Driving in Iran calls for special skills to cope with the different habits of driving in the country. Some people call traffic in Iran busy and chaotic, others prefer the term death-defying circus. Nonetheless, self-driving remains a good way of visiting Iran.
Do I need a guide?
No. It is NOT necessary to have a guide to drive around Iran (as long as you are travelling with a passport other than US, UK or Canada – this is a separate issue). Visa invitation agencies have started to insist on a guide in order to issue a visa authorisation number (which one then takes to the embassy to get a visa). This is, according to an inside contact, not an official rule of the Iranian MFA, but seems to be one coming from the agencies.
The simple way around this is NOT TO TELL the inviting agency that you will be bringing in a vehicle. They will ask you explicitly if you are driving, so you need to tell them explicitly you are not. Don´t worry, nobody checks.
If you have a valid visa, you can enter at the border with your vehicle. Think about it – do you think every Turkish, Turkmen, Iraqi,… truck driver is taking a guide with them across the country? Nonsense!
At the border: insurance, carnet de passage,…?
To bring your own vehicle into Iran travelers must possess a valid international driving licence and be over 18 years of age. You will also need a carnet de passage, which is an international validation for your vehicle to pass through Iran.
Seeing how you do not need a carnet de passage for many other Silk Road countries, you can, if you want to, skip getting one just for Iran, and use a tour operator to temporarily import your car.
2 similarly named tour operators can help you here. Hossein from overlandtoiran.com, and Hossein from iranoverland.com. Overlandtoiran has had some good reviews in the past, but also quite some bad reviews: some people got turned away at the border, but more importantly, various overlanders have complained that the price at the border is 2 or 3 times higher compared to what was agreed in the e-mail. In short, a scam.
Mr Hossein from iranoverland has been highly recommended to us, described as older and more genuine, a man of trust with a lot of experience, and known for doing a proper job with every client.
We don’t know either of these people personally, this is overlander lore. Be sure to do your own research.
You also need insurance, in theory at least. Roro reports not having to pay for insurance at the border in 2011 and 2015. In case you do want insurance, we don´t know where to advise. Tips welcome.
Roads in Iran
On the major routes, expect no problems as roads are generally very good. Tips on smaller roads are welcome!
Fuel prices, fuel cards and availability
Iran has something called a fuel card which is necessary to buy petrol. Don’t worry, you can get petrol without as well. The word for free (meaning without card) is ‘azad’ in Farsi. The pump attendant will take out his own card and sell it to you at the standard price without fuss. Very occasionally there are petrol stations which do not have their own car, in which case you can either go and find another, or wait for a driver to come and let you use his (he may ask for a small consideration).
Petrol and diesel are incredibly cheap in Iran. You pay a higher price, but it remains cheap. It is not a problem to fill up your jerry cans. Diesel is 500 tomans per litre free price (without card), half that with a card (October 2014). Petrol is 1000 tomans without card (October 2014).
Foreigners are not singled out for police checks. Reports of fines or speed checks are welcomed! From 2011 police have begun testing for drivers under the influence of alcohol and for driving under the influence of drugs. Seeing how alcohol is banned in Iran, there is a zero-tolerance policy.
Repair shops and car parts
Common, but all info regarding parts for special makes and other insider tips are welcome!
Selling/dumping a car in Iran
It is not possible to import cars older than 3 years into Iran. Additionally, Iran has a protectionist ring around its car industry. Import taxes are very high; customs takes about 3 times the car value as tax.
How to dump your car in Iran and leave without paying import tax? We do not know.Comments are closed. If you have a question or remark, please let us know on the driving forum.