I've read that it's not possible to pay for stuff by international credit card like debit cards. What do you recommend to do in such a situation? As far as carrying a lot of money is not safe at all.
One option would be to bring cash with you, convert it to Iranian currency and then buy something called "Gift Card" from a bank. You can easily obtain them from most of the well-known banks without having an account. You can use these cards to buy stuff almost anywhere within the country. They are also password protected and only the owner can use them. In case you lose them or get them stolen, you can contact the issuing bank to block the missing card and get another one.
This is just one of the ways that can help you avoid carrying money. There might be other ways too :)
Update: A new card has recently been introduced called Tourist Card:
Bank Melli, Iran’s first national bank, plans to issue a debit card exclusively for foreign tourists visiting the country.
Issued under the title ‘Tourist Card’, visitors can apply for the charge card at the Bank Melli branch of Imam Khomeini International Airport, said a report in Tehran Times.
With all charges converted and billed in the local currency, the card limit will be set at $5,000 or €5,000.
The tourist card will be valid for the length of stay of the visitors and any remaining money in the card will be reimbursed, the report said.
The card can be used at the issuing bank’s ATM’s across the country as well at points of sale (POS) and online shopping.
The bank plans to issue the cards in more than four Iranian cities, which are yet to be determined, the report said.
And here is the official website of Iran Melli Bank, which has fully introduced this new card:
It is a card in Iranian Rial which is issued for tourists against foreign currencies received from them with designated expiry date and it can be used in whole Iranian banking system.
A Tourist Card is given to clients with exclusive passwords. There are two passwords for each card. First password is to be used when the card is used to buy by POS and the second password is used for internet buying. Both passwords can be changed by the holder of the card.
Specifications of Tourist Card:
- It can be used through whole Iranian banking system
- Cash can be withdrawn only in BMI ATMs.
- Funds can not be transferred to Tourist Card
- Cards can be used to buy through internet, their passwords can be changed and funds can be transferred from Tourist Card to other cards.
- The remaining cash in Tourist Cards can be converted to foreign currencies and paid to customers.
- The expiry date of Tourist Card will be the date when clients’ visas are expired.
- The limit of charging these cards in $ 5,000
- Customers can be informed about the remaining balance of Tourist Cards through Bank Melli Iran’s website (www.bmi.ir), all ATMs throughout the country and all POS systems.
- Customers can take billing statements and be informed about the breakdown of their Tourist Card transactions in BMI ATMs.
No Visa, MasterCard, etc do not work in Iran. There is a national debit card system called Shetab. And all the Iranian banks and many credit unions are members of Shetab. So basically if you buy a Shetab card from any bank, you will be good. Bank Pasargad is one of them. And here is a page that shows a bank Pasargad gift card.
However, You cannot buy it online. Once you land in Iran, you may exchange your foreign currency to IRR (Iranian Rial) and buy a gift card either at the airport or ask your hotel reception to help you get one.
With the latest sanctions against Iran (i.e.: SWIFT disconnecting them), cash would be your safest bet.