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…
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!
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.
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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