The rupee is the official currency of India. Other countries, such as Pakistan, Malaysia and the Maldives, also use the name "rupee" for their currencies, but they are not the same. As with U.S. currency, both paper and coins in various denominations are used.
Paise and Rupee Coins
The smallest unit of currency is the paise, and it takes 100 of them to equal one rupee. There are coins worth 10, 25 and 50 paise in addition to coins for one, two and five rupees. All coins have numerals on them for easy identification. The website of the Reserve Bank of India has actual size pictures of rupee coins for reference.
Paper currency, also known as banknotes, is used when it would be impractical to carry large numbers of coins. The current series of banknotes, first issued in 1996, features the same image of Mahatma Gandhi, although different colors are used to make it easier to distinguish amounts. There are seven denominations of rupee notes, written as follows: Rs.5, Rs.10, Rs.20, Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.500 and Rs.1000.
Converting Cents to Rupees
When traveling in a foreign country, you have to convert your own currency into the currency of the place you are visiting. It's smart to convert dollars and cents into rupees before leaving the U.S. That way, you'll get the best exchange rate, meaning the most rupees for your money. You'll also be prepared to pay for such items as transportation and food as soon as you arrive at your destination in India.
The website of the U.S. Federal Reserve posts exchange rates for many countries across the globe. There are daily updates that can show slight fluctuations over the course of a week. For example, one U.S. dollar (100 cents) was worth 74.58 rupees on July 6, 2021, and 74.53 rupees three days later on July 9. In this case, the difference of 0.03 rupee is the equivalent to four ten-thousandths of a cent – hardly an amount to worry about!
Use a free web-based currency calculator such as the one at Currency Calc to find out how many rupees you'll get for your dollars. As of mid-July 2021, one rupee was equivalent to 0.013 U.S. dollars, or a little over a penny. One hundred rupees was about $1.34. Five hundred rupees was about $6.71.
Cost of Living in India
The website Expatisan lets you see the cost of common items in various cities and countries around the world so you can figure out how far your dollar will go. It will help you decide how much currency you need to convert from dollars and cents to rupees for travel within India.
Here is a chart that shows some common items with prices in rupees. Dollar equivalents are shown in parentheses:
- Combo meal in a fast-food restaurant, such as McDonald's: Rs.304 ($4.08)
- Tube of toothpaste: Rs.78 ($1.05)
- 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola: Rs.90 ($1.21)
- Dinner for two at pub restaurant: Rs.1,125 ($15.09)
- Package of cigarettes (e.g., Marlboro): Rs.273 ($3.66)
- Cocktail in downtown club: Rs.572 ($7.67)
- Two tickets to the movies: Rs.463 ($6.21)
How to Exchange Currency
Plan ahead if you're going to exchange dollars for rupees. Most international airports have currency exchange, but check before the day of your flight to be sure they can make the exchange. Large banks in metropolitan areas may also be able to exchange dollars for rupees, but again, advance planning is recommended. Some travel agencies may also be able to convert currency for you, or advise you on the best way to do so.
If you pay by credit card, conversions will automatically be made for you by the credit card company. When you receive your statement, it will show the exchange rate and the amount you owe in dollars.