In 2016 Stuart Jameson broke into Iran despite being from the U.K and there being sanctions on his visa opportunities. If caught he would face jail time in one of the most notorious judicial systems in the world, this is his story.
“Don’t go to Iran”, said a friend of mine in the States, “It’s a dust bowl filled with terrorists.” I imagined they would know – seeing as they had never actually left their own country. Unperturbed, I was still stuck in Tbilisi, Georgia, doing my best to find a way into Persia without the need of a guide. If you didn’t already know, all US, UK and Canadian citizens need to be on an official tour to obtain their visa; no tour, no entry. What a load of bollocks.
You see, I’m attempting a solo hitchhike from Germany to India. I’ve been doing so for the past three years (I travel slow), and I’d be damned if I was going to have to pay someone 200 bucks a day to hold my hand and tell me where to piss. So I’d hit something of a snag while researching my passage through Iran. Regardless of aforementioned friends and family considering me insane, I wanted desperately to visit, and, besides, it was on my way. My time in Georgia and Armenia, therefore, was divided between furiously emailing the powers that be, legging it back and forth between various embassies, and getting pissed up in the interim. You can imagine it took a while.
After a while I struck gold. Somehow I stumbled upon a website that has since become my bible: The Hitchhikers Handbook. And, following months of scrolling through with no result, I finally managed to locate the exact information and contact details that I needed. To this day, I’m not really quite sure why it took so long. Then again, you could probably say that I was too busy falling in love with strippers to care… But I digress.
Don’t let me steal all the thunder, anyway. If you’re from the US, UK or Canada and you want to travel independently through Iran without a babysitter, just follow the instructions here:
Basically, you’re put in contact with a lovely lady at a Ministry of Foreign Affairs approved travel agency in Isfahan. (She helped me to extend my visa once I was inside the country, too.) Follow her instructions, fill out the forms, do a little dance and basically she will falsify a tour, get you a visa application code, and you can take it to any nominated Iran embassy. Wait a week and you’ll have a shiny new visa stuck in your passport, and, in a fit of jealousy, have your compatriots call you a host of nasty names as a result.
I was shitting it at the border, though, to be honest, expecting the third degree: fingerprints taken and fingernails pulled. The first officer asked where I was from, and I belted “Scotland!” in an overconfident yell. I was hoping to confuse him into letting me in by questioning his geography knowledge of the British Isles. Although, that only made him force me to write down all the countries that make up the UK, as well as their capitals – some of which I managed to spell wrong. Nonetheless, after a couple of quick questions (don’t tell them you’re a journalist) they will barely bat an eyelid. Nobody asked me about a guide, nobody refused me entry, everyone simply said “welcome to Iran.”
And it’s amazing. One of the safest, friendliest, most beautiful and hospitable countries that I’ve ever seen. Iran is a remarkable country. But it’s changing. Maybe in a couple of years all this information will be null, and void, and rules and regulations will have been relaxed. But right now you’ve got to toe the line. And by toe the line I mean sneak in illegally. But it’s a walk in the park, and once you’re in, nobody has any idea that you need need to be with a guide. I was stopped by Police a number of times, but purely out of friendly curiosity. Don’t believe anything you see on CNN or the BBC – just pick up your passport and go. I assume you’ve got one of those already, dumbass.
*You can follow Stuart in his attempt to stay alive while hitch-hiking from Germany to India, and, if you’re that way inclined, maybe you can donate to Macmillan Cancer Support while you’re at it – there’s a link on his page @ www.lookingforstu.com