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 very 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.
Questions and reports are collected in our forum topic Entering Iran with your own car.
2 similarly named tour operators can help you here. Hossein from overlandtoiran.com, and Hossein from iranoverland.com. We no longer publish the reviews we received about either of these men. There is information floating around on message boards and travel blogs: do your research and decide for yourself if you want to use their services.
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, Alessie and Tourinsure are 2 companies that get recommended often.
Carnet de passage
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 can be used to buy petrol. Don’t worry, you can get petrol without as well, people are happy to lend you their card in case you need one.
Petrol and diesel are incredibly cheap in Iran. Without a card it’s more expensive, but still 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 (June 2018).
We collect updates on buying fuel in Iran on the forum.
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!
Cars above 2500cc
Since February 2018, a new law states that cars worth more than USD 40.000 or with an engine capacity over 2500 cc are not allowed in the country. This law is only valid for Iranians. Tourists can bring in more expensive or more powerful cars.
British, Canadians and Americans driving in Iran
A new rule has surfaced in 2018: British, Canadians and Americans are not allowed to drive their own car in Iran. This means, not even when they take a tour guide along. Not allowed under any condition.
So far, all tour companies we have polled follow this rule, but let us know if you find exceptions.
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.