DestinationsHow-ToIran Tourism

Traveling to Iran as a US Citizen

Essential Travel Advice for US Citizens Visiting Iran

Traveling to Iran as a US citizen, you step into a world steeped in history and cultural richness. Positioned along the Persian Gulf, Iran offers American travelers a unique blend of cultural sites, historic landmarks, and art from the ancient Persian Empire.

Picture yourself exploring the impressive marble ruins of Persepolis, meandering through lively bazaars, and being captivated by the colorful light in Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque. Each moment in Iran is a step into a vibrant and memorable journey.

Can Americans Visit Iran?

Yes, Americans can visit Iran, but there are specific considerations and requirements they need to be aware of. Due to the complex relationship between the United States and Iran, American citizens must follow certain guidelines to ensure a smooth travel experience.

  1. Visa Requirements: Americans need to apply for a visa in advance and cannot obtain a visa upon arrival in Iran. The process involves submitting an application through a licensed travel agency, which will be forwarded to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for approval and it takes up-to 30 working days. Read more
  2. Guided Tours: American tourists are required to travel as part of a guided tour. This means they must be accompanied by an approved guide at all times.
  3. Restricted Movement: There may be limitations on where Americans can travel within Iran. Certain areas might be off-limits due to government regulations.
  4. Banking Restrictions: Due to sanctions, American credit and debit cards do not work in Iran. Travelers need to bring sufficient cash for the duration of their stay.

Preparing for Your Trip

The first step in planning your Iran adventure is selecting a tour operator, a crucial partner in managing the visa process. You have options to consider, including joining an Iran group tour for a shared experience or opting for a private tour for a more personal journey.

If you seek a customized experience, SURFIRAN offers tailor-made trips, designed specifically to meet your interests and preferences.

These personalized tours can encompass everything from exploring historic sites to immersing in local culture, ensuring your itinerary aligns perfectly with what you want to see and do in Iran.

Navigating the Visa Process

After selecting your tour, SURFIRAN will initiate the visa application process for you. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran processes these requests and provides an “Visa Authorization Code.” Once you receive this code, you’ll need to visit the “Iranian Interests Section” at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, DC.

Here, you can submit your visa application, using the Authorization Code as a crucial part of your documentation. This step is a key milestone in your journey to exploring Iran.

Remember, US travelers in Iran must travel with a tour guide. This ensures a smooth and enriching travel experience. Prepare to dive into an unforgettable adventure in Iran, tailored specifically for US citizens!

Iran Visa Requirements for US Citizens

To obtain your visa for Iran, start by getting an authorization number from a licensed tour operator like SURFIRAN. This process requires submitting key documents:

  • A Scan of Your Passport: Ensure it’s clear and legible.
  • Detailed Tour Itinerary: Provided by your chosen tour operator.
  • Personal Information Document: Including your full name and birth date.
  • Professional Resume: Detailing your employment history.

Keep in mind, the visa process for US citizens typically spans about 45 working days. This duration may vary due to holiday schedules or specific application details. Planning ahead is crucial to ensure you have your visa in time for your trip.

Note Interests Section Of Iran In The United States

Once you receive your visa authorization code, you’re close to the finish line in securing your visa.

For most Americans not residing in the Washington DC metro area, the next step involves mailing your visa application and passport to the Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy.

Iranian Interests Section Of The Pakistani Embassy
Iranian Interests Section of the Pakistani Embassy

Due to the absence of an Iranian embassy in the United States, the Pakistani Embassy handles Iranian consular affairs. When you’re ready to apply for your visa, prepare a package containing:

  • Completed Visa Application Forms: Double-check for accuracy.
  • Authorization Code: Provided by your tour operator.
  • Passport Photo: Follow standard passport photo guidelines.
  • Your Passport: Ensure it has at least six months of validity.
  • Money Order for $120 USD: This covers the visa processing and return mailing fee.
  • A Return Envelope: For your passport and visa’s secure return.

Mail this package to: 1250 23rd St. N.W., Suite #200, Washington, DC 20037. Standard processing time is generally 2-3 weeks. However, there is an option for expedited processing for an additional fee, useful if you’re short on time.

