Rupiah For Visitors

Last updated: June 21, 2011
Rupiah

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

JUST THE FACTS
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.

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.

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:

JAKARTA (CGK)
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.

DENPASAR/BALI (DPS)
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.

SURABAYA (SUB)
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:

IDR / EUR

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.



18 Comments on “Rupiah For Visitors”

  1. avatar Oigal says:

    “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.”

    Is one of the three great mysterious of travel along with having to raise the shades day or night in plane as it comes in to land. I mean its not like the co-pilot is gunna come running to your window to check for clearance on the approach.

  2. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Oigal,

    … along with having to raise the shades day or night in plane as it comes in to land. I mean its not like the co-pilot is gunna come running to your window to check for clearance on the approach.

    I think it’s possibly to do with passengers and cabin crew being able to see if and where there’s a problem, and avoiding that area. Apparently, landings and take-offs are the most common time for aircraft accidents.

    Having said that, I remember this story of nine people injuring themselves by evacuating unnecessarily from a Batavia Air flight, after looking through the windows and seeing what they thought was the engine on fire.

  3. avatar ET says:

    “For reasons never fully explained, foreign currency banknotes must be in pristine condition”

    The reason is because they (Bank Indonesia to be precise) don’t consider foreign banknotes as currency but as objects (barang) that can be marketed (memperjualbelikan). Obviously objects in pristine condition have a higher market value. They look nicer when framed and hung on the wall.
    This is no joke. I have a letter in my posession from Bank Mandiri addressed to Garuda Indonesia explaining their policy regarding the acceptance of US banknotes. This letter contains exactly the following sentence:

    “Adapun alasan penolakan terhadap Bank Notes tersebut dikarenakan sesuai ketentuan Bank Indonesia bahwa Bank Notes(Uang Kertas Asing) bukan alat pembayaran yang sah di Indonesia akan tetapi sebagai commodity(barang) yang dapat diperjualbelikan. Berkaitan dengan hal itu, Bank Mandiri menjadi sangat selektif dalam penerimaan setoran-setoran dan penukaran Bank Notes dengan maksud selanjutnya akan dapat diperjualbelikan (marketable).”

  4. avatar Oigal says:

    Guess the question remains..what is the logic behind that?

  5. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    “For reasons never fully explained, foreign currency banknotes must be in pristine condition.”

    No mystery. The silly-sounding regulations about pristine condition and the random banning of certain serial numbers were created under Suharto to break the habit of Indonesia’s wheelers and dealers of using the dollar as their daily currency for larger purchases. (Before theses rules, Kota’s businessmen would normally keep a fat roll of dollars in their pockets for buying and selling).

    It’s pretty difficult to use dollars on a day to day basis when you can’t even keep them in your wallet for fear of creasing them and when the central bank might make half of them invalid next week by cancelling a certain serial number.

    And it works! Unlike in other countries with volatile currencies, the Indonesian Rupiah remains the currency for the majority of purchases here, small or large.

  6. avatar Berlian Biru says:

    “Some new ATMs now eject the ATM card before the cash.”

    That’s the way it should be and is how ATM’s work in the west as you are highly unlikely to take out your card and then walk off without your cash.

    However as I discovered to my cost on several occasions in Indonesia it is easy to take out a big wodge of cash and put it into your wallet while forgetting that the ATM, whose screen is silently asking you whether you want anything else, still hasn’t returned your card.

    You walk out of the booth and either a kindly member of the public runs after the dumb bule who obviously has so much money he doesn’t care about his bank cards or more commonly the machine swallows the card and you will never get it back. Banks automatically destroy cards found in ATM’s, they don’t give them to people who happen to show up asking for them. A new card will be posted by your bank after you phone their call centre (good luck with that from overseas) that’s if they haven’t blacklisted Indonesia as a country unsafe to send bank cards.

    So you see, card first then cash is the proper order in life.

  7. avatar Chris says:

    Hi Oigal,

    Is one of the three great mysterious of travel along with having to raise the shades day or night in plane as it comes in to land. I mean its not like the co-pilot is gunna come running to your window to check for clearance on the approach.

