Connecting Businesses with Opportunities in India

Exchange Rate and Travel Tips

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Tue, 12/03/2019 - 4:58am.

India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Needless to say, you have various digital as well as manual options to make payments to vendors all over India. The best ways to make payments in India are: 

  • Cash: This is, undoubtedly, the most widely accepted and convenient payment method in India. When you are buying from roadside vendors, especially, this is probably the only option you will have. 

  • Credit or Debit Card: Most MasterCard and Visa debit and credit cards are accepted across stores in India. Sometimes, the Indian vendors may add an extra 2% to 3% of the transaction amount to the total if you opt to pay using a credit card. This is essentially the fee that the Indian vendor would have to pay to the merchant gateway for accepting credit card payments. You can certainly opt for withdrawing cash using your ATM debit card so that you can make the payment. However, it is important to note here that an international transaction fee may be applicable when you use a credit card in India. Usually between 1 and 3% is charged on credit card transactions. ATM fees depend upon the bank, primarily if you are using an out-of-network ATM. 

  • Mobile Wallets: These are the most popular digital payment options available in India. Wallets are accessible to even the smallest vendors these days, given that almost everyone has access to a smartphone. You have payment applications like PayTm, Mobikwik, and FreeCharge that you can use while you are in India. 

However, currency exchange rules do not allow wallet transfers using foreign credit/debit cards. Therefore, to use these you will require an Indian mobile phone number. Once that is active connect it with the wallet. You can then ask an Indian relative, acquaintance, or colleague to transfer some money to your wallet and pay them in cash in return. It is best to exhaust all leftover wallet cash before your trip ends and top-up only as and when required to avoid leaving the balance amount in the wallet. 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Fri, 11/29/2019 - 1:48am.

When it comes to budget accommodation, AirBnB is your best bet. You also get to experience the local cultures up close when you stay with a localhost. Safety is a major concern when it comes to AirBnB, however. 

In India, the AirBnB community is a relatively new one and is picking up fast. Most tourist destinations have great options for you to book your accommodation. These AirBnB listings are put up by rather interesting hosts who can make your experience extremely fun. In fact, some of these AirBnB facilities are almost as good as a five-star hotel with great amenities. Of course, India is known globally for its hospitality. 

That said, one must always take necessary precautions to avoid any unpleasant experiences. These simple tips will ensure that you have the best AirBnB experience during your stay in India: 

  • Choose verified hosts: Only when a host provides all the credentials required by AirBnB is he or she approved and verified. When you are booking a room, ensure that you find all credentials such as the name, phone number, email ID and more. 
  • Check the ratings: This is, by far, the best way to check if you are making the right choice. Avoid places that have not been reviewed yet. Read these reviews to understand the challenges that some guests may have faced. 
  • Connect with the host: Hosts can contact guests and vice versa. Use the credentials provided along with the listing to get an idea about the host. This will give you a fair idea about the person. Make use of social media to get to know your host better. 
  • Keep communication clear: Make sure you ask your host questions about any added tariffs such as power or internet besides the rent of the room mentioned on AirBnB. The last thing you want to do is squabble about money. If you want to have friends over, always ask the host if it is alright.  
  • Have a backup plan: One can never be too prepared. Check for other options around the area that you want to stay in. In case you find that the host is not as delightful as you expected, you can always change your mind. 

 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Tue, 11/26/2019 - 6:18am.

Especially In India, booking your accommodation online is the best way to get 4 or 5-star hotels in the best deal possible. There are several travel apps that not only let you book accommodation but also your travel tickets. Often, these apps also give you a discount when you make all your travel bookings through them. 

If you are looking for 4 and 5-star hotels in India, here are the most widely used websites that guarantee fair prices: 

  • MakeMyTrip: This is the go-to website for any travel enthusiast. The best thing about MakeMyTrip is that they have, possibly, the largest network of hotels in India. The application helps you find great deals on even the most remote parts of India thanks to this network. Get seasonal packages and promotional offers that help you save quite a bit even with premium properties. 

  • Goibibo: Goibibo has introduced various features in the travel booking arena to make it easier for you to get a good deal. You can earn a virtual currency called GoCash with your bookings and by providing new references. There is also a large travelers’ network that helps you earn GoCash and several rewards for easy bookings. 

  • Booking.com: Available in more than 40 languages, this is one of the best sites to use when you are traveling overseas. One feature that stands out with Booking.com is last minute deals that can help you get the most unbeatable prices on any hotel of your choice. 

  • Trivago: Compare prices of the same hotel on different websites with Trivago. That way, you can never miss a good deal. This website allows you to compare more than 400 websites at once and gives you access to over 1.8 million properties spread across 190 countries. You will be redirected to the website of your choice one you find a good deal to make a final booking. 

