Alcohol Law in Iran: A Comprehensive Guide for Travelers
Alcohol Law in Iran
Visiting Tehran and Iran is not just about visiting beautiful historical sites or sampling exquisite cuisine; it also involves navigating the country’s complex cultural norms and regulations, particularly those surrounding alcohol consumption. Here is our guide to alcohol law in Iran. Whether you’re a casual drinker or abstain from alcohol, this guide will give you valuable insights into the laws concerning alcohol in Iran.
Alcohol Laws in Iran
In Iran, Alcohol is strictly prohibited by law. Ok, we’ve got that straight, now read on.
The production, sale, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages are illegal, leading to a lack of liquor stores, bars, and clubs in the country.
So, if you’re found violating these laws, such as drinking or transporting alcohol, penalties can be severe, including lashings, fines, or imprisonment.
Unlike many countries, Iran’s no legal drinking age due to the total prohibition of alcohol.
Transporting Alcohol into Iran
Travelers are strictly prohibited from bringing alcohol into the country, even for personal use.
With stringent security checks, including luggage X-rays at airports, it’s advisable to travel without any alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol Restrictions for Tourists and Non-Muslims
Iran’s alcohol prohibition applies to everyone within its borders, regardless of whether you’re a local resident, a tourist, or a non-Muslim.
Therefore, travelers need to adhere to this law during their visit even if they are from Christian-majority countries.
Alcohol Use Among Ethnic Minorities in Iran
Certain ethnic minorities in Iran, like Armenians, Zoroastrians, and Jews, have some latitude to produce and consume alcohol privately.
However, selling alcohol to foreigners is prohibited. Technically even within these communities, they should not sell to each other, but the practice happens.
Our advice is not to go to Armenian stores and ask for alcohol as they will not sell it to you. To stay on the safe side, avoid purchasing any alcohol from these sources.
Minority Clubs in Tehran
There are a couple of clubs and groups for minorities in Tehran, primarily the Armenian community in the city.
Called the Armenian Club and a Sepal Club, these two do serve alcohol in their restaurants but you will not be allowed access if you are Muslim or even a foreigner.
Some blogs online suggest it is easy to access these private and low-key clubs, we cannot vouch for such comments.
Alcohol Privileges for Foreign Embassies in Tehran
An intriguing aspect of Iran’s alcohol policies relates to foreign embassies. Under international diplomatic laws, foreign embassies are permitted to import alcohol for their own consumption.
These diplomatic entities are considered extraterritorial, meaning they fall outside the jurisdiction of the host country’s laws, which in this case includes Iran’s prohibition on alcohol. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to note that this privilege strictly applies to embassy staff and invited guests only. Visitors to Iran are strongly advised against seeking alcohol from these sources, as this can lead to serious diplomatic and legal complications.
Circumventing Alcohol Laws in Iran
While some Iranians do consume alcohol in private settings, they do so discreetly to avoid penalties.
As a visitor, it’s not worth the risk of potential legal consequences to follow this local practice, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the culture and lack connections with local residents.
In spite of these laws, you may come across illegal sources of alcohol, either homemade or smuggled into the country. However, these drinks come with risks of their own, such as health issues from potentially adulterated or improperly brewed beverages. It’s advised to steer clear of these options.
Alcohol Service in Hotels
Rumors may suggest that some hotels serve alcohol to their guests, but this is far from the truth. Any establishments caught violating the alcohol ban face severe repercussions, including closure. So, you’re not likely to find booze at any hotel. The hotel lobby will probably laugh at you if you ask for a delivery.
Popular Beverages in Iran
Despite the prohibition on alcohol, Iran boasts a variety of delicious traditional non-alcoholic beverages.
Non-Alcoholic Beer in Iran
While alcohol is banned in Iran, there’s an interesting variety of non-alcoholic beers available to cater to local tastes and international visitors. These are often brewed in a similar manner to regular beers but undergo a process to remove the alcohol content. They come in an array of flavors and styles, offering an enjoyable alternative for those who prefer non-alcoholic beverages.
For instance, the “Alis” brand offers flavors like Peach and Lemon, and a tropical fruit variety, providing a refreshing fruity twist to the conventional beer taste. They also offer a coffee flavor beer which is a unique addition to their line. Similarly, the “ZamZam Star” series includes fruity Radler/Shandy options such as Lemon, Peach, Pineapple, and a Tropical variant, along with their Original low/no-alcohol pale beer.
