Exchange & Currency
International credit and debit cards cannot be used in Iran since the system is not connected to international banks. Visitors cannot draw cash on credit or bank cards (such as Cirrus or Maestro). Iran does have an international network of ATMs but used within locally-issued bank cards issued by local Banks.
Iran Official Currency (Rial)
The Iranian Rial (code IRR) is the currency of Iran. Although the “Toman” (tumân) is not an official unit of Iranian currency, Iranians commonly express amounts of money and prices of goods in “Tomāns”. Accordingly, one “Toman” equals 10 Rials. Despite this usage, amounts of money and prices of goods are virtually always written in Rials. For example, the sign next to a loaf of bread in a store would state the price in Rials, e.g., “10,000 Rials,” even though the clerk, if asked, would say that the bread costs “1000 Tomāns”. There is no official symbol for the currency but the Iranian standard ISIRI 820 defined a symbol for use on typewriters (mentioning that it is an invention of the standards committee itself) and the two Iranian standards ISIRI 2900 and ISIRI 3342 define a character code to be used for it.
In December 2016, the Iranian government announced the country’s currency will be changed from the Rial to the commonly used Toman. It needs the Iranian Parliament’s approval.
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 IRR50,000 note was approximately equal to a euro you wouldn’t use to get confused. For large amounts you will see Iran Cheques being used, in IRR500,000 (c. USD15) denominations. They’re now used in the same way as cash.
Chek-Poul (check money)
In recent years a useful method also has been adopted which does away with the need to carry bags of money when going shopping. It is called Chek-Poul (check money) and works like a traveler’s check but doesn’t have a name written on it, so it functions as a large denomination bill. The most common denominations of Chek-Poul are 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rials, but even higher ones are used in large transactions. They can be bought from any bank and, after the streamlining of the financial system, they are accepted everywhere. At present, Iranian currency can only be bought in some Middle East countries, so if you are coming from anywhere else, you will need to buy Rials after you arrive.
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. Exchange offices can be found in major cities; their opening times are usually Saturday to Thursday from 08:00-16:00.
Trade embargoes mean that banks cannot forward cash advances on your foreign credit cards and they are only accepted by select stores for large purchases, such as Persian rugs. Most will be happy to forward you some cash on your credit card at the same time as your purchase. If you are desperate for cash, you can also try asking these shops to extend you the same favor without buying a rug or souvenir, but expect to pay dearly for the luxury.
Currency exchange offices (Money changers in Iran)
There is a currency exchange office at the new Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran as well as several more in the center of Tehran and other big cities. A network of currency exchange offices operates in Tehran and in major cities under the license of Iranian Melli Bank ( Bank-e Melli). Many banks also offer foreign exchange facilities, but not in all branches. Your host and hotel staff should be able to advise you further.