Best Ways to Take Money to India in 2024
India has loads to offer adventurous tourists, and with a growing economy it’s also a popular expat destination for work or study. No matter what you're heading to India to do, you’ll need ways to pay for day to day life. The best way to take money to India will likely come down to your personal preferences and how long you’re planning on being there.
This guide will help you pick as we explore 4 popular ways to take money to India, including their benefits and drawbacks, to help you find the right one for you.
Best ways to take money to India
To help you decide on the best way to take money to India for your specific needs, this guide walks through the pros and cons of the following popular options:
Prepaid travel cards to use in India
Ideal for: topping up in CAD and exchanging to INR in advance or at the point of making a payment or withdrawal
Using a prepaid travel card in India for payments and withdrawals can be secure and convenient. You can order a prepaid travel card from a specialist provider, which comes with a smart multi-currency account you can manage from your phone. Just add some balance in dollars, and you can then choose to convert it to INR in advance, or just let the card do the conversion for you when you pay. Bear in mind that not all cards allow you to hold a balance in INR - we’ll cover one which does in a moment so you can see if it suits you.
It’s also handy to know that a prepaid travel card won’t be linked to your CAD bank account. That means it’s secure to use overseas, and you can always freeze or cancel your card in the app without impacting your normal bank account if you’re concerned the card has been compromised.
Learn more about our picks for the 5 best prepaid cards - there’s more on our top choice, Wise, next.
Wise - our pick for prepaid travel card for India
|Wise card pros
|Wise card cons
✅ Currency exchange uses the mid-market rate
✅ No foreign transaction fees apply
✅ Free to hold and spend 40+ currencies
✅ Receive payments to your Wise account in a selection of global currencies
✅ No minimum balance or ongoing fees
❌ It can take up to 14 days for your physical card to arrive by mail
❌ Free ATM withdrawals are limited to 2 per month, to the value of 350 CAD. Fees of 1.75% + 1.5 CAD after that
❌ 10 CAD fee to receive payments to Wise in CAD, via SWIFT
Pros and cons of taking money to India with a prepaid travel card
Choose a card which lets you hold a balance in INR and you’ll be able to set your travel budget in advance easily
You can manage, view and freeze your card and your account from an app for security
Cards are available with no minimum balance or ongoing fees to pay
Currency exchange may have better rates than a bank will offer
Not all prepaid cards have international features - look out for one specifically optimised for travel
Exchange rates may include a markup on the mid-market rate
ATM fees may apply, depending on the card you pick
Some cards won’t support INR for holding and exchange, and may charge a fee if you spend in an unsupported currency
Travel debit cards to use in India
Ideal for: holding your travel budget in CAD in an account that’s not linked to your bank
Get a travel debit card from a service like Canada Post and you can add money in dollars to keep your travel budget apart from your primary bank account. That can make budgeting and saving for your trip easier, and is also good for security. Because it’s a debit card you won’t face restrictive eligibility requirements or credit checks, and there’s no interest charge to pay. Just choose a travel debit card with no ongoing charges and then you can use it for your trip to India, and in future whenever you need to budget for another trip.
Many travel debit cards let you hold a balance in several different currencies. However, not all cards will support INR for holding. If you pick a card that doesn’t let you hold a balance in rupees you may pay a foreign transaction fee when you’re spending and making withdrawals in India.
We’ll go into more detail about our top pick for a travel debit card - the Canada Post Cash Passport - next. You can also learn more about the best travel debit cards in Canada here.
Canada Post Cash Passport - our pick for travel debit card for India
With this card:
Get your card conveniently online or in a Canada Post location
Load any of up to 7 major foreign currencies - THB is not supported for holding a balance
No fee to spend a currency you hold in your account
Lock in exchange rates in advance of travel
Free secondary card in case your first is lost or stolen
|Canada Post Cash Passport card pros
|Canada Post Cash Passport card cons
✅Hold 7 major currencies in your account
✅No extra fee to spend a currency you hold
✅Issued on the Mastercard network for global acceptance
✅Contactless payments or Chip and PIN options
✅24/7 global assistance if you lose your card
❌15 CAD fee to get your first card
❌3.25% fee if you spend in TRY or another currency you don’t hold in your account
❌Top up and cash out fees may also apply
Pros and cons of taking money to India with a travel debit card
Secure and convenient for budgeting, spending and withdrawing overseas
Some cards can be picked up instantly in person with no need to wait for delivery
Cards from specialist services are often linked to multi-currency accounts you can use on future trips too
No restrictive eligibility rules, interest or penalty fees
INR may not be supported for holding a balance, which means you may pay fees when you spend in India
You may pay a fee when converting from one currency to another, which can be rolled up in the exchange rate you get
Some cards have card order or closure costs associated
Taking cash in India
Ideal for: smaller purchases - sometimes card payments aren’t possible, so having cash on hand at all times is a good idea
India does have an increasing number of places that will accept cashless payments, but in some cases these can only be made through local e-wallets which you won’t be able to access as a tourist. While card payments are fine in large hotels, stores and restaurants, outside of the cities you may find cash is preferred in many cases.
