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Can Americans Visit Iran? A Complete Guide

can americans visit Iran?

The topic of Iran and the USA is a complex and often misunderstood subject.

The western media paints the country of Iran as a pariah state and since the 1979 Iranian revolution diplomatic relations between the USA and Iran have been frosty at the best of times.

Despite the decades-long complications and tensions with western governments, Iran remains one of the most fascinating countries to visit as a tourist.

So here is the big question: can Americans travel to Iran and if so, is it even safe to do so? The short answer is yes!

The latest post from our blog breaks down how to visit Iran as an American, the visa situation for Americans and other nationalities, and what the REAL vibe of traveling as an American in Iran feels like.

It should be noted that I am from the USA and I just got back from traveling to Iran with other Americans.

Can US citizens travel to Iran? Why Visit?

What do you get when you take a country with the legacy of one of the oldest (and most powerful) civilizations in history, incredible culinary traditions, amazing architecture, and some of the friendliest local people on the planet? A world-class tourism destination. That’s what.

However, Iran is not on the radar of most tourists because of the reputation of its government and fears about traveler safety. Mass foreign tourism is not a thing in Iran… yet. Personally, I found it such a joy to be exploring this wonderful country without seeing many (in some places zero) tourists.

Most if not all of the local people I met on the street are very happy to see Americans and other nationalities visiting their country and the majority also seriously disagree with the direction and policies of their government.

Iran is an absolute gem of a country on so many levels and the potential for tourism here is boundless. It is only a matter of time before tourism explodes here – and for the time being, it remains the most un-touched-by-tourism country I have been to.

The reality is that the average Iranian person you meet is STOKED to meet and talk with Americans. When you have this experience over and over again – all the stuff you might read in the media about Iran kind of just goes out the window.

Legal Situation in Iran for American Tourists

can americans visit Iran?

I have been asked many times “Can US citizens travel to Iran? I thought it was not allowed by the US government.” This question might be in the heads of most Americans considering travel to Iran. So let me clarify.

The official line of the US State Department is AVOID ALL TRAVEL to Iran. That said, traveling to Iran as an American is perfectly legal. Technically, Americans can’t travel to neighboring Cuba (even though that is totally possible too) – but Iran travel for US citizens is not prohibited by the US government and vice versa for the Iranian government: Americans can legally travel to Iran.

For Americans and a few other select nationalities though, there are certain rules one must follow upon arrival in Iran.

Complete independent/solo travel in Iran is not possible for citizens of the USA, UK, and Canada. The rule is that these nationalities must have a government-licensed guide with them when traveling here at all times. Depending on where you are in the country – this rule is either strict or pretty relaxed.

As an example, in Isfahan, it was possible for various groups of Americans (and me on my own) to wander about the bazaar, main square, and pretty much go where we wanted on our own. The guide was in the hotel and we had the freedom to move about without her there all the time. Tehran is a bit more strict and our guide went with us pretty much everywhere.

It should also be noted that no police or authorities asked any of us about our nationality during the 2+ weeks we were there – so it would just be by chance if you were stopped walking about alone without a guide and asked your nationality. That does not really happen.

Visa Process – The First Steps

The visa process for the citizens of the USA, UK, and Canada can also seem tricky – but the main thing is that it just takes time. If you plan on visiting Iran as an American last minute, think again!

The first step is finding a tour operator (like Epic Backpacker Tours) that can do the application and visa submission in Iran for you and obtain a Visa Grant Letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The above-mentioned nationalities can not do the visa application on their own without the aid of a tour operator.

Tour operators require the following to submit your visa application:

  • A short visa application document filled in with your details, planned travel dates, etc
  • A passport copy
  • A detailed job resume/CV
  • A passport photo
  • Possibly links to your social media profiles/website (if you have one).

Once the tour operator submits your application, it then takes about a month to receive the visa approval letter.

NOTE: If you have been to Israel and have an Israeli stamp in your passport dated from the last 2 years, I would get a new passport before applying. Otherwise, you could be denied.

Collecting the Visa

The final step is either physically going to an Iranian Embassy anywhere in the world to pick up the actual visa or mailing your passport to an Iran Embassy for the same purpose if you are unable to go in person. Then you are all set!

