If you visit India you will need to get the Indian rupee to use in transactions you make in the country. This is a decimal currency where each rupee is made up of one hundred paise. While you would refer to multiple amounts as ten paise or twenty paise for example, one single coin is referred to as paisa. There are some differences when compared to the traditional decimal system used in Western societies. Most notably it refers to where the comma is placed when a larger number is written down. For example one million would be written as 1,000,000 in Western systems, whereas the same number in India would be written as 10,00,000. This can take some getting used to when you visit the country and see it written down (although it generally refers to much larger numbers than you would be spending!).
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
At first glance it would seem as if the rupee has lots of coins available. They range from the smallest 1 rupee coin, through to 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 60, 75, 100, 150, 500 and 1000 rupee coins. However in reality there are far fewer coins you will actually deal with when you travel to India. These are the 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupee coins. There is also another coin which is the 50 paise coin. Everything else is commemorative in nature and is not used in everyday circulation.
As far as banknotes are concerned, there are several you are likely to come into contact with. These are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees.
From past to present – the history of the rupee
The name rupee comes from ‘rupya’. This is a Sanskrit word sounding similar to rupee that means ‘silver coin’. Other similar names can be found throughout the early history of the currency, which dates back to ancient times. It is actually one of the oldest currencies in the world, so it is quite impressive to think it has survived in its current format to the present day.
It is thought the currency originated around the 6th century BC. It would be a long time before banknotes were introduced into the evolving currency however. This would not happen until the late 1700s. A number of other rupees remained in circulation until the middle of the next century before the rupee we know today replaced them all.
At this point the rupee was still made from silver (remember the name was originally derived from the fact it was indeed a silver coin). However the value of silver nosedived in the 1800s because lots of it was unearthed in the US and in other countries in Europe too. This was a disastrous time for the currency in India as the discovery of all the silver meant it was drastically reduced in value. This was around the time the Gold Standard was prevalent, although the Indian currency resolutely remained on the Silver Standard at this point.
British India still existed until 1947, but the process of independence meant the government made their rupee the official currency for use throughout the country.
How to get hold of Indian rupees
When compared with getting hold of some other currencies, the Indian rupee presents you with a few challenges you may not currently be aware of. For instance it is against the law to bring rupees into India. This means you cannot do what you would probably normally do and exchange your home currency for Indian rupees prior to going on holiday.
Instead you need to change your home currency into rupees once you arrive in India. The best bet is to do this at the airport so you have cash on you for the beginning of your trip to the country.
Of course you can use cash machines in major cities but even then you may find the process a challenge. Some cash machines will not accept cards held by foreigners. This means it is a good idea to take more than one card if you have two accounts at different banks or issued by different providers. This does at least increase the odds of getting what you need. You may alternatively have to go into a bank to get the money you want.
Another option – and perhaps one of the best ones – is to get some traveller’s cheques prior to leaving home. If you do this you can exchange them for cash when you get to India.
Finally it is worth knowing that you must exchange any rupees you have in your possession for your home currency prior to boarding your plane on the way back home. There are signs on display at airports to remind you of this, but it is wise to allow enough time to exchange whatever rupees you have on you by the time you reach the airport.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the Indian rupee
This information is very easy to find online. Simply visit your favourite currency exchange website and make sure you find the Indian rupee on the converter there. This should be easy to find as it is one of the more commonly known currencies in the world. It is worth remembering that this gives you the basic conversion rate; the rates offered by businesses that exchange one currency for another will take into account the service offered and the commission charged.
If you wish to find out more about travelling to India or locating information about visas or consular assistance, the best website to visit is that of the High Commission of India in London.
Travelling safely with Indian rupees
For the most part India is a pleasant and safe country to visit. Of course it makes sense to ensure you don’t stand out too much like a tourist. This applies virtually everywhere you go in the world as pickpockets like to choose the easiest targets. Fortunately these crimes are not that common in India so you should be absolutely fine.
However, one good piece of advice is to negotiate the fee for a service before you agree to use it. For example you may want to take a ride in a rickshaw. If you do, negotiate with the driver before you get in. If you don’t you may find they try to charge you a huge fee when you get to your destination. The main thing to remember is to use reputable services and to avoid anyone who tries to offer their services – perhaps as a guide for example – without being asked.
Where to spend your rupees in India – and what to spend them on
If someone asked you to name the most famous site to visit in India you would probably (and rightly) say the Taj Mahal. But to assume this is the only place worth visiting would be wrong. India is a big country, with destinations such as Uttar Pradesh, Jaipur, Punjab and Bangalore among many others you could visit. As such it makes sense to plan your visit before you go, to ensure you make the most of the areas you want to visit.
Among the most visited places the country has to offer are Agra, which is home to the Taj Mahal. Kashmir is also very popular and is often spoken of as a paradise on earth. Pay it a visit and you will see why. However you will soon see that India is not just home to the more familiar sights. You may not have heard of the Kerala backwaters but it is nonetheless a wonderful place to visit if you are in the country. You can climb on board a houseboat and tour the waters and lagoons in this area at your leisure. It is a trip well worth taking, especially when you consider the aquatic life that can be found here.
Where else can you go? Well if money is no object and you like the idea of staying in an opulent hotel featured in a James Bond film, you can stay at the Lake Palace. This is in Lake Pichola and you have to get a boat to go out to it. The boat is provided by the hotel and it makes for a unique experience if you are looking for somewhere a little different to stay.
If it is a beach holiday you are after, Goa would be the ideal solution to your dreams. This is another of the best known destinations in India and there are many things to see and do here aside from sunbathing on the beaches. You can visit Alorna Fort and witness the beauty of the Arvalam Waterfalls among other things.
You will also undoubtedly want to spend some of your rupees on some well earned food as you go about your travels in India. For starters the food you can sample will vary depending on where you go in the country. It should perhaps not come as a surprise to learn this, seeing as the country is so big. Food in the north is very different to that in the south. The staple food tends to be that of rice and wheat, but the form in which they are eaten varies from location to location.
Wherever you go in India you are assured of an amazing experience you will not soon forget. Indeed you may find you want to go back and explore another part of the country at some point in the future. You would certainly not be the first to do so.
It may be difficult to get hold of rupees when compared to getting hold of other currencies, but the hard work and precise system is worth it. Getting to see some of the most amazing sights in India will ensure you enjoy perhaps the best holiday you have ever had – regardless of the area you decide to visit.