There are many local customs a traveller in Iran must follow. Following them for a few weeks isn’t like solving a calculus problem as a tourist. But their currency confusion is more difficult than Integration and differentiation problems. Welcome to Iran – the land of friendly people and the most confusing currency.
Tips for currency exchange guide in Iran
Iran’s official currency is the Rial – One of the least-valued currencies in the world. It is the lowest currency to USD. So you can imagine how many digits appear when you convert a stronger currency to the weakest.
When you look at bank exchange rates online for USD to IRR, you see a 5-digit number. But the value is much higher when you check in local markets and currency exchange places. So go for a reliable local business recommended by previous travellers or hostel/hotel owners.
When we went in January 2020, the exchange rate on the internet was 1EURO= 48900 Rial. But at our hostel in Tehran, we got 1EURO=135000 Rial. While receiving our Daric pay travel card, we got 1EURO=145000 Rial!
Neither ATMs work for international bank cards, nor any seller accepts your Amex/Visa/ Master cards for payment.
This leaves you exchanging a big chunk of foreign currency and carrying lots of cash. Since the Iranian Rial’s value is weak, you will get millions of money in your pocket. This makes you feel as if you have a fat purse.
DO NOT BRING USD; BRING EUROS to get Rials.
DO NOT EXCHANGE CURRENCY FOR A LARGE AMOUNT. It isn’t easy to get back the Euros. We met a traveller from Hongkong who was left with lots & lots of Rials, struggling to exchange Rials for Euros. Once you are out of Iran, exchanging Rials for other currencies is almost impossible. You find many money exchange places in cities where tourists travel.
Another way to escape from a pile of hard is buying a DaricPay travel card, which stops you from carrying a fat purse and swiping this Iran’s own card for all your payments, even at Bazaar’s small shop.
With this travel Card, you can draw money from ATMs too. The ATMs work for Iran bank cards perfectly.
What is so confusing? After all, is it a paper with a certain value?
To simplify these long digits on paper money, locals use another term, “Toman”, for the same paper currency. 100 Rial=10 Tomans. So removing the last Zero from the currency makes it Toman from Rial.
FORTUNATELY, HERE AT MESMES RESTAURANT, THEY MENTION ALL ZEROS ALONG WITH “T”. IF YOU BUY HERE CHICKEN BARBECUE, YOU HAVE TO PAY 31000T = 310000 RIAL = 2 EURO
You may be thinking, what is so difficult about it when someone says 5 Toman, I must give them 50 Rials. But, unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. On top of using a different name for an official currency, Locals omit all zeros and say 5 Toman. That means 5000 Tomans=50K Rials! That is why it is the most confusing currency in the world. The critical value is so low that you can hardly buy anything for 5 Toman(50 Rials).
The cafe and restaurant cards won’t mention if they are mentioning the prices in Rials or Toman. So every time, you must ask the owner o waiter to confirm if it is Toman and if they have missed out on any Zeroes from Toman.
Either you should know the basics of Persian, especially numbers. Some numbers sound similar to Hindi ( 1- Ek, 2-Doh, 4 – Chahar, 1000- Hizar).
The cost of living for tourists is low in Iran generally. For example, a nice long warm jacket cost us 10 Euros (1350000 Rial) in Tehran Bazaar. I am sure a similar quality jacket costs me around 35-40 Euros in India or on Amazon. So whenever we bought, these low prices also confused us initially. Plus, for that 1350000 Rials, the shopkeeper says 135 Tomans, leaving out all Zeroes.
So how do you deal with the confusion?
With time, locals must have observed foreign travellers struggling; they now handle it more easily. Whenever a tourist looks puzzled while paying, they take out the currency from their pocket and ask you to pay the same cash. If they don’t have that particular denomination, they ask you to show your money and take the actual cash. Iranians are honest, so they won’t snatch extra money from that pile of currency you gave him. But it is always better to be careful while doing so.
If they don’t have a currency, they type on the calculators usually – Makes sure to ask if it is Toman or Rial.
Before you give your card for swiping, make it clear how much they will swipe. You may often not receive an SMS or update after money is deducted from your travel card. They may not cheat you, but you shouldn’t stand there wondering if he is swiping for 100000 rials (100 Toman)
NO CONNECTION TO THE POST – BUT THIS IS NEAR ABYANEH. ISN’T IT BEAUTIFUL?
Has this cleared your confusion? Let us know in the comment below.