The current geopolitical and military tensions in Iran pose a threat to Canadians traveling in the region. This threat became a reality when an passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff, killing dozens of Canadians, mostly with dual citizenship. Particularly at risk are those with dual Canadian-Iranian citizenship. At the very least, expect to be arbitrarily quested and possibly arrested and jailed.
The information below is currently provided courtesy of the Government of Canada via their Canadian federal travel website. We encourage all MetroActive members and supporters to read through the material and understand the risks. In the end, you are responsible for your own safety. Don’t expect the Canadian government to come to your rescue. You’ll understand why once you read through this post.
Iran – Avoid non-essential travel
Avoid non-essential travel (defined below) to Iran due to the volatile security situation, the regional threat of terrorism and the risk of arbitrary detention.
Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, are at risk of being arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained. Iran does not recognize dual nationality and Canada will not be granted consular access to dual Canadian-Iranian citizens. Canadian-Iranian dual citizens should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Iran.
IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country may be compromised.
Avoid non-essential travel
There are specific safety and security concerns that could put you at risk. You should reconsider your need to travel to the country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should reconsider whether or not you really need to be there. If not, you should consider leaving while it is still safe to do so. It is up to you to decide what “non-essential travel” means, based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with a country, territory or region, and other factors.
Avoid all travel
There is an extreme risk to your personal safety and security. You should not travel to this country, territory or region. If you are already in the country, territory or region, you should consider leaving if it is safe to do so.
Safety and security
On January 3, 2020, an Iranian military commander and Iraqi paramilitary leaders were killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport. Iran has declared three days of national mourning.
The incident has led to increased tensions in the region. There is an increased threat of attacks against Western interests and of terrorist attacks in general. Violent demonstrations could occur in the coming days. The security situation could worsen with little warning.
If you are currently in Iran:
- be very cautious
- review your security measures
- avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings
- monitor local media
- follow the instructions of local authorities
There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.
Canadians in Iran may be closely watched by Iranian authorities. Seemingly innocuous behaviours, such as the use of cameras in public places, travel beyond well-established tourist attractions or casual interactions with Iranian friends, may be misinterpreted and may lead to investigation. Canadians, particularly dual Canadian-Iranian citizens, may be arbitrarily questioned, arrested and detained. Canadian-Iranian dual citizens should carefully consider the risks of travelling to Iran.
Sistan-Baluchistan and border with Afghanistan
Sistan-Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan, is regularly affected by ethnic conflicts and there have been kidnappings of foreign tourists. Bandits in Iran’s border areas with Afghanistan and Pakistan are usually involved in drug trafficking and use kidnap operations to secure the release of group members from prison. Terrorist attacks may also occur in this province.
If you decide to travel overland to Pakistan and Afghanistan despite this warning, travel only on main roads and in organized groups, and avoid travel after dark.
Border with Iraq
The province of Khuzestan borders Iraq and is regularly affected by ethnic conflicts. There have been a number of kidnappings of foreign tourists.
Iran’s border with Iraq is usually closed. It can be opened on a case-by-case basis; however, to allow the passage of certain foreigners or to give refugees access to containment camps located on the Iranian side of the border.
For more information, read our Travel Advice and Advisories for Iraq.
Other border areas
The borders with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are open only to citizens of those countries. Foreigners travelling in sensitive border areas (namely Azerbaijan, Baluchistan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Khuzestan) often attract the attention of local security forces, which can result in short periods of detention.
There is a threat of terrorism. Attacks have targeted foreign interests, Iranian government establishments, military parades and religious sites and events. Potential targets can include embassies, hotels, places of worship, government interests and visibly Western businesses and interests. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times because the security situation could deteriorate rapidly and without notice.
Violent crime affects both Iranians and foreigners. Petty theft, such as purse snatching and burglary, occurs. Do not show signs of affluence. Ensure personal belongings, passports and travel documents are secure, and carry a photocopy of your passport’s identification page at all times.
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are often targeted by thieves.
Watch for fraudulent plainclothes police officers, who may ask to see foreign currency and passports. If you are approached, politely decline to cooperate but offer to go to the nearest police station.
In mid-November 2019, violent demonstrations took place throughout Iran. The Internet was shutdown nationwide for several days. Security forces used excessive force, including live ammunition, against demonstrators to put an end to the demonstrations. Political, social or economic events could trigger further unrest in the future and demonstrators could likely be met with a similar response by the Iranian authorities.
Political demonstrations and gatherings occur, and can become violent. People near demonstrations have been assaulted or killed by security forces. Incidents of political unrest may occur with little warning.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Women have been physically and verbally harassed.
Canadian and Canadian-Iranian women have been stranded in Iran or mistreated by an Iranian husband or a male family member.
Road conditions are good in cities, and the highway system is relatively well developed. Hire cars with a driver familiar with local conditions as driving standards are poor. Driving at night can be dangerous; the streets are poorly lit and some motorists drive without using headlights. Motorists regularly ignore traffic lights, traffic signs and lane markers, and almost never yield to pedestrians at crosswalks.
In the event of a car accident, remain at the scene until authorities have made an official report.
Hire only official taxis from agencies or hotel-based companies, and always pre-negotiate the fare. Most taxis do not have meters, and foreigners are often overcharged.
Sidewalks on main roads in urban areas may be obstructed by cars. Sidewalks are rare in residential areas.
Trains are comfortable and punctual, but service is limited and slow.
In September 2019, Iranian authorities specifically called for the seizure of Canadian assets and vessels.
Exercise caution if travelling by sea, including for recreational purposes, in the Persian Gulf, particularly around the disputed islands of Abu Musa and Tunbs. Iran and the United Arab Emirates both claim sovereignty over the islands and the waters are patrolled by the military. Foreigners navigating Iranian waters have been arrested and detained.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
General safety information
Carry identification with you at all times. Leave a photocopy of your travel documents with a relative or a friend at home.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an “as is” basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.