The currency in Iran is the Iranian rial. Coins are available in denominations of: 50, 100, 250, and 500 rials, while banknotes come in: 100, 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 rials.
Do not change money on the street, as this practice is illegal in Iran. Although many shops and hotels display a Visa logo in their window, in practice, credit cards are rarely accepted in Iran, with the exception of some of the larger hotels. This makes it essential that you have some ready cash at all times. Money can be exchanged at the airport on arrival or at banks throughout the country. ATMs are commonly found in the larger cities, but should not be relied upon in more remote places.
Purchases can be made using Iranian rial, while US dollars are also widely accepted in the bigger cities.
Banks are open from Sunday to Wednesday, 07:30 to 16:00; Thursdays, 07:30 to 12:00; and closed on Fridays.
Visitors must declare all foreign currency upon arrival by filling out a customs declaration form. Alternatively, you can do this at the Bank Melli branch at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport. If you fail to declare your foreign currency, it may be subject to confiscation.
The import and export of goods to/from Iran is restricted. Visitors must record the non-commercial items that they bring in with them upon entry on a customs arrival form. Items that are permitted include: personal jewellery, one camera, an amateur video camera, one pair of binoculars, a personal stereo, a laptop computer, first aid box and a tent for camping, along with camping equipment.
An unlimited amount of Iranian and foreign goods up to US$160 can be taken out of the country upon leaving in addition to items listed on your customs arrival card, i.e. items you brought with you. Air passengers are permitted to take one carpet up to six square meters from Iran however the export of antique carpets is forbidden.
Other items that you are prohibited to take home include antiques, original works of art, calligraphic pieces, different kinds of coins and precious stones. The export and import of alcoholic beverages, weapons, ammunitions, swords and sheaths, military devices, drugs and illegal goods is forbidden and carries with it severe penalties.
220 volts, AC 50 hertz
In Iran’s main urban centres, basic medical facilities and medicines are available; however, rural areas are lacking in healthcare amenities. Visitors are advised to carry their own medical first aid kit.
The sun can prove very strong for those who are not accustomed to the heat. Cover exposed areas of skin with sun block to avoid getting burnt and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Mosquitoes and other pests can also cause aggravation, with the most effective repellents being to cover up and wear an insect repellent.
Persian (Farsi) is the official language of Iran and is spoken by half of the population. A variety of Turkish dialects are also used by about a fourth of its citizens. You can also find additional languages and dialects in different parts of the country: Luri in the Zagros region, Baluchi in southeastern Iran and Kirmanji in the western-Kurds area.
The crime rate is very low in Iran, making it a safe place for tourists to travel. One of the biggest dangers here is from vehicles, with traffic accidents poising a significant threat. Exercise caution when crossing roads and make sure that you familiarise yourself with Iranian driving etiquette before getting behind the wheel.
It is wise to avoid engaging in any political debates or discussions during your stay. Your hotel may ask to keep your passport for the time that you remain a guest; this is normal procedure. Those travelling independently and not on a tour should register their presence with their embassy upon arrival.
Avoid flashing cash or valuables about in view of others, especially at night. If you have far to go, taking a taxi is a safer option than walking alone. Women in particular should not go out alone at night, particularly in rural areas. If you plan to travel out of the country’s urban centres, always inform someone of you plans and the date you are expected to return.
For a safe and troublesome visit to Iran, it is essential that you respect the Islamic laws in force.
Religion plays an important role in Iranian society, with the official religion being Islam. Muslims make up the majority of the population, with 93 per cent following Shia Islam. In some areas, you will find these two denominations quite segregated.
Expect everything to come to a standstill during Muslim festivals and call of prayer. Muslims must pray five times a day, at which time mosques are not accessible to non-Muslims.
As a religious country, women are required to cover up while visiting most parts of the country. Ideally, women should wear a scarf around their head and a long dress to cover arms and legs. Things are more relaxed in Tehran, but revealing clothes should still be avoided at all costs. Men are recommended to wear long trousers and long-sleeved shirts. Shoes must always be removed before entering a mosque.
In many parts of the country, there are no western-style toilets, with ‘squatting toilets’ being the norm. Tissue is also not provided, but instead there is a water pipe for cleaning. If there are slippers provided for the bathroom, do use them while using the facilities, but be aware that they are for use in this room only. While this may seem unconventional to many first-time visitors, be aware that Iranians are also often overwhelmed by western toilets when they first visit the west.
While the ‘thumbs up’ sign in the west is considered a positive gesture, be aware that it is considered obscene in Iran. When greeting someone of the same sex for the first time, a handshake is appropriate, while many women kiss and hug. People of opposite sexes should not engage in any physical greeting when introduced. When travelling by bus, women should sit to the rear and men should never sit next to them.
Visitors should also avoid loud behaviour when in public, which could be considered rude. It is not generally acceptable for a woman to smoke in public, with the exception of within a teahouse, where both men and women enjoy smoking flavoured tobacco. We recommend that you refrain from blowing your nose in public, which is considered repulsive.
Alcohol is forbidden in Iran and the use of alcohol carries with it severe penalties.
Tax and Tipping
There is a free trade shopping zone on Kish Island, where visitors can take advantage of tax-free prices. Tipping is not always necessary in Iran, as service charges are almost always included in your bill. An additional five per cent may be added if you thought the service was very good.
The country code for Iran is: +98. Public telephones are widespread, as are internet shops in all urban centres. Access to some internet sites is restricted.
Visa and Passports
Visitors to Iran can apply for a tourist visa online prior to their arrival. Tourist visas are usually valid for stays of up to 30 days. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival; all visas must be obtained in advance. Passports of travellers to Iran must be valid for up to six months.