring out and navigating the alternatives.

If you don’t have the option of a metro - or fancy an adventure - have a go at the local taxis. Although some drivers will accept passengers who want to charter the taxi in its entirety, many more are operated as shared taxis, working set routes in the city.

If you charter a taxi, you’ll need to negotiate the price and will usually have to choose a major landmark as your drop off point. In the case of shared taxis, shout your destination - again a major landmark - to the driver, and jump in if he chooses to slow down. Take care where possible to avoid sitting with someone of the opposite sex - this may result in some rearrangement evry time a new passenger gets in. When you near your destination, pay, say thanks, and get ready to hop out. Read more online so you understand the system and are not left stranded on the roadside.

Sights to see

There are numerous travel bloggers who have published their routes and recommendations for a trip to Iran - offering a great place to start when planning a trip. Here are a few ideas to think about.

  • Most visits will start in the bustling city of Tehran - soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy the food
  • Head to Isfahan - also known as Esfahan - for the fabulous Persian architecture¹⁰
  • Take in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Persepolis - the ancient capital of the region, now outside of modern Shiraz¹¹

Before you go, and during your trip, use the government’s Smart Traveller website for up to date travel information, support and resources[¹²

If you’re headed to Iran, you’re in for an adventure few Western tourists have experienced. Enjoy the visit - and if you’re taking in other countries on your trip as well, don’t forget to get your Wise borderless account and linked Mastercard lined up before you go, to make managing your money straight forward.

  1. Travel to Iran
  2. Smartraveller - Iran
  3. Costs and Money
  4. Cards in Iran
  5. Iran Travel Card
  6. Iran Tourist Cards
  7. Smartraveller - Urgent Help
  8. Booking Hotels
  9. Getting Around
  10. LonelyPlanet Iran
  11. UNESCO - Iran
  12. Smartraveller

Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money without borders

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location