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Crossing the Afghanistan-Iran Border at Islam Qala
Updated March 2020, Crossing the Afghanistan-Iran Border at Islam Qala was originally written in June 2019
Crossing the Islam Qala-Dogharoun Border from Afghanistan to Iran between the cities of Herat and Mashhad is a pretty pain-free simple process. At this point in time, this is the only border crossing between Afghanistan and Iran that is relatively (in terms of Afghanistan) safe to cross as the other two crossings in Nimruz (Milak-Zaranj) and Farah (Mahirood-Abu Nasir Farahi) require moving through likely Taliban-controlled areas.
Wanna Travel Afghanistan? Check Out My Full On Afghanistan Travel Guide
First Off, There Are Three Border Crossings Between Afghanistan & Iran
Allegedly all three crossings are open to foreigners. I crossed at Islam Qala-Dougharoun, so can speak from personal experience.
This is the most commonly crossed border point between Afghanistan and Iran. This crossing connects the cities of Herat and Mashhad.
This border connects the Afghan Province of Nimruz to the Iranian Province of Sistan-Baluchestan. There are flights from Kabul to Zaranj, however there are no reports from foreigners of crossing here. Travel in Nimruz Province isn’t recommended at this time due to Taliban and other terrorist/militia presence. Many governments also advise against travel in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan in Iran.
Mahirood-Abu Nasir Farahi
Connecting Farah Province in Afghanistan to South Khorosaan in Iran, the road on the Afghan side is allegedly controlled by the Taliban. Crossing here is definitely not recommended.
Planning to travel Iran? Check out this Iran itinerary for independent travelers
Regardless of the direction, you’re planning to head across the Afghanistan-Iran border crossing you’ll need to arrange visas in advance for both Afghanistan and Iran (unless you are from a visa free country for Iran). You cannot get a visa on arrival at Iran’s land borders.
All nationalities need a visa to enter Afghanistan. It is usually best to get your Afghan visa before leaving your home country. Many embassies and consulates throughout Central Asia will not issue them (as of 2018). The only one in the region that I know of that still is is the Afghan Consulate in Khorog, Tajikistan.
Unless you are from one of the visa free countries for Iran you’ll need to arrange a visa in advance to enter Iran at a land border.
To apply for an Iranian visa you’ll need to head to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to apply for your visa authorization code. When applying you’ll need to tell it which embassy or consulate you plan to actually apply for your visa at, so do enter the appropriate location.
After a few days you should get an authorization code back by email. You’ll need to print this and submit it along with your passport, fees, passport photos and necessary documents to the embassy or consulate you indicated on your application.
Please note that if you enter anything related to media (journalist, photographer, videographer, etc) or military as your occupation on your authorization code application your will be denied.
Also note that US, UK and Canadian passport holders cannot enter or get a visa to Iran without prearranging a tour with a government approved tour guide.
Click here to find out all the details on applying for an Iranian visa
How To Cross The Afghanistan-Iran Border At Islam Qala-Dogharoun
Get To Herat
Firstly you’ll need to get to Afghanistan’s far west city of Herat. The only safe option for reaching Herat is by flight from Kabul. Getting to Herat by road is not recommended in any way because of Taliban control of the southern route from Kandahar, the central route from Kabul via Bamyan and Ghor and the northern route from Mazar e Sharif.
Get A Shared Taxi From Herat To Mashhad
This is easiest to arrange through your accommodation or if couchsurfing, through your hosts in Herat. Shared taxis typically will leave in the mornings. A seat in a shared taxi will cost 1,100 AFS per seat, or the entire car can be chartered for 4,400 AFS.
Head To The Islam Qala Border
In total, expect the drive to take roughly 90 minutes to 2 hours. The road is majority paved the entire way, though if there have been recent rains there could be areas of the road flooded (this was the case on 30 March 2019 when I crossed).
On arrival at the border you’ll weave between several buildings before finally reaching a chaotic lot. First, you’ll go into a shipping container for the all-too-familiar body check (separate for women and men). You may or may not be asked for baksheesh though typically a few firm no’s will get you waved on. After this you’ll walk across the lot into another building, this is where you’ll officially exit Afghanistan. There is one line for men only and one line for women and families.
