The first hurdle the visitor to Iran has to surmount is understanding the currency. The nub of the conundrum is that two currency designations are used simultaneously, each with a different value: rials and tomans. The rial is made up of 100 dinars, but these are so worthless that they aren’t used. Ten rials make a toman. An Aussie dollar is about 2900 tomans, or 29,000 rials, so we’re talking big numbers. It’s easy to be a millionaire.
The confusion is compounded by goods carrying prices mostly marked in rials. But merchants usually quote in tomans. To further befuddle the hapless visitor some notes carry the rial value on one side and the toman value on the other. But the toman value will be written in the tens value, rather than the thousands. So, for example, 500,000 rials – around AUD $17 – is on the note as 500,000 on one side but 50 on the other. But it’s really 50,000. And the merchant will quote 50, meaning 50,000 tomans, not rials, although that may be how it’s written on the price tag.
There’s more. A lot of notes carry just the rial value so you have to quickly calculate their toman value if you pull one out of your wallet. You’re never sure if you’re spending a lot, or a little, although it’s mostly a little, comparatively.
Got it? It took a long time for most of our group to get it too.
All of a sudden our colourful little Aussie notes seem so – logical!