Money & Currency
The Iranian rial (﷼ in Persian) but symbolized internationally as IRR is the currency of Iran; however, prices are often quoted in Tomans (تومان). One Toman is equal to ten rials.
• Coins are issued in values of 50, 100, 250, 500, 1,000, 2,000 and 5,000 rials with banknotes produced in 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 , 50,000 and 100,000. If you remember that a yellow IRR 50,000 note was approximately equal to a euro you wouldn’t be used to get confused.
• Although Iranians often express amounts of money and prices of goods in “Tomans”, however despite the usage of “toman” verbally, amounts of money and prices of goods and services are frequently written in rials.
• ATMs in Iran do not accept foreign (non-Iranian) cards except some which accept those from state banks, so bring all the money you might need in cash, preferably in US dollars or euros.
• Banking hours: Sat-Wed 0730-1430, Thurs 0730-1230.
• Rates in exchange offices, the so-called secondary market, are much more favorable than those in a bank. Exchange offices can be found in major cities, their opening times are usually Saturday to Thursday from 08:00-16:00.
• US dollars and Euros are by far the most useful, though other currencies can at times also be exchanged.
• It is not possible to exchange traveler’s cheques.
• Credit and debit cards are useless in Iran due to US sanctions, so bring enough hard currency for the duration of your stay.
• The import of foreign currency is unlimited, provided declared on arrival. The export of foreign currency is limited to the amount declared on arrival.
• There is a possibility to get a pre-paid no-name gift card from most of the banks in Iran if you are concerned with carrying too much cash on you. These cards have no service fee and surcharge and you get the exact amount of money you put in the card. All ATM and POS terminals support Persian and English languages. Make sure the one you get has ATM Withdrawal Feature. Ask about ATM withdrawal and POS transactions daily limit in advance. Keep your receipts and treat your gift cards like cash as in the case of missing them, it is less likely to get a replacement even with paperwork. Paperworks may help you to receive a new password in case of forgetting it but expect bureaucracy. Cash your left over cards one business day before your departure to avoid any problem caused by Iranian interbank network SHETAB failure.
• Purchasing gift cards have no surcharge or service fee, and you can withdraw or spend all the money you put in your gift card. Some of the gift cards don’t have an ATM withdrawal feature and are only for using in shops and stores POS, so make sure you get ATM enabled gift card before purchasing it from the bank. There are a 2,000,000 rials (65USD) daily withdrawal limit for most of the Iranian bank cards, so purchasing several cards lets you withdraw more money from ATMs per day. Some gift cards usually are not re-loadable. Some are pre-loaded in designated amounts, but some banks let you load them for your desired amount when you purchase. As they are no-name, there is almost no way to report stolen card and get a duplicate. Always keep passwords and cards in a safe place.
• There is no cash-back feature in Iranian POSs, but in the case of emergency and having no access to ATM, you may ask a shop owner with POS to give you cash-back.
Banned imports & Export
- Importing alcohol is illegal.
- Prohibited items include narcotics, gambling devices, weapons and ammunition, explosives, counterfeit goods, anti-Islamic publications, and publications, photos and films considered to be against the religious and national dignity of Iran.
- Restricted items include animals, fish, plants, medicines (other than those prescribed for personal use), and telecommunications equipment.
- The export of gold is restricted to 150g and the export of silver is restricted to 3kg.
The following goods may be imported into Iran without incurring customs duty:
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco.
- If you are approached by anyone who claims to be a policeman, ask to see their ID and request the presence of a uniformed officer or marked patrol car. Don’t hand over any documents or cash, or get into any vehicle.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of money and keep your passport safe. Pre-booked taxis are safer than those hailed from the street.
- Take great care when traveling by road, including by public transport and when crossing streets. If you’re involved in an accident, no matter how minor, don’t leave the scene. Wait until the police arrive to make their report.
- Women aren’t allowed to drive a motorcycle on public roads.
- Bargain ruthlessly when buying handcrafts, rugs or big ticket items and modestly when hailing private taxis. In most other aspects of life, prices are fixed.
- In general, Iran is the safest country in the Middle East. Iran is much safer than Westerners might expect. Most people are genuinely friendly and interested to know about you and your country, so leave aside your preconceptions and come with an open mind. Iran is still a relatively low-crime country.
- Photography near military and other government installations is strictly prohibited. Be aware that this rule is taken very seriously in Iran.
- Iran has state-of-the-art medical facilities in all its major cities.
- Apart from being up to date with your usual travel vaccinations (tetanus, polio, etc), no special preparation is needed for travel to Iran.
- For minor ailments, your hotel can contact an English-speaking doctor. In the case of serious illness or accident, you can ask to be taken to a hospital with English-speaking staff (such as Milad Hospital, Atiyeh Hospital, Mehrad Hospital, Day Hospital or Khatam ol-Anbia Hospital in Tehran). Make sure that your health insurance covers illness or accident on holidays since free medical service is not available in Iran.
Shopping in Iran
- While the shops offer a wide selection of quality goods, local items can be bought in the many bazaars. Purchases include hand-carved, inlaid woodwork, carpets, rugs, silks, leather goods, mats, tablecloths, gold, silver, glass, and ceramics. Bargaining is customary. There are restrictions on which items may be taken out of the country.
- Shopping hours: Generally 09:00-13:00 and 15:00-20:00.
- Available in all cities. The urban taxis (orange or blue) carry several passengers at a time and are much cheaper than the private taxis which only carry one person. Unofficial taxis should be avoided; use only legitimate taxis or those ordered through legitimate agencies.
- Official shared local taxis or Savari, also ply the major roads of most cities. Recently the taxis are turning into yellow, also on busy routs there are green vans with a capacity of 11 passengers. They offer less fare for every passenger. They usually run straight lines between major squares and landmarks
- Tehran has an extensive bus network and a modern metro system. Tehran has 6 underground rail lines.
- RAJA Trains runs a comprehensive internal rail network. Major intercity trains operate on five main regional routes: Azerbaijan route (Tehran – Jolfa); Golestan route (Tehran – Gorgan); Hormozgan route (Tehran – Bandar-e-Abbas); Khorasan route (Tehran – Mashhad); and Khuzestan route (Tehran – Khorramshahr). There are many areas in the mountains and the desert which can only be reached by rail. There are some air-conditioned trains, and sleeping and dining cars on many trains.
- Greet people of the same sex with a handshake, three kisses or both, but avoid physical contact with people of the opposite sex in public. Wait for them to introduce themselves instead, or just introduce yourself normally. (Bowing with a hand over your heart has been outdated since the 70s and is rarely done.)
- Tarof is a genuine Persian form of civility emphasizing both self-deference and social rank. The term encompasses a range of social behaviors, from a man displaying etiquette by opening the door for another person, to a group of colleagues standing on ceremony in front of a door that can permit the entry of only one at the time, earnestly imploring the most senior to break the deadlock. Tarof also governs the rules of hospitality: a host is obliged to offer anything a guest might want, and a guest is equally obliged to refuse it. This ritual may repeat itself several times before the host and guest finally determine whether the host’s offer and the guest’s refusal are real or simply polite. It is possible to ask someone, not to Tarof (Tarof näkonid), but that raises new difficulties since the request itself might be a devious type of Tarof. The best approach to handle Tarof is to be politely direct. Accept or reject as soon as you wish to, and be sure that Iranians will not be offended. Even though Tarof is purely about the art of civility, your engagement in Tarof might enter you into a vicious cycle of hypocrisy that may ruin your entire stay. The exception to this may be with food; as mentioned above, guests are expected to accept food they are offered at dinner, regardless of whether they intend to eat it.