Is Iran safe in 2023?

By Joan Torres 33 Comments Last updated on March 23, 2023

is it safe to travel in Iran

Iran.

I love Iran and I absolutely enjoyed my time there, not only because this is home to the most striking Islamic architecture and some of the most hospitable people I have ever met but also because Iran is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and in the world.

True story.

This guide is a personal and thorough analysis that will take you through all the reasons why Iran is safe, without forgetting its internal political problems and, of course, a series of super useful safety tips.

is it safe to travel to Iran

In this Iran safety guide you will find:

My personal experience
Iran today

Sensitive areas 
Safety tips

Solo female travel
Americans and British in Iran
Driving in Iran
Conclusion
More Information

Iran is a complex country and, in order to make the most out of your trip, I recommend reading 1 or 2 books about the country. In this list, you can find:
The best books about Iran

Is Iran safe? My personal experience

I have been to Iran twice.

The first time, I barely spent 10 days there. 

On the second trip, I spent 2 months. 

Now, I am planning to go a third time, and I am pretty sure there will be a fourth.

Iran is amazing.

On the one hand, the country is huge and it is home to endless different things to see, from dreamy islands to alpine mountains, desert and historical cities. Each and every region has something very different to offer and it would take an eternity to visit everything.

If you want to know the places I visited, check my 1-month itinerary.

On the other hand, Iranians are great people, extremely hospitable, well-educated, kind-hearted and, overall, beautiful people who are very curious to meet foreigners and help them, most of the time expecting nothing in return.

is it safe to visit Iran
Friendly locals are the ones who make you always feel safe in Iran

It is one of those countries where you are continuously making local friends.

Tea and house invitations, endless random conversations, sharing street meals…

During my journeys, the local interactions were always great, and genuine, and this is one of the things that will make you realize that Iran is a safe destination, because Iranians make you feel so.

I can’t recommend Iran enough and, based on my wonderful experiences, I am really comfortable saying that this is indeed one of the safest countries I have ever been to.

However, there are a few things you need to know about safety in Iran and this is the reason why I wrote this post. Continue reading to learn more. 

is Iran safe to visit
With Vali’s family in Mashhad

Is it safe to travel to Iran? The situation nowadays

Surf the internet safely
In Iran, the internet is censored and popular websites and internet services such as Facebook or WhatsApp are blocked. If you want to access them and navigate safely, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and for that, I use ExpressVPN.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ExpressVPN

According to Wikipedia, official sources say that, in 2013, as many as 4.76 million foreigners visited Iran and, since then, the country has increased massively in popularity, which means that the figure may have easily doubled or even tripled – just a guess.

These statistics are just insane for Iran, especially if we take into account that the Western media, especially American, has been portraying the country as the worst, most dangerous and repressive of all countries.

Today, historical Persian cities such as Shiraz, Esfahan or Yazd, are filled with both tourist groups and independent travelers, perfectly lined souvenir stalls and cute boutique hotels.

And this can only mean one thing: Iran is extremely safe.

To make the situation even more dramatic, Iran shot down a commercial Ukrainian plane but apparently, it was an accident and the world believes it.

Nobody knows what will eventually happen but it seems that the situation has calmed down and, according to several local sources, life in Iran today is just normal, with the exception of the occasional protests that tend to happen in the center of Tehran, that’s it.

Personally, I would still travel to Iran.

is Iran a safe country
The architecture is truly gorgeous

The media: is Iran perceived as dangerous because of the Western media?

Of course.

If anyone thinks Iran is a dangerous country, that is because of the media. 

For decades, American newspapers have been selling a completely biased image of Iran, exclusively focused on nuclear weapons, religious fanatics, human rights abuse and, basically, a dictatorial regime. 

In Europe, it used to be the same story but I feel that they have softened their speech and today, while they are still talking about all the crazy things going on there, they are continuously publishing reports and chronicles talking about its great tourist attractions and people, and this is one of the reasons why many travelers have started to consider Iran a safe destination to travel to. 

is Iran safe to travel
Do you think whether Iran is safe? Anti-American propaganda just outside of the former American embassy in Tehran

This is not the case of the American media, however, especially with the current Administration, which keeps on contaminating public opinion with the idea that Iran is the ultimate arch-enemy and one of the unfriendliest countries on Earth.

You would be surprised to know how many Americans believe that. 

In fact, I have had a few small arguments on social media, like the day when that American dude replied to one of my tweets – see below – asking why would someone want to visit such a dangerous place and, to support his reasoning, he posted one article from Fox News. Hilarious. 

