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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.