The rial is the official unit of currency used in Iran. Even though this is the case many people in the country refer to the toman, so it makes sense to be familiar with this prior to visiting Iran. Generally speaking ten rials is the equivalent of one toman. However you will still usually see prices referred to in rials when they are written down.
There are seven coins available although not all of these are used on a regular basis. The ones that are more frequently seen are the 50, 100, 250, 500 and 1,000 rial coins. You probably won’t come across the other two coins; these are the 2,000 and 5,000 rial coins. Lower value coins did exist but they are no longer used because they are practically worthless. As you can imagine, paying for something worth 1,000 rials (which could be something like a loaf of bread or a soft drink for example) would take some doing with 5 rial coins!
As for banknotes there are lots of these. They are the 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 notes. As you can probably tell from the amounts on the notes and coins, Iran experiences a very high degree of inflation. It stands at around 42% at the time of writing and this has led to goods and services being charged in the thousands of rials.
The history of the rial goes right back to 1798 so it is actually a very old currency. Originally it was not decimal and was worth 1250 dinars. Another equivalent of its value at the time was eight rials to one toman. The rial was taken out of play in 1825 when the giran replaced it. This was the point when Iran’s currency was decimalised.
However the rial was not completely lost and forgotten. It would be more than a century until it was re-introduced in 1932, but when it did return it replaced the giran at 1:1.
The main way to pay for anything in Iran is with cash. While you might expect your Mastercard or Visa card to allow you to pay for things, as in most other countries, this isn’t the case in Iran. This means your cards are virtually worthless here. The best thing to do is to take your own currency with you and exchange it at a recognised bureau de change when you get there. Remember to exchange what you need when you need it. If you do have more cash with you than you require on any particular day, try and store the rest in a hotel safe if you are staying there.
All you need is a standard currency converter in order to get an idea of how far your currency will go when converted into the rial. Just make sure you add your own currency first because you always begin with the currency you want to convert. Then find the rial. Try typing in Iran and the rial should pop up. Alternatively type in IRR and this should find it as it is the currency code. Sometimes you might want to convert a single unit of your currency whereas other times you might want to convert more than that, if you have another sum in mind. Either way you will see what the latest exchange rate is.
If you are considering travelling to Iran it might be a good idea to visit the website for the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in London first. This is easily accessible at http://london.mfa.ir/?siteid=234.
Regardless of where you decide to go in the world it is a good idea to check out the latest information on the country prior to travel. In the case of Iran there are some areas of the country that are generally regarded as no-go areas. These tend to be on the eastern side of the country as well as along the border with Iraq on the west. Do check before you visit the country to see which areas are not recommended to be visited, and consider whether your area is safe. It should be noted though that the UK government tends to advise against travelling there at all unless it is absolutely essential, so it doesn’t tend to be the type of country you go to on holiday. Visiting as part of a pre-organised group is safer than going alone, but you should still take extreme care.
The government also advises that you don’t draw undue attention to yourself or your activities in the country, even if they are totally innocent in nature. Trying to convince anyone in authority in the country that you are merely a business traveller, for example, could meet with little success.
With all this to be borne in mind it might seem odd to think about keeping your cash safe as well. However if you do have cause to visit the country you should take the usual precautions here as well. Wandering around with huge wads of cash is not advised for obvious reasons! It is always better to have a small amount of cash on you and not to carry anything more than is necessary. Keep your cards safe and keep your passport in a money belt if you can. You may be asked to prove your identity at any point, so it is wise to carry your passport with you just in case.
One final point – if you do visit Iran make sure you always respect their laws. Islamic law states there are specific dress codes for both men and women so don’t flout them – even though you are not Islamic yourself.
Iran is in Western Asia and it shares borders with many other countries. Part of its northern border faces the Caspian Sea, and to the west of this going anticlockwise it shares a border with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Iraq before reaching the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. On its eastern side it shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, and finally Turkmenistan is to the north before you get round to the Caspian Sea again.
Despite the situation in Iran there are people who visit the country every year. The capital is Tehran and this can be found in the northern part of the country, south of the Caspian Sea. It is said that the city was home to many people thousands of years ago, and there is plenty of archaeological evidence to back this up. It might be strange to think of this capital city as a village, but this is how it first started out. Among the attractions here are the National Museum of Iran, and this has many exhibits and plenty of information about the country as a whole and its history.
You can also visit Mellat Park, which has a lovely entrance and also provides a great view of Mount Touchal. You can enjoy a nice walk here as well as seeking out one of the cafes for a quick bite to eat. Watch out for the aviary too. Indeed you might well spend a pleasant half-day discovering everything the park has to offer.
Let’s get back to Mount Tochal too, because while Iran may not be the first country you would think of in relation to skiing, it does have a lot to offer. The mountain can be found in the Alborz range and many skiers in Tehran head here when the snow falls to tackle some of the runs that are provided.
Iran also boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be found in southern Iran and has distinct links with distant history. Known as Persepolis the site is in ruins but it still provides a real insight into how life was lived back in ancient times. Indeed many of the ruins here date from as far back as 515 BC. The scale of the ruins is hard to comprehend but you will definitely appreciate the ruins and have the ability to imagine how they might have looked in their entirety back in ancient times.
Among other great places to go is Yazd, which boasts a square known as Amir Chakhmaq Square. This looks quite stunning when lit up at night against a darkening blue sky. It is located in central Iran and is worth a look if you get the time.
Iran may not become a popular holiday destination anytime soon. However it does have some amazing sights that are worth seeing and appreciating. If you do ever need to go to this country you should consider seeing some of the main sights it has to offer.