Two important things to note:
1. Getting a visa extension to stay in Iran is not possible for Americans.
2. The exact Iranian Embassy you indicate on your application of where you want to collect your visa can’t be modified either – so think carefully about your EXACT travel dates and where you want to collect the visa before you submit it!

Solo Travel vs Group Travel

can americans travel to Iran?

Our May 2022 group having lunch in an Isfahan carpet shop

Exploring Iran as a solo traveler might be the way you prefer to see the country, but traveling to Iran as an American means you need to join a group tour or find a company that can organize a custom tour in which you will need to have the Iranian guide with you at all times – which can be a lot more expensive than joining a group tour as you pay for the guide, their accommodation, their food, transport, etc on a per-day basis. The cost of traveling to Iran as an American with just you and one Iranian guide can be around $150+ a day when you factor in activities, transport, food, etc.

Are their specific Iran tours for Americans? As far as I know, very few American companies apart from Epic Backpacker Tours are running tours to Iran for Americans. But our tours are not just for Americans though! On our last trip, we had 8 different nationalities – the majority were, however, American.

If you want to learn more about our Iran Tours for Americans (and everyone else) check out our Ultimate Iran Adventure Tour page.

Overall Safety: Is Iran Safe for American Tourists?

how to visit iran as an american

Possibly the biggest question on the minds of most potential travelers (and the mothers of potential travelers): is Iran safe for American tourists?

In our experience in Iran traveling with Americans, we encountered no safety or security issues and had basically no interactions with police or uptight military people. In Pakistan as an example, there are police checkpoints everywhere and sometimes police are required to travel with foreigners as an escort in some areas. We found none of this in Iran.

Some areas, like the southern border with Pakistan (Baluchistan), might be a little sketchier for any tourist – but the majority of people visiting Iran don’t go there.

The main thing when traveling as an American in Iran is to follow the rules and behave yourself. By doing so, you should have no reason to fear for your safety. I felt 100x safer traveling in Iran than I have felt (and experienced) traveling in South America in the past. Things like armed robbery or assault against foreigners are basically unheard of in Iran – and in South America, it happens every day (and happened to me 3 different times in Ecuador and Peru).

Additional Tips for Traveling to Iran as an American

how to visit iran as an american

Iran is a fascinating country to be explored and should be at the top of the list for any serious traveler.

Because of paperwork and silly rules and whatnot it is not the easiest place to get to – but once you go through the steps to get the visa and plan a trip here – the rewards of visiting Iran are pure magic.

Here are a few more helpful tips for Americans traveling to Iran:

  • Leave your drone at home – seriously don’t even bring it into the country
  • Carry plenty of cash to exchange (USD is fine). Your bank card will not work here.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get the visa. Apply for your visa 3 months before you plan to visit.
  • Don’t take any photos of police or military facilities.
  • Ladies – bring a headscarf as all women must have their heads covered by law when out in public.
  • Bring copies of your documents.
  • Come to Iran with an open mind! Leave everything you have heard in the media about Iran at home!

And again: If you want to learn more about our Iran Tours for Americans (and everyone else) check out our Ultimate Iran Adventure Tour page.

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Welcome to our Journal!

snow lake trek pakistan

Here at Epic Backpacker Tours, adventure is constantly on our minds. 

Our blog – or Journal as we like to call it – contains epic trip stories, photo diaries, and news about new tours. 

Thanks for checking it out! 

What's new in the journal?

The trip we're most stoked about

Discover the Hunza Valley

Next trip: October 7th – 21st, 2023

Adventure Guide

An experienced trek leader and
IFMGA aspirant ski guide, avid alpine climber, devoted adventure photographer.

Organized and guided trekking expeditions, climbs and ski tours in Tajikistan’s Pamirs, Patagonia, Peru, Morocco, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Georgian and Russian Caucasus and Kamchatka.

A full member and meets the organiser of the British Alpine Club. Visited over 40 countries, lived in the UK for four years. Certified first-aider.