All of the websites mentioned above also have a mobile application. The deals are much better when you make a booking using these mobile applications. 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Fri, 11/22/2019 - 1:10am.

When you are traveling to India and have never been there before, a star hotel is one of the safest and most reliable options for staying. These hotels come with facilities that you will need when you are traveling, such as wi-fi connectivity and even transport. All the amenities that you need, of course, come with a price tag. 

Almost every major city in India has 4 and 5-star hotel accommodation but of course, the prices and amenities may differ from city to city. For example, 4/5 star hotels in tier 1 cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, etc. will be more expensive than in tier 2 cities.

For finding a 4 or 5-star hotel in India, you have the following options:

  1. Google search to find hotels, select a hotel of your choice and make a booking directly with the hotel
  2. Use a reliable travel agent in your home country or in India to find, select and make a booking at a hotel for you
  3. Use websites or mobile apps, which act as aggregators, to find and select a hotel of your choice

Keeping price, safety, and accessibility in mind, there are ways to select reasonable 4 and 5-star hotel accommodation options in India with a few simple tips:

  • Location matters: Generally, the location of the 4 or 5-star hotel determines the cost. Staying close to the central business areas in most metropolitan cities can be expensive but a safe choice. However, ensure that you plan your stay as per your itinerary and close to the places you are likely to frequent most.

  • Read reviews online: Once you have finalized on the hotel, make sure that you check reviews and ratings. TripAdvisor is the best site to check genuine reviews about hotels. Make sure that the area that you are staying in is safe and is accessible through public transport even if you are traveling earlier or later in the day. 

  • Deals or discounts: Travel websites normally offer deals on 4 and 5-star hotel bookings and most of these websites also have mobile applications. Travelers suggest that you use mobile applications for better deals. You get promo codes, seasonal discounts, and even credit points on these apps to get a better deal each time you make a booking. 

  • Season matters: If you are in India during the peak season, which is usually around the festivals and holidays, the prices will be much higher. An off-peak booking can be as low as 40% to 50% less than the regular rates. 

  • Tap into your memberships: Look for hotel-chains that you have a membership with. For example, Marriott Hotels offer great deals to patrons and even throw in freebies along with each booking. 

 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Tue, 11/19/2019 - 3:40am.

Whenever you are traveling to another country, you have to be prepared. Here is a checklist that you must follow before you begin with your travel abroad.

  • Make sure that your passport has enough valid time to get the visa for the country you are traveling to.
    • If you have had your visa stamped earlier, then make sure it is valid.
  • Keeping copies of your itinerary, visa, passport and other documents with close friends and relatives is a good idea. In case of any untoward incident like losing your passport, this will definitely be a lifesaver. 
  • Keep your mail delivery on hold or have a neighbor collect it for you. That way, you won’t lose your mail and will maintain some degree of privacy that you are not at home.
  • Cut down on your internet and phone services while you are away to save a few bucks.
    • In case you want to travel with your US number, then talk to your service provider if they offer any package that allows you to use your US phone service in the destination country for less cost.
  • You can buy travel and medical insurance coverage if you like.
  • Keep your utility providers such as water, gas, and electricity informed that you will be away.
  • You may want to leave the house keys along with a list of all your contacts’ names and numbers in the destination country with a relative or a friend of yours.
  • If you are traveling during the colder months, ensure that your house is winterized. That way, you will not return to a frozen home or burst water pipes. 
  • Check if your credit cards and debit cards can be used during your trip and inform these card issuers about your plans to travel to the destination country.  
  • Cash is always a good option especially for India but a credit card with no international transaction fee when used abroad works equally well. 
  • You must also make sure that your online banking services are activated. If you need any extra funds during the trip, you can have the money transferred online from your bank account to you at your place of accommodation or to an agent who is close by.

Now in case you are traveling to India, then here are some tips that will help you enjoy your trip better: 

