The currency used in India is the rupee, which is divided into 100 paise. Rupees are available in the following denominations: Notes: Rs 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins: 5, 10, 20, 25 and 50 paise and Rs 1,2 and 5. One lakh is Rs 100,000, written 1,00,000. One crore is Rs 10,000,000, written 1,00,00,000. You are unlikely to come across paise, but conversely you will find that many people will have difficulty giving change for notes larger than Rs 100. Strictly speaking,you can neither import nor export Indian currency, but you can get some at the airport straight away to at least get you transport to your accommodation. There are Authorized Foreign Exchange dealers in most big cities, and Banks will also change your currency at a fair rate if you have time for the paperwork. A good way of getting your travelers currency is via an ATM but beware of hidden bank charges, both from the bank providing the ATM and the card-issuing bank - you also don't know what exchange rate you're getting. As with any country, it's not a good idea to rely solely on taking your bank card as, if this gets lost or stolen, you could be stuck without funds far from home. Travel insurance tends to insure you only for £200-worth of lost currency so it is safer to take the rest in Travelers Cheques, as these are insured (certainly American Express ones) and will be replaced (usually) in 24 hours of reporting the loss.
Major currencies such as US dollars, UK pounds and euros are easy to change throughout India, though some bank branches insist on travelers cheques only. A few banks also accept Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs. Private moneychangers accept a wider range of currencies, but Pakistani, Nepali and Bangladeshi currency can be harder to change away from the border. When traveling off the beaten track, always carry a decent stock of rupees.
Whenever changing money, check every note. Banks staple bills together into bricks, which puts a lot of wear on tear on the currency. Do not accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as these may not be accepted as payment. If you get lumbered with such notes, change them to new bills at branches of the Reserve Bank of India in major cities.
Nobody in India ever seems to have change, so it’s a good idea to maintain a stock of smaller currency. Try to stockpile Rs 10, 20 and 50 notes; change bigger bills into these denominations every time you change money.
Officially, you cannot take rupees out India, but this is laxly enforced. However, you can change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency, most easily at the airport (some banks have a Rs 1000 minimum). Note that some airport banks will only change a minimum of Rs 1000. You may require encashment certificates or a credit-card receipt, and you may also have to show your passport and airline ticket.
Modern 24-hour ATMs are found in most large towns and cities, though the ATM may not be in the same place as the bank branch. The most commonly accepted cards are Visa, Master Card, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus. Banks in India that reliably accept foreign cards include Citibank, HSBC. Away from major towns, always carry cash or travelers cheques as backup. Bank impose higher charges on international transactions, but this may be cancelled out by the favourable exchange rates between banks. Reduce charges by making larger transactions less often. Always check in advance whether your card can access banking networks in India and ask for details of charges.
Note that several travelers have reported ATMs snatching back money if you don’t remove it within around 30 seconds. Conversely, other machines can take more than 30 seconds to actually release cash, so don’t panic if the money doesn't’t appear instantaneously.
Always keep the emergency lost-and-stolen numbers for your credit cards in a safe place, separate from your cards, and report any loss or theft immediately.
The average daily limit for withdrawal of money from an ATM is Rs 15,000 (about US$ 300). For UK travellers the Nationwide's FlexAccount is one of the few whose debit card allows free foreign transactions. Many others charge a hefty fee and/or load the exchange rate to their benefit. It is far more convenient and safer than cash and cheaper than travellers' cheques.
Another option is Western Union. You can receive money this way via any Western Union office.
Having money transferred through the banking system can be time consuming. It's usually straightforward if you use a foreign/private banks elsewhere it may take a fortnight and will be a hassle.
Traveller's Cheques issued by reputable companies (e.g. Thomas Cook, American Express) are accepted without difficulty. Traveler's Cheques exchanged in banks or hotels, and can only very rarely be used directly for Payment. You need identification documents like a passport to be shown. Except in hotels, encashing Traveler's Cheques nearly always takes up to 30 minutes or longer, So it is worth taking larger denomination Traveler's Cheques and changing enough to last for some days. Banks accept both Dollar and sterling. Other major currency Traveler's Cheques are also accepted in some larger cities. If you are traveling to remote areas it is advised that you buy Indian Rupee Traveler's Cheques from a major bank, as these are more widely accepted than foreign currency ones. It is advisable to carry a mix of cash and travellers cheques to guard against any situation. Most of the businesses in India will only accept cash. You can learn more about the traveller cheque options for India using the following links.
Visa, Master Card and American Express are usually accepted in tourist hotels and larger shops, though many may insist on cash.
Remember to call your credit card company before you leave and tell them that you are going to be in India for a few days. Otherwise your credit cards may not work in India because of the the security policies used by most of the credit card companies.
Using Cellphone in India
Click here to learn more about how to use your home country cell phone in India.