Driving into Iran – How to drive your private car into Iran
So you have come up with a great idea of driving in Iran and want to enter Iran by car. Bring your own car you say, why not, great idea. You want to use your own car like I did to drive in Iran and I would highly recommend it. The snag is entering Iran with your own vehicle. The information online is a little confusing and it seems to involve a lot of extra money and paperwork with something called a carnet de passage. Having your own vehicle gives you so much independence so you can do what you want when you want. Despite what you may hear or read about in guide books the traffic and driving is not bad. In fact I actually found the driving very safe, very quiet and unaggressive which is the last thing I expected.
So hopefully this short post on driving into Iran should clear up some of the confusion and give you an idea of how much it costs. There are two options:
Driving into Iran: Option 1 – Carnet de Passage
A Carnet de Passage is basically like a deposit held by an independent company. The country in question does not want you to import the vehicle (sell it while you are there) and so with the large deposit held independently they are safe in the knowledge that you will lose money if you sell the car. For you to receive your deposit back the AA/RAC etc must have an exit stamp on your carnet from the country/countries in question. If you have all the stamps then you receive your deposit back. You will not get a stamp unless you exit that country with the same vehicle. Most countries in the world do not require a vehicle to have a carnet de passage and is maybe why you haven’t heard of it. There are some countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria etc that do require one.
Once a car is registered in your name, it is important that the car owner is driving or at least there with a passport, then you must fill out the paper work with the RAC in France or the closest automobile association in your country. The AA in the UK from 1st Jan 2016 no longer does Carnet’s because it was losing money on them. There are different categories but Iran is one of the highest and is category 4. This means that you must put 4 times, yes four times, the value of the car on deposit which is quite a chunk of change. Even for a cheap car worth $2,000 you need to put $8,000 on hold until you return your stamped carnet. Not exactly a great option.
Driving into Iran: Option 2 – Admission at the border
This may sound a little dodgy but it worked for me. We also met others who had used the same middle man to enter Iran by car and motorbike. Hossein from www.overlandtoiran.com has a nice little business going. In the long run it might cost a little bit more but between admin fees and deposit insurance it may not. Hossein does not require a deposit and will meet you at the border (entering and exiting) to sort out your paperwork. Only a few emails with details and scans are required beforehand. It will cost €600/$660 for a car to be paid at the border when you meet him or his worker. This is for everything, both entry and exit and you don’t have to pay again. For me going from Armenia to Iran we had to wait 3hrs (we were told it would be this long in advance) and it all worked out well with no issues. All we did was wait around and once or twice open the boot for inspection but other than that it was just trying to keep out of the sun. They will probably ask to see your car chassis number which often under the bonnet near the front windscreen. Driving out of Iran the same thing happens but the process is much quicker. No carnet is required and once out of Iran no further paperwork is required. Simples.
Driving into Iran: Getting rid of a car in Iran
Just for extra information in case you are wondering about leaving your car in Iran I will tell you our episode of trying to do that. Due to our circumstances with visa’s not coming through for Turkmenistan we said we would try to leave the car legitimately in Iran. We said we would spend a few hours in the customs office for the craic to see how far we could get. To cut a long story short it seems like this is no longer possible. We read online of somebody else a few years ago who was able to leave it in customs (so you wouldn’t sell it) and got the stamp for their carnet. From my experience and trying to do that this is no longer possible as the rules changed 2 years ago. We went to Tehran Sharia Customs with no Farsi and very little knowledge of the process of what we were trying to do. Actually make that no knowledge of the process or the system. Within 30 seconds of getting in the gate a very friendly local who was there doing his own importing helped us. The Iranian customs offices are actually fairly nice, spacious and calm. I was expecting a chaotic dirty environment. Also there were a lot of women working there so not male dominated like I would have also expected. We spent an hour going between people, managers etc. to be told that they cannot do it here but only in Tehran West Customs (Baqeri St. near Fath highway) which is a separate customs but backs onto Sharia customs building. So in effect they are in the same place although the entrances are about 2km apart. In fact one officer’s suggestion was to just leave it somewhere and leave the country! Again we spent another 2-3hrs going between managers, officers etc. with a helper (this time he wanted money) only to discover that they wouldn’t allow us to leave the car there even if we filled out the paperwork. And even if we would ‘lose’ our deposit voluntarily. We weren’t given an exact reason as English was in short supply but it seemed like there just wasn’t a process to do it or else it was that the boss didn’t approve and so nobody could do it. We weren’t sure which it was. Of course with Hossein above we had no deposit so this wasn’t an issue.