To get your cash in rupees you’ll have a few key options: buy your INR in advance, carry cash in CAD, USD or EUR to exchange on arrival in India, or make ATM withdrawals once you’re there. It’s worth knowing that the currency exchange service from CIMB and Canada Post doesn’t stock INR, but you can choose to buy online for home delivery through Interchange Financial instead. You may also find that a local exchange bureau has INR on hand. However, using an ATM on arrival is often simpler.
If you’re going to be in cities and urban areas, using ATMs in India is easy. There are plenty available and the transaction can be completed using English. You’ll save time as you won’t need to wait around in currency exchange stores, and if you use a prepaid travel card from a provider like Wise you might also find you get some fee free withdrawals and a great exchange rate.
Do I need cash in India?
Yes. Cash is still pretty commonly used in India so you’ll need to have some rupees with you when you’re there.
INR is not available through the Canada Post/CIMB travel money service, but it is available from Interchange Financial for online order. However, as there are lots of ATMs available in Indian towns and cities, the easiest option to get your travel cash is often to make ATM withdrawals on arrival. Choose a prepaid card or travel debit card and you may also find you benefit from low or no fees and a strong exchange rate.
How to buy Indian rupees on arrival in India?
To buy rupees on arrival you’ll need to carry Canadian dollars or another major currency like EUR or USD, to exchange when you land. Not all currency exchange stores in India will accept CAD for exchange.
It’s also worth remembering that exchange options will be limited outside of busy areas - and as you’ll need to shop around to get a good deal you’ll have to take precious time out of your trip.
How to buy Indian rupees in Canada?
Indian rupees can be ordered online for home delivery through Interchange Financial. Or you can shop around in independent exchange stores if you’d prefer. Exchange rate markups may apply so you’ll want to compare a few different services before you convert your dollars.
Best place to get Indian rupees in Canada
There’s no single best place to get your travel cash. If you decide to buy your INR in Canada, or to exchange at a physical location on arrival, remember to look at both any upfront cost and the exchange rate being offered. You might well find that there’s an extra charge tucked away in the rate a provider uses for retail customers.
Pros and cons of taking cash to India
Cash is commonly used, particularly in independent stores and markets
Carrying some cash at all times is a good back up in case your card can’t be used
Make ATM withdrawals when you need to and you won’t have to carry large amounts of cash at any one time
Holding all your travel budget in cash is a security risk
You’ll usually waste time during your break if you’re having to compare costs to get a good deal
Exchange rates vary widely and usually include a markup - an extra fee
Travel credit cards to use in India
Ideal for: secure ways to spend where card payments are possible - plus extra travel benefits and rewards
Where card payments are accepted, credit cards on major networks like Visa and Mastercard can be a good option. Choosing a travel credit card over any other credit card can mean you can get good international features like low or no foreign transaction fees, complimentary travel insurance or extra rewards when you spend in foreign currencies. Having a credit card with you when you travel can also be useful for times you need a payment guarantee, such as when hiring a car or checking into a hotel.
Weigh up the costs of using a credit card - which can include an annual fee, interest and penalty charges, to see if it’s worth it for you. It’s also helpful to remember that credit cards can be expensive for cash withdrawals as you’ll normally pay a high cash advance charge and instant interest. As carrying cash in INR will be pretty essential during your trip to India, this can push up your overall costs.
Learn about our top pick - the HSBC World Elite Mastercard - next.
