All foreign flights into Tehran land at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport, which is located 37 kilometers southwest of the city. Pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia continue to depart from Mehrabad airport. There are 70 smaller regional airports, including as those in Shiraz, Mashhad, and Isfahan, with daily flights to a variety of foreign destinations.
Dubai offers scheduled flights to several Iranian cities, including Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kerman, Lar, Mashhad, Tabriz, Kish Island, Bandar Abbas, Bushher, Zahedan, Kermanshah, and Chah Bahar, and is therefore a viable option for visiting Iran. Iran Air, Emirates (for Tehran), Iran Aseman Airlines, Mahan Air, and other Iranian airlines conduct flights. Fares on Iranian airlines are quite low, ranging from US$100 to $250 for a round-trip ticket, depending on your location and time of purchase.
Iran Air and Mahan Air link Tehran to major European cities as well as Asian and Middle Eastern destinations. Lufthansa, KLM, Alitalia, Turkish Carriers, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot, and Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates, and Etihad are among the European airlines that fly into Tehran. Finding a flight to Iran should not be difficult.
Connections through Manama, Bahrain, are also readily accessible via Gulf Air (but has stopped recently). Furthermore, Qatar Airways operates numerous flights to Iran and provides nonstop service to Doha from a number of US locations.
Low-cost airlines (LCCs) also fly to Tehran and other Iranian cities.
- Pegasus Airlines has flights to Tehran via Istanbul.
- Air Arabia has flights to Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz via Sharjah.
- Jazeera Airways has flights to Mashhad via Kuwait.
- Turkish Airlines has flights to Tehran, Kermanshah, Tabriz, Mashhad, Isfahan and Shiraz via Istanbul.
- Air Asia’s has flights to Tehran from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
It is important to note that if you are not staying in Tehran and want to go to a city other than Tehran upon your arrival, you will need to change airports from Imam Khomeini to Mehrabad, which is 40 kilometers away, to catch your domestic aircraft. Allow at least three to four hours between flights. If you’re flying to Mashhad, you may be able to skip the aircraft change in Iran if you fly with Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Jazeera Airways, or Qatar Airways. There are numerous flights from the Persian Gulf states to Shiraz. You may fly to Tabriz through Istanbul on Turkish Airlines or Baku on IranAir.
Despite economic restrictions, the majority of Iranian-based airlines have not had a significant incidence of accidents in recent years. However, sanctions have made it impossible to buy new aircraft, and all airlines’ fleets are outdated. Iran Air, Mahan Air, and Aseman Airlines have all been entirely safe in recent years, with no major accidents. Flying with other Iranian-based airlines is not advised due to safety concerns. Iranian pilots’ service and flying ability are widely recognized.
There are currently no direct flights from Canada or the United States due to sanctions, but you may go through Europe or the Persian Gulf States. Nonstop flights from Dubai through JFK, IAD, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, or Toronto are excellent choices. Visitors from Australia and New Zealand may fly to Tehran through Dubai or Abu Dhabi, or utilize a combination of Iran Air and Malaysian Airlines to go from any major city in Australia to Kuala Lumpur.
Weekly flights are available from Sulamaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan to Sanandaj and from Arbil to Urmia.
Charter flights are available from Damascus to Tabriz, Tehran, Yazd, Isfahan, and Mashhad. There are companies in the Seyyedeh-Zeinab region (a famous pilgrimage destination for Iranians) who may sell you vacant tickets on these charter aircraft for less than US$100.
Caution. Any trip to Syria should be carefully evaluated for hazards related to ongoing internal conflicts inside Syria as well as possible difficulties at border crossing points. Please see the Syria page and current consular travel warnings for entry, transit, and nearby border zones. Normal services to and from Syria may be interrupted, stopped, or terminated at any time.
- The Trans Asia Express departs Ankara once a week, takes a ferry over Lake Van, passes the Iranian border, and then stops in Tabriz before arriving in Tehran. The trip takes 69 hours (3 nights travelling). Ankara services depart Tuesday evening (arriving Friday evening) while Tehran services depart Monday evening (arriving Saturday evening). There are couchettes and a dining car on the train. (A delay of up to ten hours is possible.)
- The Tabriz-Van service (not to be confused with the Istanbul service) is a weekly train between Van and Tabriz.
Any trip to Syria should be carefully evaluated for hazards due to ongoing internal conflicts inside Syria and possible difficulties at border crossing points; please see the Syria article and current consular travel warnings covering entrance, transit, and nearby border zones for more information. Normal services to and from Syria may be interrupted, stopped, or terminated at any time.
The Syria service does not traverse Iraq, instead stopping at Aleppo before crossing the Turkish border and continuing on to Lake Van, following a similar itinerary as the Istanbul service. This trip takes 54 hours (2 nights) and departs Damascus on Monday mornings (arriving in Tehran on Wednesday evening) and departs Tehran on the same day (Monday) with a similar arrival in Damascus (Wednesday evening). Couchettes are offered between Lake Van and Tehran but must be reserved in advance for the Syrian section between Damascus and Lake Van; otherwise, reclining seats are available. The whole trip costs approximately US$90 for couchettes, and US$60 for the reclining seat and couchette combo.
The Mashad-Herat railway, which is now under construction, has been completed till the city of Khaf, near the Afghan border. The daily trip from Tehran to Khaf costs approximately $5.
The Khorramshar-Basra railway, which would link Iranian railroads to Iraq, will be finished in a few months. Special rail lines will be established for Iranian pilgrims traveling to Najaf and Karbala. Another project will be built later that will connect Kermanshah to Khanaqin in Iraq.
The Quetta-Zahedan railway line links Pakistan and Iran. Every 1st and 15th of the month, a train departs from Quetta; the trip takes 11 hours and costs about €8. The train departs from Zahedan on the third and seventeenth of each month in the opposite direction.
