Iran is now considered a safer country for Australians to visit than it has been for many years. The security situation there has improved and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) yesterday downgraded the level of its cautionary advice for visitors to Iran to: “Exercise a high degree of caution”.
That’s the same level as Thailand, Indonesia (including Bali), India or Papua New Guinea. Iran was formerly graded as “Reconsider your need to travel”, the second most severe of DFAT’s echelons of caution. The highest is “Do not travel.”
The re-grade means DFAT now considers Iran safer than Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt or Tunisia for Australians to visit.
With attractive natural and historical sites, Iran is rated among the 10 most appealing countries in the world in terms of its tourist potential, history, diversity of climatic conditions and variety of landscapes. It currently ranks 53th in tourism revenues worldwide, according to Wikipedia, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.
DFAT points out that higher levels of caution still apply to some parts of Iran. It advises travellers not to venture to the border areas with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
DFAT advises travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in Iran “due to ongoing regional tensions”.
“You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times and keep a low profile in your activities. Monitor the local and international media for information on developments which may affect your security.
“Acts of political violence occur throughout Iran, including in the capital Tehran. Possible targets include foreign interests, Iranian government establishments, military parades and religious sites and processions.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran celebrated its 36th anniversary earlier this month. It has a republican constitution, which blends Napoleonic laws from France and Belgium with Islamic law.
Iran’s form of Islam is predominantly Shiite and the country is a mortal enemy of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Iran and ISIS are sworn enemies that want to destroy each other. As Newsweek pointed out recently, ISIS regards Shiites as apostates who should be killed to pave the way for a purer form of Islam. Iran views ISIS as a terrorist group and has taken a leading role in confronting it.
Iran does not recognise dual nationality, DFAT warns. “It is highly unlikely that the Australian Government will be allowed to provide consular assistance to dual nationals.”
“We strongly advise you not to travel to within 20 kilometres of the Afghanistan and Pakistan borders, to Sistan va Baluchestan province and areas in Kerman province east of the city of Bam due to the dangerous security situation. We strongly advise you not to travel to areas within 10 kilometres of the border with Iraq because of the volatile security situation. Iranian security forces in these areas are vigilant.”
Australians require a visa to enter Iran. Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Australians or other nationals who have any evidence of travel to Israel, such as an Israeli exit or entry stamp in their passport, will be refused entry to Iran.
Here, for comparison, is how DFAT rates various destinations in the Middle East:
- Bahrain Reconsider your need to travel
- Iran Exercise a high degree of caution
- Iraq Do not travel
- Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank Exercise a high degree of caution
- Jordan Exercise a high degree of caution
- Kuwait Exercise a high degree of caution
- Lebanon Reconsider your need to travel
- Oman Exercise normal safety precautions
- Qatar Exercise normal safety precautions
- Saudi Arabia Reconsider your need to travel
- Syria Do not travel
- United Arab Emirates Exercise normal safety precautions
- Yemen Do not travel
Written by Peter Needham