"I cannot get away, firmly entrenched in group activities", came an email, "I completely misjudged the situation that we would find at our arrival here. We have been completely swallowed up in a wave of hospitality", I read as my vague plans as tour guide to a group of Canadians went out the window.

There have been a few such requests of late by random folk from around the world fancying a more alternative, alternative holiday or arriving on some business. They find me through my photo journal or they find me through friends. Advice is occasionally sought or mostly provided. "Rule number one, do not let anyone touch your money", I wrote to our Canadian tourists, "rule number two, DO NOT LET ANYONE TOUCH YOUR MONEY!". And so began a list of things to note when traveling Iran.

With this wave of interest I've pondered writing a series of introductions to aspects of Iranian life, both helpful to a tourist and informative to person curious about Iran. In various forms I've been writing these to those faceless people who email yet I wanted to avoid the repetition. Having been stung a few times regarding money I felt that such a prospect would be best undertook with this subject.

And so begins what may or may not turn out to be a series I might call, Doing Iran.


The Iranian currency is known as Tomans and Rials whereby one gets 10 Rials for each Toman. Mostly the currency is dealt in notes although coins are used as well as Bankers' (Travelers') Cheques. Cards facilities are generally not available.

Notes come in the new 5000 form, recently new 2000 form and mostly 1000 form. There are also 500, 200, 100 and 50 Toman notes with coins decreasing down to 1 Toman. Bankers (Travelers') Cheques can come in 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 and 500,000 Tomans


Exchange rate
Last year I got 1600 Tomans for my pound this year I get just over 1800 Tomans. People often say that 1000 Tomans gets you a US dollar, which currently is about right, yet I feel this is a temporary matter as the the US dollar is not (yet!) devaluing like the Toman. Regardless, due to the nature of money one should expect in Iran that prices (all these stated here) will increase, as is often the case, following the new year (March 21st). Don't be surprised if this increase nears 10% per year.


No doubt due to inflation the currency is in relatively small denominators, thus one needs to carry measurable amounts of notes even for day-to-day items. The breadth of price in day-to-day purchases also doesn't help so one must be prepared for many eventualities.

Card facilities
Cards are coming into effect for taking money from the wall, but this is not a facility for international travelers. I never seen a swipe-card machine and can only guess that large hotels have such. What with the near non-existence of bank card facilities one must plan a trip expecting to carry hundreds of notes.

Maybe important
Although I hear of less incidents than in London it is wise to distribute your money around your pockets and bags. I've heard of many moments where motorbike riders travel in twos and bag-snatch. Also, try not to let unknown people handle your money, I've had times where people tried varying techniques to pocket what is mine.


You can fill a 2.0 litre car (75 litres capacity - does around 700 kilometers town driving) for 3000 Tomans. Although petrol prices and means to consumption are changing so expect this prices to both rise are rise sharply in large quantity purchases.

3rd party Insurance is compulsory starting from 200,000 a year and applies to the car and not the driver. There is no road tax (although toll roads connect some cities starting from around 100 Tomans). MOT is compulsory costing around 7000 Tomans per year. All these extras are rarely adhered to and not enforced.

Taxis generally are shared and can connect you to most places while jumping between. In Tehran it may cost you 100 Tomans for a short one hundred metre journey and taking you as far as half a mile depending on the route. Relatively long routes can cost around 500 Tomans. Journeys outside of Tehran may be as much as half the price. Tipping is not appropriate for these drivers but no doubt welcomed.

Private Taxis
Journeys in Tehran can start from 1000 Tomans and getting from the north to central at night can be as much as 6000 Tomans. This price will get you the car thus the price can be split between fellow travelers. There has been the recent introduction of yellow metered taxis which are more competitive yet not as easy to come by.

Inner city buses cost 20 Tomans for any journey around Tehran city. Intercity buses can be equally as reasonable where you can travel from Tehran to Mashad, around a ten hour journey at around 4000 Tomans.

On the relatively few metro lines one can expect to do the full distance of north-central Tehran to the end of the Karaj (Tehran's neighboring city to the west) in around an hour and a half for 150 Tomans. A general price can be paid for a single journey on either of the two main city lines for 75 Tomans.

Trains connect most cities and are also very reasonably priced. I took an over night train to Yazd, which took around 8 hours and had sleeping facilities as well as a buffet with hot food, this costed around 8000 Tomans.


Flat regular bread (lavash) can be bought from the bakers for around 25 Tomans a piece, a pint of milk costs from around 100 Tomans, rice is starts from 1000 Tomans a kilo, eggs start from 70 Tomans each, apples start from around 500 Tomans a kilo.

Iran is fast becoming consumed with corner stores selling basics as well as many types of plastic wrapped junk. A packet of crisps for two is around 300 Tomans, chocolates start from around 50 Tomans, a plastic bottle of Coke is generally 250 Tomans. Freshly made sandwiches (usually filled with processed meat and salad) start from around 700 Tomans

One of the more traditional dishes, Chelo Kebab, consisting of rice, a barbecued tomato and minced muton (sometimes bread and yoghurt) can start from around 2000 Tomans. Fast food joints are fast becoming popular where a pizza starts from around 2000 Tomans, burgers 2000 Tomans, Chips 500 Tomans. Fancy restaurants can have main courses starting from around 7,000 Tomans.


Electronic goods
Electronic goods are pretty much exactly the same price you'd expect to pay in any other country thus the nationals expect to have to work more for these goods as their wages do not reflecting those other (industrialised) countries.

