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I am an American passport holder who visited Iran in 2015 and loved it. I want to go back and see more of the country. A travel agent friend suggested I go to Qeshm Island because I would not need a guide nor a visa (since it is a free trade zone). Has anyone been there? Did you enjoy it? Did you have to have a guide?

I am getting conflicting information about this. The Iranian Interests Section in Washington DC said I needed a guide and visa. My travel agent friend said she called the Iranian Foreign Ministry and they said I didn't need a guide or visa if I only visit Qeshm Island.

I am curious if any Americans/Brits/Canadians have been to Qeshm Island recently and traveled without a guide or visa.

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    Relevant reading – blackbird Oct 6 '16 at 23:56
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    @blackbird Great article; But, actually, she is asking about Qeshm Island which is known as free zone – M98 Oct 8 '16 at 10:08
  • @blackbird I have heard rumors of Americans/Brits/Canadians going without guides. I read through all of the comments on this HHH post and the travel agent stopped offering to get visa approval without a full time guide. At the end someone said she couldn't get visas at all for Americans/Brits/Canadians now. – Connie Oct 8 '16 at 20:16
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Kish and Qeshm Islands are free zones, as you mentioned, and based on the Iran Free Zones' rules travelers of all nationalities can visit these regions without visa and guide. You can visit http://www.irantourcenter.com/one-of-the-best-beach-resorts-in-iran/ (I work in this travel agency) for more information about Qeshm. our rep in Tehran went directly to MFA and you can be 100 percent sure of being able to visit Qeshm without visa and guide as an american citizen with the direct flight from DXB.

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    @irantourcenter If you are absolutely sure of this, you need to contact the MFA and ask them to send Timatic an update request, or OP is likely to be denied boarding on the flight to Qeshm – Crazydre Oct 9 '16 at 4:07
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    @Connie our rep in Tehran went directly to MFA and you can be 100 percent sure of being able to visit Qeshm without visa and guide as an american citizen with the direct flight from DXB. – samane Oct 10 '16 at 10:53
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    Since the OP has disclosed his/her affiliation and the answer is helpful, I'm going to leave this answer untouched. – RoflcoptrException Oct 10 '16 at 15:59
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    @Connie I recently sent the Timatic team a Review request (I have a contact guy within it) - so they're now going to find out from their goverment sources, black on white, and update their info if necessary. If they find that you can indeed visit Qeshm visa-free, they'll update it and the airlines will see the new info. Will Keep you posted – Crazydre Oct 15 '16 at 14:07
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    @Kermani You misunderstood me, Timatic didn't confirmed anything yet. Although they answered my first request which I asked them to correct the information, I didn't get any answer to my second request which I wanted to send them the whole new information about Iran visa process that is going to change very soon. So however I am sure about the MFA information I'm waiting for Timatic answer. – samane Oct 23 '16 at 15:25
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As per Timatic, used by airlines and based on information the Iranian immigration authority gives to IATA, you do need a visa, which, for an American, will involve having to get a guide if the Interests section says so (since that's where you apply)

UPDATE: Timatic now says:

Visa exemptions:
Passengers arriving at Kish (KIH) and Qeshm (GSM) islands for a maximum stay of 14 days.

  • This does not apply to nationals of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, India, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Somalia and USA.
  • This does not apply to passengers with a British passport.

UPDATE 2: Fred mentioned a travel agent named Mona, who said Americans can definitely enter Qeshm visa-free.

The very same Mona now told me via e-mail (today):

First of all thank you very much for your concern and helpful tip. The problem is Iran MFA rules are changing all the time, one day they ask for visa in Qeshm and one day they don't. That's why we do not recommend any US citizen to travel Qeshm and Kish without visa and guide until [the MFA] are confident about visa rules. But we try to lower their cost by hiring cheap guides and skip other unessential cost.

In addition, Timatic consistently says the visa exemption does not apply to Americans.

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    @pnuts If you put a different nationality into Timatic, e.g. Italian you get "...can obtain a visa on arrival for a max. stay of 30 days at Gheshm Island (GSM)...". That indicates that this answer is likely correct – Berwyn Oct 7 '16 at 5:21
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    @pnuts It was wrong here: lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/middle-east/iran/… – Berwyn Oct 7 '16 at 11:31
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    @pnuts Well, if countries are lazy to alert IATA of changes (and many are) then Timatic may not reflect those changes. That said, it is correct in the vast majority of cases, but in my spare time I often dig for errors and report them to Timatic (I have a contact guy in the team). Just today I reported two errors. However, unless I can find a clear source from an immigration website which isn't obviously outdated, I personally assume Timatic has the correct info. – Crazydre Oct 7 '16 at 14:40
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    Does she need to have an authorized guide in free zones like Qeshm in Iran?! – M98 Oct 8 '16 at 6:45
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    @Kermani She needs a guide to get an Iranian visa (unless the interests section says something else), and to go to Qeshm an Iranian visa is required. – Crazydre Oct 8 '16 at 7:59
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You can only avail the visa free travel if:

  1. You are flying directly to the island.
  2. You are staying for less than 14 days.

Since the only way to fly directly to the island is from Dubai, you first have to make your way to Dubai, and then hop on a flight to Qeshm. It takes about 40 minutes.

All other travel to the island requires a normal visa for Iran

A few more tips that might be handy:

  • There are conflicting reports regarding communication. If you are on a roaming line (that works in Iran) you may only be able to receive and not make any outbound calls. Messaging (SMS) will work without issues.

  • You have to make sure you have enough cash with you, as all hotels will require a cash deposit before renting out any rooms.

  • My next question becomes, where do I find current information about flights between Dubai and Qeshm? I have looked at Mahan Air, Iran Air, Qeshm Air. Some websites are under construction, some don't have information that far in advance. – Connie Oct 15 '16 at 13:48
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    The only way to get there from Dubai is via Qeshm Air; but their website qeshm-air.com is only available in Farsi. It doesn't matter if it were in English though, cause the reservation site which is 4764.ir ... is also only available in Farsi. Your only recourse would be to contact their GSA in Dubai at +9742278787 – Burhan Khalid Oct 16 '16 at 4:44
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I am an American. I have also been to Iran. This summer, I would like to go to Qeshm because I don't want to travel with a mandated tour guide.

I contacted a travel agency in Iran (https://1stquest.com), and I have exchanged several emails with Mona, who is a travel agent there. She has been very helpful. She called the MFA for me, and they confirmed that Americans do not need a visa to travel to Kish or Qeshm. She will be booking my hotels there and helping me with all my other travel arrangements in Iran.

  • You are very likely to be denied boarding if you attempt to travel without a visa. Even if it is true that you don't need a visa to visit Qeshm, the airlines won't be aware of this. As stated elsewhere in this question, the official information they've been given by the MFA is that Americans do need a visa. – Michael Hampton Nov 25 '16 at 21:53
  • Fred, you need to ask Mona to contact Timatic at timediting@iata.org. Like Michael said, if the databse usn't updated, it could very well destroy your travel plans – Crazydre Dec 7 '16 at 22:35
  • Look at my update. I e-mailed the very same Mona – Crazydre Dec 12 '16 at 20:52

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