**November 2016 Update**: Read about the recent demonetization of 500rs and 1000rs notes in India HERE
1) Airport currency exchange
Avoid airport currency exchanges unless you have to get a couple of thousand rupees to start out. They give the worst exchange rates out of practically anywhere in India. The general exchange rate (as of January 2014) to keep in mind is Rs 60 for US $1.
2) Forex Companies
Instead, I recommend using a Forex company (which obviously requires you having some cash.) When you arrive at your hotel tell the manager you would like to exchange some money and would like them to get a Forex representative to come to your room. They should give the best exchange rate up 5 or 10 rupees better than an airport.
3) Indian ATM’s
You probably don’t want to carry around more than 20,000 – 50,000 rupees at a time so at some point you will run out. The next best way to get more cash is at the ATM’s which are now almost everywhere. I recommend going there with a friend and driver nearby and to avoid showing how much money you withdrew. Also a money pouch concealed under clothing is very necessary. I’ve had many a hand reach into my pockets (or at least they tried to). Some ATM’s are really annoying and don’t work so it can take being persistent and going to multiple branches. I’ve had the best luck/experience with the State Bank of India.
4) 10 rupee notes
One of the best tips I can give for handling money when you’re cruising around India is to have a wad of brand new, crispy 10 rupee notes in addition to a few smaller wads of 100’s, 500’s and 1000’s. “Why” you may ask? Well for starters the 10 rupee notes are often disgustingly used and dirty. Secondly it’s one of the smallest denominations (they do have 5’s but don’t bother) of money in a note, so it is used for everyday purchases a lot of the time. It’s the perfect size for tips. It also helps with bargaining because you can say, “I’ve only got 80 rupees” and you then carefully pull out exactly 80 rupees. Otherwise if you’ve got a 500 rupee note then it’s unlikely the shop owner will have change and won’t want to go below 100 rupees. I have seen countless newbies losing 50 and 100 rupees at a time just in tips! So how does one get these brand new 10 rupee notes? Simply go to a bank and exchange 1 or 2 thousand rupees for 10’s and ask for new ones.
5) Sending Money to India
ICIC Bank is good and allows people to easily send money to India if you have an account with them. ING can be found in most parts of India and so if you have an account outside of India with them then it may be easy for you transfer money. Another option to send money to India is using the service provided with Western Union. I have friends that have successfully used this service many times. Last but not least is using Bitcoin to send money to India and the beauty of this method is that there are no transaction fees!