Tourist Doesn’t Learn Lesson – Flies Into Iran With One Way Ticket and No Visa, Again

iran street photography
Mean streets of Iran.


Back in October 2012, I made headlines by flying into Iran with a one-way ticket, no visa, and no proof of onwards travel. Summary of my experience – the friendly Iranian officials at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran asked me a few questions, typical of any airport anywhere, they efficiently processed my application, stamped my passport with an Iranian visa-on-arrival, welcomed me to their country, smiled, and let me in. I walked out of the airport, leaving behind one of my many preconceptions about Iran. Tonight, I’m about to hop on a plane and do the same thing again. By lunch time tomorrow, I’ll be back in Iran.

I don’t normally pre-write about a destination, but Iran is different. The reputation that Iranians have around the world, is horrifically simple. Most people, believe Iranians are extremists and terrorists living in a hostile nation that is full of danger, kebabs, and machine guns. In reality, there isn’t a friendlier, more welcoming country anywhere on the entire planet. There’s no wars, wide-scale unrest, suicide bombings, or mass murders happening in Iran. However, still, in 2015, this isn’t what most people believe about Iran. The “Axis of Evil” reputation, sternly persists. Thanks for nothing, mainstream media.


Mean streets of Iran
Mean streets of Isfahan, Iran.
Streets of Abyaneh, Iran
Mean streets of Abyaneh, Iran


There is no reason to doubt the validity of anything I write about, or take photos of, in Iran. I have zero sponsors or advertisers to answer to. Unfortunately, I also don’t have a secret billionaire benefactor whose political whims need to be unconsciously implanted into your mind (secret billionaire benefactors, hit me up using the contact link). Yomadic is just my words and my photos – and I have a history of providing honest travel entertainment and advice. My only wish, is that more people could see my work – as I show the “other” version of Iran and Iranians – not the questionable version that the media perpetuates.

Over the next four to six weeks, I’ll show you my version of Iran. Photos from the gritty streets, and the spectacularly photogenic ancient sites. Words and stories, straight from the mouths of regular Iranian locals. Not politics, just regular life. Screw politics, everybody has already made their minds up anyway, and I’d prefer to write about the experience of a Metallica-styled cut-throat-razor-haircut in an Iranian bathroom, rather than opining on what people think, or don’t think, about their glorious leaders. This is all about getting two birds stoned at once – I spend time in the most incredible tourist destination on the planet, you get to see the “real” Iran – instead of the usual clichéd, biased, and sensationalist disinformation.
Because, the reality is, visiting Iran aint no big deal.


click to see an interactive map showing the location of this article


It would be great, if millions of people could see the photos, and read the stories, of a regular independent tourist in Iran. But the thing is, I’m not CNN or the BBC. I’m not even HONY. Thankfully, I’m not FOX.

So, I’m going to ask for your assistance. May I ask you, dear reader, to please SHARE my work from Iran over the next month? That would be dandy. Help spread the word, chip away at stereotypes, and entertain people at the same time. Steal my photos if you like. There’s a bigger issue at stake here, than mere copyright. Which, coincidentally, doesn’t really apply in Iran.


fake kentucky fried chicken iran - SFC Shiraz
SFC – Shiraz Fried Chicken. Pretty sure the Colonel is wearing a fake Adidas apron. Camera geeks: ISO 2500, on a three-year-old-camera.


To be honest, when I first visited Iran I had feelings of trepidation. It took me about five minutes, to realise the country was completely different from what I had been told to expect. Hopefully, I’ll convince a few more people of the reality of Iran in 2015. With your assistance. Power to the people, y’all.

Iran for real (#iran4real …I’ll be using it), commences as soon as I’ve hooked up Internet access in Iran.

It’s time to pack, catch a flight, and test the one-way-ticket-no-visa-no-proof-of-onward-travel theory, again.




PS, * full disclosure – in 2015, I’m taking two very small groups of people to Iran. The cynics may say “he wants us to spread the word about Iran, so he can sell his extremely cool trips of a lifetime”. No. The first Yomadic Iran trip is already sold out. And, there’s only a few seats left on the second (and final) trip in October, with nine months still to go. There will be no other Yomadic Iran trips this year. Apart from that one disclosure, I have no financial, political, sponsored, or paid, interest whatsoever in trying to promote Iran. Sometimes, people do something, just because it needs to be done.

BTW, I would love to send you the next dispatch, posted from some-where random around this planet (and you'll soon find out why YOMADIC email followers are my favourite followers):

32 thoughts on “Tourist Doesn’t Learn Lesson – Flies Into Iran With One Way Ticket and No Visa, Again

  1. You can count on me with sharing the stories from Iran. I’d love one day to go there, unfortunately at the moment it’s not possible — but luckily we have you to feed us stories and images from the journey. :)

    Take care, and all the best in 2015!

  2. We are always happy to share real and authentic travel stories Nate. I cannot wait to read all about the Iran you’ll see especially because it’s a place I’d love to go to myself :)

  3. I’m still disappointed I will not join you in discovering the real Iran but I can at least share your stories! And we will meet eventually!

