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Travel Safety in Iran: Separating Myths from Facts

I am still surprised that one of the main questions travelers ask before visiting Iran is if it’s safe.

As a foreigner living in Iran for several years, I tend to forget that the country can still be a source of fear. Because what I see in daily life is the opposite of what the mass media says about Iran.

These past years, Iranians have seen them all. Trump, threats of war with America, threats of war with Israel, sanctions, more sanctions, economic crisis, Covid19, floods… name them all! As if no plague doesn’t knock out Iran. On top of that, whatever efforts Iranians are making to promote the beauty and safety of their country to tourists, foreign diplomacy counters them.

In the four years that I have been living in Iran, I can’t recall the number of times my country’s diplomacy has placed Iran’s entire territory in “red”. It means that one should not travel to Iran, for whatever reason he or she has, due to lack of safety. While I’m writing these lines, peacefully sitting under summer’s clear sky, it’s still the case. My country warns of the risks of arbitrary arrests following the custody of a French couple.

We’re not here to debate about their detention; it is an unfortunate matter of politics. But the consequence is obvious: I can see the fear among people who consider traveling to Iran. They believe that they may be arrested for their clothes, for being with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or for taking the wrong picture.

This won’t happen. On the opposite, being a foreigner often protects you, in the sense that people and authorities will be more tolerant toward you and try to keep you in safety. After all, you’re not supposed to know all the rules…

When travelers send me messages to ask me these questions about safety, I often explain that there’s nothing new under the sun. For years, Iran has had this awful reputation abroad, due to politics, nuclear talks, and others, and foreign media mostly focus on these while talking about Iran. Not that they do not exist, But Iran should not be reduced to that, nor is the situation as dangerous as the new let it think.

Why I consider Iran is safe

Even if I didn’t travel to most countries in the world, I still have a reasonable travel experience, from Asia to Central America. I visited many European capitals and lived for many years in Paris, the capital city of my country. Iran was the first country I decided to visit solo. Why? Because after reading many travelers’ testimonies online, in particular women’s, I realize that it was safe to do so.

And my experience was beyond expectations. I felt safe from the very first moment I stepped in Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran. At that time, we could still enter the country without any visa or pre-authorization (it’s now necessary to have a visa grant notice before you collect your visa on arrival at the airport).

I was of course stressed and confused while trying to figure out how to get my visa, when an officer came to me and help me. I can recall he even said a few French words. A few minutes later I was on the road, taking a selfie with my taxi driver. And that’s how it started!

During my trip to Iran, I kept receiving help from perfect strangers, in particular during my numerous night bus trips, whether it would be from the drivers or from other passengers. Why did people help me so much? Well, first because I am a foreigner who didn’t speak the language.

While in Paris, you may struggle to find the right metro line as most people won’t even take the time to answer your question; here in Iran if you’re a traveler and you seem a bit confused, someone will come right away to check on you before you even ask.

Then, because I am a woman, men tend to be a bit more “protective” and would not let me go alone in the middle of the night. Yet, always be on your guard ladies. In Iran like in every country in the world, we unfortunately have to always be careful. That’s why my rule was (and still is) to always go toward women first if I need anything to be safe.

Is It Safe For Women To Visit Iran

Eventually, it’s important to note that Iranians, even if they pay special care and attention to foreigners, are generally helpful and relatively kind to each other. While living in Iran, many Iranians would tell me that if people are kind to me, it’s only because I’m a foreigner. That they are not between each other. What most Iranians don’t realize is that they are still warmer and kinder in general (so also to each other) than most people in Europe for instance.

Iran has changed, but you ’re probably not aware of it yet

Many of the negative views on Iran are due to the lack of updated information about the country. And how fast it has changed; and keeps changing. When women travelers think they have to be fully covered in black, when they think they can be arrested for being alone in a car with a man, it’s both the effect of what they have seen in famous Iranian movies which were directed just a decade ago, and what they can read in the news.

But the young people you can see today in Tehran have nothing to do with the previous generation! They are so similar to any European kid, because since decades, Iranians have been looking up to the western culture. If you want my opinion, I’d say it’s a shame, because Persian culture is way greater than what we now value in the west, which is mostly capitalism. But that’s how things are: most Iranians want to look like the West, for the freedom and the modernity they see there.

And that’s often a very interesting thing for tourists to see. How radically different is Iran from the image they could have from the media. How modern is Tehran; how technology-driven is the society; how educated is the young generation, about safety…

But, please, don’t take my word for it. Come to Iran, and see that difference by yourself. And if you’re not convinced yet, just search for other travelers’ testimonies. You’ll be amazed by what you find; by the thousands of travelers who had the best experience in Iran, and like me, felt in love with that country!

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5/5 - (5 votes)

Daisy Lorenzi

Daisy Lorenzi is a French writer and traveler who felt in love with Iran after visiting the country. In 2018, she decided to settle in Tehran and has been living in Iran since. She currently lives on Qeshm island, in the Persian Gulf.

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  1. I can not wait to come back and visit Iran again. The only reason for my delay is COVID-19. As soon as it is safe to travel, I will book a tour in Iran.
    See you soon :-).

  2. I back from Iran recently, I traveled alone and I simply loved this experience.
    I agree with your words, I felt very safe walking around, taking taxi etc. I had an amazing experience in Iran and I met nice people and with good heart that I can call now friends.

  3. Thank you for the positive review of my country. I’d like to add some extra information here though

    Well if it was 2017, I would certainly agree with everything you said. But since 2018, that the sanctions escalated and the trade embargo applied by the US, gradually it has been more unsafe and susceptible to theft, unlogical inflation & very low quality goods. This has led to many negative effects, with some being unspeakable. Just to name some more moderate ones: 1.Widespread illegal hunting, logging and fishing; which made some animals almost go extinct, made an ugly picture of the country’s nature, and increased violence especially towards foresters in forests & mountains etc
    2.Severe surge in theft, home robbery, smuggling, sabotage & distrust between people; because of lack of jobs, heavily unbalanced opportunities in education especially in universities and ridiculously expensive stuff which has to many being poor & hungry, recently there have been some very noticeable increase in kinds of thefts that are almost funny, like stealing city sewage trapdoors made of cast iron, phone & electricity cables in alleyways, street lamps, faucet handles of public toilets, literally any parts of cars etc
    3.Outdated, two-bit, rushed engineering in most cities, especially the houses & transportation; There are still “death wagons” made by Iranian carmakers like Saipa & IKCO which have very poor quality and are have long-outdated designs. And sanctions and the low quality cars that Iranian traders import from China don’t make it any better either. The designs of most newly built apartment buildings are also very simple, are mostly small & made in very cramped places, are so rushed that you’s think they are in 2D because their outward appearance are only covered by two sides, and the villas are mostly outdated. Newer ones are also very costly and challenging to build.
    Add shortages & illegal constructions in the wild, poor quality of water & air in large cities, very high number of traffic accidents & annual deaths from them, Brain Drain, unneeded sensitiveness on having hijab even though most people don’t care about it, high number of blackouts during winter & summer, visa limitations, extremely corrupt politicians etc…

    The result is a very sad, unsafe & isolated nation spiced up by daily rants from media outlets from over the borders… yeah almost no Iranian currently likes to live in this country

  4. We had visas to visit Iran last year but after the death of Mahsa Amini and the increased oppression of Iranian women, I felt in all good conscience I could not be complicit by visiting Iran with a scarf symbol of that oppression. Has anything really changed? I visited Iran in 1975 and found it to be a beautiful place with friendly people and freedoms of a secular country.

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