Category Archives: money

Rupiah For Visitors

Chris explains how to get some local Indonesian money quickly and safely.

Visitors to Indonesia can have difficulty getting some local currency before or soon after they arrive, especially if transiting Jakarta Airport and needing some money fast for airport tax, or taking a Jakarta or Bali airport taxi.

This is intended to be a guide for first-timers. You can read it all or just the relevant section:

  1. Indonesian Currency 101
  2. The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs
  3. How To Know A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger

Indonesian Currency 101

The currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah, usually marked as Rp or IDR. Indonesia is still very much a cash-based society, and credit cards are still not accepted in many places.

Coins start at Rp100 up to Rp500 (click on image for full-size):

Rupiah Coins

A bronze Rp500 is slowly disappearing. There is also now a new Rp1000 coin:

Rp1000 coin

It may eventually replace the Rp1000 banknote, though at the moment it is relatively rare.

Banknotes come in denominations of Rp1000 up to Rp100 000:

IDR Banknotes

The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs

Almost all Indonesian ATMs are connected to the Maestro/Cirrus network, and provide the choice of English or Indonesian instructions.

Rp50 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote

Most ATMs dispense Rp50 000 notes (about $US6), although some give Rp100 000 (about $US12) notes. It is usually marked whether it is Rp50 000 or Rp100 000. If possible, avoid the latter unless you are e.g. about to buy something expensive.

If you want to minimise transaction fees, get the maximum amount: Rp1 250 000 ($US140) for the Rp50 000 ATMs, Rp2 500 000 ($US280) for the Rp100 000 ATMs.

BRI Logo

In regional and remote areas, the most common bank is BRI (pronounced "BAY UR EEE"), but not all branches have ATMs.

Rp20 000 banknote

In smaller cities, you might also find an ATM that dispenses Rp20 000 notes, up to a maximum of Rp500 000 ($US60) per transaction.

Please note:

1. Some new ATMs now eject the ATM card before the cash. Make sure you take the ATM card as soon as it comes out; after 15 seconds, the ATM (assumes you have forgotten to take it and) sucks the card back in to stop somebody else stealing it, and then you need to get the machine opened. At a bank, no problem; at a e.g. shopping mall or airport, that could be difficult.

2. ATMs in tourist areas do run out of money, especially during and around Indonesian public holidays. It's best to prepare an emergency supply of cash.

Newly arrived visitors might need to get some cash in a hurry, especially for a taxi fare (if staying in Jakarta) or airport tax (if transiting Jakarta). Having said that, they also value their safety and privacy. Which airport ATM is the most suitable?

ATMs in the secure area of the International Terminal arrivals hall are the most useful because they are in a secure area and usually there are very few people using them.

CBA ATMCommonwealth Bank Indonesia has an ATM in the international terminal arrivals hall of both Jakarta and Denpasar/Bali Airports. This is especially useful for Australians who have an account with Commonwealth Bank Australia, because CBI ATMs in Indonesia have a lower transaction fee for CBA account holders.

Here is some additional airport-specific guidance for Indonesia's three most popular international airports:

ATMs Jakarta Airport Terminal 2In the past, Indonesians and foreign residents had to pay a departure tax called "fiskal" of Rp2 500 000 per person. So inside the Departures area (upstairs from Arrivals) of the international Terminal 2 near the secure entrance, there are a large collection of ATMs - see right. You could stop in there on the way to the inter-terminal bus stop if you are changing terminals.

ATMs aren't in one central area but are dotted throughout the airport in both the domestic and international terminals. If arriving at night, choose one that has a security camera, is well-lit and isn't surrounded by locals offering transport/taxi rides.

Like in a shopping mall, there is an "ATM Mall" between the domestic and international terminals, below the viewing deck and near Dunkin Donuts. You can make a short pitstop in there when you are changing terminals.

How To Spot A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger

1. Know Your Stuff and Your Currency
The value of the currency does fluctuate, so it's always a good idea to check the exchange rates.

