While Iran has adopted a visa-free policy for Indian tourists, booking a flight to Iran from India can be quite tricky.
Iran is making travel to the country super-easy for Indian tourists. The government announced on Tuesday that visa for citizens of India have been abolished from February 4, 2024 – on a list of conditions.
However, booking a flight from an Indian city to an Iranian city can be tricky. We will get to that in a bit.
First, have a look at the conditions under which you can travel visa-free to Iran:
1. Indians holding ordinary passports will be allowed to enter the country without a visa once every six months, with a maximum stay of 15 days. Point to note: The 15-day stay period cannot be extended.
2. The visa abolition only applies to individuals entering Iran for tourism purposes.
3. If Indian nationals wish to stay for a longer period or make multiple entries within a six-month period, or require other types of visas, they must obtain the necessary visas through the respective representations of the Islamic Republic of Iran in India.
4. The visa abolition outlined in this approval specifically applies to Indian nationals who enter the country just through the air border.
What it means: You can now visit Iran for tourism, for a period of 15 days, without a visa. Under these new visa rules, you can stay for 15 days in Iran within a 180-day period.
What about flights from India?
Here, have a look:
The same holds true for flights from India to Iran on Yatra.
On Google Flights, meanwhile, there are various options to fly to Iran from Indian cities like New Delhi and Mumbai.
The big question: Why?
The short answer: US and international sanctions. Till Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran was the most sanctioned country in the world. Iran’s foreign policy and nuclear programme have led to severe sanctions from several countries.
These sanctions also mean that Indian travel booking websites cannot list an Iranian airport online.
We spoke to a MakeMyTrip agent who told India Today that there are several such airports which are not available online when a customer tries to book a flight.
However, the agent told us that you can call MakeMyTrip up if you need to book a flight from India to Iran, and they can do it offline for you.
Basically, you and I cannot book a flight from India to Iran directly, online, on any of the Indian ticket-booking platforms.
Similarly, Havana, which is the capital of Cuba, another country grappling with US sanctions, is also not listed on the MakeMyTrip airport dropdown list.
So… how do you book a flight to Iran?
The easiest way to book a flight to Tehran, the capital of Iran, or other Iranian cities, is doing so on the respective airline’s website. You can also call ticket-booking platforms like MakeMyTrip, as explained above, and ask them to book a flight for you.
Various international carriers fly from Indian cities to Iranian cities via, mostly, stops in the Middle East. Airlines like Emirates, FlyDubai, Oman Air, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways have connecting flights from Indian cities to Tehran.
If you want to fly with an Iranian carrier like Iran Air or Mahan Air, the best way to do it is by calling the airline and directly booking with them.
The Air India flights that never took off
In 2016, reports said that Air India was planning to restart flights to Iran after a two-decade hiatus. Air India Express, the then-national carrier’s low-cost brand, was supposed to fly from New Delhi to Tehran thrice a week.
Before the 2017 plans, Air India had resumed its flights to Tehran on March 16, 1991, but had to suspend operations soon after, due to the geographical turmoil in the Middle East.
Air India’s 2017 announcement came shortly after world powers lifted their sanctions on Iran, following a deal with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Air India also had issues with US EXIM bank, whose loans funded nearly all the airline’s international fleet, including Air India Express’s Boeing 737s. The sanctions being lifted meant Air India could fly these EXIM bank-funded aircraft into Iran.
However, in May 2018 came former US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, followed by harsher sanctions on Iran, “Today’s action sends a critical message. The United States does not make empty promises. When I make promises, I keep them.”
The Air India Express flight to Tehran never took off. In the years in between, Air India’s ownership also passed from the government to Tata.
While India and Iran have diplomatic relations dating back to 1950, the international sanctions against Tehran have had its impact on India-Iran relations. India and Iran have also differed on key foreign policies. India has expressed strong opposition to Iran’s nuclear programme too.
In 2011, the Indian oil ministry was forced to pay off debt through a banking system via Turkey because excessive economic sanctions against Iran led to the US$ 12 billion annual oil trade between India and Iran being put on hold.
Iran’s continual backing of Pakistan in the India-Pakistan conflict has also not been easy for India. Add to this international sanctions on Iran, a complete ban on Iranian air carriers by the US, and frosty relations between Iran and the US.