Is Iran safe in 2023? – Against the Compass


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.

True story.

This guide is a personal and thorough analysis that will take you through all the reasons why Iran is safe, without forgetting its internal political problems and, of course, a series of super useful safety tips.

is it safe to travel to Iran

Is Iran safe? My personal experience

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.

If you want to know the places I visited, check my 1-month itinerary.

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.

is it safe to visit Iran
Friendly locals are the ones who make you always feel safe in Iran

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.

I can’t recommend Iran enough and, based on my wonderful experiences, I am really comfortable saying that this is indeed one of the safest countries I have ever been to.

However, there are a few things you need to know about safety in Iran and this is the reason why I wrote this post. Continue reading to learn more. 

is Iran safe to visit
With Vali’s family in Mashhad

Is it safe to travel to Iran? The situation nowadays

Surf the internet safely
In Iran, the internet is censored and popular websites and internet services such as Facebook or WhatsApp are blocked. If you want to access them and navigate safely, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and for that, I use ExpressVPN.

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.

To make the situation even more dramatic, Iran shot down a commercial Ukrainian plane but apparently, it was an accident and the world believes it.

Nobody knows what will eventually happen but it seems that the situation has calmed down and, according to several local sources, life in Iran today is just normal, with the exception of the occasional protests that tend to happen in the center of Tehran, that’s it.

Personally, I would still travel to Iran.

is Iran a safe country
The architecture is truly gorgeous

The media: is Iran perceived as dangerous because of the Western media?

Of course.

If anyone thinks Iran is a dangerous country, that is because of the media. 

For decades, American newspapers have been selling a completely biased image of Iran, exclusively focused on nuclear weapons, religious fanatics, human rights abuse and, basically, a dictatorial regime. 

In Europe, it used to be the same story but I feel that they have softened their speech and today, while they are still talking about all the crazy things going on there, they are continuously publishing reports and chronicles talking about its great tourist attractions and people, and this is one of the reasons why many travelers have started to consider Iran a safe destination to travel to. 

is Iran safe to travel
Do you think whether Iran is safe? Anti-American propaganda just outside of the former American embassy in Tehran

This is not the case of the American media, however, especially with the current Administration, which keeps on contaminating public opinion with the idea that Iran is the ultimate arch-enemy and one of the unfriendliest countries on Earth.

You would be surprised to know how many Americans believe that. 

In fact, I have had a few small arguments on social media, like the day when that American dude replied to one of my tweets – see below – asking why would someone want to visit such a dangerous place and, to support his reasoning, he posted one article from Fox News. Hilarious. 

I am aware that this has been said over and over, but don’t trust what the media has to say about a country and do believe the hundreds of thousands of travelers who have been there.

Problems: is it safe to travel to Iran now?

Is Iran safe to visit despite all the current problems?

Sure, Iran is safe for tourists, but we can’t ignore that there are some serious internal issues.

  • Iran is a dictatorial regime ruled by Islamic Law – As much as I love Iran, we can’t ignore that this is a repressive dictatorship that violates human rights every now and then. However, having a bad Government doesn’t make their people bad as well and, as long as you follow some simple rules – more on that later – you shouldn’t be worried about it.
  • Violent protests (update 2019) – You probably heard about some violent protests in 2019 which involved several dead civilians and the Government shutting down the internet for nearly a week. Sure, the Government’s response to demonstrators will always be repression and more repression, but this is happening across the world, including in Chile, and I don’t see Donald Trump complaining about it. The best you can do is to stay away from any public demonstrations. 
  • Terrorist attacks – There have been some terrorist attacks in Iran, the last big one being in 2017 in Tehran, when several Iranians died. It was an unfortunate event but terrorist attacks also happen in Europe – more often than in Iran – and, in the USA, there is a mass shooting every other day.
Women at Tehran metro exit

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.

As I said, I strongly believe the FCO Advice is overly cautious but, if you are not sure about it, you just need to remain in the touristic and safe part of Iran.

You should also read: Is Afghanistan safe to visit right now?

is Iran dangerous to visit
The Iran-Iraq border

Is it safe to visit Iran? – My top safety tips

These are just some extra safety tips for Iran:

How to behave in Iran (cultural etiquette)

As I said, Iran has some strict Sharia rules but they are actually more relaxed than in Saudi Arabia for example, a country with a large Western expat community.

For men, the only thing you can’t do is wear shorts.

For women, it is a bit more complicated but all you have to do is cover your hair and not show any of your curves.

Other than that, just apply common sense and know that public shows of affection are not tolerated – like in Dubai – and alcohol is not allowed, even though it is widely available in the black market and locals do drink often.

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.

I think mannequins are the only scary thing in Iran

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

Just be smart and you will be fine.

Keeping your money safe in Iran

This isn’t a safety tip but a precaution. 

In Iran, international credit cards do not work, which means that you will need to carry all your cash for whatever time you are in the country.

For this, you have two solutions:

  1. Buy a local credit card and top it up – There is a service for foreigners which consists of a local debit card which you top-up with cash upon your arrival, so you don’t need to carry all the money. Mah Card is one of these services which you can trust.
  2. Book your hotels ONLINE through 1stQuest – 1stQuest is a local company that provides a large variety of booking services for Iran, including visa services, hotels, travel insurance and tours. You won’t be able to purchase these services online through a local website – as they don’t accept credit cards – but 1stQuest is one of the very few companies which does so, at least, you won’t need to carry all the cash, which might be half of it. The best of it is that readers of this blog get an exclusive 5% discount. How? By using the promo code ATC-QST.

Surfing the internet safely

As you may know, in Iran the internet is censored, so a lot of websites are blocked, from Facebook to YouTube. 

In order to access these websites, you will need something called a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and you can find more information about it here.

But, isn’t it illegal to use a VPN? Why should this be a safety tip?

Yes, using a VPN is illegal but everybody in Iran uses it – really, everyone – and the only people who get punished for using it are, for example, those who use the internet to organize protests against the regime.

Also, a VPN will not only allow you to access blocked sites but also, it allows you to browse more privately and safely and, in this type of authoritarian regime where anyone could be spied on, you really want to use one. 

I personally use ExpressVPN, one of the fastest VPNs available in the market.

If don’t know anything about VPNs, read my tutorial: Why and how to find the right VPN for Iran

is Iran a safe country to visit
The more remote you go in Iran, the safer it gets!

Is Iran safe for solo female travelers?

This is one of the questions I get asked, most often from women.

Is it safe to travel in Iran as a solo woman?

Well, I am a man, so I obviously had a very different experience from most women, but I don’t know a single lady who didn’t have a wonderful experience so, based on their opinions, I can certainly say that Iran is a safe destination for women. 

If you want to know more details, I interviewed Eveline from Earth Wanderess, who shares her travel expertise about solo female travel in Iran

Eve from Earth Wanderess in Iran

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. True story.

In this post, Jackie wrote about American tourists in Iran.

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.

Public transportation in Iran

The whole of Iran is really well-connected by a super-effective and efficient bus network, so it is the most popular method of transportation among independent travelers. 

There are two types of buses, normal and VIP and, in order to travel more safely, you should get the VIP one, as it only costs 20-30% more, which is a few more € and, since they are newer and bigger, they are definitely safer. 

Because of the sanctions, in Iran, most booking sites don’t accept international foreign cards. Before, you could book them via 1stQuest but they are not offering this particular service anymore. However, you may still use 1stQuest for visa services, hotels, flights, travel insurance and tours. 

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. 

More information for traveling safely in Iran

All our guides to Iran

Check more safety guides

is Iran safe?

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