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No change there

So far as I’ve seen, Indian money comes in the following demoninations:

Bank notes

1,000 rupees
500 rupees
100 rupees
50 rupees
20 rupees
10 rupees
5 rupees, although these aren’t too common.


5 rupees
2 rupees
1 rupee
50 paise

The notes all have Gandhi on one side and various Indian images on the other. The coins all display the Ashoka capital (which I saw in the flesh, or rather in the stone, in Sarnath) on one side.

It’s pretty amusing that the bank notes range in value from about £12 to 6 pence. At least there is that range there, though; Korean notes come in only three flavours: 1,000 (cheon) won, 5,000 (o cheon) won and 10,000 (man) won.

I haven’t seen a new 5 rupee note yet, so I assume they’re being phased out. New, or at least reasonably presentable 10 and 20 rupee notes vie for popularity with horrible, brown, soft, sweaty notes that look like they’ve been held in warm, dirty hands for their whole lives.

As I found out on my first full day in India (other details of which I refuse to recollect), paying for something that costs, say, 10 rupees with a 100 rupee note can cause trouble. If you do, then the shopkeeper, stall-holder or whatever will immediately ask if you have change. If you say no, then he’ll either begrudgingly dig into his own wad of low value notes, or, if he genuinely doesn’t have change he’ll go to neighbouring shops and stalls to get some.

This seems pretty ridiculous – surely the only reason he wouldn’t have change is if he’s sold nothing all day. Nevertheless, buying a bottle of water can actually make you feel guilty in India, if you don’t have change. One of the good things about going to a Western-style place for coffee or a burger is that they don’t piss you about wanting change when you give them a 500 rupee note.

Categories: Travel
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