How to Iranian Highway.

Iran’s road systems require an art of driving unlike any other country we have so far visited. For this reason, Alpha Squad presents the not-complete guide of “How to Iranian Highway” and how to best keep an eye on literally everything on the road. Whatever you thought was uniform and neat in traffic management is forfeit in Iran. Some prerequisites:

  1. Get your eyes tested and glasses prescription renewed if necessary. If anything for the car insurers who will likely flag up that your glasses are unsuitable for your short/long sightedness, otherwise it’s best to have sharp vision.
  2. Iran highways are long and the city roads are action packed. Slow reaction times will not help you here. Get a healthy, long sleep in every night.
  3. Long term experience in driving – In Alpha Squad we have a combined 20 years’ experience on UK and continental roads, with Oli taking up 11 of those. It would pay to have a good experience of the car you’re driving; its blind spots, driving dimensions (that is, knowing where the front, back and corners are to within a few inches from the driver’s viewing angle) and how it handles on intricate steering and braking.
  4. Get a dash cam front and rear. The rear cam helps greatly with reversing if you have large hiking bags in the boot blocking the window, and the front and back combined will not only give you some nice video footage of scenarios on the road, but of any accident you might see and (hopefully) not get involved in. It pays to be prepared in having good clear evidence ready for any law enforcement.
  5. Take a compass and roadmap of Iran – the roadmap will help you only so much; the compass will help you with orientation and judging distance for your next major turnoff and ETA into a town or city.

So with that out of the way, here are Alpha Squad’s observations and guidelines on driving in Iran.

  1. Road signs on the highways and in towns are in 2 words, minimal and immediate. These are not the types of signs you’ll see on UK highways – brightly displayed, large readable text at 200 metres; these are usually within 100 metres of the junction and half the size you might expect.
  2. Toll booths feature around the major highway zones, most of which are north of Isfahan. International cars are often considered as guests of the country and are let through without any fee. On rare occasions the toll officer will charge you (1 time out of 12 for us), likely pocketing the money for himself. Language barriers and playing dumb will also find you being let through for the sake of traffic flow.
  3. Lorries and coaches are big, old, smoke-bellowing and kings of the highway in Iran. Do not try to assert any right of way against them; you may find yourself being cornered, or cut across at a left-hand intersection.
  4. Speed bumps (sleeping policemen) are not marked, look out for 2 rumble strips within 50 metres, and slow down. They come in 2 forms – plastic stripped and sudden, and large launch ramp style. They also feature at some highway slip roads, so you can’t initially speed up to enter the highway.
  5. The edge of the highway is often immediate, and bordered by a gravel hard shoulder. If you like your paintwork how it is, keep a sharp eye on the road edge.
  6. Driving on the right is optional, more often than you think. Locals will often drive slowly against the flow of traffic and even reverse up the highway side.
  7. Lights should only be switched on with the last glimmer of sunlight at dusk. Early evening headlights will find you getting flashed down and beeped at repeatedly from local drivers.
  8. Highway lane division is merely a suggestion. 3-lane highways in busy traffic will result in 5 lanes of cars, and they are not uniform in the slightest – think of your car as a leaf floating down a river, with a hundred other leaves all trying to get to their destination.
  9. Motorbikes and pedestrians share the same space. They will walk or drive out in front of you, go up the wrong side of roads, or stand in the road respectively, and bikers will often use pedestrian walkways and footpaths in the evening, especially to drive up the wrong way of a 1-way street.
  10. You do not have to stop for pedestrian crossings, and pedestrians do not have to stop for cars. Iran takes many pages from the Vietnam style of highway and pedestrian traffic in this regard.
  11. Side streets often have an open drainage channel running down either side. By open drainage, we mean 2-foot-deep and without any warning. To get stuck in this would likely cost you your suspension and wheel alignment on your car.
  12. On a lighter note, you will find yourself being waved to, beeped at in greeting and asked many times where you’re from and welcomed to the country. Many drivers are happy to see you in Iran and are grateful for your custom and your visiting, speaking on many occasions as if they themselves represent Iran as a whole.

How to Turkey / Iran border.

Following on from other guides on facebook and previous rally teams, this is the Alpha Squad how-to on getting across the Turkish-Iranian border at Dogubayazit, without a Carnet de Passage pre-purchased, and as British Citizens.

