February 11, 2015

Live from Orio al Serio!

This Iranian Visa is driving me mad!

To get to Iran you need a visa, that you can get at consulates that in Italy are in Milan and Rome. You have to go there in person because they take your fingerprints, with other documents, so it’s not convenient for people that don’t live in those cities. And you should take in account one month of time, even though the consulate says that one week is enough.

Italians that spend less than 15 days in Iran can get their visa at the airport, showing:

  • passport valid for at least 6 more months with two pages free and no Israel stamp
  • 2 passport pictures (with no glasses and no hat and no scarf)
  • travel medical insurance
  • hotel voucher for the first night or name and phone number of the booked hotel

(This is what was requested in February 2015. Rules change every day, so it’s better to check with the embassy/consulate before leaving.)

I thought I had everything right (a part from the insurance, because I have a regular travel insurance that includes medical expenses, it should be ok but I’m not 100% sure), when last night at 11pm, when I was ready to sleep, I get an email from the hotel that I had booked in Tehran, the Firouzeh: they can’t confirm my booking because the visa was denied to some tourists that booked with them; if the frontier police calls them to check my booking, they will deny they have any. They thought I already had a visa. All this 15 hours before departure, with a night inbetween that is night in Iran too, and little more than one day before my arrival in Iran, where I have to show a hotel booking. So I start to get nervous. I turn the TV on to calm down but Sanremo is not helping. If only they had told me a few days ago I could have called some other hotel, right?

After a while I get another email from Mr. Mousavi, that suggests I contact hotel Gollestan. He called them for me, they said they will confirm the booking immediately. Ok, I send an email, I wait for half an hour but no reply. My eyes are burning for tiredness but how can I sleep? No way. At the end I fall aspleep with no news. I leave my mobile phone on, just in case I get an email. Nothing, but at 4am I wake up and one email is there. Of course they are not confirming immediately, they want to know if I want a room with or without indoor bathroom. Who cares?? I can sleep on the floor, as long as you let me get into Iran! I reply and go back to sleep. At 6am I wake up again; another email: do I prefer a twin or a double? Really? Come on, send me this fu..g confirmation email that in 4 hours I’m leaving home! From then on it was difficult to fall asleep again, but I did manage somehow, and at 7.30 I had my beloved hotel booking confirmation and tons of sleepiness.

Ok, I print my hotel confirmation because you can never be safe enough, I print the return flight details that I forgot and we go.

Luckily there wasn’t too much traffic on the way to the airport. In the opposite direction an accident had caused kilometers of queue. If it was in this direction, the flight was lost.

At the airport the lady at check-in wants to kill me. “Do you have the pre-visa or the reference number?” WHAT??? Which pre-visa? “Yes, you need a visa or a pre-visa to go to Iran.” Listen, if you want I can show you the email by the consulate where they tell me that I can get a visa at arrival and they explain what I need for it. They also suggested I called the airline to check they made no problems at check-in, and I did, the lady on the phone said there wouldn’t have been troubles. “I must see the confirmation by Pegasus that you can leave, because from this site bla-bla where they explain what is needed for every country, it’s clear that you need a visa or pre-visa.” Well, I can’t show you the confirmation by Pegasus because I was reassured on the phone; if you want I can show you the email by the consulate. “I give a fu-k about the consulate email! (these were not the exact words, but the meaning was the same). Wait in the dumb corner while I check with my supervisor.” After 15 minutes of shame and fast-beating heart, we get the supervisor go-ahead. But what is this pre-visa? I’ve never heard about it, or I would have done it! Do you have to go to a travel agency? “No, you can do it online”. Well… She sweetens her tone, explains that EVERYONE that goes to Iran go with a pre-visa so she is right despite everything. Ok, I don’t really care about what you think, as long as I can go.

Fiuuu. I say hello to mom that can go home without me, and I pass the passport and luggage control.

My friend Paola later explains to me that until not long before my trip a pre-visa was required, now no more. So my check-in friend, please update your flight requirements that you made me lose five days of life.

Now I’m calmer, but until I’ll be out of the IKA airport in Tehran I won’t be sure this country that seems to be so beautiful will be eager to welcome me.

Furthermore, we’re going to have a pretty hard journey, as usual. Three hours to Istanbul, where it’s snowing (and for this reason the flight coming from there is late and so ours will be), 5 hours wait at the airport in Istanbul, 2 hours flight and at 4 am we’ll be in Iran. Let’s say two hours to get out of the airport, one hour drive to the centre of Tehran, what are we going to do until 11am when they’ll let us check in at the hotel? 4 hours of breakfast? I’m not going to walk around town with a heavy backpack and no sleep.

Anyway, next time I go to Iran I’ll get a visa beforehand, no matter what, at least I can sleep before leaving.