Can Americans Travel to Iran? An Update with Specialist Jessica Silber
As an adventure travel company orchestrating trips in places like Cuba, Tibet, and Iran, GeoEx must stay on top of not only hotel openings, museum closures, and up-and-coming guide talent, but also country-level policy changes, visa regulations, and diplomatic tensions. In recent years, we’ve navigated Cuba’s “opening” to Americans, South Africa’s strict rules for visiting children, and most recently, the closure of Iran to American tourists, a response to the United States’ proposed travel ban. We sat down with Jessica Silber, one of our Iran experts, to get the latest on the current situation for US travelers wishing to go to this Middle East nation.
What’s going on with US/Iran visas?
In January, the Iranian government responded to the United States’ travel ban—which prohibited Iranian citizens from entering the US—with an announcement that it would similarly ban Americans from entering Iran for the same 90-day time period. Iranian embassies stopped issuing visas to American citizens for about two months. Then, in March, Iran’s Foreign Ministry announced that it would resume issuing visas to Americans.
How quickly are the rules changing? How do you stay informed?
As we’ve seen in recent months, the rules can change overnight. Iran announced both their visa ban and their ban reversal over the American weekend. The GeoEx team immediately was in contact with our colleagues in Iran to learn more and, in the first case, to seek solutions. By Monday, we were answering questions from our guests, although we sometimes had to ask for patience, as we were all still learning the scope of the new rules!
How are GeoEx trips in Iran being affected?
The visa ban forced GeoEx to cancel the majority of our spring 2017 travel to Iran, for both group and custom trips. (We were able to maintain one custom trip for which the guests had already received visas.) But it was encouraging to see how many of our travelers remained interested in going to Iran. Many asked to transfer to fall departures or 2018 trips.
What makes Iran such a special place to visit?
We could go on and on about the exquisite architecture, impressive archaeology, and astounding UNESCO World Heritage Sites there are to see in Iran, but I think our guests say it best, sharing stories of warm interactions and insightful conversations. What makes Iran travel so meaningful is the dialogue it sparks between two cultures that have historically feared each other. This trip gives both Iranian hosts and American travelers an opportunity to treat each other with kindness and represent their countries well.
What advice do you have for US travelers in Iran?
If you’re fortunate enough to travel to Iran (see our Iran visa FAQ), I think it’s more important than ever to be open-minded and respectful ambassadors for the US—although being open-minded and respectful is good advice for any traveler, or any citizen, anywhere! This may sound extremely simple, but there’s no reason to over-complicate it. While there’s a lot of animosity in the world, I’ve been consistently impressed by the compassion and curiosity of our guests who visit Iran, as well as the Iranian people who greet them.
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Hear from other GeoEx staff members about their experiences in Iran by reading staff accounts.
Learn more about GeoEx’s Treasures of Persia trip by calling 888-570-7108.