Implication of currency ban on medical tourists in India

There is no doubt that the new move of demonetization of the Indian currency with denomination 500 and 1,000 as initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from 09th November, 2016 will definitely usher in good changes to the country in the long run. The move, though good in its intent is bound to have a few unprecedented issues in terms of unavailability of cash to meet the daily requirements and limited preparedness of the banks and other financial institutions in dealing with the sudden flux of people.

Apart from the citizens of the country the worst affected are the foreigners who are in the country for tourism and medical requirements because of unavailability of local bank accounts, limit on withdrawal/ conversion of old currency and difficulty in arranging the recommendation letter for larger conversions. Managing in the country has become a difficult ordeal as paying for petty expenses with credit/ debit cards attracts monstrous charges. However, for tourists and medical traveler’s requirements, government of India has said that they won’t suffer as there are many kiosks set up at airports to aid any needs. These places are specially set up to meet the tourists need especially those who are arriving in India as medical tourists.

Effect of the demonetization on medical travelers is not very severe on those who are arriving at airports directly, however it affects those who are already in the country. The government hospitals will accept the old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations but what about private hospitals and other requirements like food and basic necessities, there does not seem to be a definitive answer on the solution for these.

The best approach in the current scenario is to walk up to the banks or post offices directly and exchange old notes with new series. Also as there is a limit for exchanging notes and in interest of saving time, it is advisable to use older notes for all medical necessities at Government hospitals and use debit/ credit cards at private hospitals. New currency note should be used in the most judicious manner due to its limited availability.

Here are answers to some of the common questions which would be there in every medical tourist’s mind.

  • What are the things to be kept in mind while getting the currency notes exchanged to Indian currency?

Traveler should avoid getting the currency converted in the home country as the new notes are in limited supply and he might get older notes which are no longer tenable. Secondly, if you are getting the currency exchanged in India, please check for the new currency and take it in smaller denominations for convenience.

  • Are foreign currencies (like USD, AED, SGD etc.) acceptable in the hospitals for the treatment and to meet other expenditures?

Yes, common currencies like USD, SGD, AED are widely accepted in India in majority of hospitals and hotels. While you may not be able to pay for your petty expenses with foreign currencies it is advisable to pay for larger sum with acceptable currencies like USD.

  • Is there any exception to tourists with regard to the new series High denomination notes announcement?

No. Even if you are in India on a medical tourist visa, banks will exchange money as per pre-announced rules.

  • How to manage the needs with just Rs.4000 per day for the next couple of days?

Cash in hand of new series is only for basic necessities. Get the old notes exchanged or spend them in the Government healthcare centers. Use balances in bank accounts to pay rest of the requirements by electronic mode of payments like mobile wallets, SWIFT transfer, credit cards or traveler’s cheques.

  • What to do when I don’t have a bank account in India?

In order to exchange money from a bank, a bank account is not required. You just have to furnish your ID proof that is passport along with a letter from the hospitals in India granting permission in writing to exchange notes using their bank account for reference purpose.

  • Where can I get the old noted exchanged?

Exchange facility is made available by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) at all Issue Offices of RBI, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), and Co-operative banks, branches of commercial banks or at any Sub-post offices or Head post offices.

  • Is there any specific bank for non-Indian to go to for exchanging notes?

No, you can approach any bank and any branch to get your note exchanged. For exchange of notes, only valid Identity proof and permission in writing from the account holder (friends/ relatives) is required.

  • Can I withdraw from ATM?

Yes, you can use your international debit/ credit cards to withdraw cash from ATMs once they are functional. However, the maximum limit per day is Rs. 2,000 up to 18th November and thereafter Rs. 4,000 per day. Note that these ATM transactions will get charged from your country’s bank.

  • What is the time frame to exchange old notes?

Irrespective of whether you a resident or non-resident of India the maximum time limit for exchanging old notes is 30th Dec 2016

Those who fail to exchange notes before 30th Dec 2016 will have the opportunity to convert this through specified Offices of RBI by furnishing necessary documents as specified by Reserve Bank of India.

  • Apart from Government hospitals where else can I use OHD notes?

OHD notes can be used to purchase bus tickets at government bus stands for travelling in State PSUs and State Government buses, it can be used to purchase train tickets in railway stations and air tickets at airports within 72 hours of announcements.

  • Is it possible to deposit the exchange value to my NRO account?

Yes, it is possible to deposit OHD bank notes to your NRO account within the deadlines.

  • Being a foreign tourist is there any easy way to exchange these notes as soon as I reach India on 10th Nov 2016?

Yes, you can get the OHD notes or even foreign currencies with exchange for new Indian High denomination currencies at the airport exchange. This is possible only at the discretion of presenting proof of purchasing OHD notes. And the maximum limit for getting the cash converted at airports on arrival is INR 5,000 for foreigners and Indians alike.

  • What relationship proofs can a foreigner submit in order to convert OHD notes with the help of a relative/ friends’ account in banks?

Along with the bank account details and a written permission from relatives or friends, the foreigner will have to submit a passport copy and furnish original passport and tourist Visa for verification.


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