What Not to Pack For Your Trip to Iran: Tips for Travelers

Be careful about what you take in and out of Iran. Phil Sylvester shares his tips on what to pack and what to leave at home.

Tehran, Iran Photo © iStock/Tarzan9280

There was a time not long ago when ordinary everyday items could get travelers into trouble at customs in Iran: books, DVDs, CDs, newspapers and magazines – especially women's magazines with pictures of women in revealing clothing.

Thankfully, things have eased up, but here are some some handy tips to help you pack for Iran.

Contraband in Iran

Leave the stash of Playboy magazines in the back of your wardrobe at home, and if the cover on the men's magazine has a woman in a skimpy bikini, leave it on the plane. Newspapers, news magazines and books are all fine to take with you to Iran.

Leave behind any products with Hebrew writing on them – Iranians and Israelis don't get along. Israeli passport stamps are a problem, too.

Do not bring alcohol into Iran. Surprisingly, getting alcohol in Iran is not hard. There's a thriving black market, or some friendly (but not religiously strict) Iranians may offer you a drink in their home, and then there are the legendary parties that happen behind closed doors.

But remember, if you make a fool of yourself while drunk, the alcohol will become an issue.

Behind Closed Doors is a big thing in Iran. The official government rules are strict, but the Iranian people really couldn't care less about what you get up to in the privacy of your room – they might even join you.

The best advice is to be careful and abide by the local laws – it's not worth getting in trouble doing the things you can do easily back home.

Dual Nationality Issues in Iran

Fun fact: there's a slight chance you might not know you are Iranian.

If your husband is Iranian, even though you're not – you're Iranian.

If your father is Iranian, even though you were born in another country – you're Iranian.

If your mother is Iranian – you're Iranian.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality, and their definition of nationality is stacked in their favor. A whiff of Iranian-ness, and they'll claim you.

So there you are feeling very British or Canadian with your British/Canadian passport that is now worthless. You are Iranian, and suddenly subject to a whole list of laws and regulations you know nothing about. For example, you will not be allowed to share a hotel room with your Iranian husband.

Terribly distressing, but there's a way around this, and it has advantages. Get an Iranian passport. You'll be allowed to enter the country as often as you like without the hassle of getting a visa. Plus, you'll be able to sleep in a hotel room with your husband.

A Dutch woman married to an Iranian explained it online this way:

"With a marriage certificate and a health certificate you will be able to apply for the Iranian birth certificate/identity pass, the shenasnameh, and with this document you will be able to apply for Iranian citizenship (so you will have dual citizenship). You will get an Iranian passport, which allows you to travel as much as you like. Having the Iranian passport, you will be recognized as the wife of your husband and will be able to travel freely with him."

Other countries recognize your dual nationality, so you can leave your home country on your western passport, use your Iranian passport to enter and leave Iran, whipping out the western passport when you're back at immigration at home.

Just one complication: if you are an Iranian mother and want to leave Iran with your children, you'll need an official notice stating that you have custody of the children (under Iranian law, they belong to your husband).


  • mohsen A said

    hey phil, thats right, your travel was not good I thought, but i wish i had a time machine to use that to travel in time and come back to 70 th in Iran, Shah ( king of iran ) was the leader... everything was good for people... but now, we aren't free, we are just in underground for enjoying our stressed funs... people of usa, listen to me, i am 21 years old, am student at university, in those years, from 15 years old to 21 (when manhood shaped... ) I didn't enjoy of my life, every time i was in a sex situation i had stress. nervous, hopeless, ... in iran the schools are separated boys, girls. when this separation made, gays shaped, lesbians too. and rapes shaped, rapes on boys from teachers, from classmates, ... these memories are too bad for this new generation of young boys and girls, this is a truth : I can't remove them from my mind, my friends too, at my ages, we didn't enjoy of our life... and the responsibility of this happen, ... Khame-n-E! (you can see my censorship at writing) and your country mans... the human rights agency, Obama, Boch, and other one who could or can change this environment and didn't.
    really my wish is migrate to USA for better life but, in here Knowledge is not enough for migration, we should pass military (forced) ... the important section is MONEY, ill be right there as soon as possible.
    theres no god, no religious, no justice, we can feel it... here.

  • Ellie said

    Thanks Phil it was comprehensive enough.

  • samiamco said

    I was so sad to read mohsen A's comment. I hope it has become better for you and for all in Iran, my friend, and that you achieve your dream of living in the West! (But maybe wait to come to the US until Trump is out of office!)

  • Sara said


    I am curious to know, as my father is an iranian citizen but I am born in Denmark and only a danish citizen. I want to travel to Iran with my danish boyfriend, but am nervous that it is not possible. Do you know, if there are some precautions we should take? Would it be mandatory for us to marry, in order to be able to travel together?

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