How to exchange foreign currency in India: Your guide

Aman Saxena

Changing foreign currency has come a long way in India and there are new ways to exchange money. Now you can get foreign currencies from the bank, money changers or even at the airport. Let’s take a look at the different options you have for exchanging foreign currency cash in India and what you will need to do so.

But let's not forget the easier and most modern way of sending or receiving foreign currency, where you can send money globally online.

Receive money from abroad directly to your local Indian bank account with Wise. It's the easy, safe and cheap way for global transfers online 🚀

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Table of contents

Procedure to exchange foreign currency in India

Exchanging foreign currency in India can be a different experience depending on where you go. There are your commercial Indian banks, but also money changers available in local market neighborhoods in major cities. And of course at the airport to make things easy for you when you travel.

One of the newest ways to exchange money is online with websites like Extravelmoney, that help connect money changers with clients online.

But as always, it is best to do your research beforehand, as each type of provider will have their own rules, exchange rate and fees.

Buying and Selling Currencies

Buying Currency: Buying currency is usually when you exchange your home or domestic currency for a foreign one.

For example, if you’re going to the UK and are exchanging your Indian Rupees for Great British Pounds before leaving for the UK.

Selling Currency: Selling currency is usually when you have foreign currencies that you want to exchange or sell for the domestic currency.

For example, if you’ve returned from the UK and have extra Great British Pounds you want to get rid of, you can sell them locally in exchange for Indian Rupees

🏦 Exchange foreign currency with Banks

A popular way to exchange foreign currency in India is with the local Indian commercial banks in the country.

Most larger Indian banks, in addition to the multinational ones, will offer foreign exchange capabilities. But depending on the bank, some will have access to more currencies than others. And different fee structures, for that matter.

⚠️ Indian Residents can hold up to $2,000 USD and its currency equivalent in foreign currencies as long as it was obtained and maintained for personal use. But only a total value of $5,000 USD can be brought into the country from abroad.¹

How do banks exchange foreign currency?

Banks purchase your foreign currency and give you Indian rupees in exchange. Or take your Indian currency and give you foreign currency in return. The first step is to find the bank branch closest to you that has foreign exchange services.

You can check the rate board physically or online, depending on the bank, to see what the exchange rate is for the currency you want to get rid of. Check the Buy and Sell Rates for your specific currency.

🔎 Tip: Check the real exchange rate on Google for the currencies you want to exchange. Compare the real rate to the exchange rate at the bank to see how much the bank may be taking in hidden fees.

The difference between the Buy and Sell rates is called the ‘spread’ and is how banks make money through exchanging foreign currencies.

Next, identify the service fee to exchange currency at the bank. This fee can vary according to the bank so you may have to ask the bank teller. Also make sure you bring along the documents required for foreign exchanges.

Which banks offer foreign currency exchange?

Most major commercial Indian banks offer foreign currency exchange, but not all may offer the same currencies. Here is a list of popular Indian banks and the currencies they offer for cash exchanges.

BankCurrencies Available
HDFC Bank20 currencies including THB, USD, EUR, KRW, SAR, and SGD
Axis Bank14 currencies including ZAR, SGD, JPY NZD
ICICI Bank14 currencies including AED, SGD, HKD, QAR, SAR, THB and KWD
State Bank of IndiaUSD, GBP and EUR

💱 Exchange foreign currency with Money changers

Private money changers is another way to exchange currencies in India.

Companies like Western Union and Ria offer in-person exchanges, with an experience similar to a bank. They will have a board listed with the day’s exchange rates for the currencies they offer.

You will have to bring your documents, cash or method to pay for the currency purchase to the counter and the teller will help you with the paperwork and fees.

Money changers can feel more convenient than a bank, operate in an easily accessible location, and may offer more competitive exchange rates or fees.

Another perk of a money changer is that they often operate for more hours than a bank and you won’t be required to have an existing relationship with the money changer to get their forex services.

