Connecting Businesses with Opportunities in India
Connecting Businesses with Opportunities in India

Exchange Rate and Travel Tips

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Sat, 07/29/2017 - 7:15am.

 

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Benefits of this enrollment:

- Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.

- Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

- Your family can contact you in case of emergency or if there is a crisis where you are traveling.

Step 1: Register your trip at step.state.gov/step

Step 2: Give the number 1-888-407-4747 (calling from US or Canada) or +1-202-647-5225 (calling from abroad) for Office of Overseas Citizens Services to your family members. These numbers are available from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM EST, Monday through Friday

Foreign Nationals including US Citizens, who are visiting India for long term, have to register with Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO).

FRRO also handle visa renewals as well as permits for Restricted Areas in India.

To find nearest FRRO center, click boi.gov.in/content/frro-contact-list

FRRO Office in Delhi:

East Block-VIII, Level-2, Sector-1, R.K. Puram, New Delhi-110066.

+91-11-2671-1443, +91-11-2671-3851; frrodli@nic.in

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Tue, 07/25/2017 - 11:59am.

NO to tap water in India at any cost.

Yes, it is a WARNING and must be taken seriously. Water of course is the number 1 cause of stomach infection in India.

For safe drinking water in India, bottled water is the only option I recommend.

Though every third shop in India sells bottled water, generally called by the name Mineral water and is mostly sold under the brand names of Bisleri, Kineley and Aquafina, but buying from a reputed shop is the best option. By reputed shop I mean the one that appeals visually from the perspective of cleanliness at least. 

Cost of bottled water may wary from the size of the bottle and of course from where you buy.

Secondly, for cold water, I would prefer freezer cold rather than having ice for obvious reason.

Now in case bottled water is not available but you have to stay hydrated, I recommend 1) carrying Iodine Tablets with you and 2) boil water if you can.

Other option for filtering water is to keep pocket water filter with you. Katadyn Pocket Water Filter and LifeStraw Personal Water filter are 2 excellent products which you may buy depending on your budget.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Fri, 07/21/2017 - 8:57am.

It is essential to carry a cell phone with you when traveling to India.  This lets you manage your time better and to stay in touch with your social and business associates in your home country and in India. In addition, services like directions, taxi, food, medical and police are easily accessible with your cell phone.

You can take your current US cell phone to India and just use it if it is enabled for International calling (contact your service provider to make sure). However it is sure to be expensive to use (a phone call between India and US may cost between $1.29 and $2.49 per minute).

There is an affordable alternative that can save you as much as 90% of the usage cost. You can use your US phone by replacing its SIM card serviced by a local operator. Your phone must be triband GSM and 'frequency unlocked' (contact your US service provider to find out). In case your US phone does not confirm to this, you can buy a handset (for as low as $25) and use a local SIM card with it.

There are numerous places to get a handset and a SIM card in Delhi. You will have to fill out a registration form, submit your picture and a copy of your passport and have a verifiable local address. It takes about 24 to 48 hours to activate your service after all requirements have been completed and approved.

Some of the service providers in India inlclude Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance, Idea, Tata Docomo.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Sat, 07/15/2017 - 11:03pm.

You can take your current US cell phone to India and just use it if it is enabled for International calling (contact your service provider to make sure). However it is sure to be expensive to use (a phone call between India and US may cost between $1.29 and $2.49 per minute).

There is an affordable alternative that can save you as much as 90% of the usage cost. You can use your US phone by replacing its SIM card serviced by a local operator. Your phone must be triband GSM and ‘frequency unlocked’ (contact your US service provider to find out). In case your US phone does not confirm to this, you can buy a handset (a Micromax phone can cost as low as $20) and you can use a local SIM card with it. Preferred local service providers are airtel, reliance and vodafone and you can get  a prepaid connection for the duration of your stay.

There are numerous places to get a handset and a SIM card in India starting from the Airport where you arrive in India. You will have to fill out a registration form, submit your picture and a copy of your passport and have a verifiable local address. It takes about 24 to 48 hours to activate your service after all requirements have been completed and approved. Make sure you carry ample photocopies of your passport and pictures from here as you might need them for administrative purpose.
 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Mon, 07/10/2017 - 12:05pm.

Vonage World plan offers free unlimited calls to both landline and cell phone in India.  One of the features that come with the World Plan is ‘call forwarding’ using which you can configure your assigned number to forward all your incoming calls to any number in India.

Especially for business people who have subscribed to Vonage, your clients not necessarily need to know that you are traveling out of the country and even if they do know they still can reach you without incurring any extra charges.

