Can One Travel Cashless In India?

traveling cashless

Is Traveling Cashless In India Possible?

Travel,  anywhere in the world does not come cheap and it always needs cash. I still remember the excited efforts of my parents to get smaller denomination notes when we were heading out for a family vacation. Of course, with the development of alternative payment methods, the dependence on hard cash has come down but is it really possible to travel absolutely cashless in India.

November 8, 2016, was the day that the Prime Minister of India announced the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. This was the trigger for many to start looking at alternative payment methods and the digitization of payments. It was not as if these options were non-existent, but now this was becoming more of a necessity and the sweep of these methods also needed to be increased, so also the nature and value of the transaction to include smaller and petty payments as well. Overnight, payments to be made to the Newspaper vendor and Milk Vendor assumed herculean proportions in spite of lower values. So what was the solution? Digital payments over the mobile phone? Bank Transfers? Credit Cards? All of these and a host of other new and existing applications emerged as possible solutions in the short and long run. These included the UPI App among others. The UPI benefits included instant payment transfer, security, and ease of transaction, interbank operability without any charges.

Given the above scenario and considering that it is more than a year since demonetization, is it safe to think that one can travel virtually anywhere in India wired with only digital money? Is cashless travel in India possible?

Some experiments have been done on these lines with mixed results, however, we would like to do this kind of experiment more as a hypothesis than an actual live experiment, so here goes…

Travel Tickets

traveling cashless

Let us assume that we are traveling to Mumbai for a couple of days. So we book our air tickets online which is not an issue at all. Even if we were to travel by train or bus the same would hold true. So our to and fro tickets have been taken care of and we have not had to use any cash for this transaction.


The day of our travel dawns and we book a cab from Uber to ferry us to the airport and we pay digitally through our PayTM wallet. The same process would have applied even if we had to depart from the Railway Station or Bus Stand. We replicate the same process when we land at Mumbai.


When it comes to booking our stay, we have pre-booked our hotel through one of the online travel portals and would be settling our bills through our credit cards. Of course, if we were backpacking and stayed at a smaller hotel or hostel, there could be a possibility of credit cards not being accepted, however, PayTM has emerged as a mass payment option with even our Newspaper vendor and Milk Vendor having embraced it. So most probably chances are high that we could have managed without cash even in that scenario. Of course, as we checked out of the hotel we had to use a small amount of cash to tip the housekeeping staff, no Credit Card or PayTM there!


traveling cashless

We had our major meals, lunch, and dinner either at the hotel that we were staying in or at one of the bigger restaurants and hence again did not feel the need for paper currency. However, we went for a stroll in the evening on Juhu Beach and decided to eat some of the lip-smacking and spicy chats and had to pay through currency notes, we offered to pay by PayTM but the vendor said that he did not have PayTM but would be getting it in a week’s time.


Most of our shopping in Mumbai did not entail cash transactions, however some of the stuff that we brought from the pavement vendors in Colaba we had to pay with paper currency, but not really big amount.

The Verdict

You can now think of traveling cashless, well almost in India. However, the degree of cashlessness, if we can use that word, depends on the style of travel. If you are a luxury traveler, the use of paper currency can be kept to a minimum while in the case of a backpacker the need for paper currency will be a little more. But what is definite is that compared to 20 years ago or even 5 years ago travel has gone more the digital way and the need for paper currency has diminished.

Yes, indeed traveling cashless in India or traveling with minimum cash, though not with zero cash is possible as of now.

What are your experiences and thoughts about traveling cashless in India? Do share your inputs in our comments section.


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24 thoughts on “Can One Travel Cashless In India?

  1. robin rue Reply

    I never have actual cash on me. I use my debit card for everything – at home and when I travel. I haven’t seen actual cash in a long, long time.

  2. Alli Smith Reply

    I rarely use cash at all. When I travel, I do like to keep a little cash on me for making purchases outside the resorts, etc. I do like that you can almost travel cashless in India.

  3. Jeanette Reply

    I never have cash on me. When I’m on vacation I typically try to have a bit of cash because I do know that there are places that do not except card. These are some good guidelines to traveling cashless.

  4. Tomi C Reply

    I typically keep cash on hand when travelling. Odd huh? I take one credit card and I use cash for tips, excursions, etc. It helps me avoid overspending and I can stay on budget.

  5. Marysa Reply

    We just went to Mexico, and while it is nice to put things on credit cards, there are a lot of skimmers and other scams out there. The skimmers were more of an ATM issue, but using credit cards brings up issues of getting overcharged, double charged, etc. We ended up relying on cash the most.

  6. candy Reply

    When we travel we never use cash. The world and different countries are making it much easier to travel with out cash.

  7. Sarah Bailey Reply

    I’m so used to paying everything by card these days it seems strange that some companies are just turning to this method. However of course it is always good to know how the country works before you visit.

  8. Danielle Fox Reply

    I love the pay ahead method. Knwoing where youre staying, eating and going will help out tremendously

  9. Anosa Reply

    I rarely travel with cash when I go abroad but I always check if my cards would be accepted abroad and that would be my only question; cashless possible and would most cards be accepted

  10. Pam Reply

    It always shocks me a little when places in the USA don’t accept cashless payments. But some places around the world require more cash.

  11. Ryan Biddulph Reply

    Hi Guys,

    Good deal how cashless travel is becoming more possible in India, and many lands throughout the world. I do not mind stacking some cash in places like Thailand because cash is often the preferred means of exchange, especially in produce markets where it is the ONLY means of exchange. But it sure helps to have card options available.


  12. Ricci Reply

    This is interesting! I never have cash on hand but I always try to carry some when I travel just in case of an emergency!

  13. Christie Reply

    I haven’t traveled overseas that much, but when I’m traveling for work, I don’t really aim for cashless. I supposed I could use the debit card more often, but I’m more careful with cash then credit. Definitely something to think about when traveling.

  14. Tom Reply

    I am sure it is possible, but it would not be my thing. I like to eat local, buy local stuff and go to markets. These places def require cash, but on the other hand it is good to know that it is possible! 🙂

  15. Farrah Less G. Reply

    I agree traveling abroad can be very expensive unless you have family or relatives who happen to live on that area. Great tips for traveler like me. Preparing on our next vacation abroad.

  16. Amanda Reply

    I don’t know if I could ever travel without cash. It would make me too nervous to not have a fall back in case technology is broken.

  17. Chubskulit Rose Reply

    It might be possible but it is always good to have cash on hand because not all places have or accepts cards. This is a great info guide though.

  18. Vibeke Reply

    I could go cashless in countries where you mostly pay by card. Norway has an app for payments as well which is genius. It really looks like payments will become more and more digital. It will take a long time in 3rd world countries though, Ecuador is all about cash.

  19. Ambuj Saxena Reply

    I am glad you have written that post. It is indeed interesting to note that travelers can now travel cashless in India, at least a part of it! Demonetisation has really helped the process. My blog on Demonetisation grew popular but had i incorporated some of the points you have mentioned, it would have been highly useful for the readers. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Cat Reply

    Uber has made it easy to take transportation in foreign countries without cash! We had tried it in Barcelona. Glad to know that you can also do so in India!

  21. Paige Reply

    This is really interesting. It’s crazy to see just how the world is changing. I would definitely be one of the people who would still want/need paper cash because I love street food and markets, which would make using a card more difficult.

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