When travelling to Asia, Iran is maybe one of the first countries that pops into your mind. Diverse, interesting and somehow intriguing, Iran has managed to take advantage of its strategic position- as it is situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia and the Arabian states of the Middle East- and remain famous in the history of the world.
When speaking about strong religious beliefs, unique spices and rich local color and traditions, Iran is definitely one of the places you should visit once in a lifetime. The only question left is how safe is Iran for tourists and what precautions need to be taken into account when planning a trip to this country.
If you’re ready to embark on an Asian journey and you desire to add Iran on your list, make sure you’re very well informed and only then proceed with the further plans. In order to help you, we provide you a useful Iran safety travel guide. With these Iran safety travel tips in your pocket, you’re all set to enjoy a trouble-free holiday abroad.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Iran
Overall Risks in Iran: MEDIUM
When deciding to travel to Iran, every tourist should first make sure that his/her trip is necessary, because otherwise authorities advise against travelling there for pleasure. All but essential travel is advised against because Iran is not necessarily one of the most peaceful countries in the world. From terrorist threats to a complicated political turmoil and a high rate of crime, Iran may pose some risks for tourists.
Even if such situations are likely to happen during your stay, you might be lucky enough not to encounter them. In order to be ready to face every danger this notorious, but still amazing country might come with, you should get well-informed. Here are our Iran safety tips in order for you to get ready to experience everything this country can offer to its tourists:
Crime Risk in Iran: MEDIUM
Even if the crime risk in Iran is not a matter that should necessarily scare you, attacks and robberies against foreigners still happen quite often here. There have been reports about bag snatching, car-jacking and scams. Attempted robberies are always something that you should avoid when travelling to Iran, as many such unfortunate events have been registered here.
Another matter that should be carefully considered when planning to visit Iran is street crime. Even if the chances of encountering street crime are slight if you take sensible precautions to protect yourself, this bad habit is quite common among the local people, whose targets seem to be foreigners.
- How to avoid encountering crime in Iran?
In order to keep safe in Iran, there is a number of safety tips that you should always keep in mind. First of all, avoid carrying large amounts of money, flashy objects and expensive gadgets or pieces of jewelry. In this way, you won’t become a target victim for robbers and the others won’t notice that you are a foreigner. Never leave your luggage unattended, your car doors open or your accommodation windows or doors open. Secure the valuable objects you chose to travel with and you’ll for sure have a trouble-free holiday.
What is more, you might want to be skeptical about the people you’ve just met, especially with taxi drivers, policemen and other local people. Even though Iran is a welcoming country, with nice people, you might become the victim of a scam if you do not pay close attention to the people around you. You can hire a guide, who can advise you about everything and everyone around and in this way, you’ll manage to stay away from disappointment.
Violence Risk in Iran: MEDIUM
Violence is not common in Iran, but manifestations and gatherings are likely to be found on the streets of Iran. This is due to political reasons and sometimes- even due to religious beliefs. Such events can easily turn into violent acts which can be directed towards anyone, including visitors who simply happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- How to avoid violence in Iran?
You can avoid violence while exploring the cities of Iran easily with the proper measures taken. Make sure you stay away from gatherings and do not interfere if you witness such violent acts. Instead, you might get away from that specific street, eventually call the authorities and make sure you and your travel companions are safe until violence stops.
In case you are attacked, try not to resist the attacker and instead, call the authorities who might be willing to take care of this matter faster than you’ve imagined.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Iran: MEDIUM to HIGH
Reportedly, there have been a few attacks on foreigners, namely through robbery and theft - the most common practice in Iran is theft by motorcycle drive-by. Usually, two individuals on a motorcycle will drive-by past pedestrians or cars with open windows and snatch whatever goods they find in sight.
Moreover, there have been reports of fake policemen that have tried to rob tourists and such. Furthermore, you should also pay attention to motorcycle taxis, as drivers are known to take tourists/ foreigners to quiet, remote locations and then rob them. You should stick to the classic taxi in order to avoid any issues.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Iran?
If you want to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Iran, caution is key - first of all, you should keep your passport as well as your money in a safe place; naturally, do not take more money than you need with you. You should also refrain from displaying any valuable items, such as smartphones, cameras, and such.
