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Iran is a large country in the Middle East, between the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, it is bordered by Iraq to the west, Turkey, Azerbaijan's Naxcivan enclave, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the northwest, Turkmenistan to the northeast, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the southeast.

Known as Persia until 1935, Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 after the ruling shah was forced into exile. Conservative clerical forces subsequently crushed westernizing liberal elements. Militant Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and held it until 20 January 1981. During 1980-88, Iran fought a bloody, indecisive war with Iraq over disputed territory. Key current issues affecting the country include the pace of accepting outside modernizing influences and reconciliation between clerical control of the regime and popular government participation and widespread demands for reform. Unemployment amongst the young is also an issue, due to Iran having the largest percentage of young people in the world.

A valid passport and visa are required for travel through Iran. In 2006 the rules for obtaining a tourist visa changed and it has become much easier for nationals of many countries to get in to Iran by obtaining a visa at the airport. Visa are issued at the Imam Khomeini and Mehrabad airports in Tehran, and also the airports at Mashad, Shiraz, Tabriz and Esfahan. The visa is valid for up to one week and costs US$50. You will receive the forms on arrival. You are advised to bring passport photos with you however in many cases they are not collected. Visas are only issued at the airport for holders of ordinary passports from the states below:

Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.

It is generally not possible to get an extension for the one week visa. There is a large stamp on it which specifically states "non-extendable". If you wish to stay for longer than a week, or you are not resident of one of the countries listed above, you will need to apply for a Tourist Visa before you arrive in Iran.

Although it has become easier to get a Tourist Visa in recent years, whether the process takes one day or one month depends largely on your nationality and the staff of the embassy you are applying to. Your best bet is to apply to the Iranian embassy in your own country at least three months before your departure, but it is possible in other countries. Women need to make sure they are veiled in their submitted passport-sized photos. US citizens can apply for a visa at the Iranian Interest Section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. Transit visas are usually easier to get than tourist visas (usually for one or two weeks) and very useful for people traveling between Europe and South Asia.

Chances are your bags won't be searched for salacious material, but if found, it will be confiscated and will complicate your arrival. Don't try to bring in any magazines or books that might offend strict Islamic sensibilities or criticise the government. This has become much more loose in recent years.

Information provided by Wikipedia

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