How I got my Iranian visa while being on the road

Iran was on my wishlist for a long time and when I decided to hitchhike around the world I couldn`t skip it. Initially, I wanted to get the visa in Bucharest, before I would start my journey. I call the Embassy, a very friendly lady answers all my questions and gives me the (very long) list of documents I needed for the visa. Among the usual documents, I needed the Authorisation Code that I could only obtain from an Iranian tourism agency and my criminal record which I needed to obtain from the Romanian authorities. The Authorisation Code was about 30 – 35 euros and it would take two weeks to get. The criminal record would cost less and I would need a few days to get it. This would add up to one or two weeks of waiting for the visa itself to be issued. I didn`t have that much time, as I would leave Romania in 2 weeks.

I knew that getting the visa in one day in the Iranian Consulate in Trabzon was not a thing anymore for the past few years, so I ask Salome to call at the Iranian Embassy in Tbilisi and the Iranian Consulate in Batumi to ask about the necessary documents and the average waiting time. The Authorisation Code and the criminal record are not needed in neither institution and the waiting time is 2-3 weeks for Tbilisi and 1-2 weeks for Batumi. I decided to get the visa in Batumi as I was going to enter Georgia through there and thus I would gain some time.

I leave Turkey on a Sunday so that I can be on Monday morning at the Iranian Consulate. I get there after 10 am, but only the security guard was there as it was a holiday in Georgia. A bummer, I would have to be back the next day. Next day, another trip to the Consulate. We wait for some 20-30 minutes for the Consul. He comes, talks to some people, everything moves so slow here. At some point, I get to talk to him and he lights up when I tell him I am from Romania; he started to line up words and phrases in Romanian and he told me that he lived there during communist times and that he forgot much of it since he had no practice. I complete the application form with some difficulty as I was told to write down the address of my employer, but I`m a freelancer so what the heck should I write there?! The consul told me I have to write something there as the system won`t register my application without an address, but he kinda hinted it doesn`t matter what I write there. My advice to you, if you are a freelancer, just write the address you have on some ID`s, or where your parents live etc.

My plan was the following: I am going to stay in Batumi, Racha Mountains and Borjomi for about half a week in each place, and after Borjomi I will be back to Batumi to collect my visa and after that straight to Tbilisi for a longer period. While I was in Borjomi and one week passed since my application I start to call every other day at the Consulate to check the status of my visa. My stay in Borjomi ended but still no visa, so I go to Tbilisi. Same story, calling every other day, but no luck. One Monday someone answers the phone and says that the system is down and that I should call again at the end of the week. It`s been almost 3 weeks since I applied and I still had to wait. That Friday I call at the Consulate five or six time before I get to talk to the Consul and he says the visa is ready. At last! I left Tbilisi for Batumi on Sunday, in order to get the visa on Monday morning.

I arrive at the Consulate at 10:40 am. The consul wasn`t there. Tired of waiting – he was at his doctor – I go for a walk and decide to come back five minutes before 13:00, which means five minutes before the schedule with the public would end. The guard says that I should come back tomorrow as now it`s closed but I lie and I tell him that I had a talk with the Consul and he is waiting for me. He arrives two minutes after 13:00, very convenient for him as the schedule for the public ended. I ask for the bank details where I should pay the visa fee, I go there, pay and come back. It was 14:30, lights turned off and the guard tells me the Consul left for lunch. As we exit the Consulate, the Consul stops his car next to us and says “ce mai faceti, domnilor?” – which means “how are you, gentlemen?”. I approach his car and I start negotiating when I could get the visa. He suggests tomorrow morning and I lie saying that I will leave towards Tbilisi in a few hours. He then tells me to come in an hour, when he will be back from lunch.

I get back at the Consulate and I pick up my visa. Much to my consternation, the visa is valid for only 15 days, and I wanted to visit the country for month. It seems like I will have to renew the visa.

The reason why it took three and a half weeks to get the visa is because their system was down for a while. Normally, it should take less. I think getting the visa in Batumi is the best option now (unless you fly into Iran and get visa on arrival) because you apply when you enter Georgia and then you can visit all the amazing places Georgia has to offer, Svaneti, Racha, Borjomi, Tbilisi, Kazbegi, Kakheti and then you can return to Batumi to pick up your visa. It`s only 6 hours of hitchhiking away from Tbilisi.

Documents needed for the visa if you apply in Batumi:

  • application form – you will receive it there
  • 1 photo – if you are a woman, you need to have your head covered in the photo
  • passport
  • copy of the first page of your passport
  • to have the name of a hotel, its address and phone number – you don`t actually need a reservation, but I had one just to be sure. You can cancel it later.

lovely country, somewhat difficult to get into 🙂

Fast forward few weeks later, I am in Iran for 13 days and I have to renew my visa. I am in Isfahan and I head to the police station on Rudaki street. You need to get there early to avoid the crowds formed by Afghan refugees. Got in line at 7:05, and people rapidly joined me. One policeman sends me to Meli Bank to pay 345.000 Rials, the equivalent of over 7 euros, for the visa renewal fee. I come back, big lines everywhere. I am told to go back and forth to every office to get different documents. I was asked by three different policemen where am I staying and I gave them the name of a hotel. It`s illegal for Iranian to host, even though Couchsurfing is quite popular, so you cannot say you stay with a local. You need to be extremely patient to deal with the organisation there, very poor English if any, long lines, wrong or incomplete information provided by the workers there etc.

I get off the Police station at 10:20, more than three hours later with a 30 days extension on my passport. Yes, the visa was for 15 days and the extension for 30 days.

Documents needed for the visa extension:

  • application form – you will receive it there
  • 2 photos – if you are a woman, you need to have your head covered in the photo
  • passport
  • copy of the first page of your passport
  • copy of the Iranian visa on your passport
  • to have the name of a hotel, its address and phone number – you don`t actually need a reservation, I just had the details written on a sticky note.

What you need to know is that Iranian authorities are chaotic and they work slow. Bureaucracy is very high, even for my standards (and I come from Romania). You need to be patient and, at times, pushy. The hustle to get the visa and the visa extension was considerable, but it`s all worth when you get to experience the Iranian culture. Good luck with your applications.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *