The official currency in Iran is the Iranian rial, but the most common money unit is toman. Each toman equals 10 rials. For example, 10,000 rials is equal to 1,000 tomans. In everyday dealings, Iranians call a 50,000 rial bank note a “5000-toman” note or even simply a “5-toman” note. .
The Iranian rial notes in circulation are 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 notes which are too small for major purchases. You can also get 500,000 IRR or 1000,000 IRR cheques.
You can easily exchange your money to rial upon your arrival at an Iranian airport. Just head to one of the currency exchange shops or national banks at the airport to get the local currency. Once you are in the city, you have plenty of options. There are certain branches of national banks which offer currency exchange services. If you cannot find such a national bank in your vicinity, the next option would be currency exchange shops.
In the capital Tehran, the currency exchange market is on Ferdowsi Street. Locals will help you find a trusted exchange office in other Iranian cities. You may also be offered similar services at the hotel where you stay. The best currency to bring with you is the US Dollars or Euro. These currencies are generally accepted at Iranian banks and money-exchange offices.
The whole deal is done in seconds and the offices can be found in most cities across the country. The only thing you should pay attention to is the fluctuating rate of foreign currency exchange.
Exchange rate fluctuations
Due to an ongoing devaluation trend, the Iranian rial has lost a big part of its foreign exchange value in recent years. The exchange rate is also fluctuating constantly. There are two rates for foreign currency exchange in Iran. The first is the official rate announced by the government in the beginning of each working day. This is a subsidized rate and is mainly used for financing trade with other countries.
The second rate (and the one you should know) is the free market rate which is used in the money exchange offices. The market rate is not a fixed one but you will not find big differences between rates offered by exchange offices.
There are some websites that you can visit to know the live rates for currency exchange in the Iranian market. Although they are not always precise, these rates can help you get a fair deal.
Using Credit/Debit Cards in Iran
Credit/Debit cards are not an option in Iran. Cash machines (ATMs) are not connected to the international banking system and that could be a real challenge for many of foreign visitors. Therefore, you will need to carry enough cash with yourself to pay your travel costs. There are, however, some kinds of prepaid travel cards which you can obtain upon your arrival to avoid carrying a large sum of money everywhere you go. It is generally safer and more convenient than using cash. These tourist travel cards are connected to Iran’s domestic banking system which operates a nation-wide network of ATMs.
Besides withdrawing cash at an ATM, you can use the prepaid travel cards to buy whatever you need in Iran. Almost every retailer accepts these kinds of travel cards. You should also have no problem withdrawing the amount left in the card account at the end of your trip. If you are interested in obtaining a prepaid travel card you can order one here.