Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Iran Chronicles: Part Yek

Note: This post will talk about a "Family Member" at some part, without whom my travel would've hardly been possible (and that is all the gratitude that's going to be expressed, so it IS about Iran!)

One hot April afternoon in 2014, my travel buddy called me excitedly to ask if I was game to travel to Iran - her husband's pal had just returned from Tehran and had been raving about it.  And that the sweets in Iran were superb. Would anyone say no? And as simply as that,  we started planning our holiday.

Now, getting a visa is always a pain. Especially for housewives (yeah, get used to the term!). Even harder for housewives traveling without their husbands. And more so, when there are 2 housewives traveling. Add their clear happiness at the travel, as if running away from their domestic bliss back home, it goes up a notch to raise suspicions. We'd faced this for Israel, Oman, Bahrain, even Bangladesh. But Iran? The country took it up 2 notches.

First off, Iran is deeply suspicious of non-Iranis interested in traveling to their country. Especially when they are declared neither Muslim or Parsi, and don't seem particularly interested in any religion including their own! And then we spouted all this jargon about being interested in culture and experiential travel, and thought Iran would be a wonderful fit. And we raved about their ancient civilisation and beauty. All normal? We thought so too! But at the Consulate of the Islamic Republic of Iran, despite wearing the mandatory scarf over the head and being more docile than usual, my pal and I were met with hearty suspicion. What were we asked to do? Come back with our respective husbands to sign in person a "No Objection Certificate" 'allowing' their wives to travel to Iran as a tourist.

Now for the gratitude part - luckily both husbands turned up.  They showed exemplary wisdom both at home and at the consulate by not tittering or even smiling at the idea of 'allowing' their spouses to travel.  They also displayed considerable intelligence by not talking about our previous visit to Israel. Yes, all in all, am grateful to the Universe for my husband. He da man!

And that's how the stamping happened. Before we knew it, in September, we heard the Emirates announcement that all liquor would 'now be cleared' and that we were in Iranian airspace!

The Useful Info Part

  1. If you are traveling to Iran on a tourist visa, you need a 'letter of invitation' from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, it is best to go through a travel agent based there (we used 'Gasht Travels', Shiraz and I cannot recommend them enough) 
  2. They require a medical test to rule out AIDS and TB. These tests have to be done at the consulate authorised medical labs only. In Mumbai, there is one at Kemps Corner that does it. 
  3. The visa processing takes 4 - 6 weeks from start to finish. And the tourist visa is usually valid only for 90 days for an Indian citizen. Single entry only. So plan accordingly. 
  4. If you have an American passport, or are traveling with a friend on a US passport (like we did, our third travel partner is a US citizen), it is best to declare it upfront in the Consulate and have her details too. 

To be continued…..


  1. Woah...getting a visa is really that big a hassle!? :-/
    Very informative post...looking forward to the Iran chronicles! :)

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  3. There's definately a great deal to learn about this issue.
    I like all the points you've made.