Travellers to India this month were stung by the sudden demonetisation of certain banknotes. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave very little notice of the change, resulting in a cash rush at bank branches and ATMs within the country. The 500 and 1000 rupee notes were a common target of forgers. Replacing them will be a new 500 and 2000 rupee note that will be harder to counterfeit.
Thankfully, at least one Australian Frequent Flyer member has been providing updates from the country throughout the initial stages of the switchover. His initial updates noted snaking lines and long waits to exchange a maximum of 4000 rupees in the former note design. This limit has since been lowered to 2000 rupees.
Despite the long lines for locals, foreigners are apparently being given preferential treatment. The member noted that each note and his passport was photocopied, scrutinised and countersigned before he left with newly minted 100 rupee bills.
Well I found another benefit of being a foreigner, I had the luck of exchanging mine in 45 minutes. But do feel bad for those that are standing there for over 4 hours! I was looking at the lines, see below, and a bank worker saw me and asked did I want to cash some money. I was ushered past all the lines, straight into the bank office and sat at a desk. Really felt sorry for those lined up, as I was sitting down and supplied with tea and bickies! Then the paperwork;
The Reserve Bank of India has frequently updated their website as the process has evolved over time. It is recommended reading as many shops still accept the old banknotes for certain purchases, but the validity window appears to change with no thought. Previously, tourists and locals alike had until December 30 to use the old banknotes, however, this was recently changed to December 15.
Meanwhile, reports in Australia are that foreign exchange shops are no longer selling rupees.
CBA in Hobart told me today they no longer sell rupees.
There is no word on whether they are buying the old notes, though. This is causing stress for at least one of our members, who has a stockpile of the old notes but will not be in India until after the Reserve Bank suggests they will not be accepting the notes anymore.
My partner and I are headed over on 22 December for 3 weeks. Was planning on buying rupee a few days before we left, but a very *kind* relative bought us 19,000 worth of 500 rupee notes a week before this all went down. Needless to say, I am one of millions unimpressed with this sudden change but also understand why it occurred.
If you are currently in India or are planning travel to the country within the next month, we would love to hear your experiences.
Join the discussion HERE.