Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khameni since 1989.
Head of government:
President Hassan Ruhani since 2013.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are of the round two-pin type.
Iran is a remarkable travel destination in myriad ways, and chief among these is the fact that preconceptions of a stern, inhospitable destination are invariably shattered. No one’s pretending that the country’s current leadership can’t be shockingly hard-fisted in matters of civic law, but the most likely result of a Western visitor making an Iran trip remains an endless stream of tea invites.
Rich Persian heritage is evident throughout the country, both in terms of the historical sights – the ancient ruins of Persepolis and the still-glorious former capital of Esfahan being the two most prominent examples – and the country’s distinct cultural identity, which sets it as almost a nation apart in the Islamic world. It’s somewhere with issues, sure, and flashpoint travel advisories should be heeded, but street-level Iran is largely a separate entity to news-headline Iran, and it makes for a truly soul-stirring place to visit.
There have been a number of mass demonstrations in Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and other cities in recent weeks. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK advises British nationals to stay away from demonstrations, large crowds or areas where police and security forces are gathered. Security forces may arrest or detain those taking photographs of demonstrations or those watching or taking an interest in demonstrations.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK advises against all travel to within 100km (62 miles) of the entire Iran/Afghanistan border, and to within 10km (6 miles) of the entire Iran/Iraq border. The Pakistan border area is also insecure, and travellers are advised against all travel east of the line running from Bam to Jask. This includes all travel to Bam.
Due to the unsettled political situation, British travellers to Iran - and particularly dual British/Iranian citizens - face greater risks than nationals of most other countries. Iranian paranoia about Britain's supposed role in encouraging unrest means that the security forces are suspicious of people with British connections. There is therefore a risk that a British visitor could be arbitrarily detained, despite their complete innocence.
The risk is less for tourists - particularly those in tour groups - visiting tourist centres where the local security authorities are likely to be more familiar with foreigners. The risks increase for independent travellers, particularly if they go off the beaten track. Similarly, business visitors are less at risk if they have been invited by local business contacts. But any behaviour - no matter how innocent - that does not have an obvious explanation can put travellers at greater risk.
The risk of arrest would rise sharply if a British citizen were found in or close to a demonstration. These demonstrations, some of which have turned violent resulting in some deaths, are likely to continue sporadically.
The ability of the British Embassy to help if British citizens are arrested is limited - Iran rarely grants prompt consular access. Dual nationals are at particular risk: the Iranian authorities will not recognise their British citizenship and will deny that the British Government has any legitimate responsibility for them.
There is a general threat from terrorism. Explosions have killed a number of people in recent years. Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate, including against expatriate and foreign travellers, and you should remain vigilant. On 18 October, a suicide bomber carried out an attack in Pishin in the southern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan. Some Iranian sources have claimed that foreign powers, including the UK (incorrectly), are in some way involved in the attack.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK believes there remains a threat to foreigners from kidnapping by Baluchi separatists throughout Iran.
Credit cards and bankcards cannot generally be used in Iran and travellers' cheques can be very difficult to exchange.
The application process for an Iranian visa can be protracted and unpredictable. Travellers are therefore advised not to purchase flight tickets or pay for hotels and other travel arrangements before they have secured a visa. Since 9 February 2010, applicants have been required to provide fingerprints when applying for an Iranian entry visa.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice: