Guide: Crossing the Iranian – Turkish border

David Hielkema

6 December 2016

Crossing the Turkey-Iranian border is something different than any other border crossing we did so far. And though we were a bit scared, we were also really excited about entering the Middle East. We crossed the Gürbulak (Turkey) – Bazargan (Iran) border.

Before leaving the Netherlands, we fixed our visa for Iran. We did this at the Iranian Embassy in The Hague. We also fixed the Carnet the Passage, by paying the deposit to ADAC. Having the right papers and documents was, as far as we experienced, very much needed. I don’t think they would let us in without a Carnet the Passage and getting a visa for Iran outside of your home country can also be quite challenging.

The Turkish side

Driving to the border was easy. The roads in Turkey are good, not too many other vehicles and no police-checks. Arriving at the border, we had to do the following: When we arrived at the border, there were some gates we had to pass through first. People standing around there will direct you where to go. Or you can just ask them. Most of them are very helpful and friendly!

  • At the first booth someone will ask you for your papers. Just checking. After that you need to drive on to a gate that that separates Turkey and Iran. You can’t miss it, since the gate is in the colours of the Iranian flag.
  • At this gate you have to go out of your car and you need to enter a building where you will get your exit stamps. You need to show your passport, visa for Turkey and the car papers, inclusive the Green Card.
  • Josephine had to walk to Iran, I had to go back to the car. There, I needed to go to a booth to get an exit stamp in my passport for the car. After that I was allowed to go in the car and drive his way into Iran. The gate will open for you and if not; just honk once or twice.

The Iranian side

  • A military official asked me to get out of the car and he showed the way inside a building to get stamps to enter Iran. I went inside, met Josephine who walked there, and we had to show our passports with visa. Easily we got our stamps. All officials here were very welcoming!
  • Back to the car once again and drive like 10 meters before you get to another booth. Now it gets interesting and a bit more complicated:

After this, the officials don’t look like officials, so it was a bit difficult to filter them out. They wear their everyday clothes. In addition to the official guys, there are also some guys walking around who either pretend to be an official or just say from the start that they want to help. Most likely, they will charge you for their help.

When we got to the next booth, we were stopped by someone in everyday clothes.

We asked the guy who wanted to see the papers whether he was an official and if he could prove it. Then the guy showed us some vague identity card, that didn’t make sense to us, but we just accepted that. I also asked him if he would ask for money after he had helped us and he said he would not. He spoke English quite well. From then on he was our helper.

The helper walked with us to several booths to get different stamps and signatures of other officials. We literally had no idea what happened. All the time after our passports or Carnet were given to check, I wanted them back in my hands and I didn’t let the ‘helper’ hold on to it, just to avoid bribes and so later on. 

Try to avoid to give your official documents to any one unless you are certain they are border officials. This became obvious when he almost took my passport out of my hands to give it to a shopkeeper. I asked why he wanted to do this and he said it was needed to make copies of our passports. Luckily we had copies with us, also of our Iranian visa, so we didn’t need this. Chances are high that he would charge us later for the copies if we didn’t have the copies. But, to be honest, that is an assumption. So, take your own copies!

They didn’t really check our car, but we were asked if we had alcohol and so on. We didn’t have anything illegal with us. We were even too scared to take photos.

One last thing: we had to pass the gate and go to a booth and show our Carnet the Passage once again. If your plan on traveling further than Iran, like Pakistan, don’t tell them that. Then you need to pay, since it is kind of a transit, instead of traveling through Iran. So always say you go back via Turkey. You won’t have problems with it after leaving the country!

Go back to the car, be sure you still have the papers, and off you go. Almost.

When our helper did ask money after all he had done and we were about to go,  we just referred to the questions we asked him about being official. He didn’t pursue then and he let us go. I think he was official, but just tried to get some extra out of it.

We weren’t asked for an insurance, and we didn’t fix it afterwards. 

They do ask you at the border whether you want to get insurance, but we think you should not get it there. Nor should you accept a gas pass or anything similar.

Apparently you can fix an insurance in Tabriz (this is the first major city after entering Iran from the Turkey side), but we just didn’t go after it.

After all the small talk and saying goodbye to the guards, we drove into Iran. Since then we have only been checked once and everything goes really easy. But more on driving in Iran will follow soon!

Have a good journey!