www.destinationIran.com appears to be another of these in-country agencies; these may be good for those who want to plan their own itineraries. Does anybody have any experience with a particular travel/tour agency they would recommend – or warn us away from?
This time we are going to look at travel (as Americans carrying U.S. passports) back to Iran. A group of ten of us took this journey about three months ago. It was an interesting and enlightening experience. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone with an Iranian connection consider making the trip. (This means you.)
There is considerable misunderstanding among Americans about travel to Iran. I was certainly one of those misinformed. I vaguely understood that Iran was not on the U.S. State Department’s list of proscribed countries, but had always assumed that the Iranian government would not issue a visa on an American passport. I was mistaken. But be awake and aware:
The visa process was the most dramatic part of the entire trip. The Iranian Interests Section (IIS) at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington is quite understaffed. (And, I’m told, underpaid as well.) Our visas were finally issued on the very last day before our travel plans required them; we got the passports (with visas!) back less than 24 hours before travel time. The guys at the IIS were very helpful once they realized our urgency and the need for expeditious service. You can get a visa application here http://daftar.org/forms/visas/101.pdf and submit it easily by mail.
. The Iranian government requires that all American tourists travel with a private guide or group tour that is authorized to guide American citizens and aware of any relevant Iranian government regulations. However, Uncornered Market and others tell us: “Don’t be deterred by this requirement. We experienced both a group tour and a private guide in Iran. In both circumstances, we still had ample time to explore, walk the streets and browse the bazaars (markets) on our own. We made connections with ordinary people, we ate street food and were even fortunate enough to accept invitations to people’s homes.”
SCHERMER’S SELECTED WEB-BASED RESOURCES FOR TRAVELERS TO IRAN
Compiled by Douglas Schermer, Peace Corps Iran Association
Peace Corps Iran Association’s website contains information for travelers to Iran including a list of travel organizers, videos from presentations at PCIA conferences, stories and videos from Iran Peace Corps Volunteers, back issues of KhabarNameh, the PCIA newsletter, and photos of Iran “then and now.” These resources can be discovered by exploring the PCIA website.
I suggest you begin your exploration here. This page contains information about Iran and traveling to Iran as presented at the PCIA conference in Austin last May 2015. You might want to begin with the presentation by John Limbert or the travel session by Lorentz, Ricks, Meyer, and Nichols-Mahadi. The video of Paul Barker’s presentation in Alaska provides a brief historical perspective.
Back issues of KhabarNameh contain information about Iran and Iran RPCVs. One column, written by Doug Meyer, features information about Iran available on the WWW. You will find the links in his column very interesting.
PCIA has encouraged Iran RPCVs to write stories from their experience in Iran. At conferences there have been session at which authors have read their selections. Some of these stories are located here.
Before you go, you may want to explore learning a bit of Farsi. There are many websites with beginning Farsi lessons. I highly recommend the resources that can be found here.
“The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and U.S. Policy” is an unprecedented project by 50 of the world’s top scholars on Iran representing some 20 foreign policy think tanks, eight universities, and senior foreign policy officials from six U.S. administrations. The book has no single political perspective or agenda, as the authors approach the subjects with a wide range of views.
The book is also a living website project, as the entire book is available free on the web. It will also be constantly updated. The goal is to provide information about the many complex sides of a country with which the United States has not had relations for more than three decades.
Rich Steves has been to Iran, too. His video about his trip to Iran is on YouTube.
Press TV is an official English language website of the government in Iran. You may find some of the content on this website interesting, some is beautiful, most is informative, including the political “advertising.”
I served in Semnan 1966-67. YouTube contains several videos about Semnan, many of which were produced by Press TV. You can search YouTube for each of the destinations on your tour and find a variety of videos, many of them by amateurs, which provide some visual images of Iran not available anywhere else.
When you go shopping in Isfahan, I recommend you visit shop of Hossein Fallahi, a Persian Miniaturist. We proudly display works of his at our home.
When you return, please send me 15 of your favorite photos. If you wrote a journal, I would appreciate it if you would send that to me also. I hope to post these on the Peace Corps Iran website.