For anyone traveling to India or already inside the country, you’re pretty much going to be affected by the recent demonetization initiative led by the Prime Minister Modi. Basically, about a month ago, the Indian government shocked the hell out of everyone by declaring all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes invalid. This constituted about 87% of the total cash currency market which, as you can imagine, caused total mayhem in India. As if India wasn’t already crazy enough…
This ‘shock and awe’ demonetization was squarely aimed at all the corruption and ‘under the table’ deals going on in the country. Modi and his cabinet deliberately kept the whole plan in secret to prevent people from having time to move their illegally obtained money elsewhere. The reason being that you only had 50 days to convert all those 500 and 1000 note rupees to new notes at banks, thus declaring your net worth to the bank and the government.
A big price to pay to root out corruption, as most of the population here seems to majorly affected by the cash crunch. Most ATM’s I saw had hour long lines or were completely empty. Even if you could get to an ATM, there was a daily withdrawal limit of 2,500 rupees (approx $38). That’s plenty enough to get by here in India, but if you were planning to hit a boatload of temples, attractions, and nice restaurants - you’d probably end up having to go to the ATM more than once. But who wants to spend their valuable vacation time waiting in hour long ATM lines?
Here are some tips on what helped me the cash situation in India.
Find working ATMs through the power of crowdsourcing
Cash No Cash - Website where you can search by address or postal code to see which ATM’s have been reported to have cash.
Walnut Mobile App - An app that has a crowdsourced showing whether ATM’s have long or short queues.
Live ATM search map - A live feed of ATM searches on the walnut app. Not that useful, but cool to see.
Go to the rich neighborhoods to find ATMs
Some of the more upper scale parts of town reportedly tend to have more cash in their ATMs as well as shorter lines. Some places to look in New Delhi would be on Parliament, Shashtri Bhavan or North Avenue.
Leverage your network.
You may not know it but you probably have a friend of a friend who knows someone living in India who can help. Just a quick status update on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram could bring out help from places you had no idea existed. For example, we reached out on Facebook and within a couple hours we were connected with someone in India who helped us out tremendously. So yeah, you never know!
If you can, before you leave for India, see if your bank will exchange your currency into rupees. Otherwise bring a good amount of your local currency and exchange as much as you can at the airport. Expect long lines at the currency exchange counters at India airports.
Above all, know that almost everyone here in India is massively affected by this. Most of them are sympathetic to your problem as they are mostly likely in the same boat.