Three important things you should know before using this feature to forward calls to India:

  1. India’s city code so that you can configure the India telephone number.
  2. Neither landlines nor cellphones comes pre-configured with voicemail feature. So, your clients or family members won’t be able to leave a message.  For cellphones you can call the Indian operator to set-up voicemail on your account.
  3. The time difference between US and India is such that any calls coming to you in US day time will ring late at night in India.
Submitted by Navin Pathak on Wed, 07/05/2017 - 8:29pm.

One confusion that many foreigners whom I have met in India faces is when they make phone calls - using their cell phone and using a landline. This is because not only there is a difference in the number of digits in a cell phone as opposed to a landline in India, but what numbers to press before the actual 'telephone number' also differs when making a phone call using a cell phone and using a landline.

Here, I am taking an example to show you how to make phone calls when in India and also sharing a link to a site from where you can get the telephone code for any city in India.

Now lets say that you are in Delhi, whose telephone code is '011', and you want to call people who are in 1) Delhi, 2) any other city in India, and 3) international. Here, the assumption is that you are using a cell phone to make the call.

  • Calling cell phone in Delhi: number
  • Calling landline in Delhi: 011-number
  • Calling cell phone in other cities in India: 0-number
  • Calling landline in other cities in India: 0-city code-number
  • Calling international numbers: 001-country code-number

City Codes: http://dq.ndc.bsnl.co.in/bsnl-web/stdSearch.seam

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:18pm.

Unless there is an absolute dire need, withdrawing cash using foreign debit cards at ATMs in India is like ‘penalty’ just because you need money.

Consider this: I withdrew $325  using my Bank of America’s debit card at Citibank’s ATM in New Delhi.

For this transaction, I paid the following charges:

  • $5.00: charged by Bank of America for using Citi’s ATM
  • $2.00 charged by Citibank
  • $3.25: this is 1% of $325 that Bank of America charged me as foreign transaction fee.

So, overall I paid $10.25 as charges and fees to withdraw just a small amount of $325.  This comes out to be 3.15% of the total transaction and have yet not accounted the exchange rate difference which I could have further saved if used some better alternate to transfer money.

For Indians, who reside abroad but have bank accounts in India, they can transfer money to India online from their foreign bank accounts to their bank accounts in India and easily withdraw the money when needed.

But for foreign nationals who don’t have bank account in India, alternate to ATM transaction is use of money transfer service providers like Western Union, Xoom, Moneydart, etc.  All these service providers have the mechanisms of transferring money to you within an hour or within 1 to 2 days either at your place of stay in India or at their nearby authorized agent.  There are charges associated with this kind of online transfer but by no means they amount to anywhere close to 3% in case of ATM transactions.  TransFast, Moneydart, XOOM, Western Union for example, can transfer few thousand dollars online while charging anywhere between $5 to $15 per transaction. You can get more details from their websites: www.transfast.com, www.moneydart.com, www.westernunion.com, www.xoom.com.

The only thing you have to do with these service providers is to open up an account with them and link it with your bank account.  I strongly advise you to open up an account with these service providers before you travel to India as it might take 1-2 days before it is active.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Sun, 06/11/2017 - 5:15pm.

Sending money to India is of special interest to every NRI with family and friends in India.

NRIs remitted nearly $70 billion to India in 2014, according to Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President.

But even after $70 billion dollars remittance later, most NRIs wonder if they are using the right service provider to send money to India. The following questions listed in order of priority can serve as the guide for answering this:

  • Is it safe to use this service?  Is the service provider safe and reliable?
  • Is the service efficient? How long will it take before the money reaches its intended destination?
  • Is the service easy to use? Can I send it on-line?
  • Does the service provider give competitive exchange rates? Should I wait for a few days to get better rates?
  • What is the money remittance fee for the transaction?

For value of Indian Rupee against dollar and other international currencies on the foreign exchange market (Forex), visit Foreign Exchange Rate Table provided by Entry India.

For safe and fast money transfer to India and to get the most competitive exchange rates available, we have prepared a list of banks.  By clicking on the URLs provided for each, you can either access the remittance service of the bank or directly check exchange rate that it currently offers.

Use the "exchange rate trend" chart provided by Reserve Bank Of India for judging "Should I wait for a few days to transfer money to India?"

Spending 10 minutes on this is likely to save you good amount of money and peace of mind.

Submitted by Mahendra Pratap on Thu, 08/04/2016 - 4:48pm.

From the traffic perspective, can there be anything more chaotic than what happens on the streets of Delhi? Anyone who has been to Delhi even for an hour during anytime of the day will say, ‘No’.

