What to look for/buy
India produces a striking variety of carved wood products that can be bought at very low prices. examples include decorative wooden plates, bowls, artwork, furniture and miscellaneous items that will surprise you. check the regulations of your home country before attempting to import wooden items.
₹2000, at least, needed for a decent room in a good hotel offering cable, air conditioning and a direct telephone; however, this price doesn't include a refrigerator. Food will cost at least ₹150 for a decent meal at a stall, not at a hotel), but the sky is the limit. While bus transportation will cost approximately ₹5 for a short distance of about 1 km, a taxi or rickshaw wll cost ₹22 for the same distance without air conditioning. There are radio taxis that are available at ₹20—25 per km in key Indian cities which have GPS navigation, air conditioned and accept debit/credit cards for payments. They are a very safe mode of travel. So the total for one day would be about as below:
Hotel: US$35 for a good place per day
Food: US$10 for a good meal per day
Travel: US$10 taxi and bus together
Total: US$80 for a couple, US$70 for a person alone
Budget travel around India is surprisingly easy, with the savvy backpacker able to get by relatively comfortably on as little as US$25-35 per day. It is generally cheaper than South East Asia with a night in a hotel costing as little as ₹200-1,000 though there will be probably no air conditioning or room service for this price. Beach huts in the cheaper places of Goa can cost around ₹800 per night. A meal can be bought from a street trader for as little as ₹30, though, in a restaurant expect, to pay around ₹200-300 for a beer or two. Overnight buses and trains can cost anywhere from ₹600-1,000 dependent on distance and locations, though an uncomfortable government bus benches only may be cheaper.
The Indian Rupee Symbol: Rs. or ₹?The new Rupee symbol ₹ was introduced in July 2010 to bring the rupee's symbol in line with other major currencies. Previously, "Rs" was used or "Re" for the singular rupee. It is very likely you will continue to see the previous nomenclature in your Indian travels, especially with smaller businesses and street vendors. It will take many years for the new symbol to become universally adopted in the country.
The currency in India is the Indian rupee sign: ₹; code: INR रुपया — rupaya in Hindi and similarly named in most Indian languages, but taka in Maithili and Taakaa in Bengali and Toka in Assamese. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise singular: paisa. 5 rupees 75 paise would normally be written as ₹5.75.
Currently-used banknotes come in denominations of ₹1 pink and green, ₹5 green, ₹10 orange, ₹20 red, ₹50 purple, ₹100 blue-green, ₹500 yellow and ₹1,000 pink. ₹1 and ₹5 notes are less common than their coin counterparts, but they still can be found. It is always good to have a number of small notes on hand, as merchants and drivers sometimes have no change. A useful technique is to keep small notes ₹10-50 in your wallet or in a pocket, and to keep larger notes separate. Then, it will not be obvious how much money you have. Many merchants will claim that they don't have change for a ₹100 or ₹500 note. This is often a lie so that they are not stuck with a large note. It is best not to buy unless you have exact change.
The coins in circulation are 50 paise, ₹1, ₹2, ₹5, and ₹10 recently introduced. Coins are useful for buying tea ₹5, for bus fare ₹2 to ₹10, and for giving exact change for an auto-rickshaw.
Indians commonly use lakh and crore for 100,000 and 10,000,000 respectively. Comma placement differs, so one crore rupees would be written as ₹1,00,00,000. This format is not that difficult, but may puzzle you as it is different. You can rectify this when you start thinking in terms of lakhs and crores, after which it will seem natural.
In India, you are expected to negotiate the price with street hawkers but not in department stores and the like. If not, you risk overpaying many times, which can be okay if you think that it is cheaper than at home. In most of the big cities and even smaller towns retail chain stores are popping up where the shopping experience is essentially identical to similar stores in the West. There are also some government-run stores like the Cottage Emporium in New Delhi, where you can sample wares from all across the country in air-conditioned comfort. Although you will pay a little more at these stores, you can be sure that what you are getting is not a cheap knockoff. The harder you bargain, the more you save money. A few tries later, you will realise that it is fun.
Often, the more time you spend in a store, the better deals you will get. It is worth spending time getting to know the owner, asking questions, and getting him to show you other products if you are interested. Once the owner feels that he is making a sufficient profit from you, he will often give you additional goods at a rate close to his cost, rather than the common "foreigner rate". You will get better prices and service by buying many items in one store than by bargaining in multiple stores individually. If you see local people buying in a store, you can probably get the real Indian prices. Ask someone around you quietly, "How much would you pay for this?"
Also, very often you will meet a "friend" in the street inviting you to visit their family's shop. That almost always means that you pay twice as much as when you had been in the shop without your newly found friend.
Baksheesh--small bribes--is a very common phenomenon. While it is a big problem in India, doing it can ease certain problems and clear some hurdles. Baksheesh is also the term used by beggars if they want money from you and may refer to tips given those who provide you a service. Baksheesh is as ancient a part of Middle Eastern and Asian culture as anywhere else. It derives from the Arabic meaning a small gift. It refers as much to charity as to bribes.
Packaged goods show the Maximum Retail Price MRP right on the package. This includes taxes. Retailers are not supposed to charge more than this. Though this rule is adhered to at most places, at tourist destinations or remote places, you may be charged more. This is especially true for cold drinks like Coke or Pepsi, where a bottle 300 ml is priced around ₹11-12 when the actual price is ₹10. Also, keep in mind that a surprising number of things do not come in packaged form. Do check for the authenticity of the MRP, as shopkeepers may put up a sticker of his own to charge more from you.
The Indian Rupee is not officially convertible, and a few government-run shops will still insist on seeing official exchange receipts if you are visibly a foreigner and attempt to pay in rupees instead of hard currency. Rates for exchanging rupees overseas are often poor and importing rupees is theoretically illegal, although places with significant Indian populations eg. Dubai, Singapore can give decent rates. Try to get rid of any spare rupees before you leave the country.
Outside airports, you can change your currency at any one of the numerous foreign exchange conversion units including banks.
In many cities and towns, credit cards are accepted at retail chain stores and other restaurants and stores. Small businesses including hotels and guest houses and family-run stores almost never accept credit cards, so it is useful to keep a moderate amount of cash on hand.
ATMs are abundant across India - though often not found in smaller airports. Most ATMs will pay out at most ₹10,000 in each transaction - some will pay ₹20,000. State Bank of India SBI is the biggest bank in India and has the most ATMs, and ICICI bank has the second largest network of ATMs. International banks such as Citibank, HSBC, Deutsche Bank part of Global ATM Alliance, RBS The Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered have a significant presence in major Indian cities.
It is always worthwhile to have bank cards or credit cards from at least two different providers to ensure that you have a backup available in case one card is suspended by your bank or simply does not work work at a particular ATM. If you find the ATM saying "invalid card", try inserting it and removing it more slowly.
Increasing number of banks e.g. Citibank, HDFC, ICICI charge more than Rs. 200 for transactions made with foreign cards. So far 2015, State Bank of India, which has the largest number of ATMs, doesn't charge any fee for foreign transaction. If the ATM has a fee it will always ask you for confirmation before you continue this is a legal requirement.