If you are travelling abroad or returning to India, you are advised not to exchange foreign currency at the airport, for you could lose up to 10-15% on the rates offered, as compared with that at other exchange outlets in the city.
According to one forex agency operator, while the loss on exchange of US dollars or British pounds at the airport exchange counters ranges from 2.5 to five per cent, the difference in the case of Gulf state currencies is considerably higher, apparently because of their lower value.
“As travellers have to pay more for foreign currency at the airports, we advise them to carry prepaid multi-currency forex cards or travellers cheques,” said Sunny Sodhi, COO, corporate travel and head supplies relations, at Yatra.com.
He said travellers should plan well in advance about the amount of money they intend to carry and exchange only a small part of it at the airport.
Forex operators explained that while the exchange rates include the dealer’s commissions, the difference in rates between the exchange counters at the airport and those elsewhere is due to the higher rentals these operators have to pay for their facilities at the airport, combined with other taxes.
“The cost of providing round-the-clock service adds to the cost,” said an official at a leading forex provider at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
Some industry operators believe that the rentals could increase further due to cost escalations for the airports in Mumbai and Delhi that have been built on the basis of public-private participation.
The base exchange rates for each currency is set by the Reserve Bank of India, but the retail rates vary depending on the commissions and other operating costs.
Mahesh Iyer, senior vice-president and head of foreign exchange at Thomas Cook (India) said: “I advise passengers to carry currency of the country they are headed to, so as to save on currency conversion charges abroad.” Thomas Cook’s forex rates are held as the benchmark by most retail forex dealers in the country.