How to make planning your first Bali holiday enjoyable!
The everyday currency used in Bali is the Indonesian Rupiah, however most hotels and villas quote in American dollars. Restaurants and accommodation accounts show at the bottom of their invoice an additional charge from 10% up to 21% covering service fees and government tax. If you have a meal for say RP60,000 the total amount payable will range between Rp66,000 to RP72,600. In this example you will pay from $0.60 to $1.30 extra in service and government tax.
For The Budget Conscious
The first thing to get your mind around, is deciding your total Bali spending budget. This should be done in advance of leaving home and should include your airfare, travel insurance and accommodation, as your major expense items. Next, earmark what you intend spending on personal shopping for yourself if any and also your daily spend average, covering everything else that you are likely to spend your money on, such as meals, drinks, essentials, gifts, entertainment, taxi’s and tour expenses to name a few.
When it comes to money we are all different concerning our priorities and wants with regards to the amount of spending power we have available to blast off over a few hectic days, which is like asking someone the length of a piece of string.
Depending on which spending category you fit into and from my experience, your daily spend could be in the region of $80 to $100 per day. However, it is best to know your own spending habits because it is very possible to cost more. You could live on half this amount if you don’t drink alcohol, not interested in tours or eating at expensive restaurants. In my opinion a reasonable budget for fourteen days would be $1500 per person covering on ground expenses only plus your airfares, travel insurance and accommodation.To be on the safe side, you should also allow for drawing extra funds from your credit card if you happen to overspend.
In May 2012 the exchange rate of one dollar was around RP9200. I hope the exchange rate is similar or better on your arrival but don’t stress if its not, because even if it drops to Rp8500, it represents a loss of only RP700 or 7 cents in the dollar.
There are current alerts (2010) out for tourists to be extra careful when exchanging money because of the large amount of very difficult to detect forgeries currently in circulation, which makes it even more important to follow my recommendations.
The Indonesian currency is very easy to understand as you will see from the these examples. The conversion rate of Rupiah into dollars using the following examples is only a rough estimate and is meant to be used by you for a quick conversion only. i.e Rp100000 divided by Rp9200 = $10.87c.
Use the following guide as a quick reference only:
RP 100000 = $10, RP50000 = $5.00, RP20000 = $2.00, RP10000 = $1.00, RP5000 = 50c, RP2000 =20c, RP1000 = 10c. This table is not accurate and is designed to help you with your mental arithmatic. As an example and working on exactly the same exchange rates as I have suggested above, the difference in Aus$ would be $3 extra on the correct exchange rate when compared to my rough guide on a Rp365,000 purchase i.e $36.50 compared to $39.67 actual.
You must take particular care when handling RP100000 and RP10000 notes for the first time because even though a new note of a different colour is now in circulation, there is a large number of the old RP10,000 still in circulation also, which is similar in colour to the current RP100,000 note. Make sure you count the zero’s and double check before parting with your hard earned cash.
Now I can hear you saying, I’ve got the idea so tell me where I can safely exchange my currency. The answer is from a number of places but please be alert because all is not what it seems.
Be Alert Exchanging Money
Avoid money changers in the streets who clearly advertise a COMMISSION or NO COMMISSION sign on their board displaying a very tempting rate of exchange. Many unsuspecting tourists who do use this method, loose heavily over the number of times they use them. These dealers are magicians when it comes to making money disappear before your eyes no matter how hard you concentrate on this performance. Now you see it, now you don’t. If you question the amount of money you have received, the dealer will offer to recount it in front of you again, which gives the dealer another opportunity to take some more.
You will be able to exchange currency safely at your hotel, where they will charge you a small fee but well worth paying until you are more confident out on the streets. The others are Banks and or their ATM’s. I strongly advise you to have a friend with you when you extract money from any ATM.
Having warned you of what can happen and thereby potentially saving you a tidy sum, I will now give you one address for a ”authorised” money changer to start you off.
There is a number of Pt. Bali Maspintjinra AMC (authorised money changer) in Bali and they are your best option. The following is the name of just one of these establishments. However, while you are in these premises, you should ask for their business cards showing directions to other branches. Warning: Any notes being exchanged, must be in excellent condition. Damaged notes will not be accepted.
