Travel money guide for India | finder.com

Travel money guide: India

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Discover how to turn your dollars into rupees and pay your way through India.

Banks and ATMs are widely available in India — even in smaller villages. Though it’s still important to have access to cash on your trip, as India is still very much a cash economy.

Find the most valuable and easiest ways to take, use and spend money in India. Decide if travel, debit or credit cards are the best ways to access your cash while you’re traveling in India.

Why you need a combination of travel money options

Things can go missing, wallets picked from your pocket and cards can get swallowed up by ATMs, so don’t rely on one single spending method. A debit card and credit card combination will give you the best results, you may also want to bring some extra cash as backup — you can get this changed easily enough for a competitive price.

Our pick for travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
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Promoted

Compare travel cards for India

Name Product Currency Conversion Fee Annual Fee APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
None
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
None
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
None
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
An 18 months 0%% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

]
Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    How much should I budget to travel in India?

    If you’re wondering how much money you’ll be spending on your trip to India, that’ll depend on your tastes and budgets. You can get by on as little as $10 a day or spend thousands just sleeping in a 5-star hotel.

    On a budget Mid-range Luxury
    Street food or a thali (platter of various dishes)
    $0.20–$2
    A meal in a restaurant.
    $10–$20
    A meal at a Delhi or Mumbai famed culinary establishment.
    $250 for a meal and a glass of wine
    Even in big cities, most museums, parks, temples and attractions are free. Ticket to an exhibition or a show.
    $5–$10
    All inclusive tour with a driver, luxury hotel, meals and day trips to major tourist destinations.
    $2,500 and up
    A basic guesthouse in the mountains, forest, small village or an ashram.
    $2–$4 per night
    Mid-range hotel.
    $20–$50
    India has a selection of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
    $10,000 for one night
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    Travel card, debit card or credit card?

    Unfortunately, there aren’t any travel cards that allow you to load INR, meaning you’ll be charged a currency conversion fee if you use one in India. Instead, look for debit cards and credit cards that don’t charge for currency conversion. Reduced fees for ATM withdrawals should be always be a factor in your comparison.
    How to use a credit card in India

    Travel money for India at a glance

    Travel Money Option Pros Cons
    Debit cards for travel
    • Access to your own money
    • Widely accepted
    • PIN security
    • Can be cancelled if card is lost or stolen
    • No back-up option for lost or stolen cards
    • May charge ATM transaction fees
    • May charge currency conversion fees
    Prepaid travel money cards
    • Comes with a back-up if the card is compromised
    • Not linked to your bank account
    • Can reload money online easily
    • Pay directly or withdraw from ATM
    • Rupees cannot be preloaded
    • Some cards charge a reload fee
    • Can take up to 6 days for a transfer
    Credit cards for travel
    • Accepted everywhere
    • Built-in security and anti-fraud measures
    • Some cards have features such as complimentary insurance or reward points earning
    • ATM cash withdrawals may attract cash advances and higher fees
    Traveler’s checks
    • Acceptance
    • Security
    • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
    • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
    Cash
    • Payment flexibility
    • Convenience
    • Difficult to manage expenses
    • Higher risk of theft

    This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

    How each travel money product works in India

    Have a look at the different travel money products you can use in India and learn how each product works.

    Using a debit card

    A debit card could be a good travel money choice to take to India. You’ll have access to cash each time you come across an ATM, without carrying lots of cash on you all at once. Because you’re spending your own money, you avoid interest charges. Find a card that waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and doesn’t charge a monthly account keeping fee.

    • Tip: Citibank has a large presence in India. You can make cheap ATM withdrawal using a Citibank debit or credit card.

    Using a prepaid travel card

    Since there are currently no travel cards that allow you to preload Indian rupees, you should look for a card with no foreign currency conversion fees to avoid any extra costs. Even though travel cards can be a convenient way to withdraw funds and spend over the counter, it may not seem to be the cheapest option when you factor in the extra fees.

    Using a credit card

    Credit cards are a good option because they are accepted almost everywhere, have excellent security measures and some come with travel insurance. A credit card and another form of travel money will give you spending flexibility in India.

    Travel with peace of mind and compare international travel insurance for India

    Using a traveler’s checks

    Security is the main advantage of using traveler’s checks. Each check has a unique serial number and can only be cashed with photo identification. Fees are the main disadvantage. Banks charge you to get check and to cash them. You’re better off using a debit or travel card which lets you make cheap or free ATM withdrawals to get Indian rupee.

    • Tip: Traveler’s checks are good for locking in a good exchange rate. So if you watch the forex market, get them while the getting’s good.

    Paying with cash in India

    You should always have some cash on you, ideally have some spending money in lower denominations and then keep a large amount in a hidden place. Whether you’re staying in small villages or big cities, you will find that many services, attractions and just getting around will require you to use cash.

    Banks and exchange offices will happily exchange foreign currency at a reasonable rate and with a small commision, if any commission at all. It helps if you can access online rates before you exchange so you can give yourself a rough idea of how much you should get and don’t get ripped off.

