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Last Updated: Friday, 16 November 2007, 16:15 GMT
Dollars no good for the Taj Mahal
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC News, Delhi

Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is visited by millions of tourists every year
Foreign tourists to many of India's most famous landmarks will no longer be able to pay the entrance fee in dollars, the government says.

The ruling is aimed at safeguarding tourism revenues following the recent falls in the dollar.

Until now, foreign tourists to sites such at the Taj Mahal have had the option of paying in dollars or rupees.

The ruling will affect nearly 120 sites of interest run by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Of these, at least 27 are World Heritage sites, including the Taj Mahal.

'International practices'

The ruling is due to be implemented next week. Entrance fees to the sites in question will be either 250 rupees ($6.35) or 100 rupees ($2.54).

"These rates have been fixed in line with international practices, and in order to take care of the fluctuation in the dollar rates," a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism told the BBC.

Officials say the ministry wanted to act fast so that the revenues are not hit.

Indians only pay 20 or 10 rupees to enter ASI sites, a difference often questioned by foreign tourists.

But officials say there is nothing wrong with this because most Indians earn far less than the foreign visitors.

"The uniform rate applied by most foreign countries are often too high for most Indians anyway," the tourism ministry official told the BBC .

However, the Indian government has also decided that nationals from the regional South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation will not have to pay the higher rate.

Nor will people holding a government-issued People of Indian Origin (PIO) card.

India earned more than $6.5bn in foreign exchange from more than four million foreign tourists to the country last year.

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