The currency in Bali is the Indonesian rupiah, usually abbreviated as (Rp) or less often (Rs). The official currency code for rupiah is IDR.
Amounts in rupiah tend to be quite large because of all the zeros. Sometimes prices are given with the ‘thousand’ implied. For example, if someone says that something costs “fifty,” that would mean 50,000 rupiah -- around US $3.50.
The Indonesian Rupiah
Each Indonesian rupiah is divided into 100 sen, but the value is so low that they are no longer circulated.
Coins exist, but you’ll very rarely encounter them other than the occasional aluminum 500-rupiah coins. Amounts are often rounded to avoid the need for small change; some shops and supermarkets will even hand over a few candies to make up the difference in change!
You’ll most often be dealing with the blue, 50,000-rupiah banknotes while in Bali. Some ATMs issue 100,000-rupiah banknotes -- the largest denomination. These can sometimes be difficult to break outside of chain eateries and big hotels.
ATMs in Bali
Bali is a popular tourist destination; ATMs on the usual Western networks (e.g., Cirrus, Maestro, etc) are easy to find in all the traveler hubs.
ATMs typically charge a small transaction fee which will be added to whatever fee your bank charges. An international exchange fee may also apply.
Even with the additional fees, using ATMs is often a better option for getting local currency than paying a commission to exchange money.
Card-skimming devices are a real problem in Southeast Asia. These smart devices are installed secretly over the card slot on ATMs to record numbers as cards are slid into the machine.
Visually inspect the card slot before inserting your card. Stick to using ATMs in well-lit places where installing such a device would be difficult.
Tips for Using ATMs in Bali
- If possible, try to use well-lit ATMs attached to bank offices. If your card is captured, you stand a better chance of getting it back. Also, the chances of a card-reading device being installed are less.
- ATMs in Bali are often labeled with the smallest-denomination currency they will dispense. When possible, opt for machines that issue 50,000-rupiah notes over the ones that issue 100,000-rupiah notes. Breaking the large 100,000-rupiah notes can sometimes be a nuisance outside of hotels and busy bars (e.g., taxi drivers won’t have change, etc).
- If your card isn’t accepted or the network appears to be down, don’t repeat the transaction attempt more than twice. Wait a while or try a different ATM to avoid having your card captured by the machine.
Remember: Your bank should be made aware of your travel plans so that a notification can be put on the account.
Using U.S. Dollars in Bali
Unlike in Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, U.S. dollars technically aren’t accepted in Indonesia other than when paying for the visa on arrival. That being said, the U.S. dollar is still a powerful currency to have on hand when traveling -- particularly for emergencies.
You can count on being able to exchange dollars practically anywhere, and in some cases, you can use them outright. Some dive operations still quote prices in U.S. dollars -- or euros -- rather than in Indonesian rupiah.
Using Credit Cards in Bali
The few shops and restaurants that do accept credit cards for transactions will probably tack a commission onto the balance. Ask first before you try to pay with plastic!
Mastercard is the most commonly accepted card, followed by Visa and then American Express.
Exchanging Currency in Bali
You’ll be able to exchange major currencies at the airport and in banks throughout Bali, however, pay attention to the spread between the currencies advertised by the money changers.
Using the ATMs is usually the best way to get the current international exchange rate, assuming that your bank doesn’t charge hefty fees for international transactions.
Avoid individuals in Bali who offer to exchange currencies. The same goes for unofficial kiosks and shops advertising that they will exchange money for you.
- Check the current exchange rate for U.S. dollars.