  • To get around within a city, use app-based travel services such as Uber or Ola. They allow you to make online payments and also ensure that you pay the correct price for each trip. 
  • Getting a local mobile number is a good idea as several mobile apps that are very useful in India require a local number.
  • You can get yourself a local mobile number at the Airport, where you land in India.  Alternatively, you can ask your hotel or AirBnB host to help you get a card as you will need several documents such as address proof and ID proof. 
  • For more details on getting a local mobile number in India, click here.
  • Always carry medicines for diarrhea, common cough and cold and other essentials. India has 24x7 medical stores in all metro cities. However, if you need the medicines to be delivered to you, you can use apps like Dunzo. In fact, Dunzo will get just about anything that you need delivered to your doorstep. 
  • It is a good idea to carry charcoal tablets with you when you are traveling to India. They help prevent infections and food-related issues. 
  • Finding medical assistance in India is relatively easy. From independent practices to major hospitals, you have everything that you need. To look for medical assistance close to you, you can use mobile apps like Just Dial and Practo. 
  • Carry mosquito repellants and sunscreen with you at all times. 
  • Always drink bottled water and opt for freshly cooked food when in India. Here is an article with specific details.
  • Keep emergency numbers handy. The most common ones are: 
    • 112- Emergency Helpline (equivalent to 911 in the USA)
    • 100- Police
    • 108- Medical Helpline 
    • 102- Ambulance 
    • 101- Fire Services 
    • 181- Women’s helpline
  • Pickpockets are common in crowded places. Use a neck wallet or keep your valuables under your clothing. 
  • If you lose your passport or valuables, file an FIR (First Instant Report) at the nearest police station and contact the embassy of your country. The list of contact details for all the foreign embassies in India can be found here
  • Thought travel insurance is not a must but advisable when you are traveling to India to cover medical expenses, loss of passport, luggage etc. 
  • Cash withdrawals must be avoided as you end up paying a rather sizeable fee. Every transaction requires you to pay a fee to your bank and the bank whose ATM you use along with a foreign transaction fee. 
  • The best way to transfer money from your International account when you are in India is to use a money transfer service provider. The money is transferred to your hotel or to a local agent for you to collect from. For details, click here.
  • If you wish to make credit card transactions, make sure that you are aware of the international transaction fees. With cards like Barclaycard, Discover, Capital One and Bank of America travel rewards card, you do not have to pay any fee. 
  • When in India, be prepared for a vast cultural difference. Here are some things that you should keep in mind: 
  • Always leave your footwear outside a temple or religious place. 
  • Carry a scarf or shawl with you as you may be required to cover your head in some places. 
  • Find out about the type of clothing that is permitted in these places. 
  • Alcohol is strictly prohibited in religious places as well as some monuments and historic sites. 
  • Photography in most religious places, monuments, and even at some airports is strictly prohibited. So make sure you check before you click a picture.

Relevant Articles:

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Fri, 10/18/2019 - 4:58pm.


How to Bargain with Street Vendors in India | Entry India

No trip to India is complete without a shopping spree. The local markets with roadside shops selling handicrafts, colorful garments, intricate jewelry and more are a shopper’s delight. But, when you are shopping in India, there is one thing you need to remember. Bargaining is ingrained in Indian culture. Needless to say, the prices of all the items in these roadside shops are always marked up. Of course, like in any local market across the globe, the locals know who is not one of them and may start with an exorbitant price to test their luck.

So, paying the price that the vendor demands would cost you extra. Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to get yourself a good bargain:

  • Never let the vendor know that you have your heart set on an item. No matter how much you want it, your body language should not reveal it. If you feel like the vendor is being adamant on a price, place the item back and walk away. The vendor will offer you a better deal in most cases. Even if he or she does not, you will be able to find the exact item in a different store for a better price in all probability.
  • Agree on the price before you whip your wallet out. Getting your wallet out too quickly is also a sign of urgency. Take your time to bargain and only then get your money out to pay.
  • You should also know the price that you can start bargaining from. The prices can be marked up to almost double the original price of the item. So, somewhere between 40-50% below the price that the vendor quotes is a great starting point. In the end, if you manage to walk away with a discount of at least 30% on the original price, you can be assured that you got yourself a good bargain.  

If you don’t feel sure of doing this on your own, get a local to accompany you for practice. Then, you can learn the art of bargaining better.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Wed, 08/21/2019 - 10:37am.


Exchanging currency at Mumbai Airport

The following are 4 currency exchangers in the arrival section (Terminal 2) of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai, India.

  1. State Bank of India
  2. Weizmann Forex
  3. EbixCash
  4. Akbar Forex

Keep in mind that, in the Departure section, EbixCash is the only currency exchanger after the immigration and security check.

The counters of all the 4 exchangers are open 24 hours.

The exchange rates for both buying and selling foreign currency offered by all the 4 exchangers is mostly the same.

Indian Passport holder at the International Departure Terminal

   You are traveling to a foreign country and you want to buy foreign currency

i) You can convert maximum of Rs. 49,999 in cash to a foreign currency.

ii) After the security check, the limit of Indian rupees that can get converted to foreign currency drops to Rs. 25,000

iii) If you use your credit card, then Indian currency equivalent to US$ 3000 can be converted to foreign currency. This means that if the selling rate of 1 USD is Rs. 60, then Rs. 1,80,000 ($3000 x 60) from your credit card can be converted to the foreign currency.

