If you’re travelling to Bali, you’re definitely gonna need some of the local currency. Indonesian Rupiah, or IDR, is most useful to carry especially for transactions with street vendors, and many restaurants that do not accept card.
While it depends on which country you are from, mostly, converting your currency into Indonesian Rupiah can make you feel like a millionaire with 1 United States Dollar equalling 14000 Indonesian Rupiah in Jan 2019 (If you’re from India, like us, 1 Indian Rupee will give you 200 Indonesian Rupiah). Understanding the currency of Indonesia is important, because the prices will look scary at first, but you realise that due to inflation, the lower denominations of the currency have almost no value, and prices are almost equivalent to many other countries in south-east Asia, just that the currency looks crazy high! For instance, a meal for two can cost you 150,000 IDR at a mediocre restaurant, which is the equivalent of $10/₹750. So while it looks like a lot of money, it is definitely a lot cheaper!
Indonesian Rupiah is available in the denominations 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, and 100000 as bank notes and 100 and 500 as coins. While the coins are in circulation, you most likely won’t use them unless you pay cash at the supermarket and they tender you exact change; otherwise, it is usually rounded off to the nearest thousand, whether you’re bargaining at the store or paying off the cab driver.
Most restaurants/shops will not list the full figure of a price for an item. To give you an example, if a dish costs 25000 IDR, they will simply list it as 25.00. Often even vendors will just say “100” or “50” in place of 100,000 or 50000. It is to be understood that they mean that amount. If you aren’t sure, better to clarify, or better yet, if you have a communication issue, pull out a note and cross check with them.
The notes are easily distinguishable by colour, and because of the excessive devaluation of the currency, you may be required to carry several notes. For our trip, we carried around 6 million IDR (₹30000/$420) in cash, and withdrew an additional 1 million IDR while there. Our Mount Batur Trek and Scuba Dives were paid for in advance, and we may have spent an additional 2 Million IDR on our card, shopping for gifts and paying at some restaurants.
We find it is a better idea to carry a minimal amount of cash and then withdraw directly from the ATM rather than carry USD/your currency and change it over there, because you might not get great exchange rates. However, you may want to check with your bank in advance if they levy a surcharge on International ATM withdrawals.
Tips to carry Indonesian Rupiah in Bali
-Always split the money into 4/5 parts and place in different parts of your carry on luggage – Use discarded mint boxes or inconspicuous storage containers to stash the cash (We used empty Altoids boxes!)
-Carry only how much cash you think is needed when heading out, and lock the rest in your hotel safe
-Always keep a count of how much money you have, before and after you put it in the safe (thefts from hotel safes are not unheard of)
-Double check when paying a vendor/shop, since people may just take your lack of knowledge for granted and take a 20000 note where you owe them a 2000
-Always “break” your 100000 notes down when going street shopping. Smaller vendors often don’t have change for larger notes. Supermarkets are a great place to do this.
-Round off your payments to the nearest higher thousand to avoid getting coins. IDR Coins are mostly useless (plus they’re made of aluminium, so they’re super light and super easy to lose), and towards the end of your trip, you will find, very hard to get rid of.
-Bargaining is incredibly important in Bali, since it is a tourism hub and while the locals are nice, they tend to overcharge you. Read our guide on bargaining in Bali here.