IRAN: WHERE EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE, But Not So Easy

Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)July - August 2020

IRAN: WHERE EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE, But Not So Easy
Do you fancy a beer? No problem, we’ll call our smuggler.Do you want to go on Facebook? No problem, just download a VPN app.Do you want to exchange currency? No problem, but don’t use an ATM, you will get a much better rate on the black market….
Marta Jastrzab

CROSSING THE BORDER

There are often guys at borders waiting to help tourists through the process. Of course, this service comes with a fee, often not small. There was little choice at the border crossing where we chose to enter Iran. And it didn’t take much time for a border officer to approach me, making it clear I’d have to wear my helmet if I did not have a headscarf. It’s an Iranian law that women must cover their heads at all times when in public. So, there I was, going from window to window with the helmet on until our guide told me that I could take it off because the law did not apply to tourists. I’d just taken it off when another man came up and apologetically repeated that I had to cover my head. A little confused, I put the helmet back on, whereupon the guide wandered back over and told me to take it off. And so it went throughout the border process.

MANAGING CURRENCY EXCHANGE AND INFLATION

Inflation is the traveler’s worst enemy. Always. The secret in many countries is to use the black market for money exchanges, which usually nets a much higher rate—and in Iran the exchange rate was significant! Also, the fact that the exchange rate changes practically every day only complicates matters. The Iranian currency is the “Rial,” and there are about 9,000 Rials to $1USD. Using Rials can get quite unwieldy; for example, a night in a $15 budget hotel is about 135,000 Rials. That said, the Iranians found a way to sort of solve this math problem by introducing the informal currency called “Toman,” which rounds off a zero. In other words, 10,000 Rials equals 1,000 Toman. So, a 15,000 Rial bottle of water is 1,500 Toman. To further complicate exchange rates, using the black market we got anywhere from 60,000 to 86,000 Rial for $1USD. That’s as much as 10 times the ATM exchange.

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July - August 2020