India’s Cash Crises: Impact on Travel

Last Tuesday was not just eventful in the US.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the overnight withdrawal of 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes from the economy. “Black money and corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty,” Mr Modi said. 500 rupees is around US$ 7.63.

The initial announcement was that defunct notes can be exchanged at banks for 50 days. New 500 and 2,000 notes will be issued. The 1,000 is gone.

I don’t know that Switzerland could smoothly handle such a sudden change. Certainly not India. Chaos has ensued with runs on banks. Many emergency measures have been rolled out to keep the economy functioning during the crisis. Here we focus on impacts to travelers. All of this can, and is, changing moment to moment.

The above measures and many more are to help the cash crunch. Many ATMs are out of cash. Merchants are not breaking notes, even 100s, into change.

Practically, travelers need to be resourceful and find cash alternates where possible. Ride-sharing services such as Uber that accept credit cards are booming.

My friend Alexander just arrived in Mumbai:

Arrived in MumbaiT2 last night. Every ATM out of service or empty. Money changers have ripoff rates and even they are running out of cash. Luckily the parking toll and the sea link toll are suspended for a time so I uber’d to my hotel and we able to find a standard charter ATM with cash. Now I’ve got a massive wad of 100 rupee notes but street vendors are increasingly unwilling or unable to make change for a 100.

I personally am wondering what to do about a small amount of leftover Indian notes I have from prior trips? Is there a bank in the US I can deposit them with minimal hassle?

I am not close to the ground so going on media and word of mouth reports.

Readers, what are your experiences and tips in the Indian demonetization crisis?

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  • Sam

    Stefan,
    Unfortunately, your indian currency will not be accepted locally here in US. You will have to find somebody going to india before Dec 31st 2016 and have them exchange it for valid currency in a bank there and when they return to the USA, they can give you either USD or Rupees , whatever you prefer. Remember the deadline Dec 31st 2016!

  • Brad

    I ordered rupees from Chase Bank prolior to the aanouncement but had yet to pick them up. They are still currently at Chase because I won’t sign for them and they don’t know how to refund me. They said they suspended all transactions with rupees.

  • @Brad – 2016 seems to be the year of self-inflicted political chaos.

  • Manish Vanjani

    If you want to exchange RS 500 and RS 1000 bills in New York here is some information.
    You can exchange RS 500 and RS 1000 bills in State Bank of India, New York branch by 30th December.
    SBI New York branch is located at
    460 Park Avenue
    New York, NY 10022

    Hours: 9 a.m to 4 p.m (Monday through Friday)
    Cash service available from 9 a.m to 3 p.m.

  • @Manish Vanjani – is there going to be any fee, and is it going to be hours of lines? I may wait till early December to hope crowds are reduced.

  • Manish Vanjani

    @Stefan I don’t know about fees but I’m assuming it would work the same way as it’s in India right now which is no fees for exchanging rupee to rupee. If you want to get dollars in exchange of rupees then the foreign exchange rate would kick in.

  • @Manish Vanjani – I have visions of what it was like when they changed visa providers a few years back.

  • Manish Vanjani

    @Stefan Haha I know what you are talking about we can only hope this time your vision is less scary.

  • SamIam

    What Manish says is not correct. You cannot exchange these bills in any bank or foreign exchange in USA. You have to do the exchange in India. You have till Mar 31st 2017 to exchange these bills using a proper id proof in any RBI office if you don’t exchange them by Dec 31st 2016.

  • sam

    Samlam is right Stefan!