Packing for Iran → What to Leave at Home

Things we may take for granted as normal elsewhere, can be considered taboo in Iran.

Tehran, Iran

There was a time not long ago when ordinary everyday items from the west would get you into trouble at customs in Iran: books, DVDs CDs, newspapers and magazines (not only The Economist, Time and Green Left Weekly, but fashion mag's with pictures of women in western clothing)! Thankfully, not so much anymore…

Contraband in Iran

Leave the stash of Playboy magazines at the back of the wardrobe at home, and if the cover on the men's magazine has the latest Hollywood "it" girl in a skimpy bikini… leave it on the plane. Newspapers, news magazines, books - they're all fine.

I'd also leave behind any products with Hebrew writing on them. Iranians and Israelis don't get along too well. Those pesky Israeli passport stamps are a problem, too.

Bringing in alcohol will get your visit off to a bad start – a very bad start.

But surprisingly getting alcohol in Iran is not that 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're the legendary parties that carry on 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 and censorious, but the Iranian people really couldn't care less about what you get up to in the privacy of your room…. They might even come and party with you.

Dual nationality issues in Iran

You… if you're Iranian, and here's the trap, you might not know you are!

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 favour. A whiff of Iranian-ness and they'll claim you.

So there you are feeling very British or Canadian or Calathumpian with your British/Canadian/Calathumpian passport that is now worthless. You are Iranian, and suddenly subject to a whole stack 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 able to enter the country as often as you like without the hassle of getting a visa. You'll be able to sleep in a hotel room with your husband, because you're Iranian!

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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