Money and Costs
Budget: Less than ₹3000
- Dorm bed: ₹400–₹600
- Double room in budget hotel: ₹400–₹1000
- All-you-can-eat thali (plate meal): ₹100–₹300
- Bus/train tickets: ₹300–₹500
- Double hotel room: ₹1500–₹5000
- Meal in midrange restaurant: ₹600–₹1500
- Admission to historic sight/museum: ₹500–₹1500
- Local taxi/autorickshaw: ₹500–₹2000
Top End: More than ₹10,000
- Deluxe hotel room: ₹5000–₹24,000
- Meal at superior restaurant: ₹2000–₹5000
- First-class train travel: ₹1000–₹8000
- Hire car and driver: from ₹2000 per day
Indian rupee (₹)
Bargaining is a way of life in many contexts in India, including at markets and most shops. Keep things in perspective: haggle hard but not without a sense of humour. There are also plenty of more upmarket shops and government emporiums where haggling is inappropriate, as prices are fixed. You'll usually have to agree to a price before hiring a taxi or autorickshaw, or a car and driver for longer trips.
ATMs widely available; carry cash as backup, especially in remote regions. Don’t accept damaged banknotes: they won't be accepted by others.
The Indian rupee (₹) is divided into 100 paise (p), but only 50-paise coins are legal tender and these are rarely seen. Coins come in denominations of ₹1, ₹2, ₹5 and ₹10 (the 1s and 2s look almost identical); notes come in denominations of ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, ₹200, ₹500 and ₹2000.
The rupee is linked to a basket of currencies and has been subject to fluctuation in recent years.
- ATMs are widespread.
- Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro are the most commonly accepted cards.
- ATMs at Axis Bank, Citibank, HDFC, HSBC, ICICI and State Bank of India recognise foreign cards. Other banks may accept major cards (Visa, MasterCard etc).
- The limit you may withdraw in one transaction varies, from as low as ₹2000 up to a maximum of usually ₹10,000. A fee is almost always charged by the Indian bank for withdrawing money. It's a set fee (usually ₹150 to ₹300) rather than a percentage, so withdrawing more cash each time means you'll pay less in fees per unit.
- Before your trip, check whether your card can access banking networks in India and ask for details of charges.
- Notify your bank that you’ll be using your card in India to avoid having it blocked; take along your bank’s phone number just in case.
- 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.
Black-market money changers exist, but legal money changers are so common that there’s no reason to use illegal services, except perhaps to change small amounts of cash at land border crossings. If someone approaches you on the street and offers to change money, you’re probably being set up for a scam.
- Major currencies such as US dollars, pounds sterling and euros are easy to change throughout India.
- Some banks also accept other currencies, such as Australian and Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs.
- Private money changers deal with a wider range of currencies, but Pakistani, Nepali and Bangladeshi currency can be harder to change away from the border.
- When travelling off the beaten track, always carry an adequate stock of rupees.
- Whenever changing money, or receiving change, check every note. Don’t accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as others will refuse them when you try to spend them.
- It can be tough getting change, so a stock of smaller currency (₹10, ₹20 and ₹50 notes) is invaluable.
- You can change any leftover rupees back into foreign currency most easily at the airport. You may have to present encashment certificates or credit-card/ATM receipts, and show your passport and airline ticket.
- Credit cards and international debit cards are accepted at a growing number of shops, cafes, upmarket restaurants, and midrange and top-end guesthouses and hotels, and they can usually be used to pay for flights and train tickets. They are much more widely accepted in major cities such as Mumbai and Delhi.
- Cash advances on major credit cards are also possible at some banks.
- MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards.
- Note that transaction fees can be high; however, some prepaid credit cards have no transaction fees.
PayTM (www.paytm.com) is India's major digital-wallet company. Local users pay for things through their smartphone, which is linked to their bank account. PayTM can also be used for buying train tickets and flights online, and for using bike-share schemes in big cities. You can't link PayTM to a foreign bank account, but foreigners used to be able to use PayTM by linking it to a local SIM card and topping up the SIM as they went. However, a rule change in 2018 meant that PayTM accounts had to be registered to an Indian ID. Check again online before you come to see what the latest situation is.
- Indian law states that all foreign currency must be changed at official money changers or banks.
- For every (official) foreign-exchange transaction you’ll receive an encashment certificate (receipt), which will allow you to change rupees back into foreign currency when departing India.
- Encashment certificates should cover the rupee amount you intend to change back to foreign currency.
- Printed receipts from ATMs are also accepted as evidence of an international transaction at most banks.
Private money changers are usually open for longer hours than banks and are found almost everywhere (many also double as travel agents).
Hotels may also change money, but their rates are usually not as competitive.
- Bellhops and train/airport porters Tip ₹10 to ₹20.
- Private drivers Tip ₹200 per day for good service.
- Restaurants and hotels Service fees are sometimes added to bills automatically; otherwise, 10% is reasonable.
- Taxis and rickshaws Not expected, but it's good to tip drivers/riders who are honest about the fare.
- Trekking Per day: guides ₹350 to ₹500, porters ₹200 to ₹350.
- Tour guides Tipping ₹200 to ₹350 per day is fair.
- Travellers cheques are becoming harder and harder to change as credit cards become more widely accepted. They are often more hassle than they're worth.
- All major brands are accepted, but some banks only accept cheques from American Express (Amex) and Thomas Cook.
- Euros, pounds sterling and US dollars are the safest currencies, especially in smaller towns.
- Keep a record of the cheques’ serial numbers separate from your cheques, along with the proof-of-purchase slips, encashment certificates and photocopied passport details. If you lose your cheques, contact the Amex or Thomas Cook office in Delhi.
- To replace lost travellers cheques, you need the proof-of-purchase slip and the numbers of the missing cheques (some places require a photocopy of the police report and a passport photo). If you don’t have the numbers of your missing cheques, the issuing company (eg Amex) will contact the place where you bought them.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com