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Iran Trip Report: What I did over my Thanksgiving Vacation

Iran Trip Report: What I did over my Thanksgiving Vacation

Apr 13th, 2009, 12:38 PM
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MyDogKyle is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 05:16 AM
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Great Report.

I am an American that will be travelling to Iran in July. I will be on an organized tour who will help me arrange my visa.

I was just wondering if you or any of those who have travelled there had an hassles getting into or out of Iran, even with a valid visa? Did anyone have any issues when they returned to their home country?

I've already had my share of "why would I go there" questions and I was just curious if that same perception would be shared by border agents in the US or Iran.

nimbus is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 06:40 AM
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Hi nimbus - thanks very much.
I'm glad to hear you will be going - I'd be interested to see your itinerary and will definitely be looking forward to hearing about your experience when you return.

I did have a great deal of hassle when catching my connecting flight in Amsterdam coming home. They were very clear that it was because I am American and had been in Iran, however the situation was exacerbated by other stamps from middle eastern countries in my passport. I'll do a recap of this when I finish my report. Just be able to speak intelligently in detail and show pictures of your trip and you'll be fine!
When I landed in the US though they could not have cared less that I had been in Iran.

If the very disheartening situation with Roxana Saberi is causing concern I would not let this worry you assuming you are just a run of the mill tourist.
maxwell is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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Thanks for the response.

That is interesting that the American passport control wasn't that interested in where you have been. I have found that it depends on the border agent you come across when you return. I am flying from Chicago, O'Hare through Istanbul and on to Tehran.

I too have many stamps of middle eastern countries on my passport such as Eygpt, Jordan, Maylaysia, Oman, Bahrain, UAE and India(although India is, of course, considered much less of a Muslim country).

I assume everyone thought you were crazy for going there? I hear that a lot about my travels, as I go to all the "scary" places in the world - i.e., all over africa. It is amazing how few Americans travel outside Vegas and mexico.

How were the Iranian authorities toward you when you arrived and departed?
nimbus is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 01:11 PM
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Although you're required to list everywhere you've been on the US customs' form, I've never noticed the US immigration people pay the slightest attention. I've come back from a couple of RTW trips, with a whole long list of countries, and the agent never looked at it. Of course, the list may get typed into some data base later on....
thursdaysd is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Nimbus - I just realized you will be there right after their election in June. I hope you have plenty of opportunities to chat with the locals about this...I really was shocked at how eager people were to talk out in the open about how much they dislike Ahmadinejad (and the Supreme Leader), so I bet you will have some interesting conversations, regardless of the outcome.

As for the Iranian authorities, they were fine - no problems. It did take us a few hours to clear immigration (lots of standing around, going from room to room while they did who knows what with our passport), but everyone was very polite and it wasn't a big deal (except it was 2am and we were tired). Other americans sailed through though so hopefully you will be quicker.

How many days will you have there?
maxwell is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 05:49 AM
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Maxwell - Yes, I am anxious to speak with the locals. Interesting to note that it was the youth that lead the revolution in 79 and it appears that the youth is anxious now for some type of reform in the other direction.

I am just staying for 5 days - that is more than enough time away from any sort of booze. I'm not sure how I will survive.
I am also doing a layover for a couple days in Istanbul. I haven't committed to my agent (LetsgoIran)yet, as I am torn between going to Africa in July and Iran in October or visa versa. I have to admit I am torn, as I love Africa.

I was reading your profile and I'm impressed with the travels you have undertaken, often on your own. Where to next?
nimbus is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 06:49 AM
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Excellent report and photos...people shots are really insightful. Iran is on my list...must say your parents are really adventuresome! Thanks for sharing this experience.
turaj is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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Maxwell - I also wanted to ask you how you paid for the trip. I understand the credit card and atm issues. Did you wire 50% payment before the trip and bring the rest with you in cash?

nimbus is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 08:21 AM
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Turaj – thanks very much, and I must say I am truly blessed with like-minded parents who, on the surface would seem conservative and conventional, but are two of the most open minded, accepting & adventurous people one could ever meet.

