The currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah (IDR). Exchange rates vary from day to day, but using a rough base of 13.500Rp to US$1 will give you a good idea. Coins run to 100Rp and are practically worthless. Some shops, particularly in Bali, don’t bother with them and will toss you a token lolly instead of coins if they owe you small change. Notes run from 1.000 – 100.000Rp, the equivalent of about US$7.40 so resign yourself to having to carry large wads of cash.
As with ATM’s, money changers are commonplace in major cities and major airports, less so elsewhere. Exchange rates at airports aren’t usually as good as you might find elsewhere but you pay for the convenience of being able to obtain some local currency on arrival. A good tip is to check the official exchange rate at www.xe.com to get an idea of what a fair rate is.
Always look for professional looking money exchangers and be very wary of the guy down the alley offering a better rate than the official rate. Unfortunately, money changing scams happen and victims quite often don’t realised they’ve been short changed until it’s too late. You can protect yourself by following a few basic guidelines – Check the exchange rate calculations and always count your money before and after the exchange in front of the money changer. Never, ever take your eyes off the money (dishonest money changers are adept at distracting people just long enough to snatch a few notes away) and if possible, two sets of eyes are better than one.
International ATM’s are commonplace in major cities and tourist destinations but usually have a limit on the maximum withdrawal amount, anywhere between 1.5 – 3M Rp. Depending on how much cash you need, this may mean having to make multiple expensive withdrawals. In out of the way places ATM’s are almost non-existent.
Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants and some shops in most major cities but may incur small charge. You can just about forget about using credit cards away from major cities or popular tourist destinations unless you happen to find a Western run establishment. Credit card scams do occur although probably no more or less so than anywhere else. Be vigilent!
The scarcity of ATM’s, money changers and credit card facilities in out of the way places means you’ll have to plan your money needs carefully and take enough cash with you to cover all your needs. Don’t keep it all together in one place. Use a money belt and spread the rest around your daypack and luggage. Basically, use your common sense.
But for a few exceptions, haggling is the norm throughout Indonesia. It can be a little daunting for beginners and even those with experience so we’ve compiled a few haggling tips to help you out.