Saturday, December 3, 2011

Silver & Rupees

Banks in Japan have not yet taken to the notion of convenient opening hours. This includes CitiBank which, despite being a branch of an American business, has hours only between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.

It was therefore Friday lunchtime when I slipped my way along the snow-packed street to see if I could acquire some Indian rupees for my trip in two weeks.

The answer was no.

But the woman at the branch did give me a map, directing me to the location of a currency exchange two blocks further south. Sliding along the ice and thinking this was almost thick enough for skates, I arrived at the "Travelex" kiosk, which was hidden inside a different bank, tucked out of sight of the entrance between the ATM and toilets, as if it were rather an embarrassing act to want to change Japanese Yen for any other currency.

Given the current state of the Euro, I could see where they were coming from.

"I'd like to exchange Yen for Indian rupees," I told the lady at the counter.

She checked her computer system, but then shook her head. "I'm sorry, we do not offer Indian rupees."

"... Can you not order them?" I could understand not having all currencies in stock, but surely they could be acquired.

Again she shook her head. "We do not offer them," she repeated. "I have Indonesian rupiah."

I appreciated the effort at a compromise, but unfortunately this was going to be an area where I stubbornly stuck to my original request quite beyond all reason.

"I really need Indian rupees," I persisted. "Since I'm going to India."

"Ah," the woman nodded as if agreeing this would be a problem. "You cannot get them in Japan."

No where in Japan?! I didn't quite know what to say to such blanket authority so I thanked her and left. It was only when I was half way back to campus (this taking a considerable period of time due to the weather) that I remembered reading on the website for 'The Rough Guide' that rupees were not supposed to be taken out of India. The guide had focussed on visitors with spare change and had said that, while this rule was not strictly enforced, there were currency exchanges at the airport for this reason. It had not occurred to me before now that such a rule would prevent me taking out cash in advance.

This wasn't a particular problem; since I was travelling to Delhi, any major bank in the city would likely accept either cash or credit card.

Clearly, this was just simply a case where it doesn't pay to be too organised. Literally.


  1. Remember that in all planning sessions, the word "clearly" can always be substituted with "It will be impossible to" without any prior notice.

  2. This is what airport ATMs are for! I can't remember the last time I bothered to get local currency before traveling...

  3. I would have done the same as I always like to have the local currency in my wallet when I travel, if only for a needed coffee.

  4. Previously, I've always just used the airport ATM too, I was just trying to be organised because I get into Delhi very late and it's a little more unknown than your average European airport.

    I am also slightly suspicious of my new (untested) Japanese cards... in a country that is so cash-based that most shops do not accept debit (though they do accept credit), it's just possible my card won't work in all ATMs abroad. (It actually doesn't work in all ATMs here -- no joke!) Which is where Andrew's point comes in.... :)

    And if I can't find my friend, I'm definitely needing that coffee!

  5. Well, we shall all be waiting with baited breath to hear what happens next. Can't remember when you're travelling but I hope it all goes smoothly. Love your adventurous spirit.

  6. The international terminals in Mumbai and Delhi are pretty civilised in that respect. You have a currency exchange counter immediately after the baggage claim. I can't say I have tried to use plastic there - usually I take about 100 Euros cash and convert that into a huge amount of Rupees. Many international arrivals are in the middle of the night so in that respect arriving late shouldn't be a problem as the airports are geared up for dazed looking foreigners arriving in the middle of the night. Depending on where you are going though, consider pre-arranging some transport. When I went to Delhi in the summer, I asked the hotel to send a taxi - which saved me having to figure out which local taxi to take (or not take).

  7. Jan -- I travel in 1.5 weeks! One week in Delhi and then back to the UK for Christmas (hey, it was pretty much on the way...).

    Vivek -- thank you! That's super useful to know. I have a wad of USA dollars I'll take along and change.

    Fortunately, a friend (who is local to Delhi) is meeting me at the airport, so I should be in good hands for transport.