Visa Agency: You need to apply first to an agency who will prepare an application for you and then after about 3 weeks they will send you an Authorization/Approval Number.
You will need to know the following to give to the visa agency:
- Your itinerary – a list of places you are visiting and on the days that you are going. If you want a 30 day visa then you will need to have a 30 day itinerary.
- Intended Entry and Exit points and dates.
- The embassy where you will pick up the visa.
- All the normal passport details.
Embassy: You then take the Authorization number to the embassy that you have specified and then complete an application form for your visa as you would for other countries and pay the relevant fee. The visa that they issue you will be for 30 days and you are given varying amounts of time to enter Iran.
Generally you will be asked to say when you are likely to want to enter the country and the consul will give you 30 days around that date allowing you to get in roughly around the time you suggested.
Fingerprinting: Some nationalities will need to provide fingerprints: UK, French, German……+ others
Photos: all women will need photos with their hair covered
We would advise you to do this about 6 weeks before you think you will enter the country to be on the safe side.
US citizens should apply a little earlier as it can take up to 45 days for them to check you out before they approve you. US citizens normally need a guide but this isn’t a cast in stone policy. Just apply earlier. Iran welcomes Americans.
Once in the country where you are picking up your visa the process takes between 4 and 7 days from when you apply. It is impossible to apply without the Authorization/Approval Number.
Where to pick up your visa in this area:
Uzbekistan - Tashkent: good reports, our experience was superb, friendly Uzbek guards, friendly consulate staff and the visa was issued the same day for an extra 20 euros. Only accepted Euros – No US Dollars!!!
Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek: some say terrible, others say it is OK. We would avoid because of the lack of confidence from several visa agencies.
Turkey – Istanbul: good reports from travellers.
India – Delhi / Mumbai: the embassies there are generally OK but we have no reports. Pakistan - Islamabad / Lahore and Quetta: We’ve heard good reports.
Iranian Visa: http://www.iranianvisa.com
They have a good website and offer an efficient service at a reasonable cost:
Costs: €39 for each application, €30 to change the pick up embassy. Check their website for up to date costs.
Our Authorization number took 3 weeks and we are UK and Canadian Passport holders. There are many other agencies although we couldn’t find a cheaper one. Check the Thorn Tree for information about current applications.
Payment to your Visa Agency
http://iranianvisa.com can’t use Visa or Pay Pal because of sanctions. You will almost certainly only have two ways to pay:
Direct Bank Transfer
For this you will need about 5 days and you should be able to do this through your bank on the internet. Remember that some banks will require you to authorize this in person at the bank.
Money Bookers: http://www.moneybookers.com
This is a very simple and secure service but it takes a few days to set up your account. You need to register with them and then they will take a random small payment off your credit card.
You need to check your statement (online or paper) and then note the amount that they removed and then enter it on the Money Bookers website. Form this moment your account is ready to make payments.
Visas can be extended in many Iranian cities, some more easily than others. The extension is for 30 days and is from the date that you apply, so you should apply for your extension towards the end of your first visa.
You can extend it up to a maximum of 90 days (in theory)
Onward Travel from Iran
Turkey: visa available on arrival for many nationalities, check online
Turkmenistan: For cyclists the only feasible visa is a Transit available with no LOI in Tehran. It takes 7 days and you will need an onward visa for Uzbekistan to be allowed in.