Currency & Shopping

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Currency & Shopping

The Iranian rial (﷼ in Persian) but symbolized internationally as IRR is the currency of Iran; however prices are often quoted in Toman (تومان). One toman is equal to ten rials. USD1 and €1 could get you about 30,000 and 40,000 rials respectively.

Coins are issued in values of 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 rials with banknotes produced in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 , 50,000 and 100,000. If you remember that a yellow IRR50,000 note was approximately equal to a euro you wouldn't use to get confused. For large amounts you will see Iran Cheques being used, in IRR500,000 (c. USD15) denominations. They're now used in the same way as cash.

Although Iranians often express amounts of money and prices of goods in "Tomans", however despite the usage of "toman" verbally, amounts of money and prices of goods and services are frequently written in rials.

ATMs in Iran do not accept foreign (non-Iranian) cards except some which accept those from state banks, so bring all the money you might need in cash, preferably in US dollars or euros.

Carrying money

Credit and debit cards are useless in Iran due to US sanctions, so bring enough hard currency for the duration of your stay. US dollars and euros are by far the most useful, though other currencies can at times also be exchanged. Bills in good condition as well as large bills (USD100 and €100 or larger) tend to be preferred, but smaller denominations are also taken. It is advisable to bring small denominations as these may serve to pay hotel bills, taxi fares etc. On arrival at Tehran International Airport, the maximum amount that may be exchanged at night is limited to €50 per person. Rates in exchange offices, the so-called secondary market, are much more favorable than those in banks, and in opposition to the latter the procedure with them is quick and painless. The black, or so-called tertiary market, should be avoided. It may usually be found around exchange offices outside their opening times. Exchange offices can be found in major cities, their opening times are usually Saturday to Thursday from 08:00-16:00.

Trade embargoes mean that banks cannot forward cash advances on your foreign credit cards and they are only accepted by select stores for large purchases, such as Persian rugs. Most will be happy to forward you some cash on your credit card at the same time as your purchase. If you are desperate for cash, you can also try asking these shops to extend you the same favor without buying a rug or souvenir, but expect to pay dearly for the luxury.

Travelers' cheques: Banks do not cash travelers' cheques, so only bring hard cash, preferentially euros or US dollars.

There is a possibility to get a pre-paid no-name gift card from most of banks in Iran if you are concerned with carrying too much cash on you. These cards have no service fee and surcharge and you get exact amount of money you put in card. All ATM and POS terminals support Persian and English languages. Make sure the one you get has ATM Withdrawal Feature. Ask about ATM withdrawal and POS transactions daily limit in advance. Keep your receipts and treat your gift cards like cash as in case of missing them, it is less likely to get replacement even with paperwork's. Paperwork's may help you to receive new password in case of forgetting it but expect bureaucracy. Cash your left over cards one business day before your departure to avoid any problem caused by Iranian interbank network SHETAB failure. Some of Persian gulf Arab countries ATM cards may work in Iranian interbank network but nothing is guaranteed.

Money and daily life

There is little point in risking the use of black market moneychangers who loiter outside of major banks and only offer marginally better rates than the banks. Banks in most cities will change money for you, but the process can be a drawn out affair requiring signatures from countless officials and a fair deal of running around.

A better compromise are the private exchange offices (sarāfi) scattered around most large cities and major tourist centers. Their rates are much better than those of the banks, they are far quicker and, unlike their black market colleagues, they can be traced later on if something goes wrong.

The most widely-accepted currencies are US dollar ($) and euros (€). Other currencies are harder if not impossible to change. US$100 and large euro unfolded notes tend to attract the highest prices, and you may be quoted lower rates for any old or ripped notes (sometimes old notes are out rightly turned down).

Bargain ruthlessly when buying handcrafts, rugs or big ticket items and modestly when hailing private taxis. In most other aspects of life prices are fixed. Tipping is generally not expected, but locals will generally round up the bill in taxis and add around 10% in classy restaurants. Porters and bellboys will expect IRR5,000. A discreet gift of a few thousand Tomans may help grease the wheels of Iranian society and serve to thank an extraordinarily helpful local.

You won't be able to escape the government-sanctioned dual pricing system that applies to accommodation and some tourist attractions in Iran; foreigners often pay up to five times the price quoted to locals. However thanks to the government's recent commendable efforts to eliminate 'foreigner' prices from many tourist attractions, most notably Persepolis, low food and transport costs make Iran a cheap travel destination.

If you are prepared to stay in the cheapest guesthouses, travel only by bus and eat only at fast food outlets or kabābi, you can get by in Iran on a minimum of around IRR500,000 (about USD15) per day. If you want to eat a decent restaurant meal every now and then and stay in mid-range accommodation, a more realistic budget is around IRR1,000,000 (about USD30). If you want to eat and sleep in luxury and fly between major sights, you can easily chew through IRR3,000,000 (about USD90) per day.

Shopping

While the shops offer a wide selection of quality goods, local items can be bought in the many bazaars. Worthwhile purchases include hand-carved, inlaid woodwork, carpets, rugs, silks, leather goods, mats, tablecloths, gold, silver, glass and ceramics. Bargaining is customary. There are restrictions on which items may be taken out of the country.

  • # 3/12/2017
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