Interests Section Of Iran
Location of Iranian Interests Section in Washington DC

If you’re located in or near Washington DC, consider personally delivering your visa application documents to the Pakistani Embassy. This approach is especially convenient and often faster. The embassy, representing Iranian interests, is located at the same address: 1250 23rd St. N.W., Suite #200, Washington, DC 20037.

When you visit, bring the following required items:

  • Your Authorization Code: Provided by your tour operator.
  • Completed Visa Application Forms: Ensure all sections are accurately filled.
  • Passport Photos: Adhere to standard passport photo specifications.
  • Your Passport: Check for a minimum of six months validity.
  • Money Order for +$90 USD: This fee covers the visa processing without the mailing costs.

The embassy accepts these submissions on weekdays during two time slots: 8-11 AM and 2-4 PM.


Iran Tourist visa

Visa and Master Cards in Iran

Travelers heading to Iran need to be aware of a significant financial consideration. Due to the US trade embargo, international credit and debit cards, including Visa and MasterCard, are not accepted in Iran. This restriction also means visitors cannot withdraw cash using these cards from ATMs in Iran.

Iran Tourist Card

Orienttrips Iran Tourist Card

The OrientTrips Tourist Card offers a convenient and secure way to manage your expenses while in Iran. It eliminates the hassle of carrying large amounts of cash and provides an efficient alternative to non-functional international banking cards.

By using this card, you can easily make transactions and access funds, ensuring a smoother and worry-free travel experience in Iran.

Best Iran Tours & Travel Packages SURFIRAN

Solo Travel in Iran as an American

As a US traveler, enhance your solo journey through Iran by partnering with a local guide.

Can U.S. Citizens Travel To Iran By Land Or Sea?

It’s important to know that land and sea entries and exits are not an option for American citizens.

Air travel remains your sole gateway to explore Iran’s unique culture and heritage. Staying updated on these travel restrictions is crucial for a seamless and compliant journey.

Ensure your travel plans align with these guidelines for a smooth experience in Iran. Keep informed and enjoy stress-free travel!

Currency Exchange Offices (Money Changers In Iran)

Travelers arriving at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran will find convenient currency exchange facilities. For those who need to exchange currency upon arrival, this service is a great relief.

Additionally, Tehran and other major cities in Iran boast a network of currency exchange offices. These are licensed by the Iranian National Bank, ensuring reliability and trust. It’s not just the airport; you can find these exchange services spread across the city centers.

Many local banks also provide foreign exchange services. However, it’s important to note that not all bank branches offer this. For the best advice on where to go, your host or hotel staff can be a great resource. They can guide you to the nearest and most reliable currency exchange points.

Mobile Phone Service And Internet

Traveling to Iran necessitates some technical preparation, particularly regarding staying connected. US mobile service providers such as Sprint and Verizon do not provide roaming services in Iran. Consequently, you’ll require an alternative method for making calls and accessing the internet.

Upon your arrival, acquiring a local SIM card at the airport proves to be a convenient solution. This enables you to make both domestic and international calls while also granting you access to 3G and 4G internet on your mobile device. A favored choice among travelers is the prepaid MTN IranCell, which happens to be the second-largest mobile phone network operator in Iran, partially owned by South Africa’s MTN Group.

Buy Iranian SIM Card Online


For a hassle-free experience, consider exploring Iran SIM Cards by OrientTrips. They offer a range of options tailored for international visitors, ensuring you stay connected with ease during your travels in Iran.

Obtaining Travel Insurance

For US citizens traveling to Iran, securing travel insurance is essential. Start by checking with your current insurance provider; some may offer international coverage.

If not, consider specialized travel insurance companies that cater to international travelers. Look for policies covering medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost baggage, and other unforeseen circumstances.

It’s crucial to confirm that the policy is valid for travel in Iran. For convenient options, explore OrientTrips which offers tailored insurance solutions for travelers to Iran.

Can You Travel To Iran As An Unmarried Couple?

Yes! This is an often more assumed problem than a real one for most travellers. Travelling to Iran will not be a problem. Most hotels, like everyone else, won’t ask or care about your relationship status.