Nimbus –
We paid the total amount in cash – our agent – Iranian based – insisted we didn’t need to wire any in advance. (We didn’t actually get to pay till we got to their office in Shiraz, so were not terribly thrilled having that much cash in our possession for several days but it all worked out.)

I have to laugh about the booze comment – I figured my Iran trip would be a detox of sorts for me so I had an extra glass of wine right before we touched down in Tehran...but I ended up drinking my fair share of vodka two of my nights there. (I was very well behaved and “represented well” for the US.) I could not pass up an opportunity to have cocktails in a dry country…and attend a little pre-party in the apartment of someone whose father works (several levels) under the president. Just as an interesting side note, I was told that in Shiraz, the main alcohol supplier makes 160,000 USD a MONTH from supplying spirits to the locals.

I was only in Istanbul for five days late last summer but it was one of the best trips I have had recently – was traveling alone and loved every minute of wandering around the city at my own pace.

I am trying to get back to Africa for some sort of backpacking trip this fall as a safari definitely isn’t in the budget (thinking sierra leone in November after the rains stop) -- I have enough frequent flier miles but it depends upon if business picks up or whether I have to get a “real” corporate job again here shortly and am tied to a desk.

I love my Africa trips also but I’m really hoping you do the Iran/Istanbul combo.
maxwell is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 01:27 PM
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That is hilarious about the booze. No matter where one lives and how dry a country is, booze prevails somewhere.

So they commenced my visa process - she said that they have been reviewing them and responding quickly lately so we'll see.

I have to admit I am nervous about going. Mostly from all the people I speak with, you know, those people that travel to those "exotic" lands like Cancun and Grand Cayman? I have traveled to some less-than-mainstream places, but this will take the cake.

So you have traveled all over west Africa? Alone? I have seen all of Central, Southern and Eastern Africa, but not West. I haven't traveled that area since the tourist facilities are very limited. Would love to though.

Would you go to Iran alone? Do you think being male I will be treated with the level of respect by authorities and the people as you did?

By the way, I take it you pretty much wing these trips without the use of guides and pre-arranged tour organizations?
nimbus is offline  
Apr 15th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Maxwell - I forgot to ask you, am I correct that you used a visa service to get the stamp? I use those services all the time.

Did you have to fill out a form, use a cover letter, reference the MFA Authorization Number on the cover letter?

This process is most confusing.....
nimbus is offline  
Apr 16th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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Nimbus –

Yes I used passport express – we only had about a month before our trip by the time we got our visa confirmation numbers from our tour agent and I really wasn’t confident that we would get our passports/ visas back in time without using the service. And yes, it is a confusing process – we did indeed have to fill out the form, etc.

I would definitely go to Iran alone, especially now that I have seen how cheap and plentiful the flights are to all the main cities, and how easy it would be to have your hotels arrange day trips and guides. I definitely think you’ll receive the same warm welcome – my father was often wandering off taking pictures and was constantly making random friends. Because there are just so few Americans traveling there everyone seems especially eager to make sure you are well taken care of and will want to talk to you. My father was so moved by the level of kindness of random strangers at every turn that he went home and did a slide presentation at his church to try to give all those naysayers an idea as to how wrong they were.

I do know what you mean about the nervousness factor though – I had so many friends like yours guaranteeing me that I’d be shot upon arrival in Damascus a few years ago … I was really extremely nervous upon landing after listening to those comments from friends for months and months. It’s irritating to listen to that nonsense but just tune ‘em out. (I even had people tell me I was going to be kidnapped in Cartegena, Colombia last summer…a city that has plenty of tourists!)

I’ve only been to Benin and a little of Togo in West Africa – I prefer to just wing it, and although exhausting at times I really enjoy that kind of travel! I would like to do a proper safari again soon, but in the meantime if all I can afford is a backpacking trip on the continent that’s just fine with me too.
maxwell is offline  
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