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Am I Safe Traveling to Iran?

Mark Orwoll, seasoned traveler and Travel + Leisure's Managing Editor, is here to help you with your travel questions. To ask a question, send an email to AskMark@amexpub.com

** Please note: Mark can answer questions in his column only; the volume of mail he receives makes it impossible for him to send personal replies. Check back here daily to see if your question was answered, or search the Ask Mark archives to see if a similarly question was previously answered.

Q. I am an American citizen by birth, but my mother and father were both born in Iran. My mother is now an American citizen and will be traveling with me. I am perplexed about the decision to voyage to Iran for the first time due to the chance of being "held" there by the Iranian government. I need your assistance in deciding whether to use an American passport (travel as a tourist) or to apply for an Iranian passport and use that. Please help me if you can.

A. Questions like this are tricky, so I sought an answer from one of Travel + Leisure's associate editors, Niloufar Motamed. Here's what she said:

"I'm an Iranian citizen and have traveled back to Iran several times in the last six years with my Iranian passport. I know many Iranian friends who have American citizenship and travel to Iran regularly without problems using American passports. Of course, I'm not familiar with your individual circumstances, but overall I feel that you should travel with your American passport and get a tourist visa. I can understand your concerns — the media depiction of Iran is not pretty. But the truth is (as I'm sure your parents would be the first to tell you) that Iran is a beautiful country with a rich heritage and incredibly welcoming people.

"Although you were born in the United States, Iran is a part of you, and once you visit, you'll certainly want to go back. In fact, when I show American friends pictures from my trips and tell them of my experiences, they often tell me that they are eager to visit Iran to see for themselves. Not long ago, Travel + Leisure published an article by Tara Bahrampour, an Iranian-American woman, about traveling back to Iran for the first time after the revolution. She went on a tour with Americans — using her American passport — and found everyone to be hospitable and generous. Her article also includes useful phone numbers, including the Iranian Interests Section in Washington D.C. You can find the article on our website here.

"You should also check out the transcript of the Internet chat we did with Tara, in which where she answered a lot of frequently asked questions about travel to Iran. You'll find it here.

"You might be interested in reading Tara's book, To See And See Again, during the long plane ride to Tehran. Have a great trip."

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