We joined Andrew on a fantastic trip to the Fann Mountains in Tajikistan, pure nature and magnificent scenery! Andrey was super prepared and led us safely up and down numerous passes and through some rough and icy cold rivers. Thank you for a very memorable trip, your planning and prep was excellent!

– Monika Steinlechner

epic backpacker tours team

Adventure Guide

Our man in Nepal, Sandip is what we like to call a “Swiss Army Knife”. There is not much Sandip can’t do when it comes to helping Epic to run our expeditions smoothly in Nepal.

His tireless work ethic, passion for all things trekking in the Himalayas, and smart decision-making mean that Sandip is a truly invaluable member of our team.

Sandip is passionate about showing visitors to his country an amazing time, and he goes above and beyond to make sure that happens. 

His company Himalayan Masters is Epic’s trusted partner in Nepal and one of the country’s top new tour agencies.

We really enjoyed the entire journey, and I would like to say that Sandip is truly professional. He guided us and he is a hardworking person, providing us with the best service and taking care of each one of us. Plus, he is super funny! The kind of professionnal you always want to find on your path for your explorations! 

– Alexandra Ruth

Fairy Meadows

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Our Favorite Experiences

#1 Sunrise from Reflection Lake

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#2 Hiking to Nanga Parbat Base Camp

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#3 Playing cricket with the locals

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Trips Where We Visit Fairy Meadows

Our flagship Pakistani adventure tour.  Road trip with some  hiking and cultural immersion.

A trekking-style tour that features some very remote locations, inlcuding a K2 viewpoint.

Adventure Guide

João has born in the mountains of Madeira Islands in Portugal. Nature lover, writer, musician, guide, for him, a day without contact with outdoor vibes is a nightmare. 

With a degree in Cultural Studies in Portugal and a Master of Arts in Global Cultures and Creativity in the U.K.

João found out what really matters in life can be found on the trails, and in the contact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Guiding, crazy trekking missions, and sharing observations about the natural world, – these are some of João’s passions. 

After trekking to K2 Base Camp and exploring all over Northern Pakistan, he fell in love with the country and the local people. His experiences resulted in his desire to share these feelings with the world.

João is one of the most experienced guides at Epic and his skillset and positive mindset in the mountains is second to none

When not in Pakistan, João is  guiding and exploring in the Madeira Islands trails –  discovering some of the hidden treasures on his Portuguese Island.

João I can not thank you enough for the off the beaten paths and views you keep giving. Definitely one of the most challenging and amazing hikes we did 1200m meters all the way up to Fanal forest and circling back to the hidden village. Wow!

– Jeffery 

travel hunza valley

Adventure Guide

Sohail is the newest addition to the Epic Backpacker Tours team and we are beyond stoked to have him on board. As a veteran of the Karakoram and a native of Karimabad in Hunza, there is not much Sohail can’t do in the mountains. 

Besides having the ability to speak more languages than we can count, Sohail has explored every corner of Gilgit Baltistan and logs more trekking miles 

in a year than most people will do in a lifetime. As of the summer of 2022, Sohail has summited Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, and K2 – three of Pakistan’s five 8000-meter peaks. Sohail guides several trips including our annual bespoke expeditions but specializes in Hunza Valley tours.

Chris and Sohail, and the team at Epic are FANTASTIC! Highly recommend anyone to do a tour with ‘Epic’. They have the perfect balance of fun, excitement and wild adventures, tied in with being super professional and ensuring your safety/health in a foreign environment. Don’t waste a moment and book a tour with these guys as the value for money is UNREAL!

– Borgan

iran travel tour

Adventure Guide

Pedro’s been traveling all around the globe since 2009. His keen interests in documentary photography, rural life, and local people from different ethnic groups have been the focus of many of his professional projects.

Since 2012, he has developed his passion for travel and awesome shared experiences into a full-time adventure photography tour leader position.

Pedro has found himself continuously going back to the Middle East, with his likely favorite destination being Iran. Pedro will be leading his 11th tour in Iran with EBT this coming spring 2020

When Pedro’s not traveling the world with Epic Backpacker Tours, you’ll find him based in the western south of Portugal planning he’s next adventure missions, logistics and working out his photos in local exhibitions.