But just like with a bank, you will want to do your homework ahead of time on which changers offer the best deal for your particular situation. Money changers can also sneak in fees through a marked up exchange rate, currency conversion fees and service fees.

🛬 Exchange foreign currency at the Airport

If you are coming into any of India’s international airports, you are likely to find foreign currency exchange services upon exiting baggage claim in most terminals.

Some of them may be well known players in the foreign exchange space, but you may also find smaller privately owned enterprises. And while it can seem convenient to exchange your cash right then and there at the airport, often airport foreign exchange services can charge you more than banks or money changers when you get into town.

Airport foreign exchange can offer weaker exchange rates and higher fees for their services, in exchange for the convenience. So if you really need cash as you exit, you will have options to exchange your money. But it’s often recommended to wait until you get into the city to find better exchange rates.

Here are the major locations for foreign currency exchange services at the major airports in India

AirportLocation of Forex Services
Indira Gandhi International Airport, New DelhiT3 International Arrivals and Departures
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport MumbaiTerminal 2, Arrivals
Kempegowda International Airport, BangaloreGround & 1st floor at the International Terminal
Cochin International AirportInternational Terminal

💻 How to exchange currency online

The newcomers to the currency exchange market are online websites that help you find the best deal. Websites like Extravelmoney both let you book a foreign exchange transaction online and then get cash picked up and delivered to your house through a 3rd party partner.

With lower costs to operate versus brick and mortar foreign exchanges, an online platform is often able to be very competitive- especially in high value transactions.

Check out the pluses and minuses of using a online foreign exchange like Extravelmoney so you can see for yourself.²

The Good ✅The Bad ❌
It looks for foreign exchange partners near you for the best rateIt is an aggregator that connects you with existing foreign exchange partners
USD, AUD, BHD, CAD, CNY DKK and GBP are availableYou only have access to 7 currencies
You can pick from the location and rate that makes sense for youExtravelmoney doesn’t take responsibility for transaction discrepancies with the partners
You can pickup the money from the store or have delivery to your doorThe time it takes for the currency to be delivered can fluctuate depending on the partner
You can use Extravelmoney to send money abroad tooYou could still be waiting in line at the partner outlet

There’s an easier way to get and spend money in 45 different currencies, all from one account- and an easy to use card. The Wise multi-currency account, available in selected countries, lets you send and spend money globally without having to stand in line or wait for a delivery.


If you live in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or any of the other selected countries, you can buy and send currencies to local bank accounts right from your Wise Android/ iOS app

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With the real mid-market exchange rate and just a transfer fee, you will save not only time but money versus banks or money changers. And no need to wait in line at an airport money changer.

Sending and Receiving money in India 💸

You can send up to the Indian Rupee equivalent of $2,50,000 USD from India in a financial year under the Reserve Bank of India’s Liberalised Remittance Scheme. But any amounts you send outside India should fall within any one of these categories for reasons for sending³

  • Travel
  • Gifts or Donations
  • Supporting close relatives abroad
  • Travel for work
  • Studying abroad
  • Attending conferences, meetings or trainings
  • Going overseas for work
  • Expenses for medical treatments abroad

The good news is that if you are receiving money into India, there are not any limitations, especially if you are receiving the money as a gift. Learn more about how to gift money to parents in india.

Before sending money to India, be sure to compare your best options with Wise's price comparison calculator to know if you are getting the best deal.

The true cost of sending USD to INR

Documents required for foreign currency exchange in India

If you are buying or selling currencies in India, you will need to carry along any of the following documents to verify your identity:

  • Aadhaar Card
  • Passport
  • Copy of your driver's license
  • Indian passport and/ or Pan Card for transactions over ₹ 25,000

If you are an NRI and are looking to use any of the bank’s foreign exchange services for a NRO or NRE account, you should also carry

  • Overseas address proof

  1. Reserve Bank of India Foreign Currency
  2. ExTravelMoney
  3. RBI Liberalised Remittance Scheme

All sources checked as of 16th February, 2021

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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