If you are approached by a police officer, do not hand him/ her anything until you've seen their ID and/ or request the presence of another police officer or of a marked patrol car.
For increased safety, you should not wear your backpack on your back - instead, wear it either in front or on the sides so that it is harder to snatch. Obviously, pay attention to motorcycles that drive-by, as their passengers could not be out for a stroll, so to say.
Scam Risk in Iran: MEDIUM
In terms of scams, we have come up with a few that are, reportedly, quite common in Iran. For example, we have the fake/ unofficial tour guide scam, increased tourist prices, restaurants that overcharge, the change scam, and the scam that involves one or more locals requesting your help. Naturally, all of these are based on one simple fact - you are a foreigner that is not familiar with the local currency or with the people living in Iran.
The unofficial tour guide will try to sell you a tour package/ services for a high price, restaurants that notice that you're a foreigner will tax you more, and people asking for change will usually try to get more than the usual pocket money out of you. Moreover, when it comes to tourist prices at stalls and such, you can expect the clerks to ask more for a certain item, especially if you are a tourist and/ or let them know that you are not that familiar with their currency.
When it comes to transport, you might encounter unlicensed taxis, taxis with no meters, long distance taxis, public transport theft, and carjacking. Obviously, as in the case of most countries, taxi drivers will always try to scam you - sometimes they don't have meters or the drivers purposely take longer routes to their destination.
However, in terms of unlicensed taxis, you may also risk being robbed or assaulted - which is why you should avoid these entirely.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Iran?
As you may know, it is easy to avoid being scammed - just as easy as being scammed, actually. Basically, you'll want to avoid any contact with any locals that try to get your attention. You should always stick to relying on official tour guides, stores, and such. We understand that street stalls may have souvenirs that you really want, and we don't blame you for that - we only advise you to get quite familiar with the local currency so that none of the sellers succeeds in scamming you.
When it comes to taxis, we recommend you to have a contact card of a reputed taxi agency on you at all times - we do not recommend hailing taxis on the street as you may encounter opportunist (fake) taxi drivers that will try to scam you. In this respect, you can always ask the manager of your accommodation to recommend you a taxi company.
In short, use services or such that are provided by licensed, reputed, and trusted people/ companies.
Kidnapping Risk in Iran: LOW to MEDIUM
While there are little to no official reports about foreigners being actively kidnapped in Iran, it is well known that several terrorist networks have and still are conducting kidnapping activities through Iran - reportedly, it is believed that Iran, mostly through Hezbollah, has kidnapped several American tourists, hikers, students, and diplomats.
However, most of these kidnappings, so to call them, are actions of the Iranian state - in short, locals or local violent groups are not known to kidnap tourists and such. Still, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't be careful - for example, one individual who was working on his PhD in Iran was accused of espionage, tried and imprisoned in secret. Obviously, he was not a spy.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Iran?
In order to avoid getting kidnapped in Iran, we recommend you to avoid traveling through remote or bad-reputed areas, as they might be frequented by people working for terrorist groups or such. As mentioned before, it is unlikely that you'll get kidnapped by locals - instead, you should keep an eye on police officers, fake or legit.
In case you are being detained by the authorities, it is better if you remain calm and comply with everything they request. However, you should not worry too much about such situations - just apply the basic safety measures and nothing out of the ordinary should happen.
Terrorism Risk in Iran: HIGH
When it comes to terrorist attacks, Iran is unfortunately one of the countries where such incidents have happened very often. Terrorist are very likely to carry out attacks here, and the latest proof seems to be an attack which took place in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province in September 2018. From bombing to kidnapping, Iran is not safe for tourists and you should make sure you plan your trip right in order to avoid such unfortunate events.
- How to avoid terrorism in Iran?
The global threat of terrorism is a matter that you should considerate carefully when deciding to embark on a journey abroad. Even if there’s no recipe as to how you can avoid terrorist attacks while you’re visiting another country, precedents have helped us notice the manner in which terrorist groups operate and act accordingly. Therefore, you should definitely avoid demonstrations, large gatherings of people and crowded places. Attacks have usually happened in large public places such as malls, theatres, squares and this is why spending too much time there should be avoided.