  4. I’ve read many blog posts about Iran this year, and it’s now at the top of my travel wishlist. I look forward to reading about your time in the country and I will definitely be sharing your posts.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can not thank you enough for dispelling stereotypes about Iran. As an Iranian (in the travel industry), there’s nothing we want more than for people to see the real Iran. You can also use the hashtags #discoveriran and #mustseeiran, as they are widely used

  6. The number of folk I know who have been to Iran is just two but both cannot speak more highly of it; one even says it was his favourite country to travel to (he’s been to 20+). I have many Iranian colleagues here in Canada and they too lament the perception of the Western world on Iran. I would love to go one day.

  7. The problem is that most americans are too ignorant and lazy to read about Iran. The Iranian opposition is huge and there were anti regime protests in the millions upon millions back in 2009 and 2010, yet americans still think Iranians are the same as isis, because they want to think like that. Theres no point in trying to change their mind, and frankly as an Iranian I couldnt give a crap about what they think of me, my people or country.

  8. It was the Iran travels that first had Sally Yang passing your link on to me!

    Can’t wait to read some more of the travels (fear not, I’ll be sharing) as well as get there ourselves later this year

  9. Can’t wait to hear about your latest trip there, my wife and I know many Iranians and they keep telling us to head over. 2015 may finally be the year we get to check it out!

  10. I will eagerly follow your adventures, Nate. Iran is 100% my top dream destination right now. It looks like an amazingly beautiful country.

    I do have a question for you though. What is your nationality? I have heard that Americans and Brits can only go as part of tourist groups, and even then may be denied a visa on the first attempt. Of course, this might also just be part of the big bad propaganda machine. As an American I love the idea of rolling up to Tehran airport and asking nicely for a visa but I’d also like to be pragmatic, as I couldn’t afford the rejection.

    1. Hi Kate,

      It is true – Americans, British, and Canadians need to be part of a tour (which is why I’m running my own “untours” through Iran this year, in conjunction with an official local partner). I’ve been speaking with my partner here, and they say that 95% of these nationalities are obtaining visa’s without problems. So, as long as you’re willing to visit Iran as part of a tour, and you pre-arrange your visa (I’m having all visa’s pre-arranged for my guests), there is no problem. On the ground, you will enjoy the freedom of an independent tourist – albeit an independent tourist who needs to stick at least to the itinerary of a tour. Hopefully, I’ll write an article about the options for Americans et al, because a lot of people have been asking questions!

  11. Would you mind sharing the company through which you booked your tour?
    I just booked an eight-day trip to Iran in June and am in the initial stages of planning.

    Love the description of the tunnel between Dushanbe and Khujand, by the way. Terrifying.


  12. Your travel stories and photos on Iran are some of my all-time favorite on this blog — if you notice that even years after those posts were published and someone from Indonesia still clicking on them, that could be me. Really looking forward to your posts, Nate!

  13. Hello Nate,

    I just wanted to share my experience as you gave me the advice to show up at the airport of Shiraz without any onward flight ticket or reference number.

    So I just arrived a few hours in Shiraz from Sharjah with Airarabia.
    Now the company seems to know that it’s easy to get a visa on arrive in Iran, I didn’t really have to explain anything to let me board.

    When I arrived in Shiraz you just have to go to the visa counter the only document they asked me was the proof that I had a travel insurance, even if you don’t have any it’s not a problem, you can buy one at the visa counter for 15euros.
    I had a booking confirmation of my hôtel (Niayesh boutique hôtel that I recommend) but it was not needde they didn’t ask for it.
    After you filled a form with the classic information you have to give for a visa application, ah no one thing was funny they ask for your father name and more surprisingly for your grand father name. I was in India so filling a form with your father namer is quiet usual but the grand father name !!! that was the first time :)
    Then you pay chas in euros or dollars, I paid 50euros as a french citizen but there was a japanese with me how paid 40e…

    Anyway, it all went smoothly as Nate said and the immigration staff give you a nice “welcome to Iran” with the stamp sound on the background.

    It’s a bit a long I had to wait 2 hours to get my passeport back but there.

    I hope those fresh information would help people who is wondering that it’s risky to get a visa on arrival in Iran.



  14. Hi Nate,
    Im planning to visit Iran in April, and that’s next month. Like you, i’ll get a visa upon arrival and I hope I won’t be having problems getting it. Any tips or advice from you? Btw, I’m a Filipina and I will be traveling alone.

  15. Hi,
    Beautiful blog there.
    Although this is not tripadvisor, I would like to share my experience should it help.
    I’ve been in Iran twice in 2012. Visa on arrival for me as an italian citizen. First time I landed with my mother (who is iranian) and I got my VOA for 25 euros instead of 50 euros, probably because my mother proved through an iranian document that I am her son so “kind of half iranian” (although not for the law). Worth a try if you’re half iranian too. Second time it cost me 60 euros and the officer had none of it when we played the half iranian card. Unless you go there with an iranian, the VOA process is a bit lengthy so if you have an IR embassy in your city, apply there to avoid long waits (both my flights landed at 4am). Police are just lazy and stupid but the rest of the people are amazing though not used to seeing foreigners. Is Iran a great tourist destination? Definitely! Great food, the most amazing architecture, friendly people, freakishly good looking people, buzzing cities, young population, super cheap transport (including taxis but do negotiate a price before starting the journey), amazing landscapes, etc…
    best adventures ever. If you have any questions, I am very happy and excited to help! :)

  16. Thinking of visiting Iran I may for 2 weeks as an Independent British tourist. At the time of writing (Feb 2016) things are looking up, but will a visa and entry now, for travel in May 2016 be given for someone NOT part of a tour

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