What is The Best Currency for Bringing to Iran?
While traveling to Iran you will need to get familiar with the Iranian currency, and thus, with exchanging money.
Before their trip, many travelers are wondering which currency is easier to change in Iran, to know which one to bring with them. In this article, found out everything you need to know about money exchange in Iran so you can travel with peace of mind.
In Iran, the official currency is the rial (ریال , abbreviated IRR). It is Iran’s national currency since 1978. However, in everyday life, Iranians are not speaking in rials, but in tomans. One toman is equivalent to ten rials. This concretely means that whatever price you see written in Iranian rial (IRR) equals one zero less: 100.000 rials become 10.000 tomans.
If there used to be coins in Iran, there are no longer in use as they have completely lost their value. Indeed, the high rate of inflation has led to a severe devaluation of Iran’s currency these past years, which keeps going on. Currently, the smaller banknote used is 10.000 rials (which equals approximately 0,03 euros) and the highest is 1.000.000 rials (about 3-4 euros).
Furthermore, something important for travelers to know is that due to international sanctions, the Iranian bank system and its national currency are isolated from the rest of the world. Concretely, it means that it’s impossible to make any transaction or withdraw money with an international credit card (Mastercard, Visa) within Iran. Likewise, as the money is unusable outside of Iran, exchange offices in other countries do not accept or possess any rials. It means that you can only change money inside Iran; not before, nor after.
So now, you know that you will need rials for your trip to Iran, but also that you won’t be able to withdraw them with your credit card and you can’t go to an exchange office in your country to buy some either. What does it mean? That you will need to bring your whole trip budget in cash and change it upon arrival to Iran.
That’s why it’s important for you to bring a currency that is easy to change in Iran. While traveling to Iran, we recommend you bring US dollars (USD) or euros (EUR). These two currencies are accepted everywhere and will be easy to change. British Pound (GBP) and United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) are also largely accepted, as well as some other major currencies such as British Pounds (GBP) for example.
Yet, even if most major currencies are accepted in Iran, you will have for sure more trouble changing them (especially large amounts) than euros or dollars, which are always accepted. So, before coming to Iran, it is recommended to change your money into one of these currencies to bring only euros or dollars to Iran.
Bringing small or large banknotes depends on you. 10 dollars or euros banknotes are as easily accepted as well as 100; yet it is recommended to have some small banknotes with you, as you may not want to change a lot every time. Also, quickly pay attention that the bill is not damaged, which could prevent the buyer to accept it.
On the first moments of your arrival to Iran, you will need some rials. For instance, to take a taxi from the airport to your hotel. But have no stress about it. If you arrive at Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) in Tehran, you can find an exchange office open H24 in the departure hall (second floor). Do not change a big amount of money there as the rate may not be as advantageous as in the city center.
Changing money in Iran is easy. Simply keep in mind that you should do it in an exchange office, not at the bank, and for sure not on the street. There are many exchange offices in all large and medium cities of Iran. In Tehran, most exchange offices are located on Ferdowsi Street (Metro Ferdowsi). In Shiraz, you can find exchange offices on Zand Street, on Tohid Street in Isfahan, on Imam Khomeini Street in Mashhad, on Imam Street in Yazd and on Darayi Street in Tabriz.
You may need to change money several times during your stay in Iran. To be sure not to run out of cash, plan it in advance. First, know that there may be no exchange office in small cities or rural areas, so prefer changing your money while in major cities.
Be careful about the days of the week. Exchange offices are closed during the weekends (Thursdays and Fridays) and on national holidays (which are plenty in Iran!). Likewise, there are generally open only during the morning. Eventually, always avoid changing last minute as it may happen that exchange offices do not accept buying currencies for several days in a row. It happens when the euro or dollar rates suddenly go up and the market is unstable. In that case, buyers (exchange office) may want to wait a few days that the rate gets stabilized.
One of the tricky aspects of changing money in Iran is understanding what is the correct exchange rate. If you check online on famous websites like xe.com, you may believe that 1 euro equals 44.000 rials. Yet, when you will go to the exchange office, you may be offered something like 300.000 rials for the same euro. So what’s going on here?
Iran actually works with several rates, and the one you can find online is called the official rate, which is in fact, none of your concern. What actually matters is the free market (or open market) rate, which is the real value of the currency. You can find the current rate on specialized websites such as bombast.com (yet, the rate is slightly higher than what you can expect while changing in Iran).
That is the rate applied at the exchange offices. In Tehran, like in the rest of the country, exchange rates are written in English on LCD screens in the windows of the exchange offices. Don’t spend too much time hunting for the best rate between exchange offices, as they are generally similar and it won’t make a big difference if you change a small amount of money.
Because of the currency devaluation, you will likely come out of the exchange office with a large wad of cash in your hands. If you want to avoid this, you can also order in advance a prepraid Iranian debit card. Two companies are currently providing these services to tourists: Mahcard and DaricPay. You can either load your debit card from abroad with a wire transfer (to an account generally located in Europe) or give your money in cash upon arrival to one of their agents, that will load your Iranian debit card with the equivalent in rials.
Having an Iranian debit card is a good solution to avoid the trouble of changing money during your trip and the confusion between Iranian banknotes. Especially since almost everything can be paid by credit card in Iran, even small amounts.
Eventually, also keep in mind that you may be able to pay for some services directly in euros or in dollars in Iran. Guesthouses and some hotels usually accept these currencies; tourist guides may also prefer to be paid in euros or dollars, which they can save from inflation, as well as carpets shops, which even sometimes have an account abroad to receive wire transfers.
Daisy Lorenzi is a French writer and traveler who felt in love with Iran after visiting the country. In 2018, she decided to settle in Tehran and has been living in Iran since. She currently lives on Qeshm island, in the Persian Gulf.