Budget and Shopping in Iran
Iran is one of the cheapest countries in the Middle East and for cycle tourists who like to wild camp it’s easy to push your costs down even further as there are no laws against free camping and plenty of remote areas to pitch your tent. In fact, wild camping is often the only option in many rural areas.
A cyclist mixing wild camping and self-catering in the countryside with budget hotels and simple meals in cities can live happily on an average of 10 euros a day or even less. See more on accomodation in Iran.
As a couple, we typically spent 5 euros a day or less while wild camping. Most of this went on a daily diet of pasta, vegetables, cheese, bread and jam plus the occasional bit of internet or treat like a bottle of soda. In the cities our spending expanded to 20-25 euros a day because we paid for a hotel, meals out and more time on the internet. Overall, not counting money spent on getting visas for Central Asia and bike repairs, we averaged about 12 euros a day in Iran.
You’ll want extra money for souvenir shopping and it’s good to have a reserve fund in case your bike breaks down. Remember that you cannot use credit cards or travellers cheques in Iran so you’ll have to be prepared for emergencies in advance.
Some typical costs in early 2008 are listed below. We almost never paid for bread or petrol for our stove in Iran because locals always kindly gave these things to us. Inflation is high in Iran so costs may be noticeably higher when you visit. We found prices for hotels up 50 percent from the rates listed in our 2005 guidebook.
Can of soda or beer – 4000 Rials
Kilogram of bananas – 8,500 Rials
Bed in a dorm room – 40,000 Rials
Double room in budget hotel – 100,000 Rials
Fast food meal for two – 50,000 Rials
Hour of internet – 6,000-10,000 Rials
Museum admission – 3,000 Rials
When shopping, you’ll be happy to hear that Iranians are an honest lot. Double-pricing for foreigners isn’t widespread except in hotels where Iranians get a cheaper rate than tourists. In shops you generally don’t have to worry about being overcharged and bargaining isn’t common outside of the bazaars. Tourists were once charged higher rates to enter historical sites and museums but now prices are the same for everyone.
The one challenge you will come across is that most Iranians don’t talk about Rials; which is a bit strange since it is the printed currency. Tomans are the discussed currency. At first this will be a bit confusing and it’s easy to think you’re being ripped off when in fact the price was just quoted in Tomans and not Rials. Ask if you’re unsure. Since you’re a tourist in Iran, some Iranians may try and help and give you the value for your purchases in Rials or even in dollars to help you out.
1,000 Tomans = 10,000 Rials
Sometimes this is shortened futher and you may just hear 1 Toman. Therefore, just add the relevant number of zeros to prices quoted in Tomans. You can see why the government is thinking about changing the currency to make purchases more practical. You’ll quickly get a feel for the prices of items and which currency value you are being quoted.