In the case that they do, it is up to individual travellers to decide how they respond but no proof of marriage is required.

Iran Small Group Tours

In the very worst scenario, you may be required to take separate rooms but this is almost unheard of, particularly for foreign travellers. But remember unmarried Persian couples are not able to get a hotel room.

If you’re married to an Iranian we advise you to carry your marriage certificate with passport as proof of marriage.

Drink Alcohol And Eat Pork In Iran

Drinking alcohol is against the law in Iran and no shops are permitted to sell it. Anyone caught in possession of alcohol faces arrest and in the case of a tourist face deportation.

People in Iran tend to drink tea, Sharbat (a cool, sweet drink known as the world’s first soft drink) or doogh (a savoury yogurt drink). Alcohol free beer is also available. Pork is not available.

When it comes to meat most Iranians tend to eat chicken, beef or lamb, all of which are widely available.

Best Time to Visit Iran

Deciding the best time to visit Iran greatly depends on your travel preferences and activities. Iran experiences extreme weather variations, with hot summers and cold winters. In some regions, you might even encounter snow during winter.

Travelers should be aware of the month of Ramadan. During this period, many food stores remain closed during the day, which can be challenging for visitors not observing the fast.

Tochal Ski Resort
Tochal Ski Resort Near Tehran

Another important time to consider is around the Iranian New Year, celebrated on March 21. This is a peak holiday season for locals, making it harder to find available accommodations. Planning ahead is crucial if you wish to travel during this vibrant but busy time.

For more detailed information and assistance in planning your visit to Iran, check out SURFIRAN’s tours for a variety of options that cater to different seasons and interests.

How Much Money to Bring

When planning your budget for a trip to Iran, consider your personal spending habits and travel style. On average, allocate around $25-35 USD per day for food and entry fees to various sites. However, this is just a starting point.

Remember to set aside extra funds for souvenirs, laundry, and other incidentals. It’s also wise to have a “miscellaneous/emergency fund.” Based on personal experience, for a 15-day trip, you might budget approximately $800 USD but end up spending around $500 USD. This variance includes small souvenirs, occasional upscale dinners, and tips for your driver and guide. Keep in mind that this estimate assumes modest eating habits and might vary for those who prefer more lavish dining experiences.

FAQs: Iran Tours for US Citizens

Can US citizens travel to Iran?

Yes, US citizens can travel to Iran, but they must be accompanied by a tour guide at all times and can only enter or exit the country via air travel due to government regulations.

How do US citizens obtain a visa for Iran?

US citizens need to apply for a visa through a licensed tour operator in Iran, which will require a passport scan, a complete tour itinerary, personal information, and a professional resume.

What is the cost of living for a US citizen traveling in Iran?

On average, budget around $25-35 USD per day for food and entry fees, plus extra for souvenirs, laundry, and other incidentals.

Can US citizens use their credit/debit cards in Iran?

Due to the US trade embargo, international credit and debit cards are not accepted in Iran. Visitors should use locally-issued bank cards or consider the OrientTrips Tourist Card for financial transactions.

What about cell phone and internet service for US citizens in Iran?

US cell service providers do not offer roaming in Iran. Travelers can purchase a local SIM card at the airport for domestic and international calls and internet access.

How can US citizens get travel insurance for Iran?

US citizens should check with their current provider for international coverage or consider specialized travel insurance companies. OrientTrips also offers tailored insurance solutions for travelers to Iran.

What are the best times to visit Iran for US citizens?

The best time to visit depends on your preferences. Iran has hot summers and cold winters. Note that during Ramadan and the Iranian New Year (March 21), certain services may be limited.

Is English widely spoken in Iran?

English is commonly spoken among younger Iranians and in tourist areas, but it’s less prevalent in rural regions. Having a guide helps navigate any language barriers.

Is Iran safe for US citizens?

Yes, US citizens can visit Iran but must always be accompanied by an Iranian guide and have an itinerary approved in advance​​.

What are the dress code requirements in Iran?

Observing the Islamic dress code, including Hijab, is necessary in Iran. However, the rules are not strictly enforced for tourists. Women are required to cover their hair, but light enforcement means a kind reminder if forgotten​​​​.

