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Foreign Office relaxes Iran travel advice due to 'decreasing hostility'

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Foreign Office relaxes Iran travel advice due to 'decreasing hostility'
Post nuclear deal, the Foreign Office has removed its advice against all but essential travel to most of Iran, citing a less hostile atmosphere under President Rouhani
 The Foreign Office has relaxed its travel advice for Iran, now considering the vast majority of the country safe for British travellers.

Until July 25, the British government advised against travel to the whole of Iran, but changed its recommendations partly because of “decreasing hostility under President Rouhani’s government.”
 The change comes just weeks after an historic deal on Iran’s nuclear programme was struck between western powers and the Iranian government, under which sanctions against the Middle Eastern country will be lifted in exchange for limitations to its nuclear programme.

The advisory change is good news for those working in Iran’s tourism industry, and for tourists who up until now struggled to find adequate travel insurance for trips to the country. Many policies are invalid for visits to regions or countries to which the Foreign Office advises against travel.
 The revised advice still warns against all travel to border areas with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where very few tourists are likely to venture in any case.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the British Government’s policy was to recommend against travel to areas where risks are judged to be “unacceptably high.” He added: “We consider that continues to be the case for specific areas of Iran, notably along Iran’s borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But we believe that in other areas of Iran the risk to British nationals has changed, in part due to decreasing hostility under President Rouhani’s government.”

British travellers also need to take into account that they are not allowed to travel in the country independently, and must have pre-arranged accommodation, tours, and visas on an itinerary designed by a tour operator.
 David McGuinness, director of tour operator Travel the Unknown, and a regular visitor to Iran, said that the relaxation of the travel advice was “very welcome”.

“Iran is a very safe destination, and now that diplomatic relations are slowly being restored we feel many more people will take the opportunity to visit this amazing country teeming with historic and archaeological treasures as well as a hospitality that is unparalleled,” he said.
The Foreign Office said it has also updated its travel advice to provide “greater clarity” on the risks that may affect British nationals travelling to Iran. It has removed the section that stated travellers may be "arbitrarily detained" by security forces. It now says that the Iranian authorities have “in many cases failed to meet their international obligations to notify embassies when foreign nationals have been detained”, and that adequate consular access isn’t always granted.”
The relaxation of travel advice may encourage more British travellers to visit Iran, which has 19 Unesco World Heritage Sites, the Middle East’s tallest mountain, as well as atmospheric bazaars and mosques.
 David McGuinness said that Travel the Unknown’s enquiries about Iran had “gone through the roof” since the nuclear deal, and that he certainly expected the company’s group tours would be filled. He also expected to have more clients requesting private and tailor-made itineraries in the latter part of 2015 and into 2016.

Barriers to travel remain, however. The Iranian embassy in London has been shut since 2011 - in retaliation for the attack on the British embassy in Tehran the same year – meaning that obtaining a visa for Iran either means a trip to a consulate in Dublin, Paris, or Frankfurt, or employing a fee-charging visa processing agency.

Philip Hammond said last week that he hoped to be in a position to reopen the British embassy in Tehran before the end of the year, after which diplomatic services in London would likely also resume.

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