Indonesia currency, the rupiah, looks different to the currency you use in your own country, not only the colors and the patterns, but the denominations. Right now the exchange rate for the US$ is 8,996.95rp. That means if you cash in a $100 dollar bill, you’ll get 899,695.00rp. Sounds easy doesn’t it. What if you cashed in $500. Can you calculate in your head how much you’d expect to get? For most people it takes a few days before you get used to all those zero’s, and start to get an idea of what the money will buy in Bali.
Here is a selection of Indonesian bills. The denominations used over here are 100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 1,000. There are also silver coins for 500, 200 and 100 rp. Many of the 100,000rp notes are made of plastic. These are still in use, but the latest ones are paper and a burgundy color. It is important for you to check the zero’s on a note before handing it over. Some people think the new 100,000rp and the new 10,000rp note look alike.
Here is todays breakdown of foreign currencies compared to the Indonesian rupiah.
1 Euro = 10,880.06rp
1 USD = 8,996.95rp
1 AUD = 6,525.91rp
1 GBP = 15,673.58rp
1 CAD = 7,831.27rp
1 Yen = 76.0488rp
1 Swiss Franc = 6,913.29rp
1 Brasil Reais = 4,225.71rp
1 Chinese Yuan = 1,122.80rp
1 Iraq Dinars = 6.13812rp
1 Singapore Dollar = 5,597.73rp
Arriving in Bali, you can change money at the airport money changers located next to Customs. You will get your Indonesian currency in 1 of 2 ways in Bali most probably. You will either use an ATM machine, which are found all over the island, particularly in tourist areas, or you will go to a money changer. You could go to a bank, if you didn’t mind lining up. The Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Sanur area has many money changers, some good, some not. If you are changing money, look for a money change that is fairly busy, that will give you an idea if other people trust it. Money changers will either make their money by offering a good rate and charging a commission, or by charging a higher rate with no commission. If you find one that offers an amazing rate, an the place looks like a plain office, or worse, a desk out on the main street, with a sign saying ‘Money Changer’, then they are probably trying to trick you. The tactic is to get you to hand over foreign money, count a bundle of rupiah and then after you have counted it, ask for it back, saying they accidentally gave you too little.
They will put a couple of low denomination bills on top, while swiping a few big bills from the bottom. How do you know a real money changer from a fraud? Well if the place has a money counting machine, many foreign bills as decoration, notices about counterfeit currency, business license etc. displayed, its a good chance they are legit. If its 3 scumbags who haven’t showered for a week, lounging about in a shabby office, all gathering around to snoop on your transaction, you might get ripped off. The legit places usually have female staff, whereas the other ones may not.
The best money changers are PT Central Kuta near Bemo Corner in Kuta and the one across from Bintang in Seminyak (next to Spaghetti Jazz). This one does a TON of business, I’ve seen thousands of US$ handed over in one go. All the expats go here and they don’t cheat you.
There is an old saying, ‘give change or get change’. I don’t like collecting change, so I try to give change every time. At first its ‘funny money’, but when you get the hang of it things start to make sense. Money changers accept most of the major currencies. The US$ has always been the favorite over here, with the government money changer only accepting that currency on Sundays back in 1993. Money changers will give a better rate for larger denomination bills, and will not accept bills that are torn, or stained with ink. Back in 1996 there was some counterfeiting of US$100 bills. Most of the moneychangers have a sign on their wall saying they don’t accept these (even though 99% of them are legit). They also have since become wary of any bills older than 1996 AND have certain serial numbers they won’t accept. What you can do for yourself if you are coming to Bali with US currency, is to make sure its all relatively new, clean $100 bills.
Travelers checks will receive a lower rate of exchange than bills, check with your money changer on a daily basis to find he rates or each currency. Travelers checks can be cashed in most tourist areas and towns with a bank. I’ve cashed them all over Indonesia, from Bali to the top of Sumatra. In village areas you won’t be able to, so make sure you have enough local money. If you are traveling with a friend, exchange travelers check receipts, in case your money and belongings get stolen. These days travelers checks take a back seat to ATM’s.
When visiting Bali your safety should not be an issue, but its good to be careful. I’ve often got a wallet full of Indonesian money and have had no problems in 3 years. If you are worried, you might want to keep your wad in your hotel safe, then just take part of it with you. There are times when having small change is very helpful, particularly when catching a taxi. They will almost always tell you they don’t have change for your big bill, hoping you will say ‘Oh just keep it.’ these guys have 2 wallets and if pressed can come up with change. I have no respect for them whatsoever, and always try to have bills other than just 100s or 50s on me.
Wiring money through Western Union and Moneygram is fast and expensive. I hate using Western Union and Moneygram and its totally a ‘last resort’ option. In both cases rates are based on a sliding scale and sending larger amounts of money is better value. Both companies will get you your money in local currency within 30 minutes. Western Union has 12 locations in Bali and Lombok, including the Bank Internasional Indonesia (BII) branches in Kuta, Nusa Dua, Singaraja, Mataram, as well as the main post offices in Denpasar, Gianyar, Singaraja and Mataram. Moneygram has 4 locations in Bali, which are the Amex office in Sanur (Grand Bali Beach Hotel), Lippo Bank in Denpasar, Kuta Center in Tuban and Bali International Convention Center Nusa Dua.
Check the respective websites for more details on each company.