BI Exchange Rates Bank Danamon

Places you do this independently include the Bank Indonesia webpage (above left) and a local bank with rates clearly posted on its webpage, e.g. Bank Danamon (above right).

If you're a more visual person, Bank Indonesia also does graphs. Here is the one for € / Euros:


They also do many other currencies. Choose the one you want:

$US / USD | $A / AUD | ¥ / YEN | £ / GBP | Fr / CHF | $S / SGD | RM / MYR
Other currencies

Or if you're offline, Indonesia's English newspaper The Jakarta Post is there to help you. Turn to page 14 (inside front page of the Business section) and they have rates for banknotes and telegraphic transfers.

In general, the rate of a good moneychanger should be a little below the banknotes buy rate. Like with managed investment schemes, if the rate seems to too good to be true, it is - the moneychanger is likely to be dodgy.

2. Work Out What You Should Get
The easy part is using your mobile/cellular phone's calculator to work out how much you should get.

The trickier part is working out what that will look like in Indonesian Rupiah:

IDR Banknotes
Indonesian Rupiah Banknotes

Confusingly, the Rp10 000 and Rp100 000 are a similar colour, and don't have a space, dot or comma before the last three zeroes; it's easy to mix them up.

Rp10 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote
Not good for the vision impaired

The quickest way to know which is which is to count how many people on the banknote: Rp100 000 has two, Rp10 000 has one.

Rp10 000 banknotes
Old and New

A new design of the Rp10 000 banknote was launched recently with a colour that is more different/contrasting with the Rp100 000 banknote, but to many people it will remain unclear.

3. Survey
Don't be afraid to ask locals or other tourists where they went or where they recommend.

Have a look around. If the rate seems right, take a closer look. Is it often busy with other tourists? If yes, that's a good sign. And if it's an authorized money changer, it should have this sticker on display:

Authorized Money Changer

Please note:

1. Some places e.g. Kuta in Bali have a reputation for bad/dodgy moneychangers. If you are unsure or you cannot find one you trust, use an ATM instead.

2. For reasons never fully explained, foreign currency banknotes must be in pristine condition; no marks, tears or folds. $US banknotes must usually be a new series - 2006 or later.

3. If you had a stopover in a nearby Asian country - e.g. Singapore or Malaysia - and have some local currency leftover, you could use a moneychanger at that airport instead. The larger ones, e.g. American Express at Changi Airport, usually have some Rp50 000 notes.

What have your experiences been getting Indonesian money? Please add your own comments, hints and tips below.

Or if you have a question, please ask.

Rupiah For Visitors is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Lawful Tax Evasion

Duty/tax-free shopping for tourists is coming to Indonesia, sort of.

It is now possible to avoid paying tax in Indonesia, not by bribing someone at the Indonesian Tax Office, but legally.

Gayus Tambahan
Gayus Tambahan
He allegedly helped many people avoid paying tax.
However, this is one scheme he can't assist on.

As reported recently in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia is expanding a trial system of duty/tax-refunds for tourists.

All visitors need to do is:

1. Go to one of these shops participating in the scheme:

Stores with “VAT Refund for Tourist”

Jakarta: Pasaraya Blok M, Sarinah Thamrin, Metro Pondok Indah Mall, Metro Plaza Senayan, Keris Gallery at Terminal 2D’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Batik Keris Citraland, Batik Keris Menteng, Batik Keris Pondok Indah Mall 2, Batik Keris Pacific Place, Keris Department Store Menteng, Keris Department Store Puri Indah Mall, Jean Paul Gaultier Plaza Indonesia, Christian Louboutin Plaza Indonesia, Club Monaco Plaza Indonesia, Sogo Plaza Senayan, Sogo Kelapa Gading, Sogo Pondok Indah Mall, Sogo Emporium Pluit, Seibu Grand Indonesia, and Alun-alun Indonesia Grand Indonesia.

