Indian rupee (₹)
Budget: Less than ₹2500
- Double room in a budget hotel: ₹700–1200
- Hostel dorm bed: ₹400–1000
- All-you-can-eat thali (traditional plate meal): ₹80–300
- Transport: ₹200–600
- Double hotel/homestay room: ₹1500–5000
- Meal in a midrange restaurant: ₹300–1000
- Admission to sights and museums: ₹200–800
- 2AC train travel: ₹700–2000
Top end: More than ₹7500
- Boutique/heritage hotel room: from ₹5500
- Dinner with wine in an upmarket restaurant: ₹2000–4000
- Renting a car and driver: per day ₹2000–3000
- Guided tour or cooking class: ₹1200–3000
- Haggling is the norm in markets and in many tourist-oriented shops; the 'starting price' may be elevated by 50% or more.
- You will usually need to bargain for a fair fare in taxis and rickshaws, though the introduction of Uber and Ola Cabs taxi apps has eliminated this in many metropolitan areas.
- More upmarket shops charge fixed prices.
ATMs are widely available; credit/debit cards are accepted in midrange hotels, shops and restaurants, but much of India remains a cash-based economy.
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 ₹5, ₹10, ₹20, ₹50, ₹100, and the newly introduced ₹500 and ₹2000 (this last is handy for paying large bills but can pose problems when getting change for small purchases). The Indian rupee is linked to a basket of currencies and has been subject to fluctuations in recent years.
- ATMs are found in most urban centres.
- Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus, Maestro and Plus are the most commonly accepted cards.
- ATMs at Axis Bank, Citibank, HDFC, HSBC, ICICI and State Bank of India recognise foreign cards. Other banks' ATMs may accept major cards (Visa, MasterCard etc).
- Most ATMs have a limit of ₹10,000 per withdrawal. Citibank ATMs generally allow you to withdraw ₹20,000 in one transaction, reducing transaction charges, which are often in the region of ₹250.
- Before your trip, check whether your card can reliably access banking networks in India and find out details of charges.
- Notify your bank that you’ll be using your card in India to avoid having it blocked; note your bank’s phone number just in case.
- Away from major towns, always carry cash.
- Black-market money changers exist, but legal money changers are so common there’s no reason to use illegal services.
- 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 than banks, 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.
- When changing money, check every note. Don’t accept any filthy, ripped or disintegrating notes, as these may be difficult to use.
- It can be tough getting change in India, so a stock of smaller currency is invaluable (especially ₹10, ₹20 and ₹50 notes).
- Officially you cannot take rupees out of India, but this is laxly enforced. 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 are accepted at many shops, better restaurants and midrange and top-end hotels, and they can usually be used to pay for flights and train tickets.
- Cash advances on major credit cards are possible at some banks.
- MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted cards.
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. For now, at least, you cannot link a PayTM account to a foreign bank account, but do look it into as things may change.
- 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 amount of rupees you intend to change back to foreign currency.
- Printed receipts from ATMs are also accepted as evidence of an international transaction at most banks.
- If you run out of money, someone back home can wire you cash via money changers affiliated with Moneygram (www.moneygram.com) or Western Union (www.westernunion.com). A fee is added to the transaction.
- To collect cash, bring your passport and the name and reference number of the person who sent the funds.
- Private money changers are usually open longer hours than banks, and are found almost everywhere (many also double as internet cafes and travel agents).
- Upmarket hotels may also change money, but their rates are usually not as competitive.
- Restaurants A service charge ranging from 4% to 10% is often added to your bill; tipping is optional.
- Hotels Bellboys and helpful hotel staff appreciate ₹20 to ₹50.
- Porters Train/airport porters appreciate anything around ₹50.
- Taxis & Rickshaws Not normally tipped beyond rounding to nearest ₹10.
- Hired Cars Around 10% is recommended for good service.
- American Express (Amex) and Thomas Cook are the most widely accepted brands.
- 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 vouchers and photocopied passport details.
- To replace lost travellers cheques, you need the proof-of-purchase slip and the numbers of the missing cheques, and possibly a photocopy of the police report and a passport photo.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.