Genuine labeled clothing is hard to come by but a few stores are available in the country. A large number of stores sell fake clothing swearing on their families lives that they are the real deal. Diesel and Levi's jeans are popular and prices can start around 30,000 Tomans, yet these are often rather convincing copies made in Turkey. Women's fashionable manteaus (required Islamic dress) can start around 15,000 Tomans and often get to around 60,000 Tomans.


Galleries are often free, Tehran's Contemporary Arts museum is 300 Tomans and historic sites can cost around 200 - 500 Tomans.

Sports facilities
Swimming sessions can cost from around 3000 Tomans and including saunas can get up to 6000 Tomans or more.


Skilled laborers get paid around 400,000 per month, taxi drivers can make around 400,000 Tomans a month, general teachers start from around 350,000, Doctors start from around 500,000 for junior positions. I think I heard once that the national average is around 200,000 Tomans per month - I'll confirm later.

I welcome any corrections, additions or helpful links, yet would like to stress that inflation may make most of these values redundant shortly. Thus note the date of posting.

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A poster campaign, "It's our own fault", promoting good hejab in Iran.

flickr View my photo journal

A lot of changes have been taking place in Iran over the last week, the Islamic Republic has been remembering itself, taking further steps than enforcement of the dress laws. Coffee shops have been closing due to women smoking in them, clothing shops will have to have their stock put to the scrutiny of the Islamic ideals and Satellite dishes have been torn from roofs.

I occasionally duplicate my blog at an interesting site by the name of MidEastYouth.com, a site that brings folk from the Middle East together to share and publish words and ideas. I'm flattered that they except me as a youth and often enjoy the lively debates that spin off from mine and other people's writing.

Occasionally I get lost in these debates and felt that one of the recent ones resulting from an article concerning the struggle for free press in iran [oddly enough this has now been deleted by the author who feared the repercussions, or so I was told], would be a timely one to reverse-post with. Here is my last response/rant.

Esra [site founder], I feel you've rather missed the point about Chomsky (with all due respect). The beauty with Chomsky is that he doesn't have ideas, or at least not in that way. You will often hear him state that he is far too unqualified to make predictions and you will note that he's at pains to simply present facts and make suggestions as to other ways to perceive them. It is by not sticking his neck out like this that I feel he gets a large audience and relatively little bashing.

That Chomsky 'doesn't try hard enough' [referring to Esra's comment] to enforce any ideas might make sense with what I say above. Although it should be added that Chomsky was very active in his early years as far as protesting and organising.

As for Chomsky not being a force for change [referring to Esra's comment], I very much disagree here. When the people have access to such a wealth of mostly hidden facts, then has them presented in a way that exposes alternative agendas - I feel this is a very powerful source of change. he has been a huge influence for me, a true intellectual power-house with such a perfect form of presentation, modest, selfless and relentless. He has inspired me to dig deeper, try harder and alway reflect upon my bias.

Which leads me on to City boy [the author of the article in question], maybe I need to be clearer here [referring to his response to mine]. Yes, we can be reductionist about bias and suggest that all individuals include an amount of prejudice in their words, actions and behavior, this should be universally appreciated. But we must look at the bias in the institutions and corporations.

To get back to Chomsky, he asks us to consider that the media's market is the advertisers and their product is the consumers - with a bias toward more wealthy consumers. With this in mind we have our understanding as to the trail of influence. Jina [commenting on City boy] suggests that Fox news is a mirror for the government, yet I feel this also misses the point, again, Chomsky would tell us that the Government is the shadow created by the corporations, and especially so in the USA I would add. Regardless, the media simply align themselves to the market thus adapting what we consume.

Where this is slightly different is in cases like the BBC, whereby license payers contribute with the government to provide a service. Yet I see this as a more interesting form of media distribution of which is certainly still open to bias. One may simply read of BBC Persia's reporting during 1953 when Mosadegh lost power. More amusingly the BBC did a documentary about it recently.

But one sees these cases where the consumer is fed to fulfill the needs of the government and those higher up: the corporations. Was it no small coincidence that the largest company of the that period ('53 coup) for Britain was British Petroleum which pretty much functioned only in Iran.

The field may be larger, the fence maybe lower but we are still sheep

City boy, aziz e delam [returning his Farsi endearment], please do not purport to be a tour guide for 'reality'. "Freedom of democracy" is an illusion for a few countries and although I have also heard our dear Chomsky suggest that indulging the political process has benefits, he is never a faithful for the concept and neither am I. The farce of a system that we have in those countries (that feel so enlightened to export such a virtue) is simply a means to control the masses. The field may be larger, the fence maybe lower but we are still sheep to use the metaphor. My guess is that soon the fence won't even be needed as we will simply obey.

But you know my field is different with methods such as these [blogging] although my basement [term used by City boy] doesn't have the resources to compete with the majority of the established media. Yet it is not the resources I desire as this will then create a market and thus I am no different.

So OK, as you suggest I can write for these institutions and corporations [in my basement as is suggested], but you honestly think I am at liberty to say what I will.

But then we can get on to systemic failings, which I might state is where America struggles more. Robert Fisk talks occasionally about this subject whereby career mindedness or even the need to maintain a job has sucked the life out of any ability to counter the corporate line. So we can sees the compounding distortions.

The 'West' is afforded 'freedom' and 'democracy' as the results are not as harmful

But yes City boy, there is a difference between Iran and the 'West', but this difference is – in my mind – to do with the ruling family or party's strength. The 'West' is afforded 'freedom' and 'democracy' as the results are not as harmful or at least comfortably undermined. In nations like Iran, the clamping down is a reflection of the weakness in dealing with it by other means.

But City boy, I don't much care for revolutions [he suggests we should conspire to one] nor think it would be wise, I might rather evolution - it's less bloody among other things. Regardless, optimist or pessimist, keep on writing and thinking, moving and progressing.

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