I am aware that this has been said over and over, but don’t trust what the media has to say about a country and do believe the hundreds of thousands of travelers who have been there.

Problems: is it safe to travel to Iran now?

Is Iran safe to visit despite all the current problems?

Sure, Iran is safe for tourists, but we can’t ignore that there are some serious internal issues.

Women at Tehran metro exit

Regions in Iran which are not safe for tourists

According to the FCO Advice, the province of Balochistan and the areas bordering Iraq and Afghanistan are advised against for all travel, for obvious reasons. 

The rest of Iran, however, is totally safe for tourists.

Nevertheless, there are two things you need to know about these dangerous regions:

Relatively dangerous regions in Iran

As I said, I strongly believe the FCO Advice is overly cautious but, if you are not sure about it, you just need to remain in the touristic and safe part of Iran.

You should also read: Is Afghanistan safe to visit right now?

is Iran dangerous to visit
The Iran-Iraq border

Is it safe to visit Iran? – My top safety tips

These are just some extra safety tips for Iran:

How to behave in Iran (cultural etiquette)

As I said, Iran has some strict Sharia rules but they are actually more relaxed than in Saudi Arabia for example, a country with a large Western expat community.

For men, the only thing you can’t do is wear shorts.

For women, it is a bit more complicated but all you have to do is cover your hair and not show any of your curves.

Other than that, just apply common sense and know that public shows of affection are not tolerated – like in Dubai – and alcohol is not allowed, even though it is widely available in the black market and locals do drink often.

About religion in Iran
In Iran, most people are Shia, a branch of Islam different from Sunni, the prevalent branch across the Arabic countries. By nature, Shia people are more relaxed than Sunni, which means that, when it comes to religion, Iran is more liberal than countries like Oman or the United Arab Emirates, plus Iran has also a large population of atheists, more than any Arab country, as you will see it when you go there. In any case, religion still plays an important role in the country, so be always respectful like you would be in any other Muslim country.

I think mannequins are the only scary thing in Iran

Is there a danger of being arrested?

Another of the reasons why Iran is often perceived as dangerous is because, whenever a foreigner gets arrested, it appears all over the news, and reports say that foreigners may be locked in a cell for months without being able to communicate with the outside world.

However, there are two kinds of foreigners who get arrested: journalists and travelers doing stupid things, like those bloggers who got arrested because they flew a drone over a military facility or those Americans who were caught crossing the Iranian border illegally from Iraqi Kurdistan

Just be smart and you will be fine.

Keeping your money safe in Iran

This isn’t a safety tip but a precaution. 

In Iran, international credit cards do not work, which means that you will need to carry all your cash for whatever time you are in the country.

For this, you have two solutions:

  1. Buy a local credit card and top it up – There is a service for foreigners which consists of a local debit card which you top-up with cash upon your arrival, so you don’t need to carry all the money. Mah Card is one of these services which you can trust.
  2. Book your hotels ONLINE through 1stQuest – 1stQuest is a local company that provides a large variety of booking services for Iran, including visa services, hotels, travel insurance and tours. You won’t be able to purchase these services online through a local website – as they don’t accept credit cards – but 1stQuest is one of the very few companies which does so, at least, you won’t need to carry all the cash, which might be half of it. The best of it is that readers of this blog get an exclusive 5% discount. How? By using the promo code ATC-QST.
    CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT 1STQUEST

Surfing the internet safely

As you may know, in Iran the internet is censored, so a lot of websites are blocked, from Facebook to YouTube. 

In order to access these websites, you will need something called a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and you can find more information about it here.

But, isn’t it illegal to use a VPN? Why should this be a safety tip?

Yes, using a VPN is illegal but everybody in Iran uses it – really, everyone – and the only people who get punished for using it are, for example, those who use the internet to organize protests against the regime.

Also, a VPN will not only allow you to access blocked sites but also, it allows you to browse more privately and safely and, in this type of authoritarian regime where anyone could be spied on, you really want to use one. 

I personally use ExpressVPN, one of the fastest VPNs available in the market.

If don’t know anything about VPNs, read my tutorial: Why and how to find the right VPN for Iran

is Iran a safe country to visit
The more remote you go in Iran, the safer it gets!

Is Iran safe for solo female travelers?

This is one of the questions I get asked, most often from women.

Is it safe to travel in Iran as a solo woman?