Once you notice something strange, try to move away from the crowded area and find shelter as fast as you can. Saving yourself and your dear ones from tragedy could be a matter of seconds. Make sure you’re well-informed about everything and don’t forget to keep up with the news.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Iran: LOW to MEDIUM
Because the crime risk in Iran is quite high, you should be aware of the risks you’re exposing yourself to when deciding to travel solo in Iran. Women traveling alone in Iran are exposed to a large number of risks, but do not imagine that they differ very much from the ones that wait for you in every country you go abroad. Iran is safe if you take the proper precautions, it’s easy to navigate and accessible.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler?
In order to stay safe in Iran if you decide to travel by yourself, make sure you have a map, you do not roam in unknown areas and that you are dressed properly. What is more, you could hire a guide or join an organized tour, in order not to risk getting lost or encountering unwanted experiences. With the proper measures taken, you can be safe anywhere, but getting informed about the area you are about to visit is definitely the first step you should consider.
Rape Risk in Iran: LOW to MEDIUM
As in the case of kidnapping, there are little to no official cases talking about sexual assault against foreigners - while the situation is Iran is precarious for its locals, it seems that tourists/ foreigners are not usually targeted when it comes to sexual assault. However, you should not rule this risk out entirely.
You should always be cautious when traveling through any country, not just Iran, when it comes to such offenses. Here is how to protect yourself.
- How to avoid getting raped in Iran?
As always, we recommend you to avoid remote areas, bad neighborhoods, the outskirts of the cities, and such. It is likely that aggressors approach you if you are found alone in the specified locations. In this respect, we also advise you to not travel alone, especially during the evening/ night.
Moreover, you should avoid displaying any valuables while traveling - money, gadgets, cameras, smartphones, and such. We all know that, in some scenarios, a simple robbery can turn into much more, depending on the aggressor's intentions.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Iran: MEDIUM to HIGH
Before traveling with your children in Iran, keep in mind that terrorism is a big issue here - the simple fact that you are a foreigner can attract unwanted eyes. Moreover, there have been more than enough cases when families have been targeted by either terrorists or religious extremists. Thus, Iran might not be the proper country for you to travel with your children in.
You'll have to be even more careful if you choose to do so - keeping an eye on them at all times can be troublesome, especially if you run into crowds of both tourists and locals.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
If you wan to travel with your children in Iran, it is recommended that you do not do so alone - either be part of a larger tourist group or travel with friends/ relatives. As mentioned, there has to be someone keeping an eye on and taking care of them at all times. Not only could they go missing - by simply walking away from you to further explore the surrounding areas, so to say - but there's also the risk that locals assault them or such.
Natural Disaster Risks in Iran: LOW to MEDIUM
If we are to look at statistics, the deadliest natural disasters - which are quite common in Iran, apparently - are earthquakes. In 2003, around 30,000 people died after a large earthquake hit Bam. This natural disaster comes with a mortality rate of 92.1%, while flood comes with 6.5%.
In terms of economic losses, Iran may also suffer from drought - case in which the water supplies might run short. When it comes to natural disasters, it is always recommended that you check the news and weather reports before leaving your accommodation. In case of a minor disaster, you should know how to prepare yourself for the trip/ road and, in case of a major one, you should know whether you have to stay indoors or seek refuge.
Keep earthquakes in mind - as comparison, earthquakes come with a frequency of 47.2% while floods with one of 41.5%. Basically, earthquakes are more common than floods. You might want to either pack or buy an earthquake emergency kit if you plan to travel through Iran.
Transportation Risks in Iran: MEDIUM to HIGH
Iran is not safe when it comes to road travel and this is because the road system in some areas is not properly maintained. Because it has a high rate of road accidents, Iran poses some risks that you should be aware of, regardless of the means of transport you choose to use while you’re there. From informal roadblocks both in cities or on main highways to special requirements for tourists who want to drive their own vehicle, Iran may pose some problems you can face during your stay. In order for you to have a safe trip in Iran, we provide you the tips you need in order to be prepared for everything.
If you decide to travel by road, including public transportation such as the local buses, make sure you take great care. This means that you should not keep your luggage unattended at all times and also be aware of the people around you.
