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I am travelling to India in late December. I exchanged cash for my trip a couple weeks back and now have a considerable amount of those 500 rupee notes which are no longer valid. I'm a bit at a loss what to do.

I read this other question and realise that my options while overseas are quite limited. My local (Singapore) branches of Indian banks or money changers don't accept the notes and the Indian High Commission refuses to give any useful answer. However, as I will be travelling to India my situation is a bit different then the one mentioned in the related question.

Is there any way I can exchange this money in India?

Note that this is after the deadline (14th November) at which money can be exchanged by tourists at the airport. I am also not an Indian national, so depositing it into an Indian account is (as far as I know) not an option.

  • 1
    I'm in the same boat (also from Singapore). I celebrated Diwali in India and returned to Singapore on the 5th of November. And barely three days had passed (not enough time to fully recover from my travel) when that dratted announcement was made. Luckily, I only have two 500 rupee notes, just about $21 in Singapore currency. I'm writing this off and keeping the notes as souvenirs. I think I'll survive. – Deepak Nov 14 '16 at 15:00
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    I am briefly in India at the moment. All ATMs other than the hotel have hour(s)-long queues. Reports of bank queues for exchange and deposit are at six hours, and three people died in queue yesterday. There are so many people, though, that may be statistically normal. I expect that tourists will have more and more difficulty exchanging notes because import and export of rupee notes by non-Indians is prohibited, so now that the notes can not be from earlier in a visit, their provenance is suspect. – Andrew Lazarus Nov 17 '16 at 5:55
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I am in India. I know of people who have done this during the last few days without bank accounts while visiting on tourist visas.

Your first option is to take your passport and a few photocopies of both it and your visa and go to any bank. You're supposed to be able to exchange up to 5000 INR (if this is too low for you, there's a second option further down) into lower denominations or new bills after filling out some forms. Once you have the valid denominations, you're fine.

The catches are:

  1. There may be long lines. It's better to show up at 8 or 9 in the morning. You might have to wait for several hours.

  2. Even after waiting, there is no guarantee that you'll succeed at any given bank. They may run out of cash at any time. If that happens, you'll just have to try again at another bank or time. If you can, try asking someone before getting in line, to at least get some idea of whether such exchange is possible.

You can also do this at post offices. The above advice applies there too. Both that and the banks will be possible until December 30th.

Second option: If the above sounds tedious to you (it is) you can try to sell the notes to someone for lower than their face value. That would effectively be paying them to go through the hassle of going to the bank, etc. If you have a local friend with a bank account, they could do this for you.

One of my friends just told me about such business taking place on a large scale in the town which I live. Apparantly they pay 80% of the face value of the money. This may be an option if you don't want to go through the hassle of the banks. Such businesses are probably operating somewhat outside the law, so keep that in mind.

Please note that some shops (especially large ones) do still accept the old notes.

The lines and limitations at banks may get better as time passes, but it's hard to know for sure. Also, it may be bad again at the end of December (when you'll be here) since it'll be the last chance to do it. (Except for going to the Reserve Bank of India before March 31, which sounds like a hassle.)

You might be able to do 5000 multiple times at multiple banks.

