Whether you’re a backpacker traveling to Iran on a budget, or an all-the-frills luxury traveler, you’re going to need to plan ahead regarding the handling of monetary units. Although Iran is one of the cheapest countries in the Middle East for travelers, unstable exchange rates and an isolated banking system has made a few difficulties and questions about how to plan and what to bring before coming to Iran. The following is a guide of key points foreign travelers should know about Iran’s banking system and currency.
CREDIT, DEBIT AND GIFT CARDS
- All major international credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are not accepted in Iran, due to the current political sanctions. Travelers' cheques are also not accepted.
- Note that due to the sanctions and unavailability of transferring money from bank to bank, internationally, you must bring all of the money you need with you in cash.
- Luckily, there is no limit for importing foreign currency into Iran. Exporting currency, however, is limited and dependant on the amount that was declared upon entrance.
- However, although carrying cash is common in Iran, you do not have to carry your entire budget with you wherever you go. For carrying larger sums of money, you may wish to obtain an Iranian credit or debit card at a local or even a tourist bank.
Iranian money, Rials or Tomans?
Usually, this is what confuses almost every traveller in Iran. Yes, we have two common currencies in Iran. The first and the official currency is Iranian Rial (Rls or ریال) and the currency people use informally, is Tomans. Basically, each Toman is equal to 10 Rials. So, 1000 Tomans equals to 10,000 Rials.
Iranians use Rials in banknotes, coins, official deals and use Tomans informally. Rials are the printed and Tomans are the discussed currencies. So, when you want to buy something at a store, pay for taxi and shopping, you are facing Tomans, not Rials.
When a taxi driver says the price from getting here to there is 500, he means Tomans, which means that you’ll be paying using a 5,000 Rial note. Since we have too many zeros in our bank notes (Check out Iran banknotes below), sometimes people even don’t bother to say 3000 or 5000 tomans and prefer saying 3 or 5 Tomans! At first this will be a bit confusing and it’s easy to think you’re being ripped off when in fact the price was just quoted in Tomans and not Rials. Ask if you’re unsure! Since you’re a tourist in Iran, some Iranians may try to make things easier and give you the value for your purchases in Rials or even in dollars to help you out.
Iranian Rial (IRR, symbol Rls).
Currently, we use 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).
If they’re not falling apart, Iranian banknotes are easy to read as the numbers and names are printed in Farsi and English. However, coins are only marked in Persian (Farsi).
It is also good to note that in written deals, such as contracts or banking transactions, the rial will always be stated, as it is the official and formal currency.
The quickest and easiest way to change cash is at an official money-exchange office, where the whole deal is done in seconds, unlike in most banks where half an hour is considered fast. Exchange shops can be found in most cities, usually signed in English. 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.
What type of cash is acceptable?
It is not important; US dollars; Euro; GBP are all accepted in Iran. As mentioned alongside the currency exchange shops and banks, you may also come across some street vendors that urge you to trade your money with them. Do not get lazy and always take the safest choice, which is a currency exchange shop or bank.
if you are from a country (small African or South American countries, for example) whose currency is not a major currency, try to change your money to US dollars or Euros. It is very rare that you wouldn’t be able to change your country’s money, but why take the risk? Iranian Rial rate is changing frequently so please contact a trusty money changer or check on internet for currency converters.
Iran has a very widespread network of ATM machines but travelers can only use credit/gift cards issued by local banks in Iran. All ATMs support English language.
You can also use your Iranian credit, debit or gift card in most shops as most of them have POSE machines (credit/debit swipe). It is also good to note that it is the formality for the sales person or shop keeper to ask for your 4-digit pass code when swiping your card to make a purchase. It does not mean that they are invading your privacy or financial security!
Sat-Wed 0730-1330, Thurs 0730-1230.
The import and export of local currency is limited to Rs 500,000. 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.
Iran Duty Free
The following goods may be imported into Iran without incurring customs duty:
• A reasonable quantity of cigarettes. • Reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use. • Gifts on which the import duty/tax does not exceed US$80.
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 antiques.
it is common for shoppers to bargain on prices in bazaars and shops to lower their prices, so if you are anywhere outside of a shopping mall and feel like you have a different opinion on the value of something, name your price! Also, remember to always be aware if the price you are being quoted is rials or tomans.
When eating out, every country has its own certain etiquette. In Iran, tipping is not very common. Seldom restaurants have a 10-15% gratuity included in their prices, and some high-end restaurants, in Tehran, may expect a 10-15% gratuity on the total. Having said that, for the majority of the time any tip you leave behind is always a nice surprise. At the airport, it is also customary to tip an employee that helps you carry your luggage.
Like everywhere else money is one of the most important items in Iranian life, but it is surely not more important than taarof. In fact Iranians care about their guests more than money. They will often try to pay for you if you are their guest. But they are smart enough to recognize people who want to abuse their hospitality. So if you go to their place it is always a good idea to buy some food or bring small gifts. There is no need to buy expensive presents because the host might feel uncomfortable. Just show that you appreciate their hospitality and remember that attention is more appreciated than the price of the gift you are bringing.