Indonesian currency, the rupiah (IDR), can be very confusing until you get used to it. Notes come in denominations of 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; 50 000 and 100 000 rupiah. Coins are also available, although not common, they can come in 25, 50,100, 200, 500 and 1,000 rupiah denominations. Yes, all those zeros can be very confusing. Please note that the 10,000 and the 100,000 rupiah notes can look very similar, so be careful which note you hand over when purchasing items.
This is a link to a very good currency conversion site which also includes a printable cheat sheet. It can be very helpful to have one of these cheat sheets in your pocket/wallet until you become more confident.
As a result of the low value of the currency and the lack of very small denominations, you may experience a uniquely Indonesian custom in some shops in Bali. If you are owed change on purchases and the amount of that change requires small denominations, you may be given it as closely as possible in notes and coins and in lieu of the balance, you will be given candy or peanuts. This is a simple and friendly practice, please accept it in the manner in which it is intended, and enjoy your candy.
WHAT CURRENCY TO TAKE
You will get a much better exchange rate in Bali rather than in your home country. We usually recommend waiting until you arrive in Bali to get your rupiah.
Money changers in Bali can and will exchange all major currencies. In most cases there is no need to bring any other currency other than your own. Larger denomination notes will get you a higher exchange rate than smaller notes, as will clean, undamaged notes. For those bringing US currency, please ensure that your notes are recently printed, older notes will not be accepted due to counterfeiting problems in the past.
Traveller’s Cheques can be exchanged at most money changers but the rate of exchange will be slightly lower. Note that you will require your passport to exchange Traveller’s Cheques.
Credit cards are usually accepted for larger purchases, accommodation (apart from smaller establishments), department stores and larger restaurants. Always check though, as they are not accepted as widely as in Western Countries.
The money changers at the airport (just as you leave the baggage claim area) will have a lower exchange rate than those outside the airport in Kuta, Legian, Sanur etc. We recommend that you only change a little money here to get you through the first 12-24 hours, until you can get to a changer with a better rate.
ATMs are plentiful in the southern areas and in and around Ubud. Please note that areas such as Amed in the north, east and other more remote areas do not at present, have ATMs. These machines dispense either 50,000 or 100,000 rupiah notes. Machines that dispense 100,000 IDR notes can dispense larger amounts per transaction than the other machines (3 million rupiah per transaction), there will be a sign stating that this is the case (Permata Bank ATM in Sanur and Ubud, and City Bank ATM at the airport are some that have the higher limit). Other machines dispense a maximum of 1,500,000.
The usual precautions when using an ATM apply and please cover the keypad when entering your pin number. One word of warning, many ATMs will not prompt you to take your card back, and your money will be dispensed before the card is released, so always remember to check that you have your card before you leave the cubicle.
MONEY CHANGERS – HOW NOT TO GET RIPPED OFF
As in most countries, there are dishonest people in Bali too. Money changers have a notorious reputation for sleight of hand, rigged calculators and other scams. Unfortunately, we frequently hear from people who have been ripped off by one of these dishonest money changers. A little research before going to Bali will prevent anyone putting themselves in a position to be cheated. If you follow the rules set out below, you should not have a problem locating and using an honest money changer.
• DO NOT use a money changer that is located down a laneway or alley.
• DO NOT use a money changer with a desk at the back of another business.
• DO NOT use a money changer if the sign does not say “authorised” ( and even if the sign does say authorised, do not let your guard down and do follow all the same rules)
• DO NOT use a money changer with an advertised rate which is better than any other in that area. (If the rate is too high, the changer is not making any money on the exchange and will have to cheat you to make money)
• DO NOT hand over your money until you are satisfied that the exchange is honest and you have the rupiah in your other hand.
• DO NOT allow anyone else present to distract you during the transaction.
• DO NOT accept any smaller denominations than 50,000 and 100,000 notes (a sure sign that you are going to be cheated is if they say they have run out of large notes and try to give you small notes instead).
• DO NOT allow anyone to touch the rupiah once you have counted it and are sure it is correct.
• DO only change your money at dedicated money changer (or the business listed further in this list)
• DO check their calculations, on your own calculator, if necessary.
• DO count the rupiah, twice, in full, before handing over your money.
• DO keep the rupiah in your hand, do not put it back down on the counter.
• DO, if you feel at all uncomfortable or suspicious, walk out.
• DO, if you find you have been cheated, go back to that money changer and ask for the rest of your rupiah (most keep a ledger of the amounts they have skimmed, so will know exactly how much you have been shorted).
• DO try to keep using the same money changer, once you have found an honest and reliable one.
In our experience the businesses listed below are honest, but having said this, always check and never take their honesty for granted:
Airport Money Changers
PT Bali Maspintjinra, Kuta Jl Sriwinjays No 16A
BMC Seminyak PT Bali Maspintjinra(opposite Bintang Supermarket, next to Sip restaurant on the Kuta side.)
PT Bali Maspintjinra, Head office Jl Raya Seminyak No 16A
PT Bali Maspintjinra, Sanur, Jl Danau Tamblingan No 18
PT Bali Maspintjinra also has offices in Makassar and Lombok
Some hotels will offer a decent exchange rate if you feel that the money changer process is not for you, and want an easier, hassle free option.