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How do I pay when I am in India? I am a foreign Digital Nomad and I want to avoid carrying cash.

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Paying in India is not as complicated as you think!!

I want to credit this post to foreign members of our coliving community. As an Indian I often take for granted that the experience of foreigners travelling to India is as easy or difficult as it is when it comes to making payments as it is for me when I travel outside the Country. India can be in some cases easier and sometimes a little difficult when it comes to this and I am attempting to answer some of the questions you might have to make your travel easy and fruitful.

Indians use RUPEES as money. You cannot pay in any other currency in India. There are primarily 3 modes of payments when you are in India:

1) Cash comes in denominations of 2000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and coins. Each note has clear mentioning of the value of the note in English and Hindi. If you are planning to visit India for a staycation, you ought to learn about the cash system first.(accepted everywhere except when you are trying to make an online payment).

2) Debit cards and credit cards are very commonly used in India. Thus, you can always find an ATM close to you. Even if you are planning to buy things or get a service, you can swipe your card at the counter or pay online using your credit/debit card, in most of the large and organised shops and/or online shops (accepted at most large outlets and all online payment gateways)

3) The new method of transaction in India which is even more widely used than cards and cash is UPI (Unified Payment Interface) through phone apps (accepted everywhere including large and small retail outlets, payment to taxi drivers, all payment gateways). There are new apps such as RiveX which allow you to make payments via UPI though your International cards. The transaction charge on these are almost 7% and are currently not reliable. Watch this space for any improvements on this front.

Cash Withdrawal:

India has ATMs in almost all destinations. Even many semi-rural regions are enjoying ATM services. Most of the ATMs in the country accepts international debit and credit cards to give out cash. However, it is recommended to be used only during emergency. Avoid using credit cards for withdrawal of cash as the interest rate will be 16.99% to 25.99% based on your country, type of account and type of bank. Apart from that, 3% - 5% is take as transaction fee. Some banks take $10 or 3%, whichever is higher. If you were choosing debit cards, you would be charged a specific transaction fee without the interest. It varies with the bank and type of card you hold.

Do note that the withdrawal limit in most ATMs is Rs. 10000/-.

Public Sector Banks are likely to not charge a transaction or a lower transaction fee compared to private banks. ATMs can easily found using Google maps. Following is the link that lists private and public banks. Also do note that while withdrawing money, it is likely that the bank will ask you if you would like the exchange to be done by your home bank or by the bank who’s ATM you are using. Depending on what you choose, your exchange rate might wary. Based on the experience of some of our community, we understand that they have often preferred their home banks to do the currency exchange.

One question that is often asked is whether you should carry foreign exchange (in cash or TCs) or should you withdraw cash or transact using cards/UPI. In most cases it is easier and more cost effective to withdraw cash from ATMs and/or using digital payments while transacting in India. So, you will be well advised not to carry a wad full of cash from wherever you are arriving (do take into consideration local laws of your country and any restrictions you might encounter from your country of origin).

Plan well

Like you would have to do when you travel anywhere internationally, plan your money plan in advance so that you are not left scrambling when you get to the destination. You dont need to carry a whole lot of cash currency with you when you are visiting India.

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