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.
What's in this guide?
- Why you need a combination of travel money options
- How much should I budget to travel in India?
- Travel card, debit card or credit card?
- How each travel money product works in India
- Compare travel credit cards
- Indian currency
- Buying currency in the US
- ATMs in India
- Cash pickup services in India
- Travel insurance for India
- Bottom line
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.
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)|
|A meal in a restaurant.|
|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.|
|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
|India has a selection of the most luxurious hotels in the world.|
$10,000 for one night
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|
|Prepaid travel money cards|
|Credit cards for travel|
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.
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.
Compare travel credit cards
Case study: Jane's experience
Case study: 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
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.
- Load your card with your choice of 6 available currencies: Euros, British pounds, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Mexican pesos
- Lock in your exchange rate
- Use your card abroad at millions of locations
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.
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.
Cash pickup services in India
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
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.Back to top
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