As you get off the plain in your new destination, first you need to do is to get your money exchanged. A task which at first may seem confusing or a little bit challenging. But the more you know about the exchange rate and other related issues, the less you will be confused. This article will explain all you need to know about money exchange in Iran, so you will hopefully encounter fewer problems during your trip in Iran.
Iranian Currency:Banknotes in Iran
To be able to exchange money in Iran, first you should know about its currency. Rial (shown with ریال symbol and IRR currency code) is Iran’s official currency. The most common banknotes you will see in Iran are 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, 500000, and 1000000 Rials.You also will probably see coins in value of 1000, 2000, and 5000 Rials.
Apart from the many zeros involved in any transaction, foreign visitors need to be aware that prices are always quoted in rials when written, but are quoted in Toman in speech. Toman is an unofficial currency used by Iranian people in daily transactions. It may sound confusing at first, but converting Rial to Toman is so simple. Each Toman equals 10 Rials. So, all you need to do is to put your hand on the last zero of the banknotes to get the value in Toman. The values you see in bank jobs and exchange shops are in Rial, while in public spaces such as hotels, restaurants and markets, people use Toman instead of Rial.
Chek-pul (check money)
In recent years a useful method also has been adopted which does away with the need to carry bags of money when going shopping. It is called chek-pul (check money) and works like a traveler’s check but doesn’t have a name written on it, so it functions as a large denomination bill.
The most common denominations of chek-puls are 500000 and 1000000 rials, but even higher ones are used in large transactions.They can be bought from any bank and, after the streamlining of the financial system, they are accepted everywhere.
At present, Iranian currency can only be bought in some Middle East countries, so if you are coming from anywhere else, you will need to buy rials after you arrive.
The Exchange Rate in Iran
In Iran, you will encounter two different rates. One is the government official rate and the other is the market rate. The market rate is higher than the government rate, so you better choose market exchanging shops instead of those which are a part of banks. In Iran’s central bank’s website you can see the official rate.
To know about the current market exchange rate, checking out the electronic billboards that every exchange shop has right at its door and some applications such as Bonbast can be helpful.
When you arrive at the airport, you can change money in the airport’s exchange shop. Normally, it is a little bit lower than the market rate, but it is neither the government official rate. It varies from time to time, but it normally is 6000 Rials(600 Tomans) to 10000 Rials(1000 Tomans) cheaper than the Iran's free market.So, for taxis and initial expenses, it would be a good idea to exchange some money right after your arrival. It is also good to have change to exchange a little part of your money each time at the airport and in the city in total.
When you get to the city, you can find exchange shops. Some may be located near your hotel or they may be in other parts of the city. You better ask the reception to guide you.
In Tehran, the main center for money exchange is in Ferdowsi square.
In Shiraz, you will find exchange markets mainly in Karim Khan square and Mali Abad boulvard .
In Isfahan, there are some exchange shops in Hakim Nezami street and Sepah street.
In Yazd, you can find exchange markets in Imam Khomeini Street, next to Dad Hotel and in front of Yazd's fire temple.
In big cities like Tehran, you may see people outside the market shops who suggest you to exchange your money. Be careful about them. They might give you counterfeit money. So, the surest way is to get your money exchanged only in market shops and receive an official receipt for it.
Besides, watch your money while you are in such places. Carrying money, especially euros and dollars near such places can be dangerous. So, be careful with your money and avoid having so much cash with you.
But there are also some solutions to solve this problem.One of them is using services such as Mahcard. It is an alternative to carrying cash when visiting Iran. Mah Card is an Iranian prepaid debit card designed for tourists and temporary visitors. You can instantly add funds to your card, in your preferred currency and convert it to Iranian Rial (IRR).
Also, some Persian banks such as National bank of Iran (or Melli Bank), Pasargad bank and Saman bank provide tourists with Iran tourist card. So you can easily exchange your cash amount into your Iranian credit card.
Master Card, Visa Card, Travelers Cheque
Before traveling to Iran, it is essential to know that for visitors, Iran is a purely cash economy. International credit and debit cards cannot be used in Iran since the US trade embargo on the country. Visitors cannot draw cash on credit or bank cards (such as Cirrus or Maestro).
Although you will see many ATMs all around the cities, they can not be used for foreigners’ accounts. The network of ATMs in Iran are for use with locally-issued bank cards such as the Mellat Card, Melli Card issued by local Banks in Iran.So, you can receive money only with a local account or a card like Mahcard or an Iranian tourist card. So, bare in mind that except for some hotels, travel agencies and limited shops, you need to have your money all in cash. Bringing up to 10,000 euros does not need any permission, but for more than that you need to inform the police in the airport.