There is a lot of opinion of what money to bring to Iran, whether it’s the dollar, Euro, bank card, or how to use Rial or Toman.
Here in this blog, as someone who has spent one month traveling Iran, living in Isfahan for three months, and learning the culture, I’ll try to explain the best I can what I’ve learned.
First of all the money, you’ll use the most—Iranian Rial. The magic money that most of the notes look the same has an unusual about of 0’s and also gets called Toman.
So what’s the difference between Rial and Toman if it’s the same money?
Well simply because of how large the number of the price can be for simple everyday things in Iran like 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 often you may hear the salesperson say for a 400,000 sale, for example, 40 Toman.
The reason I have heard most commonly and the one that makes the most sense is that simply Toman doesn’t make sense in English. But in Farsi, it does. Because in English, for example, to say 25 (twenty-five), it’s 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.”
If you see, there is the pattern of as the number gets bigger in Farsi, the more words you have to say in comparison to English, 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 dollar, Euro, or your bank card to Iran? What currency is the best?
Well, to start your regular bank card won’t work inside 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 Euro or dollar and everywhere will accept both, but in my opinion, it is better to bring Euro. The reason I suggest Euro is most hostels, hotels, guest stays, and bazaar shops will give you the price in Euro. So from this, it’s 100% better to pay in Euro because then you don’t need to trust them on the exchange rate that they use. You pay the price they gave you or your booking site such as HostelWorld offered. If you try and pay in a hostel, for example, in Rial, they generally will change the price to the highest rate at the time to convert from euro/dollar to Rial. They will try and give your change back at the lowest rate so safer and easier to if you were given a price in Euro to pay in Euro.
If you are feeling uncomfortable carrying such a large amount of money in Iran, it is still possible to get a tourist bank 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 credit card to your hostel where then they will show you how to use it, 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 credit card, and when you’re finished in Iran, they can meet with you and give you the remaining balance back in Euros or Rial.