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    The old notes are not an issue for any business that depots all its taking in the bank. They are a issue for the claimed 90% plus of business that try to hide some of their turnover. – Ian Ringrose Nov 14 '16 at 15:43
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    Most of the things you said is true, except that the limit is actually ₹4000. My colleagues visiting India on business have been waiting in line for hours and sometimes the bank just goes out of cash. You can really change multiple times at different banks. To make it easier just go to banks where they organize the queue better like HDFC or Standard Chartered – phuclv Nov 16 '16 at 14:38
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    @Versatile The answer already warns against this. If you want to state that it's certainly illegal, then please provide a source and the legal paragraph and I will include it into the answer. – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Nov 16 '16 at 15:23
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    Latest update: Exchange limit reduced to Rs 2,000 – phuclv Nov 17 '16 at 7:53
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    Thanks @Fiksdal . I managed to exchange my money with your second option, as it turns out there's people doing the same thing abroad. That was definitely the easiest way and as it happens outside of India, I think it might not even be illegal (for me, not for the guy bringing the money back to India of course). – drat Nov 21 '16 at 0:57
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In preparation for leaving India after a 30 day trip and changing my leftover non-useable 500-1000 bills, I took with me the copy of my official bank approved change voucher of $3000 US changed legally changed into rupees early November, to the Delhi Reserve Bank of India,Main Bank, (research showed late afternoon lines for foreigners very short, which was true) The Official Response there was lousy: refusal to change unused portion beyond a mere 5000 rupees ($73), was scorned by clerk and told I should never have changed so much as everyone takes credit cards (pure nonsense) and was also told I could change and additional 5000 rupees at the airport. (at departure last night, checked with Punjab State Bank, Post Office, and Cooks there--not possible).

I was told if I didn't like it, go and see my Embassy. A young Chinese man was in line with an inch high stack of bills--same response, no relief. He was furious; big loss. An exhausted British young lady had already stood 4 hours in one bank line that day for the mere 5000,had done so the day before, and was trying for more elsewhere--they didn't allow. Her trip was ruined.

The situation is: The Govt has not printed enough new bills; they don't exist to be handed out. There are not enough old small bills in circulation to cover the demand.Read the newspapers online and see that parking isn't being paid, rickshaws have no change, vegetables sellers don't have change, etc Many many problems The government hasn't thought through the situation, and in this case, as a foreigner, they don't care what happens to you right now. First time ever I have seen such a situation, and I have made over 100 trips since 1975. I actually wouldn't go there now. Seriously, it's a quiet mess. I guess I would try to set up an account with bank with access to a branch there. (Still, I would be limited by weekly withdrawals of 5000,but that was yesterday, and the situation actually changes every single day with a new rule.) Perhaps if I had this bank access account, I could tie some local Pay phone apps to download on my iPad. For example, I would use Olla, Uber for cabs, etc. I would use credit cards for every purchase and think twice about spending an extra penny of change because it can't be replaced. The new 2000 bills they have issued are almost unusualbe except for big ticket items, as the denomination is too big for daily use and 100's, and smaller bills in short supply. I would go to all the banks in my home country and transit airports trying to convert into new rupees in advance (which I never do because of poor rates) simply to have a stockpile of new bills, if they available I would probably carry some emergency 100$ US bills , understanding outside market exchanges are not sanctioned by govt and thus risky. . Make a couple of xerox copies of both your passport and Visa to keep and give out sometimes, and making copies is sometimes difficult now, as no change for copy machines. Seriously. I would be continually pestering the local Indian consulate for information; it changes daily, they need to make their government aware, and you need a friend with correct information. Good luck.

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You can purchase foreign exchange equivalent to ₹5000 using these Specified Bank Notes at airport exchange counters till November 24, 2016, provided you present proof of purchasing the Specified Bank Notes.

If you have a problem, you may approach the control room of RBI by email (publicquery@rbi.org.in) or on Telephone Nos 022 22602201/022 22602944

  • Thank you, unfortunately that doesn't really apply in my case, as I'm travelling in December. – drat Nov 21 '16 at 0:53
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Following are legal options for you:

  1. Carry the cash if you are travelling soon

  2. Deposit money into your NRO account if you have. Not an option for you

  3. Authorize another person to deposit the notes. You would need provide the authorized person with a authority letter by you and valid identity proof. You would need to send these notes to that person if they are not in India.

  4. Send physical money with someone whom you can trust. Note: Maximum currency that can be carried by hand is Rs. 25000.

For updated FAQ refer: https://www.rbi.org.in/Scripts/FAQView.aspx?Id=119 or https://rbi.org.in/

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