Important Note: Indian currency cannot be purchased after security check

Indian Passport holder at the International Arrival Terminal

   You are arriving in India from a foreign country

i) If you are arriving within 6 months of your departure from India

In exchange of your foreign currency, you can get Indian rupees equivalent to US$ 1,000 in cash (maximum)

ii) If you are arriving after 6 months of your departure from India:

In exchange of your foreing currency, you can get Indian rupees equivalent to maximum of US$ 3,000 in cash

If you are bringing more than US$ 3,000, let’s say US$ 5,000 then for $3,000 you will get Indian currency in cash and for the rest $2,000 you will get either check or online transfer to your bank account.

Foreign Passport holder at the International Departure Terminal

   You are leaving India and you want to buy foreign currency by selling the Indian rupees that you may have left with

Now, let’s take an example: From the time you arrived in India, you converted $5,000 (cash) to Indian currency altogether and withdrew $700 from ATM within the last 7 days before your departure date. Of course, for every currency exchange transaction and ATM withdrawal, you get a receipt.

i) In case you lost all your receipts:

Rs. 10,000 (maximum) can be converted to the foreign currency.

ii) In case you have all your receipts:

You will get Indian rupees equivalent to the maximum amount of $3,000 converted to foreign currency. The calculation is done on the basis of the selling rate of USD for that particular day.

So, if the selling rate of 1 USD is Rs. 60 on the day you are departing, then the maximum India currency which you can get converted to foreign currency will be $3000 x Rs. 60 = Rs. 180,000.

Anything over this amount doesnt get converted to the foreign currency.

So, considering the case above, let’s say you are left with Rs. 200,000 and the selling rate of US$ that day is Rs. 60.  This is equivalent to $3,333 (Rs.200,000/60). Now, according to the rule, you can get Indian currency equivalent to $3000 converted. Therefore, you will be left with Rs. 19,980 not converted back to foreign currency.

Keep in Mind: After the Immigration and Security Check at the Airport

  • Indian currency is NOT converted to foreign currency
  • Foreign passport holders cannot carry more than Rs. 10,000

Foreign Passport holder at the International Arrival Terminal

   You are arriving in India from a foreign country

You can exchange your foreign currency to Indian currency equivalent to the maximum amount of US$ 3,000 cash.

So, if the buying rate (USD to India Rupee) is Rs. 70, then the maximum Indian rupees that you can get converted to will be: $3000 x Rs. 70 = Rs. 210,000 (max)

There is a very small Tax amount (GST) that will be deducted from the total payout to you.

Important insights:

  • The exchange rate for your foreign currency to Indian rupee is generally lower at the airport than from what you can get in the city.  So, get your foreign currency exchanged to little over your immediate requirement at the airport and when you are in the city you can visit branch of any bank or authorized non-banking exchangers to get the rest of foreign currency converted to Indian Rupees (INR).
  • There is no limit to the foreign currency that you can bring with you but the amounts exceeding US Dollar 5,000 (or equivalent) in cash or US Dollar 10,000 (or equivalent) in traveler's cheques must be declared.

 

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Thu, 08/01/2019 - 11:55am.


Credit card makes the best form of travel money, other than debit cards, prepaid cards and foreign currency cards.. But keep in mind that all credit cards are not designed for transactions in a foreign country.

Credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc. are well accepted all over India. Just to be well protected with the use of your credit card in India, you certainly shall inform your card issuer of your travel plans for India.

For credit card transactions in India, most of the US based credit card issuers charge foreign transaction fee in the range of 1% to 3%.

Credit Cards that don’t charge foreign or international transaction fee:
o Capital One
o Discover
o Chase Sapphire
o Barclaycard
o Bank of America card Travel Rewards

We strongly recommend you to talk to your credit card issuer for the prevailing transaction fee and approximate currently prevailing US dollar to India rupee (USD to INR) exchange rates (which changes daily) just to be aware how much more you might pay when compared to paying in Indian rupees in cash.

Other important points to keep in mind are that while using credit card in India, you much ensure that it is being swiped in front of you and secondly if you can access your credit card statement online, then you must do that every evening to compare your transaction's hardcopy receipts with the entries online.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:48am.

That depends on if you are traveling alone or with a group, time of the year you are traveling to India, number of days you will stay in India, parts of India you will be visiting, your stay, mode of your travel within India, any activities you will participate in and, finally, the US dollar to Indian rupees excange rate.

