Foreigners waiting in line at a bank in Delhi’s Paharganj. (Photo: The Quint)
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Cashless & Stranded: Demonetisation Hits Foreign Tourists Hard  

In limbo. That’s the fate of the crisp, now-defunct notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination. And in limbo, are the travellers at Paharganj, the little backpacker destination in Delhi.

For, in the land of Shanti Shanti and Boom Shankar, these backpackers’ search for nirvana has been hit badly.

While some had to temporarily halt their travel plans to Varanasi, others could not attend the Pushkar fair this year. They have been crippled by the cash crunch that has hit India since November 8, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 will cease to be legal tender.

Although the banks here have a separate queue for foreign tourists, they are still finding the exercise of withdrawing money quite cumbersome.

Meanwhile, tourists have been having trouble navigating through the country with their now defunct notes in hand. Unlike locals, they have nobody to borrow from, and have to depend on cash to pay for their food and lodging.

Jitender (Bunty) Madan, owner of the popular Madan Cafe in Paharganj, however, has kept a little ledger in the interim, so his patrons can give him the money only when they find it convenient.

But a lot of local foreign exchange shop owners, taking advantage of the tourists’ panic, are offering them ridiculous rates of about Rs 30 per dollar. 

The actual foreign currency rate is Rs 67.30 per dollar. However, tourists can purchase foreign exchange (at the actual rate) equivalent to Rs 5,000 at airport exchange counters, within 72 hours of the announcement. But this amount is less than $100 - too little for many.

The trouble is that many backpackers don't carry plastic cards and travellers cheques as much and so are a little more dependent on cash. The demonetisation exercise has hit them quite hard.

Reporter and Video producer: Divyani Rattanpal

Video Editor: Prashant Bhardwaj