Hand over your passport at the window. You’ll probably be asked to show your Iranian visa as well (they’ll flip through to see if you have one and you’ll have to hand over your visa paper since Iran is no longer issuing in-passport visas for most nationalities). You will be fingerprinted in the process of exit immigration as well. You’ll then be stamped out. You may be asked a few questions about where you went in Afghanistan and why you were there, I was only asked where I came from and where I planned to go to in Iran from here, however, I have read forum reports of travelers being questioned.
Check out Herat in photos & travel guide and plan your stay
Now Drive To The Dogharoun Post
After you’ve officially been stamped out of Afghanistan you’ll load back up in your shared taxi and drive across into Iran. Iranian military will more than likely search the trunk of the car and ask to see your passport and visa paper.
Go Through Iranian Immigration & Customs
Next, you’ll take all your bags and go inside the immigration building. Get in line at the window. You’ll need to hand over your passport and visa paper. You may be asked a couple of questions and then stamped into Iran (on the paper, not in your passport). If asked if you are going to visit a boyfriend or girlfriend in Iran say no, as saying yes can stir up trouble.
Next you’ll walk over to the next room where you’ll hand over your passport and visa paper to a man and then load all your bags into an X-ray. If you have a laptop with you you’ll be asked to turn it on and possibly asked to open some files (turning on my laptop and showing him the screen seemed to suffice).
After this, you’ll exit the immigration building and load everything back into the car and drive over to the customs building.
Once over to customs you’ll have to once again take all your bags out and enter into a building, of course, separate for men and women. Here you will need to unzip all of your bags and let the officers search through.
Now it’s official, you’ve entered Iran!
The Drive From The Border To Mashhad
Expect the entire drive from the border to Mashhad to take roughly 4 hours. If you already have accommodation arranged your shared taxi will drop you at the address.
Note that you will probably stop for a quick meal in either Taybad or Torbat e Jam.
Crossing From Mashhad To Herat
I did not cross the border in this direction, however, I am aware that there is a minibus that makes the journey on most days. Reports say the bus typically leaves the Mashhad Bus Terminal when full (usually by 7:30 am). I have not heard of anyone crossing this direction using shared taxis but I am guessing that this is a possibility as well.
On the Afghan side once you arrive at the border there are guys offering to exchange Afghanis and Iranian Rials. I’m not sure if the rates are decent as I did not exchange money here.
On the Iranian side, I did not see any money exchangers, however, I was able to pay in Taybad for food at a cafe with Afghanis and get change in Iranian Rial.
Afghanistan-Iran Border Crossing Operating Hours
I don’t know the exact hours of opening and closing of either side of the border but had read that both are open during daylight hours. 7 am-5 pm would be a good estimate.
Safety At The Afghanistan-Iran Border
This is a pretty busy border crossing and as of right now the Afghanistan-Iran border crossing at Islam Qala-Dogharoun is okay to use.
This may not always be the case, so do enquire with locals leading up to crossing the border to verify the road is safe.
Guides I Recommend For Afghanistan
I crossed the border on my own, however if planning a trip to Afghanistan I thoroughly recommend Let’s Be Friend’s Afghanistan.
A Few Tips For Crossing The Afghanistan-Iran Border At Islam Qala-Dogharoun
- Afghanistan and Iran are on the same time zone (GMT +4:30).
- Just after passing Islam Qala you will pass a small village named Kumisarit where it is possible to make a quick stop for chai and snacks (or in my case a return back to Kumisarit after having officially exited Afghanistan to get the shared taxi repaired before actually entering Iran).
- Men offering to exchange money (mostly Afghanis to Iranian Rials) were everywhere at the Islam Qala Border Post. I did not exchange money, so I can’t say if the rates were good. On the Iranian side, I didn’t notice a money exchange (though there could be one, just ask), but I was able to pay in Afghanis at a shop in Taybad and get change in Rial.
- From personal experience, I recommend staying at Vali’s Homestay in Mashhad.
- I recommend grabbing copies of Bradt Iran and Bradt Iraq to help plan your travels in either country.