How to carry your cash in India

Trip Planning

Without a doubt Traveller's Cheques are the safest, cheapest and best choice of how to carry their cash for any international traveler at the present time. See cost analyses below.

Travellers Cheques are guaranteed that if they are lost or stolen they will be replaces in 24 hours!.

Can you imagine being in India without any cash? Well it happens all the time, a traveler is moaning about having no money, or having to wait until money is wired to them or have a friend lend them rupees because their cash card doesn't work. Your guest house manager won't be so happy to see you anymore.

What is wrong

with relying on

just an ATM card?


AMEX India Office call if lost or stolen

Toll Free# 1 800 180 1245
Collect# 91 124 4190540

1. Not very safe. ATM cards are not insured or designed for international travelers. If it is lost, stolen or damaged it may be impossible to get a replacement in Asia. Usually banks only issue replacement cards to your home address. If you rely on plastic in India it is possible that you'll find yourself cashless (and maybe homeless) not a good situation for a budget traveler to be in.

2. Inconvenient. Yes, in India, it is a "inconvenience card." Only certain banks machines will accept foreign ATM cards, and they are not located everywhere. The bank of HSBC is one machine that works. ICICI is another. The state bank of India and other state banks ATM's have not worked with international card such as my Canadian one. It must be an international bank. The problem is that you will find yourself say 500km from Calcutta in Puri and no ATM. What will you do? go back to Calcutta? Small towns will be even worse.


3. Slightly more expensive. ATM cards generally will cost you a bt more to use. You need to read the fine print, transaction fees can be 3-5$ per withdrawal, the exchange rate maybe slightly better than TC's. Some credit cards charge 2% on all foreign currency transactions! ATM's in India often have limits to the amount you can with withdraw usually only 10,000 Rupees.
4. Power outage and cash shortage. Many times the ATM can be closed or not working.
5. Demagnetization. ATM cards can become demagnetized from passing through an airport.

6. If you forget your pin code and try too many times you card may be locked for good, over three attempts.


  7. Fraud. As a foreigner you are are prone to fraud such as a fake AT Machines or one that captures you pin codes.
If you do rely on an ATM card make sure you have at credit card for back up. Also and extra ATM card and credit card.  

Is a Credit Card Safe?

1. Cash advance interest is charge as soon as you withdraw the money until you payed it back. So you need to go online and pay the credit card company right away. There is still a minimum charge. So a credit card will end up being a very expensive way to fund your travels. 2. A Credit card is a bit safer than an ATM cards because Visa has connected banks in India  who could still give you a cash advance if you lost your credit card. Good luck without a passport though.
3. You may need to use a credit card for online flight bookings.

4. Fraudulent charges may be put on your card. You'll need to log on to your bank account once per month and scrutinize your bank transactions. Cybercafes are often riddled with viruses (no, portable Firefox will not solve all your problems.) Your own net book will (or should unless you have a virus.) You can bring your net book to the Internet cafe and get connected.
  • Notify you credit card company that you are leaving the country. The credit card companies often blocks a card if too many strange charges appear from a foreign country. The credit card company cancel your card FOR ANY REASON AT ANYTIME.

What's a Conversion Rate?

Is the rate banks charge to convert foreign currency. A bank commission.

Cost analysis Credit Card vs ATM vs Travellers Checks vs Cash

Example: 2000 USD x Forex Exchange Rate @Rs 43 per dollar

Cash= Rs 88000  or $2046

This assumes you will get a high rate with cash which is usually the case.

Credit Card Cash Advance from ATM = Rs 78700 or $1832

(4300Rs-2.5% conversion rate-$5 atm fee- 1% cash advance interest*)

* these are average fees only.

Travelers Checks = Rs 83860 or $1940

(4300Rs-2.5% commission)  You should be careful with exchanging your own currency. If you are English for example and have pounds and then decide to convert to Euro, the banks will take another 2% conversion rate. In this case it will not be worth it.

ATM =Rs 81700  or $1900

(4300Rs-2.5% conversion rate-$2.5 atm fee*)


More on Travellers Cheques

Travelers Cheques can NOT be change everywhere in India. All tourist spots and big cities have banks and private changers.  You may have difficulties in small towns. Only some banks offer international exchange, but there is always one in every tourist town. Mostly there are private money changers. You can bargain for the rates too. Commission is 1-2% for the forex rate.

