Joan Torres is a Spanish tourist who has published detailed information about travel security in Iran on his website (againstthecompass.com) . What follows is a reprint of his content.
IS IRAN SAFE IN 2020?
I love Iran and I absolutely enjoyed my time there, not only because this is home to the most striking Islamic architecture and some of the most hospitable people I have ever met but also because Iran is one of the safest countries in the Middle East and in the world.
I have been to Iran twice. The first time, I barely spent 10 days there. On the second trip, I spent 2 months. Now, I am planning to go a third time, and I am pretty sure there will be a fourth.Iran is amazing.
On the one hand, the country is huge and it is home to endless different things to see, from dreamy islands to alpine mountains, desert and historical cities. Each and every region has something very different to offer and it would take an eternity to visit everything.
…… On the other hand, Iranians are great people, extremely hospitable, well-educated, kind-hearted and, overall, beautiful people who are very curious to meet foreigners and help them, most of the time expecting nothing in return.
It is one of those countries where you are continuously making local friends.Tea and house invitations, endless random conversations, sharing street meals…
During my journeys, the local interactions were always great, and genuine, and this is one of the things that will make you realize that Iran is a safe destination, because Iranians make you feel so.
Is it safe to travel to Iran? The situation nowadays
According to Wikipedia, official sources say that, in 2013, as many as 4.76 million foreigners visited Iran and, since then, the country has increased massively in popularity, which means that the figure may have easily doubled or even tripled ( just a guess).
These statistics are just insane for Iran, especially if we take into account that the Western media, especially American, has been portraying the country as the worst, most dangerous and repressive of all countries.
Today, historical Persian cities such as Shiraz, Esfahan or Yazd, are filled with both tourist groups and independent travelers, perfectly lined souvenir stalls and cute boutique hotels.
And this can only mean one thing: Iran is extremely safe.
Regions in Iran which are not safe for tourists
According to the FCO Advice, the province of Balochistan and the areas bordering Iraq and Afghanistan are advised against for all travel, for obvious reasons.
The rest of Iran, however, is totally safe for tourists.
Nevertheless, there are two things you need to know about these dangerous regions:
- First of all, they are far away from all touristic places
- Second of all, the FCO advice will always be totally exaggerated
Relatively dangerous regions in Iran
- Border with Iraq – There may be some tension on the southern part of the border but I myself crossed the northern Iran-Iraq border, in Kurdistan, and I can assure you that that part of Iran is safe to visit.
- Border with Afghanistan – I haven’t been there but intrepid travelers cross that border all the time and, so far, I have never heard of any bad experiences or reports.
- Balochistan – Balochistan is a province where the majority of people are Sunni so, for the last few years, there have been some tensions but the situation has improved; plus, with the increase in popularity of Pakistan, every day this region receives more and more travelers on their way to Pakistan.
Is there a danger of being arrested?
Another of the reasons why Iran is often perceived as dangerous is because, whenever a foreigner gets arrested, it appears all over the news, and reports say that foreigners may be locked in a cell for months without being able to communicate with the outside world.
However, there are two kinds of foreigners who get arrested: journalists and travelers doing stupid things, like those bloggers who got arrested because they flew a drone over a military facility or those Americans who were caught crossing the Iranian border illegally from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Is Iran safe for Americans and British?
The million-dollar question.
Nobody has ever asked me this because I am neither American nor British, but I do know some people from these countries who have been to Iran and all of them said that it didn’t really make a difference.
As I said, Iranians are curious to meet any foreigner and, actually, they might probably be more excited to meet an American than any other tourist.
Moreover, I can assure you one thing which is that an American will feel 10x safer and more welcome in Iran than an Iranian will feel in the USA, where they might be subjected to racism and prejudices.
Is driving safe in Iran?
Like in most countries in the Middle East, the locals don’t really follow the traffic rules, so car accidents do abound.
However, I felt that in places like Egypt or Saudi Arabia, the locals are crazier.
Crossing the streets in Iran
One of the potential threats most tourists face in Iran is crossing the street, especially in Tehran, as crosswalks are completely useless so, when trying to cross, cars don’t stop and simply avoid you.
The first few times you do it, you think you are going to die but after some practice, you get used to it. In any case, it is always recommended to cross the road next to a local person.
About religion in Iran
In Iran, most people are Shia, a branch of Islam different from Sunni, the prevalent branch across the Arabic countries. By nature, Shia people are more relaxed than Sunni, which means that, when it comes to religion, Iran is more liberal than countries like Oman or the United Arab Emirates, plus Iran has also a large population of atheists, more than any Arab country, as you will see it when you go there. In any case, religion still plays an important role in the country, so be always respectful like you would be in any other Muslim country.
Conclusion: Is Iran a safe country to visit?
Overall, Iran is a safe destination and this is the reason why the country has undergone a tourist boom in the last couple of years.
Like in any other country, however, there are, of course, some small threats but the good news is that these tiny dangers are not specific to Iran but they happen in many countries across the world.