Cost & Money in Indonesia

Indonesia's currency is the Rupiah (IDR), abbreviated Rp. The Rupiah's value plummeted during the 1997 economic crisis, but has strengthened again significantly in recent years. The trailing three zeros are often abbreviated with rb (ribu, thousand) or even dropped completely, and for more expensive items you will often even see jt (juta, million).

The largest banknote is the red Rp 100,000, which may only be US$10 but is still inconveniently large for most purchases. Next in the series are Rp 50,000 (blue), Rp 20,000 (green), Rp 10,000 (purple), Rp 5,000 (brown), Rp 2,000 (gray) and finally Rp 1,000. The Rp 1,000 note is discontinued and currently being replaced with a coin. While the new, colorful large-denomination bills are easy to tell apart, the smaller bills and pre-2004 large notes are all confusingly similar pale pastel shades of yellow, green and brown and often filthy and mangled to boot. A chronic shortage of small change — it's not unusual to get a few pieces of candy back instead of coins — has been to some extent alleviated by a new flood of new coins, available in denominations of Rp 1,000, Rp 500. The Rp 200, Rp 100, Rp 50 and the thoroughly useless Rp 25 are being withdrawn during 2012. Older golden metallic versions are also still floating around. Bills printed in 1992 or earlier are no longer in circulation, but can be exchanged at banks. Currently the smaller coins are being withdrawn from circulation.

US dollars will be accepted by many in a pinch, but are typically used as an investment and for (very) large purchases, not buying a bowl of noodles on the street. Unlike some other South East Asian countries, you will do the vast majority of your spending in local currency and hence should carry a good supply of Rupiah, as most people will not know current exchange rates and worry about stringent rules banks and money changers impose on the condition of notes (see below). Many hotels quote rates in dollars, but all accept payment in Rupiah and many who quote in USD then seek to convert the billing into Rupiah for payment. Many will likely use a somewhat disadvantageous rate to do this. If you pay any bill in Indonesia with a credit card it will be charged to your account in Rupiah, regardless of the currency you were quoted. Aside from the US dollar, other major international currencies are also widely accepted for a cash settlement, especially in more touristy areas.

Changing Money

Banks and money exchangers are widely available on Java, Bali and Lombok, but can be a major headache anywhere else, so load up with Rupiah before heading off to any outer islands. Money exchangers are verypicky about bill condition, and pre-2006 dollars or any imperfect bills or (ripped, wrinkled, stained, or marked in any way) will normally be rejected. Banks will most likely reject any pre-2006 US currency. Counterfeit US dollars are a huge problem in the country and as a result the older your dollars are, the lower the exchange rate. You will get the highest exchange rate for dollars issued in 2006 or later and the exchange rate drops for dollars for currency outside a very narrow range of perceived acceptability. There are even different exchange rates according to the serial number for dollars from 1996. Banks and money exchangers on outer islands are sparse and will charge commissions of 10-20% if you can find them.

In the reverse direction, money changers will be happy to turn your dirty Rupiah into spiffy dollars, but the spread is often considerable (10% is not unusual). Be very careful dealing with moneychangers, who are very adept at distracting your attention during the counting process and short-changing you as a result. As a precaution, consider bringing a friend along to watch over the transaction very carefully. Be aware of moneychangers who offer great rates. They will quote you one price, and start counting stacks of Rp.20,000 notes, and ask you to count along with them. This is a ploy to confuse and shortchange you. If they realise you are onto them, they will tell you that they have to subtract 6-8% for "commission" or "taxes".

Reputable money changers will have rate boards advertising a rate slightly below the current market rate (or need to look up the current rate first) and not charge any commission. This isn't a guarantee you won't get short changed though. Always count your money carefully and don't change too much at once to avoid confusion over the large number of zeros and minimize the extent to which you can be ripped off.

Money Changer

Banks and money exchangers are widely available on Java, Bali and Lombok, but can be a major headache anywhere else, so load up with Rupiah before heading off to any outer islands. Money exchangers are very picky about bill condition, and pre-2006 dollars or any imperfect bills or (ripped, wrinkled, stained, or marked in any way) will normally be rejected. Banks will most likely reject any pre-2006 US currency. Counterfeit US dollars are a huge problem in the country and as a result the older your dollars are, the lower the exchange rate. You will get the highest exchange rate for dollars issued in 2006 or later and the exchange rate drops for dollars for currency outside a very narrow range of perceived acceptability. There are even different exchange rates according to the serial number for dollars from 1996. Banks and money exchangers on outer islands are sparse and will charge commissions of 10-20% if you can find them.

In the reverse direction, money changers will be happy to turn your dirty Rupiah into spiffy dollars, but the spread is often considerable (10% is not unusual). Be very careful dealing with money changers, who are very adept at distracting your attention during the counting process and short-changing you as a result. As a precaution, consider bringing a friend along to watch over the transaction very carefully. Be aware of moneychangers who offer great rates. They will quote you one price, and start counting stacks of IDR 20,000 notes, and ask you to count along with them. This is a ploy to confuse and shortchange you. If they realise you are onto them, they will tell you that they have to subtract 6-8% for "commission" or "taxes". Reputable money changers will have rate boards advertising a rate slightly below the current market rate (or need to look up the current rate first) and not charge any commission. This isn't a guarantee you won't get short changed though. Always count your money carefully and don't change too much at once to avoid confusion over the large number of zeros and minimize the extent to which you can be ripped off.

ATMs

ATMs (pron. ah-teh-em) on the international Plus/Cirrus networks are common in all major Indonesian cities and tourist destinations, but may be harder to come by in the backblocks. Beware of withdrawal limits as low as Rp.500,000 (~US$55) per day in some machines. As a rule of thumb, machines loaded with Rp 50,000 denomination notes (there's a sticker on ATM often) do not dispense more than Rp 1,500,000 per transaction even in Jakarta. Those with Rp 100,000 notes can give more, up to Rp 3,000,000 (often CIMB, BII, some BRI machines, Commonwealth bank on Bali) at once. Note, however, that these notes can be harder to break, especially in rural non-tourist areas. Bank branches are generally happy to break large notes taken from their ATMs up into smaller ones at no charge.

Credit Cards

Be careful when using credit cards, as cloning and fraud are a major problem in Indonesia. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, but American Express can be problematic. At smaller operations, surcharges of 2-5% over cash are common. Discover is not accepted.

Costs

Living in Indonesia is cheap, as long as you're willing to live like an Indonesian. For example, Rp 10,000 (about $1.15) will get you a meal on the street or a packet of cigarettes or three kilometers in a taxi or three bottles of water. But as a tourist it is often necessary to haggle and negotiate a minimum of 50%-70% off an initial asking price, otherwise you will spend your money quickly. Fancy restaurants, hotels and the like will charge 10% government sales tax plus a variable service charge. This may be denoted with "++" after the price or just written in tiny print on the bottom of the menu.

Source: Wikitravel

SHARE
THIS ARTICLE

What's on