How to obtain an Iranian visa if you are a British/UK national.
To be frank, there are just two things you need: money and patience, for the application process and the Government assigned “tour guide” that will accompany you throughout your “tailored” tour package.
Yes, unfortunately the rules have changed again for British nationals, as well as US and Canadian nationals. As it currently stands, there is no independent travel visa issued for UK citizens. These are also very recent changes (since 15th August 2015) so if you are reading this thinking “that’s not true I went independently this summer with no problem” then you are fortunate.
We have written this article precisely due to the lack of recent information. Even the British .Gov website does not provide the information which we received from various travel agencies, visa agencies and Iranian consulates.
Below we share our experience and struggle of trying to obtain an Iranian visa to travel independently!
If you have any more information or have had a different experience, please comment below.
We began applying for the Iranian visa with a positive attitude. We were well aware of the challenges associated with Iran and also conscious that being British may provide more difficulties than for other national citizens. However, we know of and have heard of British nationals obtaining a visa and travelling in Iran, so we knew it was not impossible. The added difficulty was that when we started to apply, we were in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Although having done some internet research, we found many people doing the same as us and applying for the visa at the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi, with a fair amount of success. So we wandered up to the embassy and patiently waited to be provided the information we desired. After much ‘um-ing’ and ‘er-ing’, the head of the Iranian consulate gave us an address for a travel agency to apply through. He did not mention anything about the process being different for British nationals, just that applying through the agency would be quicker.
However, when we arrived at the travel agency, their estimated price for obtaining the visa was at least 550 USD. Comparing to the prices that other nationals had got their visa for we were unwilling to accept this. “There must be another way” we said to ourselves. So we knuckled down onto more internet researching and trying other methods.
From our understanding the process of obtaining an Iranian visa if you are a British national is as follows:
Before going to the Iranian Embassy you first need to obtain a ‘reference number’. This is the main deciding factor as to whether you’ll get your visa or not and the most tricky step of all. If you receive a reference number, you basically have just been granted the visa.
There are many ways to obtain a reference number. The most popular method is through Iranianvisa.com.
On their website you will need to fill out the application form, pay around 45 USD and in a few days, if all is fine, you will receive your reference number. You then take this reference number to the Iranian embassy three days after you receive it and then you pay for the visa. BUT! This is if you are NOT a US, Canadian or British national.
If you are, you’ll find that Iranianvisa.com will happily take your money with no prior warning of the huge extra barrier in obtaining your reference number. The payment is non-refundable so do not pay this unless you have done the next step.
For US, Canadian and British nationals, you not only require a reference number but an Iranian government assigned tour guide, which you must pay for, PLUS an organised and paid tour package through an authorised travel agent. This includes pre-booked flights and hotels etc. This will cost hundreds! No exaggeration.
And that’s the catch that no one seems to mention.
You can obtain a visa for Iran if you are a British national BUT you must pay hundreds of pounds (our rough calculation estimates at least £600 before flights) and you will be assisted the whole time. There is no independent travel.
Others have obtained independent travel by paying for the tour and simply walking away from it upon arrival. This is a popular method for independent travel but you need to be able to afford it first.
Another method we tried was arranging our own tour guide. Whilst in Armenia, we happened to meet an Iranian tour guide by complete chance. We went to a travel agency and emailed Iranianvisa.com to see if he could be our designated ‘guide’. Turns out for US, Canadian and British nationals, only a ‘special’ government assigned guide can be given. Even the travel agency did not seem to think it was worth the effort. They even suggested we did not bother getting a visa as the cost was too high.
Hopefully the situation changes soon as all other travellers have praised Iran as one of their favourite countries. There is no point in getting bitter or frustrated about the situation, although it is easy to do so. But more information needs to be given before people waste time and money trying.
For obtaining an Iranian visa if you are a citizen of another country, such as Dutch, Irish, Italian, French, Australian and many more, you can now obtain a 30 day visa on arrival. For more information read this article.
Have you had a similar or another experience? Do you know any more information? Please comment below, like and share.