Traveling to Iran: Myth vs. Reality

February 2, 2015 Phil Meadows

Iran is a mysterious place to American travelers. For centuries, this beautiful, ancient land has been one of the great spiritual, cultural, political and economic powers of the Middle East. It’s the birthplace of Sufism and home of philosophers and poets like Rumi and Hafiz. Yet because of strained relations with the West, few Americans have had the opportunity to see this country and meet the Iranian people firsthand. Allow us to clear up some of the myths surrounding travel to Iran:

Myth #1: Traveling to Iran is illegal

Reality: Iran is a legal destination for Americans, with some restrictions. 

Most Americans believe Iran holds the same status as Cuba for American citizens — that it is illegal without a special license issued by the US government. This is not true. Although the United States has imposed economic sanctions against Iran, there are currently no restrictions on American citizens visiting as tourists. There are however, limits imposed by the Iranian government on how Americans travel through the country.

Saied Haji Hadi, Cross Cultural Journeys Trip Leader in Iran
Saied Haji “Hadi”, Cross Cultural Journeys Trip Leader in Iran

First, Americans must be accompanied by a private guide or be part of a group tour. As exciting as the idea of exploring a country on your own may be, we believe this requirement can only be a benefit, enhancing your experience and getting your nose out of that guidebook. It is thoroughly important to research the company you are traveling with and choose one with a long reputation for employing excellent guides. Let’s face it, a knowledgeable local guide helps bridge barriers of language and culture and can get you access to people, places and experiences that will make or break your trip.

Next, you must obtain an Iranian visa. This can be a daunting process for individuals traveling to many parts of the world. For travel to Iran, it is near impossible to handle on your own. If you travel with Cross Cultural Journeys to Iran this April or October, we take care of arranging all the necessary visa requirements.

Myth #2: Iran is unsafe for American tourists

Reality: Iran is safer for US travelers than most countries. 

“I’m traveling to Iran this year,” is often met by wide eyes and stunned questions surrounding safety. Traveling to Iran, like traveling within your own home city, comes with basic safety precautions. Street crime is rare in Iran. But you would not leave your bag on a bench in a crowded park in Iran just as you wouldn’t do it at home. And there’s safety in numbers. Traveling in a group with an Iranian guide provides added security. All of the Americans we have talked to who have traveled to Iran have noted they never felt threatened or fearful for their personal safety. And issues with crossing the border into Iran are hardly ever mentioned because there don’t tend to be any. Many travelers find getting back into the US to be more difficult than leaving it!

Myth #3: Iranians are hostile to Americans

Reality: Iranians will receive you with open arms.

Isfahan-Welcoming a tourist-001Forget the media images of burning flags and chants of “Death to America!” Iranians will be thrilled to meet you. They are smart, well-educated people who understand the difference between the US foreign policy and the American people. They will welcome you with smiles, hugs and invitations to their homes. You are not a foe but a long-lost friend. They will be as curious about you as you are about them.

Smart travelers will observe and respect the diverse culture of Iran, easing into it with dignity and grace. We aim to observe and accept the differences in culture and spirituality and celebrate them in a spirit of understanding. Iran is a magical place with an ancient past of colors and culture that can easily and should be, enjoyed by more American travelers.

Travel to Iran with Cross Cultural Journeys

Interested in exploring Iran with us? Join our exciting new journey: Iran: Splendors of the Persian Empire (October 10-23, 2015).