The Nakhchivan-Tabriz service links Nakhchivan (city) and Tabriz through the Jolfa border. The route was formerly part of the Tehran-Moscow railway line, which is now blocked owing to Azerbaijan-Armenia hostilities.
A railway connects Baku to the border city of Astara. From there, you may cross the border into Iran. The railway will connect to Tehran through Rasht and Qazvin.
Every day, a bus runs between Mashad and the border with Sarakhs. Because to the gauge modifications, the train cannot go any farther. There is a railway to Merv and Ashgabat on the opposite side of the border.
Another railway is being constructed from Gorgan to the Inche Borun border, with plans to extend it to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
Many individuals go to Iran by automobile through Turkey.
Unless you want to pay import duty, you’ll need a Carnet de Passage. Your local drivers’ organization may help you get a Carnet (such as the RAC in the UK). An international driver’s license is strongly advised, with translation into Persian being very helpful.
There are regular, contemporary buses from Armenia to Tabriz and even farther to Teheran. Otherwise, the sole land border between Iran and Armenia, at Nuduz/Agarak, is poorly serviced by public transportation. On the Armenian side, one Marschrutka each day from Yerevan may take you as far as Meghri. The Marshrutka departs quietly early in the morning in both ways. Marschrutkas service Kapan and Karajan more often, although it is a lengthy and hilly (and therefore costly) journey to the border from there. The only way to get to the border from Meghri is to hitchhike or take a cab. On the Iranian side, the nearest public transportation is located about 50 kilometers to the west in Jolfa, thus a cab for around US$10-15 is the only commercial option. Expect to be overcharged on all taxi trips, so aggressive negotiating is required. Making it obvious, or at least acting that you have alternative options, may help you obtain better rates.
The border is not very crowded, so while hitching, you should stick with the truck drivers, and knowing Russian or Persian will come in handy. Consider if this is a safe choice for you.
Seir-o-Safar agencies may be found in Istanbul, Antalya, and Ankara, where you can purchase inexpensive bus tickets to Tehran. A one-way trip from Istanbul or Ankara to Tehran costs $35.00 USD.
- Dogubeyazit/Bazergan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is simple (and quick) via public transportation. Take a bus to Dogubeyazit and then a minibus (about TRY5, 15 minutes) to the border. Cross the border stretch per pedes, take the customs cab (pay the driver 1,000 rials bakschis) to the next hamlet, then take a taxi (US$3-4) to the Bazergan bus station. There may be buses to Bazergan, but the taxi drivers that approach you at the border are not the ones you ask. From there, buses to major Iranian cities are readily accessible. Due to the unresolved PKK war, assess the security situation in the area. If you wish to swap Turkish liras or rials, be sure you understand the exchange rates since the official bank at the border does not convert these currencies and you must rely on the abundant black market.
- There are other buses that go from Van to Urmia through the Esendere-Sero border. The buses cost €13 and take more than 6 hours to complete the 300-kilometer trip. This is due to bad roads on the Turkish side, as well as the many checkpoints (more than 5) on the Turkish side as a result of the P.K.K. insurgency.
- You may also take minibuses to the border town of Yüksekova and request cabs to drive you to the border. You must pass the border checkpoint on your own since cabs are not permitted to enter Iran.
You may also enter from Pakistan (depending on the political circumstances) through the border crossing between Taftan (on the Pakistani side) and Zahedan (on the Iranian side) if you have a valid visa for Iran. A visa cannot be obtained at the border. Overnight buses depart from Quetta and arrive in Taftan in the early morning; from there, you may take a cab or walk a few kilometers to the border. Once you’ve crossed the border (which may take some time on the Iranian side), you’ll need to arrange transportation to Zahedan (the nearby town), from whence buses leave for locations in Eastern Iran including Bam, Kerman, and Yazd. For more information on the crossing, see the Istanbul to New Delhi via land 3.9 Iran-Pakistan border.
Daily buses go from Arbil to Urmia, as well as from Sanandaj and Kermanshah to Sulaymaniyah. There are additional buses from Tehran to Sulaymaniyah and Arbil.
Buses run between Herat and Mashad on a daily basis. Buses pass across the Dogharoun Border. Iran constructed the road, which is said to be safe.
A bus service connects Ashgabat with Mashhad.
If you arrive by boat, you will not be able to get a Visa On Arrival. As a result, if you want to visit Iran via this route, you must get a visa ahead of time.
There are some scheduled trips from Baku to the Caspian Sea port of Bandar Anzali, as well as from towns in the Persian Gulf to cities on the Iranian coast. They are often of poor quality.
Starting in late 2007 and early 2008, a high-quality semi-luxurious ferry service between Kish Island and Abu Dhabi and Dubai was launched. The trip over one of the busiest sections of water is guaranteed to amuse for a little cost (about US$50). However, since the boats do not arrive via the airport, it is presently unknown what the Customs and Entry Visa procedure is like when utilizing this service. While the airport’s entry/exit procedure is pretty well established, it is unclear if the process is as effectively controlled when arriving through the docks. It’s likely to be more hectic, and it’s unclear if visas are granted on the spot, as they do at the airport.
There are ferries to Bandar Abbas from Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
Valfajr Shipping Company operates ferries from Kuwait. Rates vary depending on your specific trip, however in June 2011, Bandar Abbas-Sharjah (UAE) was sold for 795,000 rials (about US$80). Boats leave Bandar Abbas about 8 p.m. twice a week (Monday and Wednesday). Tickets may be purchased through one of the websites mentioned agencies. You should expect to be the sole non-Iranian on board. Schedules are not rigorously enforced, so plan your day around the boat ride.