Vehicles can be driven on any side of the road, from any direction to any direction. It is like a puzzle on the road where the moment you see an empty spot, you try to fit-in (your vehicle, of course J).

‘Red Light’ at road crossing has no meaning.

It is just SCARY to be on the road even while crossing it at a zebra crossing, if there is any.

I live in US and visit India once in few years. Every time I come here it seems to be worse than before. I have driven on Delhi roads for years earlier, but now it is un-imaginable. What do I do?

For a stay of 2 to 3 weeks in India, I just can’t take chances by taking to the steering wheel. Of course Uber, Ola are excellent choices but when one has to cover multiple locations in single day, even these services become expensive.

So, I did some online searching for getting verified drivers in Delhi. I looked at the websites of many such services providers that offers driver on demand. With some pre-defined criteria like use of mobile app, verified drivers, hourlr rates for selecting a service provider, I chose DRIKU (http://www.driku.com). DRIKU app is available on both Android and iOS.

It was flawless, so to say. Someone has set a benchmark. I used the app to book the driver. It was just in few minutes a driver accepted the request, called me and assured he will be there AND he was on time (very unlike of how things get done in India). When the driver came, he showed me his license and also the Police Clearance Certificate. I can tell you that there was a great sense of safety I felt at that moment. At the end of the service, charges showed on my mobile with a feedback form. No denial, the first thought appeared was that the change is happening in India.

I am sure such on demand driver services will do very well in India and peole will be able to hire a verified driver on demand in every part of India.

On my next trip to India, I will use DRIKU to get a driver.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Sun, 10/25/2015 - 5:16am.

Repatriation is very simple now which was difficult in the past, planning can probably make it very easier.

NRIs are permitted repatriation of funds up to USD one million, per financial year, from NRO account subject to tax compliance. The limit of US dollars 1 million includes sale proceeds of up to two immovable properties held by NRIs/PIO/OCI.

Planning steps:

  1. Consult CA before selling property in India for guidance as to how to accept money from the sale proceeds and what documentation to get.
  2. CA is the right Accounting professional who can prudently assist you in calculating as well as methodically paying taxes that may be due, on the sale of property.
  3. CA has to verify that taxes have been paid on 'Form 15CB'

Private money transfer, known as 'Hawala' is an illegal method of remittance which involves a great risk and possibly, you may lose your money.
Documentary proof evidencing source of money is required when transferring money abroad which must first be deposited in an NRO bank account and tax compliance is must before repatriation. If you have an ordinary account opened before you became NRI/PIO/OCI, please issue necessary instructions to your banker to convert the same into NRO account.

By - Bhagwan Dass Ahuja, LLM EsqIndian Attorney & Counselor at Law / Supreme Court of New York Licensed Legal Consultant.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Tue, 10/20/2015 - 11:11pm.

The following are the formalities by Government of India for the foreign nationals traveling to India:

  1. If you are entering India on a Student, Employment, Research, Medical or Missionary VISA, which is valid for more than 180 days, you are required to register with the FRRO (Foreigners Regional Registration Officers) / FRO (Foreigners Registration Offices) under whose jurisdiction you propose to stay. This should be done within 14 days of arrival in India irrespective of your actual period of stay.
  2. Foreigners who are visiting India on any other category of VISA that is valid for more than 180 days are not required to register themselves if their actual stay does not exceed 180 days on each visit. If such a foreigner intends to stay in india for more than 180 days during a particular visit, he/she should get registered within 180 days of arrival in India.  PIO (People of Indian Origin) Card holder should also register for first stay exceeding 180 days.
  3. The following categories of foreign nationals are exempt from registration:
    • People visiting India on any short term VISA i.e. valid for 180 days or less
    • Children below 16 years of age. This is irrespective of any type of VISA
    • People holding Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) VISA

Note: Make sure you visit http://www.immigrationindia.nic.in/ for any updated information regarding your stay and registration formalities with the Indian government.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Sat, 10/17/2015 - 10:35am.

Atleast 3 banks have their ATMs in the T3 Arrival section of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport: Citibank, Kotak Mahindra and IndusInd Bank. There are 2 ATM kiosks before the customs and atleast 2 after.

Your foreign cards shall work at all the ATMs in the airport, atleast, unless your bank has imposed any restrictions on withdrawing cash in foreign countries.  Make sure that you call and inform your bank of your trip and I would recommend you to have some upper cash limit set on your ATM withdrawl.

ATM transactions certainly don’t give you better exchange rates and, additionally, they can be expensive due to ATM charges and transactional fees.

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