How much to take, what denominations? If you are planning two months in India and @$25 per day, then take 60 x $25 =$1800 in TC's. Usually $100 notes are ideal. You may want to take some smaller $20 notes if need to change at the airport. The airport is general known to offer a slightly lower rate. I'd recommend you change only 100-300 USD at a time.

What type? What currency? Where to buy them?

American Express, Thomas Cook and Visa all offer travelers cheques, usually commission free. You may have to some looking around to find a commission free service. Contact their office find their web site. I use my bank offerss free American Express travelers cheques.

When you get your travellers cheques, first thing you should do is record the serial numbers as well as any emergency contact phone numbers. Store this information in your email account. That way if you they are lost or stolen you can easily retrieve the information. It's tedious but you should also keep track of the one's you've cashed, when you get home.


Travelers cheques can be of any currency USD, EURO, Italian Lira. Usually people pick the most stable currency or even one they think will go up in value in short run.  The US dollar is the best currency as a traveller because it is the strongest and most stable with favourable rates.

Where to change them?

Not all banks change travellers check, generally every tourist town will have a government bank that changes travelers checks. In a city there will be plenty.  Changing money at a government bank will take some at least 30-45 minutes and involve filling out many forms..  Banks may have a slightly better rate then private money changer, usually charge 30Rs per cheque for a 'duty stamp" however.  You can also bargain with private money changers, don't accept the first rate.

Private changer are often plentiful.

Money safety

Warning against thieves: Thieves enter the room with room key, finds a packet of cheques and extracts one or two from the center of the pack. This way the victim may not notice for some time (or ever) that the cheques are missing! Giving the thief time to cash them without being reported stolen.

Solution: Keep track of your cheques serial numbers and mark them off as you use them. I realize this is tedious but it is important.  Make packets of 5 cheques sealed inside individual envelopes with tape. This way a thief is prevented from opening the envelope without being detected.  Go through the serial numbers when you get home, if you can't find one or two, contact the TC company and request a copy that will show the signature used to cash the cheque.




  • US or Euros cash is not really necessary. Carry $100-200 US dollars for emergencies, you could like a year on 10,000 Rs in India, lol!
  • In India you can always change US Dollars cash. They love em! You will get the for ex rate of exchange and often higher. This is because Indians going abroad need dollars and will have to pay high exchange rates with the banks to buy dollars before leaving the country.
  • So if you want to be clever you could bring say $500 in USD$ or Euro and change them with a private changer and save 4%, so just $20.
  • Some fool always seems to think that should carry all their money in cash...dymb!
  • Don't come to India without sufficient funds, there is no work for foreigners.
Overall India is a safe country and very few robbery's against tourists. But it may happen particularly in Goa, so it’s best to be cautious. Remember not to pack your travelers cheques or money cards inside your luggage, who knows it may be lost in transit. You could be in a boat and it might overturn.

What to do if i lose all my money in India and have no back up?

In this case you should have you friend or family send you some cash. I use this online MONEY TRANSFER service such as western union. They can send money to any location in India.

Dirty Money (literally)

Bills and notes can be very dirty in India. You will also find that coins are used more often than at home, so you end up carrying a stack of metal. A good idea is get a small pouch (puddi) with a draw string, these are available at local shops in India. If not a puddi then a small purse with a zipper. With a cotton puddi you can wash the filth out every week, and it will need it!


Make a digital copy (you could even use your DSLR camera) of your passport and current visa stamps. Upload the image to your email account folder. This way, in an emergency, you will be able to print your own copy at the internet cafe. This will save you a lot of trouble should you lose your passport.

You can make a copy of your passport and visa and just show that, that will save your passport from over use. Other times they will take it to be photocopied (annoying) and this way it can't be lost. Or you can make a Proxy Passport. With a color photocopier and laminate machine. You still need you original docs with you.

It is very annoying but every time you register in a guest house in India, which is required by law that you fill out a C-form. You will have to provide the following information, usually twice:

  • Your Name
  • Arriving from (which place in India)
  • Going to
So you can make a cheat card: Right click on the card and save, then find the file and right click again and PRINT, preferably on cardboard. Before you leave fill out the card and laminate. Viola! This will save you countless hours at receptions desks when your half asleep, flipping through passport pages and visa stamps.

Other ID

It is wise to carry secondary types of ID such as a drivers license or birth certificate. At least a copy.

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0 # Singh satnam 2009-09-13 08:49
Thank you for the info.
0 # tassie 2012-11-14 05:06
But where exactly do you cash the TCs ie which banks take them?
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