What are the rules for photography in Iran?

Photography rules vary by location. Photography is generally allowed in many mosques and some museums, but not in government and military buildings. Always ask for permission before photographing people​​.

Can Americans travel alone in Iran?

No, American citizens cannot travel independently in Iran. They are required to travel as part of an organized tour or with a private guide. The itinerary and tour guide must be approved in advance​​​​.

Can Americans visit Kish Island?

Yes, American citizens can visit Kish Island, but like the rest of Iran, they must be accompanied by an approved guide and follow a pre-approved itinerary​​.

Can US citizens travel to Iran in 2024?

Yes, US citizens are allowed to visit Iran but must always be accompanied by an Iranian guide and have an itinerary approved in advance​​.

Best Experience

Jeffrey Barnes, January 2023


My week in Iran with SURFIRAN was amazing. They are super helpful with every detail, including the process of applying for a visa. The guides they contract with could not have done a better job. Surfiran took care of all of the details of trip itself, including in country transport and airport pickup. All I had to do was get to Tehran. As an American traveling in Iran, I always felt very safe. People you meet, whether it is an immigration officer at the airport or people on the street, will make you feel so welcome. If you are thinking of going to Iran, I would definitely recommend it, and I would definitely recommend you go with SURFIRAN.

Wonderful time in Iran!

Mike, April 2022


Wonderful time in Iran. SURFIRAN was a very professional and well run company that had anticipated our needs, planned our trip to be complete, educating and fun. Our guide was so organized and efficient, it was a real pleasure. I can’t say enough good things about our guide and the company. I am returning back to Iran in a few months because it was so great! I will be travelling with SURFIRAN and the same guide as before. I can’t wait!!

Very well run, would definitely recommend

Hugo, December 2021


I booked the 9 day cultural tour plus an extra day; Mehdi was a great help navigating the visa application process and answered all of my questions. I had no issues on the trip, and was very happy with my overall experience. My tour guides were professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. I was able to see many different attractions in a short amount of time; Iran is rich with history and culture. My favorite stops include the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz and the Abbasi Great Mosque in Isfahan. The accommodation was more than adequate and the restaurants were excellent. If you are considering travel to Iran, SurfIran is a great tour company and I am very satisfied with my choice.


Lakey, November 2019


I just returned from my trip to Iran using surfiran. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. Everything was organized and planned out excellently. My tour guide Ali was waiting for me when I arrived, and from that moment I knew I was in good hands. He is knowledgeable, courteous, efficient and extremely patient. I felt safe the entire time and had my mind blown by the warm people and amazing sites. Elham Babaee was my first contact with surfiran and she helped me secure my visa and prepare for my trip. I can’t say enough about how great my experience in Iran was thanks to them.

5/5 - (149 votes)

SURFIRAN Editorial Team

SURFIRAN is an Iranian tour operator and travel agency offering tour packages to those interested in Iran. It provides the tourists with services needed to travel to Iran, offers tours across the country, and assists the tourists in obtaining Iranian visas.

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  1. I’m considering visiting Iran the fall of 2024. I’m a U.S. citzen.

    I will likely spend approximately a week in Tehran. Then travel by train to Rasht, Mashad, and Shiraz or Isfan. I would prefer traveling alone. I’m an experienced traveler, am familiar with Iran, it’s culture, and have traveled around Iran in the past.

    I understand a guide or minder is required – what are the terms and cost of such?

    Thanks, Jim

    1. Dear Jim,

      Thank you for reaching out about your travel plans to Iran. We’re excited to assist with your solo journey across Tehran, Rasht, Mashhad, and either Shiraz or Isfahan.

      As a U.S. citizen, you’ll need a guide during your stay. SURFIRAN offers tailored experiences and knowledgeable guides to ensure a rich and hassle-free trip. The cost for a guide varies based on your itinerary and preferences. We’ll provide a detailed breakdown and options in our follow-up email.

      Please expect an email from us shortly with all the details, including information on securing your Iran tourist visa through SURFIRAN and other travel essentials.

      Looking forward to making your Iran trip memorable!


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