Dear Nellie Bly,
I am an American woman who was invited by a friend to join a tour to Iran. I am concerned about news reports of Americans getting arrested in Iran. What do you think? Should I consider going on this trip?
Iran has amazing things to see, including numerous world heritage sites, ancient buildings, stunning deserts, mountains with ski resorts, and exotic cosmopolitan cities.
Touring Iran as an American, however, does have some risk. The Iranian government has arrested some Americans, mostly those with dual Iranian/American citizenship. If you do not hold dual citizenship, your risks are considerably lower. [Update 9/15/2016: Iran sentenced British woman with dual citizenship to 5 years in jail.] By the way, Iran will deny a visa if your passport indicates that you have visited Israel. Apparently, Israel issues passport stamps on separate pages so tourists can remove those pages to visit countries that are not friendly to Israel.
Despite the tensions between the US and Iranian governments, the Iranian people seem to like Americans (and vice versa) and are very friendly and hospitable.
You will be required to join a tour group or hire a private guide. This can be a good thing as tour guides will be aware of any safety issues as well as take you to the country’s highlights and often will customize the itinerary to fit your interests.
If you decide to go, you must wear a headscarf when in public; enforcers go around making sure women wear their headscarves correctly. Although there is a bare-headed social-media protest encouraging women tourists to remove their headscarf, snap a photo, and post it to My Stealthy Freedom. Whether you do this, it is best to dress in loose modest clothing; keep in mind though that Iranians are stylish. Consider packing tunics and leggings, dresses and leggings, mid-calf length skirts and/or fashionable slacks or jeans. Tours are likely to take you to the desert at some point, so for comfort make sure your blouses are loose light-weight material. Need I say, “No shorts”? If you are scheduled to go to the mountains, be sure to pack cold-weather clothes.
And my short answer? I would most definitely go to Iran. After all my historical self journeyed around the world.
Cover Photo: Water placing in Gerash, South of Iran
Attribution: By Hoda dara (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons