Whether you are a local traveler or an NRI visiting India, being a ‘tourist’ at this time is not really a good idea. I reckon you will be familiar with the recent currency demonetization decision made by the Indian government. Well, it doesn’t seem like a pretty decision for now, eh? Travelers, out of all people, are struggling to get by every single day with a meager sum of money. Not to mention, the hopeless wait in the queues outside the ATMs. It is too early to say if this move will yield anything as I am no economist so I will leave it be. Moving on, let’s talk about how to get out of this or at least make the most of it.
The currency ban is most likely to impact the budget travelers and the backpackers. Most of all, those planning to travel to remote locations are going to face trouble. I would suggest to canceling all your hiking/ trekking or adventure plans. This is just not the right time to go about it.
I recently traveled to two states of India – Punjab and Himachal Pradesh amidst the ‘currency ban‘ and I had little impact on my holiday plans. Off course, I had to adjust my plans a bit but then I followed some steps to make sure that I don’t face any financial issue during my travel. I would be sharing some of my tips with you and how to be re-plan your holidays to get through the currency ban situation without losing your mind.
Things to know about Currency Ban–
- There is absolutely no restriction on non-cash transactions. So you can do NEFT, IMPS, RTGS, pay via cheques, demand drafts, debit cards, credit cards etc.
- If you have old 500, 1000 Rs notes you can go to your nearest bank and get them exchanged. Don’t forget to carry your ID Proof.
- For NRIs, RBI has stated that they can deposit their old notes into a Non-Resident Ordinary (NRO) Savings Account
(Not going into details as new policies or restraints are being implemented every other day. So nothing is absolute as of now besides the above-mentioned things.)
How did I plan my travel?
- I got the car fuelled at only those fuel stations which accepted debit/credit card.
- I made my hotel booking using Make My Trip. You can rely on them for giving you nice deals apart from a seamless booking experience.
- In case you are not taking your own vehicle and have trouble booking the bus/train ticket, I would suggest trying out Bla Bla Car. Inexpensive and easy!
- I carried water bottles, packed food packets or other stuff needed during travel before I began the trip. If you forgot to carry that, then look for a supermart or one at the fuel station. They most definitely accept cards.
- I had to eat at those restaurants which accepted cards so there was a little restraint initially but it worked out nicely.
- Well obviously, no thrift shopping, no roadside eateries to try the street food but then you gotta flow with the flow.
What can you do?
- Book your flights/ hotels/ car rentals etc. through online websites. It is best to pay online or via online wallet. PayTM is amongst widely accepted e-wallets in India. So, it’s time to start filling your electronic wallet. Besides that, you can opt for MobiKwik, Freecharge, Ola Money, PayUmoney etc.
- If you are eating outside, pay online as much as possible.
- Make it a point to pay using your card for fuel. Ask them prior to filing up, sometimes the card machine does not work (Happened with me while traveling). It is always good to be double sure.
- Avoid buying from street side vendors. You do not want to add to your cash woes, right?
- You might not be able to find an ATM if stuck in some remote locations of India. Say in Tosh (Kasol, Himachal Pradesh). The best thing to do is to ask people around and go to the nearest town where you can find an ATM. Better safe than sorry.
- Ask around and make a list of places where cards work especially if you don’t have cash. Start with the eateries or restaurants. Off course, you might have to shell out more bucks but then that’s the best you can do amidst cash crisis.
- Cut your expenses as much as you can. Keep track of your expenditure. Unfortunately, if you end up with no cash or no place to get your card working, try to find a Gurudwara or a Dharamsala. They offer food and accommodation for free. Consider them as your last resort if nothing else works.
- The old currency notes are accepted at the monuments, govt. approved pharmacies, hospitals etc. but they may deny because of the lack of enough change. So ask prior to purchasing anything.
- Foreign tourists can exchange the old currency notes at a certified money exchange. While exchanging, ask for smaller denominations or Rs 100 notes.
- Change your long-term plans as per the spare cash available. The situation will take some time to stabilize. If required, cancel your long vacation plans (if you are a domestic traveler) or move to another country (if you are a foreigner) for a while.
- Don’t give into the rumors. You can always check the updated information on RBI’s website – https://www.rbi.org.in/ or that of Finance Ministry finmin.nic.in
- You can also reach RBI by email or over the telephone 022 22602201/022 22602944.
Hope you all have hassle-free holidays! Above all, stay safe!