Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal about my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Hippie in Heels.

What I was up to other than here:

  • I’ve been pretending the world isn’t going crazy! No but really, I am so shocked Trump is President Elect and cried watching the news. I’ll say what I said to Ben though, all I can do now is hope that he succeeds and does well because after all, he’s running my home country.
  • I’ve been beachin’ it up this week. Ben’s at work in Maharashtra so I’m taking over finishing up the kitchen re-do. By next week it’ll all be done and my friend Ann will be here visiting!

Now your story,

On voting day, I was out to dinner with friends and one friend told me that they were taking the 500 and 1000 notes of the market in India immediately. He said all the money would be worthless.

I didn’t believe him. I thought it must have been fake news. It wasn’t on BBC, Reuters, and any big non-Indian websites.

From what I’d read, they were taking off the 500’s (basically a $10 bill) and 1000’s (think of it like a $20 bill) overnight. The banks were going to be closed for two days. ATM’s: closed. Once they opened, they would have the new money. People could bring their old money to the bank and exchange it up until Dec. 30th.

The point?

Because in India the black money is a massive problem. They reckon that half the bills which circulate are fake in India.

Gangsters with a million in cash hidden away? Worthless. Why? Because if they took it to the bank to exchange it, the bank would document than and the Indian version of the IRS would know they didn’t pay tax on it.

Shady businessmen? Screwed.

An hour later, it was on Reuters. I shared it on Facebook still not totally sure if it was real. I wanted to know what people though. It wasn’t until the next day I saw it on BBC.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence this was done when the world wasn’t looking (everyone is talking about the US election).

Things haven’t gone totally smoothly. You can read about chaos at some banks here. Tourists showed up at the Taj Mahal only to be told their money was worthless. There was no ATM’s and no way to exchange as banks were closed.

FedEx brought me a package with 6,000 Rs. duties fees. I said can I give you the “black money” as it’s now called, and he said hmm I don’t know no one has told us at FedEx how to handle this.

Ben and I used our money at the Petrol pump and train station as they were accepting old notes.

It’s pretty wild that for two days in India foreigners could not get money. Literally. People were messaging me for advice as they were turned away from banks only doing exchanges for Indian people. Foreigners were canceling tours. Apparently tourists were stranded in remote places.

I think what they did was fantastic and I’m happy to go without money and make due a couple days but I feel for those tourists who must have been very confused. One woman couldn’t pay for her hotel as they wouldn’t accept the old bills and her credit card was blocked and the man aggressively attacked her. She sent me the video. That begs the question… if the hotel was paying taxes why would they care if it was old cash? Indians have until the 30th Dec to change over their old cash and deposit it in bank accounts.

Today the ATM’s were meant to open with a limit of 2,000 Rs withdraw (that’s only $35) and a weekly maximum as well. I planned to go as soon as I wake up as I was sure they’ll run out of cash quickly. They run out even on holidays.

I got there there at 10 AM and they were closed. The lines at the banks in town were hours long.

Apparently foreigners are going to be allowed to change money at banks. I’m hearing mixed reports from people who have tried. I don’t have old money to change. I actually just got groceries at a store that takes card and used my last $4 on a can of spray paint… I am officially broke and it seems it could be some time before the ATM’s have cash.

I think even tomorrow there won’t be a chance of getting money. For tourists who needed to check out of hotels and pay cash, they will be out of luck!

It was definitely an interesting time here as I suddenly couldn’t get money for two days (should keep some spare small cash at home I’ve realized) and Trump is going to be my president.

The market was “crashing” the TV kept saying and Facebook groups were all saying that Americans abroad should withdraw a couple hundred from ATM’s before the USD went down in value. I couldn’t. Because India turned them all off. Ironic!

So, there is a downside to this black money problem being fixed, although this is my OPINION.

The sort of gangsters probably got hit the hardest. They aren’t big time enough to have blocks of gold or offshore accounts, so still have the cash hidden (based on many criminal movies I’ve watched lol). They are probably going to force their housekeepers and staff to go change the money for them in small chunks.

The big time guys might have lost some but probably have a lot of hidden money outside India or in gold and real estate.

The farmers, housekeepers, and people working in rural areas usually use a totally cash based system. In rural India many people don’t even have access to banks within a 1-2 hour drive. They operate solely on cash. Most don’t have proper Government documents (think PAN card, birth certificate…) let alone pay taxes (most don’t make enough money to have to pay) and I wonder how they will change their money or if in VERY rural areas they will continue to use the black money.

I’m curious to see how it all plays out. I’m sure there’s a way to cash in, as there always is in a crisis or big change. If only I knew some head honcho Scarface dude that needed me to exchange his money for him and give me 30% on the transaction. I can dream.

This is India!