Dealing with Indian Money and a Torn Rupee

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Last Updated on September 5, 2011 by Christine Kaaloa

dealing with Indian currency and a torn rupee
dealing with Indian currency and a torn rupee

There are times dealing with Indian currency makes me want to bark and growl with  frustration. Especially when it comes to changing money and a torn rupee!  What’s the big deal? In India, this is the big deal…

Three ways of dealing with Indian currency and a torn rupee:

1.  The torn rupee

So you have a torn rupee? Money is money, right? Not in India. Many store dealers and vendors generally refuse torn currency.  So what if you got it from the guy two stores down? As a tourist, you’re walking neon pawn! Fret not, this doesn’t mean the ruppee is not salvagable; just that you’ll have a crap time trying to use it. And what if the ruppee has a neatly placed scotch tape bandage over its tear ? It’ll be under careful scrutinizing with a 30-70% chance of being accepted.


1. Look before you keep!

•   Examine your check for tears or taped ends before walking away from the register. If you find a torn note, show it to the cashier and ask for a good bill. He’s got one and if he doesn’t, tell him you’ll take your sales to another shop (you’ll see a new bill quickly surface from the cash register)!

2.  How to get rid of a wounded rupee ?

• Repeat the karma and slyly pawn it off on someone else!
• Use it on rickshaw and taxi drivers, guesthouses and vendors, who want your sale in any form.
• Saying “This is all I have“,  works in crunch situations.


the color of money from around the world14Photo from

2.  “Sorry, I don’t have change.”

This line often rivals Namaste with vendors and it’s gotten to the point, I’ve learned to be a miser of 20 Rs notes!  Most vendors  never have change for large bills, starting from 100 rupee notes (approx $2.25)! With ATMs and money exchange shops dispensing only large bills, how can you cash in your wad?


• Collect many 20 Rs notes in your wallet (they’re especially handy in small towns and rural villages).
• Get a Money Exchanger to give you a stock of small notes.
• Spend your large notes on hotel bills or on large purchases, like your hotel stay.
• Popular chain cafes/restaurants (i.e. Cafe Coffee Day, Barista Lavazza or McDonalds) will break bigger bills for you, if you buy something from them.


3.  The joint restaurant bill

If you’re dining with friends at a restaurant, your waiter may ask you if you’d like a separate or joint check. Don’t be fooled; your reply won’t matter. The answer is always one bill and it’s combined. More annoying is getting a ‘combined bill’ in shops, when you and your friends are buying drinks and snacks.

Most of the time I’d buy snacks at shops in the hope of breaking my bill to get change. My friend, behind me, would be thinking the exact thing. But those Indian shop keepers are crafty devils!  Rather than giving each of us, change for our purchases, they’d charge our bill as one; thus, screwing us both, out of small bills and leaving us dealing with the debt of owing the other...change (which neither of us has)!  His excuse?  Sorry, I don’t have change.

Secondly, as a long-term traveler looking to stretch my budget, I order on the cheap. But in an Indian restaurant, I only win at this if I’m solo. Dining with friends, others order drinks, a few side dishes and a full meal; then the bill comes to us combined. There’s always one friend that will chime in something the entire group will agree to, like:  Let’s just split the bill evenly.  Really? Do I look like I want to foot the bill for someone’s extra stomach, if I’m starving myself?


• Don’t buy things near your friends.
• Go solo during meal time
Avoid eating with friends who have big appetites!

Have you ever experienced any frustrations dealing with Indian currency and a torn rupee? Spill it…

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  • Pamela Takeshige
    February 27, 2019 1:57 pm

    I think we should say to groups eating together, “I want a separate check as I don’t eat much/drink much.” Even if it comes as a combined check, we have to stand up for ourselves! Here in Japan, where I live, the “splitting the bill equally among all participants” trick is the norm. Even if some have had a number of extra drinks. Men here generally chip in more as they have a few extra drinks!! I will say that when women in Japan eat together, we tend to respect people’s budgets and women will not order extras in order to keep the bill fair.

    Christine, if you visit the Tokyo area again, drop me a line if you want to get together to see some interesting places….

    • Thank you Pamela! Always love to meet up in an area to learn more about a place!

      Yes, i’m afraid westerners have a bad habit and unconscious ‘saving face’ when it comes to logical splitting of a bill. It was probably a man that invented it as a one-upmanship move to show financial capability and he was probably broke when he did it. lol.

  • I got stuck with a torn note that absolutely nobody would take. The only way to get rid of it was to visit a bank – they should be able to exchange it (though it is a serious hassle)!

    • Christine Kaaloa
      August 7, 2013 11:06 am

      @Erik: That’s excellent advice. I didn’t know banks in India did that.

  • i love pakistan

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  • I swear to God, you write the most useful posts, Christine. I would have no idea about what to do about torn bills if I hadn’t read this. Thanks for the tips! I will say that if a “friend” (and I use the term loosely) orders a lot more than you and then suggests splitting the bill evenly, they’re not much of a friend, ’cause that’s a sucky thing to do to someone.

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