 I loved the combination of hiking, camping around breathtaking scenery mixed with the cultural aspects. The guide (Pedro) is knowledgeable and work very hard to make the trip as memorable as possible. All in all an epic adventure with some extremely epic individuals! Go for it, you won’t regret it!

– Saisun

Touring Iran with EBT in May 2022 was way above our expectation: itineraries well planned and carefully executed, perfect mix of sights and trekking, delicious food, nice accommodation, great guides and wonderful fellow travellers. Trekking can be handled by anyone physically fit. Highly recommended for those who want to experience the real Iran.

– Sumera

Diane Bouvet

Adventure Admin / Marketing

After fleeing from the corporate fashion world in Paris towards the start of 2020, Diane has been working as a web developer and graphic designer remotely from various bases across the globe

She brings all of her incredible design and organizational power to Epic Backpacker Tours and is responsible for many of the beautiful behind-the-scenes design elements. 

Diane has been to Iran and to Pakistan twice including all over Gilgit Baltistan and KPK.

k2 gondogoro la trek

Head of Operations | Guide

A veteran of Pakistan travel, Ralph is an experienced guide, photographer and writer who specializes in documenting remote locations. 

Not one to simply go where everyone else does, he insists on exploring new and lesser-known areas.

Together with Epic Backpacker Tours, he shows people parts of Pakistan that most other operators don’t even know about. He is particularly fond of the village of Barah, which he believes will become just as famous as Hunza one day.

Just got back from EBT’s Trekking Amongst Giants 15 day tour. The experience was first class. Ralph, our head guide, ensured that the entire trip ran smoothly and relatively on time (a bonus for anyone travelling in Pakistan). We had so many unforgettable days on the tour and the trekking was well-planned, safe but also a rewarding challenge. 

– Calvin

Traveling to a non-tourist destination can be a little intimidating but EBT takes all of the worry and trepidation away. From the pre-trip call to meeting the wonderful staff in person you can tell that you are dealing with a company that has a passion for what they do each and every day. Ralph, Zahid, and Khan were supportive, kind, and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that everyone on the trip was getting what they wanted out of the experience.

– Katrina 

adventure tours pakistan

Founder | Adventure Guide | Director

For the last eleven years, Chris has been seeking out every shade of adventure in various parts of the globe and had visited more than 65 countries along the way. 

Since 2011, Chris has logged more than 6300 trail miles across five continents and climbed multiple 6000 + 7000 meter peaks in Pakistan and Nepal.

In 2017, a distant dream and a deep passion for the mountains and people of Pakistan led Chris to found Epic Backpacker Tours at a time when foreign adventure tourism in Pakistan was almost nonexistent. Since then, Chris has guided more than 15 expeditions to various parts of Northern Pakistan.

Chris believes in using photography and powerful adventure experiences to dismantle negative stereotypes regarding what mainstream media considers “dangerous” countries while facilitating unique and meaningful memories in the mountains for countless people from around the globe. 

Long-distance hiking, learning languages, meaningful conversations, all things Turkish food, mountaineering, and making tasty coffee above 6,000 meters rank among his favorite things in life. 

For him, an ideal start to the day begins with a steaming cup of good coffee, the beam of a headlamp, alpine boots, and a camera in hand.

When he is not leading or planning tours, Chris works as a writer and photographer on his blog Off the Atlas – an adventure travel blog all about Pakistan. 

Read this interview our staff did with Chris to learn more about him!

Chris believes in Pakistan and its people, and he believes in the value of journeys shared with others and family cultivated on the road. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of what he does, and this really shines through in his work as a guide. He also makes great coffee – whether at 5am in an empty guesthouse or half way up a Himalayan peak.”

– Will De Villers

Pakistan is a magical country! Had 3 of the best weeks of my life thanks to Epic Backpacking Tours with owner, and one of our awesome guides, Chris. From detailed itinerary, preparation with an equipment list, and visa assistance. To amazing food, great porters, helpful guides, and great accommodations. Epic really hit home run after home run. […]

Their desire for adventure and amazing trip is just as high as yours. Bring a good pound of coffee for the trip. French press coffee every morning and no average tin coffee, plus you’ll be in your guides good books.

– Clark Tyler

epic backpacker tours

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