Whether you’re an all-the-frills luxury traveler or a backpacker traveling to Iran on a budget, you need to plan ahead with respect to the handling of the monetary units. In spite of the fact that Iran is one of the least expensive countries in the Middle East for travelers, the instability of exchange rates and an isolated banking system has made a few difficulties and inquiries concerning how to arrange and what to convey before coming to Iran.
Currency, Rials or Tomans?
Iranian money, Rials or Tomans? More often, this is the thing that confuses almost every traveler in Iran. In fact, there are two common currencies in Iran. The official currency is Iranian Rial (Rls or ریال) and the currency people use informally, is Tomans, Iranians use Rials in coins, banknotes, official arrangements and use Tomans more commonly and informally. Rial is the printed currency but Toman is much more practical to use in daily life. In this way, when you need to purchase something at a store, pay for taxi and shopping, you are confronting Tomans, not Rials.
When a taxi driver says the price for arriving somewhere is 1000, he means Tomans, which implies that you’ll be paying using a 10,000 Rial note. Since we have too many zeros in our bank notes, sometimes people even don’t bother to say 5000 or 10,000 Tomans and prefer to say 5 or 10 Tomans!
As a general guide, written prices are given in rials and prices quoted in conversation are in Tomans. To confuse you even further, shopkeepers will often omit the denomination of high prices, so you may be told a jar of coffee costs 2 Tomans (meaning 2,000 Tomans or IR 20,000) and that a fine rug will cost 3 Tomans (meaning 3,000,000 Tomans or IR 30,000,000). In conversation.
The one challenge you will face is that most Iranians don’t talk in Rials; which is somewhat unusual since it is the printed currency. At first this is a bit confusing and it’s easy to think you’re being ripped off while in fact the price has just been quoted in Tomans and not Rials. Ask if you’re unsure! Since you’re a tourist in Iran, some Iranians may attempt to make things simpler and give you the value for your purchases in Rials or even in dollars to help you out.
Most travelers spend the first few days of their trip coming to grips with this mind-boggling system, and money changers on the border will often exploit this confusion to rip you off. Be careful, and if in doubt, always ask a shopkeeper or moneychanger if they are quoting a price in Rials or Tomans.
For exchanging money, you can refer to the banks which have a sign of “EXCHANGE” on their entrance. There are also authorized exchange shops in the airport or tourist areas where you can exchange your money at a bit more cost, but fast. These shops are called “SARRAFI” in Farsi which is the equivalent word for exchange. There are also street exchangers in tourist areas who usually hold a bunch of banknotes and show them to people who are passing and shout Dollars, Pounds, Euros. This way of exchange is not legal and is not recommended. Changing money in an exchange shop is much safer than doing so with a street moneychanger. It is advisable to bring hard currency for exchange purposes.
Iran is still a cash economy, so bring enough hard currency for the duration of your stay. US dollars and euros are the most useful, and new and large (USD 100 or EUR 100 or higher) bills in good condition are preferred and usually get a better rate. Trade embargoes mean that banks will not forward cash advances on your foreign credit cards and they are only accepted by some 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 favour without buying a rug or souvenir, but expect to pay dearly for the luxury.
Credit Cards and Traveler’s Checks
Because of the sanctions against Iran even common, major credit cards like MasterCard and Visa are not accepted in Iran; so, bring cash or use credit cards issued by local banks in Iran. It is not possible to exchange traveler’s checks either.
Although Iran has a network of ATMs (Cashpoint machines) all around the country and POSE machines even in many supermarkets, but only local bank cards are accepted.
What type of cash is acceptable? The most widely-accepted currency is the US dollar, Euro, and GBP are all accepted in Iran as well, no difference is expected in this case. Other currencies are harder to change. $100 notes attract the highest prices, and you will be quoted lower rates for any old or ripped notes. You should change your money in a currency exchange office available all around the country. Use Iranian Rials when you are and shopping or eating (most places only accept Rials). Due to the unstable exchange rate, make sure you check the currency rate.
The import and export of local currency is limited to 50,000,000 Rials. Any amount larger requires authorization from the Central Bank. The import of foreign currency is unlimited, provided that it is declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.
Each passenger leaving the country is permitted to take his/her own personal luggage as well as Persian handicrafts, Gelims and a carpet (not bigger than 3 square meters) as long as they are not antiquing. Export of all antiques such as gems, coins, and handwritten manuscripts is prohibited. To export musical instruments, a permit is required from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Sat-Wed 07:30-13:30, Thurs 07:30-12:30
Iranian Rial (IRR, symbol Rls).
Currently, eight different banknotes (100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500 Rials) and five different coins (5000, 2000, 1000, 500 and 250 Rials) are being used.
You can check out the most updated Iranian Rials rates in http://www.xe.com/currency/irr-iranian-rial