Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tomans vs Rials: Money in Iran

Money from the time of the Shah in the bazaar in Shiraz

A quick note on money in Iran because it may be confusing. The official currency is the ریال Riāl, and that's what you will see on the bills. But when you go to pay for things, it's usually in تومان Toman. So what's the difference? Just take 1 zero off the riāl. So 10,000 riāl is 1,000 toman. And these days, roughly 3,000 toman (or 30,000 riāl) is a dollar. For tourists, they usually write prices in riāl, but it's always smart to check or ask. If it's in toman, there will usually be at least a ت after the price. 

Rarely seen anymore is the 200 rial (20 toman) bill at the top

Top two are from the time of the Shah. The bottom is the now rarely seen 500 rial (50 toman) bill.

Because the currency has devalued so much, nobody really says hezār, thousand, anymore. So if you ask the price of something and they say bist toman, 20 toman, they mean 20,000 toman. I remember the actual 20 toman (200 rial) bill, but I don't think those really even exist anymore. If the price is in the millions, for example 1,500,000 toman, you will just hear yek o punsad, 1 and 500.

One thing I've always found interesting and enjoyed watching is the way Iranians count money. They are all experts at it because they are used to carrying stacks of cash. And it's the specific way that they do it that fascinates me, but I've never been able to do it or do it quite as swiftly. They hold the money backwards and then thumb down the bills which I find very difficult. The image below illustrates this, but she's actually counting pretty slowly compared to what I've seen.

money on Make A Gif

On this past trip to Iran, my uncle showed me his money collection. Aside from once a few years ago in an antique store in Shiraz, I had never really seen currency from the time of the Shah, so it was cool to see how it had changed. 

Money from the time of the Shah



  1. yeah, i admit it's quit confusing when it comes to rial-tooman. but for me it's not only in iran, i got confused too with indonesian rupiah because of the large number in a single note.

    pontia, is 1000 rial the smallest bill in iran? is there any coins or no? because i remember few times in iran when i bought something from grocery shop, the shopkeeper did not give me money for the balance, instead they gave me 2-3 candies and one time irapanse adhesive bandage!

    1. Interesting to know that about Indonesia. It was the same for me years ago in Turkey with all those zeros, but I think they have since changed it.

      There used to also be 500, 200, and 100 rial bills. (I'll add those pictures in case you are interested to see them :) ) but they have such little value now that I haven't seen any in a while. I heard they were converting them into coins. There were also 50, 20 and 10 rial coins, but same thing- such little value that I've usually seen people just throw any coins in those yellow boxes on the street. When shopkeepers don't have small change like that, it's common for them to give you candy or gum or something like that to make up for the difference. The adhesive bandage is a new one for me though! Haha.

  2. Dorood! One usually only hears or reads about Toman being the Iranian currency. Although I won't be visiting Iran in the foreseeable future, it's always good to know that conversion rule between Tomans and Riaals. :)

    P.S.: In the sentence "Aside from once a few years ago an antique store in Shiraz,..." (last paragraph), I think there's an "in" missing after "ago". :)

    1. Yes, some of my expat friends still get a bit confused by it.
      And thanks for the correction. You are absolutely right! :)

  3. Yes, I found it confusing on my trip there too. From a historical point of view (though nobody is actively thinking about it obviously), it kind of makes sense: tuman seems to be derived from a Turkic/Mongolian word meaning 10,000. Cf. Turkish "tümen".

    1. I had no idea! That does make sense. Thanks so much for sharing!


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