The Pakistani rupee is a modern-day currency with a history both short and long. Short, because the nation of Pakistan was only formed in 1947, and long, because the rupee is a much older currency. People living in current-day Pakistan have been using a variation of the rupee for centuries.
From tourists planning a short-term trip to family members sending remittances, millions of people need to send money to Pakistan. When they do, they convert their U.S. dollars, euros, riyals, or pounds to PKR.
In this article, we’ll cover essential facts about the Pakistani rupee, from its history to how to get the best deal on currency conversions.
Pakistani Rupee 101
Whether you get coins or banknotes in Pakistan, it will be in rupees. Unlike many other currencies, there is no smaller currency in regular use.
It’s also important to note that the Pakistani rupee is not interchangeable with the Indian rupee. Rupees are currently minted or printed by the central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan.
- Currency Code: PKR
- Abbreviation: Rs.
- Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50
- Banknotes: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000
New designs for the above denominations were issued in 2008, as well as a 5-rupee banknote. That bank note has since been replaced by a 5-rupee coin instead.
Large values of rupee are counted in terms of thousands, including:
- Lakh (100 thousand)
- Crore (10 million)
- 1 Arab (1 billion)
- 1 Kharab (100 billion)
A Short History of the Modern Pakistani Rupee
After the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan began using the Pakistani rupee. The introduction of the rupee followed the end of the British Raj — which was the rule of the British Crown in India from 1858 to 1947. Since Pakistan was a newly independent nation, it did not yet have a central banking system. Until the Government of Pakistan could set up a banking system and printing press, the currency of Pakistan was supplied by the Reserve Bank of India. The State Bank of Pakistan issued the first banknotes on October 1, 1948, in the denominations of 5, 10, and 100 rupee notes — the 1- and 2-rupee notes were released approximately six months later.
While no smaller denominations are used today, there used to be two subdivisions of the rupee: the anna and the paise. Four annas would equal one paisa, and 96 paise (the plural form of paisa) would equal one rupee. These would have made excellent collector items.
In 1961, the anna was discontinued, and Pakistan has not minted a single paisa since 1994.
The design of the rupee has changed over time. Currently, each banknote has a different color and size, as well as watermarks and security threads to prevent counterfeiting. As of November 30, 2016, old design banknotes are not accepted by any bank. However, the State Bank of Pakistan will accept older designs of 10, 50, 100, and 1,000 rupee notes until December 31, 2021.
Those who are interested in learning more about the history of Pakistani currency can visit the Money Museum of Pakistan in Karachi. Six galleries are on display, including:
- History of State Bank of Pakistan
- Coins Gallery – I & II
- Currency Gallery
- SBP Governors
- Art Gallery
- Stamp Gallery
The Currency Exchange Rate in Pakistan Explained
You can find current foreign exchange rates online via various free currency converter tools, or check the daily rate with your money transfer app or bank of choice.
Until 1982, the Pakistani rupee was pegged to the British pound to manage inflation. Once it was removed from the pound, inflation sharply increased, and the Pakistani rupee was devalued.
The general financial crisis further stressed the economy in the 1980s, but depreciation continued well into 2008. Increased militancy, trade deficits, a lack of foreign investment, and economic instability continues to keep the Pakistani rupee at a low value.
As of July 2021, 1 USD is equal to 161.45 PKR.
5 Facts You Might Not Know About Pakistan’s Money
While Pakistan is still a fairly new country, the rupee has a long and colorful history in the region. The rupee blends ancient and modern civilizations in both design and function.
Below are our top interesting facts about the Pakistan rupee:
1. The word ‘rupee’ comes from Sanskrit.
The modern word “rupee” comes from the Sanskrit rūpya, meaning “coin of silver.”
While the modern-day rupee was not introduced until the 1500s, references to silver coins as rūpya extend as far back to the mid-300s BC!
Today, the rupee is also spelled as “rupees,” “rupaya,” or “rupaye.”