Pt. Bali Maspintjinra AMC (authorized money changer)
Jl.. Raya. Seminyak. No.16. A.
I suggest you take a Bluebird taxi to check it out. Allow about RP20000 to RP30000 dependant on how far you travel. (about two or three dollars). Another very good option is to ask my friend Ketut Tamba (Charlie from Bali) to show you around Seminyak, Legian and Kuta areas to point out various safe places to exchange your money and also to point out other places of interest i.e supermarkets, circle k for essentials, Chemist (Apotek), where to buy beer, wine and spirits and also restaurants and department stores as examples. If you do this, it will save you heaps of time, money and frustration. Phone Charlie mob: 08155792272 or E: [email protected]
In the event you don’t use Charlie, show the address to your taxi driver and ask him to deliver you to the premises and to point out which building. If you go down steps to get into it, you are in the right place. You can be confident you will receive the correct amount as advertised on the board at the front of the business and also displayed inside but still count it.
The benifit of using Charlie or someone similar for your initial orientation tour is you will be able to either walk or take a taxi in the future to a number of the suggestions listed above.
I suggest for your initial cash supply, changing AUD $200, which is about RP2,000,000, two million depending on the exchange rate. Now you can see how long this amount lasts before you are back for more. This system also gives you a good idea of how quickly your money disappears against your daily budget.
When you receive your money, you will be given a receipt showing the exchange rate and total amount due to you but before you leave count it and It’s a good idea to keep your receipt for future reference. I also suggest that you become familiar with the denomination and appearance of each Rupiah note well before you start some serious spending.
The exchange rate can fluctuate up and down daily. Sunday is usually the worst day while Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for what ever reason, can be the best days to exchange funds. If you use travellers cheques you will receive slightly less than if you had cash, which needs to be $50 or $100 notes or notes in any other currency providing they are in good condition only.
After you get to know your way around and gain confidence with your dealings, you will find other places to use for exchanging your money, but I think it’s a safe bet you will use the one I have mentioned here until someone with experience points you in another direction.
Credit cards are good but to be on the safe side in case of scams, limit their use at ATM’s. You can feel confident using your card at big shopping centres like Centro, Carrefour, Matahari and others including upmarket shops, hotels and medium to top end restaurants. The thing to remember is not to let the card out of your sight if possible. A pin number is the best way to go.
Here is a tip for you to consider, which has worked well for me over the years. The only time I take my credit card for a walk is for a specific reason, like a serious shopping day or medium to top end restaurants, otherwise it stays in a secure place.
Although I take a cash amount with me in $100 and $50 dollar notes, I only ever carry enough money for the day. I use a Bali purchased wallet for this purpose and leave my good wallet in a secure place with my credit card, cash, return airfare tickets and passport. At worst, I would only loose somewhere between $100 and $200 AUD if a pick pocket decides to relieve me of my wallet, which thankfully I have not experienced.
There is not much more I can tell you about handling your money in Bali except you brought it with you to spend, so lighten up, spend it wisely and enjoy what it can do for you.
Handy Bali money tips:
- For credit card protection you should ring your credit card provider to advise them you will be in Bali for whatever period you plan to stay, just incase of loss or if you become the victim of a scam. Unfortunately scams can and do happen.
- Limit the number of times you carry your credit card with you.
- Always be aware of the common thief. A thief starts at an early age in Bali so beware of friendly smiling young kids in crowded places.
- Limit the amount of cash you carry on a daily basis. It’s a good idea to split up all of your money and documents while travelling to avoid the possibility of loosing everything at the same time.
- Use the money changer I have recommended until you are confident with someone else
- The currency used in Bali is Indonesian Rupiah.
- Try to have a budget and stick to it.
- Remember you are a wealthy person in the eyes of the locals so don’t flash your money or expensive jewellery around in front of them because you will be relieved of it if you give them the opportunity.
- Consider taking a small calculator or money converter
- You will need a note book and pen to help keep track of your spending.
- Be aware of the RP100000 note and RP10000 note. To a beginner they look very similar and they are, so be alert. Recently, a new RP10000 has been released and has more of a grey tone but there are many of the originals still in circulation.
- Always count your money after you have exchanged your currency.