HSBC World Elite Mastercard - our pick for travel credit card
With this card:
Spend internationally with no foreign transaction fee
Variable interest rate based on purchase type and personal circumstances
Add extra cardholders to your account for free
Lots of extras and travel benefits offered
24/7 support of you’re a victim of theft or fraud
|HSBC World Elite Mastercard pros
|HSBC World Elite Mastercard cons
✅ No foreign transaction fee
✅ Up to 4 supplementary users on each account with no extra annual charge
✅ 24 hour worldwide assistance to get cash to you if your card is stolen
✅ Some complimentary insurance offered
✅ Options to earn rewards, including enhanced benefits for travel spending
❌ Interest and penalty fees may apply depending on how you use your card
❌ Annual fee of 149 CAD
❌ ATM withdrawals come with fees and a higher rate of interest compared to purchases
Pros and cons of travel credit cards to India
Travel credit cards usually offer rewards, discounts and perks when you spend in foreign currencies
You can spread the costs of your trip out over a few months
Some cards have low or no foreign transaction fees
Use as a payment guarantee in hotels and when renting a car
Interest and fees usually apply if you don’t pay back your bill immediately
Cash advance and interest costs apply when using an ATM
Eligibility rules apply
Travel requirements from Canada to India
To travel from Canada to India you’ll need a visa. Visa services are offered through an official agent - BLS. Different visa types apply depending on the reason for travel to India, so you’ll need to check out your options well in advance and check that the travel you’re planning is covered by an easily available visa category.
Check the Canadian government’s travel advisory page to learn more and to get detailed information for your specific destination. You’ll also be able to get up to date information from the BLS India Visa page, which is the official website to apply for visas for India from Canada.
Does India accept Canadian dollars?
No. You won’t be able to spend CAD anywhere in India. If you’re carrying Canadian dollars with you you'll need to exchange them for Indian rupees when you arrive.
Best currency to take to India
You’ll only be able to spend in Indian rupees in India. While you can carry cash in CAD and convert it on arrival, or get some rupees in cash before you leave, for many travellers using a specialised travel card for cash withdrawals as and when you need them is the easiest solution.
Top travel money tips to India
Here are a few final tips to help your money go further while you’re away:
Have several different payment methods in case one isn't accepted wherever you are
Get a travel money card before you leave to make it easier and cheaper to spend and withdraw in India
Use the handy Exiap guides to learn more about currency exchange, travel cards, and more
How much money do I need per day in India?
India is huge, with different options for every price point. While you can explore on a very low budget, life in the major cities can be far more expensive, and offer an impressive range of luxuries if that’s your thing.
Do some research to see how much day to day life will cost based on your specific plans while you’re in India. As an example, in India on average you’ll find a 3 course lunch for 2 will set you back in the region of 16 CAD, but bear in mind that around popular tourist destinations and in large cities like Mumbai you may pay far more.
Do some detailed research to see how much things are likely to cost based on your plans and where you’re headed, so you can plan your budget. Get more detailed cost information by country and city, from Numbeo.com.
How much does it cost to fly from Canada to India?
At the time of writing (November 2023), the cheapest flights from Canada to India start from around 1,400 CAD per person return. These cheaper options are likely to include one or more stops and layovers which increase journey time. Direct flights are available but come with a higher price tag - at the time of research, you’ll pay at least 1,800 CAD for a direct flight.
Conclusion - best ways to take money to India
You’ll need Indian rupees to pay for things during your trip. Having several different ways to pay is usually a good bet, just in case one option isn’t accepted by a merchant or hotel.
A good solution for many people could be to get a travel card - such as a prepaid travel card from Wise or a Canada Post Cash Passport - and to carry that as well as your regular debit or credit card as a back up. You can then use your travel card to make ATM withdrawals on arrival to get rupees in cash. Plus if you pick the Wise card you can hold a balance in INR so you can lock in your exchange rate and set your budget in advance.
Use this guide to decide which option to take money to India will work best for you, based on your own preferences and needs.
FAQ - Best ways to take money to India
Should I exchange money before I travel to India?
It’s not necessary to switch Canadian dollars for INR before you travel. Instead you may want to consider making a cash withdrawal at an ATM on arrival in India. This can be cheap and convenient, and may get you a better exchange rate compared to exchanging in advance, particularly if you have a travel card from a provider like Wise.
Can I withdraw Indian rupees from a local ATM?
You can’t withdraw Indian rupees at a normal ATM in Canada. However, you can get a travel card to make an ATM withdrawal on arrival in India, which will often mean you pay less compared to using your bank card.
Are prepaid travel cards a good way to take money to India?
Travel prepaid cards from services like Wise are a safe way to spend when abroad. With Wise you’ll also get mid-market exchange rates and low, transparent fees which can bring down the costs of your trip.
Can I use cash in India?
Yes. In many cases, cash will be the only option for making payments in India. In general, making sure you always have some cash in Indian rupees, and a travel card for spending or getting cash from an ATM, is a good choice so you have a back up plan if you ever need it.