Well, I am a man, so I obviously had a very different experience from most women, but I don’t know a single lady who didn’t have a wonderful experience so, based on their opinions, I can certainly say that Iran is a safe destination for women. 

If you want to know more details, I interviewed Eveline from Earth Wanderess, who shares her travel expertise about solo female travel in Iran

Eve from Earth Wanderess in Iran

Is Iran safe for Americans and British?

The million-dollar question.

Nobody has ever asked me this because I am neither American nor British, but I do know some people from these countries who have been to Iran and all of them said that it didn’t really make a difference.

As I said, Iranians are curious to meet any foreigner and, actually, they might probably be more excited to meet an American than any other tourist.

Moreover, I can assure you one thing which is that an American will feel 10x safer and more welcome in Iran than an Iranian will feel in the USA, where they might be subjected to racism and prejudices. True story.

In this post, Jackie wrote about American tourists in Iran.

Is driving safe in Iran?

Like in most countries in the Middle East, the locals don’t really follow the traffic rules, so car accidents do abound. 

However, I felt that in places like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the locals are crazier.

Crossing the streets in Iran

One of the potential threats most tourists face in Iran is crossing the street, especially in Tehran, as crosswalks are completely useless so, when trying to cross, cars don’t stop and simply avoid you.

The first few times you do it, you think you are going to die but after some practice, you get used to it. In any case, it is always recommended to cross the road next to a local person.

Public transportation in Iran

The whole of Iran is really well-connected by a super-effective and efficient bus network, so it is the most popular method of transportation among independent travelers. 

There are two types of buses, normal and VIP and, in order to travel more safely, you should get the VIP one, as it only costs 20-30% more, which is a few more € and, since they are newer and bigger, they are definitely safer. 

Because of the sanctions, in Iran, most booking sites don’t accept international foreign cards. Before, you could book them via 1stQuest but they are not offering this particular service anymore. However, you may still use 1stQuest for visa services, hotels, flights, travel insurance and tours. 

Conclusion: Is Iran a safe country to visit?

Overall, Iran is a safe destination and this is the reason why the country has undergone a tourist boom in the last couple of years. 

Like in any other country, however, there are, of course, some small threats but the good news is that these tiny dangers are not specific to Iran but they happen in many countries across the world. 

More information for traveling safely in Iran

All our guides to Iran

Check more safety guides

is Iran safe?

33 comments

Hi Joan, I am an American married to an Iranian. I would like to visit Iran this year (first time) to visit my Mother in Law and do some sight seeing. What would be best route, Visa as a tourist (would my MinL have to fill out something? Would it be a problem traveling with my husband?) or Visa as wife of Iranian and submit all that paperwork? How long is Visa valid? I’ve read up a bit and called embassy but am still a bit confused. Any info would be very appreciated. Cheers, Leticia

Hi Leticia,
For Americans, Canadians and British, the visa process is completely different and since you have family in Iran, it will be even more different, so I can’t really help you. The embassy is the one who should help you with this but typically, for regular tourist visas, you need to book a full tour with a tour operator and today, because of the current situation, they are denying many American/Canadian visas.
For things to do, best route, etc, check this post: https://againstthecompass.com/en/iran-itinerary/

Hi Joan,
I’m planning to visit Iran in March and would appreciate information about Visa on Arrival at Imam Khomeini Airport. When I visited in October 2018, I obtained VOA at IKIA without being asked for an onward ticket, and bought one to Australia in Tehran.

I would appreciate any information as to whether this situation persists, or has changed, as I am thinking of going to Nepal next, or Turkey, hence my lack of interest in obtaining an onward ticket.

I want to go to the Caspian Sea, across to Mashhad, down to the Persian Gulf, up to Yadz, then Qom.

Thanks,
Mark Govier

Hey Mark,

No, there should not be any issue.

I did get VOA during my last visit and left Iran overland, so it shouldn’t have changed.

However, if you wanna make sure, perhaps you could get the visa code (1stQuest) so they won’t ask you any questions when you reach the airport

Cheers,

Hello, I’m thinking of going to Iran but my only concern is that I also have to go in US. Do you know if there is any issue to have Iranian stamps to get a visa for us. I’m French

I was once told this saying. ” Believe nothing of what you hear and half of what you see! “. I remember how the western media would deliver similar narratives about Colombia and how dangerous it is. Definitely not the case since I have traveled there on numerous occasions.

