The is both easy and simple. There are precisely three ways in which tourists can exchange any foreign currency into Indian Rupees after they land in India.
- Exchanging at designated currency exchange kiosks at airports
- Exchanging at Banks, or
- Exchanging at Money Changers or Foreign Exchange Houses.
Traveler’s checks are not as popular as they used to be, due to the widespread presence of internationalized ATMs. However, the old-fashioned traveler’s check still has its use, especially in India. ATM cards can be lost, stolen or damaged, and replacing an ATM card is a difficult and time-consuming process while traveling.
Some parts of rural India do not have ATMs yet, and sometimes the local ATM is just plain broken. For travel in India, traveler’s checks continue to offer a useful hedge against unfortunate circumstances.
- Use the following link to find locations where you can exchange your traveler’s checks. (link)
- Be sure to have your passport. This is a standard identification measure for cashing a traveler’s check anywhere in India.
- Cashing traveler’s checks is often a service provided by hotels. You don’t even have to be a guest there of avail of this service.
- Look around for currency exchange kiosks, especially if you are in a major tourist center. Many tourist-oriented stores in India also double as currency exchanges.
If you do use an ATM, you’ll likely get charged a fee for withdrawing internationally or at a bank that’s different from your own. Luckily, there are a lot of banks in India that are branches of banks in the U.S. or that are considered sister banks of a bank in the U.S. In India, you can find HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and Bank of America.
Many airports have currency exchange booths where travelers can easily get the currency they need. The only problem with exchanging money at the airport is that the exchange rate may not be good and the business may take a commission as well. This means people often lose some money on the exchange.
Debit and Credit Cards
Cash is king in India, but more and more institutions are starting to accept debit and credit cards, especially in big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. However, it’s not good to rely solely on this option. Many banks charge between 3 and 5 percent for their customers to use the card abroad.
Regardless, if you’re low on cash, ask the place where you plan on shopping or dining if they accept credit or debit cards before sitting down. You wouldn’t want to be stuck when the check comes out!
Getting a PayTM account
Unfortunately, due to India’s archaic laws, it’s not always easy to make online payments as a foreigner. Online wallets are a great alternative to paying with debit or credit card. However: PayTM, the country’s biggest online wallet, doesn’t allow you to charge money with a foreign card.
Luckily, India’s largest mobile provider, Airtel, has rolled out Airtel Payments Bank in 2017. If you have an Airtel sim card (which we recommend getting from the airport kiosk after you land, as it offers good coverage at decent rates), you can download the My Airtel app (Android, iOS). With this, you automatically have an Airtel Payments Bank account linked to your mobile number.
The great thing about the Airtel Payments Bank is that it basically gives you an online Indian debit card. The moment you deposit money in your Airtel Account, which can be done at a myriad of Airtel Stores throughout the country, you can start paying for things online using this debit card. You can even use the card to top up PayTM, if you’d rather use the more popular mobile wallet. You can also use the money to top up your phone credit.
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