Iran on “Travel risk map 2019”
Iran is as safe as the UK when it comes to security, according to a new interactive map showing the risk level around the world.
The 2019 Travel Risk Map, launched by global risk experts International SOS in collaboration with Control Risks, shows the danger level in each country and territory based on the current threat posed to travelers by political violence (including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest and war), social unrest (including sectarian, communal and ethnic violence) and violent and petty crime.
Read More: Iran as safe as UK, Denmark, Switzerland
The map lists five categories of risk: insignificant, low, medium, high and extreme.
- Very few countries manage to make it into the “insignificant” bracket. In Europe, only Luxembourg, Denmark, Slovenia, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Greenland have been placed in this category.
- A majority of European countries are deemed low risk, including the UK, as are Iran, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Uzbekistan. Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand are all low risk, too.
- According to International SOS, a low travel security risk means violent crime rates are low and racial, sectarian or political violence or civil unrest is uncommon.
- “Security and emergency services are effective and infrastructure is sound. Industrial action and transport disruption are infrequent,” the company said in a blurb on its website in reference to “low risk” countries.
- “Extreme” risk countries are almost exclusively in Africa and the Middle East, including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya, South Sudan and Somalia.
- Neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan are among more than 15 countries that have been labeled “extreme” in terms of security risk to travelers.
How much is Iran safe?
Iran is generally a very safe place to travel, so much so that many travelers describe it as the ‘safest country I’ve ever been to’, or ‘much safer than travelling in Europe’. Violent crime against foreigners is extremely rare and, indeed, if you do your best to fit in with local customs, you are unlikely to be treated with anything but courtesy and friendliness – that applies to Americans, too. We have hitchhiked across deserts, stayed in the homes of strangers and left bags in restaurants and cafes without any problem.
Western embassies advise their nationals to register on arrival, especially if you will be in Iran for 10 or more days, or plan to visit remote places.
For women travelers, like anywhere, it pays to be cautious and avoid situations where you are alone with a man you don’t know. Foreign women will attract unwanted suggestions and, in crowded bazaars and Metro carriages, the odd groups.
Some official paranoia does exist, and there have been instances of travelers being arrested and held until it became apparent they weren’t spies. The biggest dangers are actually driving and crossing the street. For an idea of how fellow travelers found Iran.
How much is Road travel safe in Iran
Iran has a high rate of road accidents. Take great care when travelling by road, including by public transport and when crossing streets. If you’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor, don’t leave the scene. Wait until the police arrive to make their report.
The Iranian authorities sometimes set up informal roadblocks both in cities and on main highways. They are often staffed by young and inexperienced officers. You should always carry your identification with you and avoid getting into disputes.
If you wish to drive your own vehicle into Iran, you may be subject to Iranian customs and other regulations. There are special requirements for travelers wishing to bring motorcycles into the country. Women aren’t allowed to drive a motorcycle on public roads. Contact the Iranian authorities for details well before you travel.
About Crime in Iran
While there are few stories of assaults and thefts in Iran, it pays to take the usual precautions. It makes sense, too, that if the economic situation worsens crime will rise. Basic things to be aware of:
- On transport keep valuables, including your passport, money and camera, with you at all times.
- Hotels are quite safe but locking your bags prevents hotel staff going through them and, perhaps, ‘sampling’ your toiletries.
- There is a black market in stolen foreign passports so, unless it’s with your hotel reception, keep yours strapped to your body.
- If you are to encounter a pickpocket, it might be in a crowded bazaar.
What are some things travelers need to think about before traveling to Iran?
Most importantly, Iran is a cash-only society. Owing to international sanctions, they can’t have associations with foreign banks and credit companies. So as a foreigner, you cannot access your personal funds from within Iran. You have to carry with you in cash enough money for all your foreseeable travel expenses. Fortunately, things like mugging, pick pocketing and robbery are rare, which helps ease a little of the anxiety of carrying around so much cash. Your ATM card will be utterly useless, your credit card will be useful only if you wish to buy a Persian carpet from a relatively large dealer, which will run you several hundred to several thousand dollars (they process payments through Dubai).
For Americans only, know that you need a minimum of two months and up to two-and-a-half months to obtain your visa. It takes 45-60 days to get an approval number, then you have to mail your passport in to the Pakistan Embassy. You must have your flight booked before applying for the visa. Also, Americans can’t travel alone — they must travel with a tour group or with a private guide. You will have to give the name of the tour agency or guide that you are using when you apply for your visa, and it’s best to simply let the agency handle the application on your behalf. Don’t try to skirt this restriction. Even if you somehow manage to lie your way into the country, it’s actually illegal for Iranians to host Americans in their private homes (which is why Couch surfing is impossible) and you could get your host into trouble. My husband and I hired a private guide through an Iranian agency and it turned out to be an awesome experience. Our guide was stellar and really made the trip for us.
For solo travelers heading to Iran what advice would you give? How can they stay safe?
I don’t really see any safety problems for solo travelers. As I said, things like theft are rare, and the locals are ridiculously hospitable. In the major cities tourists are everywhere, so it’s not like you would stick out in any way as being alone. You can’t really rent a car, so you either have to use public transportation or hire a guide to drive you. Public transportation is very cheap, even domestic airfare.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information for travelers:
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade (www.voyage.gc.ca)
- French Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et Européennes (www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs)
- Italian Ministero degli Affari Esteri (www.viaggiaresicuri.mae.aci.it)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- US Department of State (www.travel.state.gov)