When traveling to a foreign country, it's necessary to exchange money into the local currency. Unless you're traveling to a country that specifically accepts United States dollars, most places require travelers to pay for goods and services in the local currency. India does not accept dollars, and those who plan on traveling there will need to exchange their currency into Indian rupees.
Exchange at the Airport in the U.S.
One of the easiest ways to exchange money from dollars into Indian rupees is at an exchange booth before traveling to India. This can be done right at the international airport. Many airports have currency exchange booths where travelers can easily get the currency they need. The only problem with exchanging money at the airport is that the exchange rate may not be good and the business may take a commission as well. This means people often lose some money on the exchange.
Exchange at a Booth in India
Before arriving in India, it's a good idea to have some cash available in case you cannot find an ATM or currency exchange booth right away. When you do find a currency exchange booth, be aware of where it's located, as there are booths held on the black market that can give tourists bad exchanges or counterfeit money. Ask your hotel where the best place to exchange money is. Usually, popular tourist areas are a safe bet.
Use an ATM
ATMs are a great way to skip the exchange and get Indian rupees directly. ATMs can be found at airports, businesses, urban areas or outside of banks. Keep in mind that Indian ATMs typically ask for a 4-digit pin code, so if your card has a pin that's longer than 4-digits, call the bank to see if this can be changed before traveling to India. Of course, travelers should also let their bank know if they plan on using their debit card to withdraw money abroad.
If you do use an ATM, you'll likely get charged a fee for withdrawing internationally or at a bank that's different from your own. Luckily, there are a lot of banks in India that are branches of banks in the U.S. or that are considered sister banks of a bank in the U.S. In India, you can find HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and Bank of India.
Debit Cards and Credit Cards
Cash is king in India, but more and more institutions are starting to accept debit and credit cards, especially in big cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. However, it's not good to rely solely on this option. Unless you have a bank that does not charge foreign transaction fees, many banks charge between 3 and 5 percent for their customers to use the card abroad. Regardless, if you're low on cash, ask the institution where you plan on shopping or dining whether or not they accept credit or debit cards before sitting down. You wouldn't want to be stuck when the check comes out!
Things to Consider
However much cash you plan on exchanging, keep in mind that U.S. bills must be clean and not ripped. Otherwise, you may have difficulty exchanging them. Those who are interested in taking the local currency out of India back home to the U.S. as a souvenir, note that it's not allowed. So, buy a small souvenir before you go with the cash you have left, or simply exchange it before leaving the country. Travelers in India won't need to bring a lot of cash out with them, as things are quite cheap in India.