How to get VOA in Iran

Congratulations on deciding to visit Iran.

18-P1230938.JPG
Masjid Nasir-al Mulk or the Pink Mosque. Motivation to visit Iran!

Now, you are probably having the same headache as I had about a month ago. What’s needed for the Iran VOA (Visa On Arrival), and what are the applicable rules? The internet is full of agencies trying to make some money out of reference numbers for the VOA, but the good news is it’s not mandatory. (I must say that, while I was waiting for the visa, those with reference numbers got it sooner than I did. Read on only if you don’t mind waiting a bit and you’d rather use that 50$ for several days in Iran!)

I will write this as a Q&A Format as it is more fun that way!

Information as of 13th April, 2016 at Imam Khomeini Airport (IKA). It always changes.. always!

Also check this very informative article by Loyalty Lobby. They have photos. I didn’t think of getting any. 😦
1) Am I eligible for a VOA?

If you are NOT a citizen of one of the following countries, you are eligible.

Source: Wikipedia

2) Am I allowed to enter Iran Visa free?

Again, wikipedia and Timatic lists the following 8 countries as Visa free.

But, I am a Sri Lankan citizen/resident/passport holder and was required to get a VOA at the airport. So be ready to apply for the VOA, even if you’re coming from one of these countries.

3) Do I need an address / sponsor?

Yes you do. Be sure to write the:

  • Name
  • Telephone No
  • Address

on the form given. The form I got did not ask for the address, but the Visa Officer was suspicious that I did not know the address.

4) Do I need to book a hotel for the first night to give the address?

No.

A friendly Iranian who accepts to answer the phone at your arrival time, and states that you are going to stay with them is sufficient. I gave the address of a couchsurfer, but stayed the first night at another CSer’s place. This wasn’t a problem. You’ll find that some CSer’s are not keen to give the address, because.. reasons. Respect that, it’s their country, they need to live in it. Simply find another guy to get the address from.

5) What if I don’t have a return ticket?

I had a return ticket, but nobody checked it. I just had to give a country, to which I will depart to, when and how.

6) Do I need Insurance?

Yes. It is mandatory. There’s a big notice at the visa counter stating just that.

Many insurance companies don’t work with Iran. No problems! There’s a nice little insurance counter at the airport, just in front of the Visa counter. For 1 month, it cost only 15€. (The site said 18€!)

7) What else do I need?

The visa officer needed to know whether I had enough money. I showed him a bunch of Euro notes, and said that I had 450€ for 10 days. (I spent much less, but carried that just in case). He did not count it. Just took my word for it.

8) How much does the Visa cost?

For me, it was 25€. A Chinese traveller I met spent 90€ and an Argentinian guy paid 40 something Euros. It depends. But I heard the Chinese amount is the largest.

9) Is that it?

Yes. You will have to wait a bit. And they will call you by your Country Name. I was taken by surprise when they called “Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka, your visa is ready!”.

10) Any more tips?

Yes! I’m glad you asked. Keep reading for 5 Bonus tips on Arrival in Iran!

Congratulations on getting in!

Tip 1) Be courteous to the Airport officers and everyone!

A “Salam” works far better than a “Hi / Hello”. Actually I used Salam for Hello, Excuse me and anywhere I needed to get attention, including waking up a sales lady at the duty free.

Equally “Merci” can be used for “Thank you”.

Tip 2) Don’t buy a SIM card at the airport.

Do not buy a SIM card at the airport, nor a call card. The taxi drivers will call your host / hostel if you need to contact them. Or just give them the address in Farsi.

Buy an IranCell sim card later. It needs no identification, and works well with pre-paid options. I got weeks worth of internet for 5 000 Toman.

Tip 3) Taxi Prices from the airport to the city (Tehran).

From the city to the airport, it costs 55 000 Toman. The fare from the airport is a bit more. Try to settle down for 60 000 Toman. It cost me 80 000 Toman, and that was too much. The ride is long, almost 2 hours, don’t worry… they are not kidnapping you!

Tip 4) Change just enough money at the airport.

The exchange rate is better at Sarafi offices or illegal money changers. Change enough so you can get going for the day. Even on Friday, the illegal money changing guys are around, so you can use their services.

Tip 5) Tomans? Rials? That’s confusing!

10 Rials = 1 Toman. Prices are often quoted in Toman, but written mostly in Rials. (Learn little bit of Persian writing to find out this.) The key is to identify the ending “ـن = n” in Tomans and “ـل = l” in  Rials. Notice the little dot!

Confirm every price by asking “Toman?”.

Keep in mind that usually people omit the thousand as well.
Eg: Four fingers shown means 4 k T = 4 000 Tomans = 40 000 Rials.

That’s it folks!

Enjoy this beautiful country and its people! I will be writing more about Iran, so be in touch.

Khodafez!

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