Agra 11.30.16

There is a cash crisis in India.

November 8 the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 500 rupee (~$7USD) and 1000 rupee (~15USD) notes would no longer be legal tender. The surprise announcement took effect 4 hours later. The purpose of the demonetization is to reduce corruption and and tax evasion.

Now is a fascinating time to be a tourist in India! Daily I have conversations with travelers and Indian people about the rupee situation. I have queued for 20-90 minutes to withdraw or exchange limited amounts of money. To hoard cash I think carefully about which tourists sites, restaurants, and hostels to visit. I pay extra to book train tickets online with a credit card instead of in-person with cash. In India, only fancier local establishments or international chains accept payment via credit card. Because I have minimal cash, I am now a customer of these fancier establishments and chains, places I would avoid in normal circumstances. I am spending more money but my impact on the local economy is less.

I am fortunate though. For many Indian people banking and plastic money are a luxury. It is estimated that 95% of the transactions in this country are cash only. As much as the demonetization is a hassle for me and other travelers, we recognize this experience is a novelty for us. It is local people, and especially the poorer local people, who are struggling.

Daily sites include signs saying “no cash” and “500, 1000 notes are not accepted.”
Lines are a good sign because it means the ATM or bank has cash. No line, no cash.


Once at an ATM, it is a crowded environment. The man on the left wearing white was pressing the buttons for each person to expedite the withdrawal process.


Officially ‘bad’ tourists: eating at Costa Coffee because they take credit cards.


We felt energized at 1:30am after 90 minutes of queueing at the Delhi international airport to change money. Peter and I each changed the legal maximum of $100 USD for 6,000 rupees.

Interested in reading more? Here are a few articles:



Because of a UNESCO World Heritage holiday, visiting the Taj Mahal was free on the afternoon Bryana and I arrived in Agra. We quickly set down our bags and walked 1km from our hostel to the Taj to see sunset at the monument. Here we are at the gates outside the palace.
The gates are massive and ornate. If not for serving as a wall around the Taj Mahal, they would be a site on their own. It is through the archway in this gate that visitors first glimpse the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by a Mughal emperor to honor his late wife who died in 1631 giving birth to her 14th child. It took 21 years to build.
I spent a lot of time staring at this monument, including during lunch at a classy hotel (credit cards accepted!) a few kilometers from the Taj.
All visitors must wear shoe coverings or walk barefoot when entering the mausoleum. The marble was cool feeling and clean under my feet.


In India, I have had my picture taken with babies and young children. I have learned a request for, “1 photo please” usually means 10 photos.
Also located in Agra is the Agra Fort. This site is a former Mughal emperor residence. I visited the fort with an Australian friend I met in the hostel. We traveled via tuk-tuk, an experience that is loud, bumpy, and a little crazy.
From the Agra Fort it is possible to see the Taj located 2.5km away. Like the other Mughal sites in the area, the architecture here is also fabulous.
With a group from my hostel (pictured in the Costa Coffee photo above) we checked out the Baby Taj, another Mughal mausoleum.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. mukul chand says:

    lovely post. besides credit cards you can also pay by using PAY TM and other such e-wallet ways and this is for very small payments also like under a dollar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mukul for your advice. Pay TM won’t work with cards issued outside of India though. I do love using the e-wallet if possible. Seems liquidity is returning though so it’ll all work out, I think!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. mukul chand says:

        It is a bit of a challenge I agree. E -wallets is a good idea, though I think many will be struggling to use them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Linda Woessner says:

    Wow to the money situation and so amazing to experience it first hand. And the another WOW to the incredibly ornate structures, gates, buildings etc. Just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sarah says:

    Fascinating to learn of the money crush! And, you appear to be one who can take India gracefully-kudos to you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The money crunch is really interesting! Glad the post was a good one to read. I had another great adventure today in search of cash. It was a success!

      I am moving much slower in India but yes, the “it will overwhelm you” hasn’t completely set in. There is still time though! Thanks Sarah. Happy beaching!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Trinity says:

    Interesting how the cash situation means one had to work to earn the money and then work again to get access to the money. I hope it balances out quickly. I love the photo of your silhouette in the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good observation. In line with your thinking, the ATM lines are longer after the business day. It seems people are doing exactly what you describe – working all day, then waiting in line.


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