If you choose to drive your own vehicle while you’re in Iran, don’t forget to get informed about the regulations, as they might differ from those in your country. You should also keep important numbers at hand, in case unfortunate events happen. The police are willing to help you and you shouldn’t hesitate to call them whenever you need.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Iran: MEDIUM
When it comes to the risks that one exposes themselves to when visiting night-clubs, pubs, and bars in Iran, they are fairly low. There have been no reports of incidents involving spiked drinks or such and, thus, you should take only the basic safety measures when visiting such facilities. However, due to the seemingly increasing crime levels within Iran, we have labeled this risk as a medium one - you may still be pickpocketed, robbed, or even assaulted while in a night-club, pub, or bar.
As mentioned, you are a foreigner in a rather violent country - one local with one too many drinks on board might consider you his/ her target for the night and, from then on, things can only go downside. Naturally, we advise you to try and draw as little attention to you as possible - you can still have fun, but do so while being fully aware of your surroundings and their status.
Moreover, you should not stay for too long inside such facilities - namely, it is recommended that you return to your accommodation around or even earlier than midnight. You risk encountering drunkards or ill-intended taxi drivers on your way back home. This is one of those situations when a business card of a reputed taxi company might come in very handy. Also, try not to be all alone inside a bar, as this increases the risks of you being harassed or assaulted.
Health Risks in Iran
When it comes to health, be aware of the fact that, while medical facilities are rather poor in most remote areas, they are quite reasonable in major cities. Moreover, it is known that most of the health professionals working in such facilities speak a bit of English - thus, you are not left entirely desperate, so to say, in case of a medical emergency.
Other than that, there are no other health risks that should concern you while visiting Iran - however, do still check the recommended vaccines list that you'll find below. Also, keep in mind to always travel with proper travel health insurance and with enough funds to cover any medical expenses - treatments or medicine.
List of Vaccines You Need in Iran
Before leaving for Iran, you should make sure you pay a visit to your medical care provider before travelling to this Asian country. Make sure you have the right medical assurance and do not forget to get the right vaccines at least 6 weeks before embarking on your journey, respectively the routine vaccines against: measles and rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella, influenza and others.
While in some parts of the country, the medical facilities are adequate and you have access to good healthcare, there are also parts of the country in which you will find limited medical facilities. Inadequate access to emergency medical services and poor treatment of foreign patients are part of this country’s reality, but you can avoid all these situations if you get informed about the area you are about to visit in advance.
Most Dangerous Areas in Iran
Some of the most dangerous areas to avoid when visiting Iran are definitely the border areas. Banditry, drug trafficking and military zones are common threats that you might encounter when getting close to the borders. This is why the FCO advises against all travel to areas within 100km of the Iran/Afghanistan border, areas within 10km of the entire Iran/Iraq border, the province of Sistan-Baluchistan and the area to the east of Bam and Jask, including Bam.
In order to stay safe in Iran, try to follow these precautions and stick to the main routes, in order to avoid accidentally entering to restricted zones or military areas that could harm you and your travel companions or offer you some unpleasant experiences while you’re in this country.
Concluding Remarks: Is Iran Safe to Visit?
With our Iran safety travel tips in your mind, you’re all set to embark on a wonderful journey that can be trouble free if you are well prepared for what is to come. Even though some of the threats mentioned above might have made you think twice before deciding how safe is Iran for tourists, you can still enjoy everything Iran has to offer if you keep our tips in mind:
- Make sure you have a medical insurance and the vaccines needed in order not to get exposed to dangerous viruses;
- Do not carry valuable objects with you and, in case you do, do not let them unattended;
- Avoid isolated areas at night, as well as very crowded areas, especially when you travel alone;
- In case of trouble, do not resist the attacker and ask for help to the local authorities;
- Keep up with the news and check the recent reports on indiscriminate terrorist attacks;
- Always be aware of the surroundings and keep a high level of precaution at all times;
- Avoid all demonstrations or political gatherings;
- Make sure you follow the news and always keep away from the areas that you are advised not to visit;
- Keep useful telephone numbers at hand, in case you need it when you find yourself in trouble.
Now that you’ve seen how safe is Iran for tourists, all you have to do is decide whether this country is the right place to plan a holiday in. One of the most important aspects you should consider when planning a trip abroad is safety, so getting informed is the first step in making sure you have a trouble-free trip. Follow our Iran safety travel tips, design a well planned schedule and enjoy everything Iran has to offer to its tourists.