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:
- Indonesian Currency 101
- The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs
- 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):
A bronze Rp500 is slowly disappearing. There is also now a new 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:
The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs
JUST THE FACTS
Almost all Indonesian ATMs are connected to the Maestro/Cirrus network, and provide the choice of English or Indonesian instructions.
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 ($US280) for the Rp100 000 ATMs.
In regional and remote areas, the most common bank is BRI (pronounced “BAY UR EEE”), but not all branches have ATMs.
In smaller cities, you might also find an ATM that dispenses Rp20 000 notes, up to a maximum of Rp500 000 ($US60) per transaction.
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.
WHICH AIRPORT ATM?
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.
Commonwealth 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:
In 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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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