Would be curious to know the perception of Iranians to people of color. Do they share similar views like in Saudi Arabia? As an example. Was told the darker your skin color. The less likely you will feel welcomed. Any thoughts on this?

Absolutely. The media is making the issue worse. I’m Sunni Muslim and I know there’s a conflict between us but they are still friendly and like to talk with me. Most of the people there are friendly. Especially when they know that you are a tourist they will give you a warm smile. I can say that some people are bad and some people are good. It really depends on the human.

Im from New Zealand and like many western countries media fuels misconception about Iran. I visited in 2017 Frankly it was one of the most amazing countries I have visited and half of that we’re the people and friends I made there. It is full of beautiful pleasant surprises. Thanks for the tip about the local debit card.. useful. My advice is but an Iranian SIM before going through customs in Tehran airport.. I wasted a few days buying a phone and registering a SIM in Tehran. VPN are essential too as most western search engines and sites are censored including Google.

Hi Joan,
Your blog was a great reference when I backpacked in Iran last November (amidst the protest and internet shutdown, crazy!)
Iranian hospitality is the greatest and like you have mentioned visiting once will never be enough!

Hey I’m an Iraninan
I just wanted to thank you for showing the world who we REALLY are and what our country REALLY holds.
Most of the big big problems we have are only problems for locals and most tourists won’t have to even face them (like the stuff about human rights, economics, etc)
But afterall we’re not our regime and our country is not what most people think. We literally LOVE to see tourists. And if you ask me, so many people treat toursists better than the locals. We really want them to have a beautiful memory when they go back home.
Sending love from Shiraz, Iran
Hope to see you soon ♡

Hey Saghar,

You’re most welcome! Speaking of Shiraz, it leaves the biggest regret because I wasn’t able to spend more than two days there. Hence, I actually missed Persepolis and Pink Mosque (like what!!) and I met a druggy local at Hafez Tomb who bought me around in his car haha. I’ll definitely return to Shiraz to cover more spots!

Anyway, if you would like to connect, my Instagram username is ed.woon
I’ve uploaded many photos taken during the trip 🙂

Omg you definitely should visit Persepolis and the Pink Mosque.
Shiraz is best in Ordibehesht (April 21st to May 21st) and if you were visiting through that time, make sure to visit the “Jahan Nama” and “Eram” garden as they are -especially the Eram garden- two of the must-sees of the city.
And thank you for the instagram username I’ll definitely follow you
Mine is temporarily deactive rn but it’s “@/heysaghar”
If you ever visited Shiraz and needed some local guides I’d be so happy to help!
Hope you come back soon and stay longer this time! you’re always welcomed here ♡

I did visit Eram Garden and it’s beautiful!! Especially the rainbow effect casting over the water fountain!

Sure, let’s connect on Instagram!

Hi
I am planing to visit Tehran in june 2021 with my wife due to a medical treatment on medical visa, please guide what is the current situation specially covid and other travel restrictions.

Just saying
Im iranian
If u wanna visit here its better to go to esfahan
It is the most beautiful city of iran:)

Hello there.
I’m Prisha and I was born and raised in Tehran.
Thanks for telling the truth about my country. Yes it might get some bad media perspective but actually living in IRAN is really fun and these days, not even local access to alchoholic drinks has improved, but access to weed in really common and easy and its kinda like its leagal. I mean we rolled and smoked pot in front of police officers and they didn’t even look at us.
By the way the Hijab thing is only a matter for locals. For a female tourist the worst thing that could happen is that police might mention that they fix their apearance. It’s rude i know but not even hard language for a tourist. Everyone loves them. Mark my word.

Hi Prisha,

That sounds crazy haha! From my conversation with the locals (young people especially), you guys are definitely an educated bunch and it just saddens me that opportunities are robbed because of the circumstances. I hope to see things change for the better because you all deserve more than what you are given now. Best wishes from Singapore 🙂

Hi,
What a beautiful website you have, thank you for sharing all these beautiful stories!
I am dutch (live in Barcelona) and I want to go end of October to iran, do you maybe know if that is possible (due to Covid-19)? I saw that there are flights with Pegasus airlines (with a stop in Istanbul ) going there, and also cheap 🙂 (300 euro).
Many thanks!
Rob

Hi Rob, so far, currently they aren’t issuing tourist visas (only business and medical) but my local contacts told me they plan to resume them soon. I will let everyone know as soon as the country opens. If you want to get noticed, you should subscribe to my email list though

Hello everyone!
visit Iran! If you want to visit the whole world at once, just visit Iran, different climate at once, historical places up to millions, amazing sightseeing. Whatever you want, you can find it here, sea, islands, mountains, deserts, jungles, hot, cold, cool, tropical weather. everything. just name it. and by the way, too cheap. with less than 500 $ you can spend a month and buy as many souvenirs as you want.
the rate of 1 dollar is 300000 Rial. that’s the price of an excellent meal! come and enjoy here!

