The official currency in Iran is called Iranian Rials (IRR), but initially working out the difference between Toman's and Rials can be pretty confusing for foreigners. So we'll briefly cover it's denominations, street talk, practicalities, the best places for currency exchange, and current street rates.
Currency in Iran - Denominations
Coins are produced in 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1000 Rials. Bank notes are produced in 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000 and 500000 Rials. Bank notes are written in both Iranian and Western numeral systems, while coins are Farsi and Arabic. But you probably don't want coins anyway, they're pretty much only useful for charity, and shared taxi's.
Difference between Tomans and Rials - Street Talk
You will often hear the term ‘Tomans’ used on the street, which is simply equal to 10 Rials. Example prices might be: Can of Drink = 1,000 Tomans ( 10,000 IRR/ 30c US): Cheap Restaurant Meal = 10,000 Tomans (100,000 IRR/ $3 US): Private Hotel Room = 100,000 Tomans (1,000,000 IRR/ $30 US). Don’t worry you’ll get used to it.
As a general rule of thumb the published prices are often given in Rials, and Tomans for conversation. Most street venders also drop the denominations, such that a can of coke is 1 (Toman), cheap restaurant 10, and moderate hotel room 100. Iran currency
Iran Currency Practicalities
Due to U.S. led sanctions, foreign banks are restricted from engaging directly in Iran; so forget Cirrus, Maesto, Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and travelers checks. These are almost impossible to find without a local connection, unless of course America drops the embargo. So ensure you bring enough cash when traveling through Iran. That’s right it’s time to lay down your shield because Iran is one of the safest countries in the world with a surprisingly low crime rate. But as always exercise caution in busy or dark places, just like anywhere else. It's not impossible to be ripped off or robbed as a traveler, it's just highly uncommon. Also bear in mind the inflation rate has tended to fluctuate from 5%-40% at any given year. While the currency is more stable in recent years, Iran doesn't have the international banking support to properly peg the currency to a reserve currency. So expect abnormal swings in the currency rate from time to time.
While ATM’s are generally only for Iranian customers, some merchants may be able to help you transfer foreign currency electronically, but don’t be afraid to ask tourist agencies for assistance as they can be very resourceful.
US dollars and Euros are the most useful and widely-accepted currencies. Also torn and small notes can be very difficult to exchange, especially outside Tehran, so if possible keep your notes pressed, dry, and safe while traveling. Large and new notes in good condition are preferred and usually get a better rate – as they say it's all about the 'Benjamins'! Official exchange offices hold most top 20 currencies, such as EUR, GPB, CAD, AUD, CHF, JPY, BRL, KRW etc. The best rates you'll find anywhere is Tehran, so just remember smaller cities offer more limited currency options and lower rates.
Iran Currency Exchange
There are several ways to change foreign currency in Iran, the below lists from highest to lowest recommendations based on the best and secure rates:
The sarāfi's are the safest option with the best currency rates, however don't expect to get a receipt like the regulated banks. Otherwise you'll probably find street salesmen pop up out of nowhere while your searching for a sarāfi, just keep in mind they'll try to squeeze an extra 5% from the rate in addition to currency uncertainties.
You can change small money when you arrive at the airport or border crossing. Otherwise for the best exchange rates in the country, head over to the Ferdowsi World Trading Centre in Tehran. There are many sarāfi offices scattered along Ferdowsi Avenue between the Jewels Museum and Ferdowsi Sq.
So what are the current Sarafi Currency Rates at Ferdowsi?
The Tehran Exchange leader board rate, otherwise known as the black market rate traded at sarafi's, is expected to be phased out sometime during 2016/17. Meaning the 15% discrepancy between the international bank rate and the best street rates will tighten. Until this happens you may find the following links resourceful to check the current rates.
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