Iran was on our visit list since the moment we started thinking of this trip. We had met a big amount of people who visited Iran and gave us very positive feedback about Iranian people, food and beauty of Iran.
The question is how do we get visas. After long research we listed two options: 1) pre-applicaiton via an agency and getting visas in Turkey (Istanbul, Ankara or Trabzon); or 2) getting them in Trabzon.
With the agency you have to fill in a form online and after receivinga message from them transfer visa fee to a designated bank account. Then an agency files an application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and after 1-2 weeks you get a reference number. With this number and picture you go to a chosen consulate. Having read through a number of forum threads we chose Iranian Tours tour operator (www.iranianvisa.com), and filled in applications while we still were in Ukraine in July.
A confirmation message arrived with payment instructions – we were supposed to transfer 70EUR. We could transfer money either to an Iranian bank or a Turkish one. We chose the latter to avoid extra charges as we have a friend in Istanbul. We asked him in order to have the reference numbers by the time we arrive to Istanbul.
We did not get any response and started being worried, and decided to check with the agency. Several days later we got a message from Sarah, employee of Iranian Tours (www.iranianvisa.com). It said that because we transferred money in Turkish Lira, they did not see the payment. Besides the transferred amount was added to a Turkish Lira bank account, which was reactivated, and the bank charged the agency 40TL for this reactivation. And now we were supposed to send 20EUR more. We were a bit shocked.
I answered that if money is sent to a EUR account the amount should have been converted into EUR, and asked Sarah to check with their bank. II was sure it was mistake on their side, and them to hurry up with the applications.
Soon we got an answer that the applications were registered and we should send the money. We were already tired of this communication and quite worried about the visa, and wrote back that we will pay the money.
The answer confused us again: she wrote that now they will have to re-register our applications at MFA and we willget our reference numbers only in September. First, it was too later, second she wrote in the previous message that the applications were already registered and we just need to send the money.
We did not know what to answer. Later without any confirmation from our side Sarah informed us that the applications had been processed and we will get the reference
numbers once we have completed the payment.
At this point we decided no to proceed with this agency due to big amount of discrepancies of outcoming information. Besides we were already in Trabzon, and just waited to go to the consulate. I also searched online for negative feedback about Iranian Tours tour operator and found some message of similar misunderstandings.
Monday morning came. We went to the consulate by 9:00, filled in two forms, applied pictures and got a paper with a bank account to pay our fees (Mara, Romanian – 75EUR; Alexey, Ukrainian – 90EUR). There were other people doing the same – a couple from Holland, three Japanese guys. By the way the fee for Japanese citizens is 60EUR, but they are required to take finger prints.
We were told to come back in 2 hours. Payment at a bank, breakfast and back to the consulate. I was asked to fill in some additional phones numbers and he we go – we got our Irainian visas!!!
We were extremely happy, and very surprised at how fast and easy was the process. Came by 9:10, applied by 10:00, got visas in our passports by 12:30. It is probably the fastest visa I have ever got. I mean with a visit to a consulate, applications, etc.
Once out of the consulate we have written to the Iranian Tours tour operator that we are cancelling our applications and would like to get reimbursement of our money. The answer was that it was our mistake to send money in Turkish Lira, and that they have already applied for 1 visa, as money was enough only for one (contradicting to previous mails where it was said they applied for both visas). About two weeks later Mara got a message that her application was processed and she can get a reference number. We decided not to answer as we believe we have lost 70EUR. In any case we have our visas.
So for now i am not sure whether we got scammed or it was just a misunderstanding. But taking into account all the discrepancies in the communication I tend to think it has been a scam.
For people who are going to apply for an Iranian visa my recommendations would be:
1. If possible apply for a visa in Trabzon, even if you did not plan to go to Turkey. It is easy to reach Trabzon, almost everybody gets visa on arrival or visa free. Trabzon is not far from Iranian border.
2. If you use agency, make sure you make enough online research on agencies, check for possible problems with this agency.
Good luck and enjoy Iran.