Other non-alcoholic beer brands in Iran
“Istak” is another popular local brand with a diverse assortment of flavors including Apple, Pomegranate, Mango, Coconut, Coffee, Lemon, Peach, Tropical Fruits, Strawberry, and Pineapple. Their standout offering is Lemon & Mint, a unique combination in the world of non-alcoholic beers.
Brands like “Alifard Co Maltich,” “Iran Bartar Castle Brau,” “Shams Stout,” “Baltika (Iran),” “Khoshgovar Heyday,” “Parsi,” “Black Delster,” “Hoffenberg,” and “Khoshgovar HeyDay Malt” also contribute to the country’s low/no-alcohol beer scene, offering diverse styles like pale and dark beers.
While these beverages may not replicate the exact taste of their alcoholic counterparts, they do provide a refreshing and enjoyable drinking experience, especially in the hot Iranian summers. As with any culinary adventure, exploring these non-alcoholic beers in Iran could lead to some delightful discoveries.
Cocktails & Mocktails in Iran
In Iran, the absence of alcohol has given rise to a rich culture of non-alcoholic cocktails, often known as “mocktails”. These drinks range from simple fruit juices and teas to complex mixtures of herbs, spices, fruits, and even vegetables.
One of the most popular non-alcoholic drinks in Iran is the “Sharbat”, a sweet concoction made from fruit juices or flower petals, sugar, and water. Variations of Sharbat include Sekanjebin, a refreshing mixture of honey, vinegar, and mint; and Khakshir, made from a local seed that has cooling properties. Other popular mocktails include “Ab-Anar” (pomegranate juice), “Ab-Limoo” (freshly squeezed lime juice).
Additionally, creative mixologists in Iran have been devising new twists on international mocktails, such as the virgin Mojito or the virgin Piña Colada, adding local ingredients and flavors to create a unique drinking experience.
This cold beverage is popular during the summer. Made from a variety of flavors, such as Sekanjebin, Khakshir, Saffron, and Bidmeshk, Sharbat is a refreshing choice. Like the word “Sherbert” in English, the drink is a popular drink in Tehran during the summertime.
Carbonated Soft drinks
Iran has local and foreign soft drinks brands including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and local brands like Zam Zam Cola, and Parsi Cola (looks like Pepsi). They also produce sub-brands like Fanta, Miranda, and other brands.
Bottled water in Iran
Iran has dozens of water producers; some of the most famous brands are Damavand (similar to Evian in style) as well as other brands. These brands are all cheap enough.
Energy Drinks in Iran
Energy drinks have gained popularity worldwide, and Iran is no exception. However, it’s essential to note that while Iran produces and imports numerous energy drink brands, they may not be identical to the products available in other countries due to differing regulations and cultural preferences. As of my last update in September 2021, the following are some of the brands available:
- Red Bull: The globally renowned brand has a presence in Iran. It’s widely recognized for its distinctive silver and blue cans.
- Monster Energy: Another popular global brand, Monster Energy drinks are known for their powerful blend of energy-boosting ingredients.
- Hype Energy: This international brand is known for its diverse range of energy drinks with different flavors and caffeine levels.
- Power Horse: This is an Austrian brand that has been in the Iranian market for a while.
- Shark Energy Drink: Another international brand, Shark, is widely consumed in Iran.
A yogurt-based drink mixed with cold water and herbs like mint, Doogh is often served with meals. Remember there are two types of Doogh, one carbonated and one without gas. If you are new to the drink while in Iran be sure to check because sometimes it can explode all of you and the table.
Known as the national drink of Iran, Persian tea, or Chai, is a must-try. Locals drink tea twice a day on average, and it’s commonly served in traditional tea houses. You can find different types of tea from local and foreign brands including Lipton , Sofia Tea, and Ahmad Tea.
Is Iran Worth Visiting?
Despite these prohibitions and cultural norms, Iran remains a fascinating destination with rich cultural experiences, historical sites, delectable cuisine, and scenic landscapes.
Acquiring an Iran visa is fairly easy and affordable, and the vibrant local culture is sure to keep you engrossed throughout your stay.
Embracing the local customs and lifestyle is a major part of any travel experience, and Iran is no exception.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and queries. Please feel free to leave a comment below.