What Currency to Bring to Iran?
There are a lot of opinions about what money to bring to Iran, whether it’s Dollars, Euros, credit/debit cards, and the seemingly complex notion of using Rials and Toomans.
Here in this blog, as someone who has spent one month traveling in Iran, lived in Isfahan for three months, and has learned the culture, I’ll try to explain what I’ve learned to the best of my ability.
First of all, the money. Rial, the magic money where most of the notes look the same and have an unusual amount of zeroes and is commonly referred to as Tooman.
So what’s the difference between Rial and Tooman if they’re the same money?
Well, that’s simply because of how high the price can be for simple everyday things in Iran. For example, dinner for a couple could be 2,500,000 Rial, or even just buying some snacks at the store could be 400,000 Rial. So, more often than not you will hear the salesperson call a total amount of 400,000 Rials 40 Tooman.
The reason I have heard most commonly and the one that makes the most sense is that simply Toman doesnt make sense in English. But in Farsi, it does. Because in English, for example, to say 25 (twenty-five), its two words were to say in Farsi to say 25 you would say Bist o pange which is three words than to say 225 you would say devist o bist o pange.
So, there is a pattern in Farsi where the higher the number is, the more words you have to say. So in Farsi, it is much faster to shorten it down and only mention the base number of the price instead of the full amount.
Now, do you bring dollars, Euros, or your credit/debit card to Iran? Which currency is the best?
Well, to start off, your regular credit/debit card won’t work inside of Iran due to sanctions. Iran’s banking system doesn’t work with the rest of the world, and their banking is 100% domestic, meaning you have to bring all the money you need for your trip with you in cash.
But what currency should you bring, and what if you feel uncomfortable carrying such a large amount of money with you?
Well, you can bring both Euros and Dollars and pretty much wherever you go, both will be accepted. But in my opinion, it is better to bring Euros. The reason I say that is because most hostels, hotels, guest stays, and bazaar shops will give you the price in Euro, so you don’t need to double check the exchange rate that they use. You pay the price as they tell you, or as your booking site such as HostelWorld offered. If you try and pay in a hostel in Rials, they generally will determine the price based on the highest Euro/Dollar to Rial rate at the time, and give you your change back based on the lowest rate. So, it’s safer and easier for you if you were to pay in Euros.
If you are feeling uncomfortable carrying such a large amount of money in Iran, it is still possible to get a tourist debit card inside Iran:
The easiest way to do this is via our friends at Mahcard. They only need a copy of your passport and visa and can deliver your debit card to your place of accommodation, where they will show you how to use it and reload money onto it (which can be done with Visa/Mastercard and cash). Their fees as of June 2020 were 19 Euros for the service fee and the debit card, and when you’ve finished your journey in Iran, they can meet with you and give you the remaining balance back in Euros or Rial.
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