For just a back-of-envelope calculations, assuming that you are going single in the month of March, for 10 days, visiting the cities of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, that are roughly 150-175 miles from one-another.

  1. 4 or 5 start hotels in Delhi region: Range is Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 15,000 per night

7 days: Rs. 4,000 x 7 = Rs. 28,000

  1. Meals
    • Breakfast: free
    • Lunch: Rs. 600 x 10 days: Rs. 6,000
    • Dinner: Rs. 1,500 x 7: Rs. 10,500, inclusive of an alcoholic drink
  2. Travel within Delhi:
    • Taxi  via taking Uber or Ola (similar to Uber) at Rs. 1,000 per day: Rs. 7,000
    • Local site-seeing (guided tour): Rs. 3,000
  3. Travel to Agra, Jaipur and back to Delhi - A 3 day trip
    • Travel via rented car, Chauffeur driven: Rs. 15,000
    • Lunch: Rs. 600 x 3: Rs. 1,800
    • Dinner: Rs. 1,000 x 3: Rs. 3,000
    • Accommodation: Rs. 3,000 x 3: Rs. 9000

Finally, it is end of your stay in India and you fly back to US.

So, the total cost of your 10 day trip to India: Rs. 83,300

Current US dollar to Indian rupee exchnage rate: Rs. 70 per USD

So, the total cost in US dollars with this rough estimation = Rs. 83,300/70 = USD 1,190

The cost of your airline ticket to India is not included in this calculation.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:47am.

 

Of course, the best protection of your foreign currency like US dollars, Euros, etc. when traveling to India is for it to remain in your bank in your home country and you are able to do every buying transaction in India using your credit card.

But that won’t happen.

India is going digital but still cash is king there. You certainly would require to have Indian rupees in cash by exchanging foreign currency like US dollars to Indian rupees for the financial transactions. At hotels, restaurants, majority of shops in shopping malls, etc. credit cards are accepted but you will most definitely come across many transactions where you would require to pay in cash.

Having cash in any denomination means having to safeguard it. The steps to protect cash begins before you have landed in India and that is booking a hotel room with a locker.

Now when in India, depending upon your agenda for the day, when moving out of your room for your city travel, tours, shopping, etc., you will carry adequate cash with you and rest can stay in the locker. The challenge will appear in the scenarios where you don’t have locker in your room or when traveling to a different city as a part of your itinerary. Your cash is fully exposed either in your hotel room or in your pocket.
This brings you to an option which is to have an 'optimal' amount of Indian rupees in cash at any given time with you without the need of extra foreign currency in your pocket or in your room’s locker.

How is this possible?

You can avail this option through some of the currency exchangers that allow you to transfer money online directly from your bank in your home country and that you can have with you in India within 4 to 6 hours. You can find some of the money transfer companies specifically for India here: http://www.entryindia.com/exchange_rates. For this online transfer, because the currency exchangers would require you to verify your identity which takes a few days, you are advised to start the process before your travel date to India.

Connect with any of the money transfer companies in your home country and open an account. So, when in India, you can login to your selected service provider site and transfer money online to your nearest agent in India. Keep Sundays and holidays in mind when transfering the money online.

Submitted by Navin Pathak on Wed, 07/24/2019 - 11:46am.

I needed Rs. 10,000 for an immediate cash transaction at a shop in Delhi. Not having US dollars in cash to exchange to Indian rupees, I used my ATM debit card, issued by Bank of America in US, to withdraw the money.

On that day, June 6th 2019, with the exchange rate of Rs. 69 per dollar, if I had to exchange US dollars to Indian rupees, I would have to sell US dollars 144.92 only.

Citibank's ATM was next door and that I used to withdraw the Indian rupees.

After the transaction, I logged-in my bank account online to see how much I paid in fee and what exchange rate did I get. To my amazement, it was a total rip-off:

 

For Rs. 10,000 withdrawal that I did, the amount deducted from my bank account = $ 147.77

- This equivalent to the exchange rate of Rs. 67.67 per US dollar
- If I had used US dollars in cash, then $ 144.92 equals Rs.10,000 considering the exchange rate of Rs.69 per dollar.
- So, the difference in the exchange rate equals to the loss of = $ 1.33
- Citibank-Basant N,Delhi, International Fee I paid: $ 4.43
- Citibank-Basant N,Delhi, Fee I paid: $5

So, the total cost of this transaction of withdrawing Rs. 10,000: $ 1.33 + $ 4.43 + $ 5.00 = $ 10.76, which is my loss

NOTE: The picture on top is the actual receipt of my transaction of withdrawing rupees 10,000 using US ATM debit card in India.

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

Pages