Thursday, June 30, 2011

Money Matters in Iran

Specimen of Iranian Riyals
While credit card and debit card are almost as good as cash in most countries in the world, that’s not the case with Iran. Credit card, debit card and travelers checks are useless in Iran! I was absolutely wrong when I thought I could fork out some Iranian Riyals from the ATM in Tehran airport. We changed some of our USD into Iranian Riyals at the airport on the night we arrived. The currency is not tradable outside the country so you have to be very prudent about the amount you’re holding. Changing Riyals to other currency at the airport can be very inconvenient with long queues and especially if you are in a hurry to catch the flight home.

You need cold hard cash in Iran because the economics sanction has somehow cut off Iran from the international banking network. The ATMs in Iran only accept Iranian cards. I peeked into my wallet and I had only 800 USD and 100 GBP and that wouldn’t be sufficient to pay for hotels, food and shopping in Isfahan, Tehran and Shiraz. Next…was to quiz the rest, how much cash they had. After discussing, we were in consensus that the money matters will somehow be manageable. Oh..ok I am not too worried about not having enough money in Iran….I have Iranian bankers to save me J!

Foreigners have to be prepared when it comes to money because any banking transactions to and from Iran are really not easy! Some blogs even advise travelers to avoid accessing U.S. bank account via Internet since the account will immediately be blocked by bank due to sanction. It was the only day when we bought some carpets in Isfahan, by chance…we were just lucky because the shop has an account in Dubai. That was the only time we swiped our cards. 

Now, there’s a little confusion about the currency. While the currency is quoted in Riyals often prices are quoted in Toman to knock off the zeros. I was puzzled for a moment but it didn’t take long to learn how to handle the currency. 
For example if you have: 100,000 Riyals = 10,000 Toman = 10 USD 
Remember you need your passport to exchange money and do it at banks or an authorized currency exchange counter, not on the street, and always keep the exchange receipts.

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