    When I saw these stories, I thought of you:

    #1 Aircraft Window Shade Etiquette
    Opened or Closed? The Debate Over Aircraft Window Shades

    #2 The Point of Aircraft Window Shades Being Open During Take Off and Landing
    Actually, having the window shades open might have been extra useful for the pilot of this flight.

  8. avatar Oigal says:

    Thanks Chris, wow some people are very passionate about it, small lives I guess. Mine was just an observation. BTW, got into a he’ll of a fight with security the other day about how much alcohol you can transport as baggage domestically, is there really a formal regulation?

  9. avatar Chris says:

    Not to my knowledge, it’s usually just a grab for cash like this famous example in The Jakarta Post Letters to The Editor:

    “I was extorted at Terminal 3”

    It generated a lot of responses.

  10. avatar Oigal says:

    Awww damn, they got me again then. Had 6 bottles taking for some friends in remote areas and little sleazy bast@rd tried to tell me I had to give him two as there was a regulation can only take maximum four even in baggage. I was having none of that but in the end it was 50,000.

    It’s extortion, no way to pour $100 of grog down the drain or give it to the toad, so choices limited. Still I may pay visit back to the airport this week and have some fun

  11. avatar ET says:

    @ Oigal

    Next time if you carry more than 1 bottle fill one with ‘air keras’ and use it for a bribe. :-)

  12. avatar Oigal says:

    Indeed, ET sounds the plan! Reminds of the time in Tim Tim when the thieves seized a shipment of acid insisting it was alcohol. Rather than pay the bribe, in the end we let them keep the stuff…I dunno what the party was like but the first sip would have been funny to watch…

  13. avatar nobody says:

    Chris, that incident about bringing a bottle of gin to the airplane might be really because it was a real policy. The idiot traveler was just can’t be told that he was wrong. The people asking for bribe actually might be thinking that he was helping the guy who seems to be very inseparable with his bottle of gin. Most of the time, these kind of bribery incident begin with the payer asking “how much do I have to pay”.. not the other way around. So stop blaming people when you (payer) are just as complicit. When people like this guy keep looking for easy way out to side step laws, there will be people who provide such back door.

  14. avatar Oigal says:

    In fact, scary as it seems would tend to agree with Nobody, my understanding was the gentleman was trying to bring the alcohol onto the passenger part of the plane.

    Although I disagree with the notion it starts with how much to I have to pay, these pirates are looking for any excuse to extort or in my case apparently just made the regulation up. No I was not going to give the thief two bottles (about 1 juta worth) as he orginally demanded nor was I going to pour it on the ground in spite as some twits would suggest.

    So left with three choices…

    1….Give the thief the bottles
    2….Pour two bottles of the ground
    3….Miss the flight

    All of which leave me significantly out of pocket based on an a made up regulation. So yup, I did take the fourth option pay the swine but check the regulation out and make sure this week visit the airport ensuring significant loss of face for the thief (ya I am a vindictive SOB)..

  15. avatar Chris says:

    1. Some places e.g. Kuta in Bali have a reputation for bad/dodgy moneychangers.

    Here’s an ongoing discussion on which Balinese moneychangers are good and not:
    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1997664

  16. avatar Ruben Guerra says:

    Hello, in November Im going on a two vacation to lovely Indonesia and to see my friends.
    My question is, Can I bring Indonesian currency from my country THE USA, from a currency broker, and go into your country without any security issues? I fear that i may be under minded and robbed of my funds from wrong doers in exchange of currencies. That you very much!

  17. avatar Ruben Guerra says:

    I meant to say, a Two WEEK vacation i meant to say on my first post. For give me.

  18. avatar Chris says:

    Dear Ruben,

    If you check the customs card (see our arrival guide), you will see that the magic number is Rp100 million or about $US7500. Below that, you don’t have to declare it. I am guessing you will not bring that much money for a two week holiday, so there is unlikely to be a problem.

    Obviously, you wouldn’t put all that cash in your checked baggage. (Related story)

    More generally, it is good to bring two or three options, remembering that cash is the least secure form of payment – if stolen, it is gone forever.

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