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Money Changers / Foreign Exchange

Click the appropriate above link to find out how many Indonesian Rupiah a single
unit of your home currency is worth.

So, what is the best method of bringing foreign currency in and exchanging it? Well, you obviously have four options. Cash, travellers cheques (travelers checks), credit and debit cards.

Travellers cheques often get very similar exchange rates to currency and provide you with a lot more security on an island with high crime rates.

Money is risky as it makes you an obvious target. When you reach into your belt wallet or wherever you keep your cash, people will see you have cash and the likelihood is you will have more. Ladies, carrying a handbag will make you the most likely of robbery victims by someone riding pillion on a motorbike who comes from behind. It does not matter if you do not carry your cash in your bag, having your bag snatched from you this way is dangerous, leave the bag in the hotel.

If you are changing US$, you will find most changers have similarly competitive rates. If you are changing another currency, shop around, as some changers penalize other currencies with poorer rates. Also, the higher the denomination of bill / bank note you are exchanging, the better the rate you will get. That is why you often see 4 different rates on money changer boards; one for US$100 bills, one for US$50's, one for US$20's and one for US$10's (you may get appalling rates for anything lower). Also, if there is a newer version / issue and you have the older one, or if your bank notes are not brand new, you will get less! In fact, some older US dollar bills (pre 1996) are declined (the ones that people have managed to forge). The best US dollar bills to have are crisp, new bills with the large head on the front.

Money changers tend to offer better rates than banks. Banks tend to offer much better rates than hotels and some exchange counters at the airport. Therefore, only use money changers and banks if you can. The only time you may have to break that "rule" is when you first arrive and if you need to get a taxi (and don't want the hassle of stopping at a money changers en route). In that case, if you are bringing US$, bring all US$100 bills to get the best rate once you are settled in your hotel, and a US$20 to change at the airport for a taxi.

With money changers, it pays to be very careful; most are cheats and how. It often pays to avoid the changers down the side streets who offer slightly higher, but odd rates on their boards (e.g. Rp8,050 to the US$1, when most are offering Rp7,900). The reason is that rate may be all they need to confuse and shortchange you. Also, when you look at their board, check to make sure it says "No Commission", and hold them to it.

You may want to take your own pocket calculator, in case theirs doesn't work properly (a common trick)! Also, they like to use very big calculators and some like to hold it right up to your face (so you can not watch the piles of money). Once they have counted out your Rupiah into different piles and you have also checked them / counted it out for yourself, don't let them touch / recount the piles, as some notes may accidentally "fall" on the floor! One way of dissuading them from recounting your money is to keep it out of their reach and / or put elastic bands around the counted piles. Money changers along Jl. Legian in Kuta, and those in Sanur are the most notorious for trying to cheat people.

One last thing on the subject of changing cash, you might want to check that the changer has Rp100,000 or Rp 50,000 bills to give you, not Rp10,000's or, even worse, Rp5,000's. Why? Because even a US$100 worth of Rupiah is a mighty large "wad" of notes in Rp50,000's. It's an uncomfortable "advertisement" in Rp5,000's and harder to count!

ATM's are quite commonplace in major tourist areas these days, and relatively reliable if you get to one before the money runs out (imagine how quickly the ATM's in your county would run out if your currency had suffered so). ATM's seem to prefer "CIRRUS" to "STAR". Also, MasterCard and Visa withdrawals are possible. But, if the money doesn't come out, let your card company know ASAP as some unlucky people have reportedly been charged for money they did not get! You will find plenty of ATM's in the tourist south, Ubud, Candi Dasa and Lovina / Singaraja.

Credit Cards in most reasonable quality hotels and restaurants are not a problem (unless you use American Express - which they don't normally accept !). Just look out for rate hikes. Also, if you have an older style credit card without the "SIM" (microchip) implant, be careful whichever country you are in. Fraudsters do the "double swipe" which gives them all the information they need from the magnetic strip to make a duplicate! The answer? Get a modern CC or never let it out of your sight, and never let them run it through their machine twice.

Another thing to watch out for with credit cards is giving your details to travel agents and tour companies. Too many reports of erroneous charges from places guests have never been to are emerging. If you pay for accommodation online and in advance of your visit to Bali / Lombok, the order form may be secure, but are the agent's staff?

As a footnote to "money", you can arrange for your bank at home to wire you some. Opening an account while in Bali / Lombok with an Indonesian bank is not a problem. You will need your passport when you go though. This helps you when if and when you go back to Bali & Lombok as you can wire foreign currency into your Indonesian bank account before your next trip. Many banks offer Internet banking, so you can keep an eye on things from back home. If you provide a local address you will get an ATM card from your Indonesian bank; many will get these issued and to the branch within a week, so if you open an account on your first day in Bali / Lombok, you should be able to leave with your ATM card and Internet PIN number when you fly back home.