    • Tip: Indian rupee notes can get pretty scruffy and ripped, and overly creased or otherwise damaged notes will not be accepted. People love to try and give them to tourists.
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    Jane's Indian sabbatical

    Jane spent just under two months traveling in India. She started in the north making her way from New Delhi to Uttar Pradesh so she could visit the Taj Mahal and the city of Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. She finished her trip relaxing on the beaches of Goa. Her trip took her off the beaten track, through tourist spots and India’s bustling cities.

    What cards did you take with you?

    • Bank of America debit card
    • BankAmericard

    Why did you take these cards?

    Jane says she brought the Bank of America debit card because its part of the Global ATM Alliance, so she didn’t pay any ATM withdrawel fees. She brought the BankAmericard because it waived the foreign exchange fee and rewards for spending. She used this card to pay for larger expenses on her trip such as bookings or flights.

    What about using ATMs?

    Jane says she used ATMs inside banks whenever possible and had no problems locating a machine – the standard charge was about $4. She did say that some machines took up to a minute to process the transaction.

    Where could and couldn’t you use these cards?

    Visa and Mastercard are accepted if the business is setup to handle credit card payments. American Express cards could be used, but only at high end retailers and businesses only. As far as using her card for day to day payments, she says if a place doesn’t look like it’s going to accept card payments, it probably isn’t.

    What’s your travel money recommendation for India?

    Since ATMs can be found in large cities, having a debit card to spend and withdraw cash from the ATM is key. Just always keep extra cash on hand incase your run into a situation where credit or debit cards are not accepted.

    What travel money tips do you have for India?

    • Tricks and scams. Be aware of scams that can be anything from a detour in a taxi, thieves trying to pick pockets or fake tourist bureaus at New Delhi train station and around Connaught Place. Jump on blogs and official websites to read up on the latest tourist scams.
    • Bargaining. Tourists are frequently charged higher prices for goods in India. Don’t be afraid to bargain. Sellers don’t expect you to pay the asking price. Bargaining is a part of the culture in India so don’t be shy, but don’t take it too seriously, either. If you agree to a price make sure you are happy with it because once you agree, you’re obliged to pay it.
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    Indian currency

    The money used in India is called the Indian rupee (INR). It comes in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 notes – the 500 and 1000 note were demonetized in 2016.
    indian-rupee-banknotes

    Buying currency in the US

    If you’re a foreigner, you can bring up to 25,000 rupees into India, whereas returning residents can only bring 5,000 to 7,500 rupees into the country. There’s no restriction to the amount of foreign currency you can bring with you, though you’ll have to claim more than $5,000 cash at customs.

    ATMs in India

    Atms are widely available in India and you should have no trouble finding one. Limits vary depending on the machine, but you should be able to withdraw up to your local bank’s ATM withdrawal limit. If not, 10,000 rupees ($150) is a standard amount to withdraw.

    • Tip: If the ATM is slow to respond, don’t worry, sometimes it takes a good half minute for an ATM to process the transaction.

    Travel insurance for India

    India has enchanted travellers for centuries. From the Taj Mahal to the foot of the Greater Himalayas, there’s so much to experience and see in India.

    India has a unique set of risks which is why you should give travel insurance a look. Travel insurance can protect against situations such as:

    • Flight delays
    • Stolen cash
    • Rental vehicle excess
    • Overseas medical emergencies
    • Lost luggage
    Details Features
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Comprehensive coverage with higher limits and a range of additional benefits.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $400
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    The most comprehensive protection plan offered by Travelex. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $2,500
    • Trip delay: $1,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    Coverage includes trip cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance and baggage insurance.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $15,000
    • Baggage coverage: $750
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $500
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Affordable coverage for the essentials needed when traveling outside of your home country.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: $25,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $250,000
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to $250
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    Increased limits of coverage, plus trip interruption insurance worth 150% of the trip cost.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Not 100% sure you're going to make your trip? Cancel For Any Reason upgrade is available with the Travel Select plan.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • Must cancel within 48 hours before scheduled departure
    • Offered on trips with a maximum value of $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Customizable policy that balances between the basic essentials and premium coverage.
    • Trip cancellation: Not available
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $2,000,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $500
    • Trip delay: $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Comprehensive coverage for the cost of your trip, your medical expenses and your belongings.
    • Trip cancellation: 100% cost of trip
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $250,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Choose the coverage amount that meets your needs. Baggage and trip delay protection included.
    • Flight accident AD&D: Up to $1,000,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: $10,000
    • Baggage coverage: $1,000
    • Medical evacuation & repatriation: $100,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Premiere coverage for a range of travel mishaps with additional riders for sports and other leisure activities.
    • Trip cancellation: $3,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $100,000
    • Baggage coverage: $500/item up to $2,500
    • Trip delay: $200/day up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Make sure you're covered in case your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $25,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $1,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Customizable coverage that can give you peace of mind when traveling to popular or remote destinations.
    • Trip cancellation: $1,000
    • Emergency medical expenses: Up to $50,000
    • Baggage coverage: Up to $2,000
    • Trip interruption: Up to $1,500
    Go to site More info

    Bottom line

    It is a country so dense, so stimulating to the senses and impulses that the first visit to India can be shock to even the most road-hardened traveler. Find the right travel money to take to India so you can access your money cheaply and conveniently and fully experience the country’s rich tapestry of culture.

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    Kyle Morgan

    Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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