My favorite part:

“Moreover, I can assure you one thing which is that an American will feel 10x safer and more welcome in Iran than an Iranian will feel in the USA, where they might be subjected to racism and prejudices. True story.”

An American? There are some Americans who experience racism everywhere. Not all Americans are white. So, again, is Iran safe for AMERICANS. This does not just mean white Americans. Or able bodied Americans. Or straight Americans.

Try again. This is a good beginning of a resource, but it sounds as if you are assuming all travelers are not at all familiar with the truths of racism in the world. True story. As a Black female traveler, I was hoping for more than this.

Nice work Joan, I really enjoyed this. I am planning an overland trip with my wife to the UK from the UAE starting April 2022 and we are keen to learn as much as we can about the route which will essentially start in Iran. We will be on some kind of schedule so I am guessing we’ll have about 5-8 days in country heading for Turkey. Do you have any thoughts on the route and the ‘must-sees’ along the way? Thanks for a great resource and any tips or ideas you can share.

Guys im iranian
Im just saying that although iran is not a good country to live there
Its a pretty beautiful and safe country
If u have enough money
U defenetly should visit iran onec
Iran has not a good Government
But there are cool and friendly ppl 🙂
Again if u are reach just visit iran

Hello, I am an Iranian and I live in Tehran. I suggest you to travel to Iran And visit the Nature Bridge, Milad Tower and Azadi Tower. These are all very small parts of the beauties of Iran As for the coronavirus, the condition is good and vaccination is fast And I’m really upset about the media saying negative things about Iran. Iran is the safest country in the region and we have no insecurity in Iran And it really is safer than countries like America and Britain.Thank you for your good site and I hope to see you in Tehran, goodbye to all of you.

Hi Joan. While I appreciate your article (always good to see travel blogs), as an American and a female I have huge reservations about visiting Iran. I would certainly not do so on an American passport. While I am sure the everyday folks you meet are great (they usually are) when there is significant political disagreement and tensions between countries it can be a very different story for travelers. I believe you overplayed the “America media” making it sound dangerous. Have you seen what the Iranian regime says about Americans? While I want to visit historic sites, etc. I will not do so at this time or on an American passport.

Hello dear Joan, is is safe to travel to Iran now? Dec 2022. I can’t rely on what the media says, i would like to go to Mashhad as a female solo traveler. Kind of hesitant about it because of the possible riots, demonstrations… but i don’t know if a tourist could get affected? I will definitely apply common sense and dress arabic clothes. What would you recommend me?
Are they issuing VOA as a spanish citizen nowadays?

Hi Joan,
First I have to say thank you so much for sharing all your travel wisdom in this blog! I always come here to check my next destination before planning. You helped us a lot in our trip to Palestine a few years ago and I am now looking forward to exploring a country which has been in my list for way too long: Iran. I am planning to visit in October, but as many people in the comments, I feel a little hesitation regarding some aspects, I was convinced 2023 was the year, but since the protests arised, I have been both fascinated by the courage of Iranians and also concerned about the repression of the government. Do you have any insights on the safety of traveling to Iran (TEHRAN, ESFAHAN, SHIRAZ, PERSEPOLIS and YAZD) as a female traveller? What other reliable sources for travel information do you recommend?
Again thank you for all your work and happy travels!
Cora

Joan,
While travel always comes with a certain amount of risks, I do feel that you’ve underplayed the risk specifically regarding women. There have been reports of foreign women being harassed by police in Iran for not wearing their hijab properly. I understand you’re trying to convey that travelers will be fine if they stay “smart” and avoid trouble, but ultimately, an extremist regime is not one that is reliable. Mahsma Amini was arrested and died over unclear hijab regulations, and it only takes the subjective judgment of one person of authority to infringe on someone’s rights or even end a life.
I agree that most people would likely be safe if they traveled in Iran, but I think your post gives readers a false sense of confidence that Iran will completely safe. Clumsy people, those unfamiliar with Iranian culture or customs, or women who are unaccustomed to wearing hijab should be more cautious and perhaps rethink their travel plans.

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