  1. Arrive at the Turkish side of the border and drive passed all the lorries on the right hand lanes – cars are dealt with separately through a different gate.
  2. Keep driving passed the lorries- there’s a lot of them, we estimated a 3km queue and roughly 800 lorries parked up in total.
  3. Arrive at the car lane and gate, you’ll be waved through when the gate opens and into the first holding cell. This is where (if you choose to start the Iranian processing first thing in the morning) you can camp overnight, without any hassle from the guards or security patrols. Watch out for the stray dogs – they will try to sneak up grab any food you have. There is a café and duty free shop in the building to the left of the roadway (facing the Iranian gate). If you head around the outer edge and turn right, you’ll see it. They serve Turkish great tost (toasties) and a selection of snacks and drinks. Worth keeping some Turkish Lira with you for this if you’re staying a while.
  4. Passengers should enter into the main building at the entrance you stop beside to have their passports stamped for Turkish exit. Drivers should take their V5 or car documentation to the office on the right side of the road. Leave the V5 with the security guard and join your team members in the min building to have your passport stamped.
  5. Return to the car and collect your V5 from the security guard – make sure he says its ok to exit, and ask about stamping your passport – he should confirm this is fine and usher you up to the Iranian gate.
  6. Passengers can walk through a fenced walkway into Iran from the Turkish side – they will be directed through to a reception area in the main Iranian customs building. This is a large office with large photos of buildings and areas of natural beauty in Iran.
  7. Drivers should now be ushered through the Iranian gate. 2 Soldiers will ask for your passport and simple details – who you are, where you’re going and so on. They shouldn’t be hostile to you in anyway; we were greeted with smiles and handshakes, and directed to the customs office where the passengers waited.
  8. In this first office you will then be processed in and your details checked. Contact details and your fingerprints will also be taken (note – British citizens). You are then asked to hand your passport across to the guard in the next office- a small windowed kiosk with red and silver seats outside. He may take a little while to check your passport. This is then handed back to you and you are pointed towards the next room – a large hall with luggage scales and baggage searching tables. Don’t worry – they’re not for you.
  9. Congratulations, you (human) can now enter Iran. Your car cannot. There is a small shop at the end of the hallway selling snacks and drinks – buy yourself some mango juice and celebrate the easy bit – the hard part begins.
  10. Fixers will now approach you for 2 things – Carnets and money exchange, from either USD, Turkish Lira or Euros. It’s entirely up to you how you go about the money exchange – it’s worth giving yourself a small amount of buying power for the immediate area, and seeking beter exchange rates when you drive to larger towns, or Tabriz. You won’t get a good rate at the boarder- the fixers are there to make money, and they don’t care that you’re the nicest well-meaning westerner.
  11. The Carnet fixers represent private car clearance and insurance companies. They tend to work in a pack, so as to avoid being caught out by a knowledgeable tourist. NOTE WELL – if a rally car has gone ahead of you at a higher price, or had pre-purchased at a higher price than you intend on paying, the fixers will cling onto this point for hours – they will not budge, knowing that the same car type and similar engine size got through, regardless of what you think is the right price. Time your haggling well, and early to avoid disappointment.
  12. Start at a low price and work up slowly and do not give in. Fixers will be determined to wear you out and simply leave you cooking in the sun. Work hard for the price you want, and make sure you insist on 1 currency the whole time. Continually repeat said currency as well, or they will at the last moment switch if it provides them a greater profit.
  13. After several hours you should have a settled price – accept it and wait for the paperwork to proceed – the Carnet executive – another man you would not yet have met – will need your passport and V5/car documentation to write up the insurance and Carnet. This process will take 3 hours give or take.
  14. Relax – the hard work is done. If you have a tour guide meeting you, he should be at the gate ahead of you, if not already introducing him/herself. Take the 3 hours to be patient with any guards around you and other ralliers. Some guards may ask in broken English who you are and where you’re going. They may also open the car doors or inspect around the vehicle in curiosity – leave them me but keep a watchful eye on your belongings.
  15. Your Carnet should arrive completed – you will need to sign off a small form and have your right index finger print taken for verification. Your chosen Carnet issuer will then drive down to the next gate. Follow them in your car – the road goes downhill passed a cement works and gravel pit. At this final gate, the Carnet is photocopied and handed to you with a half piece of A4 paper attached.
  16. DO NOT LOSE THIS, OR THE CARNET. This is your car’s passport and without it you cannot exit Iran with your car.
  17. Congratulations! You can now drive into Iran.


  • Total time on the Iranian side of the border: 8 hours.
  • Total time on complete border crossing (0.5km): 21 hours.
  • Total cost: $420 (€400) for the carnet (haggled from €500).