Not sure how best to manage money during your stay in Bali? We’ve got some insider tips to ensure you know about everything from cash to credit cards and where the best places are to use both!
Navigating a new country can be challenging, especially for travellers to the island of Bali for the first time. Get your head around the local cash and you’ll be a step ahead. Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah – referred to as IDR or Rp on price lists, menus and websites. The smallest denomination in notes is 1,000 with 100,000 the largest note so yes, you can become a millionaire in minutes.
Exchange rates vary a little daily however it can be confusing to work out how much you are spending in your own currency! Money changers advertise conversion rates based on $1 or unit of currency compared to Indonesian Rupiah. Be careful with the zeros so not to hand over 100,000 instead of a 10,000. Because all those zeros are also exhausting to write, businesses often leave them out when they put together price lists, so if you see 69K it really means Rp 69,000.
Usually it’s best to wait until you get to your destination to change your currency as you’re certain to secure a better exchange rate than back home. That said, there are a few things to know about changing money in Bali.
There are many money changers at the airport after you clear customs and while they are considered to be reputable, the rate is generally a bit lower than on the street.
There are many money changers in the tourist areas but understandably not in rural villages. Choose an AUTHORISED MONEY CHANGER with NO COMMISION. Most money changers are honest and genuine but there are a few who will take advantage of the newcombers and give less cash. Do not use places promising an exchange rate way higher than others and you should be fine. It’s important to recount your money yourself BEFORE leaving the premises and remember that rates tend to drop over the weekends.
The closest money exchange to Bisma Cottages is PT Ubud Valasindo. Look out for the green sign as you walk to the end of Bisma Street then turn right into Raya Ubud and it is about 25m further down on the left.
For those who favour debit cards to carrying cash, there are a few things to remember. While you can use your local bank debit card in most ATMs there may be very high fees associated with withdrawals and currency change. Some businesses also add a fee to purchases using cards. Remember your PIN number, as unlike many other countries there is no tap and pay in Bali.
Many travellers use Travel Money cards during their stay on the island – Wise Multi Currency Card is a big favourite. There are a number of advantages to this as you can transfer a specific amount to the card without risking loss of your local bank debit card or the contents of your account! Wise offers over 40 currencies, decent exchange rates, low conversion fees and no international transaction fees!
Try to avoid ATMs in convenience stores and use ATMs attached to major banks like CIMB Niaga, Commonwealth, Maybank and Permata which distribute up to 3 million Rupiah in one transaction when you need larger withdrawals. Other ATMs may only allow up to RP 1,500,000 per withdrawal. Similar to all tourist destinations, skimmers have been discovered on occasion at ATMs in Bali so cover your hand when entering your PIN and try not to keep large amounts of cash in that account.
REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR CARD! For those travellers from Australia and New Zealand who are familiar with ATMs that gives the card before the cash, it can be easy to leave your card in the machine and have it swallowed up by the ATM before you realise and return to retrieve it. This can make for much frustration and devastating delays to your daily plans!
Credit cards are a handy way to pay for larger bills like accommodation, restaurants and larger tourist attractions but generally cannot be used in smaller businesses like markets, warungs, food courts, guest houses or drivers. For these services in Bali, cash is definitely still king! Same as debit cards PIN numbers are used (no tap and pay) Despite Bali’s quite sophisticated banking systems, communication lines can sometimes be down which means your card transaction will not go through so always have cash too.
While there is no expectation to tip, especially if service or quality is poor, tipping is acceptable and graciously appreciated by the Balinese. This is especially the case for small businesses like warungs, shops, drivers and spas where the service fee passed on to employees may be small or non-existent. In hotels, larger restaurants and bars, tax and service, (those ++ charges) are usually added to your bill at the time of payment, so you have already paid the extra. That aside, the average salary for locals is significantly less than most other countries yet they still face incremental increased costs of living with petrol and electricity rising 30% and 18% respectively in 2022! Considering this, the fact that most did not receive any income for two years over COVID and that the minimum wage in Bali is barely over USD 200 a month, that extra $2 in their pocket can mean food for the family.
The smiles on the faces of the Balinese are testament to their appreciation for the return of tourism to the island, despite their desperate struggles over the past two years and you’d be hard pressed to find more genuine and personable people! So if you enjoy service with a big Balinese smile, then think about rounding up the Rupiah rather than haggling for a lower price. While the amount to tip is up to each individual, the minimum recommended is 10%. When a massage is only USD 10 another $1 isn’t even a cup of coffee back home. Giving a little extra the smile in return will be priceless.
Most advice about bringing money to Bali is simply common sense but it’s wise to have a minimum of two options for your spending money. Choose to bring a credit or debit card but always have some ready Rupiah on hand as Indonesia is still very much a cash economy! In general, Bali is quite safe and if you heed these few tips, you’ll keep your cash:
Use the hotel safety box
Always be aware of your bag.
Keep it inside your clothing or under the seat if you are on motorbike as there can be the occasional bag snatch.
Try to use ATMs at banks or ones that have security guards.
Remember your PIN numbers.
The Balinese are big believers in Karma and more often than not if you leave your bag or belongings somewhere, they will usually returned to you!
Enjoy your time in paradise. Om Swasiastu…