Connecting Businesses with Opportunities in India

Exchange Rate and Travel Tips

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

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.

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