2. Sher Shah Suri introduced the first coin with the name ‘rupee’ in the 1500s.
Before there was an India or Pakistan, before British colonialism, there was the Mughal empire. Afghani-origin king Sher Shah Suri, whose capital city was in modern-day India, was the first ruler to introduce the rupee. And its effect has been long-lasting.
The rupee is now the official currency of not just Pakistan and India, but also Indonesia, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
3. The first Pakistani rupees were issued by India.
Initially, the first Pakistani rupees post-Partition were issued and printed by the Reserve Bank of India and the Government of India. These 1948 notes were then stamped or engraved with the phrase “Government of Pakistan.”
The State Bank of Pakistan later took over the process of designing, issuing, and printing rupee banknotes.
4. Early versions of the Pakistani rupee included both Urdu and Bengali text.
During Partition, Pakistan consisted of West and East Pakistan. This meant that there were two major languages in the country — Urdu and Bengali. Banknotes reflected this, and each note was bilingual.
However, once East Pakistan became a separate country known as Bangladesh in 1971, Bengali was removed from the notes.
The first note in the new series was the 1-rupee note, introduced in May 1974. However, it was short-lived, as all four major regional languages were printed on the note, which could potentially create a divide.
5. Special ‘Hajj notes’ were printed until 1978.
In the 1950s, the number of Pakistani Muslims performing their Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia grew exponentially.
To help make currency exchange simple, the State Bank of Pakistan issued special “Hajj notes,” which acted as travelers’ checks. These notes were in circulation until 1978, when they became popular collector items.
Getting the Best Deal for Pakistani Rupees
Whether you are a tourist, on a religious pilgrimage, or in the country to visit family, there are a few different ways to get Pakistani rupees. And in most cases, especially outside of major cities, you will need cash for most of your purchases. So you’ll want to have a good amount on hand.
But first, let’s cover some ground rules.
According to the government of Pakistan, you can bring up to 10,000 USD or the equivalent in another foreign currency. USD, CAD, GBP, or Saudi Riyals: it’s all good to go.
If you’re planning to bring in PKR, you can have up to 10,000 Rs. If you’re coming in from India, however, you can only have up to 3,000 Rs.
You may be able to get cash at the airport or order your PKR ahead of time from your local bank. If you do so, be sure to request smaller notes, such as the 20, 50, and 100 notes. Bigger notes are much harder to break.
However, you’ll often find a better deal withdrawing money from an ATM. Visa makes it easy to find ATMs that will accept your card. Just make sure to let your bank know that you’ll be in Pakistan and you’ll be using your card ahead of time.
Despite their convenience, keep in mind that ATMs generally still charge a fee, and may come with a security risk. ATM fraud is possible, so you’ll want to cover your keypad when inputting your password and try to use ATMs during banking hours, preferably ones that are located in a bank or hotel.
Sending Money to Pakistan
If you’re planning to send money home for your loved ones, or keep your Pakistani bank account growing, converting your USD, GPB, or another foreign currency into rupees can be expensive.
Bank wires typically charge high fees and take days to reach the recipient. Other money transfer services may have the same issue.
The problem is that money transfer transaction fees typically grow with the amount that you send. This makes things complicated because then you have to calculate a “sweet spot.” That is to say, you have to ask yourself, “How can I send the maximum amount with the lowest fee possible?”
At Remitly, you can send $100, $1,000, or even up to $10,000 in a single transfer to Pakistan while paying the same $1.99 transfer fee when you send from the U.S. And you have more options than just sending money to a bank account. You can also pick up the money from your local bank or have it delivered to your mobile money wallet.
When we talk about converting currency into Pakistani rupees, we’re not just talking about numbers. It’s about how you can support yourself, your family, and your community.
That’s why you should always be able to send as much money as possible back home — without added hassles or expenses.
Remitly makes international money transfers faster, easier, more transparent, and more affordable. Our reliable and easy-to-use mobile app is trusted by over 5 million people around the world.