ATMs and money changers are widespread across Indonesia's cities and tourist areas. In remote areas, ATMs don't always work and rates of exchange are often poor.
- ATMs are common across Indonesia except in very rural areas. Most now accept cards affiliated with international networks, although they will not always work. Bank BNI, with ATMs across the nation, is reliable.
- ATMs in Indonesia have a maximum limit for withdrawals; sometimes it is 2,000,000Rp, but it can be as low as 500,000Rp, which is not much in foreign-currency terms.
- Many ATMs have a sticker that specifies whether the machine dispenses 50,000Rp or 100,000Rp notes.
- Always carry a sizeable amount of rupiah when you are travelling outside cities and tourist areas as ATM networks go down and/or you can be on an island where the only ATM is broken or nonexistent.
The unit of currency used in Indonesia is the rupiah (Rp). Notes come in 2000Rp, 5000Rp, 10,000Rp, 20,000Rp, 50,000Rp and 100,000Rp denominations. Coins of 50Rp, 100Rp, 200Rp, 500Rp and 1000Rp are also in circulation. For change in amounts below 50Rp, expect to receive a few sweets.
Try to carry a fair amount of money in bills 20,000Rp and under as getting change for larger bills is often a problem. ATMs dispense 50,000Rp or 100,000Rp bills only.
By government decree, all businesses are required to price goods and services in rupiah. Many tourist outfits such as hotels and dive shops try to price in dollars or euros to avoid currency fluctuations.
- In cities and touristed areas (eg Bali), credit cards will be accepted at midrange and better hotels and resorts. More expensive shops as well as travel agents will also accept them, but often there will be a surcharge of around 3%.
- MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards. Cash advances are possible at many ATMs or banks.
- Before leaving home, inform your credit-card issuer that you will be travelling in Indonesia; otherwise your account may be frozen for suspected fraud the first time you try to use it.
- The skimming of credit cards at ATM machines is a problem in Bali especially. It's best to use ATM machines at a bank, rather than elsewhere.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency in Indonesia. Australian, British, euros and Japanese currencies are exchangeable only in the most touristed areas of Bali and Jakarta.
- Outside cities and tourist areas, banks may only be willing to exchange crisp, new US$100 bills. In many rural areas banks won't offer any exchange, or rates will be poor.
- Money changers range from the honest to dishonest. Signs bearing phrases such as 'official' and 'licensed' are meaningless.
Follow these steps to avoid getting ripped off when exchanging money.
- Find out the going exchange rate online. Know that anyone offering a better rate will need to make a profit through other means.
- Stick to banks, exchange counters in airports or large and reputable storefront operations.
- Skip any place offering too-good exchange rates and claiming to charge no fees or commissions.
- Avoid exchange stalls down alleys or in otherwise dubious locations (that sounds obvious, but scores of tourists are taken in daily).
- Common exchange scams include rigged calculators, sleight-of-hand schemes, 'mistakes' on the posted rates and demands that you hand over your money before you have counted the money on offer.
- Use an ATM to obtain rupiah. Check with your bank about fees; if they are not outrageous, you'll avoid carrying large amounts of cash and get a decent exchange rate.
Indonesia has plans to redenominate the rupiah by removing three digits from the currency. So, for example, the 20,000Rp note would become the 20Rp note. This could happen from 2020, although the old money will remain legal tender until at least 2025. Changing the national currency is likely to be a very complex process, with many implications for travellers. These include the following:
- New notes will be introduced that are identical to the current ones, with the exception of the final three zeros missing. Long-term plans call for all-new designs.
- The government stresses that current banknotes will retain their value (eg the 100,000Rp note will be the same as the new 100Rp note), however, how this will play out is anyone’s guess. In other nations, such as Russia, there has been widespread refusal to accept old notes, even after government guarantees of their value.
- It will likely take years for price lists and computer systems to be fully updated, so it will be up to customers to make certain that they are being charged – and paying – appropriately.
- Introduction of the new denominations is likely to occur with little notice to avoid financial upheavals.
- Tipping a set amount is not expected but for good service leave 5000Rp or 10% or more (this is expected on Bali).
- Most midrange and all top-end hotels and restaurants add 21% to the bill for tax and service (known as ‘plus plus’).
- Hand cash directly to individuals if they deserve a tip.
- Tip good taxi drivers, porters, people giving a massage or fetching a beer on the beach etc; 5000Rp to 10,000Rp is generous.