A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about 14 visa-free / visa on arrival destinations that South Africans can visit. It’s one of my most popular posts, but it also holds the title for the most controversial.
Why? Because I mentioned Iran.
A few keyboard warriors decided to drag me on social media because Iran has a 30-day visa for South Africans that you have to apply for at the consulate. No one wanted to believe me that a visa on arrival option existed.
I eventually decided to remove Iran from the post to settle the dust, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.
So I did what any tech savvy millennial would do, and I emailed the consulate for the final say in this argument. And it gives me great pleasure to let you know that I was right! South Africans visiting Iran for tourism purposes for 14 days or less can get a visa on arrival.
This is great news for South African passport holders. It means we have access to five countries (Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Iran), which are all right next to each other and don’t require offerings of dead trees. It’s basically the closest we are going to get to a Euro trip.
So if you find yourself heading that way, here’s everything you need to know about getting your Iranian visa on arrival!
Step 1: Fly into one of Iran’s Main Airports
To get the 14-day visa on arrival, you will need to fly into one of the following six airports in Iran:
- Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport
- Mehrabad International Airport
- Mashhad International Airport
- Shiraz International Airport
- Tabriz International Airport
- Isfahan International Airport
The overland borders do not offer the visa on arrival at the moment. So if you are planning on entering the country this way, you’ll need to apply in person at the Iranian consulate beforehand.
Step 2: Have Proof of Accommodation
At the visa window, you will need to show proof of accommodation.
This can be tricky, as Iran is still an emerging tourism destination and not a lot of places have online booking facilities or are advertising on sites like Booking.com.
There are only six listed hotels on that site, and they all cost over an R 1,000 a night. So if you are a budget traveller, you’ll need to do some Googling to find cheaper digs for your stay in the country.
Or see if any of the hotels on Booking a free cancellation within a certain time frame as a way to get your proof of accommodation without blowing your entire budget.
Step 3: Pay The Visa On Arrival Fee
After receiving a piece of paper from the visa window that indicates how much your visa will cost, you’ll head to the bank window.
The visa on arrival costs is between EUR 60 – 70 (R900-R1,000) and is payable in cash.
Note: You can’t withdraw money from your banks in Iran. You need to have cash on you before you enter the country. While it is possible to pay for some things with credit cards, it’s not reliable as their acceptance changes a lot and the ATM’s only take local bank cards.
After paying for your visa, you’ll head back to the visa window. Hand in your passport and wait until it’s ready. Depending on how many people from your flight are also applying it can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
Step 4: Buy Travel Insurance
The last step before you can leave the airport is to show proof of travel insurance. The policy needs to mention Iran specifically, or it won’t be accepted.
If you do arrive and don’t have the right kind of insurance or don’t have any at all, you can buy a policy at the airport.
The Iranian Foreign Visitor Insurance costs EUR 15 (R 230.00).
And that’s it!
While it is quite a pricey visa on arrival if it’s in your budget and you have the time I say go for it!
Besides you’ll get to avoid the ridiculous 30-day visa requirements that require an HIV, TB and Hepatitis tests not older than two weeks.
Apparently, your infected blood is okay for 14 days or less.
But besides that bullshit, Iran is an emerging destination that is still untouched from hordes of tourists. It’s a unique opportunity to explore this country’s culture, historic sites and natural beauty.
I hope this post will encourage you to visit this country and put an end to all those nay sayers harping on about this visa option being a unicorn for South Africans.