Take Cash – Bank Cards don’t Work There
Given that the Iranian economy is under blockade, you are unable to use your card either while booking anything in advance or during your trip. ATMs only work for local cards. Obviously, you also can’t use your credit cards. So, your only choice is taking cash. Due to inflation, you will suddenly become a millionaire and won’t know, where to keep the huge stacks of money, that you will get in exchange for just 100-200 USD. (1 US$ is over 100.000 rials) That definitely took a big place in our bags.
You also have an option of a Mah card, as some people suggested to me. It is a card, where you put money in whatever currency and you can use it to make payments in Iran or withdraw cash in rials. However, it costs appr. 20 USD and their exchange rate is not too great, even though they say it’s the market rate. People reported that their exchange rate was 6-10% worse than you find in exchange offices. I personally didn’t like what they offered and didn’t use them, so can’t comment from my experience.
Rials and Tomans
Another issue is that the money notes are in rials, however, the prices are often written and told in Tomans. That is not an issue however, if you will remember that 1 toman is 10 rials. Definitely make sure to ask what they mean – toman or rial, when they tell you a price of something.
Don’t be guided by official exchange rates and the rates you find on most websites and don’t go to banks to change money, as their exchange rate is the third of the market rate (currently about 40.000 rials). Check bonbast.com for day-to-day updates on actual exchange rates. These are the rates you will get at the exchange offices suggested below. Do ask the exchange rate inside, as the signs may have lower rates than they actually give. Haggling works even here. Also, don’t be fooled and don’t give the service fee, which they may spring up on you after you have negotiated the price. Make sure to ask in advance.
- In Tehran Airport: Don’t change money at the arrivals. Go upstairs to the second floor to the departure, where you will find a 24-hour exchange office. They have really good exchange rate, so I recommend changing as much money here, as you like. You may find slightly better rate, if you look really hard, but this rate is really good.
- In Tehran: Go to the Ferdowsi Square. There are several exchange offices. We ended up there too early in the morning, before anything opened, but we were approached by several people offering to change money. We did so with one of them with the usual, rather than the official, exchange rate.
- In Isfahan: Try Sepah Street, basically on the corner of Emam Square. We didn’t exchange here, as we still had money after Tehran, but we were suggested, this is the best place.
- In Yazd: The best exchange office is across the road from Atashkades, the Zoroastrian Fire Temple. They have quite good rates. We didn’t find any better in the city.
- In Shiraz: Finding a good exchange rate is more difficult than in other cities. The offices are located in between the citadel and the Zandiye metro station.
What expenses to expect in Iran
Iran is extremely cheap country, particularly, if you come from Europe or the US. Exchange rate fluctuates and it is often beneficial to the travelers. As of September 2019, 1 US$ is over 100.000 rials. When we were there, it was 160.000 even. So all 3 of us bought souvenirs, paid for food, attractions and the miscellaneous costs, taxis, etc. and only spent 350$. this excluded accommodation and transport between cities.
The entrance fees to the attractions
Most attractions in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz range from 150.000 to 200.000 rials, which as of September 2019 make about 1.5-2 USD. When we visited, this was even less in dollars. The exchange rate fluctuates, so next month it may be totally different, so keep checking the rates.
Some of the prices:
- Persepolis and Necropolis, Isfahan Jameh Mosque, Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque and Ali Qapu, Chehel Sotoun Palace: 200.000 each.
- Golestan Palace: 150.000.
- For Kashan houses: Buy a combined ticket for the Hamam, Tabatabaei house and Abbasain house for 350,000.
- Most attractions in smaller cities: 100.000.
Also keep in mind that many, if not all, mosques are free of charge even for foreigners.
Tickets between major cities (Tehran-Kashan, Isfahan-Yazd, Yazd-Shiraz) range appr. 250.000 -450.000. See detailed information about public transport here.
Depending on where you stay, the prices can differ immensely. Hotels are very expensive. We stayed in the homestays. The full apartments cost us 35-45 US$ per night for 3 people. Read the details on how to book accommodation and where best to stay here.
Unless you eat in restaurants catered only to tourists, 2 or 3 people will not need more than 20 $ a day for food, even that is too much. We would go to restaurants in touristy areas and the three of us ate for 10 US$, including the drinks and tips.
They are very cheap. Here you have to bargain, as they will tell you a huge price, because you are a foreigner.