Tangerang: Batik Keris in Supermal Karawaci

Bali: Batik Keris at Discovery Shopping Mall, UC Silver in Batu Bulan, Gianyar, Mayang Bali in Kuta, Sogo Bali Collection, Sogo Discovery Shopping Mall, Alun-alun Indonesia Nusa Dua, Batik Keris at Ngurah Rai airport, Atlas South Sea Pearl in Sanur, Dewis in Sukawati, Gianyar and Windu Sari in Batu Bulan, Gianyar.

Two of the many choices

2. Spend a cool Rp5 million.

3. Depart Indonesia within 30 days of purchase and reclaim the 10% tax from the registered tax refund counter at Jakarta's or Bali's airport, after passing immigration.

This system has a few limitations and disadvantages compared with e.g. the tax refund for tourists scheme that operates in Singapore:

- You have to spend a lot more money to qualify for a tax refund.

Rp5 million is a lot of souvenirs and batik shirts. In Singapore, you have to spend a relatively small $S100, at the current exchange rate about Rp700 000.

IDR/SGD exchange rate
The current BI exchange rate for $S1.
Multiply the figure on the left by 100 to get the current value for $S100 in Rp.

To work out Rp5 million in other currencies (e.g. $US, €, £, etc) use the Bank Indonesia Exchange Rate calculator.

- You can only get the refund when leaving Indonesia, and only in Rupiah cash or bank transfer.

Option A: Indonesian Rupiah Cash         Option B: Bank Transfer

Receiving Rupiah cash just before you leave the country isn't much use. You will have two options. Firstly, visiting a moneychanger at the airport (whose exchange rates aren't great). That assumes the moneychanger has stock of the foreign currency you seek; they may not. Alternately, you could keep it for next time - if there is one.

In Singapore, there are other options: you can receive a refund directly upon purchase (either as a discount or as a cash refund), or do it via snail mail.

In addition, Singapore dollars are more widely accepted by moneychangers in the region than Indonesian Rupiah, probably because the currency is more stable.

As for the bank transfer option, it seems unlikely most foreign visitors are going to brink their bank details. Even if they did, they're not likely to know e.g. their bank's SWIFT code.

- Certain items which could be cheaper in Indonesia than the goods' destination country (or unique items not available in other countries) are excluded.

Some of the products on the blacklist include: food, beverages and tobacco products. Also on the "no-fly list" are guns, explosive goods and any materials that are not allowed to be taken into an aircraft. (Side issue: I didn't know you could bring guns and explosive goods on an aircraft in Indonesia).

Sorry, you cannot claim a tax refund on this item

So, the question is this: Do you think that with these limitations the tax refund for tourists scheme is a waste of time/money? (In the first six months, there were only 46 claims, totalling Rp41 million).

Please add your vote "YES" or "NO", preferably with a reason. Other comments are also welcome.

Lawful Tax Evasion is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Reno Tours Jakarta

MonasThe best of the Big Durian, a local expert shares his travel highlights of Jakarta.

Fast Track, the travel show on satellite/cable TV channel BBC World News, featured a few stories on Indonesia this week.

Fast Track logo

In one segment, a "local expert" - actually, a viewer who entered a competition through the BBC Global Minds website - led us around some of his highlights for a short stay in Jakarta. His name was Reno Mornama, an analyst in the coal industry who lives in Pamulang, South Jakarta.

He selected:

Fatahillah Square
Jakarta Old Town, Fatahillah Square

as a place to see colonial-era architecture.

Bank Mandiri
Bank Mandiri Museum

to see old-style coins, money counting machines, etc.

Jalan Surabaya
The Antiques/Flea Market on Jl Surabaya

to buy souvenirs from across Indonesia in the one place.

Monas, a.k.a National Monument

to see Soekarno's Final Erection the most famous monument in Jakarta.

Istiqlal Mosque
Istiqlal Mosque

to "find peace".

With respect to Bapak Reno (he has lived in Indonesia rather longer than me), I would have chosen a few other places.

But what about you? If you were an unofficial tour guide or "local expert" and had to choose quintessential experiences of a short trip to Jakarta, what would you pick?

If possible, please include a photo and directions, especially for more obscure locations.

Reno Tours Jakarta is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, which also features listings of Indonesia hotels, special discounts on Bali hotels, Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.